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Outdoor Photography - 2004 Book of the Month List

Every month, Outdoor Photography Magazine, a British publication, writes reviews of several recently published books and they select a Book of the Month. I started to gather these reviews in September of 2003 and have taken the liberty to publish a list of these book reviews as recommendations for outstanding photography books.

Book of the Month: 2004
Earthsong by Bernhard Edmaier
Among the posse of heavyweight hardbacks fighting for prime space on the nation's coffee tables this Christmas, Steve Bloom's Untamed and Eric Valli's Himalaya are destined to be at the forefront of your local bookseller's window display. While both are impossible to ignore, I would implore all connoisseurs of photography to keep their eyes peeled for Earthsong, a magnificent collection of around 200 photographs featuring our planet's diverse topography, as viewed from the air. Before you start dismissing this idea as just another spin on Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth from the Air, think again. Earthsong is very different in that photographer Bernhard Edmaier treats the incredible array of lava plains, red desert sands, glaciers, salt pans and twisting estuaries as a palette of rich colours and puzzling shapes to be engagingly arranged in the viewfinder. Some of the results are nothing short of exquisite and the superb production values of this book ensure that the sheer quality of the plates shines through. Earthsong is divided into four parts, each describing, each describing the elemental nature of the environments that cover the earth's surface. We begin with Aqua, which features water in all its magical forms from the twisting channels of Iceland's glacial ice thaws to the almost Martian-like dray salt swamps of Tanzania's Lake Natron. The other chapters are Barren, Dessert and Green, where geography gives way to more obvious sings of life, although the significant factor about all these pictures is that non are marked or shaped by human habitation or incursion. Like Earth from the Air, there's a powerful aestheticism in the composition of many of the image, but in my opinion, Earthsong is the more beautiful result. Reviewed by Keith Wilson.
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December Horses by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Jean-Louis Gourard
My love of horses is well known in the office, so when this book by the legendary aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand appeared, there were no questions it was just quietly placed on my desk. For a man who is renowned for spending so much time above ground, photographing for his Earth from the Air collection, it comes as a bit of a surprise to discover this body of work about creatures who keep all four feet (or hooves) firmly on the ground (well, most of the time). However, his passion for the subject, and the zeal with which he has pursued this project around the world is breathtaking. Not for him the classic, static head shot or full length photograph instead we see the horse with all its power and grace encompassed in one image. And it's the sheer variety of both breeds and countries of origin that is so enthralling. In this book, the horses are photographed in front of the canvas which he and his assistants carted around the world, but often he takes a step backwards to show both horse and canvas in context whether it's mountains in Mongolia, monasteries in Spain, or deserts in Qatar. This book gives us the opportunity to see the beauty not just of the finer, showier breeds, but also of the elegantly solid heavy draught horses, tiny cartoon-like Shetlands, and even the humble donkey and throughout, the relationship between horse and owner shines through. Accompanied by fascinating text, this is a book not just for the horse lover, but for anyone who wants to learn just how far a single photographic project can be pursued. Reviewed by Ailsa McWhinnie.
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November Elements: The Landscape of Scotland by Craig McMaster
Craig McMaster's pictures of his native land represent the moment you turn a corner and are overawed by the sheer breathtaking beauty of what lies before you. pager after page, he has captured the moment when you remember why it is a joy to be alive. Although his work is grounded in the physical landscape, in all its brooding Celtic majesty, his images transcend this earth and melt into air. Amid images of snow-capped peaks and ancient trees, the inclusion of a four and half hour exposure that reveals the ethereal glory of Polaris and Star Trails at Loch Broom is inspired. The medium of black & white is as appropriate as the title of the collection, as we witness the framing of each loch, each stone, pared down to its most simple and truest form. In his introduction, McMaster pays tribute to early environmentalists like Ansel Adams and John Muir. When Muir asked in 1875, 'What is the human part of the mountain's destiny?' perhaps this collection is part of the answer. Reviewed by Max Houghton.
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October The Olympics: Athens to Athens 1896-2004 by various
By the time you read this, the Olympics will have finished. And, as ever, they will have left one or two images burning in the popular consciousness. Sporting events on a grand scale have a knack of capturing the public's imagination and throwing up a series of moments that will live forever. The nature of those images is never the same and the Olympic games have always had the capacity to divide the world, as well as unite it. The Olympics: Athens to Athens 1896-2004 showcases a huge variety of photos, displaying the many facets of Olympic competition, from the moustachioed competitors at the inception of the modern era in 1896 to Cathy Freeman's all-in-one sprint suit at Sydney 2000, this book charts the course of the games on and off the track. With so many outstanding photographs, it is hard to choose between them, but for me the images of Jesse Owens defying Nazi propaganda to win four golds at he 1936 Berlin Olympics stand out as those that best encapsulate the Olympic ideal. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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September The Tibetans: A Struggle To Survive by Steve Lehman
If your ideas of Tibet are founded upon fantasies of a distant and mysterious place in which people exit in a timeless 'Buddhist bubble,' some of the images in this book by Steve Lehman, an internationally celebrated photographer, will shock and surprise you. Monks hurling stones, cows feeding on trash, street children and derelict buildings all feature alongside testimonials from Tibetan people describing the impact the Chinese invasion has had on their everyday lives. This startling account of Tibetan life takes the form of a scrapbook into which Steve Lehman pastes his observations and memories. Ticket stubs, visas and travel permits, doodles, poems, and fragments of maps are arranged into montages that no only create visual texture, but highlight how this creation of this book was a truly personal journey for him. Panic and distress are captured effectively within photographs of public demonstrations. They are blurred, close up and grainy, presenting the reader with a fleeting glimpse of terror that feels frighteningly intimate. Part of the success of this book is that it echoes with the voices of ordinary Tibetan people. Monks, laborers, shopkeepers, artists, farmers, political prisoners, factory workers and students appear in carefully annotated portraits in which their indomitable spirit never fails to shine through. Lehman, over a 10-year period, meticulously researched, photographed, collected, talked, listened and observed cultural and political upheaval in Tibet. The result is a stunningly presented, but deeply unsettling, piece of photojournalism that will leave a lasting and sincere impression. Reviewed by Virginia Brehaut.
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August What It Takes To Earn Your Place by Julian Andrews
While most students are either tucked up in bed or slumped in a bar waiting for the drink-fuelled disorientation to pass, there are a few exceptional young men and women who choose a 6am start on the River Ouse over a swift point. These people might seem a little crazy, but their dedication is brought on by a burning desire to win the UK's most prestigious rowing competition: the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race. As former Oxford Blue Matthew Pinsent explains: 'In other walks of life there is much to achieve even if you don't win, whereas in the boat Race it's all or nothing. it's win or be damned.' This collection of over 200 images by professional photographer Julian Andrews marks the 150th anniversary of the Boat Race, capturing 'the pain of top-level training, the beauty of the river in its different moods and the emotion of the sportsman, set against the background of student life.' From documentary-style pictures of blistered knuckles to colour shots of the rowers in full swing, the book follows the crews as they struggle to balance life as athletes with life as students: the highs and lows of training, selection, and time on and off the water. A fascinating read for rowers and photographers alike. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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July Bound For Glory: America in Color 1939-1943 from the FSA/OSI Collection, Library of Congress
In his informative and lively introduction, Paul Hendrickson writes: 'There is a powerful inclination for may Americans of a certain age to believe that the Great Depression somehow existed in monochrome.' This book won't alter that perception but such is the quality and power of the colour images selected that one wonders why they are not better known already. The photographers of the Farm Security Administration and later the Office of War Information included such luminaries as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein, whose black & white images of this time have helped define the American identify. Colour then was still something of a novelty but, in all, FSA/OWI photographers made 1,616 exposures on a revolutionary new film called Kodachrome. This book is a sample of that archive and what a fabulous collection it represents. Unusually for colour documentary, there is a lyricism and graphic beauty in the composition of many of these images. A lot of this is down to the colour density of early Kodachromes the fidelity of reproduction of skin tones, clothes, and natural colours is a revelation, and shows how unnaturally modified our tastes in colour have now become. But more importantly, this is one collection where colour has enhanced the authority of these images a s record of times of extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice. Reviewed by Keith Wilson.
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June Nile by Martha Holmes, Gavin Maxwell & Tim Scoones
For many people, myself included, knowledge of the River Nile is limited to the well-known fact that it is the longest river in the world. This latest book from the BBC, accompanying a three-part television series of the same name, is flooded with staggering statistics that enhance the sheer magnitude and magnificence of the Nile. For example, did you know that the river drains more than 3,000,000 square kilometres and stretches for 6,700km? These facts and figures merely provide the framework from which a much wider story is told. The Nile was the life source of the Ancient Egyptians and their dependence on it became mysterious and mythological. If you are interested in ancient civilisations, geography, natural history, or are simply an armchair traveler, there will be something here to enthuse you. For photographers, the book boasts stunning wildlife shots along with impossibly sweeping vistas of lush fertile gorges and lakes. A complete and expansive book from the BBC. Reviewed by Virginia Brehaut.
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May Tiger by Stephen Mills
Tigers have a religious significance and supernatural potency in the spiritual lands of Asia, and unless we adopt a similar viewpoint to that of our Asian counterparts, these scarce creatures will become extinct. There are as few as 5,000 wild tigers worldwide, which makes this book he most precious coffee table commodity to exist. Laden with information, interesting facts and meaty stories, (some of which may or may not bring a tear to your eye), the authoritative Tiger book provides first hand experiences from various naturalists and experts who have studied tigers and their behavioural patterns for years. Stephen Mills, a naturalist all his working life, challenges the old with the new, as he discovers that tigers are becoming less violent towards each other and more used to humans, which begs the question... man-eater or captive kitten?  'Tigers are quite simply the most beautiful animal on earth. They are so amazingly orange, so bright, sometimes so surprisingly invisible.' Stephen Mills has been studying tigers in India and Nepal since the 1980s. His feelings are entrenched in the dramatic images he has captured throughout the book. However, such a powerful creature commands a greater picture presence. Interesting point: '...estimated that a male tiger needs 7,920 pounds of living meat to sustain him for a year.' Reviewed by Samantha Cadwallader.
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April My Morocco: Bruno Barbey Introduction by JMG Le Clizio
Forget all your expectations. Between the covers of this substantial book lay all the photographic surprises and thrills you could ever wish for. Turn each page and gasp with delight. Composition, content, and colour merge into some of the most outstanding travel photography I have ever come across. The intimacy of the pictures derives from two sources Bruno Barbey's childhood spent in Morocco, and untold patience over a thirty year period of picture taking. Smells, sounds and stories exude from the graphic, colourful images, drenched in the extraordinary light of the place. The people emerge, reluctant subjects, from their ancient surroundings like biblical characters, a wary eye on the camera but a trust in the photographer he is, after all, one of them despite his French birth. A Magnum photographer, Barbey is both photojournalist and fine art photographer, published an exhibited all over the world, but Morocco is his special place where he returns to again and again for him it's seeped in memory and familiarity. Thus, there's a quietness in the pictures that reflects his ease with the place that no outsider could achieve and there is, of course, his exceptional skill as a photographer. This is not a book to miss done be daunted by the price tad, it's worth every pound. Reviewed by Elizabeth Roberts.
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March Small Things Big: Close-Up and Macro Photography by Paul Harcourt Davies
I' have never lost my sense of wonder for what lies just beyond the familiar,' writes Paul Harcourt Davies in this, the latest of his books on close-up & macro photography. Paul has a knack for identifying and recording patterns and symmetry in nature, both visual and mathematical. From delicate whorls on a seashell to the bulbous eyes of insects, Paul uses simple equipment to isolate aspects of Mother Nature that often go unnoticed enlarging the beauty of the natural world until it's larger than life. The child-like simplicity of the title, Small Things Big, is a good indication of the ease with which Paul's instructions can be followed. The test is richly illustrated, and the captions detailed and informative. Paul talks you through buying a 35mm SLR system, lens basics, selecting the correct exposure, film and filters as well as digital techniques and image manipulation using PhotoShop. Take a look at the amazing sequence of the shots of Privet Hawk moth larva hatching. My only criticism with a few of the shots is the visible flash, in many instances it makes the colours seem garish. Apart from that, this book is a great starting point for anyone wanting to take their photography to the ground level and beyond. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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February Wild Peak: A Natural History of the Peak District by Mark Hamblin
I often think that some of the best photographic books aren't actually about photography per se. You don't learn about apertures and shutter speeds, focal lengths and fill-in flash from them but you do see what it takes to become an accomplished, rounded photographer. If you can glean some inspiration from it, it's done its job as well as any technical manual can. One case in point, is Wild Peak, by regular
Outdoor Photography contributor, Mark Hamblin. In the many years he spent living close to the Peak District National Park, Mark built up a formidable library of images of the area, and many of them are included here. It must be difficult to know how to divide a book like this into chapters. It could have been approached in one of many ways: by area, by species, by subject... In the end, it has been divided into seasons.  Wise choice, as the pictures demonstrate the wide variety of natural life that teems in this region at any one time of year. From mountain hares to hen harriers, wild orchid to water voles (not to mention butterflies, adders, damselflies and red deer), no stone is left unturned. This book doesn't only reveal the diversity of the Peak District, it also reveals the diversity of Mark's photographic abilities. In fewer than ten years as a professional photographer he has developed remarkable skills not only for bird and wildlife photography but also with landscape, general nature and macro work. None of the areas suffers in favour of another. Last year Mark moved away from Sheffield, to Scotland. I'm sure we can expect a thorough, accomplished and enjoyable publication abut his new home territory in years to come. Reviewed by Ailsa McWhinnie.
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January Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 13 edited by Anna Levin
When a competition attracts more than 20,500 entries, you know that the judges must have sweated blood and tears to make a final selection and , wow, what a selection. Featuring 109 winning and highly commended images from this year's competition organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine and the Natural History Museum the book simply pulsates with stunning photographs covering everything from animal behaviour and the underwater world, to urban & garden wildlife, natural composition & form. A celebration of life on earth, the images range from a leaping proboscis monkey to a pair of courting Galapagos albatrosses and a queen wasp building her nest. The photographs rush towards the edges of each page, with captions kept to a functional minimum, allowing the images to burst forth from the paper. The final section of the book concentrates on those talented youngsters who excelled in the Young Photographer of the Year category open to entrants aged 17 or under. These pictures are just as stunning as the rest, one in  particular caught my eye: Mountain Goat and Kid by Stephen Lingo. if you think you are up to the challenge, flick to the back of the book and send off for an entry form for next year's contest go on, I dare you. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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For other book lists on photography, check out these pages on our website:

Outdoor Photography Magazine (UK) Outdoor Photographer Magazine (US) Other Book Guides
- 2006 Books of the Month
- 2005 Books of the Month
- 2004 Books of the Month
- 2003 Books of the Month

- B&W Magazine 2006 Books of the Month
- B&W Magazine 2005 Books of the Month

- 2005 Holiday Book Guide
- 2004 Holiday Book Guide

- 2003 Holiday Book Guide
- 2001 Holiday Book Guide
- 2000 Holiday Book Guide
- Shutterbug 2005 Holiday Guide
- Shutterbug 2004 Holiday Guide

- Our book recommendations

- Our magazine recommendations


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