For many years John Shaw's "Nature Photography Field Guide" was my recommended book for beginning nature photographers, even though it was based on film rather than digital media. I sometimes recommended other newer digital books to supplement Shaw but I found no replacement. At last the complete nature photography book for the digital age has arrived.
The Gerlach book tells you everything you need to know to get started in digital nature photography. After a few inspirational chapters, the author discusses equipment for nature photography, exposure, effective lens use, composition, close-up, flash and even the methods of carrying equipment.
When Gerlach (I refer primarily to John, since while Barbara's influence appears throughout the book, instruction is given from his point of view) discusses exposure, he lays out the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and media sensitivity completely, doing a better job than some lighting books I've read. When he talks about the use of the histogram and "blinkies" in setting proper exposure, he even tells you what to beware of in using these tools. Moreover, reference to these tools appears many times throughout the book, so that the beginner will understand the importance of them. The book also recognizes that some equipment of the advanced nature photographer may not make financial sense for the beginner and indicates the alternatives.
When he talks about the use of telephoto lenses, he dispels the misconceptions about depth of field, but does emphasize the importance of perspective control. In discussing flash photography, he describes the use of state-of-the art equipment, like Nikon's CLS system, and even gives suggestions for multiple flash (although he didn't advise me how to use more than one flash for a rapidly-moving bird).
Most of the book is aimed at the technical side of nature photography, although the section on composition does provide some guidelines that will help the photographer find the art in nature photography. The photographs range from accomplished to beautiful, and always support the teaching points.
Sometimes the suggestions while good, seem a little beyond what most of us will attempt. I don't see myself riding a horse through waist deep snow with a string of pack mules with my equipment, but at least the book made me feel the snow shoes in my closet weren't such a crazy investment.
Intermediate nature photographers will probably not pick up much that's new, although the book may serve as a good review of fundamentals.
Now I'm waiting for a book from the Gerlachs that will tell me about getting close to the animals and birds.