A photograph from a couple of weeks ago. I think I see a dragon's face in the clouds. Do you? It is more of an Oriental style dragon than a European style one if that helps.
As part of my learning how to use Photoshop, I purchased and have been using a couple of books. Brief reviews of them after the jump.
I have been using three books for educating myself on Photoshop CS4 and one for Lightroom 2. I have generally read them all of the way through, except for one, but they have all been instrumental in getting me up to speed on the applications.
Two of the books really form a nice set as they are written by the same author and are generally organized in a similar manner. The are The Adobe Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers and The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby and published by New Riders/Voices that Matter. If you have read any of Scott Kelby's books in the past, then you will be familiar with his conversational, straight to the point, step-by-step style. If you haven't then I will say that I find his style quite approachable and instructive. The only places were he wonders off on tangents are the chapter introductions which really serve only to break up what should be a monotonous subject matter. Taken together both books have served as good "kick-starters" to get oriented with the given applications and understand their capabilities. However, if you are looking for more textbook / reference style books, then these are not the books you are looking for. He doesn't linger too long on any given subject, but does give you the approaches and step-by-step methods he uses in his own image workflow and processing. I read these before the other books and found that they got me up to speed very quickly. You can download low-resolution samples off all of the images he uses in the book so you can follow along with him throughout the lessons.
The next book is Photoshop CS4 for Nature Photographers: A Workshop in a Book written by Ellen Anon & Josh Anon and published by Sybex. This book interested me as it focuses on using Photoshop CS4 with nature photography which is what a majority of my work has been thus far. I thought it might provide a bit more focus on those aspects of Photoshop CS4 that I would find useful then those areas that I wouldn't. Luckily, I was correct. It is a more traditionally written book than Mr. Kelby's. Which is to say that the prose is more lengthy and not as bullet-point oriented. It goes in to a bit more depth than Mr. Kelby's books which I appreciated. Still, the book is not boring to read and is written in a more modern, conversational style. It is definitely not a dry textbook style of presentation. It is well organized and includes a CD with sample images to use while following the lessons as well as several tutorial videos to help with some of the more important subjects such as making selections. The CD is compatible with both PCs and Macs. Another feature of the book is that it contains sidebars for people that are using the latest version of Photoshop Elements. These sidebars illustrate how similar results can be achieved in Elements' toolset. I thought this was a nice touch, but I am not certain that most Elements users would expect to find such information in a Photoshop CS4 book. Overall, I found the book to be a good compliment to Mr. Kelby's in that it goes into more detail in the areas that I am most interested in for nature photography.
The last book is Photoshop CS4: The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider King and published by Pogue Press/O'Reilly. The Missing Manual books are a series of technology books managed by New York Times' technology columnist David Pogue. They are intended to provide accessible, in-depth information on various technology subjects such as computer applications and devices. Many applications do not come with a manual these days or are packaged with a very minimal, bare-bones manual and/or a technophile oriented PDF file/help system. The Missing Manuals seek to bridge the gap the manufacturers leave in simply using an application and learning an application. I had the Missing Manual for Photoshop Elements 5 when and was impressed with it. Thus, I thought the CS4 version would be worth a look. Again, I was not disappointed. Photoshop CS4: The Missing Manual is a much larger book than the others that I have discussed here. It goes into much more detail than the other books and really does serve as the manual that Adobe didn't include in the box with Photoshop CS4. Like the other books here, it is written in an approachable style with amble directions and illustrations. Like Mr. Kelby's book you can download sample images to work on as you read through the book. If you only want to get get one book for Photoshop CS4, then this is probably the one that you want. It leaves no stone unturned in Photoshop, it is much more generally focused than the other books, and can serve has a reference manual that you pull off of the shelve when you get stuck on an image/technique.
I recommend each of these books. Indeed, I think I have learned different things from each of them as the authors' presentations and focus areas are just enough different that what one might gloss over, another will provide a useful insight in to.
Disclaimer: While I have provided links to the books on Amazon, I am not an Amazon affiliate. I don't get anything back from either Amazon, the writers or the publishers for reviewing the books. The links are simply provided for informational purposes. Where you purchase your books is entirely your decision.