Guide to Night Photography in the Great Outdoors
Grant Collier's Guide to Night Photography in the Great Outdoors is one thorough book. If you've wanted to learn the basics of night photography, or if you've done some night photography and want to take it further, this book will not disappoint you. And this book isn't just about photographing the night sky; it's about photographing at night, with all the different techniques, subjects (lightning, forest fires), cautions, and conditions (unseen incoming tides) that entails.
Collier starts from the assumption that you've already got a good understanding of the fundamentals of photography and know how to use your camera. He also is assuming you have a fundamental understanding of Photoshop, Lightroom, or whatever you're using to process your digital images. His processing tutorials are based on the use of Photoshop and Lightroom. If you don't have the basic skills, there are already plenty of books out there that cover these topics.
This leaves Grant free to use valuable print space on describing techniques rather than having to explain all the basics behind them first. This is a good thing.
As I started getting into the book, the first thing that struck me is that this was written by someone with a lot of experience in night photography. There's a lot of good advice here that will help you plan, prepare, and execute successful night shoots. Much of this advice comes from simply doing something over and over again and learning what works and what doesn't. This book will save you from spending all that time on the learning curve.
The book is laid out well; the table of contents makes it easy to just jump into a section that interests you. Want to know about photographing auroras or lava or moonbows? How about star trails? (How can you find the North Star? Grant Collier shows you how) All these and more are laid out in the table of contents, making it easy to find what you want.
Interested in light painting? Grant has a number of pages devoted to it, which include kinds of light sources, recommended lighting equipment, and techniques.
Paired with all the great advice this book contains are some spectacular images. The kinds of images that make you want to lose sleep staying up all night photographing the night sky.
Collier covers needed equipment, of course, but he also has recommendations for software and iOS and Android apps for planning your outings. Some of these apps I already own and some…well, let's just say I've already visited the App Store in iTunes. As this book was recently released, all the recommendations are very current.
There are thorough discussions on camera settings like aperture and shutter speeds. I found the section on ISO particularly useful. Generally, we think we should be using the lowest possible ISO for a given situation, but Collier advises to use the highest native ISO with night photography. The reason is to avoid severe underexposure in areas of the picture, which leads to more noise. Of course you'll need to pair this advice with actual results. For instance, you don't want to blow out important highlights. In cases like this, lower ISO makes more sense.
The focusing and hyperfocal discussions are just as valuable.
One of the most useful equipment discussions is on lenses. Grant doesn't just give you a list of lenses for night photography, he also tells you what they could be used for and why he recommends them. I found his recommendations and reasoning spot on.
Beyond the actual mechanics of capturing images, a full third of the book is dedicated to using the power of digital imaging to create some truly remarkable pictures. From stitching images to blending multiple exposures, to stacking images for focus and star trails, there is plenty here to get your head spinning with possibilities.
Some of the Photoshop techniques are pretty advanced, but Collier makes this pretty clear right up front. If these are beyond your current Photoshop abilities, just think of them as something to aim for and go ahead and capture images that will later benefit from these techniques.
If you have been using Photoshop for awhile, you'll probably understand what Grant's doing and with a little experimentation will be able to accomplish the same things.
There are links to resources scattered throughout the book (they're also gathered in an appendix at the end of the book). For instance, in the section on photographing meteors there's a link to page that lists recurring meteor showers and the time of year and region you're likely to see them.
The table of contents is well organized and the index is very thorough. The ebook version could benefit from links to pages in both the table of contents and the index, but this is a very minor quibble.
I really like learning something new, and usually I don't learn all that much from books on photo techniques any more. But I learned quite a few new things from this book. And that makes my brain happy.
More importantly, what I learned gave me ideas, which makes my brain even happier.
Be sure to check out Grant Collier's Guide to Night Photography. If you weren't enthralled with night photography before, you will be after reading this book.
(note: links are affiliate links. I found this book so useful that I want to be part of what I'm sure is going to be a huge success. Plus, extra cash.)