Commentary # 8 ~ September 2007
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My Summer Reading List - Learning from the Best and Brightest

September 2007

- by Craig Wassel

Here we are in the first week of September and on the cusp of fall, and I am writing about a summer reading list. Okay, so I was stuck for a title, and I fell lazily back onto a cliche' but still somewhat catchy header. I guess I am doubly guilty since this really isn't a list of books I read or that I am reading, but rather a short list of sites I regularly visit.

In a previous commentary, "A Photography Blog About Photography Blogs" (link) I noted that I don't write technical articles. I said I don't because I am not so vane to believe I am some noteworthy photographer that thousands flock to for advice, and that there are several others out there that are and who know far more that I do.

There is actually another reason though: what I most like to write about is BEING a photographer. Photographers try to look at and see the world differently, and when a viewer looks at a photograph and has a "wow" reaction, that is when the he/she has likely suceeded in doing so. Even for those who are more of a "natural" at this special type of "seeing", making photographs is lifelong pursuit that is not always easy. So often a photographer envisions or anticipates something that despite long waiting never happens, or he/she misses capturing the vision for one reason or another. For example, for quite a long time I have been watching and waiting to capture a favorite tree of mine at just the right moment. My waiting came to an end last week as a line of incredibly violent storms came through the area, and straight line winds ripped half of that tree away. It's unique silhouette is forever gone, along with any opportunity of capturing what I hoped for and envisioned.

As much as photography is a way of seeing and looking at the world, it is a way of thinking about it as well. So, although I use these commentaries to communicate to others what is going on in my photographic head, it also serves as a way for me to think through things. I find the more I write for this site, the better I am at seeing the world in a way that is reflected through my lens and in the photographs that end up on it.

I have already digressed more that I should, so let me get back on track . . . .

So, I don't write about "the technical", but that does not mean that I do not READ technical articles or that I think the technical side of photography is unimportant. That gets me back to my "summer" reading list - which is really more of a weekly reading list. These are the sites I visit on a regular basis to learn from the brightest and the best, and keep up with what is going on in the industry. - Mike Johnston

Created and maintained by photographer Mike Johnston, this is one of the most eclectic photography sites around, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. There are several great sections, but his "Blog" probably gets the most traffic. Topics cover not only the technical, but also reach all the way to the artistic and less tangible. Every kind of photographer imagineable participates, from those creating with pinhole to those shooting medium format, and from film shooters to digital shooters. The discussions can become spirited, but never sink below the level of intelligent and worthwhile. The only thing I don't like about his site is the fact that Mike calls it a "blog". To me that sells it short. If the word "blog" is not yet stigmatized, it has to be very close. To me, his "blog" deserves the name and higher rank of "forum". - Lloyd L. Chambers

This is another "eclectic" site that - like The Online Photographer - runs the gamut from film to digital and expertly discusses all things photographic. It differs, though, in that creator Lloyd L. Chambers does not offer a forum (sic "blog") for photogs to exchange dialogue. I wouldn't say that's a bad thing - offering and moderating a forum takes alot of work and time. Another thing that sets this site apart: if you are intrigued by infrared photography - especially digital infrared - Lloyd is one of the foremost infrared experts and you are in the right place. He doesn't tell all he knows for free (not that he should - infrared also takes extra time, work, and money), but he gives plenty of very valuable information to get you started. If you are very serious about infrared, he offers books, CD's and classes on the subject. - Thom Hogan

Thom Hogan knows as much about Nikon as anyone you will find. And when I say "Nikon", I don't mean just gear. He knows quite a bit about their production facilities. He also seems to have an inside track on new Nikon products before they are released. I watched his site all summer, and he clearly knew 95% of the details of the two digital bodies and 5 lenses they announced on August 23rd. Thom is an expert on the technical side, too. If you want to learn the complexities of cameras and lenses all the down to physics and optics, his articles will take you far. Still, if you read carefully you will realize that his site is first and foremost about photography, and is not about claiming Nikon is the best, or fretting that new gear that is slightly better that what he owns will produce far superior photographs than what he is currently making. Just read "You're in a twisty maze of DSLRs..." (link), including what he wrote in the right column of the page. If you watch his site long enough, you will notice gaps in activity and postings. That's probably because he is out somewhere making photographs, and not worrying himself over the next new camera or lens. He just recently returned from the Serenghetti. I'm insanely jealous. Maybe I should just delete this whole section :-)

PhotoTrade News -

There is not much to elaborate on here. This site delivers timely industry news. Visit it, and you will know what's going on sooner than most.

So that is my current ongoing reading list. They all offer expert advice on the technical and far beyond, they are free of the negativity that is found in many blog style sites, and they come up with better, less cliche' headers than I do ;-).

Happy reading.

"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase."

~ Percy W. Harris ~

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