Review: The Traveling Photographer

The-Traveling-PhotographerI’d finished reading The Traveling Photographer by Sandra Petrowitz but I had not yet begun to write about it when I was sitting in a coffee shop with friends when one pulled out his phone to pass to me to show me the pictures of the weather he had encountered the previous weekend on a shopping trip out of town. Snow, ice, cars off the road and broken trees abounded.  My second friend reciprocated with a quick draw of his phone to show pictures of his son’s wedding done just the week previous to that one when the weather was sunshine and sparkling and in the mid 80’s.

I was thinking—first that this is Texas where the weather can change in the blink of an eye, and second that it seems that everyone is a photographer today with their phones and tablets with cameras—even if they left their point-and-shoot or more potent DSLR at home. The camera is everywhere. The snapshot is ubiquitous. The final thought that came to me was that as a somewhat aesthetically judgmental photographer, maybe I could pass out copies of The Traveling Photographer to upgrade the quality of my friends images. Having been a photographer for much more than forty years and a photography teacher for thirty three of them I well know that the possession of a camera does not guarantee the aesthetic quality of an image.  The cameras today are smart enough to correctly expose most of the time, but none yet have a button or menu item to guarantee a well-designed image with a real story-telling quality. The snapshot is still very much with us.

The old days of spending the evening at a neighbor’s house looking at slides of a vacation are long gone by almost twenty years; now everyone is ready  to show their pictures of vacations or the new baby in the blink of an eye and the whipping out of their phone or tablet. Most of the  images haven’t gotten better, just smaller, and design has suffered more in the transition.

Rocky Nook Publishing sent me a review copy of The Traveling Photographer by Sandra Petrowitz. Sandra is a journalist and editor who specializes in nature, travel, environmental, and other photraphy-related topics. As a passionate traveler who has made journeys from the Sahara to the Himalayas, and from Patagonia to the Okavango Delta she has produced a beautifully illustrated volume that is full of wonderfully story-telling images of far off places and then loaded that same book with comments and information to improve the images made by the beginning and intermediate photographer who chooses to seek to improve the quality of their travel photography.

The professional photographer will admire her images and respond to her commentary with “…yes, that’s the way to do it,” but the casual photographer and traveler will respond with “…that makes sense; why haven’t I done that to make stronger images?” Her logical and clear cut advice on such things as concentrating on details and looking for the graphic qualities of a scene (and giving and showing examples), will lead the traveler to a more elegant and story-telling approach and move well beyond the simple “I was there” image. Camera height and camera angle and the basics of eye movement and good design are explored to move the traveler beyond the mundane, flat, lined-against-the wall approach of the two dimensional image. This can show the depth and richness of the world when seen with an eye to intriguing the viewer and making that viewer aware of the scale and richness potential of a scene.

Hints on composition, suitable equipment (by characteristics rather than by particular brand), storing of camera gear and the protection and transport of image files are all subjects she introduces with a sufficent depth to get the traveling photographer more comfortable with the idea that they can bring home quality images from their travels and move beyond the snapshot stage.

I have two friends who are about to receive copies of The Traveling Photographer as gifts, so it’s obvious that I recommend it.

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The Traveling Photographer 
by Sandra Petrowitz
Rocky Nook Press
ISBN 978-1-937538-33-0
US $32.95 and CAN $34.95
Amazon Kindle Editon $16.95 ; Paperback $24.38

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