Here is a list of the books I have covering various aspects of photography, along with my comments and recommendations. The best books are at the top. I'll add much specific text when I can.

  • National Geographic Photography Field Guide by Peter Burian and Robert Caputo. If you need a first book on photography, this is the one to get, to the exclusion of all others! It contains everything you'll need to know for all styles of photography: landscape, portrait, existing-light, travel. Also contains enough info to keep the professional informed. Has many interviews with National Geographic photographers explaining their techniques and how they got particularly amazing pictures. Peter is quite active in the newsgroup. I used to carry this with me until I got the next book on the list.

  • Kodak Professional Photoguide This is the only book I carry in my pack. Very condensed information about Kodak films, exposure, filters, existing-light, artificial light, flash, DOF, focal length, etc. This isn't a reading book (well, I have read it a couple times), but a reference book for when you get into those situations where you don't trust your instincts or automatic camera performance. Has lots of those nifty "wheel" calculators to determine DOF and such.

  • Kodak Color Darkroom Dataguide The same as the previous book, only for the darkroom. Contains information about the Kodak developing processes (C-41, E-6, RA-4, R-3000), negative and reversal ring-arounds for determining enlarger filter packs, and the most useful item: a "wheel" calculator for figuring exposure times for different magnifications.

  • The Camera, The Negative, The Print by Ansel Adams. Even before I started doing any black & white photography, I still loved these books. Adams describes the result of his early effort to "scientize" photography in the early part of the century. In Book 1: The Camera, he goes through a beginners discussion of 35mm, medium-format and large-format cameras, lenses, and shutters (well, there is a little more detail than would be needed for a beginners-only discussion, good for B&W and color shooters). He then runs through some picture-taking info (position, camera angle, lens choice, tripods & hand-holding, stopping or enhancing motion). Then a section on view camera movements and perspective correction, meters and exposure, and filters. Book 2 covers the negative, where his famous Zone System is introduced. The zone system, used in B&W, divides all luminescence into 8 levels, or zones. The zone system is a method of knowing what you want the final print to look like before you take the picture. You do this by measuring the brightest and darkest areas the camera will see, choose how you want them to be displayed, then finding the correct exposure. You then can adjust the recorded exposure on the negative by adjusting the development method (changing the contrast of the negative if you need to). He talks a little bit about how he controls the contrast during development, but in the end you'd need to practice for decades to get really good at it. The end of the book contains a lot of technical information about papers and chemicals you might use. Book 3 starts with darkroom design/use, then talks about the basics of B&W printing. He comes back to the Zone system here, and talks a little about densitometry (measuring densities on paper, the way he did at first, for those who want to get it exact), and finally, presentation of your prints. Like I said, I don't do B&W, but I still found these books very good. Unfortunately, the photographs in these books are not reproduced with great care, so the contrast and density are shown different than what Adams intended.

  • Examples - The Making of 40 Photographs, by Ansel Adams This book, printed carefully, contains some of Adams best work, along with a page or two description of how they were taken. Most of the ink is spent discussing the artistic aspects of the shot, with some technical detail thrown in. I'll never get shots like his, but it's very nice to know how it should be done.

  • John Shaw's Landscape Photography First of all, John Shaw is a great landscape photographer. His book, full of his photographs, is one-half  equipment, one-half landscape artist. One of the better "how to do landscapes" books out there. Has chapters on exposure and DOF, cameras, film and support, lenses, judging and enhancing light, using position, format, framing in composition, problems and solutions, and then an overall "getting the good stuff" chapter.

  • Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques by John Shaw Organized the same as the previous book but with more technical detail and poorer pictures (taken during the Kodachrome era). Get Landscape Photography before you get this one, but either one is good. Spends a little more time on wildlife photography. More words than Landscape Photography.

  • The Art of Outdoor Photography-Techniques for the Advanced Amateur and Professional by Boyd Norton Organized differently than most books of this kind, has chapters on seeing and light, then starts on lenses, composition, capturing time, and being creative with what you see. He then goes into film and filters. He  skipped cameras? Yep. He figures you have one and know how to read the manual. He goes into using the camera, not just operating it. The last half of the book discusses wildlife, travel, landscape, closeup, and underwater photography. About as many words as the previous book.

  • The Art of Photographing Nature, by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill An unusual collaborative effort by one of the best nature photographers working, and his editor at Audubon. He presents many different shooting situations using both the first shot he (and we) would get, then how to make it a better shot. For each picture set, he has a paragraph or two telling why he took the picture he did, then Martha discusses why it's a good picture. The comparative shots are very informative, and all the shots in the book are wonderful, beautifully sharp, and examples of how it's done.

  • The Practical Zone System by Chris Johnson A modernization and simplification of Ansel Adams Zone system, with an update on new developers (T-max and XTOL).  This is good if Adams is over your head and you want the latest info. It introduces some nice techniques, and has some nifty forms for using the Zone system, and in the end is summarized as "Expose for density, print for contrast". Note, this review originally was in the not recommended section until I started doing B&W. It immediately jumped up to the recommended section.

  • Kodak Gray Cards Not a book, but darned useful if you are going to do your own printing and have trouble getting the filter pack right. Two 8x10 cards and one 4x5, each in a plastic cover. I carry the 4x5 card. Each card is gray on one side (18% reflectance), and white on the other (90% reflectance, 2 stops brighter).

  • Basic Photographic Materials and Methods A textbook, long on words and short on examples, with lots of technical information. Marginally interesting.


And now, the worthless books:


All book recommendations are my own, and the links point to