HERE'S A RUNDOWN on some of the books that anyone interested in photography would love to get for the holidays.
Heading the list is The English Country House: A Tapestry of the Ages by Fred J. Maroon.
In the book, Maroon collaborates with British architectural historian Mark Girouard to show houses built by wealthy and powerful Englishmen from the middle ages through the Victorian era -- houses of extraordinary splendor, containing the most exquisite articles of the day.
The book has widespread appeal. Photographers will appreciate the technical magnificence of perfectly parallel lines, remarkable lighting and subjects selected with great courage.
The entire book was shot with the 35mm Leica R system, with lenses ranging from 15mm to 400mm.
Book fanciers will be delighted with the superior reproduction, and everyone else will examine and re-examine these wonderful pictures by one of the nation's top freelance photographers.
The book opens with three splendid double-page pictures: an early morning at Castle Howard, with the sun spotlighting the dramatic skyline of domes, cupolas and lanterns; a scene in the Chatsworth library, showing some of the 17,000 volumes in magnificently detailed cases; and the Great Chamber at Gilling Castle, now a boys' prep school. The scene is straight out of "Masterpiece Theater."
After the historical and personal introduction by Girouard, the book is divided into such sections as entrances and halls, great chambers and saloons, drawing rooms, bedrooms, service rooms, chapels and the grounds.
The book is published by Thomasson-Grant, Inc., Charlottesville, Va., and sells for $38.
John Shaw's Closeups in Nature is remarkable in two ways: It shows us some great in-the-field closeups and tells us how to take them.
Seven subjects are carefully examined. "Getting Started" is an explanation of magnification rates and some basic rules of exposure and metering.
"Equipment and Film" talks about cameras, tripods, focusing rails, filters and low-light shooting.
"In the Field" covers depth of field, backgrounds, focal lengths and composition.
"Extension" is the place to learn of bellows, extension tubes, macro lenses and how to extend a telephoto lens.
"Electronic Flash" covers hand-held flash in the field, sizes of flash units to use, flash position for your photo and through-the-lens flash.
"Supplementary Lenses and Teleconverters" explains the use of zoom lenses, stacked lenses and flash with stacked lenses.
The last chapter covers such "Special Considerations" as lens reversal, use of movie camera lenses and other special techniques.
The book deals with the subject of close-ups particularly well. It is a simply written photography lesson that can bring hours of enjoyment.
Shaw's pictures are beautiful. His test shots are never casual; he never lets down.
The book costs $27.50 and is published by Amphoto (Watson-Guptill Publications.)
John Loengard has been with Life Magazine for more than 30 years. His new book, Pictures Under Discussion, provides some of the finest "environmental portraiture" ever published. These are studies of people in their natural setting. Not just close-up pictures, these portraits leave in enough of the subjects' natural habitat so we can tell more of how they live and work.
With each picture, there is a commentary -- several paragraphs to let us share Loengard's reason for the picture and how it was taken.
The book's first picture is of artist Georgia O'Keeffe at her home at Ghost Ranch in 1967. The artist posed on the roof, in front of the chimney.
And wait until you see the picture of Margaret Mead in her office. At first it seems that there is more office than Mead. But as you study the picture, you realize how well the two go together and how comfortably Mead fits in.
My favorite is a picture of the great photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue and his wife, Florette, in their Paris apartment. It's a semi-general view and shows love and warmth that no close-up could.
This collection helps explain the greatness of Life Magazine over the years. It is published by Amphoto (Watson-Guptill Publications), New York, and sells for $29.95.
The New 35mm Photographers Handbook by Julian Calder and John Garrett is not only new, but also has a no-nonsense, easy-to-follow design. It is beautifully reproduced and is a superior reference book.
But don't equate reference book with dry and dull. The book turns handsprings! In the introduction, Calder and Garrett, both internationally renowned for their magazine photography, talk fondly about how they learned their trade and the value of mistakes made. The title, introduction and back pages are a little too cute, but after that the book is terrific.
The 55 chapters are concise, with accompanying pictures or graphics, and mince no words. The book starts with a detailed description of an SLR camera and ends with a list of recommended books. There is a great series of pictures showing what different lenses will do -- from an 8mm fisheye through the zooms and a 1,000mm telephoto. The authors' review of color and black and white film is complete and accurate. Several sections are devoted to flash, both on and off the camera.
Still life and portraits, both difficult to shoot, are explored. There are sections on photographic legalities, travel and film processing. The final illustration is an 18 percent gray card.
Published by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, the book sells for $14.95 and fits into a medium-sized camera bag, for quick reference.
Write to Carl Kramer, c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20071.