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Creating the book: Images of the Sierra Nevada

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I created my first book using two years ago. I made another one last year, but both books were of a personal nature. This year I decided I wanted to create a book available to the public. Having so much content on my hiking site, the first task was to narrow the focus. I couldn't just create a book containing my entire web site.

California was still too broad, so I eventually narrowed it down to my favorite place, the Sierra Nevada mountain range. That settled, I now had to decide what kind of book it would be. Would it contain any of the text from my hiking site, or would it be primarily photographs? I didn't really want it to be a guide book, since the web site serves that purpose. Instead, I decided to make it primarily a photography book.

The next task was culling the thousands of images I've taken over the past 14 years. It helped that I had already rated thousands of images and could quickly search for Sierra Nevada images by cross-referencing my web site for trip dates. I simply started with the images I had rated 4 or 5. I was still left with over 1000 images when I started this task in the spring. Slowly, over the course of many weeks, I culled this list of images down to under 200.

Once I had selected the images, for the most part, I started the time-consuming task of re-scanning all of the older images. When I had scanned them years ago, I had only scanned them at a resolution of about 1800x1200. I wanted the best quality, though, so I now re-scanned them at my scanner's maximum resolution of about 3600x2400. I am thankful I did not have to do that task for all of the pictures taken with digital cameras.

I had already started to work on book layout, but after my trip to the Eastern Sierra in late June and early July, I started to work on it more in earnest. The project was really beginning to take shape and I suddenly had the idea that it would be nice to get someone to write a foreword for the book. I was very happy when I contacted Ann Marie Brown and she agreed to write the foreword.

After returning from a 17 day trip to Canada and writing about it, I returned to work on the book in mid-August, laying out all the images and writing captions. I have seen many photography books with minimal captions, but I wanted to provide more context for the pictures. I think, for me, that's part of what sets apart Galen Rowell's photography books. I love to read the stories associated with the images.

I had to make a couple major decisions near the end of the book. One was whether to include information about exposure, aperture, and other such information for each image where possible. I have that information for many of my older images and all of the newer digital ones. Eventually, I decided against it since I felt it would detract from the focus of the book. If any of you are interested in this information, feel free to contact me. The second decision I had to make was whether to try to cram the book into 160 pages. The only reason for doing this would be that blurb can print on premium paper -- but only for books 160 pages in length or less. After doing a bit of research, I decided it wasn't worth it. I didn't want to compromise on the content of the book, and it is entirely possible that blurb will one day in the near future allow books over 160 pages to be printed with premium paper. If it doesn't look like they're going to do this, then I may create an abbreviated version of the book in the future if I find the paper to make a big difference in quality.

Some of the finishing touches in the final weeks included picking fonts and sizes, learning about the difference between dash sizes, more tweaking of the layout, and making sure my friends were ok with me including them in the book.

Creating this book was a lot of work, not even taking into account the time spent hiking and camping and taking photographs. I wondered if anyone would actually buy it, since it would be so expensive. However, I kept telling myself that I was mainly creating it for myself, and anyone buying it would be a bonus. I hope those of you who do buy it enjoy it. Buy it for yourself or as a gift for a friend or relative. Read it and look to it as inspiration for places to visit in the future, or reminiscing of places you've been to in the past.

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