BOOK REVIEW: Rocky Nook Clarifies Digital Photography

I’ve spent the last month or so reading four Rocky Nook books:

The Nikon D80 Dbook by Rainer Dorau, Rudolf Krahm and Helmut Kraus
The Glossary of Digital Photography by John G. Blair
Managing Your Photographic Workflow with Photoshop Lightroom by Juergen Gulbins and Uwe Steinmueller
Take Your Photography to the Next Level by George Barr

All these books are well-written and knowledgeable about their respective subjects; together, they are a great combination that can help both amateur and professional photographers improve their craft, understand new technology and build their basic understanding of digital photography.

New, talented writers

This digital photography book industry seems dominated by a select few authors, with a bunch of others waiting and writing without achieving the same fame. You probably haven’t heard of these Rocky Nook authors: some of them are not native Americans (Barr is Canadian and almost every other author is German-born or still working in Germany; Blair is the only American of the group). Rocky Nook is closely associated with dpunkt.verlag, a German publisher of technology books, which explains the international connection. My contact at Rocky Nook tells me we will see more native English authors as the company grows, but the company also prides itself on publishing authors who are working photographers first and authors second. I think that’s a wise decision, because I can tell from these four books that the authors’ technical grasp is very strong.

Given that this group of authors is not well-known, it’s exciting to see their work here in the States. These authors are all good writers and know their stuff. I’m particularly impressed by Barr, whose writing style is warm and open, and the Gulbins-Steinmuller duo, whose book on Lightroom is clearly written. All the other authors are also good writers and good photographers as well, and none of these books suffered from poor writing.

The Dbook: A new format for books

Nikon D80 Dbook

The Nikon D80 Dbook is a rarity: a book based on a new format. This book is only 40 pages long, hardbound and with nothing on its pages but diagrams and menu breakdowns of the Nikon D80. However, the real strength of the Dbook is in its CD-ROM, which has 640 interactive pages that not only does a good job with explaining how to get the most out of the D80 but also helps teach the basics of photography such as film speed and manual controls. The interactive pages teach these principles well: many photographs on these pages have controls that allow you to view these photos with various settings, such as film speed and exposure controls from the D80. One of the basic tenets of learning is to “show, don’t tell,” and The Nikon D80 Dbook demonstrated that vividly. Eventually I would like to go through the CD-ROM from beginning to end to continue my photographic education.

The Nikon D80 Dbook reminds me of the “Missing Manual” series, which boasts some of those big-name authors such as David Pogue, tech writer for The New York Times. The “Missing Manuals” are great books, but I like the Dbook format a little bit better. It’s a remarkably slim and handy size, and the printed pages show all the basics for using the Nikon D80. The CD-ROM goes into much greater detail but this is the kind of book you can carry around in case you need to change a setting or find a button on the camera. You won’t have to lug around a big, thick book. The downside is that, as far as I know, there are only two Dbooks on the market, one for the D80 and one for the Nikon D200. There’s so many digital camera models on the market that these two Dbooks don’t even serve a tiny fraction of digital photographers (I use a Nikon D70, similar to the D80). Until the Dbook series is radically expanded, it will serve only a small subset of digital photographers.

A 300-page glossary?

Digital Photography Glossary

Who would have thought a glossary of digital photography terms would need 300 pages? I didn’t know there were that many terms in the field. But The Glossary of Digital Photography is nothing if not exhaustive, and there’s not only terms from the digital photography field but also some peripheral fields such as data (XML), networking (Ethernet), deprecated, old-fashioned stuff (candle) and even some oddities like “chimping.” That last one is used for viewing photos on your camera’s screen during a photo shoot. Everyone goes, “Ooh, ooh, ooh” as they look at the wonderful work. I think this book could have gotten by with maybe half the pages and a stronger focus on the digital photography terms, but all those other terms are there if you need them.

There’s not much I can say about this book, it’s well-written and well-organized but glossaries are specialized books so it doesn’t do more than it’s supposed to. This book will be a great asset if you find yourself needing to strengthen your grasp of terminology.