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National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Travel

Express Summary

National Geographic's Photography Field Guide: Travel is a general photography book with emphasis on travel photography and photography while traveling. Although it is part of a series of Field Guides, this book stands alone by covering equipment, photography basics, composition and travel subjects. As such, much of its content overlaps the excellent National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures.

This book emphasizes travel photography by focusing on the aspects of composition needed to capture a sense of place, equipment choices, locations, weather and various travel subjects. The text is well written and easy to understand but many passages are too vague to be useful. Overall, there are things to learn from this book but it is far from being as good as the original Photography Field guide.

Book Review

Travel photography can be fascinating. While traveling we may encounter many subjects and events which are unusual to us. Naturally, photography can be used to share and remember travels. The National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Travel is a slim guide meant to help accurately capture and represent such travels.

At 159 pages, most of them with full-color photographs, this book represents a quick read and, although it covers numerous aspects of travel photography, is light on content. This Field Guide covers both technical and creative aspects to Travel photography. The technical aspects include: camera choices, lens options, shutter-speeds, apertures, ISO and traveling with photography gear. Creative aspects include: conveying a sense of place, composition and travel subjects.

As indicated by the book's title, emphasis is made on travel photography but good part of the material is general enough to serve for most types of photography. This is expected because travel photography may cover various subjects such as architecture, landscape, wildlife and people.

This book starts with a chapter entitled Bringing Back a Sense of Place which essentially describes the most important aspect of travel photography. That chapter is immediately followed by one of the three National Geographic photographer interludes. Each such interlude is designed to offer a different perspective on travel photography by world-famous photographers.

The second chapter of National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Travel deals with equipment choices and practical advice on traveling. with such equipment. It covers camera choices, both film and digital, lens choices, miscellaneous gear and gear packing.

The immediately following chapter covers general composition. While the coverage on composition is better than with most books on digital photography, very similar content can be found in all good photography books, including the original NG Photography Field Guide. Like every other chapter in this book, this one is full of colorful images to illustrate the advice given.

The fourth chapter, called The Right Stuff, discusses general technical aspects like lenses, ISO, shutter-speeds, apertures and equipment care. It is followed by another NG photographer's profile which gives timeless advice such as "wear good shoes". And now back to photography...

The remainder of the book covers travel photography conditions (Location Lighting, Weather Conditions and Time of Day) and travel subjects including a separate chapter on extreme travel. While these chapters form the heart of the book by being specifically geared towards travel photography, their advice is too frequently vague. Well, there are examples and even photographs to illustrate the advice, but a few too many explanations are left to the reader's imagination. That being said, there is also a decent amount of useful travel photography advice.

On its own, this book is a decent and up-to-date book on travel photography. It covers the essentials but not in so much depth. However, there is much more to learn from the original field guide than from this one. As a complement to the original National Geographic Photography Field Guide, this book is rather thin due to the large overlap in material. The general text may be different but all the general advice, including some travel advice, is the same. In the end, if you read only one Photography Field Guide, get the original.

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