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In association with

It happened that I took a stance towards photography that was, on later reading, confirmed by Ansel Adams: first learn the craft, then master the art. I got this opinion mostly through the fact that I had to follow this track when learning to play the piano - where only when you have the technical side of a piece under control you can start to work in subtle expressions - and probably also as a reaction to the point-and-shoot mentality of lots of photographers, both professional and amateurs, today. Besides, I always liked physics and chemistry so I wasn't really punishing myself by reading

This book has information on everything an average photographer needs to know about the theoretical aspects of photography. You won't learn how to develop a roll of film, but you will learn why agitation is important and what happens when developing. It was the first book I read when I started out to learn photography and darkroom work in 1996, and although it was not a very logical choice, I'm very glad that I read it.

I still needed to learn darkroom work, however. On the same site where I found a reference to the above book (, there was a positive review of

I don't know whether this is the best book to start learning photography. It had the correct level for me, and it is written in a very nice and easy-going style. I like it so I recommend it. It got me on track and quickly resulted in my converging towards a very acceptable standard of exposing, developing and printing my shots; that's what the book promises, and that's what it did.

Of course, I had become aware (on the Net) of the Zone System. Luckily, I also became aware of the fact that you have to beware of cheap imitations in this area, so I decided that only the original was good enough for me. I came back from the bookstore with

For good measure, I also threw into the shopping basket

which I can recommend even to those not studying photography. So I learnt all about the Zone System, and tried to apply it to my shooting - but apart from all the other useful techniques in the book, the Zone System really only applies to sheet film, especially when you're an amateur that normally combines a large range of subjects on one roll of 35mm film. I decided that I needed to go bigger. As I just bought a complete darkroom, a second-hand Nikon, a spotmeter and a range of filters buying a large format camera was out of the question. Instead, I bought
Building a Large Format Camera, Jon Grepstadt
(Jon Grepstadt 1996, ISBN 82-993938-0-9, order directly)
and went on building my own 4x5" monorail camera. In the meantime, I learnt about a book with a lot of added information to the Zone System:
I bought this book mainly because I heard that it had information on using a spotmeter as a densitometer (which it does), but apart from this it is a very useful book on applied sensitometry.

Last but not least, there is a little book that is always in my camera bag:
Apart from the usual Kodakcentricism, it is stuffed with useful information for on-the-road and I never leave home without it.

Camera repair

Another hobby of mine - fooling around with cameras. Great to take your mind off the daily business, because it'll really suck up your attention. The two canonical books on camera repair, both by the same author:
and the sequel,

Both books contain a well-balanced amount of generic information, tool building and repair instructions on specific cameras.

Copyright (C)2000-2011 Cees de Groot -- All rights reserved.