Monday, June 15, 2015

COLLIER's GUIDE to NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY - Book review

Last month, I was approached by renown US photographer Grant Collier, with the question whether I would be interested in reviewing his latest (e)book, "COLLIER's GUIDE to NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY in the GREAT OUTDOORS".



The question could not have come at a better moment, as I was just to embark on doing some more night sky photography in the Dubai desert, before the  soaring Summer temperatures make it impossible!

Grant is no newbie when it comes to photographing the night sky... With over 12 years of experience in this specific kind of photography, he shares plenty of little gems which a lot of photographers would have never heard of.

Something I really like about this book, is the fact that is it not written for the complete spectrum of photographers. For all you newbies who struggle to see the difference between an aperture and a shutter speed or don't know what a layer mask in photoshop does, this book is probably not for you!

Let's have a brief chronological look at what Grant is about to teach us... 

The Table of Contents gives away what we can find in this 160 page book:





Chapter I: Equipment and Supplies
Explains both film and digital cameras, best lenses to be used and its accessories such as filters, tripods and ballheads. Beside there is a nice overview of the clothing and survival gear one should consider when going into the wilderness! 

While there is a brief mention about the Sony mirrorless cameras, the book is almost exclusively written around (D)SLR cameras. Not a big deal as all of it pretty much applies to mirrorless as well. Grant must have been to busy writing the book in order to miss how the mirrorless systems has changed the photography scene around the world! Just kidding ;-)



Chapter II: PLANNING YOUR SHOTS
Several pages, are filled wit tips and techniques to prepare for a night photography shoot. A large range of desktop and tablet/smartphone applications are discussed, as well as a month by month overview of what will stand out in the Northern hemisphere night sky.


Chapter III: COMPOSITION
Classic composition techniques applied to photographing the night sky and the challenges that one will encounter. It is a relatively short chapter concentrating on what to include or avoid in the foreground and background.


Chapter IV: CAMERA SETTINGS
Excellent practical explanation of things like hyperfocal distance, how and when to use infinity manual focus but also what shutter speeds work best use for specific night images.

Chapter V: NATURAL LIGHT SOURCES
Starts with how we can use moonlight to our advantage; how to shoot eclipses; and also a great paragraph about Northern light photography. The chapter concludes with some special light sources such as; forest fires, lava fields and moon bows. Exciting stuff!

Chapter VI: LIGHT PAINTING
When photographing the night sky, most photographers will not immediately think about light painting, (using flashlights and LED light panels to illuminate the foreground), but there is definitively a place for it! Some great examples of the above can be found in this chapter!

Chapter VII: STAR TRAILS
Likely the number one item photographers will think about in photographing the night sky. Several techniques are explained, being shorter images blended together in software or longer single exposures. Have you ever seen images where the star trails look like comets? Well Mr Collier explains how it is done here!

Chapter VIII: STICHING IMAGES
Not something I have tried in my night photography, but looking at the examples in the book, it is clearly the way to go! The explanations are not limited to photoshop but lists several other good (better?) options.
Chapter IV: BLENDING MULTIPLE EXPOSURES
Pretty much the only way, one can creative these spectacular images were both foreground and night sky are properly exposed. 

Chapter IV: POST PROCESSING NIGHT PHOTOS
The last chapter of the book, is where I personally learned the most... Grant explains what the post-processing limits are within Lightroom, but then moves into more complex tasks such as the use of Luminosity masks. In this chapter he explains how he uses "Tony Kuyper's" luminosity masks in Photoshop. As this is an editing technique, I've been wanting to learn for some time, I did finally buy Tony's TK Action panel together with "The complete Guide to Luminosity masks" video series by Sean Bagshaw; both availavle at the goodlight.us website. 

To me the Post Processing chapter, could have been slightly longer (presently 18 pages). More step by step editing processes, would have made the concepts even clearer... 

But, it looks like Grant Collier is also selling a +7 hour post-processing video series dedicated to post-processing. Even though I have not had the opportunity to watch it, these will likely fill in the gaps of the book! 



CONCLUSION:
Overall I rate this book a 9 out 10! I have several books on night photography and this one is clearly the best of them all. 

The 160 page book is available as a signed paperback copy for 29.95,-USD or 18.95,-USD for the eBook version. Both can be purchased here. Browsing through the ebook in two page full screen mode, on a large 27inch monitor, makes for a great viewing and reading experience!

It has clearly boosted my urge to do more night sky photography, but due to the soaring Summer temperatures and humidity here in Dubai, this will have to wait till end of September. 

This weeks Pic(k) of the week, is a "star trail" photograph, where I used some of the techniques I learned in Grant's book! Expect the image to be online by tomorrow.


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