This is an amazingly informative and educational summary of how the Californian photographer Stephen Johnson produced his masterpiece The Great Central Valley on his own. Johnson manages in the only fifty pages long Making a Digital Book to describe, skillfully and inspiringly, each step of the book-production: scanning, color- and tone corrections, retouching damaged originals, layout etc. Moreover, he does it with a very high aesthetic, so that despite the book's theoretical contents, one may browse through it only because it is so beautiful!
When the book, to crown everything, is proportionately cheap, it cannot be anything but a necessary purchase for everyone who is curious about how to use computers to facilitate the production of photo-books!
The author of The Great Central Valley, the consummate regional book shows us how he did it. It is up to us to extrapolate for our regions.
Stephen Johnson used Adobe's Photoshop to acquire and manipulate photographs, and Illustrator to draw maps. He gives us brief, clear lectures on the essentials of his design process, scanning and image editing options for black and white, duotone, and color-- the section I found most informative--and how he restored faded and damaged photographs. Several more slim chapters describe project organization, setting costs, and equipment The chapters are well illustrated with examples from the larger book
As well as being a showcase of the author's work as talented photographer and able teacher, this book emblazoned with the logos of the companies who freely gave or loaned hardware and software, is testament to his consummate salesmanship.
Emulate that and you, too, will have it made.
spring 96 issue
Book Review: Making a Digital Book
Carol B. MacKnight
OIT / Academic Computing
Please note: This is an archived copy of a printed publication, provided for reference and context only. In the case of some articles, information and links (especially to non-UMass Web sites) may be out of date. OIT does not actively maintain these pages.
Making a Digital Book is a visually stunning booklet. Well-known photographer, Stephen Johnson, has created a wonderful pictorial story using real examples of creative and technical problem solving. If anything can, this will empower individuals to pursue their inspirations. This booklet serves not only as a workbook and tutorial but also as encouragement to designers, publishers, and especially photographers.
Many tasks are involved in making a digital book. There are design, creation of graphics, sizing photographs, reflowing text, adapting to new technologies, photographic scanning, restoration, and color separation to be considered. Examples of each are given using nifty images of California's heartland, maps, text, and graphics.
Johnson takes the reader from the conception of the book project to its completion. He begins by outlining the tasks at hand, layering the transparent outline of the project over a photograph of wheat fields near Dos Palos, California. It is a striking background. His choice of fonts and use of color adds beauty to the page.
Since his images were scanned, Johnson spends some time talking about the importance of having a high quality scanner. A mediocre scanner will not do justice to your image, he warns. The greater the bit depth of the scanner the better. Particularly problematic are black and white prints. Most of the subtle detail is lost by all but the highest quality print scanners offering the greater bit depth.
Particularly interesting are the sections on Duotones & Photographic Reproduction and Image Restoration. Historic photographs vary widely in terms of quality. Some, for example, have great contrast and others are flat. Johnson explains how he solved this problem with examples of different duotone separations using Adobe Photoshop. Before and after examples are given of historic images where dust, scratches, and contrast have presented problems.
Johnson lists in detail the equipment and software used in making this exquisite booklet. He comments on them with respect to his experience in creating graphics, making half scans, and editing of images. The booklet ends with an About the Author, Selected Readings, and A Glossary of Technical Terms.
Making a Digital Book is the sort of book that you and I might dream about producing; and with the improvements in hardware and software available to us now, can.