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May 26

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Quick review: The Hot Shoe Diaries – Big Light from Small Flashes

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Joe McNally, I think of a guy who has total understanding of light and what it does to an image. Joe has tonnes of experience from his time a Life and National Geographic. His ability to capture just the right mood with light and bring out the best of his subjects is really inspiring.

I got Hot Shoe Diaries as a present and I have to say, it has got to be one of THE BEST presents ever! I’ve been a big fan of Joe and his work for a while now.

The book basically deals with flash photography. From one light all the way up to many. On camera or off, diffused or direct. And Joe shares a whole bunch of insights into how he captures each image.

How he does it (not exactly)
What this book isn’t is a step by step manual on how to reproduce images (ie: 1/200s at F/11, ISO400, 1/2 power flash off camera left). Joe takes you through how he arrives at the final image, the reasons for doing things, and his ideas. What you realise after a few pages is that Joe does alot of improvisation based off his experience and gut feel.

The purpose of the book is to let you have a glimpse of Joe’s creative process rather than be an instruction manual. This may or may not appeal to you. My guess is that those with some photography experience will find the book more useful than say someone who has just picked up a camera for his/her first time.

Style
If you’ve been to Joe’s blog, you’ll know all about his writing style and his sense of humour. Again, whether or not it appeals to you is a matter of taste, but I find that Joe’s informal writing style to be easy to digest and makes light work of some heavy topics (pun intended). It’s not easy describing light either, and Joe uses terms like hard, soft, hard, punchy, ambient, and so on.

Awesome memory
The other thing that struck me about the book is that either Joe has an excellent memory or he’s taken down alot of notes. Some of his images were taken back in the days of film (which don’t have nifty metadata embedded) and he still more or less remembers what settings were used.

Who this book isn’t for
This book definitely isn’t for two groups of people. One group already mentioned earlier.. newbies. The other is any non-Nikon user. Joe uses Nikon kit.. thus, Joe uses Nikon terms. If you can live with that, then it’s okay… you can probably translate what he’s describing into whatever gear you’re using.

Bottom line
The good:

  • Get inside the head of one of the best photographers around today
  • Get to know your Nikon gear better
  • Get a better understanding of how light behaves and how to use it to your advantage
  • Lots of great images!

The bad:

  • Not recommended for newbies
  • Not for non-Nikon users, although you can try

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.stillworx.com/2011/05/26/quick-review-the-hot-shoe-diaries-big-light-from-small-flashes/

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