Summary and Info
This is the type of book I never would have thought I would be recommending to others. It could, at first perusal in a book store, be easily be mistaken for just another coffee table book - heavy on "eye candy" but of little substance.Yes, the largess of this September 2009 release from University of Iowa Press is photographs - seventy-five dazzling photographs revealing miniature beauties discretely nestled into patches of prairie, wetland and woodland of Iowa. In the Scarth's own words, "Our mission is to produce works with grace and emotional resonance." Mission accomplished! The full extent of written words by these shutter buffs from Cedar Rapids, Iowa consists of less than three and one half pages. They have chosen instead to let their images speak. However, they have also wisely chosen to include a prefacing essay by one of Iowa's premier naturalists, John Pearson. Mr. Pearson works for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. His essay provides a very personal, introspective look which imparts a comfort of gratefulness that people with his vision are caretakers of our natural resources. It is a refreshing change to actually enjoy reading the first few pages of a book that does not consist of boilerplate and publicist hype. This essay is a deeply personal, evocative celebration of rarely appreciated facets of our Midwestern lands.You will find photos that match the elegance of the essay; photos which capture the diminutive delights we tend to overlook. The old saw about "not seeing the forest for the trees" does not apply to this book. It might be more accurate to say, "not seeing the subject hidden behind or underneath the tree leaf". The photo subjects are things like Candy-striped leaf hoppers, small birds, and detail revealing close-ups of flowers and fungi. To be certain, one will not look at these subjects the same the next time you encounter them in the wild.To be fair, I must admit that I know both Robert and Linda Scarth - not well, but well-enough to garner mutual recognition. For perhaps the past five or six years, I have been running into them on various nature hikes. The group will take off and the Scarths (cameras in hand) will typically have already forged on ahead or will eventually be straggling along behind. They are "easily distracted" and wander away from the group in constant pursuit of that next great shot. In all truth, they usually have spotted something the rest of us remained oblivious to.For you photo buffs, I highly recommend their blog, Field Guide. It includes not only numerous shots of natural beauty but also offers a fair amount of insight into the featured bird, plant, insect, etc. I especially enjoy the accompanying paragraph or two used to offer insight into the habits and life cycles. Before retiring, Linda was the reference librarian at Mount Mercy College. It shows. Unquestionably, the Scarths perform their due-diligence in researching subject material. In addition, tidbits of photographic technical advice are usually offered on the blog as well. Often the technique used to perfect each displayed image is also revealed. Perhaps, even more interesting is the cutting-edge approach that Robert & Linda Scarth have taken with their publishing endeavors. Considerable efforts have been made to embrace the Internet as an active companion to augment their book. A thumbnail library of each photo is available online. One merely has to click on each small image to garner more background information and personal observations about each photo.Unquestionably, this book is so much more than just another book filled with pretty pictures. Quality, depth of background knowledge and technical prowess are evident. This book exudes a genuine quality that sensitively embraces our natural world of the small. I shall be using it as a Christmas gift to loved ones.
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