Monday Blog Blog: Creative Landscape Photography By Guy Tal

February 7th, 2011 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Reviewed, Revelled And Recommended: Guy Tal’s New E-Book, Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition

Cover For "Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition" by Guy Tal.

The goal is not to make you creative. Whether you know it or not, you already are. The chal­lenge, rather, is learning to tap into and focus your creativity and to help it find its ultimate expression in a photographic image.  –Guy Tal

“In his new e-book “Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition,” Guy Tal starts by going back to the basics, yet continues on far beyond the basics. Guy Tal shows you how to identify and develop the concept of each photograph. He also shows you how to train your mind and eye to recognize elements that can become photographs in scenes and objects around you.

He encourages you to discover what moves you emotionally in nature and then what to do with that to make more powerful landscape photographs. “The more profound your feelings, the more moving and interesting your work will be,” Guy Tal said in “Creative Landscape Photography.” This new e-book is inspirational in nature, much like Guy Tal’s popular blog/journal.

A quote from Minor White sets the tone for Guy Tal’s exercises on taking a visual inventory, telling the story of your image, developing the concept and visualization:

I seek out places where it can happen more readily, such as deserts or mountains or solitary areas, or by myself with a seashell, and while I’m there get into states of mind where I’m more open than usual. I’m waiting, I’m listening. I go to those places and get myself ready through meditation. through being quiet and willing to wait, I can begin to see the inner man and the essence of the subject in front of me. – Minor White

This quote by Minor White reminds me of the inner techniques learned by the photographers who studied with Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White in the first 10 years of the photography department during what is now being called the Golden Decade at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Each of the Golden Decade photographers I have interviewed or photographed with, said that getting into this quiet, creative space is one of the more important skills they learned in photography school.

The California School of Fine Arts photographers also learned about visualization. Guy Tal defines and quantifies the process for easier absorbtion. His Visualization checklist gives you various aspects of the photograph and its making in your mind ahead of time including contrast, dynamic range, composition, exposure and a number of others.

Guy Tal also recommends slowing down and making photographs at a pace where you can take a break and come back to your work. “Looking at anything for too long may color your judgment,” Guy warns. “Before releasing the shutter, take a step back, close your eyes for a few seconds, reopen them, and examine your composition anew.

“Creative Landscape Photography” provides guidelines and productive exercises, but cautions against the overuse of rules:

…No work of art hanging in the Louvre was painted by numbers, renowned chefs did not become so by following cookbook recipes, and Nobel prizes are not awarded for repeating somebody else’s achievements. On the other hand, progress is often made by those standing on the shoulders of giants, and age-old wisdom should not be dismissed. Take the gifts of the elders and develop them forward. Contribute something of your own making for future generations.

Throughout the e-book you will find Guy Tal’s own magnificent landscape photographs as high quality examples of each of the concepts he presents.

The only improvement the e-book needs is in diagrams. It needs more diagrams and maybe even pictures to help explain the text in the histogram chapter and other more technical sections. There are some diagrams, that are excellent. The e-book needs more.

The text is loaded with other small chunks of wisdom that will bring new results:

Though some critics and collectors prize specialization and consistency, you can decide at a later time how to structure your portfolio and what to present to whom. When out in the field, though, try to silence all voices other than your own…. To many advanced photographers, finding and developing a distinct and recognizable personal style is the pinnacle of creative expression. Many, however, fall into the trap of placing more emphasis on a recognizable style rather than a personal one.

Guy Tal does not skimp on solid real-world advice. He goes into some depth on a number of technical issues while his writing about these remains accessible to non-technical readers. I enjoyed his discussion of exposure and the use of the histogram to ensure detail in your entire photograph. Besides being about creative composition, Guy Tal also gives us highly instructive chapters and sections on other considerations of image capture. Besides using the histogram to maximize detail, he also explains how to arrange settings for the best captures when you intend to stitch two or more images to get detail in both highlights and shadows.

To wind up, Guy Tal carries us through presentation options, final print size, matting, signing, even lighting and hanging, and other final considerations.

While Guy Tal clearly believes in getting the most out of the digital darkroom to enhance the final performance of the print, he also shows a dedication to a certain aesthetic of realism and explains why it is important. Guy Tal’s next photographic e-book will be about creative processing techniques for creative landscape photography.

I strongly believe that photography is the most restrictive of the visual arts but at the same time has the potential to make the most impact for one simple reason: photographs have a binding connection with real events, real elements, real light, and real moments in time. Any blatant departure from these realities can cause an image to be dismissed regardless of other aesthetic qualities.

To order “Creative Landscape Photography, Second Edition” go to Guy Tal Photography E-Book In PDF Format.

For more insights on important concerns read two recent blog posts by Guy Tal, “Photography and the Environment” and “Macro Environmentalism.”

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  1. Thanks again for bringing Guy’s book some more deserved exposure. I have followed Guy for a while and when the book was released, bought a copy soon after. I now recommend it to all my workshop students and photo clubs I speak to. So much talk about technology and software, it’s nice to nice to get inspired about style and vision. Thanks!


  2. Thanks Robert for your insight about how Guy Tal’s book has helped you and your students. The writing tone and style are so easily absorbed. I thoroughly enjoyed the read.

  3. pj says:

    Guy’s blog is high on my ‘must read’ list. His mix of fine photography and thought-provoking posts sets a standard of excellence that’s hard to match.

  4. Thank you for the comment, PJ. I am in complete agreement about Guy Tal’s Web Journal or whatever he calls it now. I enjoy his dialectic approach and admire the amazing group of people and fine comments he has attracted.

  5. Derrick says:

    Thanks for bringing Guy’s book to my attention!

  6. Thanks, Derrick. Did you see any of the reviews on other blogs a while ago?

  7. Greg Russell says:

    The first edition of Guy’s book is one that I’ve found immensely useful, and like other commenters above, I consistently go back to Guy’s blog. He’s definitely a constant inspiration…


  8. Thank you, Greg. I didn’t ask him if there is a big difference between the editions. I’ll look into that and report back. What I read was also the first edition. Superb.

  9. OK, so here’s the update on the differences between the editions: Guy said, “The text is pretty much the same but some typos are corrected. And the design is very different (the original was mine and once I had some sales I paid a pro to spruce it up). You should be able to use your original download link to get the new edition.”

  10. Derrick says:

    David – I did not see the other reviews! Yours was the first.

  11. Oh, good, I am glad it helped you get into Guy’s work. It is well worth delving into.

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