BOOK REVIEW: ‘Close Ups & Close Encounters’: Good, Accessible Introduction to Wildlife Photography for Those Starting Out

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'Close Ups & Close Encounters': Good, Accessible Introduction to Wildlife Photography for Those Starting Out

I was attracted to S.J. Brown’s “Close Ups & Close Encounters: A View from Behind the Lens” (Acorn Book Services, 112 pages, 60 color photos, available from all the book sources, including Amazon.com, $22.95) because I’ve been a photographer since my high school years in the early 1950s and photographing animals has been a particular passion.

 

 

I’ve found that there are many places to photograph animals in our rural Gulf Coastal Texas county, including in the town of Port Lavaca where I snapped a photo of an elderly Mexican-American man and his horse in the historic downtown area. I’m still looking for more longhorn cattle after photographing several in the Six Mile area of FM 1090 north of town.

Like many photographers, Brown started out with an inexpensive camera, soon graduating to a 35 mm single-lens reflex with interchangeable lenses — and shooting color film. Wildlife management areas, animal rescue ranches, zoos, the backwoods, islands, coastal areas in Florida and the Northeast are all suitable places for Brown and her husband and spotter Jay.  Accompanying the photographs are essays explaining how the photographs were made — and the close encounters experienced along the way.

Accompanied by her spotter and husband, S.J. ,  a New Jersey native now living in West Virginia, soon learns that some animals are agreeable to having their picture taken, and many are not easily accessible.   Brown encounters delicate butterflies, bears, birds, deer, wild horses, and more. Along the way  there are successes and failures, cooperative critters, curious subjects, and some close calls. Experience wildlife photography from her perspective—through the lens of a camera.

I would have liked more technical information on the photographs, including the lens used, exposure, etc., but with today’s automatic cameras — I’m assuming Brown’s using something like the Canon EOS 650 that I use for film — the exposure and focusing are taken care of, allowing the photographer to watch what’s in the viewfinder. I use lenses up to and including my 500 mm mirror lens, on both my film and digital Canons. 

By the way, if you shoot film, as S.J. does, be sure and get a CD of the negatives when you process the film. That way, with simple editing software like Kodak Easy-Share, you have the best of both worlds, film and digital. 

If you don’t have a camera, check the want ads, including Craigslist, for suitable units. You might also want to see what’s on hand at big camera stores or sites like KEH.com in Atlanta or Collectible Cameras in the greater Phoenix area, or on eBay.  I picked up my Canon EOS 650, which has automation galore, plus manual overrides, for about $50 for the body only. Almost any camera will do, providing it has adjustable shutter speeds and interchangeable lens capability. Brand names: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Minolta, Fujica, Rolleiflex SL, Leica single-lens reflexes for those with big bucks and similar brands.       But first get yourself a copy of S.J. Brown’s delightful book and enjoy the beautiful critters she’s captured on film. Her bobcat is a particular favorite, but then again, I love cats of all descriptions, like the Barbary lions from far northern Africa that I snapped at the Texas Zoo in Victoria, TX, or the Jaguars at the Belize Zoo in Belize.     For a YouTube of the Bengal Tiger and the beautiful Barbary Lions at the Texas Zoo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL2s8ULJZLU

About the Author

S.J. Brown’s love of wildlife photography began on a whim with an inexpensive 35mm camera, a few rolls of film, and a passion for nature. Quickly her everyday life and wildlife photography became entwined. Somehow even with a husband, a job, and household responsibilities, photographing found a place in the mix. For over 10 years S. J. Brown has traveled extensively throughout the Eastern United States in pursuit of wildlife encounters. Much to the dismay of her spotter, this often involves trekking through thick brush, muddy trails, rocky seas and secluded locations, but the interactions with wildlife make it all worth it. To her wildlife photography is as much about the experience as it is the images she captures. Her goal for each photo excursion is the same, a close, one-on-one encounter with a wild creature. As a wildlife photographer S. J. Brown takes her cues from her subjects. Their body language lets her know when to step in for a closer shot and when to back away. When she is out in the field, she strives to observe and record not to interfere. The exception to this rule is when people pose a threat to wildlife; then she will take time to relocate a road dwelling critter to its location. Brown has saved snapper turtle from soup and other creatures from the taunts and teases of unwise humans, but she will not interfere with Mother Nature’s food chain unless it involves a domestic animal pursuing a wild creature. With this is mind, she has sent many a cat away from a bird feeder and saved many a squirrel from a curious canine. The resulting photographs and the stories behind them inspire both students and adults that attend the presentations she gives and the Art Exhibits she participates in. Her images have been featured in books, magazines, calendars, and greeting cards. S. J. Browns Book Close Ups & Close Encounters features over 50 of her wildlife photographs as well as the stories behind getting those images. S. J. Brown’s photographs and written words are her way of sharing her experiences. Introducing others, such as her granddaughter, into the field is one of her primary goals and loves and she hopes the time she spends discussing her work with schools, writers, and members of the public gives them an appreciation for the natural world.
S.J. Brown’s website: website: http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com/

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