I love ebooks; I’ve written three of them, and I think they’re great for teaching and learning about photography. But there’s something special about a beautiful, well-printed, coffee-table book. Picking one up is like holding an art exhibit in your hands, and the tactile sensations of turning the pages complement the visual experience of looking at the images. So here are four actual, physical books you might not have seen before, but that could make great gifts this holiday season.


LastOceanThe Last Ocean:
Antarctica’s Ross Sea Project

by John Weller

John Weller might be one of the best nature photographers you’ve never heard of. I first met John in the 1990s when he worked briefly at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. John has since gone on to create two beautiful books: Great Sand Dunes National Park: Between Light and Shadow, and his latest, The Last Ocean.

The Last Ocean is part of an ambitious project to document and preserve Antarctica’s Ross Sea, considered to be the most pristine ecosystem left on earth. John made four separate trips to this area and came back with a stunning collection of beautiful and imaginative photographs. And, in something of a rarity for a coffee-table book, the text is as compelling as the photographs, with vivid descriptions of the area, the lives of the animals, and of John’s adventures.

To see some of the photographs in the book, check out this slide show. You can order signed copies of the book directly from John, or get unsigned copies from Amazon.


by Jeffrey Conley
Nazraeli Press

Jeff is another friend from our days living in Yosemite Valley, who has since gone on to have great success in fine-art photography world. Winter, published in conjunction with the Peter Fetterman Gallery, is his monograph. My words can’t adequately describe the beauty of Jeff’s simple, elegant, black-and-white images, so I’ll just direct you to his Winter portfolio so you can see for yourself. You can order signed copies of the book directly from Jeff’s website (click on the shopping cart button at the bottom).

ArtofNPsArt of the National Parks:
Historic Connections; Contemporary Interpretations

Jean Stern, Susan Hallsten McGarry
Terry Lawson Dunn
Fresco Fine Art Publications

This book focuses on eight national parks: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Acadia, Grand Canyon, Everglades, Yosemite, Zion, and Rock Mountain. Each park section includes some historical artwork along with contemporary paintings (and a few sculptures) from a variety of artists. My friends Penny Otwell and Moira Donohoe are included in the Yosemite chapter, but every section includes an array of beautiful and interesting work. It’s big book – 430 pages – and it’s just gorgeous. You can order it from Amazon.


SeedoftheFutureSeed of the Future:
Yosemite and the Evolution of the National Park Idea

by Dayton Duncan
Yosemite Conservancy

Published by the Yosemite Conservancy, Seed of the Future commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, which preserved Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove, and planted the seed for the national park idea.

Although this book features some fine photographs and paintings (including a few images by yours truly), it’s not so much a photography book as an illustrated history of the creation of Yosemite National Park, the park’s early years, and the evolution of the conservation ideas that sprouted in Yosemite.

This book is great gift for someone who loves Yosemite. You can find it on Amazon, of course, but more money goes to the Yosemite Conservancy if you order directly from them.

— Michael Frye

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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to YosemiteYosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.