HERE ARE MORE great books for the season. Topping today's list is Snowden: Stills. This is a collection of the work of Lord Snowden, one of Britain's best.
I couldn't put it down. The book is remarkably sophisticated. It ranges from a gorgeous portrait of "Frances," posing at a piano for a Christmas card, to his startling fashions, shot for the French Vogue magazine in 1986.
His pictures of the 1985 Autumn collection for the British Vogue are vibrant and technically perfect. His portrait of "Sarah" shows how splendid open shadow pictures can be. "Miners' washroom, Rhondda, South Wales" is exceptional. A dozen or more men tring to wash the grime off their bodies (and minds).
There is an impish picture of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who never liked to have his own picture taken. And to contrast with this, there is a great, green scene of a beech tree in Germany.
Very few of Snowden's portraits are generic. They have specific names: Flora Fraser and her grandmother, Lady Langford; Sir Alec Guinness; or Mr. and Mrs. David Bailey. So, when you come to an image titled "Olive pickers, Greece, 1984," you are stopped cold. Not only by the title change but by the magnificence of the picture.
His portrait of the Queen Mother is made with obvious great love.
A New York Graphic Society Book, published by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, it sells for $29.95.
Two picture desk engagement calendars make ideal gifts. The first is called Landscapes and is compiled by the editors of Eastman Kodak.
This is a book of 54 extraordinary color shots, one for each weekly page, one for the cover and one double page, red duotone for the inside cover.
The editors refer to their selections as traditional and abstract. The traditional landscapes show the what and where; the deep crevasses of the Grand Canyon and a farmhouse in Vermont. Abstract landscapes show the detail, from a tree in Switzerland to a pattern shot of poppies in a field in California.
Each picture has a legend giving its location, the kind of film used and the name of the photographer.
The pictures are superlative, and the reproduction and editing are great. The scenes at the beginning of the book feel like winter; the spring scenes are light and delicate. The summer shots are warm and rich; and at the close of the year, there are scenes to fit the season perfectly. At $8.50 it is one of the bargains of the season.
The second of these calendars is the Ansel Adams 1988 Engagement Calendar. Even if you don't need or want an engagement calendar, buy it as I did to gain a set of 53 Adams pictures. At the end of 1988 go out and buy 53 frames and make 53 individual gifts for special friends. Or, if you like, 53 pictures to hang on your walls.
Each time I leaf through this book, I rediscover Adams and what is probably the greatest of outdoor photography. His pictures are beautifully simple yet amazingly complex. The first picture sets the stage. It is called "Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, 1944." It contrasts the power of a storm with the mountain's peaceful vista.
But as you study it, you'll find that your mind divides the picture into smaller scenes. I counted nine wonderful pictures within the whole.
His 1976 picture of the Matterhorn may be the ultimate "mountain-in-the-distance" picture. His 1942 pictures of Old Faithful at Yellowstone are timeless, and his picture "Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958" is one of the most beautiful black and white pictures ever made.
The calendar is another New York Graphic Society Book published by Little Brown and Company, Boston. It sells for $12.95.
Racing Days, pictures by Henry Horenstein and text by Brendan Boyd, is a photo essay offering an insider's look at the world of racing. Horenstein spent 10 years at America's race tracks, from the posh to the tacky, and in his 80 black and white pictures provides an emotional glimpse of what it's like. There are very few "horse race" pictures, but those are terrific. Most of the pictures are of people.
"Jockey's Excuse" is an example. It shows what losing is all about. The horse can't get fired, but the jockey probably will.
There are shots of people studying the racing form, pictures of people studying horses, and people studying people -- all looking for one thing: a winner. This book is just that. A Viking book, New York. $30.
Briefly noted and highly recommended:
Athletes edited by Ruth Silverman, is a collection of sports pictures from 1860 to the present. History, action and great photography from Alfred A. Knopf, New York. $30.
Darkroom Techniques, by John Hedgecoe, is the best darkroom primer in several years. It's good for the beginner and a great review for the expert. Simon and Shuster, $10.95.
Write to Carl Kramer, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, DC 20071.