“I think of the negative as the ‘score,’ and the print as a ‘performance’ of that score, which conveys the emotional and aesthetic ideas of the photographer at the time of making the exposure.” – Ansel Adams, 1983
That’s how Light and Land, the brand new eBook by Yosemite photographer and author Michael Frye, begins. As both a photographer and a trained musician, I can relate to that. When you write music, you notate which notes to play when, and at what tempo, but the piece doesn’t come alive until the individual performer(s) put their technique, style and emotion into the song.
With photography, you start with a RAW file and then make specific adjustments in your digital imaging software that bring the image to life and produce the best and most vivid possible print. In essence, you transform your capture into a stunning photograph.
Much like his book, Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and The Masters, which I reviewed here on my blog last week, “Light and Land” is specifically written for landscape photographers who want to take their digital post-processing skills to the next level.
Through expert instruction and creative inspiration, Michael Frye walks you through the specific techniques for adjusting and fine tuning your RAW image files in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. He also explores, step-by-step, the aesthetic considerations behind each type of adjustment you might make to your file, whether it be adding saturation, adjusting the white balance or burning and dodging specific parts of the image.
He not only shows you the how, but also the why. And by why, he means why you might want to make a particular adjustment. The goal is not just teaching you to become proficient in the digital darkroom, but showing you how to enhance your landscape photographs so that they have just the right amount of balance, mood and drama as they reflect your own creative vision and original ideas about the scene.
Using five images that the shot in the Yosemite National Park, the ultimate landscape photographers’ playground, Michael brings those original discussions that Ansel Adams began into the realm of digital photography. He explores highlight and shadow detail, black and white points, and with each image, he outlines a workflow that begins with evaluating the image and then performing the necessary steps towards making the final crucial touches that transform your RAW file into a final, finished image, ready for making fine art prints or delivering to a client.
The 36-page book is very well laid out in a single page, horizontal format, so it’s easy to view on a computer monitor. Each step is clearly explained and shown with screenshots of the individual tool panels. The tool screenshots are a little on the small side, but they’re there to guide you, not to show you exactly what numbers and values to copy, and they’re certainly big enough to do that.
It’s also illustrated with beautiful imagery that certainly reminds us of those old masters who ran around with big box cameras and glass plates back in the day. Michael Frye has indeed picked up the torch and he apparently sees it as his mission to carry on these important traditions and bring them into the digital age. As a photographer and teacher, he has succeeded on both fronts.
And, perhaps the best part, like all the other eBooks from Craft and Vision, it only costs five bucks. It’s well worth that, many times over, and as I keep saying, your photography is definitely worth that.
If Ansel were still alive today, he’d tell you to buy Light and Land. It’s a real treat.