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Sketching Light
a n i l lu s t r at e d to u r o f t h e p o s s i b i l i t i e s o f f l a s h
Joe McNally
Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
Joe McNally
New Riders
1249 Eighth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
510/524-2178
510/524-2221 (fax)
Find us on the Web at www.newriders.com
To report errors, please send a note to [email protected]
New Riders is an imprint of Peachpit, a division of Pearson Education
Copyright © 2012 by Joe McNally Photography
All photography © Joe McNally Photography except production pictures and product shots,
which are by Michael Cali, Drew Gurian, Will Foster, and Lynda Peckham except where noted.
Editor: Ted Waitt
Production Editor: Lisa Brazieal
Cover and Interior Design: Charlene Charles-Will
Layout and Composition: Kim Scott, Bumpy Design
Color Production Specialist: Marco Ugolini
Indexer: James Minkin
Cover Images: Joe McNally
Author Image on Back Cover: Michael Cali
Author Image on Spine: Drew Gurian
Notice of Rights
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written
permission of the publisher. For information on getting permission reprints and excerpts, contact
[email protected]
Notice of Liability
The information in this book is distributed on an “As Is” basis without warranty. While every
precaution has been taken in the preparation of the book, neither the author nor Peachpit shall
have any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused or alleged
to be caused directly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book or by the computer
software and hardware products described in it.
Trademarks
Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are
claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book, and Peachpit was aware of
a trademark claim, the designations appear as requested by the owner of the trademark. All other
product names and services identified throughout this book are used in editorial fashion only
and for the benefit of such companies with no intention of infringement of the trademark. No
such use, or the use of any trade name, is intended to convey endorsement or other affiliation
with this book.
ISBN-13 978-0-321-70090-2
ISBN-10 0-321-70090-2
987654321
Printed and bound in the United States of America
In the storm-tossed seas of freelance photography,
Annie remains a safe harbor, a light on the shore.
Always and forever…
Notes on the Book
This book has been a long time coming. So my first thanks go out to
folks who have asked about it, and maybe even waited patiently for it.
It took a while to write, in between assignments and life. I also waited
a bit to get my head around some new technology that has been swirling about.
That’s always a tough game to play, because there’s always something new. But I did wait to include certain things—for instance, the
new radio TTL systems for small flash—that are beginning to mature,
and promise to make things easier for us. I wanted to see where some
of the newer bells and whistles might lead.
Mostly, I remain thankful to be a photographer. In the midst of the
torrent of technology we swim in daily, the unchanging mission for
all shooters is to make pictures that arrest the eye of the viewer and
describe our chosen subjects eloquently. We are part of an honored
tradition, that of storytelling, which goes back to the dawn of time.
Those prehistoric people, painting on their cave walls—were they
doing anything different than we are now, with all our pixels and
technical wizardry? I think not. They were leaving their footprints,
and telling the story of their times, and their lives. With those ancient
pigments on those rough walls, they were saying one simple thing:
Remember us.
Which is exactly what we’re doing. We’re just doing it faster, more
often, and with more sophisticated tools. And I’m thankful for those
tools.
Nikon, my camera system for many years, creates wonderful
picture-making technology. So does Canon. I’m thankful for both,
because those two competitors spur each other on. Who benefits? Us.
The photogs. Thanks are in order for Manfrotto, Elinchrom, Lastolite,
LumiQuest, and PocketWizard. And Apple, Profoto, Nik, and Kata. And
Lexar, Wacom, Think Tank, Westcott, and Epson. Basically, gratitude to
all those technically minded folks who labor and compete with each
other to produce photo machinery that makes the life of a shooter
in the field easier, more expansive, and more productive. There are
iv   SKETCHING
LIGHT
amazing pictures being made today that could not have been made
just a few years ago. The current, wonderful era of pictorial adventurism is directly linked to technology and innovation. Better tools fuel
the imagination, and enable better pictures.
I write about a bunch of those tools in this book. I write about those
tools because I use them, plain and simple. And, I use them because
they work—for me.
It has been pointed out, and even complained about, that in the
realm of small flash, I write solely about Nikon Speedlights. Okay, I do.
Here’s why. I use them. I’ve got nearly 40 years of experience in
the field using Nikon gear. I’ve been through the fire with the stuff,
and watched it both soar and fail. I’ve had it save me, and curse me,
the same way any camera system might do for and to anyone who
chooses to use it. The point is, I’m qualified to write about the stuff.
I’ve relied on it. I know how it works, and I can offer workarounds
when it doesn’t.