Review: Photoshop CS4 for Nature Photographers: A Workshop in a Book (Ellen Anon, Josh Anon)

by E.J. Peiker | January 6, 2009

NatureScapesEven though I have considered myself fairly capable in Adobe Photoshop for a long time, I jumped at the chance to comment on the new book, Photoshop CS4 for Nature Photoraphers: A Workshop in a Book, by Ellen Anon and Josh Anon.

Several years ago, while browsing at Barnes and Noble, I saw the CS2 version of Photoshop for Nature Photographers by Ellen Anon and Tim Grey. I grabbed a copy, headed to the coffee shop in the book store, ordered a Soy Latte and sat down with this book. I started thumbing through the pages and before I knew it, an hour had gone by, my coffee had long been emptied and I was late to my next activity. Any book that can keep my attention for an hour in a bookstore is worthy of purchase, so I bought it and over the next several days went through it with a fine-tooth comb. I was surprised by how much I learned. I learned many higher efficiency ways of completing tasks that I had been doing for a long time, thereby saving me time. The concept of adjustment layers, which I had been resisting to some degree, became a regular part of my workflow as a result. A couple of years later, I had just upgraded to Photoshop CS3 and again ran across Photoshop for Nature Photographers – this time the CS3 version by Ellen and Tim. Again I thumbed through it and found enough new stuff to compel me to buy the updated version. The latest incarnation of this book is now available, Photoshop CS4 for Nature Photographers: A Workshop in a Book. The book is still written by Ellen but now with her son, Josh Anon, rather than Tim Grey. Tim provides a foreword in the book.

I had installed CS4 only a few days before receiving the book so the timing was perfect. CS4 adds a few new capabilities but significantly revises some of the interface. The book and associated videos are excellent at walking one through the changes and showing how to best utilize the interface. I found the videos, which are narrated by Ellen, very instructive in this regard. She has a very calm and methodical approach that makes it easy to learn. Unlike many videos, which attempt to drill as much information as possible into one’s brain in a minimum amount of time, these videos each focus on one or two major building block capabilities and describe how to use them clearly. I found it best to have the videos running on one computer while CS4 was up on another computer so I could immediately try what I saw on the screen without having to change back and forth between the videos and Photoshop. Alternately, in a two-monitor set-up one could watch the video on the secondary display while performing the tasks on the primary screen.

The book is organized logically with some basic chapters up front. Thinking Digitally, the first chapter, is a great introduction to digital photography and is highly recommended for beginners as well as photographers switching from film to digital. The next two chapters use a workflow method to cover two associated programs: Bridge, Photoshop’s file browser, and Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), the RAW image converter. Bridge seems to be a program poorly understood by many photographers and this book really helps clear up the mystique. It is recommended for all. The ACR chapter covers the basics well and again is recommended for all. However, for advanced ACR users there isn’t much new here and the new features such as adjustment brushes and graduated filters deserve more in-depth coverage.

Subsequent chapters cover everything from basic set-up of Photoshop to the tools and techniques used most often by nature photographers. The book uses a workflow-based approach that goes all the way through final output. Along the way, specialized topics are covered, such as composites, black and white conversion, photo art creative effects and much more. Throughout the entire book, the emphasis is on non-destructive photo editing. For anyone not yet using adjustment layers for most or all of their Photoshop work, this text is a must. The chapters truly build a solid foundation and cover virtually all basic techniques, most intermediate techniques and many more advanced techniques in Photoshop. Someone who masters every technique described in the book will have more Photoshop capability than 95% of all photographers using Photoshop CS4.

A major addition to Photoshop CS4 for Nature Photographers is the inclusion of Adobe Photoshop Elements. Elements had not been covered in the previous versions of this book. I would highly recommend this book to Elements users. The right information is easy to find as Photoshop CS4 instruction is typeset on white while the Elements material is typeset on blue.

There are some topics that were not included due to the function either not working properly in the beta version of CS4, which was the only version at the authors’ disposal when the book was written, or lack of room to include them within the publisher’s limitations. The most notable of these is the very powerful new Content Aware Scaling feature. A few interface items have also been changed between the writing of the book and the final release of CS4; however, these are relatively minor. The new layers palettes are not covered in detail in the book but are covered well in the accompanying videos.

Overall, Photoshop CS4 for Nature Photographers: A Workshop in a Book is another valuable addition to the digital photographer’s library and is highly recommended.

About the Author

E.J. was born in 1960 in Augsburg, Germany and moved to Ohio in 1969. He attended Purdue University and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering and completed graduate studies in Microelectronics and Semiconductor Physics. After working for the Intel Corporation for 27 years, he is now retired from the electronics industry and is a professional freelance photographer. E.J. and has formally studied photography at the University of New Mexico and completed courses from The Rocky Mountain School of Photography. E.J. has two sons, and has lived in Chandler, Arizona since 1994. A photographic specialty is artistic images of ducks and E.J. has published the book Ducks of North America - The Photographer's Guide. E.J. is also prolific in landscape photography, his first photographic love. E.J.'s photographs have been published worldwide in books, advertising, magazines, billboards, murals and more. Some of his publishers and clients include The National Geographic Society, World Wildlife Fund, The United States National Parks Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Navy, State Parks Arizona, Barrons, and Dorling Kindersley. New Zealand Post honored E.J. by making one of his penguin images the primary image for their 2014 Commemorative Antarctica Ross Dependency Stamp set. He has also been named one of the top 100 Wildlife Photographers in the world by Eastern Europe's Digital Photographer Magazine. Visit his website at:

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