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Outdoor Photography - 2006 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 those books selected as the Book of the Month as recommendations for outstanding photography books.

Book of the Month: 2006
October Rivers of America by Tim Palmer
There is an undeniable romance about the great American rivers: the Colorado, the Hudson, the Rio Grande, the Potomac and, of course, the Mississippi all evoke certain emotions and thoughts whether or not you have actually visited them. This tour of America's waterways provides an admiring view of these legendary names as well as visiting many less-well known, but equally important, attractive and fascinating river ecosystems. Many of Tim Palmer's images are spectacular, with rose-red sunsets mirrored in calm meandering stretches, or a raging torrent of tumbling white water forcing its way through narrow canyons; however, there are also plenty that exhibit a less dramatic, more contemplative aspect of nature and these provide just as much pleasure.
Rivers of America presents a multi-faceted view of America's waterways, likewise the accompanying essays provide a varied and interesting view of the issues that face rivers and their dependant environment, although the author, like his subjects, is prone to meandering. However, on the whole this is an attractive and illuminating well-balanced document of an ecosystem under threat. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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September Coast and Countryside by Joe Cornish, Paul Wakefield, and David Noton
We like a book that does what it says on the tin, and in the case of these two publications
Coast and Countryside brought to you by the National Trust, you know just what to expect. The sense of anticipation is heightened when your eye falls upon the names of the contributors Joe Cornish, David Noton and Paul Wakefield, no less. Not to undermine the input of the other two, but the lion's share of the photographs are the work of Joe Cornish, and the quality is everything that you'd expect. While much of the scenery is there for the taking, he rises to the challenge of capturing the bleaker aspects of the areas under The National Trust's stewardship Orford Ness in Suffolk for example and even shows something of a leaning towards nature imagery, with the likes of fungus close-ups, puffins and even a cheeky red squirrel peppering both books. The sheer variety of this country's landscape is summed up perfectly in each of these compact publications, and on leafing through them I found myself taking a sharp intake of breath on more than one occasion at the sheer drama of the scenes. It's enough to make the most stalwart sun-seeker cancel their summer break, and explore the gems that Britain has to offer. Best of all, both books are relatively inexpensive, keeping them within most people's budgets. Reviewed by Ailsa McWhinnie.
Amazon US: Coast
Amazon US: Countryside
Amazon UK: Coast
Amazon UK: Countryside
Amazon CA: Coast
Amazon CA: Countryside
August Wild Borneo: The Wildlife and Scenery of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan by Nick Garbutt and J Cede Prudente
Charles Darwin once described Borneo as 'one great luxuriant hothouse made by nature for herself' a fitting description for an island rich in landscape, wildlife, and the cultural diversity of its people. This is an area where Mother Nature truly indulged herself: outrageous-looking proboscis monkeys hurl themselves from tree to tree while frogs seemingly fly across the rainforest canopy and the endearing slow loris stares wide-eyed at the whole affair. This celebratory look at a land that is something of a mystery to many takes in the wildlife and scenery of Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan in glorious detail. With a forward by the great Sir David Attenborough, and the full support of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it has a stamp of authority backed up by the informative, and lively, copy written by wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt. Nick's pictures can be seen throughout
Wild Borneo, together with those of J Cede Prudente, offering a glorious taste of the mammals, lizards, snakes, insects, and flowers of the tallest rainforests on earth. Looking at the landscape slowly revealing itself, it's easy to imagine the thousands of plants and animals still waiting to be discovered many of which will remain hidden until such time as Mother Nature wishes to share her secrets. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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July Ladakh by Prabir Purkayastha
Ladakh is one of the least-populated districts of India. Situated in the far north of the country, it sits between the Himalaya and Karakorum mountains and is home to the upper stretches of the Indus. Prabir Purkayastha has set about capturing this remote landscape and the people that inhabit it, and he certainly has talent; these are the kind of images that you get more of, the more that look at them. Images, that at first don't seem to hold much interest, lure you in at second sight. The muted colours of the landscapes interwoven with monochrome portraiture transcend the more obvious picture-postcard beauty on offer, and as a consequence have a deeper appeal that is upheld by the quality of the reproduction.
Ladakh is a great book with incredible production values, and it would certainly prove a talking point on any coffee table. However, and it is a shame to talk of this book in such prosaic terms, 110 is an awful lot of anyone's money, even taking into consideration the now-ubiquitous retailers' discount, this book still tips the scales at around 75. For this reviewer, that is too much to pay for any book, no matter how lovingly produced or how good the photographs when I could instead spend the money on a small library of other titles. However, if you do want a centrepiece to your necessarily sturdy coffee table, then look no further than this even if you have to save up for it first. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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June One Planet: A Celebration Of Biodiversity by Nicholas Hulot
The publication of
One Planet dovetails nicely with the culmination of the BBC's Planet Earth series, and is yet another tour de force of the natural world. As the subtitle suggests it offers a broad vista of the natural world, and like its television counterpart One Planet approaches its subjects according to their habitat. Showcasing the work of some of the world's finest natural-history photographers, Nicholas Hulot offers a spectacular insight into countless wonderful sights; crossing deserts and oceans alike in order to highlight the beauty of nature in whatever form it takes. One Planet takes an interesting turn away from the usual coffee-table collection of breathtaking imagery as it shows the impact of humankind on the natural environment. Images of oil slicks and rusting hulks might not be as attractive as corals or polar bears, but they certainly make you think. My only criticism of One Planet is that at times the images have been over-enlarged, perhaps in an attempt to try to heighten their impact. While this often works, it has, in some cases, introduced a degree of softness or exacerbated flaws, which would not have been so apparent if only the image had been reproduced slightly smaller. However, these are minor issues considering the book's magnificent concept and its dazzling subjects. Reviewed by James Beattie.
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May Butterflies Of The World by Gilles Martin (photographs) and Myriam Baran (text)
The beauty of butterflies, their dazzlingly coloured and patterned wings burnished by reflected sunshine, has made them symbols of life force and love in many world cultures. They achieve their wondrous but fleeting form only after undergoing three body changes, from egg to larva to chrysalis, finally to emerge as an immaculate but fragile imago whose sole purpose is to mate and begin the cycle all over again, before dying. Gilles Martin's book is a dazzling and detailed exploration of the process via plate after plate of brilliant photographs. His artistic eye for beauty in nature is such that I stared in awe at the less attractive stages of the cycle, so a close-up of the rearing under-belly of the sticky looking and acid-green Indian Moon moth defined it as a creature of wonder rather than revulsion. But it is his capture of the velvety threads that make up the 'roof tile' scales of butterfly and moth wings that exemplifies the strength of his macro photography. Likening this book to a jewelry box, open it at random and a gem shines out of the pages. Myriam Baran supports his study with informative, digestibly written text that will be useful to the wildlife photographer, and the images work with it to produce that difficult marriage of coffee table and reference book. Reviewed by Andrea Hargreaves.
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April The Making of Great Photographs: Approaches and Techniques of the Masters by Eamonn McCabe
With a book like this, you can't help but reach out and flick through the pages. And, yes, there isn't a photograph out of place or undeserving of the greatness bestowed upon it by the author. Of course, Eamonn McCabe is more than suitably qualified to make such pronouncements, but where he has brought his vast experience and knowledge to the fore is by explaining how the effect of each image could be recreated in a modern context. Even then, there are limitations modern warfare, military censorship and 24-hour news coverage means that getting as close to the casualties of war on the frontline as Larry Burrows in Vietnam in 1966 is increasingly unlikely. However, McCabe's simplified explanations help the reader get behind the makings of the image in a fashion that is immediately accessible and free of the over-intellectualising favoured by other photography writers. Having said that, there is a danger of trying to oversimplify the techniques used to create such celebrated masters as Edward Weston's Nude on Sand or Alfred Stieglitz's The Steerage, and there is a sense of McCabe's own disbelief when he writes about [Ansel Adams'] Moonrise Over Hernandez: 'If you really want to replicate Adam's methods...' That aside, this is an absorbing and informative book that is bound to add to your knowledge and appreciation of our greatest photographs and their authors. Reviewed by Keith Wilson.
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March The Oldest: In Celebration of Britain's Living History by Julian Calder and Alistair Bruce
Ever wondered whereabouts in Britain you will find the oldest flushing toilet? Nope, neither have I, but after flitting through this book I am not a temporary expert on many of Blighty's more peculiar historic treasures. Illustrated and compiled by photographer Julian Calder, and written by documentary maker Alistair Bruce, this account of Britain's rich heritage covers everything from the oldest fig tree to the oldest tartan and everything in between. Where this book stumbles is in its claim to be a 'pictorial' account. While Julian is an accomplished photographer, it's a tall order to make Britain's oldest traffic island sing from the page, and, understandably, some of the tree shots aren't really a grower. Having said that, the shot of the oldest bowling green (incidentally in Southampton) is pretty impressive. Where the book does succeed is in its ability to satisfy the natural curiosity in us all and, I have to confess, I did let out a small yelp of pleasure when I realized the oldest spring-fed outdoor pool was yards from my doorstep in Lewes, Sussex. Though this is no photographic masterpiece, it succeeds in its bid to inspire and educate. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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February Extreme Nature: Images From The World's Edge Bill Curtsinger
Having recently seen the wonderful documentary March of the Penguins, I was delighted to find the Emperors of the Atlantic in this underwater odyssey from National Geographic photographer Bill Curtsinger. For Bill, week sof preparation preclude each shoot. "I have to learn everything I can about my subject, and what make a particular species different from the rest," he explains. This careful planning results in some stunning photography, both above and below the water. Subjects include jellyfish, polar bears, dolphins and sharks take a look at Trachymedusae, a wonderful jellyfish with its curious red stomach lining clearly visible. Bill has traveled extensively since his first commission for National Geographic back in 1970, just 30 days after leaving the navy. his grandfather used to send him the magazine every month after reading it and Bill would devour the facts and photographs hungrily. Now, with over 30 articles and six NG front covers to his name, Bill has produced a books that explains the underwater world with skill and passion. Reviewed by Tracy Hallett.
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January Tom Mackie's Landscape Photography Secrets by Tom Mackie
Tom Mackie is an accomplished landscape, travel and architecture photographer, having established a reputation for himself both in America and here in the UK. The boldness and simplicity of his images affords them a visual impact many other technique-style books lack. The strength of the photography reinforces his practical commentary; and his wonderful eye for balance and harmony is heightened by sympathetic book design, and excellent reproduction values. The captions offer extra insight, and full technical information, giving you confidence in the text even if it as ghost written! Chapters are divided into rural, coastal, mountain, forest, desert, water, garden and urban the latter subject being a favourite of mine and, I imagine, Mackie's having spent five years of his career as an industrial photographer in Los Angeles. The shots of the new Selfridges building in Birmingham fall firmly into this camp, and are both dynamic and visually simplistic. I recognize one or two locations from his earlier book Salt Polygons, Death Valley for example, but there is more than enough new material here to satisfy the hungriest of landscape snappers. 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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