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Plateaus and Canyons: Impressions of the American Southwest Paperback – 20 Nov 2011


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About the Author

Bruce Barnbaum, of Granite Falls, WA, entered photography as a hobbyist in the 1960s, and after four decades, it is still his hobby. It has also been his life's work for the past 30 years.

Bruce's educational background includes Bachelor's and Master's degrees in mathematics from UCLA. After working for several years as a mathematical analyst and computer programmer for missile guidance systems, he abruptly left the field and turned to photography.

Bruce has authored several books, some of which have become classics. The Art of Photography was first published in 1994, now with a successful updated edition in 2011.

Bruce is a frequent contributor to several photography magazines. His series "The Master Printing Class" is featured in each issue of Photo Techniques, and his articles are published regularly in LensWork. Through his workshops, articles, lectures, books, and innovative photography, Bruce has become a well-known and highly-respected photographer, educator, and pioneer.

Bruce is recognized as one of the finest darkroom printers on this planet, both for his exceptional black and white work, as well as for his color imagery. He understands light to an extent rarely found, and combines this understanding with a mastery of composition, applying his knowledge to an extraordinarily wide range of subject matter. His work is represented by more than ten galleries throughout the United States and Canada, and is in the collections of museums and private collectors worldwide.

Bruce has been an active environmental advocate for more than three decades, both independently and through his involvement and leadership with organizations such as the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society, the Stillaguamish Citizens' Alliance, 1000 Friends of Washington, and the North Cascades Conservation Council.


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Amazon.com: 10 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Words Don't Do It Justice 3 Dec 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Some books can not be adequately described with words, they can only be experienced. This is one of those books.

If you've ever toured the southwestern US, this book will revive many memories of that visit. If you've never been there, this book will help you realize that you need to visit. Bruce Barnbaum is a primarily black and white photographer who has spent much of his life hiking and photographing the plateaus and canyons of the southwest. In this book he acknowledges that while black and white photography is a powerful art form, some photographic art requires color. And the plateaus and canyons of the southwest have some of the most unique and memorable land forms in the world. As much as is possible with human derived art, the book does justice to the spectacular landscapes of the southwest.

There is a third landform that is not described in the title of the book, slit canyons. The last third of the book is devoted to their photographs. They are a challenge, in that one can't back off to get the whole picture, one can only capture vignettes of their allure. If you've never hiked a slit canyon, this book will at least help you understand the draw they have for many. And the word pictures drawn by the author in this section suggest that slit canyons are his favorite part of the landscape as well.

The books format is that of many coffee table books, a beautiful full color photograph on the right side of the page, with the commentary of the author on the left. The commentary may touch on the setting for the photo, the technical aspects of getting the photo, the geology of the landscape, or the people that he met while he was looking for the "right" spot. Personal stories are interwoven through the narrative; my favorite is on page 104, in which Bruce is headed off "at the pass" by a rattlesnake.

The epilogue deals with the encroachment of civilization on this unique landscape, and we all know how those encounters end. At least we have some of the majesty and mystery of the southwest preserved in this book.

All in all, a beautiful book by one who knows the terrain. Highly recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
First book in color 18 April 2013
By Oh Kolkata - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bruce Barnbaum is excellent B+W photographer. His first book was outstanding, but unfortunately out of print. The second book is equally good. This book is something different. Not all images are good. Canyons in the west are very popular subject of photography and there are several books by Jack Dykinga, Gary Ladd, Ortner. This book does not add anything new. Having said that I always like Barnbaum's writing.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Now Showing in Color 4 Dec 2011
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Bruce Barnbaum is one of the great black-and-white photographers. Whether pictures of slot canyons in the American Southwest or cathedrals in Great Britain, his monochrome images capture the full range of light from white to black, and never fail to thrill. Now the photographer presents a book of color images that he has captured over the years in the Southwestern United States.

The book is divided into three parts: the Plateaus; the Canyons; and the Slit Canyons (the latter is Barnbaum's usage for the more familiar "slot canyons"). The photographs are individually displayed on the right-hand side of the gutter, with the photographer's supporting comments on the left-hand side. The text includes an introduction and an epilogue. There is also a table of selected data for each shot, along with an occasional comment on post processing, that other photographers will find useful.

I have long maintained that photographing in black-and-white requires a different sensibility than photographing in color and the images in the Plateaus and Canyon sections, at least to me, supported this thesis. With few exceptions these images failed to impress me. Too often the scenes showing the sky and the land beneath it were perfectly exposed for the sky and left a muddy looking land. Other photographs seemed overexposed and washed out. It may be that the photographer was trying for subtlety, but some of the great images of the same landscape by photographers like Jack Dykinga show that these landscapes cry for high drama. In a photograph of green farm fields in the midst of the Caineville Buttes the shadowed side of the hills seemed a uniform undetailed grey. Reducing contrast without showing detail creates a very dull picture of a dramatic subject.

On the other hand the photographs of the slit canyons were quite arresting, particularly when Barnbaum used light and shadows that showed the depth of these narrow places, so that one had the feeling that one was looking down a twisty, colorful gallery. The pictures without dramatic shadows seemed less interesting because there was little sense of depth, perhaps because the photographer elected to use a small f-stop for great depth of field. I wondered if he had experimented with larger f-stops that might reveal more depth by reducing the depth of field.

Throughout the book, Barnbaum offered us so called abstractions where one saw shapes and colors without grasping what they were. I know that I am doctrinaire on this subject, but as a student of Clement Greenberg, I always have mixed feelings about this photographic genre. Just as Greenberg did not consider representation to be a hallmark of modern painting, I feel that representation is the essential quality of photography. On the other hand, there is some joy from the ambiguity of so-called photographic abstractions and a slight thrill when one figures out the subject.

Interestingly, six of the almost 100 images were digital captures, taken with the Canon G10, a pocket camera with a full range of controls, but only capable of closing down to f/8, which prevents the extensive depth of field of Barnbaum's usual view camera. I wished that I could have seen the same images taken with the view camera. While a few of the six were quite pleasant, most seemed a bit out of place.

The slit canyon images make a lovely portfolio. In some ways it's a shame that publishers must offer a book rather than a thin pamphlet of an artist's best photographs. Still, the slit canyon images make this book a worthwhile acquisition.
Landscape photography by a master 17 Dec 2013
By Calvin Lau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Each photograph is accompanied by a story. The images are stunning and the words add even more value. At the end of the book there are exposure data and selected comments: camera, type of film, lens, aperture, and shutter speed. This is a remarkable book that has an epilogue about iconic Antelope Canyon and Bruce Barnbaum's role as the/a "catalyst" for its transformation and change since he " 'discovered' the area on January 1, 1980." (quotations are author's words)

This book is truly a spiritual journey that shares Barnbaum's passion for photography. An exceptional work of art!
A beautiful book for lovers of photography & The american southwest 18 Nov 2013
By Thomas Crouse - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful, "coffee table" type book featuring about 175 full page color photos of the American southwest. Each with a well written page describing the shot, location and perhaps a story about getting there or a little philosophy. The images are divided into three sections: Plateaus, canyons and slit canyons - all are beautiful. The author, best known for his black & white work, has written many books and has traveled & led photo groups throughout the area for over 20 years. While many of the photos may be familiar to lovers of the area (Antelope Canyon, the wave, etc) most are lesser known locations. Since I'm planning a trip to the area next year, I found them all very inspiring. I only wish there was a map or other more detailed location information so I could find some of these gems of America.
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