A review of Lou Jones latest photography book…

travel + PHOTOGRAPHY Off the Charts by Lou Jones

This book is a delight, one of those books that you feel fortunate to have in your hands.

And it’s really more than one book – it’s five books slipped into one cover, this is how I read it.

Book 1: It’s a picture book.

You can’t just open it and start reading; it’s just not that easy. Why? Because starting with the very first page you are greeted with Lou Jones images. Lou’s pictures are more than what you first see, more than the initial point of focus. As your eyes start to move it is grabbed by another point of interest, and then another. And then you realize that what you were looking at was not a picture about one thing; it was a story about many things.

After you absorb all of the pictures on page one, curiosity has you turn the page to see if there are more to follow. With each turn of the page, you are rewarded with up to four images. And before you know it, you’ve come to the end of the book, grateful for the almost 200 pages that make up this book, but just a little disappointed that you have reached the end.

Book 2: It’s an instruction manual.

There are roughly 150 images in this book, some taken for commercial clients, others taken over almost two decades of covering the Olympics, and still more taken during Lou’s travels all over the world. Along with each image you also get the how and why the images were taken, information that would interest anyone with even the slightest curiosity of photography and the photographic process.

1. Where the image was taken
2. Why Lou thought it was an image was worth capturing
3. What the conditions were (weather, lighting, etc.)
4. How the conditions were overcome (lens choice, shutter speed, tripod, etc.)
5. How the time of the day impacted the image

It’s similar to watching the Food Channel; they start by showing you the most delicious food, and then give the list of ingredients followed by step by step instructions so you too can make this marvelous dish yourself.

This is what Lou Jones does for us in this book, he shows you the possibilities, and then arms you with the insight and knowledge to be able to evaluate a given situation and how to select the tools to make it work.

Book 3: It’s a helping of wisdom sprinkled with a dash of humor.

Throughout the book you will find quotes from photographers, from the Bible, and great “thinkers” that make you pause a moment to digest the words.

Here are a few of my favorite:

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” - Robert Capa

Imagination is more important that knowledge” – Albert Einstein

Light is an active, aggressive force” – Jay Maisel

Photography in direct sunlight is like drinking from a fire hose” – John Sachs

Clothes make the man, naked people have little or no influence in society” – Mark Twain

Book 4: Pearls (AKA “Yellow Boxes”).

In each chapter you will find one or more “yellow boxes”, highlighted areas on a page that contain a paragraph or two, pearls of wisdom related to that chapters topic. I took it as Lou saying, “If you take only one thing from this chapter be sure this is it!”.

Chapter one is on equipment and the yellow box talks about the importance of a good watch, keeping track of your time zones, and the cultural impact of timeliness.

Chapter seven is about international travel and the need to do your research before you leave, that a simple thing like color can be truly important. Did you know that green is considered bad luck in England, good luck in Ireland, and absolutely sacred in Islam?

Chapter ten focuses on health. You learn why you should bring your own health kit whenever you travel and the reason it should include syringes. Things that a novice traveler would give no thought, but when you hear from an experienced traveler of what to do and why, it goes from no thought to a “no-brainer”.

Book 5: The meat and potatoes.

Once you finish reading the first four “books”, it’s time to sit down and dig into the most in-depth and detailed part of the book, the chapter content.

The first few chapters are dedicated strictly to photography. You will find chapters on cameras, lenses, tripods and filters. There is also an entire chapter on the subject of film vs. digital and how airport security and the effect of x-rays on film is “another compelling reason to switch to digital”.

The chapter on lighting will give you an outstanding explanation on the properties of light, what a histogram is and how to interpret it, exposure, how to use available light to your advantage.

Then Lou moves into the important things you should, no MUST, know and do before you travel, as well as what to do and how to act when you are a guest in another country.

The subjects are covered so well and in such detail that anyone who is considering traveling internationally should seriously consider getting this book, regardless of whether or not you intend to bring a camera.

Lou explains the how’s and why’s of researching prior to leaving on your trip, covering important things to do (and not to do) with your passport, insurance and terrorism.

What about jet lag, water, food, sunburn altitude sickness and bug bites? It’s covered. So is getting there and back – customs, airports, planes, trains, and automobiles.

Lou will also explain that clothing to bring and why for all weather conditions, hot, cold, or wet, and everything in between.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, this is one of my favorite books, the kind of book that when I lend it out I make a note of who took it, so I will be sure to get it back.

As Men on Film would say, “Two snaps up, and a full circle”.


Miguel Palaviccini said...

You hooked me once I read "It's a picture book". I can't believe how many photography books out there are filled with more words than they are with pictures.

There's no link to the book! Haha ... here is one (Amazon of course!):


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