Sometimes the key to understanding is simply a matter of perspective. Taking a few steps backward and seeing the forest from the trees can work wonders. That’s a philosophy I’m sure the contributors to Panobook 2011 can all relate to since they are uniformly dedicated to a distinctly w-i-i-i-i-i-i-d-e view of life that’s achieved through the creation of panoramic images that have been produced using “stitching” software to assemble anywhere from two to 50 or more photos into completed single images.
Panobook 2011 is the result of an international panoramic photography competition sponsored by Kolor, the French company founded in 2004 which makes both software and hardware for panoramic devotees. 553 shooters entered over 800 images, which a trio of judges than pared down to the book’s 156 examples of 360-degree vision. And, like any photography contest, there are heart-stopping images of outstanding intensity as well as those that make you scratch your head and ask, “Who in their right mind would pick THAT photo?” Overall, however, the highs far outnumber the lows in this delectable visual treat.
Some subject matterseems to lend itself more naturally to the panoramic approach than others, which is why the book’s sections covering “Architecture,” “Cityscapes,” “Water” and “Landscape” contain far more photos than those encompassing “Mountain,” “Sky,” “Interiors,” “Entertainment” and “Imaginary.” The unifying element between all of these sections, of course, is the lack of the human element: again, due to the technical nature of the process itself, inanimate objects make for subjects that are far easier to work with than those pesky, always on-the-move humans or animals (though there are a couple of images that include living, breathing subjects and naturally they stand out, partially due to the rarity of their content).
Of course, “describing” photos is as problematic as describing sex: the information’s useful, but a poor second choice compared to the actual experience. So, you will want to get your hands on this terrific compilation in order to see for yourself why “more is more” but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few personal highlights.
Just a few pages into the book, for example, I stopped flipping pages and had to catch my breath due to the arresting image of Lac Blanc in France aptly titled ”Peaceful Morning” and shot by Stefan Weber. It is a double-trucked stunner of perfectly placid water as foreground to a rugged mountainscape which is just being touched by rising sunlight on its snow-capped peaks. I felt like I was actually in Lac Blanc, and the tack-sharpness and sense of isolation contributed to my feeling of breathing cold, crisp mountain air.
Of course, sometimes capturing a great picture is more a matter of timing than anything else (you don’t plan on the Hindenburg going down in flames, for example, but you won’t capture an enduring image for the ages if you aren’t physically there when it does). Thus Ronald Tichelaar’s photo of a stormy Norwegian countryside with rainbow (and slight hint of a second one!) and Orage sur Mahmurdağ’s rocky Turkish landscape with a bolt of lightning in the background impress not only for their gorgeous light and panoramic format, but because we know just how rare such opportunities are.
Eschewing the great outdoors for urban environs, Front de taille’s startling image of the drilling of a second underground tunnel tube in France is both beautifully lit and a testament to modern man’s ability to shape his world, while you can practically hear the vacant echoes bouncing off the man-made surfaces on Eli Locardi’s “Lonely Street” in Venice.
I could go on, but how many different ways can you say “Wow!”? Panobook 2011 is a tasty showcase of state-of-the-art panoramic images that cover more than 85 different countries. Each turn of the page is potentially a surprise and delight; my only suggestion for an improvement would be that they laminate the pages in future additions in order to prevent damage from drooling.
reviewed by phh
“Among Giants: A Life With Whales” by Charles “Flip” Nicklin.Publisher: The University of Chicago Press (2011); also available as an iPad app (by Lightbox Press) on iTunes.194 pages.
We live in the great Age of Hype.Models aren’t just models, they’re supermodels; stars are ho-hum, so you have to be a superstar.We won’t pay attention unless something is “The World’s Greatest,” “The World’s Biggest,” “The World’s Fastest” or “The World’s Dumbest.” Which, of course, raises the question: how can something be genuinely dazzling if virtually everything else is either “awesome” or “brilliant”?
With that introductory note, I will now indulge in some very uncharacteristic (at least for me) and unadulterated hype: Flip Nicklin’s images of cetaceans around the world are among the most impressive, most memorable and most endearing pictures on the planet. His ultra-close-up of a seemingly smiling Beluga whale, a classic photo of playful Bottlenose dolphins and a heart-rending image of a young white Sperm whale with its mother will grab your attention and inspire the inevitable “Awwww” moment, and that’s before you even get to the “Contents” page!
“Among Giants” is Flip Nicklin’s autobiographical reminiscence of a truly remarkable life, illustrated with numerous “How’d he get THAT picture?” images.Hanging out in his dad’s San Diego dive shop in the early 1960s, it was probably inevitable that the Nicklin DNA would require young Flip to follow his father Chuck into the water for a career (Chuck Nicklin started out as a professional diver but later became better known as an extremely accomplished underwater cinematographer).What certainly wasn’t as obvious at the time was that Flip was destined to become, over the course of a four-decade career, the go-to guy for both National Geographic and the world’s leading whale researchers whenever the photographic subject matter included cetaceans.
he photos in this book and its accompanying text are nothing less than the story of the birth and maturation of one very important segment of the environmental consciousness movement.Nicklin’s career started at a time when whale research was virtually non-existent and the tools to conduct such studies were remarkably crude (and could almost exclusively only be done from the surface).For most of the world at that time a whale was simply either a mythical book character or, especially in Asian markets, another variety of meat at the local market.
Fast forward to the present: decades of accumulated research data, the use of HD video and extremely light-sensitive digital still cameras, satellite tracking of whale migrations, and even the possibility of using miniature submarines to actually run with the whales has resulted in a quantum leap forward in cetacean knowledge as well as excitement about the future of whale research.And yet, as Nickin points out, “There are still many, many questions about how whales live their lives, how they find food, how they find each other, and what the larger relationships among them are.”
It was 1979 when Nicklin’s future began to reveal itself.While shooting humpback whales in Maui with his father, he was introduced to someone who would become a major figure throughout Flip’s life thereafter: Jim Darling, a pioneer in recording the singing of whales.The meeting with Darling and his colleagues was truly fortuitous: “Meeting and working with all these young, smart, passionate biologists was life-changing for me.It was a community I really liked and had had little exposure to.I was beginning to realize that underwater photography could do more than get me published, it could help tell the story of this new, changing field of marine mammal research.”
s you gaze at Nicklin’s breathtaking image of a school of hammerhead sharks…a close-up of mother and yearling humpbacks nearly kissing…or marvel at the sheer power displayed in Nicklin’s image of a breaching killer whale, the inherent sense of adventure in the making of these amazing pictures is palpable.And yet, Nicklin goes out of his way to dispel any fantasies about his career being some sort of perpetual adrenaline rush.He notes, for example, that while visiting Vancouver Island in 1981 to shoot killer whale pods, “I spent a lot of that summer sitting around, waiting for something to happen.I didn’t realize it then, but that was what I’d be doing in the years ahead.” Or this, when candidly assessing how over time his “normal” became something that would be quite abnormal for the general population: “In the field was both a harsh and exciting place to live.Most of the time, the living was rough and often tedious, with more waiting around than anything else, and the situations uncompromising.But when we finally found the animals we were after and conditions were good for photographing them, there was no more thrilling way to live.”
For many of us, our experience with whales begins and ends with something like a visit to the Shedd Aquarium or Sea World as well as viewings of “Whale Wars” on Animal Planet.Flip Nicklin’s words and especially his pictures, many of which were groundbreaking and almost all of which are arresting, make “Among Giants” not only an honest andhighly readable story about an extraordinary career, but also a visual feast that enables mere mortals to feel what it must be like to be in the company of the oceans’ largest creatures.
What is the essence of New York? That fabulous Manhattan skyline? The hustle and glare of Times Square? The stateliness of the Statue of Liberty? While New York is many things to many people, at its core, of course, NYC is all about its people…probably the most diverse cast of characters of any American city, and a lot of them! Milwaukee photographer Paul Matzner channels his inner Elliot Erwitt (Gary Winogrand? Robert Frank?) in capturing these 103 images that effectively remind viewers that they’re not in Kansas (or Milwaukee!) anymore. These are slices of life that capture the variety, occasional mundaneness and frequent wackiness of the Big Apple’s inhabitants.Yes, they are different than the rest of us, and Paul Matzner has assembled a refreshing photographic glance at their world.
reviewed by phh
“Red Bull Illume 2010 Image Quest Photobook.” Publisher: Red Bull Media House GmbH (2010).Information and images: redbullillume.com
The definition of “sports” has changed radically though the years, and with it the photography that attempts to capture it.Sports Illustrated set the bar back in the day with innovative, in-your-face photos of baseball, football, basketball and the like, but those team-oriented sports are now all decidedly old school.The new school of sports is characterized by high energy, individualism and a serious commitment to pushing the envelope of what’s humanly possible.And, in order to keep up, photographers have had to be equally daring in their willingness to put life and limb on the line to nail the shot.
“Photobook” is a compendium of 250 semi-finalist and 50 finalist entries in the 2010 Red Bull Illume, a photo contest that attracted 22,764 photos from nearly 5,000 photographers in its quest to reward “the world’s premier action and adventure sports photography.” This over-sized (12” x 12”) heavyweight is a limited edition publication, with only 4500 produced, and it’s a simply designed journey through the world of contemporary, non-mainstream sport.
ivided into nine thematic sections (such as “Energy,” “Spirit,” “Wings” and “New Creativity”) and just as likely to be illustrated in black-and-white as color, this is not your father’s idea of leisure activity: skateboarding, BMX cycling, cliff diving, base jumping, big-wave surfing, whitewater kayaking and the like dominate and are portrayed by these shooters in such a way as to consistently inspire thoughts like “That’s just crazy!” and “I wonder if that guy died after the photo was snapped?” Finnish photographer Rami Hanafi, for example, captured Scotty Lago catching big air on his snowboard while barely flying above the nipping flames of a raging bonfire.Meanwhile, American shooter Erik Boomer traveled to Palouse Falls State Park in Washington to shoot Tyler Bradt setting the world record for the highest waterfall ever run in a kayak.You look at Boomer’s full-page image of a seething, tumbling wall of water with a drop of almost 200 feet and then notice this itsy, bitsy red thing in the top left corner…oh, that’s the kayak and the maniac that is about to plunge to certain death…yow! And Italian Alessio Barbanti dramatically photographed off-road motorcyclist Taddy Blazusiak in such a way that the sand flying up behind the bike makes it almost appear that Blazusiak is surfing rather than cycling.
Of course, not every image in “Photobook” is heart-stopping: some are even a bit mundane and seem more documentary than truly inspired.And, the entire “Sequence” section loses its punch as you flip the pages and quickly “get” the shtick employed therein.But unevenness marks virtually every photo competition, and the hits in “Photobook” far outnumber the misses. “Photobook” is a showcase of high levels of guts, adrenaline and, in many cases, testosterone on the part of both the pictures’ subjects and the photographers whose zeal for shooting them comes through loud and clear in their images and the intriguing explanatory text that accompanies the fifty finalists. Think of Red Bull’s “Image Questi Photobook 2010,” then, as the anti-Sports Illustrated: gritty, passionate and definitely not for Girly Men.
reviewed by phh
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