Window Seat

Windows Seat: The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking from O’Reilly wasn’t so much a surprise as three surprises in one.

I had read the details about the book on the site and as you can see they give a pretty good insight into what to expect:

“Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking is a complete view of a creative project from the artist’s perspective. Julieanne Kost, a Photoshop and creative thinking expert, has taken her own experience shooting images out of commercial airplane windows to create a unique creative seminar.

The first section of the book, The Art of Creative Thinking: The Principles, outlines Julieanne’s method for staying creative in an increasingly complicated world. In her personal stories, advice, and philosophies, you’ll find inspiration if you’re stuck or just can’t get started. You may recognize some of your own less-than-productive thought processes as she describes her own struggle to let go of the everyday flotsam of life to find a quiet mental space in which she can think, dream, and create.

The second part of the book, Window Seat: The Portfolio, is a collection of images culled from over 3000 photographs Julieanne shot from commercial airplane windows over a period of five years. The photographs are accompanied by brief commentaries addressing various aspects of the process, from the original inspiration to issues of control, subject matter, image selection, and manipulation.

The Appendix contains technical information: a discussion of the equipment and media Julieanne used to shoot the photos; how she processed the photographs using Adobe Camera Raw; the Photoshop techniques she employed to correct, retouch, and manipulate the images; her personal file management system; and how she prepares her files for printing.

This book is essential reading for photographers and artists looking for ways to stay creatively awake, aware, and alive.”

So why the surprise(s)?

First, I am skeptical of anybody that thinks they can tell me how to be creative, or how I can follow a few simple guidelines to become a different person. My view is best summarized by “Why should what works for you work for me?” BUT, I really want to improve my photographic skills and to do that I realize I need to improve a number of things, including:

– my technique
– my technical skills, and
– my ‘vision’.

So back to my first surprise – the 18 guidelines made sense. Not just from a ‘photographic’ perspective but as a general lifestyle guide. Things like “Visualize first, Photoshop second” may appear to be directed solely at the photographer, and isn’t really that different from “think first, act second” but I have been writing a consultancy document recently and found myself visualizing the document before I started editing it, i.e. capturing the RAW data first, rather than trying to construct each section as I went along.

Second Surprise? Not the creativity of the subject matter. Sure taking 3,000+ photographs out of airplane windows over a 5 to 6 year period is amazingly creative (in 2006 I took 42 flights and only took one picture as I flew over the Grand Canyon), but the way it made me think in terms of developing my own skills. I can’t really explain this next bit without some self promotion so apologies, and if you want to skip ahead and take my word for it I will understand. Part way through reading this section I came up with the idea to set up an online SmugMug account with three friends so that we could share our experiences, comment on and suggest ways to improve our photographs, provide the motivation to take more photographs that differ from our norm, and to be more creative. 4framesofmind is the result and we are all finding it very challenging and very rewarding. I recently attempted to record my day through a series of photographs, which isn’t something I would have considered prior to reading this book. I also had my first “paying gig” at the weekend to take some photographs and found a quick re read of parts of this book very helpful before I started.

So the third surprise? What a great, simple overview of how to use Photoshop, and develop a Workflow. I am little like the rabbit caught in the headlamps when it comes to Photoshop. I really want to know how to use it fully, but I am scared to delve too deep for fear of getting out of my depth. The more I have read the more my emotions have fluctuated between these two positions. One section of 24 pages and I feel much less dazzled by the prospect.

So there you have it, not only a great book, but three great books in one – in fact make that 4. It was as easy and enjoyable to read as a novel. You may have guessed already, but this book gets two thumbs up, 5/5, a gold star – whatever measure you want to use I rate this book extremely highly. Oh I nearly forget – it has some absolutely stunning photographs in it as well!

Book details

Title: Window Seat
Subtitle: The Art of Digital Photography and Creative Thinking
First Edition: February 2006
ISBN 10: 0-596-10083-3
ISBN 13: 9780596100834
Pages: 152
Price: $39.99

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