Presents a Class in Nature Photography and Photographic Art

by John Womack


A photographer's bibliography is an important index of his or her aspirations and potentialities. The creative growth of any artist comes as much from the ideas they encounter from other minds as much as from their impressions from the world they see. A powerful bibliography is a collection of great creative engines with the power to radiate energy, provide guidance, enthusiasm and inspiration, to arouse curiosity and provide magic for the artist.

Here are THE FOUR BOOKS that can change your understanding of creativity, art, life and the universe, immediately and profoundly:

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The extensions of man. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1964. ISBN: 0262631598   This is the most important book I’ve ever read.  The first part (pages 1 - 73) is sometimes hard to get through, so don't struggle - go on to Part 2 (pages 77 to 359) and just pick and choose from the 26 different chapters that point to the essence of humanity and how it directs the human experience.  The ideas in this book will change the way you understand the world in which you live because it identifies those previously undetected forces that control all of our lives.

Alexander, Christopher, The Nature of Order:  An Essay on the art of Building and The Nature of the Universe.  The Center for Environmental Structure, Berkley, California, 2002,   ISBN:  978-0-9726529-1-9. Stunning book.  The only reason I don’t rate it number one on my list is because I don’t completely understand it,  but a dim light now glows faintly in my consciousness that was not there before I began working with this book.  Not easy to read.  Dr. Alexander is a challenging writer.  Then again nobody else has ever written about things like this.  What I have learned so far has changed my entire concept of composition in photographic art - or any art for that matter, including writing - or of life itself.   The book is difficult to read, expensive to buy and, it is volume one of a set of four.  But you will see the world and life from a different point of view after reading only a few words in volume one.  These are instructions for creating life in any form, whether in art or in life itself.

Koestler, Authur. The Act of Creation: A study of the conscious and unconscious in science and art. New York, NY. Dell Publishing Co. 1964. ISBN: 0140191917 For me the heart of this book was Book One (The Art of Discovery and the Discoveries of Art) pages 1 - 409. Book Two (Habit and Originality) pages 412 - 715, I found much less to the point I am looking for and more to a medical approach.  Book One has pure energy for artists.

Alexander, Ishikawa, Silverstein, Jacobson, King, Angel. A Pattern Language. New York, NY, Oxford University Press. 1977. ISBN 0-19-501919-9 There is a "voice" of history which speaks to all people in all times and it carries the tone of one who "understands". Here, such a voice describes a catalog of things that we humans have done during our occupancy on the Earth that have worked well and which help to explain who we are and how we and the planet fit together. For the photographer/artist this book is an outstanding guide to the viewing and understanding of regions, cities, villages, buildings and rooms because this is a book that explains how these places can be made to “come alive”. There are 253 chapters in this 1171 page book, and you really won't have to read the whole book to get enough out of it to change your life - then see if you can not read the rest of it!

The books that are too good to miss are here:

Livingston, David and Lynch, William, Color and Light in Nature, Cambridge, England, Cambridge Press, 1995. ISBN 0-521-43431-9 Hardback, 0-521-46836-01 Paperback.  A discussion of things we pass by every day and never notice: landpools and skypools, airlight and Alpenglow, the anti-twilight arch. What is the color of pure water, and the real color of the moon? Glitter, glints and sparkles; catspaws Most of the things this book explains are things we have already known about, but we didn't know that about! As I read this book I realized I had walked in an amazing world with my eyes closed! After you have read in it, you will walk through a different world.

Womack, John, Methods and Procedures of Outdoor Photography, Franklin, NC, Soliloquy Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9655546-1-9. Obviously this book is here because I wrote it, right? Well, true . . . but - it is still the only book I have ever seen that introduces color as a "Color Clock" in a way that you can learn the so-called color wheel instantly and never forget it. It also shows how to use the colors with each other so that any two colors can be combined in a beautiful way. It also is the only book I have seen that discusses composition from the point of view of interpretation and expression. It also has a important appendix of charts that display times of sunrise and sunset for the southern Blue Ridge mountain area.

Bullaty, Sonja and Lomeo, Angelo, Provence, Paris, France, Abbeville Press Publishers, 1993 ISBN 1-55859-557-90   If you want to see what can be done with color, then look here. This is definitely a "Wow!" book, but look closely. There are lessons and lessons on every page. If you have mastered the art of color photography then you may be ready for these lessons. If you aspire to greatness, here is one of your pathways.

Shaw, John. Business of Nature Photography. New York, NY. Amphoto Books. 1996. ISBN 0-8174-4050-X. For the grungy business of making money with photography. This book is so standard in the field of photographic business enterprise, that any mistakes he might have made are now standing operating procedure. You will now have to make them too, and here is the source.

Upton, Barbara London with John Upton. Photography. (Adapted from the Life Library of Photography) Fourth Edition. City not given. HarperCollins. 1989. ISBN 0-673-39842-0. Basic book about basic photography and how to progress beyond that. Classic college textbook for photography. One volume encyclopedia about photography. Need to know something about notching code, ferrotype, collodion? Maybe you have questions about developing, printing, lighting, photography history, framing, etc. This is the book for all that.

Brandenburg, Jim. Chased by the Light. Minnetonka, MN, NorthWord Press., 1998. ISBN 1-55971-671-1 How's this for a self-imposed assignment: spend 90 days in the boundary-waters wilderness area.  Take your camera, of course, but only three rolls of film. Object: to make one picture each day, every day, but never more than one - they all need to be world-class to grace coffee tables all over the world. Also, even though all you ever shoot is slide film, you will use print film for this work! Here is one of the finest lessons in photography you'll ever find.

Books that lead, guide and provide reference

for the naturalist/artist/writer:

Leslie, Clare Walker, and Roth, Charles E. Nature Journaling. Pownal, VT. Storey Books, 1998. ISBN 0-58017-088-9. Primarily for people who can sketch. In my nature photography classes I always make my students do some sketching. For most of them this is the first time they have ever really looked at the thing they have photographed. It changes their photography! You can do this type of nature journaling that the writers speak of with photography though, just think - what a treasure such a thing would be in 5 years! (or 20 or 100.).

Gross, Philippe and Shapiro, S. I. Tao of Photography:  Seeing beyond Seeing.  United States, Ten Speed Press., 2001, ISBN 13: 978-1-58008-194-8.  This book will take you to a world you have never seen before and never dreamed existed.  The authors claim this planet is called “Earth”, just like the one you have spent your whole life on.  What’s makes it different?  The art.  The art you will make after reading this beautiful book.

Patterson, Freeman. Photography and the Art of Seeing. Canada, Key Porter Books limited, 2004.  ISBN 13: 978-1-55263-614-5.  Lots of good advice to help the observation, imagination, expression and seeing of the world in which you make photographs.

Sams, Carl R II, and Stoick, Jean, Images of the Wild, Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, Sleeping Bear Press, 1997. Here is a book of nature photographs as good as it gets. Astonishing photographs.

Here is a basic Field Bibliography for anyone

who is curious about what they have found in the world of nature

Ludlow, David. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather. New York, NY. Alfred A. Knopf. 1991. ISBN 0-679-40851-7 I have two books on weather listed here and love them both.

Petrides, George A. A Field Guide to Eastern Trees. Boston. Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1988. ISBN 0-395-46732-2. This is my favorite field guide for tree identification for the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has a good key, good maps, excellent illustrations of leaves, buds, twigs, etc.

Newcomb, Lawrence . Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Boston. Little Brown & Co., 1977. ISBN 0-316-60442-9 A map in the front of the book shows the area of coverage which does not include western NC or north GA, but it does cover all of the mountains in that area. The key system in this book is excellent, and I have proven that it does work - however, one must still be willing to put in the time to make a good ID of a plant, and not expect it to leap out of the book at you.

Schaefer, Vincent J., and Day, John. Atmosphere. Peterson Field Guides. Boston, MA. Houghton, Mifflin, Company, 1981. ISBN 0-395-33033-5 I have two books on weather listed here and love them both.

Swanson, Robert E. A Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Southern Appalachians. Baltimore. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1994. ISBN 0-8018-4556-4. Sooner or later all writers, naturalists and artists will have to come to terms with a scholarly authority for their identification of trees and shrubs. This is an excellent book for that purpose, easy to carry, definitive and reassuringly authoritative.

Watts, May Theilgaard, and Watts, Tom. Winter Tree Finder. Nature Studio Guild, box 972, Berkeley, CA 94701. 1970. ISBN 0-912550-03-1. I found this incredible little book the first winter I was in the Beautiful Mountains. During that winter I learned to identify all the trees I encountered. But when summer arrived and the leaves came out, only confusion ensued from then on until the leaves fell once more and then I was at home in the winter forests again. (For non-winter work, see the Petrides book above). This tiny book is only one in a series which includes, berries, ferns, tracks, flowers, birds and many others. Write the Berkely address for a catalog.

Zim, Herbert S, & Baker, Robert H. (both Ph.D.). Stars: a Guide to the Constellations, Sun, Moon, Planets, and other Features of the Heavens. Golden Field Guides. Western Publishing Co., Racine, Wisconsin, USA. 1975. ISBN: 0-307-24493-8. Unsophisticated introduction to the night sky for beginners and lovers of nature. No better place to begin than with this book. (Dept. M, Wpc, Inc., 1220 Mound Ave, Racine, Wisconsin 53404, USA)