Nature/Science Photography Books

This is the time of year when my family asks me what I want for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, etc. My usual response is to give them a list of nature photography books. If I didn’t already own the following, this would be a typical list. You might view these as science rather than nature photography. To me they are the same thing, except that one uses very expensive cameras.

Hidden Beauty, Microworlds Revealed contains some of the most detailed artistic photography of microscopic environments that I have ever seen. The images are all tritone, only subtly different from straight up black and white. I prefer this to hand colored micrographs. Sadly, it appears to be out of print.

Heaven & Earth takes you on an exploration of pictures from the smallest to the largest objects known. I am happy to say that it is still easy to buy it from places like Amazon.

cover of the book Heaven & Earth

Li, Dynamic Form in Nature is a quick little read. Each chapter is just a paragraph and a few black and white illustrations describing a pattern in nature and typical ways it is formed. The illustrations are simple, not like the gorgeous photos in the books above.

The Self-Made Tapestry goes into much more detail about how patterns in nature are formed. Unlike Li, this book gives plenty of background on the physics, chemistry, and mathematics behind natural patterns. This is the type of material we studied while designing filters in Eye Candy and Xenofex.

I could include Andy Goldsworthy’s work here, but he deserves his own article.

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About the Author:

Jeff Butterworth is the founder of Alien Skin Software. He used to create the products, but now he does marketing and gets coffee for the programmers.


  1. elliot November 24, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Also look for Felice Frankel’s ENVISIONING SCIENCE. Awesome book, gorgeous photographs.

    • Jeff November 25, 2010 at 8:45 am

      Absolutely! That one is good for people who are actually creating scientific photographs. It contains lots of concrete technical advice.

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