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The making of "California Earthframes"

a photo book by B&U Steinmueller

note by B+U Steinmueller

Printed Book For Sale now


After over five years photographing digitally in California we felt that making a book to reflect this timeframe would be a nice idea. You probably know that there are two options:

  • Finding a publisher
  • Self publishing

Finding a publisher is hard if you are not really famous or your work is very commercial. Traditional self publishing would be very expensive but there exist now methods that are quite more reasonable (see Michael Reichmann's new book "Bangladesh"). This article will talk about our own journey towards making a book.

What is the book about?

The first thing to note is that a book is not just a collection of photos. What is the difference?

  • Need for at least some text
  • Coherent theme
  • Layout
  • High quality print

All of this while watching your's or your publisher's budget. Quite a few things have to be thought of before you even think to get a publisher.

1. The theme: "California Earthframes"

Our photos of the last 5 years were taken to about 95% in California. On the other side these photos are not typical for travel guides or even introductions to California. In early 2003 we started calling some of our pictures "Earthframes" (actually our friend George Cattermole coined the term when we had a brain storming session to find a good word):

Earthframe #1

Originally we limited the term Earthframes to abstract nature photos. Over the time we felt that most of our pictures could be called "Earthframes" and also include urban elements (the name was our creation anyway). So we came up with a title "California Earthframes". We think the title does not mislead expecting a travel guide and yet gives the book a context. Overall we feel that this book is a homage to California.

2. How many pictures?

Clearly 10 pictures hardly make any book but having too many will also mean too much repetition. To find about 80 pictures that keep a certain level of quality is not a simple task (we ended with 78 which had more to do with layout and a fixed book limit of 144 pages).

3. How to group them?

We thought it maybe not that good to have just a book with 80 pictures and no structure. In the ned we used a very simple yet effective structuring:

  • The Pacific Coast
  • Central Valley & Gold County
  • Sierra
  • Desert
  • Urban Centers
  • California Wildlife

We had some controversial thoughts about including "Wildlife". Our main photography is by no means birds and wildlife. On the other end we love both in California. So we included six pictures into the book (we just love pelicans and other creatures).

4. Even a photo book needs text

For us and probably many other photographers this is the hard part. Our language are photos and often not text. We came up with a nice compromise. We have now the following text elements:

  • Forewords by Dr. Ellen Rudolph and George Cattermole


We are actually very surprised how well both could describe our intentions (better than we could express them ourselves). Ok, they may praise our work more than we deserve but we think they both write what they honestly mean. We know Ellen from her long trip through Australia (read our article "The real Outback"). George has become a friend over the years because he really cares about preserving nature and also as mentioned he coined the term "Earthframes" for us. To be very honest we think the book would not work without these two forewords. Ellen & George thank you very much.

  • Short introductions to the book and the six sections

  • Credits with a thank you to a few people that helped us most. We should have also included our friend and co-author of our technical books Juergen Gulbins as he suffered in the end a lot to get the book printed (Sorry, Juergen)
  • About Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller
  • Image titles

Each image got a short title in English and German.

  • Image notes

The image notes tell a little detail or story about each image. We wanted them to be separately from the images as otherwise you would need a longer text and the text still may distract from the photos. We find this approach very effective and nice.

5. Layout and type

A good book wins from a thoughtful design. Here Anna Rossbach did a great job to make a design that helped the book to live on it's own.

Note: All the work was done in Indesign.

The draft structuring was actually done by ourselves but Anna transformed it into something way more beautiful. Especially here we thank again Juergen to bring in his vast experience on how to use type and managing the transition to the printer.

6. Did we mention that we needed a publisher?

Once we had the idea of the concept and also some first image selection we asked our German publisher Gerhard Rossbach (dpunkt in Germany, our technical books are quite popular in the German market) whether he would help us publishing the book. He came back to us in a short period of time and offered us to publish the book at dpunkt. He felt that showing the artistic side of his technical authors maybe a nice thing to do. Without Gerhard's help this book would have taken much longer and given us way more problems.

7. Dual language

We are German photographers who live and breathe in California. This means a book without English text would not be an option. On the other side German is still our main language. So having a dual language book feels very natural. Actually we think that photography is the first language of this book and English/German complements them.

8. Cover design

Anna also designed a very nice cover and back for the book. Sounds more trivial than it is. A good cover design is very important because the cover has to serve many purposes:

  • Should be pleasant
  • Grab some attention
  • Fit best for the theme
  • Work with the text and logos



9. Budget considerations

We all love coffee table books. But they also cost quite a bit more to produce. We ended up with a size of about: 9.5x7". We think it just works fine with our more subtle pictures.

Overall we think the pictures have a good size to fully appreciate them.

9. Printing

The printing was done by a very good German printer and our friend Juergen Gulbins was on location while printing to check the color matching. The book actually got an extra 5th color to print the thin German text without too much rasterization.

As you can imagine this was/is an exciting ride. We want to thank all the people involved for their great support.

10. Where to get the books?

  • All readers in Europe can buy the book here at dpunkt. Also will carry it in Germany.
  • We will get a shipment of books the next month or so (no experience how long it will take). We plan to sell mainly signed copies and also bundle them with prints. As of this writing the book is printed and our friends in Germany have it in their hands. We have not received a printed copy yet but the full PDF (see below).
  • We also sell an e-book version of the book. This book includes two versions:
    • The full book with all the pictures (144 pages, cannot be printed)
    • The full book without the main pictures but all the text and image annotations (57 pages, can be printed)

    Why would you like to buy this e-book and not the printed book?

    • Some may do so to sponsor this site and also our work for the photographers community. Plus you have the pleasure to see a very well crafted book that may inspire your own work.
    • It is cheaper than the printed book
    • The book looks actually very nice on screen


Hope you enjoy our new book and our personal journey towards our first photo book.

You can download a free PDF sampler from here.

12/14/2005 Update: Got our first sample books

We think the print quality is even better than we expected.

We expect a shipment of books any day now. We keep you posted.

1/8/2006 Printed Book now for Sale

1/21/2006 Some statistics

The book contains 78 photos.

Years when the pictures were taken


  • 2000: Our first digital year starting with the D1, a lot to learn and RAW converters in their infancy. Also the 2.7 MP of the Nikon D1 resulted in lower resolution than we are used today.
  • 2001: With 6MP of the Nikon D1x digital started challenging film and we had more experience. The D1x served us very well.
  • 2002: End of 2002 we switched 100% to photography. The Canon 1Ds opened a new era of high quality digital SLRs (our main camera for the next 2 years)
  • 2003: We focused mainly on our original Earthframe photos and RAW converters got mature: Capture One and Camera Raw 1.0.
  • 2004: For quite a few photos we used the Canon 1D Mk. II and at the end of 2004 we got the 1Ds Mk. II. Overall 2004 was a very productive year for our photography.
  • 2005: We only included a few pictures from 2005 because only about the first 4 months were available while we produced the book. At the end of 2005 we added a Nikon D2x as a second system. We made quite a few excellent photos with the D2x but these pictures came to late for the book.

You also may want to read our DSLR review history.


Cameras used

Canon 300D
Canon 10D
Canon 1D
Canon 1D Mk. II
Canon 1Ds
Canon 1Ds Mk. II
Canon 350D
Canon G2
Nikon D1
Nikon D1x
Nikon D70
Olympus E1
Kodak SLR/n
Kodak 760
Sigma SD10
Leica Digilux 2





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