Book Review: Life at the Edge by Carsten Egevang

Photography books are one of my greatest joys and passions and so it is with great enthusiasm I am reviewing Life at the Edge by Carsten Egevang. If you are unfamiliar with Carsten’s work I encourage you to run (not walk) to his website and spend some time pouring over his remarkable photography. A Danish photographer and a professional researcher with more than twenty years field experience in Greenland, Carsten clearly has Greenland and the Arctic in his heart. Carsten has been recognised in several international photo competitions, including category winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year – the highest position a Dane has yet been awarded in this prestigious competition. He was also awarded the title of “Danish Nature Photographer” (2011) and was a recipient of the Greenland Government’s “Environment and Nature Prize” (2012). Carsten is also a member of the Arctic Arts team (of which I am also a member). He is a master documentary photographer and his book Life at the Edge is a wonderful documentary account of the fragility of life in Scoresby in the Arctic.

The inhabitants of Scoresby truly lives LIFE ON THE EDGE. The settlement represents the edge of where to find human habitation in the sparsely populated eastern Greenland. Nearest inhabited area are 800 km to the south and north of Scoresby the world’s largest national park is found. At the same time the inhabitants of the isolated Scoresby lives on the edge of livelihood. Supplies from the outside world to the city are extremely sparse, and traditional fishing shall form a larger role than most other places in Greenland.

Life at the Edge documents Carsten’s travels to Greenland with his camera to shoot wildlife and to document the traditional Inuit way of life as it unfolds in modern Greenland. Although Life at the Edge is a collection of black and white photographs only; it should be noted that Carsten also shoots colour and has released other books with colour images.forside-life-at-the-edge-carsten-egevang-thumb1Presentation – Hardbound on a soft and supple lustre paper  Life at the Edge  is a sizeable publication; consisting of more than 200 pages.  Presented in multiple languages (including English) I found the layout of Life at the Edge to be highly complimentary to the documentary style of photographs. Divided into chapters, or sections there is introductory text for each section and explanatory text and notes are further scattered throughout the book.  I found the introductory text really helped set the stage and greatly enhanced my appreciation for the photographs.

The choice of photograph for the cover is complimentary to the photographs inside and the entire book is a very well constructed package of excellent quality.

The majority of the photographs are framed by the white of the paper in Life at the Edge and this works exceptionally well to contain the imagery from page to page. Full bleed images are scattered throughout the book and these do help to break up the book. I particularly enjoyed the layout of this book and the use of small photographs on some of the pages to create a greater level of intimacy. In an era where big is often seen as better it is nice to see the use of small images employed to help draw the viewer into this mystical polar world. As I have written before, this technique is highly effective at viewer engagement and more photographers would do well to take notice. Presenting a 200+ page book of photographs that continually engages the viewer is extraordinarily difficult and most books of this size leave me tired well before I get to the last pages. The simple reality is that there are only so many photographs my brain can absorb in a single sitting before the images start to blend together. Like Vincent Munier’s Artique (reviewed HERELife at the Edge transcended this limitation for me and left me wanting more. That is an extraordinary accomplishment.

You can watch a short film about Life at the Edgby clicking on the image below:LifeattheEdgeFilmPrint Quality – Life at the Edge is the first photography book I have reviewed that comprises entirely black and white photography. Black and white photography books (perhaps even more so than colour books) live and die by the quality of the printing. If the blacks are washed out and muddy, or of the highlights are blown out, or tonality is lost then the impact of the images is greatly impacted. The photographs in Life at the Edgcould so easily have become poor muddy facsimiles of the originals if the printing were not delicately handled. The eye takes great pleasure in the subtle tonalities of superb black and white printing and I am very pleased to say that the print quality throughout Life at the Edge is really superb with really deep solid blacks, wonderful shadow detail, sublime tonalities and highlights and an excellent dynamic range.

Conclusion –Life at the Edge is a superb documentary collection of powerful photographs that tells the story of life in the Arctic. The choice of photographs work very well as a collective body of work and are very effective in documenting modern life in the Arctic.

I strongly recommend you consider adding Life at the Edge to your collection of photography books. If you have ever travelled to Greenland and experienced the Arctic then you will no doubt connect with Life at the Edge on a very deep level. If not, then Life at the Edge will give you new insight into this incredible part of the world.  Life at the Edge is a must have addition to your  photographic library and can be purchased online for 50 Euro plus shipping.. Highly recommended.

Overall Review –***** Must Own. No photography library is complete without this book.

Book Review: Outdoor Photographer of the Year Portfolio One

Outdoor Photographer of the Year has released a brand new hardcover book of the best photographs from the 2015 Outdoor Photographer of the Year Competition. The book includes all of the winning, commended and selected entries with contributions from entrants based all over the world. I am pleased to say that the book also includes three of my photographs from the final round of judging. Presented in hardback with dust jacket the book is over 200 pages and can now be ordered online.OPOTY CoverThe book is divided up into the seperate competition categories. The layout is logical and the photographs have been nicely matched on facing pages. My review of this book is not based on the inclusion of three of my photographs and I would feel the same way about this book regardless of their inclusion or exclusion.

Presentation: The Outdoor Photographer of the Year Portfolio One is in square format in hardcover with dust jacket. The square format was the perfect choice for the broad range of different photo ratios that needed to be included. The presentation is simple and elegant. The paper is a light – medium weight semi-gloss lustre that works well for the broad genre of images included in the book. Although I personally prefer art papers to lustre papers it was a wise decision to choose a paper that conformed to the broad range of genres in this book and that has a deep d-max. The majority of the included photographs are printed with a white paper border to help frame and contain the image and keep the eye from running off the page. There are a few full bleed images and these do help break up the book (although I do prefer white borders). The photographers name is included next to each image, along with their nationality and a short statement about the photograph. Overall, the presentation is clean, thoughtfully laid out and does justice to the photographs.

Print Quality: When I ordered a copy of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year Portfolio One book I was slightly worried that the print quality might not be up to standard (as is so often the case with books that encompass a collection of photographs from competition). I was very pleasantly surprised to find my fears ungrounded. The print quality is about as good as one could hope for. As I reviewed perviously – the 2014 APPA Gold Book is the gold standard in print quality surpassing anything I have yet seen from an offset printer. Outdoor Photographer of the Year Portfolio One isn’t quite up to the same lofty print standard as the APPA Gold book, but it is truly excellent and the publishers are to be commended for producing such quality reproductions.

Conclusion: It is hard not to give this book five stars based on all of the award winning photography included, but in the end I felt somewhat conflicted giving a book five stars that includes three of my own photographs. I am therefore going to give it four stars and recommend that you strongly consider adding this book to your photographic library. If you are a Nature photographer then there is quite literally something for just about every sub genre under the Nature banner. Secondly, every one of the images in this book either won an award or was highly commended in the Outdoor Photographer of the Year Competition. Finally the print quality is excellent and really does justice to the photographs. I recommend you consider purchasing a copy of this book for your library. Not only is it an excellent resource and reference to have on hand by which to evaluate your own work, but it is also contains a hefty dose of inspiration. **** You should own this book and consider it an important part of your photography library.

Book Review: Arctique by Vincent Munier

The final book review I am publishing for 2015 (I will be travelling again soon until the end of the year) is the new release from contemporary wildlife photographer – Vincent Munier. If you are not familiar with Vincent’s photography then you more than owe it to yourself to take some time out of your day and get to know his work. Vincent is a master of wildlife photography and his latest tome ‘Arctique’ is going to be the subject of this review. ArctiqueI have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Arctique since it was announced a couple of months ago. I already own several of Vincent Munier’s books including La Nuit du Cerf  (reviewed here on this site) as well as his two volume ‘Solitudes‘ and also own several of his other smaller publications. I regret, I do not own his out of print Kamchatka book (if anyone has a copy they wish to part with please let me know). I am also soon to count one of his fine art prints amongst my collection. The new release, Arctique is a collection of wildlife (and landscape) photographs from the Arctic regions of the globe. It includes some previously published work as well as new photographs. From Vincent’s website:

“Vincent Munier showcases his best pictures from the Arctic. He brought them from different polar expeditions lead in winter during the past 6 years, generally alone and with full autonomy.

In the cold, pulling heavy sleds, he walked and skied across hundreds of miles on the territories of the white wolves: the « ghosts of the tundra », as the Inuit have named them.

From Scandinavia to the northenmost islands of Nunavut (Canada), we are invited to discover a breathtakingly beautiful, fascinating wild world: polar bears and foxes, caribous, muskoxen, Arctic hares, snowy owls… and even a magical encounter, when a pack of nine wolves surrounded the photographer!

Munier’s unique pictures carry us away on a long and adventurous journey across the open spaces of the far North; their gentle, white atmosphere softens the real harshness of this gigantic desert, at the top of the world. And for the first time, the photographer shares with us his travel journal and personal impressions of the Arctic, one the most remote and fragile places on the planet.”

If you are not familiar with the style of Vincent’s wildlife imagery Arctique might seem somewhat alternative to you on first leafing through the pages. You will not find cliché images, or documentary style photography in-between the covers of Arctique.  What you will find instead is highly evocative imagery that is rich in emotion and drama and that is presented in a very soft and ethereal manner. This is imagery that whispers in soft transcendent tones and does not feel the need to shout and wave its arms and legs about.

What I particularly enjoy is what is left to to the imagination in these photographs. Photography is very much a subtractive process. When framing an image in the viewfinder what we choose to exclude is often more important than what we include and it is this skill that Vincent employs so artfully in Arctique (and in his previous release La Nuit du Cerf). This has become Vincent’s trademark style and Arctique contains numerous wonderful examples in its many pages. The photographs provide us a glimpse into a mystical frozen Arctic world. They tell us stories about the lives of these incredible animals; about their ability to adapt and survive and the interactions between them. But these stories are not presented chapter and verse. Instead we are provided with just the right number of ingredients for our mind to take us on a journey and let our imagination complete the stories. This engages the viewer on a far superior level to a collection of ‘pretty pictures’. Everything is there to set the stage for a great photograph: Low mist, fog, falling snow, dramatic cloud and light, are all in abundance, but it is the choice of framing and shutter speed that bring the image to life and the soft muted pallet that paints the subject in such a mysterious shroud. We are often left with a sense of the environment in which the animal lives – as if we are provided a partly fogged window with which to look into this remote world. This is artful and soulful wildlife photography executed by a master craftsman. It is wildlife photography at its absolute best.

Presentation – We all know that first impressions count. From the get-go the presentation of Arctique is absolutely superb. From the moment I opened the packaging and removed the shrink-wrap, to the moment I turned the final page and closed the book I was engaged by the complete package.  The presentation is extraordinary, and rates amongst the very best I have seen in photographic publications. It is rare for me to be left wanting more at the end of a book, but that is exactly how I felt when I got to the end of Arctique. I had devoured the imagery, enjoyed sublime presentation and was still hungry for more. It was not long after that first viewing that I found myself going back for second and third helpings.

Hardbound on wonderfully heavy art paper (I would guess close to 200gsm paper) Artique is a sizeable publication; consisting of 264 pages (plus an additional 48 pages of travel journal).  The choice of a matt Arctic white colour for the cover is complimentary to the photographs and the entire book is a very well constructed package that exudes quality. I really enjoyed the small touches such as the thoughtful matching slipcase (also presented on lovely card stock) and the clever addition of the behind the scenes (travel journal) softcover book included inside.

The travel journal offers a wonderful insight into the making of the photographs in Arctique that really added great depth to the overall experience for me. Having spent many months photographing in the Arctic regions myself I can already appreciate what it took to produce these works. My feeling, is the behind the scenes additions will provide a much deeper level of appreciation for this body of work for those who have not had the good fortunate to visit the Arctic. I particularly enjoyed the small diary excerpts (in French) included therein. The addition of the travel journal will I think for many complete the experience and is a worthy addition to Artique that takes the entire package into that rare air of excellence.

I was very pleased to see a complete lack of full bleed photographs in Artique. All of the photographs are framed by the white of the paper and this works exceptionally well to contain the imagery from page to page. Each photograph is treated as an individual art piece – and rightfully so. I particularly enjoyed the layout of this book and the use of small photographs on some of the pages to draw me in and create a greater level of intimacy. In an era where big is often seen as better it is nice to see the use of small images employed to help draw the viewer into this mystical polar world. This technique is highly effective at viewer engagement and more photographers would do well to take notice. I also appreciated the occasional use of an empty page on the left hand side that allows the eyes and mind to take a slight pause and focus on just one photograph on the right hand side of the page. This is clever design that lets the eye really take in and enjoy each photograph without feeling overwhelmed. Presenting a 264 page book of photographs that continually engages the viewer is extraordinarily difficult and most books of this size leave me tired well before I get to the last pages. The simple reality is that there are only so many photographs my brain can absorb in a single sitting before the images start to blend together. Artique transcended this limitation for me and left me wanting more. That is an extraodinary accomplishment.

Print Quality – In many ways reviewing the print quality of Arctique had me reflecting back to my earlier review of Vincent Muniers La Nuit du Cerf. The difference being, the palette has been reversed.  La Nuit du Cerf contained photographs that were very dark in nature (many of them shot at night) where as Arctique  has a much whiter and brighter pallet that is a strong example of the use of subtle shades of white and delicate tonal transitions. There are many examples of white on white in Artique and the eye takes great pleasure in the subtle tonal shifts.

It is had to make a direct comparison to my Gold standard for book printing – the 2014 APPA Gold Award Book as the two printing processes employed in these two very different reproductions are (pardon the pun) poles apart. Where as the 2014 APPA Gold book has an incredible D-Max with deep, rich velvety blacks, superb color reproduction and pin sharp printing; Arctique employs a different approach that perhaps more appropriately matches this style of photography. My feeling is that the print quality in Artique is best judged in the subtle tonalities of snow and ice found in many of the images and not in direct comparison with other publications.Arctique2I feel somewhat spoiled in my experience with print quality. As a photographer who regularly makes and sells fine art prints I have a pretty good grasp of just how good modern day fine art inkjet prints can be. To date I have not yet seen an offset printing process that can match that of a finely crafted inkjet print. In this regard, the print quality in Arctique is about as good as offset can achieve with current technology on this type of soft art paper and in that respect it is excellent. The choice of matt art paper is highly complimentary to the photographs and the muted palette of soft Arctic whites is well reproduced throughout this book.

I fear those photographers who eschew technical perfection above all else may well fail to grasp the true beauty of the printed images in Arctique. With the limited dynamic range of the soft art paper and the very limited color palette of many of the images there is an over arching soft and ethereal presence to the photographs that is often monochromatic in nature. These are photographs that do  not leap of the page with vibrancy. Rather, they softly whisper sweet tones that will draw you into this mystical white world.

Conclusion – Arctique epitomises just about everything I love and enjoy about wildlife photography in a book. It is a superb collection of highly evocative photographs that is an absolute pleasure to consume. Arctique can be purchased online for 65 Euro plus shipping in standard edition (as reviewed here) or, for 500 Euro as a limited edition (100 copies only) in a presentation box with a signed fine art print.

I highly recommend you consider adding Artique to your collection of photography books. If you are not yet collecting books on Nature photography then this would make a superb start and provide you many hours of enjoyment (as well as providing a valuable reference). If you are already a collector of fine photographic publications then Arctique is a must have addition to your library. Highly recommended.

Overall Review –***** Must Own. No photography library is complete without this book.

Book Review: Arctic the Best Photographs – 2013

My fourth book review for 2015 is Arctic The Best Photographs. Arctic the Best Photographs is a publication of the winning, runner up and highly commended photographs from the 2013 Russian Global Arctic Awards Photographic competition.5cd8cba1efcef904bc1f5439b1d16294Arctic the Best Photographs is therefore a collection of photographers work (90 different photographers) that was judged to be the best from the 2013 Global Arctic Awards. As such, there is a broad diversity of work throughout the book from many different photographers and the genres range from wildlife to landscape, people, travel and more.  I found this diversification of work to be an enjoyable experience as it really showcases how many different aspects there are to life in the Arctic. If you value photography from the Arctic regions you will certainly find many images that will appeal to you. As you would expect for a “Russian photographic publication” the included text is presented in Russian as the first language and the English translation supplied next to it.

With a shelf price of 35 Euro Arctic the Best Photographs isn’t exactly inexpensive, but on the other hand no quality photographic book ever is and the pricing is commensurate with similar publications. Just as an aside, freight to Australia for Arctic the Best Photographs was considerable at more than twenty Euros making the cost of ownership higher than would perhaps be expected. First world problems…

Presentation: Arctic the Best Photographs is hardbound in a nice clean glossy finish with de-bossed silver text on the cover (there is no dust jacket). Consisting of approximately 160 pages in an almost square (26cm x 24 cm) format there is a large amount of material enclosed and as such the book is quite hefty for its size. The choice of square format for this publication was a clever decision that gives equal billing to both portrait and horizontal images. The paper is a medium weight semi-gloss lustre that is satisfactory; if somewhat lacking to some of the finer papers found in higher quality publications. Although, I personally prefer art papers to lustre papers the choice of paper in Arctic the Best Photographs is suitably chosen and appropriate for the imagery.  I like the inclusion of matching end papers that increase the overall quality of the presentation. Most of the included photographs are printed with a white paper border to help frame and contain the image and keep the eye from running off the page. There are a few full bleed images included and I felt these detracted from the rest of the presentation. Whilst I appreciate the use of the occasional full bleed image to help break up a book I do feel that their use really takes away from the images that receive this treatment. Otherwise the layout is pleasing with each photograph receiving its warranted billing. Each photograph is titled with the image title, photographers name and the location of where the photograph was taken (in both Russian and English). Overall the presentation is satisfactory, but falls short of excellence.

Print Quality: The 2014 Canon APPA Gold awards book I reviewed earlier this year remains the gold standard in print quality that surpasses anything I have yet seen from an offset printer. Arctic the Best Photographs unfortunately falls more than a little short of this benchmark with quality that can perhaps best be described as average. As you would expect of a book that encompasses the best photographs of the Arctic, many of them were shot in superb light and its unfortunate that this has not translated well in print. The print quality is better than I have seen from many self publish books, but is definitely not representative of the best it can be. I am always left somewhat disappointed when I am looking at fantastic photographs that are poorly printed – it really detracts from the overall experience and leaves me unfulfilled. Just as an aside Arctic the Best Photographs was printed in Latvia. I have several other books I purchased recently also printed in Latvia and they range in quality from quite good, to mediocre. Arctic the Best Photographs unfortunately falls in the mediocre camp.

Conclusion: Arctic the Best Photographs is a solid two star presentation of the best photographs from the 2013 Global Arctic Awards. The photographs contained therein are for the most part superb and on their own would rate much higher (although there is the odd cliché image that obviously still managed to woo the judges). I really wanted to give Arctic the Best Photographs more than two stars as there are so many fantastic photographs included in the book; however, the print quality really lets down the photographs and left me feeling somewhat short changed. Arctic the Best Photographs is a worthwhile addition to any photographic library that values photography from the Arctic regions. ** Consider buying this book if the subject matter appeals to you.

Footnote: Arctic the Best Photographs (2013) is now in limited supply and Arctic the Best Photographs (2014) appears to be already sold out.

Book Review: Simply Peter Dombrovskis

My third book review for 2015 is Simply Peter Dombrovskis. If you are a landscape or Nature photographer and you are not familiar with the work of Peter Dombrovskis you should take some time out of your day at your first opportunity and research his work. Peter is undoubtedly Tasmania’s most well known and most celebrated landscape photographer and is regarded by many (myself included) as an icon of Australian photography. He came to fame and prominence in 1982-1983 when one of his photographs ‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend‘ (undoubtedly his most recognisable and celebrated photograph) was used as the lead image in the campaign that successfully prevented the damning of the Franklin River.RockIslandBendMorning Mist, Rock Island Bend – Peter Dombrovskis

Peter Dombrovskis was born in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1945 of Latvian parents. He emigrated to Australia in 1950 with his mother Adele and started taking photographs in the 1960’s. He was strongly influenced by Lithuanian-Australian pioneer, conservationist and photographer Olegas Truchanas, who became a source of inspiration. He was equally influenced by landscape photographers of mid-century America such as Ansel Adams, Edward and Brett Weston and Eliot Porter and glimpses of these photographers styles can be seen in Peter’s own imagery. Sadly Peter passed away in 1996 while photographing in the Western Arthur Range in southwest Tasmania and this new book is in many ways a retrospective of his finest images. From the inside dust jacket:

This rare book. an exhibition of photographs by Peter Dombrovskis. The presence of sixty of his unique images, beautifully reproduced in full color on premium grade Real Art paper manufacturer from sustainable plantation forests, totally chlorine free.simplyPeter photographed in large format film and the quality of his images is superbly reproduced throughout this new book. The eye takes great pleasure in the reproduction of even the finest details in each photograph. Simply Peter Dombrovskis is much more than just a collection of Peter’s best work however; it is also a wonderful visual insight into the Tasmanian landscape and wilderness. If you have been fortunate to travel and photograph in Tasmania you will know exactly what I mean. If you have not yet photographed in Tasmania then do yourself a favour and bump this spectacular location up your to do list (I will be offering a Tasmania workshop in the near future).

If I had to gripe about any aspect of Simply Peter Dombrovskis it would be the shelf price. At $190 Australian dollars this is not an inexpensive book to purchase. However, the quality of the reproductions is first rate and this is in many ways the definitive collection of images from the significant body of work Peter amassed during his lifetime. The book has been produced without compromising quality and is superbly presented. I suspect the imagery will be enjoyed long after the price is forgotten.

Presentation: Simply Peter Dombrovskis is hardbound in black linen with a smart, clean dust jacket that is simple and elegant. The paper is a medium to heavy weight semi-gloss lustre that oozes quality. Although I personally prefer art papers to lustre papers the choice of paper in Simply Peter Dombrovskis is well chosen and appropriate for the imagery. Most of the included photographs are printed with a white paper border to help frame and contain the image and keep the eye from running off the page. There are a few full bleed images included and I felt these detracted from the rest of the presentation. Each photograph is elegantly titled at the bottom of the page along with the location of where the photograph was taken. There is an elegance to the presentation of the images in this book that resonants with me and I very much enjoyed the overall presentation.

Print Quality: The 2014 Canon APPA Gold awards book I reviewed earlier this year is the gold standard in print quality that surpasses anything I have yet seen from an offset printer. Simply Peter Dombrovskis is almost on a par, with deep rich colours that are the closest you are likely to get to the original prints. The quality of the printing is superb and does full justice to the photographs. Just as an aside: If you are visiting Tasmania, be sure to stop into the Wilderness Gallery at Cradle Mountain where prints of Peter’s work are on display in a retrospective exhibition.

Conclusion: Simply Peter Dombrovskis  is a solid four star presentation of some of Peter’s best photography and I recommend that you strongly consider adding this book to your photographic library.  **** You should own this book and consider it an important part of your photography library.

Footnote: Simply Peter Dombrovskis is already out sold out of its initial print run making this book a very noteworthy addition to any collector’s library if you are able to obtain one.

My personal thanks to Gail for the very kind and thoughtful gift of this book.