Monday Blog Blog: Review Of ‘Light And Land’ by Michael Frye

October 31st, 2011 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Monday Blog Blog: Review Of Light And Land: Landscapes In the Digital Darkroom By Michael Frye

Light And Land E-Book Promotional Image.

(What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”)

Michael Frye’s articulate, yet casual writing style in Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom, easily conveyed ideas to me that perhaps had seemed more complicated or even intimidating before. Right from the start I felt relaxed as though he would take me through a challenging journey safely. For example:

In this book I’ll take you step-by-step through each decision as I process five different images in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. You’ll see my workflow in action, and I’ll explain why I use particular techniques in a particular order. But more importantly, you’ll come to understand the aesthetic judgments behind each decision… you’ll gain insights about how to convey your own unique vision, and how to squeeze every ounce of beauty, emotion, and inspiration out of your photographs…. While I use Lightroom for these examples, the basic principles apply to any software. Learning how to make good decisions and find the right balance is more important than learning any particular tool or technique.

“OK, I’m in,” I said to myself. “I can do this.” Michael Frye then rolled right into Highlight and Shadow Detail, Black Points and White Points, Workflow, Curves, Tools, Default Settings, Finding Direction and other sections in the natural flow of his work on digital images. These sections, besides explaining technical concepts in non-technical terms, made the process seem simple, but not too simple. Many photography how-to books wax long on technique, but Michael Frye showed me what to do with the techniques to create images that bring out my own vision. He also told me how to best apply each technique depending on what I intend to accomplish in each photograph. In my view, this makes Michael Frye an above average teacher. No wonder he teaches workshops through the Ansel Adams Gallery. No wonder he is the author of the traditional paper paged book Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters. Michael Frye knows what he is doing regarding the unique considerations in landscape photography post processing. In his e-book, Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom, he also sprinkled in his own wit and wisdom for landscape photography in general:

…In some other photography genres the photographer is often concerned with only one subject. Landscape photography frequently requires blending many different ingredients in a harmonious way.

Or:

…Landscape photography is all about communicating the mood of a particular place at a particular time.

Or:

Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you prefer using Curves or some other tool, what default settings you start with, or even what software you use. The goal is to make the image communicate something, and there are many ways to accomplish that. Knowing what you want to say is more important than using a particular procedure.

At the top of Michael Frye’s section on Workflow, he listed for us readers in order the various steps he takes in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Then he elaborated on each one. He showed how he goes about each step in a sort of “real time” demonstration on his landscape photographs.

He explained that “in a book of this size it’s impossible to describe every nuance and keyboard shortcut in Lightroom.” Then he went on to recommend the two books I already have on Lightroom, but have never read, how handy is that? Plus Michael Frye recommended one more book on Lightroom by David DuChemin called Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. The other two books I have are Martin Evening’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers and D65’s Lightroom Workbook: Workflow, Not Workslow in Lightroom 3 by Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer.

Having watched master landscape photographer Carr Clifton work with curves since 2008, but having only minimally tried it myself, I found Michael Frye’s explanation of curves to be the easiest to understand of any I have read. To check out the Photoshop and Lightroom resources I have either studied or gathered and not yet studied, see the blog posts, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros” and “Monday Blog Blog: Lewis Kemper.”

What I liked about Michael Frye’s style of presentation in Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom was that he urged the reader to think and make decisions. He asked many questions that put me into action in processing images along with him and starting in on my own. His sections called “Evaluation” in Light and Land and on his “In The Moment: A Landscape Photography Blog” have encouraged and inspired us students of landscape photography to jump right in and get involved.

Michael Frye powerfully wound up Light And Land by advising us to go to galleries and museums and look at the finished product: fine art digital prints. He said not just to look at them but to ask yourself his many evaluation questions:

When viewing prints, look at the contrast. How much of the photograph is pure white? How much pure black? Is the print dramatic or understated? Notice the color balance and saturation. With black-and-white prints, check for slight color tints.

To bring home his e-book coaching Michael Frye in Light And Land quoted Ansel Adams, one of the world’s greatest fine art print makers of all time:

The difference between a very good print and a fine print is quite subtle and difficult, if not impossible, to describe in words. There is a feeling of satisfaction in the presence of a fine print—and uneasiness with a print that falls short of optimum quality.

The only aspect of Light And Land I don’t like is that it is too short. I would like to learn much more and have Michael Frye go into greater depth in many of the areas of his coaching in this e-book. Fortunately, Light And Land is priced at what David DuChemin termed the “outrageously low price” of only $5.00. If you look around some you may even find a coupon to purchase the e-book for $4.00. I recommend that each of you who takes the digital printing of landscape photography seriously not wait any longer: buy the book now. Michael Frye will show you how to make that subtle difference, referred to by Ansel Adams, in your fine art digital prints. To order go to Light And Land: Landscapes In The Digital Darkroom.

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7 comments

  1. JayM says:

    Totally agree. This e-book is invaluable to anyone working in the digital darkroom. And the DuChemin book Michael references is similarly one of my post-processing bibles. Both amazing. I would also heavily encourage checking out Michael’s printed book (Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters). Excellent discussion of not only considerations in the field but also in post.

  2. Thanks, Jay. I enjoyed just now looking at your blog. I like your street scenes, people and found photographs. It’s a bit of a departure from the landscape photography gang of photoblogs I usually run with, or run across, but it is more along the lines of my own photography when it isn’t of “nature.”

  3. Derrick says:

    Thanks much for sharing, David! Looks like I have a book to read!

  4. Hi Derrick, I find Michael Frye friendly and helpful. I didn’t mention in the post that the only thing I didn’t like about the book was that it was too short. I feel an e-book, even though it is only $4.00-$5.00 ought to be perhaps a bit longer than 36 pages. Maybe I’m wrong. He certainly packs a lot of great information into those pages.

  5. Greg Russell says:

    Great write-up David! I’ve been a fan of Michael’s for quite some time…I think since I bought his “Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite” in 2004. He’s got an intimate knowledge not only of the Sierra, but of the principles of photography and keeps a “must-read” blog, in my opinion.

    cheers,
    Greg

  6. Yeah Greg, I agree about Michael Frye’s blog. His posts, commentary, sharing, inclusion of other photographers work, critiques and all the rest grow on me more and more each time I visit over there.

  7. Derrick says:

    working my through the book now in spare time. So far it is quite nice – thanks again for sharing.

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