Review: Alex Garcia’s Depth Of Field: Tips on Photojournalism and Creativity

(c)Mark Krajnak / JerseyStyle Photography

(c)Mark Krajnak / JerseyStyle Photography

For a long time now, I’ve had a special place in my heart for the city of Chicago.

Back in 1991, between my junior and senior years in college, when I was stringing for a newspaper in Northeast Pennsylvania, a buddy (also a local reporter) and I called for, and got, press passes to old Comiskey Park, where the Chicago White Sox played. It was the last season for the oldest ballpark in the major leagues, and we wanted to see it firsthand, on the field, in the dugouts and in the press box as working journalists.

Press passes in hand, we made the long drive from Pennsylvania to Chicago. My first official “road trip” and my first time in Chitown. Since then, I’ve been back to Chicago, on business an pleasure, numerous times and it’s one of my Top Five cities in the United States. People are great, weather is great (in the summer), food is superb.

Because of that connection, I still peruse the local Chicago papers on line. And I follow some of the Chicago photojournalists on social media as well. Thanks to Twitter, I found Alex Garcia a couple of years ago.

Photojournalist Alex Garcia

Photojournalist Alex Garcia

Alex has shot for the LA Times, and for a few years, he penned a weekly column for the Chicago Tribune called Assignment Chicago. He wrote about the workings of a photojournalist at a big-city newspaper, often giving tips in his columns.

These tips have been turned in this ebook, Depth of Field: Tips on Photojournalism and Creativity. And it’s a winner.

(c)Alex Garcia_Chicago Tribune_Depth Of Focus e-book

What I liked about Alex’s columns, and this book, is what I like about the writing of Joe McNally: They both show it ain’t all perfect pixels. Things go wrong, even the pro’s have tough situation, and the you have to quickly adapt between photographer and problem solver.

When the PR rep is telling you “Five minutes” and you need ten, the sweat is rolling down your back, the lighting sucks, and the flash doesn’t fire, you know what? You still have to produce.

City paper photojournalists don’t have oodles of time to plan, do set ups and test shots and lighting checks. They are shooting a school board meeting one minute, a traffic accident the next, and the Hollywood star on a press junket staying at The Drake – all before lunch.

Mike Ditka by Alex Garcia

Chicago Icon Mike Ditka by Alex Garcia

So, this book is a collection of Alex’s columns. At about 155 pages, it’s well written and beautifully illustrated with Alex’s photos (more on that, though, in a bit). He doesn’t get too technical into the whole gear situation that he uses, but he advice is more everyday and practical….get there early…stay late on a scene…look for a new angle…wait for it…

Chapter headers are pretty self-explanatory:
I. Discovering Photojournalism
II. Getting Smart With The Basics
III. Avoiding Mistakes And Cliches
IV. Finding New Ways To See
V. Improving Your People Pictures
VI. Capturing The Moment

Pretty basic, yes. But Alex brings a real-world, real-time perspective to everything. It’s easy to read (I finished it during a rainy day while on vacation in Vermont), and stimulating. Made me want to get out and see the world in a new way through my view finder.

Published in conjunction with the Chicago Tribune, there is on drawback: It’s a fixed-format ebook. Meaning, on my Kindle, the text is small. You can’t “pinch-and-pull” to make it bigger. The images look great but the text is small. Apparently, there were other issues as well (repeated pics and such) with some downloads. Mind didn’t have that, though there may be a way to get the latest version. Not sure how to do that, so I’m happy with what I have.

And, interestingly, though I have Kindle for PC (downloaded this program before I got my actual Kindle), I can’t seem to open this book on that program – maybe I have to sync it or something? Hence, though, the lack of screen shots. But no matter. The book is a good insight into a working, big-city newspaper photojournalist.

In just the past few weeks, Alex has left the Chicago Tribune, off on a new photo adventure. His Trib blog is done, and I haven’t seen a new one start up yet, but I’m still following him on Twitter. You can too:

(c)Alex Garica

(c)Alex Garica

While I don’t buy every photo book out there, I’m glad I got this one. Check it out. I think you’ll like his work, and insights, as well.

I wish Alex the best of luck in this next phase of his life – photographic and otherwise.

© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2014

2 thoughts on “Review: Alex Garcia’s Depth Of Field: Tips on Photojournalism and Creativity

    • Hi Mike, thanks for the comment, glad you liked it. I don’t think that photo of Ditka is in the book, bit it’s comes from Alex’s Tribune blog. It’s a good example of how he had very little time, worked quickly with one light source, and got a great portrait. He’s not afraid to experiment, too (one he knows he got the shot). I remember one post where he lit his subject with his iPhone flashlight, just to see what it would look like. And that’s the image the Trib ran!

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