Wednesday, 9 January 2019

How to shoot your garden

The ideal book for the amateur photographer who has a reasonably sized garden and wants to capture the changing  fauna and wildlife through the seasons. The author has written several books on photography and I expect they all start, like the first seventy-two pages of this one, with an explanation of how a camera works, the various controls, basic equipment you might need, lenses, lighting, color and composition. This is written, as is the rest of the book, in an easy to understand conversational style.

The four seasons are illustrated with about two hundred photos, mostly of flowers but including wildlife that comes and goes through the year. All the pictures have detailed captions about what's in the frame and ending with technical information, for example the peacock butterfly on page 137 had an exposure of 1/60 f11 90mm macro lens ISO 100.  I think the strength of the book is that all the photos are straightforward shots that any amateur could take with practice, there's nothing 'arty' here, that would make the photos very personal to the author. Another plus is that each flower is described so that the book is also a handy botany lesson (the author is a professional biologist)

The book is printed with a 200 screen on a nice matt art but unfortunately the paper is a bit too thick for the book's dimensions which prevents it from opening flat and it created a minor annoyance while I was reading and looking at the photos.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Check out these remarkable photobooks

The book is published on the hundredth anniversary of the creation of Czechoslovakia (and since 1993 it changed back to the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and it's a celebration of photobooks published in the country from 1912 to 2018. I thought the contents provided an excellent overview with 580 titles considered, each with the cover and a couple of inside spreads and usefully quite technical captions detailing the publisher, price, pagination and the number of photos, size, editor, photographer, designer, languages, printer and printing format.
The ten chapters look at some rather interesting subjects. After Manfred Heiting's intro the Spartakiads physical culture mass gymnastics movement is covered with twenty-one books. Founded in 1862 to symbolically show the strength of the small nation using mass displays of thousands of men and women. The Communists high-jacked the movement for their own ends with the first state-run exhibition in 1955 and the last in 1985.

So many of the countries photobooks were printed by the Neubert company who developed a unique gravure printing process and though the quality of their work can't physically be seen on these pages the thirty books in the chapter about the company do reveal some very creative looking art books. Josef Sudek and Josef Koudelka are probably the most famous Czechoslovak photographers and rightly get a chapter each. Sudek has seventy-seven books and Koudelka one hundred and four. He has several pages of remarkable photos taken during the 1968 Prague uprising. The books from both these photographers include many published in other countries after their deaths.

Two chapters cover the years when Czechoslovakia was taken over by the Nazis and later the Communists. The Nazi destruction of Lidice produced several powerful photobooks published after the war and during the Communists years I was surprised to see plenty of titles revealing publishers could still put out very creatively designed photobooks despite state control of the economy.

This is the third superb photobook in English from Steidl and Heiting and it follows the visual style of the previous two (Soviet and Japanese books) with well over a thousand images in colour and mono each with a drop shadow to make them float on the page and printed with a 175 screen. For a small landlocked country in the eastern part of central Europe Czechoslovakia had some extremely talented photographers and publishers.


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Follow this enchanting trail

This is a rather unusual pop-up book because it has virtually no color, just white light card stock revealing a sort of landscape with flowers, shrubs, trees, animals and on the last page a lily pond, made out of mirror paper. I wouldn't class it as a straightforward book for children more like something to share with adults and children.
There are only five spreads but the open up to very clever paper engineering and you wonder how they all fold flat. The last spread, with the lily does have a bit of color, some green leaves on the underside of white leaves with a snail in them, the green is only viewable as a reflection in the pond. Also on this spread there is a dragon fly with wings made of plastic and two three-dimensional flowers that don't fold up but fit into the lily pond recess. There is a hands-on element as well, David Pelham has written a poem which is accessed by turning a notched wheel on each page which reveals the poem in a curved cut-out section.
Despite the almost complete absence of color I've always enjoyed looking through Trail to admire the sheer cleverness of the intricate pop-ups.



Wednesday, 12 December 2018

A look at the typographic futura


Most movie-goers probably don't realise how realistic the future looks in sci-fi entertainment. Set and production designers create a very plausible feel and look for years to come with buildings, props, fashion, lighting and of course type, whether it's those huge numbers on the USS Enterprise in 'Star Trek' or the text on a tablet's screen in 'Moon' Dave Addey explores this rather niche corner of sci-fi in his surprisingly interesting book.

The all-time fave futures type is Eurostyle Bold Extended designed in 1962 by Aldo Novarese for the Italian Nebiolo type foundry and even though it's over fifty years old it still looks the part and can still be used to project a future feel. This was the typeface that Addey kept coming across in movies and inspired him to find out more and eventually write this book. Seven films are looked at in detail: 2001; Alien; Star Trek: The motion picture; Blade Runner; Total Recall; Wall-E; Moon. The typefaces in all of these are explored with plenty of stills and text revealing how they are used right down to the smallest bit of copy, for example, page thirty-six has a still from 2001 showing Doctor Floyd reading the long instructions on how to use the zero-gravity toilet and it's printed out on page thirty-seven so you can read them. The long running Star Trek used several faces that were issued as a font pack in 1992 (still available online). In Total Recall, on page 170, there's a logo from Mars Today based on the USA Today newspaper.
As well as the films there are heavily illustrated Q an A interviews with two typographers Stephen Coles and Antonio Cavedoni, director Paul Verhoeven, animators Ralph Eggleston and Craig Foster and designer Mike Okuda. The last few pages have fascinating visual summary of how hard it is to create a credible future look that's also good entertainment.

Dave Addey writes in a pleasing breezy style and the rather flamboyant look of the pages makes the book a fun read that will interest graphic designers and especially sci-fi movie fans.