Photography Books

Favorite Books A - Z: Photography by Todd Henson

Some of my favorite photography books, from A to Z.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

I recently posted lists of my favorite fiction and non-fiction books for each (or almost each) letter of the alphabet. This time around I’m trying to pick a favorite photography book for each letter. This was far more difficult than the other lists because I haven’t read nearly as many photography books. But I did the best I could, and the results are below.


A - Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs

How could I not choose Ansel Adams for A? I, like so many others, have been greatly inspired by his work, and 400 Photographs is a fantastic collection of his images.

 
 

B - Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World’s Most Extraordinary Birds by Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes

This is one of my more recent purchases, so I haven’t actually read the entire book yet. Perhaps that means I’m cheating choosing it for B, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read so far, and I love the many photographs of these incredible birds, ones I may never see in person in the wild.

 
 

C - A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs by Annie Griffiths Belt

I love this style of book. It contains photographs by Annie Griffiths Belt, but it also contains her story, how she travelled the world with her family, the sights they saw, and the lessons they learned. Great read, even for non-photographers.

 
 

D - Dorothea Lange: Aperture Masters of Photography

Dorothea Lange had to be D. As with Ansel Adams, I find her work very inspiring, even if it’s not a style I tend to shoot, myself. She can tell a story with a photograph better than most, and that’s something we can all learn from.

 
 

E - Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography by Todd Brandow and William Ewing

I really love this book. It’s an excellent representation of Steichen’s work and has some great essays on the man and his life. But I did struggle to choose just one book for E, so I’m going to cheat and also mention Earth is My Witness by Art Wolfe.

 
 

F - Fine Art Nature Photography by Tony Sweet

I like the way Tony Sweet approaches photography, from an artistic perspective I find very appealing. This is a small book that focuses mostly on the photographs. But it’s one I enjoy looking through every so often.

 
 

G - Genesis by Sebastião Salgado

Genesis is such a powerful book full of absolutely stunning black and white photography. I really admire Salgado’s work, and this is just an incredible example of that work. Highly recommended.

 
 

H - Himalaya: Land of the Snow Lion by Andrea Baldeck

Andrea Baldeck takes us to another part of the world and lets us explore the culture, art, nature, and geography of that region through her photography. She tells the story of the people and the place.

 
 

I - Irving Penn: Platinum Prints

Another one of my favorites, the only thing better than this book would be seeing the prints in person. These are excellent reproductions of Penn’s work, showing the incredible tonal ranges he captured in his compositions. Beautiful work.

 
 

J - John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide

This was one of the first nature photography books I purchased, so perhaps I have a soft spot for it. It helps give an overview of many of the different topics relevant to the field, even if some sections do show their age.

 
 

K - Andre Kertesz: Of Paris and New York

I’m cheating a little with this book, as I’m nowhere near finished reading it. But how could I not include Kertesz for K? This book contains a nice sampling of his work and several essays about his life.

 
 

L - The Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell

When I first bought this book I felt a little disappointed, the photographs just didn’t stand out to me. But the more I read and looked through it the more drawn to it I felt, the more the photographs resonated with me, the more I started to really feel like I understood something about them, about the story they were telling. Now I really like The Life of a Photograph.

 
 

M - Michael Kenna: Images of the Seventh Day

This is the first book I’ve purchased of Michael Kenna’s work, and I couldn’t be happier. I find his photography so inspiring, I just love the ethereal feel to some of it. Another highly recommended book.

 
 

N - The New Art of Photographing Nature by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill

I love the way this book is written, with one or more photographs, followed by some text by Art Wolfe from the perspective of the photographer, and then Martha Hill from the perspective of an editor. This adds so much depth to the discussions.

 
 

O - Obscure Destinations by Dan Westfall

I was fortunate to meet Dan Westfall at an art show, which is where I purchased this book. It contains a very nice sampling of his black and white photography.

 
 

P - The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman

Michael Freeman wrote a series of books teaching many photography topics. My favorite of the series is the first book, The Photographer’s Eye.

 
 

Q - . . .

Move on, there’s no Q here today.

R - Reflections of Seoul in Four Seasons by Jodi Cobb

This is a nice picture book of Jodi Cobb’s photographs of Seoul, Korea. I love photography of cultures that differ from my own. It’s a great way to learn more about the world and its people.

 
 

S - Steve McCurry: The Iconic Photographs

I regard this as one of the most incredible books of photography I own. It’s large, so it has impact from that alone. But the photography is just amazing. Steve McCurry has such a great skill at photographing people and conveying story in his photographs. Beautiful book.

 
 

T - Travels to the Edge: A Photo Odyssey by Art Wolfe

I loved Art Wolfe’s television series, Travels to the Edge. This book is a companion to the series, containing many of the photographs talked about during the show, along with some extra background about the travels.

 
 

U - Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

In my view, this is the classic book on exposure. Bryan Peterson has a way of explaining the topic that just makes sense, or at least it seemed to when I read it. I like his style of writing, and I also enjoy his photography.

 
 

V - The Vision by David Noton

I find David Noton’s writing and photography very inspiring. The Vision is all about starting out with an idea that when mixed with all the required technical know-how and artistry can lead you to that final impactful photograph.

 
 

W - Waiting for the Light by David Noton

Am I cheating again by including two David Noton books in a row? Well, I don’t care. Waiting for the Light is one of my favorite photography books for the beautiful combination of inspiring writing and beautiful photographs. It’s almost lyrical. Anytime I read this book I feel the pull to go out and create, to see the world, breath the early morning mountain air, walk down a path, and explore whatever the world has to offer. And if I haven’t cheated enough already, I’m going to do it again by also mentioning Within the Frame by David duChemin, another favorite book of mine.

 
 

X - . . .

X marks the spot, but that spot ain’t here.

Y - . . .

Y couldn’t I find a book to fill this slot?

Z - . . .

Zzzzzz is what you must be doing after this many missing letters.


Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this list as much as I enjoyed trying to create it. I couldn’t quite finish it, but I was surprised just how many letters I could fill. Have you read any of these books? Do you have favorite photography books that could fill any of my missing letters? Or have you created a list of your own?


Ansel Adams: Classic Images by Todd Henson

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

Cover of  Ansel Adams: Classic Images

Cover of Ansel Adams: Classic Images

Ansel Adams: Classic Images is a classic Ansel Adams photo book. It contains 75 plates, all of photographs chosen by Ansel to represent his best work and intended to be shown as exhibitions in museums.

The book includes a short introduction by John Szarkowski and an excellent essay, titled Ansel Adams, American Artist, by James Alinder. The essay is a biography of Ansel’s life exploring how he became the quintessential American landscape photographer of his time. Following the photographic plates, which are all one per page, is a list of the plates and a chronology of important events in Ansel’s life.

Ansel Adams: Classic Images , plates 4-5: Winnowing Grains, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, 1929 & Saint Francis Church, Rancos de Taos, New Mexico, 1929

Ansel Adams: Classic Images, plates 4-5: Winnowing Grains, Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, 1929 & Saint Francis Church, Rancos de Taos, New Mexico, 1929

I was curious what the differences were in the photographs in this book, chosen by Ansel, and those in Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, chosen by Andrea G. Stillman, who worked as Ansel’s assistant. Obviously, 400 Photographs contains far more photographs than does Classic Images. But does it contain everything in Classic Images and is there any point in owning this book versus that one?

Ansel Adams: Classic Images , plates 14-15: Georgia O’Keefe and Orville Cox, Cnayon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1937 & Ghost Ranch Hills, Chama Valley, Northern New Mexico, 1937

Ansel Adams: Classic Images, plates 14-15: Georgia O’Keefe and Orville Cox, Cnayon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1937 & Ghost Ranch Hills, Chama Valley, Northern New Mexico, 1937

As it happens there are 13 photographs in Classic Images that do not appear in 400 Photographs:

  • Plate 6: Juniper Tree Detail, Sequoia National Park, California, c. 1927

  • Plate 17: Spanish American Woman, near Chimayo, New Mexico, 1937

  • Plate 23: Vernal Fall, Yosemite Valley, California, c. 1948

  • Plate 31: Pool, Acoja Pueblo, New Mexico, c. 1942

  • Plate 41: Mrs. Gunn on Porch, Independence, California, 1944

  • Plate 43: Dune, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, c. 1942

  • Plate 51: Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, c. 1942

  • Plate 59: Penitente Morada, Coyote, New Mexico, c. 1950

  • Plate 60: Church and Road, Bodega, California, c. 1953

  • Plate 61: Buddhist Grave Markers and Rainbow, Maui, Hawaii, c. 1956

  • Plate 62: Manly Beacon, Death Valley National Monument, California, c. 1952

  • Plate 66: White Mountain Range, Thunderclouds, from the Buttermilk County, near Bishop, California, 1959

  • Plate 71: Trees, Slide Lake, Grand Teton National Park, c. 1965

Ansel Adams: Classic Images , plates 34-35: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1942 & The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942

Ansel Adams: Classic Images, plates 34-35: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1942 & The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942

Fascinatingly, some of the photographs that appear in both look different. In some cases this may be due simply to differences in printing. But in some cases I wonder if it may be different versions of the same photo? Ansel is known to have reprocessed some images throughout the years, and there could be examples of this in these books.

Ansel Adams: Classic Images , plates 46-47: Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, 1944 & Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain, Yosemite National Park, California, 1948

Ansel Adams: Classic Images, plates 46-47: Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California, 1944 & Tenaya Creek, Dogwood, Rain, Yosemite National Park, California, 1948

So is Ansel Adams: Classic Images worth seeking out if you already own Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs? I may be biased, as I did purchase both, but I believe the answer is yes if you are enough of a fan of Ansel’s work. There are photos in Classic Images that don’t appear in 400 Photographs. And Classic Images has the essay by James Alinder, which I very much enjoyed.

Ansel Adams: Classic Images , plates 60-61: Church and Road, Bodega, California, 1953 & Buddhist Grave Markers and Rainbow, Maui, Hawaii, 1956

Ansel Adams: Classic Images, plates 60-61: Church and Road, Bodega, California, 1953 & Buddhist Grave Markers and Rainbow, Maui, Hawaii, 1956

However, if you are looking for a single book that shows a broad range of Ansel Adams work, I would recommend Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs. It has a much broader range of material. The plates in both books are of similar size. Some are larger in one, some larger in the other, but they are mostly comparable.

In the end I don’t think you can go wrong with either book. They are both excellent representations of Ansel’s work.


National Geographic Dawn to Dark Photographs: The Magic of Light by Todd Henson

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

The cover of  National Geographic Dawn to Dark Photographs: The Magic of Light . Robbie George. Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina.

The cover of National Geographic Dawn to Dark Photographs: The Magic of Light. Robbie George. Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina.

I own a number of these hardcover National Geographic books, and I love them all for the inspiring photography within their pages. They say photography is all about the light, and there is no better demonstration of that than National Geographic’s Dawn to Dark Photographs: The Magic of Light. It is organized by time of day, with each section showcasing photographs taking advantage of the unique light available in those hours.

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Jason Teale. Gyeongju National Park, South Korea. Pages 10-11

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Jason Teale. Gyeongju National Park, South Korea. Pages 10-11

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.
— George Eastman

Dawn

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Robbie George. Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina. Pages 20-21

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Robbie George. Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina. Pages 20-21

Dawn’s soft touch is sweet and benign: beauty, harmony, anticipation.

Rise early to create photographs at dawn. It’s a time when the world is often still, when the light is soft and full of mystery.

Sunrise

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Michael Melford. Lake Placid, New York. Pages 96-97

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Michael Melford. Lake Placid, New York. Pages 96-97

First a gleam, then a burst, then a bundle of flame so bright we must look away: Sunrise establishes the dominance of day.

At sunrise we begin to see the texture around us, illuminated by the low angle of the sun. Landscapes take on a warm glow as the sunlight travels through the layers of the atmosphere. People begin to stir and prepare for the day ahead.

Morning

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Melissa Farlow. Chicago, Illinois. Pages 134-135

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Melissa Farlow. Chicago, Illinois. Pages 134-135

Morning is the springtime of the day, and morning light washes the world in living colors.

Morning is when the colors around us begin coming to life, when long shadows begin moving across the landscape, when we can see the details of the world.

Midday

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Atanu Paul. Burdwan District, West Bengal, India. Pages 194-195

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Atanu Paul. Burdwan District, West Bengal, India. Pages 194-195

Brilliant, hot, brash, blinding: Midday exposes all blemishes.

Midday is when many photographers stop shooting, when they feel the light is too harsh, the scenery full of too many contrasts. But no light is bad light, and midday still has the potential of great photography.

Afternoon

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Reza. Jerusalem. Pages 246-247

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Reza. Jerusalem. Pages 246-247

Light is ample, revealing, and generous, and yet now we find ourselves closer to night than to morning, closer to an end than to a beginning.

Once again shadows lengthen, the light begins to take on a warmer glow. There is still plenty of light to show beautiful colors, but also enough angle to the light to create silhouettes.

Sunset

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Marc Adamus. Kofa Mountains, Arizona. Pages 298-299

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Marc Adamus. Kofa Mountains, Arizona. Pages 298-299

It is the time when light meets land, when fire touches earth and sets off an exquisite explosion, a divine display.

Sunset is the last light of the day. We often watch as it sets, sometimes setting off amazing displays of color. It’s a time for quiet reflection of the day we’ve just lived and the one yet to come.

Twilight

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Michael Melford. Thira, Greece. Pages 312-313

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Michael Melford. Thira, Greece. Pages 312-313

Look well, act fast, seize this last lingering light, for soon the dark will be upon you.

The sun has set but there is still a glow on the horizon, a small bit of light left to photograph with. There may be a warm glow, or a cooler shade of blue. Don’t put away your camera yet.

Night

National Geographic Dawn to Dark . Paul Nicklen. Svalbard, Norway. Pages 388-389

National Geographic Dawn to Dark. Paul Nicklen. Svalbard, Norway. Pages 388-389

Night’s a time of wonder, of dreams and fantasies, fears and fulfillment, magic, romance.

When the sun sets you need other forms of light to create photographs. These may be natural, such as flashes of lightning or the glow of the moon. Or these may be artificial, such as camera strobes or the lights of a city.


As with the other books in this series, Dawn to Dark Photographs is just over 10 inches square and over 1 inch thick. It is just under 400 pages long and full of photography. Some images span 2 pages, some a single page, and some a page and a half. The photographer, location, and a brief description accompany each photograph. Each section is preceded by a short introduction.

If you are ever in need of inspiration, or just wish to lose yourself in beautiful photography, you may find what you’re looking for in the pages of National Geographic Dawn to Dark Photographs.