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Ryan Li "Photographer" (London, UK)
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Bulgaria (Lonely Planet Country Guides)
Bulgaria (Lonely Planet Country Guides)
by Richard Watkins
Edition: Paperback

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair, but don't take it as your only guide, 13 Jun 2006
I visited Sofia and Plovdiv for 4 days recently, and for my purposes found this guide to be of average usefulness, nothing more. The coverage on Sofia was underwhelming; the main sights and accommodation needs are all well covered, but the recommended eating and drinking venues are rather run-of-the-mill, even lacklustre. Certainly it does not do justice to Sofia's well deserved reputation as an up-and-coming, ultra-hip metropolitan location, where in my experience there is no shortage of exceptional and perfectly affordable bars and restaurants, e.g. 10 leva for a filling and impeccable two-course "Chef's Recommendations" at Upstairs, and the amazing Vinobar which is worth visiting just to see the winelist of 300 varieties.

As for Plovdiv, the author claims that "Unless you're planning a long stay, or venturing out into the suburbs, the maps in this guidebook will be sufficient." Not so. We got lost on the hills of the old town because many of the streets were not labelled on said map.

Other curiosities, for the lack of foresight, or attention to detail, may be found. In the Bulgarian phrases section at the back, "dobur den" (the most commonly used phrase for "good day" or "hello") is missing for some unknown reason. On how to get to Simenovo from Sofia: "Minibus No 41 runs from Sofia city centre to Simeonovo (1lv)." All very well, but may I ask where in the city centre? The section on Sofia transport completely fails to mention the fact that a line of official yellow taxis exist perpetually outside the airport, so there is no real need to book a cab at the counter inside the airport as the guidebook recommends; had this been made clear to me beforehand it would have saved me some sweat on my arrival at the airport at 1:20am.

The section on postal services deserves special mention. Actual prices for mailing postcards are twice of those listed in the Lonely Planet. Unusual considering the guide is fairly recent, but forgivable. Less forgivable is the fact that the central post office operates in a manner which most outsiders would probably find fairly confusing and daunting; that is, division of labour to the maximum degree, and this guidebook makes not one mention of this. My understanding (limited, given the lack of English signage) is that there are actually three sections to the central post office, one for parcels, one for bills and payments and one for ordinary mail. Within each section, each counter is divided to serve a different function. And even then there is a line of postboxes, one for mail to Sofia, one for Plovdiv, one for Varna, one for international mail, etc. I posted a postcard unknowingly into the yellow box outside the post office door which is probably for some other purpose altogether, I hope my friend will receive it.

My review has so far been fairly harsh, and I make no apologies. I have not used the guide to travel the rest of Bulgaria's cities and countryside, and it may be the case that Lonely Planet Bulgaria excels here. However I believe that if the Lonely Planet is to be "the one" travel guide to have, then it should be solid and dependable by itself all the way through, which unfortunately cannot be said of Lonely Planet Bulgaria. To be fair, it is by all means a usable guide, but you would gain much from making use of Internet resources and the excellent Sofia Insider guide, freely available in hotels and restaurants in Sofia.


The World's Top Photographers: Portraits: And the Stories Behind Their Greatest Images
The World's Top Photographers: Portraits: And the Stories Behind Their Greatest Images
by Fergus Greer
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do famous sitters make for better portrait photographs?, 14 Jan 2006
Having seen the other books in the World's Top Photographers series, I was expecting more. Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of the photos are well-executed (which is why I'm giving 4 stars), but unlike the other books in the series I wasn't left with a true sense of awe after finishing the book. It's a shame that there appears an overemphasis on samey shots of famous people, in the samey glum-looking poses, by different photographers. In my opinion, these overshadow some of the more photographically creative works in the book (the excellent front cover image being one). One can't help but question whether 'top' portrait photography is more about the sitter's celebrity status, rather than the photographer's creativity and technique. It may well be that the selection in the book is an accurate reflection the trends and values of contemporary portrait photography.
On the whole, the book is still worth buying, you'll probably find more enjoyment than me if you enjoy putting names to the faces of actors and rock stars. If you're looking for something with a bit more photographic punch, I can recommend 'Face to Face: The Art of Portrait Photography' by Paul Ardenne and Elisabeth Nora.


The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet)
The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World (Lonely Planet)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-buy, 14 Jan 2006
This book will open your eyes to the world, and open your mind to several dozen countries you've probably never even heard of. Stunning photography which benefits hugely from the large hardback format, useful snippets of facts and humourously written travel insights. If you have any curiosity about the world at all, you will enjoy this book.


First Light: A Landscape Photographer's Art
First Light: A Landscape Photographer's Art
by Joe Cornish
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 14 Jan 2006
Joe Cornish is, without a doubt, the greatest living landscape photographer from United Kingdom, if not the world. The word 'magical' sums up the quality of the work in this book. For each photograph, Cornish also explains like a teacher how he achieved the 'magic' in each shot, e.g., the lighting conditions, the camera techniques he used, and so on. A very neat touch is that beside each main image, Cornish has a different, small shot of the exact same location taken under very different conditions, and again usefully explains why he prefers the main image.
Did I mention that the quality of the photography is absolutely stunning?
If you have any remote interest in photography, the countryside or even just things which look pretty, you must buy this book.


1000 Places to See Before You Die
1000 Places to See Before You Die
by Patricia Schultz
Edition: Paperback

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best read with a little visual imagination, 14 Jan 2006
As a photographer, the lack of photography in this book does reduce its usefulness for me as a source of inspiration for travel ideas, although the sheer volume of the book probably makes it more suitable for flicking through on a rainy day anyway. The author is obviously well-travelled, and the breadth of coverage in the book is impressive, if possibly a little over-Americanised. It is fair to say that the author has done an admirable job of collating and presenting such a vast amount of information in a relatively easy-to-follow manner.
The text generally passes my informal 'wanderlust test', of giving me just the right level of information to give me some idea of the location, and enough to inspire me to find out more about it for myself, although again pictorial information alongside would tell a much more useful story, especially when Schultz describes locations such as hotels.


Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die (Unforgettable... Before You Die)
Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die (Unforgettable... Before You Die)
by stevedavey.com
Edition: Paperback

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for people who need to get out more often, 14 Jan 2006
I saw this book on Amazon and bought it out of curiosity. What I consider to be a decent travel book is one which gives you the wanderlust - one which tempts you to visit those places in the book immediately. This book is successful in that respect. The locations are inspiring and the background information is just right - both in terms of quantity, relevance as well as the level of detail, i.e., enough to make a location sound really interesting without boring you with too much with the historical detail. I haven't been to most of the places in the book, but I can say that of the ones I have visited the book made some good choices.
As a travel photographer, the pictorial aspect of a travel book is very important to me, it gives me visual inspiration about where and what to shoot - so I was pleased to see lots of photography in this book. My only and fairly significant complaint of the book is that although the photographers clearly knew what they were doing, the high standard of the photography is ruined by the poor print quality. Colours are dull, and most annoyingly each and every photo has been oversharpened, this is very distracting to the eye. The picture editor probably needs to take some lessons in Photoshop.
On the whole, this book does exactly what it sets out to do very well - read it and you'll almost be dying to visit these places. I would give this 5 stars if not for the print quality of the photographs.


John Hedgecoe's Photographing Landscapes
John Hedgecoe's Photographing Landscapes
by John Hedgecoe
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre, 14 Jan 2006
Let's admit it, most photographers (myself included) have at some point in their lives bought a John Hedgecoe book, not having known any better. If you're a beginner, don't make the same mistake! Light is without a doubt the most important element of landscape photography, yet half the shots in this book are taken in photographically poor conditions (harsh and washed out midday light, or overcast), which to me shows a lack of effort and/or very basic knowledge about the golden rules of landscape photography such as the 'magic hour'.
In this book you will find many other 'gems' of knowledge, a particular example being deliberately not using a tripod to create blurry shots for atmosphere - truly shocking advice for beginners, if only for the reason that Hedgecoe executed this very poorly. (Have a look at some work by Frank Grisdale to see how real landscape photographers do it.)
To give credit to Hedgecoe, there is some useful information for beginners about filters, but that's doesn't justify the purchase of this book. For good advice you'd be much recommended to look elsewhere (e.g., Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, Niall Benvie to name but a few); books like this will just give you the wrong idea about landscape photography and encourage you to take mediocre pictures.


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