Book Review: Captured by Moose Peterson

Captured, by Moose Peterson

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book here, primarily because I’ve not had as much time to really dig into a good book.  However, since Moose Petersons Captured came out, it has been on my list of books I’d like to read for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, Moose Peterson’s reputation as a wildlife and landscape photographer is pretty well known, so it’s kind of like the EF Hutton commercial – when he talks, it’s a good idea to listen.  As I’ve established a pretty good flow for gear reviews, I’ve decided to implement something similar for reading materials as well. In giving a fully detailed account, I’ll be looking at this (and all future materials) based on 5 criteria:  1)  Readability  2)  Length  3)  Writing Style  4)  Photography  and 5)  Educational Value

Captured, by Moose Peterson

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this book in each of the categories

1.  Readability

Certain authors and writers have a flair for language – where the point is very well made with an economy of words.  Points are made concisely, without a lot of meandering, and without losing the readers interest.  Others need the help of an outline to help keep them (and the reader) on track.  I was surprised to find that this book fell into the latter category.  It really did seem to go from gear, to theoretical, to anecdotal writing styles rather quickly, with abrupt changes coming literally with little or no transition between so it made staying focused on what he was writing about rather challenging.  This may be my background and experience in higher education, but I also found some of the grammar and sentence structures kind of awkward to read.  I got what he was trying to say, but sometimes I found myself re-reading sentences, paragraphs, and other sections more than once to try and get the point he was trying to make.  Score:  3.5

I guess I shouldn’t have been as surprised, because being a talented photographer does not necessarily make you a good writer or teacher, but with books there is so much editing that usually goes into the process, grammar and outlines are usually used to keep things on topic without much in the way of diversion.  However, it just felt like an awkward read, moving from one topic to another and not much adherence to any structure.  Nevertheless, I plowed on…

2.  Length

Books can be challenging to produce because there really is nothing stopping you (other than your editor) from going on indefinitely.  The problem here is that books (like speeches) can get too long and begin to lose reader (or listener) interest.  In order for a book to retain your interest over any extended period, the material has to be particularly engaging.  This is often the case with novels, mysteries, suspense, and other types of fiction.  However, in non-fiction, length can be an issue if you are not careful.  Here, the length did seem to go on longer than I would have expected for a book of this kind.  It wasn’t really that the material was dragging on longer, but it seemed that it could have been broken up into smaller chunks.  My idea for making this more digestible would have been to do that along the lines of something like the following:

The Moose Peterson Chronology

  • Moose Peterson – History in the Making: Learning all about technical and techniques in photography  (Volume 1)
  • Moose Peterson – Building a Reputation and Respectability in the field of Photography (Volume 2)
  • Moose Peterson – Working in a Digital World of Photography (Volume 3)

Having shorter books and compartmentalizing the topics for discussion would have made the readability much easier, and likely built in residual sales from those who purchased the first one.  But, to each their own I guess.  Score:  2.0

3.  Writing Style

It is easy to see that Moose is a technical person.  From his approach to the craft, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, to his business acumen and gear selection, the technical nature is something I can and do respect.  I wish the technical side came out more in the writing though, because for me the approach seemed more haphazard than it could have been.  There were sections where he would try to be funny, and while I got the humor, the delivery was just a bit easy to predict.  The technical areas came across well, when he described how he figured out lighting problems in caves, and timing the photography window for bird hatchings were quite insightful, but in other areas it made things drag more.  Anecdotes were a bit too dry, and could have used a more light-hearted approach, something along the lines of Joe McNally.  Score:  4.0

4.  Photography

There is a reason why Moose Peterson is such a successful wildlife and landscape photographer – he is good!  The landscapes and wildlife he shares with the reader in the book are just tremendous!  This is what all wildlife and landscape photographers should aspire to as the benchmark here is quite admirable, and the quality here is unsurpassed.  For this reason alone, I am glad the book was as long as it went, because it afforded me the opportunity to see a great deal of his portfolio.  Score: 5.0

5.  Educational Value

Captured falls into a category that I would best classify as educational, because there really are so many nuggets of wisdom and experience in these pages.  Sometimes they are well set-up, and others are buried in the text.  To get all the brilliance that resides within, you do have to read the full book, but what you come away from it with is worth the price paid for the knowledge.  You get to cut your teeth with Moose as he cut his when he began.  And while it takes a while to go through everything, the end result is worth it!  Score:  4.5


Would I recommend Captured to others?  I’d give this an equivocal yes, depending on what it is you are looking for, and where you are in your own learning curve.  For beginning photographers, the finer points that exist here would likely be lost on a first read, and I could not see reading this book twice.  If you are an intermediate photographer or well along the path of photography, then this is probably more your speed because you can readily identify the nuggets and pearls of wisdom that emanate from the pages.  Averaging the scores, the summary score for Captured is:  3.8

Category Score
Readability 3.5
Length 2.0
Writing Style 4.0
Photography 5.0
Educational Value 4.5
Average 3.8

Has anyone else read this book?  What are your thoughts on it?  What about other books you are reading?  Feel free to share your own thoughts and insights in the comments below!

Another Book Review: From Snap Shots to Great Shots (Canon 50D)

One area I’ve not really tackled here on the blog is that of book reviews, primarily because I don’t see a lot of books come through that give me enough time to read them myself.  One notable exception to that was a copy of Jeff Revell’s “From Snap Shots to Great Shots” book on the Canon 50D – I had the distinct honor of having received a copy of this book from Jeff a while back.  Since I did not own the 50D, it took me some time to actually sit down and read through the book.  I wish I hadn’t waited as this is a good read – regardless of what camera you own.  Here’s my detailed thoughts on “50D: From Snapshots to Great Shots”:

(Clicking on the Cover Image will take you to the Publisher site: Peachpit Press)

I did pull out the 40D and run through the settings with the book in hand because while I do not own the 50D, I figured that the 40D had enough similarities to use it in conjunction with the read.  This was helpful not only because I fond myself saying “I didn’t know I could do that!”, but also because I got a better handle on the differences between the two bodies.  For instance, on the 50D there is a dedicated button for Live View, whereas the 40D uses the button on the center of the rear dial.  The 50D also has a “Creative Auto” mode which is not present on the 40D…

One eureka moment I had was the sensor cleaning feature – while I knew that the camera will auto-clean the sensor on start-up and shut down, I did not know that there is an option to “clean now”.  Jeff’s advice to run this feature after swapping lenses is a good idea, and one I will definitely be adding to my work flow when out shooting (assuming of course that I am swapping lenses without turning the camera off and back on – which is my usual practice).

Another was the discovery of the “Flash Off mode”.  Because I usually shoot in one of three creative modes (manual, aperture priority or shutter priority), the basic zones have rarely been used.  The discovery of the “Flash Off” mode sounds interesting and I may have to give it a whirl.

As the title of the book suggests though, this is not really a text to explain each of the features (although he does a good job of that), it’s more about leveraging your camera on how to take better pictures.  Jeff does do a quick run through of the “Top Ten Things to Know” in Chapter One, and this is a great starting point.  As Jeff himself says, the book is not meant to replace the Owner’s Manual, rather to complement it.  Instead of telling you what the button does, Jeff tells you how you can use it to take better pictures, which is the key difference between this book and an Owner’s Manual.  It’s kind of like a blend between an Owner’s Manual and a primer on photography.

Some of the sections I liked Jeff’s in Jeff’s book include:

  • Raw versus JPG (I didn’t know what JPG stood for before reading this…do you?) (Chapter 2)
  • Different lenses (wide angles vs. telephotos vs. zooms) and their uses (Chapter 2)
  • The Exposure Triangle (Chapter 1)
  • Tips for Shooting Action (Chapter 5)
  • All of Chapter 8 – Mood Lighting – lots of tips and tricks here to achieving certain results with various techniques

My favorite part of the book – the assignments at the end of each chapter – here it’s basically a recap of what was covered in the chapter, but also gives you bullet points of things you should be familiar with both as a result of reading, but also from your own experimentation.  While many books will finalize things with the idea of getting out and practicing, the fact that Jeff encourages the reader to get out and practice with each element and does so frequently elevates this book over many others in the same category.

One disagreement: There is one thing where I actually kind of shuddered when I read it – in the book, Jeff describes the procedure for firmware updates and goes through the procedure of doing so by tethering the camera to the computer. While I know that Canon does have this as an acceptable approach for firmware updates, they also have the set of instructions for using just the memory card, which is preferable for me.  I wish Jeff would have covered both of these methods, and then let the reader decide for themselves which method they prefer.  Instead, he simply covers how to update firmware using the computer, and I do not recommend this approach! While I am sure there are many that have used this method successfully, and it’s an acceptable practice according to Canon, for me this is not the best way to complete firmware updates.  I don’t like this method for three reasons:

  1. It requires installing software on your computer so it can “detect” the camera and I like keeping my computer free of unnecessary software if I can…
  2. Data transfer rates are slower, which means more time for things to go wrong (and I would think your battery is discharged more too)…
  3. It goes counter to the instructions I’ve read from Canon for the 40D.  Even though Canon lets you do it through the computer now, it still needs a blank memory card to complete the process, so it’s like you are using the computer, and the memory card.  For me, I’d rather just keep the process simple.

Keep in mind though, this is a subjective topic, and it’s not necessarily wrong – I just wish he would have offered both options for updates rather than just covering the one approach.  This is not a reflection on the book as a whole, rather on one specific talking point.  Overall, the book is a great resource, not only as a reference for the 50D specifically, but it also is great for its coverage of some of the basic principles and practices in photography.  I like how Jeff takes the features of the camera and then transcends the camera-specific details to cover the ideas of how to take/make better pictures.  This just goes to show you that it really isn’t about the camera – it’s who’s behind it!

Jeff has taken this topic of “Snap Shots to Great Shots” and applied it to several books, so if you don’t own the 50D, check out his other titles as well on the Canon 500D and the Nikon D5000.  Jeff’s site, Photowalk Pro, is one of my daily reads too – it’s listed in the sidebar, and I also get email updates too.  To get your own feed or email subscription, check him out here.  If you are interested in any of his books, visit Peachpit (the publisher) or Amazon for more info.  I’ve included links here to the purchase points from Amazon:

If you want to become a better photographer, this book would be a great starting point, not just if you own a 50D (but it is particularly suited to 50D owners).  Jeff’s writing style is easy to follow and he covers a great amount without overwhelming the reader.  I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Canon 50D, or just how to take better pictures in general…

That’s probably enough material for today.  Thanks go out to Jeff for sending me a review copy of his book to read – it was quite enjoyable!  (Readers – stop over at Jeff’s blog and thank him there too if you liked it!)  If you’d like me to review some more books, share your thoughts  here in the comments or with me via email and I’ll see what I can do.  Until tomorrow then, happy shooting!

Useful Resource

In the interests of giving people enough time to participate, here is the awaited review of Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Book, Volume 3.  To be eligible to win this book, simply comment on this post – you have until Friday to make a comment – the winner will be announced then.  One entry only per person, and free shipping to anywhere in the US.  If you live outside the US you can still participate, but shipping won’t be free.  Details to follow for the winner…  Good luck all and thanks to those at NAPP and Kelby Media for sending the book out (little did they know I’d be turning around and giving it away again).  So, ready for the “review”?  Here goes:

Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Book, Vol. 3
Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Book, Vol. 3

The relatively recent release of Scott Kelby’s latest book on photography has met well with readers and reviewers so when I got an opportunity to read through it in some detail, figured this would be a good time to give a Canon-centric rundown.

First off, the book is interestingly organized.  Scott’s impressive background with Photoshop has lent itself well toward his particular writing style in that a work flow of sorts can be how reading material is organized.  With photography, a “work flow” is not as easy to adhere to because things will vary from one type of environment to another.  There are some basics that will be the same across the board, and given the layout of this third volume, I am guessing he found a flow for the first book or two.  For this third book though, it’s not typical “Kelby-esque” style writing.  Sure, the wit still comes through, and for those accustomed to his writing style, this is a welcome element.  The flow aspect being different though, takes some adjusting.  To that end, here’s how the book is laid out in its chapter organization:

  1. Flash Tips
  2. Studio Tips
  3. Lens Tips
  4. Product Photography
  5. Outdoor Photography
  6. Portrait Photography
  7. Sports Photography
  8. General Photo Tips
  9. Avoiding/Dealing with Problems

Because in previous works, I have been accustomed to reading something like a story as things easily transition from one element to the next, this was a bit more challenging at first.  Once I made the shift to this new style, it became easier – so, my recommendation, read this book more as a quick reference guide.  The tips, tricks, and pointers he gives on all subjects are spot on for the specific subject matter.  The content shifts quickly though with each tip lasting about a page (and this includes graphics).

When all is said and done though, would I recommend this as a book to read?  I can honestly say that though I’ve probably advanced past his introductory books, this is definitely a keeper.  Not only are there some great tips in here, but they aren’t just cheesy ones like “Don’t forget to take your lens cap off…”  These are real tips, true gristle that you can sink your teeth into.  Want to know how to use mirrors?  Scott tells you!  How about what to do if your flash isn’t bright enough?  Scott tells you!  There’s even nuts and bolts info on things like how to get specific effects with your photography in all genres of work.  I think what I like best is that he actually goes through some of the specifics for both Nikon (his camera gear of choice) and Canon equivalents, for camera and lighting settings.  This way no one is left out (unless you shoot Pentax, but then even there, the tips for photography still apply.)

The last element I think is worth mentioning is that while this book is not complete on any given subject matter, that it is still a good choice  because now you aren’t trying to get everything out of one book – you get nuggets and tricks and tools for any genre that can help you.  Even if you knew  everything in this book at one point in time, it would still be useful because we all need reminders every once and a while, so this is one to be sure to hold on to.  Scott gives enough detail to get you started in whatever field interests you – or even enough to take you from beginner to serious hobbyist, or even to maintain your skills as a general reference guide.  Is it too late?   Can I retract the “Comment Contest” and keep the book?  No worries – out it goes for some lucky reader.

I do feel that I should give some fair warning here though – this book is not for beginners.  If you’ve got a few things down, some of the basics of gear and lighting, and known your rules of composition, then yes, jump right in, the water is warm.  If the terms I just mentioned are somewhat new or you are still getting them down pat – you might want to start with his Volume 1 or Volume 2 book (or even just keep reading the blogs – I know a few good ones! 🙂 )

So, there you have it – thanks to Scott for putting out yet another must-read book (what’s he at, like 60 books now?).  Thanks also to Kelby media for sending this one out – I wasn’t sure if it would come or not.  And lastly, now it’s time to share your thoughts…did you like it?  Did it stink?  Needed more?  Needed less?  About right?  Should he switch to Canon and leave the Nikonians behind?  (Ok, just kidding on that last one…)  But sound off – this is your chance to win the book for free!

Happy shooting all, and thanks in advance for all that stop in to comment – don’t forget the month long contest going on over at Flickr to win a bunch of prizes including some more stuff from NAPP.  It’s in the Flickr tab up at the top, but I’ll link here again for convenience sake!  We’ll see you back here again tomorrow!