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Digital Photography Essentials 
By Erica Sadun
Paperback, 272pp.
ISBN: 0782141773
Includes Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.1 on CD

Erica Sadun is aiming squarely at those new to digital photography with this book. Where others turn this into a dry subject she succeeds in interjecting a little bit of fun and whimsy. 

Adobe's capable PhotoDeluxe 4.1 is included on a CD packaged with the book. Experienced digital photographers will grow out of PhotoDeluxe and into Adobe's "bigger" programs but it makes for an good starting point. The first half of the book is dedicated to giving the reader a good footing in the basics. It demystifies the jargon and shows readers how to do the most common tasks - answering common questions like how do I email a photo from my digital camera? The second half of the book shows you how to do some fun things using PhotoDeluxe and various plug-ins that you can download from the Web. Things swapping heads on bodies, morphing features, and even a little bit on digital video. Old hat for experienced digital gurus but cool stuff for those new to digital photography. All in all a very good place for newbies to start. 

Kodak Guide to 35mm PhotographyRichard Avedon Portraits
By Maria Morris Hambourg, Mia Fineman, Richard Avedon, Philippe de Montebello
Hardcover, 64pp. 
ISBN: 0810935406

Normally we confine ourselves to books we'd recommend to folks in this column. But this book is so awful we're reviewing it as a warning lest you're tempted by the glorious quotes from the publisher to give it as a Christmas gift. One review described these images as "unflinching and glamorous in their effect, (they) have helped define our idea of celebrity itself". That's a load of self serving crap.

In reality this is a book of unattractive images wrapped in the cloak of art. Worse, rather than being in a normal book format, it is packaged in an accordion style that makes it difficult to read and difficult to comfortably view the images unless you're sitting at a table or desk. 

I realize that art is interpreted many different ways. I also realize that stuffy people in black outfits will point at this book and say that some of it's images are to be featured in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But then I've seen junk passed off as art in museums before. 

It's rare that I come across a photography book where I can't find a single positive thing to say - but this is one. Actually there is one positive. I don't own a copy.

National Geographic the Photographs
By Leah Bendavid-Val
Paperback, 336pp.
ISBN: 0792269365

Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN: 0870449869

What a wonderful way to spend a snowy Sunday afternoon! National Geographic has earned it's reputation for great photography by producing fantastic images year after year. This book looks at memorable photographs from the last 15 years. The images themselves are reproduced on quality heavy duty paper and the book is published in a big 11x12.25 inch format that allows you to see them in detail. Every image includes at least a short explanation and there is information and stories about the photographers who created these images. It's a book that can transport you to parts of the world rarely glimpsed by most of us.  

If ever a book was printed that is capable of instilling wanderlust in the reader this is it. Now what where's the phone number for my travel agent?

Kodak Guide to 35mm PhotographyMasters of Portraiture
Video by the Nikon School
Video, 30 min. 
Available online through 
the Nikon Mall Click Here

The Nikon School is open to the owners of any brand of equipment and they do a great job at education in their one day classes. Their video series expands on that success by featuring professional photographers in videos that demonstrate various photo techniques. 

In this video you get to look over the shoulders of Eddie Adams, Annie Griffiths Belt, Brett Froomer, Joe McNally and Galen Rowell as they create portraits in a variety of environments and locations. Each has their own style, but the central theme that emerges is about communication with the subject, getting them to relax, and getting them to communicate with the viewer through the lens. This is not an equipment video; and while the photographers talk about lighting there is no "always use a hair light in this situation" type of lecture.

This video packs a lot of information into 30 minutes. It sounds trite but you really will pick up something new each time you watch it. It makes a great Christmas present for someone who is past the beginner stage and well into serious photography. Don't worry. There's not a lot of pimping for Nikon. It just happens to be the brand that the pros in the video are using and when they recommend a focal length of say 80-200mm it's a Nikon lens they're holding up. 

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