The New Art of Photographing Nature

Review: The New Art of Photographing Nature by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill with Tim Grey by Todd Henson

Front and back cover of   The New Art of Photographing Nature   by Art Wolfe

Front and back cover of The New Art of Photographing Nature by Art Wolfe

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.

Art Wolfe's book, The New Art of Photographing Nature, is a great addition to any nature photographer’s library. The subtitle of the book is An Updated Guide to Composing Stunning Images of Animals, Nature, and Landscapes. This is an updated and expanded version of the classic, The Art of Photographing Nature. The book contains photographs created by Art Wolfe and text written by Art Wolfe, Martha Hill, and Tim Grey.

All the strengths I mentioned in my review of The Art of Photographing Nature still apply to this edition. It is still a book about seeing, learning how to see, learning ways to interpret a scene and to capture that scene as a photograph. The book provides examples, using Art’s photos, of the various elements that lead to strong compositions and powerful, meaningful photographs.

Defining Your Perspective: Showing how different focal lengths can transform a scene.

Defining Your Perspective: Showing how different focal lengths can transform a scene.

As with the previous edition, the book is broken into topics, each of which uses several of Art’s photos to demonstrate the topic. Art talks about the photos from his perspective, in some cases explaining why he feels one image is stronger than another, in other cases just talking about the differences.

Martha Hill then talks about the images from a photo editors perspective. She worked as the picture editor of Audubon magazine for 14 years, and shares her experience on what is publishable and why. Art and Martha’s different perspectives can sometimes lead to different opinions about a photo, which can be very insightful.

The Elements of Design: Examples of moving the position of the horizon within the photo.

The Elements of Design: Examples of moving the position of the horizon within the photo.

With this edition we also have sections written by Tim Grey, covering various topics specific to digital photography. These short sections are spread throughout the book. They are useful for making the reader aware of important topics they can get more details on elsewhere.

The New Art of Photographing Nature consists of the same nine chapters as the previous edition, with an extra 10th chapter written by Tim Grey:

  1. Isolating the Subject

  2. Composing the Picture

  3. Defining Your Perspective

  4. The Power of Color

  5. The Elements of Design

  6. Reading the Light

  7. Creative Options

  8. In the Field with Art Wolfe

  9. An Editor’s View

  10. Tim’s Top Tips for Digital Photographers

Reading the Light: Examples of how the direction of light can affect the look of a photograph.

Reading the Light: Examples of how the direction of light can affect the look of a photograph.

Each of the chapters covers multiple sections related to the topic of the chapter. For example, in chapter 6, Reading the Light, the sections include:

  • Quality of Light: Time of Day

  • Understanding Color Temperature

  • Direct Sun vs. Overcast Light

  • Overcast Light

  • Direction of Light

  • Frontlighting

  • Sidelighting

  • Backlighting

  • Reflected Light

  • Spotlighting

  • Low-Contrast vs. High-Contrast Lighting

  • Finding the 18 Percent Gray

  • Expose to the Right

In the Field with Art Wolfe: Demonstrating how atmospheric conditions can create some amazing images.

In the Field with Art Wolfe: Demonstrating how atmospheric conditions can create some amazing images.

Each section usually has from one to several photographs to illustrate the topic, along with a writeup from both Art and Martha talking about the topic. The biggest strength of this book is not just the great examples, but the dual perspectives of both Art and Martha.

The only drawback to this edition versus the previous edition is the print quality of some of the older photographs. Some of them seem darker and less sharp than the previous edition. If you don’t have both versions you may never notice, but having both side by side it did stand out.

An Editor's View: Talking about how to tell a story visually.

An Editor's View: Talking about how to tell a story visually.

Overall, though, I’m very pleased with this book. And I strongly suspect I will go back to it repeatedly over time, as I did with the previous edition. I like to revisit these types of books, reading over sections again, refreshing my memory, relearning topics, and just appreciating the beautiful photography of Art Wolfe.

$21.17

If you don’t already have a copy of the previous edition then I can strongly recommend The New Art of Photographing Nature. It is a fantastic book for learning some of the skills that can help improve your nature and wildlife photography.

If you do already have the previous edition it’s a more difficult decision. There is new content, but not a huge amount. Some of the example photographs have been changed, and the layout has been updated, so the book does feel fresh. If you read carefully you can find updates that may reflect changes in how Art approaches photography now compared to how he approached it back when the previous edition came out. But this may not be enough to warrant purchasing this new edition in addition to the previous one. I did purchase them both. But whether you should is a decision I’ll have to leave to you.

Check out my Resources page for additional books and classes I own or have read or watched.


Book Review - The Art of Photographing Nature by Martha Hill & Art Wolfe by Todd Henson

the-art-of-photographing-nature-martha-hill-art-wolfe_cover_THP
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.

See my review of the updated edition of this book, titled: The New Art of Photographing Nature.

As Martha Hill states in the introduction, this is a book about seeing. It’s about learning how to see a scene, to interpret a scene, to capture that scene in a photograph. And not just a photograph, but a great photograph. It’s about learning the elements that contribute to strong compositions, and how the different choices affect the final image. The book is broken into topics, and for each topic a selection of similar photographs by Art Wolfe are shown. Art Wolfe describes his thoughts about creating the images, and Martha Hill talks about the artistic merit of the photos. Martha Hill was the picture editor of Audubon magazine for 14 years, and Art Wolfe has been photographing and publishing his images for most of his life. His work has been seen in countless publications, including his own books.

I found this book a very effective way of learning about composition in nature photography. I loved the sections that contain multiple similar images and discuss the merits of each. In many cases there is no one best image, but images better suited for one use or another. I also enjoyed the differing perspectives of Art Wolfe and Martha Hill. Art is the artist and Martha is the editor. Each discusses the photos from their unique perspective, and both perspectives have great value. How much value you get from each discussion will depend on your purpose for your own photography.

The Art of Photographing Nature consists of 9 chapters:

  1. Isolating the Subject
  2. Composing the Picture
  3. Defining Your Perspective
  4. The Power of Color
  5. The Elements of Design
  6. Reading the Light
  7. Creative Options
  8. In the Field with Art Wolfe
  9. At the Light Table with Martha Hill
the-art-of-photographing-nature-martha-hill-art-wolfe_inside_THP

The sample pages are from chapter 6, Reading the Light, and demonstrate how the different times of the day can affect the quality and character of the light, and thus affect the final photograph. None of the images are necessarily better than the others, but each has a different mood based on the different lighting. The book strives to make you aware of what elements you can use to bring to life the photograph you visualize.

As with so many of my photography books, I keep returning to this one. It’s great to pick a section and re-read it, restudy the photographs. I like to constantly refresh myself on these topics, always hoping to learn something new or further reinforce a subject. Over time I learn and mature as a photographer and I see and appreciate scenes and subjects in new ways, and returning to books like this I’m able to pick up new subtleties I might have missed the first time through.

The topics covered in The Art of Photographing Nature are timeless and just as relevant whether using digital or film gear. If you’re someone who learns from example you might benefit from this book. I continue to find it immensely useful.

The edition of the book I own is from 1993. This edition appears to be out of print and only available used, but I have since purchased a new updated edition published in 2013. See my review of this new edition, titled: The New Art of Photographing Nature: An Updated Guide to Composing Stunning Images of Animals, Nature, and Landscapes.

New edition:
Original edition: