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Book Bag: National Geographic Stunning Photographs Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

9 December 2014

We've spent an afternoon pleasantly paging through the lush images in National Geographic Stunning Photographs from National Geographic. Lush and (at 10x10) large pages, especially the 10x20 spreads.

Colorful Spreads. Full bleed spreads take your breath away.

Annie Griffiths, whose work appears in the book, curated the collection of images from a number of National Geographic photographers, all of which met one standard. To be a stunning image.

"A stunning image is one that makes the viewer halt, look again, and connect on an emotional level," Griffiths explained. "This connection can vary from jaw-dropping amazement to amused surprise or sudden empathy at the new vision of a universal truth."

And that variety is organized into several themes highlighted with quotes from photographers like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange but also literary figures like Mark Twain and Ezra Pound.

With this book, you learn how to speak the language rather than perform magic tricks.

The themes, each introduced with an essay by Griffiths, are Mystery, Harmony, Wit, Discovery, Energy and Intimacy. In these pages they are not the abstraction they may seem when listed like that.

Mystery, for example, is illustrated by Cesare Nalid's image of an elephant swimming underwater.

Harmony, to take another example, is suggested in Veronika Kolev's detailed swan feather floating on a lake reflecting autumn colors.

Wit, to further illustrate the point, includes Tino Soriano's beach shot of the back of a kid who has just headed a soccer ball in front of a girl buried in sand. It appears he has left his head behind him.

Some of the many other photographers featured in this large-format photo book are Melissa Farlow, Cary Wolinsky, Chris Schmid, Paul Soulders, Mitch Dobrowner, Cheryl Molennor, Tomasz Tomaszewski, Lynn Johnson and Maggie Steber.

Each of their images is a master class in composition. The framing is perfect.

The images were screened at what looks like 175 lines per inch (we measured but above 150 it's hard to tell) using a conventional halftone screen rather than the stochastic, frequency modulated screen fine printing (and your inkjet) employs. Printing, which was impeccable, was done in China.

Layout is carefully considered. Full spreads are worthy of it and many images cross the gutter, taking two-thirds of the space. That accommodates a wide range of aspect ratios. No image shares the page with another.

Gray Text. Text doesn't compete with the images.

Text is in gray so it does not compete with the images. This is, after all, a photo book, not a magazine layout. But the gray text is not ghostly. You can read it comfortably. Captions, identifying the photographer and the location with a brief description of the image, are discreet and never more than a page or two away.

It's an inspiring collection.

As we sat there, paging slowly through it, we thought it was probably a better gift for a new photographer than any how-to book. It shows rather than tells. In fact, there isn't a single exposure setting mentioned or camera brand cited. With this book, you learn how to speak the language rather than perform magic tricks.

But it's also a breath of fresh air for accomplished photographers. There's an unusual diversity in style, theme and subject between the covers of this book. That diversity inspires us to stop running around and look around a minute.

We might just recognize some mystery, harmony, wit, discovery, energy and intimacy in our own world.

National Geographic Stunning Photographs, edited by Annie Griffiths, published by National Geographic Society, 400 pages, $40 (or $25 at


Stunning Photographs is a beautifully done book. Mike's article is also beautifully done. Thanks, Mike. Keep inspiring us with your insight!

-- Joyce

And good deals. Trade paperbacks go for $25 these days. Hard to believe you can get this beautifully printed (and precisely bound) 400-page hardback for that. But you can. -- Mike

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