For Tom Dempsey, who graduated from Pleasant Valley High School in 1975, the lightweight digital camera, like the 19-ounce Canon PowerShot G5, his first, revolutionized the profession. "In the years that I used 35mm film (1978-2002)," he writes, "my passion for photography demanded bulky gear." The camera itself was big, and the delay between taking a shot and developing it was excruciating.
For digital camera buffs, there's no comparison. "After 2004," Dempsey says, "I never used film again." But getting "pixel perfect" results takes knowledge and skill, and Dempsey's new book aims to help novice and intermediate photographers make the most of their equipment. "Light Travel: Photography On the Go" ($40 in paperback from Photoseek Publishing, www.photoseek.com) is a coffee-table book full of sound guidance and jaw-droppingly gorgeous full-color photographs.
The Seattle-based Dempsey has traveled the world with his wife, Carol, and his work has appeared in travel publications from National Geographic, Moon Travel Guides, Rough Guides, and more. He loves panoramas, and the images of mountain landscapes included in the book are spectacular. Yet he will often focus on small things, like water droplets on a skunk cabbage leaf in Washington or a closeup of an iridescent hummingbird, the White-Necked Jacobin, photographed near Quito, Ecuador.
The first part of the book, "How to Enliven Images," presents chapters on composition, focus, and picking the best camera. (The best camera, he says, is the one you have with you.) There are practice exercises and a detailed, illustrated glossary that explains all the technical terms. (Under "megapixel" the author notes that "in compact cameras, increasing the number of megapixels beyond about 8 mp is a marketing device that consumes more memory card space but doesn't help image quality.")
For Dempsey, a successful photograph should evoke an emotion. "You don't need a big or expensive camera to capture a touching or striking picture. . . . When composing images, enter a state of emotional sensitivity, even vulnerability, while simultaneously applying technical and critical judgment. Trust your eyes, not the camera."
The second part, "Where To Seek the Light," offers a gallery of Dempsey's work, weaving technical details with short travelogs. He inspires the amateur photographer to see, not just look. And he takes your breath away.