Scottish photographer John G. Moore took on a daunting project – photographing the John Muir Trail, some 220 miles that extends from California’s Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. The result is “Spirit,” a gorgeous photo book he published with Blurb.
John took the time to talk with us about his project, the logistics, the equipment he used to capture Spirit’s stunning images, and of course, his experience with Blurb. We only wish we could hit a brogue button on the screen so you could hear the answers from the man himself. Thanks, John!
Blurb: Tell us a little bit about the genesis of this project.
John: A close relative’s four-year-old daughter had tragically passed away, and I felt compelled to help in some small way. I thought it would be a noble idea to shoot a fine art landscape photography book and donate a percentage of the sales profits to the children’s charity based in the Glasgow hospital that treated her.
Blurb: Why the John Muir Trail? Why the U.S.? Why not Scotland?
John: At that time, I was in Los Angeles regularly shooting fashion and music projects. Logistically the High Sierra seemed the perfect location to shoot for the book. When I first saw the area, I was awestruck – its vast beauty was incredible. I did more research and discovered that John Muir, who was a Scot from my same clan, was instrumental in popularizing it to the world at large. He also helped found the modern day ecology movement; an issue that I feel is even more important today than it was then.
Blurb: The John Muir trail is pretty huge. Did you cover the whole thing?
John: The original plan was to complete the trail over five weeks in one trip. However, due to various events, we ended up covering it in smaller sections over a few trips. The bonus was that we hiked during various times of year and that added a lot of seasonal variety to the shots.
Blurb: Any favorite place along the trail or favorite shot from the expeditions?
John: It’s such a beautiful area that it’s hard to choose one particular location or shot. For location it would either be Yosemite at the start of the trail or Mount Whitney at the finish. There is such a huge variety of shots to be had at each of these locations. If I had to pick a favorite shot from the book it would either be “Half Dome & Cloud” or “Sleeping Giant & Whitney.” On viewing my work, people have very kindly remarked that I have captured some well-photographed locations in a unique way. Either of these shots typifies this.
Blurb: What equipment did you take?
John: I shot with a mixture of medium format and 35mm digital equipment. The medium format kit consisted of a Haselblad H3DII-50 mainly using a 35-90 Zoom. My 35mm kit consisted of a Canon 1DSmkIII, a 5D, and a 5D mkII. Quite a few professionals in the industry have commented on the level of detail I captured in the 35mm shots. This is attributable to the fact that I use my old Contax Zeiss lenses on the Canon bodies via an adapter. I have always liked Zeiss lenses and although you are limited to working in full manual mode I feel the results are well worth it. Of course Zeiss has recently released a new range of EOS fit lenses which now makes things much easier. On the technical front, everything performed well, but make sure you have a good solar-powered charger to keep batteries topped up.
Blurb: Tell us a little bit about the editing process on the trail and back at the studio.
John: During the trips I used a Lenovo w700ds laptop running a beta version of Windows 7 x64. My main raw workflow tool was Adobe Lightroom. This combination let me edit shots quickly on location, saving me time on my return to base. I did most of the serious image editing and the book design at Skyline Studios in Glasgow. The hardest aspect was culling the images down to the final choices used in the book. I have a vast amount of images from the trips left over.
Blurb: Why Blurb for the book?
John: I really loved the idea that with Blurb you have total control. I’m a perfectionist and with Blurb I was able to be in control from concept through creation.
John: I went with BookSmart and found it more than adequate. In fact, my sister works as a designer for a traditional publisher and she was very impressed with the quality of the finished book – as was I.
Blurb: Any future books planned with Blurb?
John: Reaction to “Spirit” has been so positive that I plan to release a large format extended edition. This will include additional photographs and technical information on how, what, and where I captured the images. I will go with a PDF to Book Workflow via Adobe InDesign next time though. I’m provisionally targeting a release during May 2010 to coincide with an exhibition of my work that’s being held in Scotland.
Blurb: What’s your top tip for a first-time bookmaker using Blurb? How about your best tip for creative pros using Blurb?
John: Plan and implement your overall style for the book first. I set up page templates for each photo format on left and right facing pages, then the text boxes and styles, and finally the covers before I even imported a photo. Get this organized first and the rest of the process should be easy. BookSmart is surprisingly well featured and should have you producing great books within a few hours.