Cool books of photography

Recent releases

Photography stars in several recent releases, two set at least partially in Michigan and one taking a look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Let’s take a look. They’re fine ways to escape the January doldrums:
‘Photography stars in several recent releases, two set at least partially in Michigan and one taking a look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Let’s take a look. They’re fine ways to escape the January doldrums:
‘Above the Lighthouses, Lake Michigan’

Above the Lighthouses of Lake Michigan

‘Aerial Photography of Lake Michigan by Marge Beaver’
Photography Plus

This book is a delight. Marge Beaver has put together a unique look at the lighthouses of Lake Michigan all around the lake.
She’s logged close to 7,000 hours as a pilot doing aerial photography and has outfitted her plane with extra equipment — photographic and safety — to enable her to do this, in her words, “carefully.”
This coffee table book includes pictures of each light and how it sets on the lakeshore, on an island or in the shipping channels serving both to entertain and enlighten the reader.
The photos are quite fine. The shift of perspective to see them as a bird does makes even the lights one knows well take on a fresh look. And Beaver’s decision to include the environmental setting was a great one.
The settings say much about why the lights were needed. In some cases, they show how time has changed the locations with cities — or forests — growing around the lights almost hiding them. Or, in other cases, show the effects of erosion that at times threatened some lights’ existence.
Beaver arranges the lights in order starting on the south shore of Lake Michigan in Michigan and working counter-clockwise around the lake in all four states.
It’s easy to follow, comprehensive, with some beautifully composed photographs that also tell a story of place.
For a Great Lakes lighthouse fan, it’s a must — especially if a fan of Lake Michigan lighthouses.

A great look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

‘Great Smoky Mountains National Park”
‘Thirty Years of American Landscapes’
Richard Mack
11X14, 220 pages, hardback
Quiet Light Publishing

Wow. If a book can make you want to hop in your ride and head out on a road trip, this effort by Evanston, Ill., photographer Richard Mack might do it.
As the name of his company, Quiet Light Publishing, suggests, these are photos that are serene, calming and photographed in beautiful, sometimes subtle light.
One doesn’t always shout “Wow!” with the exclamation mark immediately because of that innate quietness, but one might whisper a muted “wow” after soaking up a beauty like “Sunrise, Newfound Gap, November 2008” or the gorgeous black and white, “Cosby Creek, May 2006.”
Mack, whose earlier book detailed the landscapes along the Lewis and Clark Trail, has spent decades visiting the Smoky Mountains, camera in hand. Any who have tried to capture the magic of the mist-enshrouded mountains, or the verdant valleys of green with chattering streams flowing downhill over the rough and tumble of moss- and lichen-covered rocks and boulders, knows well the spell this National Park can weave.
Mack captures the magic with a keen eye for detail and an ability to “see” the landscape’s subtleties.
He divides the book into six parts based on roads and rivers. His introductory essay, “Thirty Years of Making Images,” as clearly as the prints details his love of the park and why he, as a photographer, finds it a special place.
Elsewhere he offers tips of where to explore, either the less-traveled areas, or to see some of the park’s most popular features. He includes a park map, so one can get a sense of location.
But the real sense of location comes from the images gleaned from a 6,000 photo collection he’s amassed of the park over the years.
He puts the park in focus through its variety of landscapes photographed with respect, great technical ability and an artist’s eye.
You’d be forgiven if you start looking for your own maps and hiking boots after finishing the book. But, be advised, take it slow and enjoy the images with the sense of quiet in which they were taken. You’ll see more by doing so.

Lake Michigan, Point to Point

 Todd Reed is a friend, a former co-worker and one heckuva photographer. He and his son, Brad, operate Todd and Brad Reed Photography in downtown Ludington, Michigan.

The Reeds have produced a pair of books, Todd's Lake Michigan Point to Point, and the pairs look at Ludington State Park. They're masterful at capturing low light and feeling in their photos. If you love Lake Michigan, or Ludington State Park, these are must have books.


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    A glimpse of Lake Michigan's history through photos

    'Historic Photos of Lake Michigan’
    Text and captions by Lynda Twardowski
    Hardback, 206 pages, $39.95
    Turner Publishing

    There are many interesting photos from communities all around Lake Michigan in this effort by Traverse City-based writer Lynda Twardowski.
    History buffs should enjoy turning the pages of the book, and turning back the pages of time to see the communities so many along the lake know today as they were in an early time.
    Divided into four sections based on time periods  — settlement, 1861-1880; timber boom and bust, 1881-1900l; “Crests and Troughs, 1901-1929”; and “Hard Times and Post-war Prosperity, 1930-1965” — the scope of this project is as big as Lake Michigan, or bigger.
    By necessity, it’s neither comprehensive or deep. It’s a glance at different times and different places. It’s large format does provide plenty of space to display the photos well.
    The photographs she’s found in collections around the Great Lakes and the Library of Congress are worthy of lingering looks.
    If there’s a failing in the effort it’s probably that it’s too big of a swath of time and geography to meaningfully interpret in the 206 pages here. Rather, it’s like wading into Lake Michigan, but not really diving under.
    One gets a sense of some of the history, but it’s a recreational read. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s fair to point that out. Some communities — Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Petoskey and Manistee — are well represented. Many others don’t make it.
    While that’s understandable — or the book would be 2,006 pages long — it’s a bit disappointing. In other words, there may have been more than one-book topic here.
    This may not be the Lake Michigan history book, but it is an enjoyable view of times gone by on what we living along its shoreline call “the Big Lake.”

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