Big books


POSTED: Sunday, December 13, 2009

Let's face it, books have always been a safe Christmas present, and are generally gratefully received, unless you're sending a book of fruitcake recipes, in which case it really is better to give than to receive.

Despite the economy, a number of local publishers have produced some large-format books that are as much fun to read as they are to look at.

”;The Shorebreak Art of Clark Little,”; by Clark Little (Clark Little Photography, $100 and $350)

This is the big gun, a weighty, magnificently mounted, high-gloss ueber-production of ... pictures of waves. Just waves. But if you've ever been caught in a pounding shore break or slid down the heaving shoulder of locomotive surf, ducking into the curl as water suspends the laws of gravity, you'll recognize the territory. It's magical, page after page of it.

Photographers use the phrase “;the decisive moment”; to describe the split-second instant when all the elements of composition arrange themselves, and that reflex to fire the shutter at just the right second takes a kind of kinetic mojo. Your finger knows before the brain does.

Little, who comes from a surfing family with surf-photography experience, decided some time ago to focus on what was happening within the wave, not from the safety of shore. And so, he's probably had more tons of water dropped on his head than any surf photographer alive. Using a waterproof—and rugged—camera housing, Little employs fast shutter speeds, large lenses and accelerated light sensitivity to capture every detail of the roiling energy of a wave, seemingly down to the last particle of sand caught within it.

The images are surprisingly intimate, with little sense of scale. What looks huge might be a little shore break. The result is a book of terrific images, but you probably have to be a wave connoisseur to appreciate them fully.

Two editions are available directly from http://www.clarklittlephotography.com. The standard is $100; a numbered “;collector's”; edition with extra goodies, including two original prints, is $350.

”;Contemporary Hawai'i Woodworkers—The Wood, the Art, the Aloha,”; by Tiffany DeEtte Shafto and Lynda McDaniel (Contemporary Publications, $44.95)

I've always thought that Hawaii's sugar and pineapple planters could have invested in rare-wood foresting as the other business dried up, as Hawaii's climate is ideal for year-round growing, and the appearance of this gorgeous book makes one regret it even more.

Hawaii's woodworkers are given a kind of gallery presentation here, and their amazing skill and joinery craftsmanship is coupled with high imagination and glowing wood choices. It's interesting to see just how organic many of the designs are. Hawaii clearly has some world-class wood artisans, and this book gives them just the right package. It also includes some Hawaii woodworking history and a well-illustrated reference section on the types of wood grown and milled in the islands—we have far more choices than koa! A well-designed and most attractive book.

”;Legends of Surfing—The Greatest Surfriders from Duke Kahanamoku to Kelly Slater,”; by Duke Boyd and Jeff Divine (MVP Books, $35)

This is an attempt at an entertaining encyclopedia of surfing's all-stars, with Boyd contributing fun facts and richly chosen quotes, while Divine—photo editor of the slick Surfer's Journal—raids the archives for images that give a sense of personality to each surfer. Not just a casual read for the surfing buff, but a useful reference on all things surfing.

”;Big Island Journey—An Illustrated Narrative of the Island of Hawai'i,”; by Sophia V. Schweitzer and Bennett Hymer (Mutual Publishing, $40)

It's often said that to see the “;real”; Hawaii, get off Oahu. The Big Island is almost like a separate country, with its own indigenous history, and general-interest histories of the largest land mass in the mid-Pacific are pretty rare. This volume fills the gap neatly and is clearly a labor of love for the authors, writer Schweitzer and image editor Hymer.

Using prehistoric images painted by Herb Kane, historical images from museums and fairly recent, evocative images by photographers like Franco Salmoiraghi, Mary Ann Lynch and Boone Morrison, the expanse of Big Island history is collected in a comprehensive, inclusive manner. Schweitzer's caption writing, in particular, is a model of combining words with pictures.

”;Small Trees for the Tropical Landscape—A Gardener's Guide,”; by Fred D. Rauch and Paul R. Weissich (University of Hawaii Press, $41.99)

Sometimes the title tells you virtually everything you need to know. This large-format, well-illustrated guidebook by two of Hawaii's foremost horticulturalists is attractive enough, but it's not a layabout coffee-table decoration. It's made to be used and consulted by those who need to know about, well, about small trees—what works, what doesn't. Useful scholarship for a targeted market.