________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 16. . . .December 23, 2016


Creatures Close Up.

Gillian Watts. Photography by Philippe Martin.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly books, 2016.
64 pp., trade pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-77085-782-7.

Subject Headings:
Wildlife photography-Juvenile literature.
Animals-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.
Photography, Close-up-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

**** /4



When an object is in focus, it looks very sharp and clear. Our eyes are constantly changing their focus on the things around us—it’s an automatic process that we usually don’t notice.

A camera can focus on a very small portion of an object or, if you want, a much bigger part of it. The size of the area that’s in focus depends on what is called depth of field. This zone of sharp focus is controlled by how wide open the lens is. The smaller the aperture (lens opening), the greater the depth of field.

When you get very close to something, it is hard to focus on it. (Try this with a finger in front of your face.) This becomes a problem in macrophotography, the term for extreme close-ups. To get a sharp picture, you need a small aperture. But that means less light can get into the camera, so you have to keep the shutter open longer. The longer the shutter is open, the more chance there is that the subject will move or the camera will jiggle. Result—a blurry picture. Read on to find out how Philippe solved this problem.


A young computer savvy generation is discovering many ways to use their technical knowledge. Some are also captivated by the thrill of “extreme” activities. Combine these with an interest in photography, and it may open up a whole new frontier for them. Creatures Close Up will introduce readers not only to the possibilities of macrophotography but also to some unusual creatures found around the globe.

     The introduction gives a simple explanation of how digital cameras work before examining a special process developed by nature photographer Philippe Martin. After taking multiple super-close up photos of his subject, he uses computer software that brings the perfectly focussed parts of each shot into one composite picture. Called focus-stacking, it results in spectacular images that allow us to see brilliant colours, exquisite patterns and textures, the finest details—individual hairs on the legs of a beetle, or the colour variation on each quill of a tenrec (Madagascar hedgehog) that we would otherwise miss.

     The images in this 64-page book include many creatures: insects, spiders, invertebrates, reptiles, mammals and birds. Brief descriptive captions with each photo offer fascinating information, e.g. we can see a wolf spider’s “two very large eyes about four smaller ones” and observe how the female carries newly hatched baby spiders on her abdomen. The photos include a small portion of background to help the reader understand the animals’ habitats. The photo technique invites repeat viewing of these wonders of nature revealed: the more you look at the mossy leaf-tailed gecko, for instance, the more you notice the texture of its skin, the variety of colour and how the shape of its feet show perfect adaptation to its environment. The frog from Madagascar on the following page has such amazing camouflage it is tricky to separate it from the swampy vegetation it sits on. It is easy to see how much skill and patience it took to find and capture these species on film and then to enhance them through the use of computer technology. An index is included.

     Creatures Close Up is a book to enjoy on several levels: simply as a feast for the eyes, appreciating the wonders of nature, considering the photographic possibilities for oneself, learning new facts about unusual species, and stirring the imagination about nature’s adaptations. It will appeal to all ages.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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