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The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes: Creative Applications of Small Flashes (Voices That Matter) Paperback – 3 Mar 2009
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When Joe's not on assignment for the biggest-name magazines and Fortune 500 clients, he's in the classroom teaching location lighting, environmental portraiture, and how to get the shot at workshops around the world. These on-location workshops are usually reserved for a handful of photographers each year, but now you can learn the same techniques that Joe shares in his seminars and lectures in a book that brings Joe's sessions to life. In this book, Joe delivers the definitive guide to flash. He starts with the basics and how to get started and then moves on to techniques for using really simple approaches (one light, two light). The book contains a discussion of what's in the camera bag lighting wise, gadgets, field survival, light shaping tools, approaches, and more. All along the way he imparts his photography wisdom and gets the reader to move on past their fears, showing them examples of disasters and how to recover. Each section contains straight talk and a run-down of what can happen on location.
From the Back Cover
When it comes to photography, it’s all about the light.
After spending more than thirty years behind the lens―working for National Geographic, Time, Life, andSports Illustrated―Joe McNally knows about light. He knows how to talk about it, shape it, color it, control it, and direct it. Most importantly, he knows how to create it...using small hot shoe flashes.
In The Hot Shoe Diaries, Joe brings you behind the scenes to candidly share his lighting solutions for a ton of great images. Using Nikon Speedlights, Joe lets you in on his uncensored thought process―often funny, sometimes serious, always fascinating―to demonstrate how he makes his pictures with these small flashes. Whether he’s photographing a gymnast on the Great Wall, an alligator in a swamp, or a fire truck careening through Times Square, Joe uses these flashes to create great light that makes his pictures sing.
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The bad side is that this is not the best-written book you could imagine. Although all the information you need is probably in there, it is not organised in the most accessible manner. However, the thing which really lets it down is the attempts at humour which are not funny and just make it irritating to read. It is full of stupid phrases like "whoo'd have thunk it" which are presumably supposed to convey a heavy accent (New York I assume?), but Joe McNally does not speak in this manner so I fail to see what he is trying to achieve with this. Would be 5 stars otherwise.
You should be aware, however, that Joe is very much a Nikon user and there is a lot of information about products and settings that may not always translate for other brands. Since I have a similar camera and flash to the ones he uses, this was not an issue (in fact a huge advantage) for me.
What I really liked is the way he shows a spectacular picture, then breaks it down to show not only how he lit it, but also why he made many of the decisions and what settings he used.
I also enjoyed many of his anecdotes - I learned a lot about the fun (and not so fun) life of a professional photographer.
Beware though - it can be an expensive book! Since reading it I discovered all sorts of new toys that I just HAVE to have, like light stands, umbrellas, softboxes, extra flash units, grips, clamps, extension cables and and and....
Once I got past that, he shares a real wealth of information in a clear, concise manner. Not too much tachnical detail, but everything I wanted to know to get my flashes off camera and to take a stup-up in picture taking quality was there.
There are so many scenarios covered in the book that I think anyone who is serious about getting more from their photography will benefit & find something of use. He inspired me to "have a go", which I've done and have started on a really beneficial learning curve.
What I like:
- Mr numnuts is really funny. He writes in a satriacal fashion that I really enjoy.
- Small projects that amateurs like myself can setup, all the way to insane projects, and how he solves them.
- Lots of lighting diagrams
- At times, it feels like the book pushes Nikon products and Lastolite. Ease up on "The tri-grip rocks" please ;-)
- Joe seems to use the Nikon CLS system for his lighting. It's VERY expensive to be able to afford half a dozen SB800/900s - that said, for people like us going the strobist route with ebay radio triggers and 10 year old speedlights, the idea behind the book is not how to use CLS and the latest tech, but how the scenes are lit. CLS or manual, it can be done, we just need to dial in the power at the strobe, not via the camera :)
Just understanding how Joe lights is only one aspect, I would still recommend reading up books like Light: Science and Magic as well as Masters of Light and Depth to get a good grounding on light sources, how surfaces react to light, high/low key, broad vs short lighting etc.etc. Strobist, is of course a great blog to read and catch on.
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