Review: Seeing the Unseen by Alister Benn

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I first learned of Alister Benn’s amazing night photography in 2010, when an article of his was published by a nature photography website.

At the time it was the most thorough explanation of night photography technique I’d come across, and I found it extremely useful.

His eBook, Seeing the Unseen, far exceeds the utility provided by that article and in my view, stands as the most comprehensive resource on night photography available today.

The Goods

There are two areas of this eBook that stand out for me. The first is the amount of information it provides.

Put it this way…if Seeing the Unseen was a printed book, rather than a digital one, my copy would be thumb-worn, dirty and water damaged because, like my field notebook, it would go with me everywhere.

I purchased Seeing the Unseen more than a year ago and it quickly became a go-to resource any time I geared up for a night shoot.

Still today, even though I’ve poured over the eBook a dozen times, if I need to address specific conditions or simply to recharge my addled brain (happens more often that I should admit), I need go no farther than this manual.

From exposure guides, ambient light sources, creative considerations, to rules of thumb for star trails versus pinpoints, Seeing the Unseen leaves no questions unanswered.

And, as with any photographic manual, this one’s loaded with images. What I find unique, though, is included technical information and the creative possibilities they introduce.

Regarding the former, the techy stuff, a manual on B&W conversion or composition wouldn’t include this because it’s not relevant in those contexts.

It is for night photography, however, and its inclusion in this manual is really helpful. When I first read it, and absorbed the images that Alister’s includes, I found myself scratching my head and wondering “how”.

In addition to the reams of instruction this eBook provides, the simple inclusion of technical information illustrates decisions made by a master of night photography. This alone was quite instructive.

Regarding the latter, Alister’s images are demonstrative of what technical knowledge and creative vision can accomplish. They’re truly emblematic of the eBook’s title–Seeing the Unseen–and certainly served to fuel my creativity.

What’s Inside

When I write an eBook review, my goal is to define inherent value so the reader can decide whether the purchase is worthwhile.'

To this end, I typically summarize an eBook’s major sections. This results in long-ish reviews, but in this age of Alister’s website.

Available Night Light: An overview of sources of available light for night photography, including the moon, “light pollution”, the blue hour, etc.

The Science of Preparation: Like the title says, a discussion about preparation, which is all-important in any type of landscape photography.

Getting Started: This is basically a quick-start guide. Use this to capture your first set of quality exposures.

Exposure: Digs into main considerations for night capture.

Dynamic Range: Covers single and multiple exposure images, including stacking.

Composition: Covers pragmatic choices made in the field that impact the final image and expression we create.

In the Field: Discusses image capture in specific scenarios, such as Blue Hour / Single Exposure, Bright Nights / Multiple Exposure, etc.

Equipment: Alister’s list of recommended equipment, along with additional choices for specific creative effects.

Final Thoughts

I think I’ve pretty much stated my position about this eBook. If you don’t fully understand technical and creative night photography considerations and possibilities, buy it. You can do so here.

And, last point I’ll make…

This isn’t an affiliate link; I have no incentive for recommending Seeing the Unseen other than its awesomeness; this review is unprompted.

I’ve read dozens of eBooks on photography technique. I do this for self-education, to see how other photographers generate revenue, and to share my impressions with you, hopefully to help inform your own decisions about self-education.

Most eBooks fail to deliver, and far too many are simply unnecessary marketing fluff or unabashed money grabs. I consider Seeing the Unseen indispensable.