Review of Landscape Photography Books

For this article I thought I’d have a look at some of my favourite photography books.
Now more than ever, there are a huge number of photography books published; “How To..” technical manuals, collections of work, and books that are a mixture of both these things.
To be honest, I’m a sucker for books and have bought loads of them. While I only ever read many of them once, there are some which I return to time and time again, and those are the ones I’d like to talk about here.

First Light - Joe Cornish
First Light - Joe Cornish

A hugely inspiring book from one of the Britain’s finest large format landscape photographers. The quality of this book is apparent as soon as you open the cover, from the print quality to the beautiful images on every page.
Each double page spread contains an image, along with a detailed description of the thought and feeling behind each photograph, and Cornish is almost as accomplished a writer as he is photographer – the descriptions themselves are both beautiful and insightful.
Finally, at the bottom of each page there is a small image which often shows an alternative view of the main image, or an image taken at another time or in different light, along with the photographers opinion on why the image didn’t work so well. It’s a great addition, and a reminder that even the very best make images they aren’t happy with.
This is one of the first photography books I ever bought, and one that I still return to time and time again.

Edge of the Earth Corner of the Sky – Art Wolfe
Edge of the Earth Corner of the Sky – Art Wolfe

Art Wolfe is arguably the finest wilderness photographer alive today, and of the many books he’s published, this for me is easily the best.
First of all, it’s huge, and the sheer scale and wealth of images alone is impressive. It’s divided into 5 sections, Desert, Mountain, Water. Forest and Polar, and each section is filled with stunning images. From the curves of the dunes in Sossusvlei Namibia and the peaks of Mount Fitzroy in Patagonia, to the lava pouring into the ocean on the Hawaiian coast and ice bergs catching evening light in Iceland, every shot shows the planet’s beauty so effortlessly and elegantly captured by a genuine master at work. This book will make you want to pack your bags and travel out to the ends of the earth yourself.
Completing the book is Art Wolfe’s description of the making of each photo, along with technical information.

Waiting for the Light – David Noton
Waiting for the Light – David Noton

David Noton has made a career combining travel and landscape photography to great effect, and this book showcases his huge collection from all over the world. Using both panoramic cameras like the Fuji 617 and digital SLRs, the images are beautiful, and combined with Noton’s conversational writing style, it’s a pleasure to read.
The book manages to be a great manual on landscape photography, an interesting diary of photographic excursions and a gallery of Noton’s best work with beautifully presented images.
Alongside the book, a DVD, Chasing The Light, is also available. Although this covers a lot of the same ground that the books does, Noton is always engaging, and watching his excitement as the mist clears around Glastonbury Tor at dawn, or as the clounds and light come together to make something special of a shoot at St Michael’s Mount is a real pleasure.

400 Photographs - Ansell Adams
400 Photographs - Ansell Adams

The godfather of modern landscape photograph left behind a legacy of some of the finest images of North American wilderness and national parks ever recorded. It’s the simple truth to say that without Ansel Adams, landscape photography would almost never have evolved as it has today. It was Adams who developed the zone system and his perfectionist attention to detail created images which have entered in the consciousness of almost anyone who has picked up a camera with the intention of shooting landscapes.
Beyond that, Adams was a pioneer in the environmentalist movement, arguing that mankind needed wilderness to preserve its spirit and with his photography he was successful in expanding the national park system.
While he is well known for his technical books, such as The Camera, The Negative and The Print, it is in this collection of his finest work that we can most clearly see his genius and his influence. A book that everyone who loves nature photography, or the natural environment should have on their shelves.

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Mountain Light – Galen Rowell
Mountain Light – Galen Rowell

Galen Rowell left an incredible mark on landscape photography. Not only have the images taken on his 35mm Nikons inspired generations of photographers, but his writing is one of the clearest and most concise attempts to marry the technical aspects of image making with the cognitive and creative art of seeing.
The images are wonderful, but it’s the text that really inspires. It’s hard to deny that there are few people with his in-depth knowledge of photography, backed up by the experience of someone who lived for photography, whose life revolved around the creation of dramatic images. If Galen Rowell says that a certain exposure compensation works best for natural looking fill flash, then you can be sure it’s because he’s spent hours testing it, forming his conclusions.
His ideas on how we look at images, what it is that makes an image special, how we react to colour, light and compositional arrangements is never less than fascinating, and while it’s arguable as to whether he was the finest landscape photographer to have ever lived, for me there’s no doubt that he’s the finest landscape photography writer, and thus anyone who wants to try and capture something special with their photography should own at least one of his books.

Earth From Above - Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Earth From Above - Yann Arthus-Bertrand

The landscape photography book that even people who aren’t interested in photography should have on their shelf.
It’s a simple idea, take aerial photographs of some of the most stunning locations on the planet, and it’s been done before.
What makes Arthus-Bertrand’s book so special, and what elevates it above other similar books is his eye for composing almost painterly images and capturing them when the light is at it’s absolute peak. Many of the images contain manmade elements, and the book is filled with text concerning the planet, and man’s impact upon it.
Bertrand has an incredible eye for capturing moments in time that make his epic images feel almost intimate, and an ability to compose various complex elements into a simple elegant image. A wonderful book.

South Southeast – Steve McCurry
South Southeast – Steve McCurry

Moving away from landscape photography for a moment, Steve McCurry is the photographer behind some of the finest photojournalism from Asia of the last 20 years. He’s the creator of that famous National Geographic cover of the green-eyed girl from Afghanistan.
Each one of his books is wonderful, but South Southeast is my favourite by far. It’s hard to define exactly what it is that makes his photojournalism so breathtaking, but every image shows a mastery of light and colour, and beyond that, an empathy with the subject that makes his work seem so intimate.
Looking at his images doesn’t invoke a feeling of pity and horror that you might find in an (admittedly wonderful) collection of Sebastiao Salgado’s work, but instead, there’s a warmth and humanity there. Sure, the scenes are of people who live in poverty, the mother sleeping with her baby as a snake sleeps below their hammock, the old woman who’s back is bent in a mirror image of the oxen that she walks past in the street, but there’s a dignity and sense of life in his pictures that show how much joy and love Steve McCurry feels for this part of the world.

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One Response to “Review of Landscape Photography Books”

  1. Sheena

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