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I have high hopes for Jim Goldstein’s new ebook series titled Inspired Exposure and the first offering Photographing The 4th Dimension: Time is the subject of this review. Some of you may know Jim from his writing here on DPS or from his ever popular blog. While I know Jim personally, this review will be an objective look at his book and if it may be of value to you, the reader.
This book is geared toward the beginner and intermediate shooter. It lays out the basics of techniques and then takes the time to order the steps for those new to the system. He also includes field reference cards you can take with you while shooting (no batteries needed!).
Jim’s first ebook attempts to give readers tools and understand in order to capture an aspect of photography most beginners, or even intermediate shooters, don’t often think of; time. With an extremely fast shutter speed and so much concentration on making sure it is fast enough to not blur images, expressing time in anything other than split second shots is a technique that takes some studying as well as trial and error. Jim starts the reader out on this path by laying down the basics in the first section titled: Exposure 101. Exposure, Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO laid out in four pages. If you’re brand new to photography, you might need a bit more learning than what is presented in this section. For those with even an inkling of understanding, the review helps cement the concepts and prepare you for the advanced techniques to come.
The next chapter touches on human perception. This is a valuable and needed step before the techniques. It’s also nice to see video included to explain certain concepts, such as the Phi phenomenon. Jim uses video sparingly in this book and only to really highlight a topic, not as a cool new gizmo that adds action where it is not needed. This chapter gets a little deep and is worth a reread to really understand how the human brain ‘sees’ time and action. Footnotes with links to the web give the reader a path for further exploring.
Now you’re ready for the basics of a long exposure. Jim touches on the base technique and it will take a couple of read-throughs to get the system down. While he notes it in later sections, I’m not sure why he doesn’t suggest locking focus in step 5 of this section. It’s nice to see he lists the recommended gear with a link to the full gear selection description in the back of the book. Again, he uses the technology of this format well to make information easier to access. There is an important video in this section describing how light meters work in camera to make sure you understand why it’s not perfect.
The placing of the next section confuses me a bit. It centers on light painting, indeed a fun technique, but it seems out of place in the flow of the book and I would have liked to see it further back. It contains a number of different techniques, always with Jim’s great photography as an example. I also would have liked a bit more quantification on light sources to use, especially in regards to flashlights. I have tried a number of sources and a suggestion here would help a beginner. Lastly, a video in this section would have been perfect. To see someone painting with light (especially the colors Jim uses) and then the final product would aid novices. Still, it is a fun technique and he provides picture perfect inspiration. His hints for exposure settings are a nice jump-start for those new to the idea.
Composites: Star Trails and More covers a lot of ground and gives solid suggestions for software. I like that he walks through the post production (as much as can be expected) to help take the mystery out of the process. I have found when showing others the fun with star photos, that post-production can be the largest stumbling block and Jim’s software suggestions and steps help a lot. He also laces in some preferred settings and dedicates a page and a half to showing you what not to do. I think this is valuable information to cut down on the trial and error time most of us experience with a new technique.
Sequences is a beautiful section that dabbles into story telling. This section is helpful for those who aren’t traveling far and wide every weekend and might not have access to the clear skies Jim enjoys on his travels while shooting star photos. He includes many examples in this section to spark imagination in directions most beginners don’t consider. The 16 shot sequence of his son’s expressions is priceless for new parents to consider and the section on time-lapse photography is helpful for starting out. What’s most helpful here is the use of video to show four examples of time-lapse is action. My only problem was getting each video to play as Windows kept asking me if I wanted to grant permission twice per video. A minor annoyance for good content.
The last instructional section before getting to gear recommendations is Mixing Motion With Still Photography and it is a cornucopia of advanced techniques. Rear-curtain and front-curtain sync are discussed and then it is right into the more advanced technique of Cinemagraphs. This technique is new to me and Jim laid out the steps clearly. It should be noted his instructions are only for Photoshop CS4 or later. From the looks of it, this technique could be ported to GIMP for those without the Adobe software.
Gear Recommendations lists out multiple options for each piece of gear and, even more importantly, what to look for when making a purchase. It is obvious Jim is not trying to make a buck by steering readers to one brand or another, but helping novices find what they are looking for.
Very last in the book is likely the handiest of sections. Yes, this is an ebook and meant to be carried on an electronic device no matter where you shoot. But Jim also realizes some people like things printed out. He provides quick reference cards that can be printed and taken with you for when your iPhone runs out of battery. Its’ a nice touch and will help cut down on the learning curve when out in the field.
I liked Jim’s voice throughout the book. He writes in an easy to read manner, as you might have found here on DPS. He also includes all the shooting data for images in the ebook, which is perfect for those looking to improve and understand how a shot came together. He also provides easy to find tips and shortcuts in a larger font or sidebar. The book, designed by Naomi Creek, has a pleasing layout and is easy to move through.
Personally I would have liked to see the gear section up front. That’s just my way of thinking, to know what I need first before diving in. I would have liked to see more use of GIMP or Aperture steps for those without Photoshop and Lightroom (when applicable). He also mentions film a few times but this book is certainly not geared to those shooters. Lastly, I’m not so sure about the placing of Light Painting more forward in the book.
Jim’s ebook sells for $20 and is available at Inspired Exposures (a site he created to offer other subjects in the series) as a PDF download for any platform.