Mood Ambience & Dramatic Effects

Joseph Meehan's book Mood, Ambience & Dramatic Effects lays out, step by step, in full color, just how to master the basics of your camera and create photos which evolve from cliche to moving. The book goes from F-stops to ISO and into infrared and panoramas. If you've already mastered the basics of your camera, you might find this book too simplistic for you. On the other hand, if you tend to shoot in automatic mode, this can be just what you need to take that next step.

The stated purpose of this book, part of Kodak's "The Art of Digital Photography" series, is to help photographers move from simply documenting the subject before them and on to holding the attention of the viewer and conveying something beyond the basic image. The book is full color and is highlighted with a wealth of images to demonstrate its points. It covers how changes in angle, lighting, and other aspects of a photo can change its mood and how the viewer perceives the image.

The book assumes you're starting from a fairly basic beginning. It explains how f-stop is a measure of how wide or narrow the "aperture" opening is on the front of the camera, where light goes through to the sensor. The shutter speed is, as one might guess, the time period that the camera's shutter is open, allowing that light to flow to the sensor. A quick open-then-shut captures a precise image - freezing a football player mid-step. A slower speed, that allows time to pass before it closes again, blurs motion like a waterfall. Then we have ISO sensitivity which is how sensitive the sensor is to light.

The book explains how these three items relate to each other. Open up your f-stop larger, so more light flows through that opening? That's like doubling the ISO, which would make the sensor more sensitive to the light that's already there.

While the book is great in covering these basics, sometimes it does so in a confusing way. It talks about how making the f-stop bigger is like "reducing" the shutter speed. Many beginners would think this meant the shutter was open for less time - i.e. the time from open to close was quick. What they actually meant was that it was slower - that it took more time. While "reducing" might be a camera terminology standard, as this book is for beginners, they should have used more detailed phrasing to make that more clear.

The changes in f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity affect more than just the lightness and motion-capture of the image. A larger f-stop aperture equates into a narrower depth of field. That is, by opening up one's f-stop, one can have the image focus just on that bumblebee over the flower, and not all the background stuff behind it. A higher ISO sensitivity can reduce the amount of light needed, but can also add a graininess to the image.

The book goes on to talk about how weather like fog and clouds can add mood to an image. The pages present lovely examples of panoramas to show how those could be used effectively. Some of the infrared images are stunning.

So the book does provide great information for the relative beginner and a nice collection of images to illustrate its points. Still, it's not quite perfect. Several times the book talks about the "angle hair effect" of waterfalls. I didn't know angles had hair :). There are also several mentions of "corpuscular light rays" - brings to mind arteries! I think he meant crepuscular. There's a School and Tress combination. The interview with Theresa Airey has accompanying images but doesn't always explain which image goes with which description. An editor needed to take a better pass through this and clean up some of these issues.

And those are minor alongside some of the phrasing issues which will be confusing to the beginners which make up the ideal audience for this book. There's an entire chapter on infrared - but the book never actually explains WHAT infrared is. They give the sense that it's sort of like black and white, but different. It wouldn't have taken that much extra effort to give a little more background on infrared so readers understood what they were working with and how to utilize it best.

Still, between the good foundation information and the lovely example images I think this is a good book to read and examine as one learns more about their camera.

Rating: 4/5

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Photography Basics