Temple of the Seven Dolls

The star attraction at the ancient Maya ruins of Dzibilchaltún, Yucatán, Mexico:

Temple of the Seven Dolls

The Temple of the Seven Dolls was named for some small clay figurines found in an offering under its floor.  Sadly, a fence now keeps visitors from climbing its steps, much less looking inside the structure (likely due to vandalism seen at other well-visited sites).

Photographer’s Guide to Palenque — now out on the streets

Palenque cover thumb

It took me considerably longer than I’d hoped — but A Photographer’s Guide to Palenque is now out and available for purchase!  It’s a brute of a guide book at 65 pages in length (if you printed it on regular 8.5″ x 11″ / A4 paper), has a dozen maps and one or two images for every structure open to visitors — a steal at $4.99.

And of course, don’t forget that a purchase also gains you access to a host of online material — an editable shot list, wallpaper for your computer or tablet, bigger maps than I can pack into an eBook, etc.

Go check it out!

eBook review — Portraits of Earth: An Introduction to Landscape Photography

Every few weeks, the folks atCraft & Vision release another title in their fine series of photography eBooks. Their latest contribution was just released today — it’s Portraits of Earth: An Introduction to Landscape Photography, by David duChemin. As you might expect from the title, this eBook is a thorough discussion of landscape photography. And given that David cut his photographic teeth (so to speak) as a portrait photographer, it also makes sense that the eBook to some degree chronicles the learning process he went through in applying what he knew of portraiture to the world of landscapes.


Here’s a quick overview of the eBook’s sections:

  • Gear — lenses, tripods, filters
  • Light — soft, dramatic, reflected, side, warm vs. cool, mixed sources
  • Line — composition, leading lines, etc.
  • Land — scouting tricks, visual scale, finding a new angle
  • Water — tips and tricks, safety, scale
  • Snow — metering, white balance, condensation, capturing snowfall
  • Details — macro landscapes

Along with its text, Portraits of Earth includes images from all seven continents, taken from 2009 through 2012. And all its images are presented with their EXIF data, so along with composition ideas, you can gain a wealth of practical knowledge from each.


While the title is billed as “An Introduction to Landscape Photography,” it goes into significant depth and is a worthwhile read for even experienced photographers and is a fantastic value for $5 — you get a DRM-free PDF eBook with 62 (double-width) pages, full of explanatory text and a wealth of helpful example images.

eBook review — Craft and Vision’s “Finding Focus”

FINDING_FOCUS_newrelease_coverspread_550.pngEvery month, the folks at Craft & Vision release another title in their fine series of photography eBooks. This month’s contribution was just released today — it’s Finding Focus: Understanding the Camera’s Eye, by Nicole S. Young. As you might expect from the title, this eBook is a top-to-bottom discussion of the use of focus in photography. It’s comprehensive, and doesn’t assume you know very much of the subject (which has its pros and cons, obviously, depending on where you’re at photographically-speaking).

Finding Focus costs $5 for a PDF with 36 (double-width) pages, full of explanatory text and plenty of helpful example images. It covers the following topics:

  • Aperture
  • Depth of field
  • Lens compression (of the subject’s apparent depth)
  • Tilt-shift lenses
  • Related camera functions (pre-focus, DOF preview, etc.)
  • How to focus (for portraits, landscapes, etc.)
  • Focus & storytelling
  • Software (focus stacking, adding blur, etc.)
  • Common mistakes

The eBook’s coverage of focus is technical and comprehensive, but given the nature of its subject, may be a bit basic for some people. From my perspective, Finding Focus will likely be more useful for a beginner or beginner / intermediate photographer than for a more advanced shooter. That being said, it’s a well put-together eBook if it answers a need for you. I have only one complaint about this title: example images are labeled with their EXIF data, but many of the labels don’t include the focal length used (for shots taken with a zoom lens). This is an odd oversight, given that telephoto compression of a scene is part of the ground this title covers.

Things that are, and that are to come…

Just a quick update about the Maya ruins eBooks (if you haven’t purchased a title, and aren’t interested in getting one in the future, feel free to tune out now…).

I’m doing the final edits on the Calakmul eBook — I expect to release it within the next week to Amazon and Smashwords; it usually takes another week or two in order to get on the shelves at Apple (iBooks), Sony, Barnes & Noble, etc. Calakmul is big, but poorly documented (since it’s really only been excavated relatively recently), so I’ve had to do an unusual amount of research in order to pull this one together — sorry for the delay!

Meanwhile, since “The New iPad” is now on the streets, I’ve added 2048×2048 to the list of wallpaper sizes I provide when you buy a title. If you’ve already purchased a title or two, follow the instructions in Appendix C of your eBook(s) to get to the wallpaper I’ve put together for you.

If, on the other hand, you haven’t purchased any of the titles yet, what are you waiting for?

eBook review — Forget Mugshots: 10 Steps to Better Portraits

mugshots_thumb.pngCraft and Vision has just released a new eBook — this one’s called Forget Mugshots: 10 Steps to Better Portraits, and as usual, it’s a good one. $5 gets you 32 tabloid-sized pages full of good tips on making more engaging portrait shots.

Right up front, I have to say that the book’s title is a bit off — because the 10 steps aren’t really “steps” that you’d take one after the other. But then, calling it “10 Factors to Keep in Mind in Order to Make Better Portrait Shots” would have been cumbersome.

So, about the book. After a brief introduction, Forget Mugshots dives into the 10 “steps,” each explained in depth and illustrated by a couple of fairly quick examples, and nearly all of them wrapping up with a “Portrait Profile.” The profiles consist of a portrait or two of an individual annotated with the camera settings used to make them, and accompanied by the tale of the subject themselves.

By the way, here are the titles of the 10 steps:

  1. Relate
  2. Wait for the moment
  3. Use the “right” lens
  4. Use more than one frame
  5. Understand the smile
  6. Watch the eyes
  7. Play with the light
  8. Control your background
  9. Get level
  10. Pose carefully

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that David duChemin’s 10 “steps” are some sort of hard and fast rules, they’re not. But they really are aspects of the inter-personal process of portrait photography that you need to think about before you start to make your next portrait. And of course, thinking about them while you’re making a portrait would be a good thing too. So as far as I’m concerned, Forget Mugshots is a fantastic deal for $5, even if you only occasionally do portrait shots.