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Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash (Voices That Matter) [Paperback]

by Joe McNally
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 16, 2011 9780321700902 978-0321700902 1
Following up on the great success of The Moment It Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, legendary magazine photographer Joe McNally takes us on another memorable ride with Sketching Light, another trip into the land of light--but this time running the gamut from small flash to big flash, and everywhere in between.

Of course, Joe includes coverage of Nikon Speedlights, but he also covers big flash, as well as "in-between" lights as the Elinchrom Quadra. The exploration of new technology, as well as the explanation of older technology. No matter what equipment Joe uses and discusses, the most important element of Joe's instruction is that it is straightforward, complete, and honest. No secrets are held back, and the principles he talks about apply generally to the shaping and quality of light, not just to an individual model or brand of flash.

He tells readers what works and what doesn't via his let's-see-what-happens approach, he shows how he sets up his shots with plentiful sketches and behind-the-scenes production shots, and he does it all with the intelligence, clarity, and wisdom that can only come from shooting in the field for 30 years for the likes of National Geographic, Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated--not to mention the wit and humor of a clearly warped (if gifted) mind.

Frequently Bought Together

Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash (Voices That Matter) + The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes + The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World's Top Shooters
Price for all three: $104.51

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JOE McNALLY is an internationally acclaimed American photographer and longtime photojournalist. His most notable series is “Faces of Ground Zero—Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th,” a collection of giant Polaroid portraits. He also photographed “The Future of Flying,” the first all-digital story for National Geographic. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous magazines. Joe's previous books are the critically acclaimed and bestselling The Moment It Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaires: Big Light from Small Flashes. 

Product Details

  • Series: Voices That Matter
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: New Riders; 1 edition (December 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780321700902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321700902
  • ASIN: 0321700902
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed American photographer and long-time photojournalist. From 1994 until 1998, he was LIFE magazine's staff photographer, the first one in 23 years. His most well known series is the "Faces of Ground Zero -- Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th", a collection of 246 giant Polaroid portraits shot in the Moby C Studio near Ground Zero in a three-week period shortly after 9/11. A large group of these historic, compelling life-size (9' x 4') photos were exhibited in seven cities in 2002, seen by almost a million people. The exhibit and the book, printed by LIFE, helped raise approximately $2 million for the 9/11-relief effort. This collection is considered by many museum and art professionals to be the most significant artistic endeavor to evolve to date from the 9/11 tragedy.

Some of McNally's other renowned photographic series include, "The Future of Flying," a 32-page cover story for National Geographic, published in December 2003, commemorating the centennial observance of the Wright Brothers' flight. Joe is a 20 year contributor to National Geographic, and this story was the first all digital shoot for the magazine. This issue was a National Magazine Award Finalist, and one of the magazine's most popular covers. He has shot cover stories for Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Geo, Fortune, New York, Business Week, LIFE and Men's Journal, among others.

McNally's advertising, marketing and promotional work includes FedEx, Nikon, Sony, Land's End, General Electric, MetLife, Bogen, Adidas, Kelby Media Group, Wildlife Conservation Society, and American Ballet Theatre.

In 2008, McNally published his critically acclaimed, award winning book, The Moment It Clicks, which has been touted as, "one foot on the coffee table and one foot in the classroom."

In 2009, McNally published his newest, much anticipated book, The Hotshoe Diaries. Just like its predecessor, it immediately cracked Amazon's top ten list of best sellers, within the first week of publication.

Joe McNally is known internationally for his ability to produce technically and logistically complex assignments with expert use of color and light. As part of his teaching activities, he conducts numerous workshops around the world.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
149 of 150 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are a student of light, then consider Joe McNally`s new book Sketching Light to be a must-read. Sitting down with Sketching Light is like sitting down for a beer with Joe as he talks you through his favorite pix in a photo album. The conversation will wander, stories will be spun, jokes will be told, detailed insights will be shared, advice will be given, and you'll walk away grateful for the opportunity.

Short bits to know about 'Sketching Light'...

>The book is Nikon-centric. Joe is Nikon-centric. Don't let this worry you. If you shoot Canon, or Sony, or any other brand, don't despair. Strip out all the Nikonian jargon and 'Sketching Light' remains a heavyweight when it comes to lighting. (And, if you shoot Canon, check out Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites -- written by yours truly. It will give you all the buttons and dials info that you need to drive a Canon Speedlite.)

> 'Sketching Light' is a book about the possibilities of flash and it covers the full spectrum. Joe shoots Speedlights. Joe shoots big lights. Sometimes you need just a breath of on-camera fill flash from a Nikon SB-910. Sometimes you need the punch of an Elinchrom Ranger. Sometimes you need one light. Sometimes you need to haul out every light that you can get your hands on.

> There are plenty of set shots that show Joe and his gear in action. You'll also find Joe's signature lighting diagrams--drawn by hand on napkins and sketch pads--for nearly every shoot in the book. I recommend keeping a highlighter and a black marker on hand so that you can annotate your "aha!" moments as you read.
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58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
By Hankk
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amazing book. He's a frikkin' genius writer, because he's so uninhibited and confident and smart that he gives you a brain-dump of everything in his mind. Take from it the bits you like, run with 'em, and have fun making some awesome shots.

If you haven't used a lot of flash before, you'll sometimes read over a page and have no idea what he's talking about. WTF? Not that he's overly technical... kind of the opposite, that he's so gushing and enthusiastic and dropping all the hip terms for everything ("start with a bit of a hot rim and then back it off, 'cause in a sidelight situation it's gonna blow it out by a stop... then it gets piped backed to the lens and baby, it's dark out there!"), that it's hard to bring him out of orbit and back into the land of 'OK, what button do I push?' But stick with it. Read the book, shoot, read it again, shoot some more. You'll get it.

McNally gets a lot of attention for using flashes in extraordinarily complex setups -- and yeah, he does. But he's always focusing on the people... the story... the eyes. He's not a landscape photographer. His stories about interacting with his subjects (models, celebrities, musicians, quarterbacks, astronomers, bagpipe makers) are what this is really about.

This book has longer stories, more details and more diagrams compared with the previous books. If you don't have his other books (Hot Shoe Diaries, or The Moment it Clicks) and you want to learn his techniques, *get this one instead*. It's fatter, it's got more writing, and the narratives are longer and more intricate. This one is more chapter-based with various techniques, and the other two are closer to "here's a cool photo, and here's a page about how I took it.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interested in Location Photography....get this book December 10, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Short Review:
Just get it if you are interested in location photography.

Long review:
I have read Joe's two books before namely Moment It Clicks and the The Hot Shoe Diary. To me the first was more like a commentary which made you get up and make some photos while the second was more a discussion on hotshot flashes (a bit Nikonish if that is a word) but this one goes to the proverbial 11 or perhaps 12 or 13 or may be more.
If you have ever wished to get inside the brain of Joe and understand what goes inside those "noodles" confined inside your skull then this is the book.
If you are like me who can not attend any of Joe's workshop then you simply grab this book and rest assured you know how he thinks while going about making those amazing photos. In fact I will even say that perhaps he did himself a big disfavor by writing this book because it not only talks about "which"gear he uses he also talks about the "why".....e.g. Why he used a beauty dish instead of say a soft box. Now I don't think it is a recipe book but if you seriously intend to learn about lighting your photo it gives you the entire "secret" and at the same time leaves you with enough food for thought to improvise.
To me this book should have come before The Hot Shoe Diary but as the saying goes it is better let than never.
A Big Note:
Learn from him and apply to your need. He talks about alternative but sometimes even the alternatives he suggest is beyond us amateurs (especially if uou are like me from India) But if you are open minded to learn the concept and improvise then there is no better alternative (at least to me) than this book.
If you are looking for kind of a recipe book then my suggestion will be to skip it.
Ultimately it is your choice.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I returned it.
This may sound dumb, but the photos in the book need captions (instead of searching for the settings in the body of long texts) for me to understand everything better and easier. Read more
Published 22 hours ago by Annie Bang
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and incredibly well-written
Joe McNally is a name you may have never heard, but you’ve most likely seen and been touched by his work. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jonathan Zdziarski
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Joe McNally
Another excellent book by Joe, written in his classic humorous but extremely informative style. Joe has been there and done that and any aspiring photographer can learn from... Read more
Published 2 months ago by K. A. Snyder
5.0 out of 5 stars How It is Done ... Right!
Excellent book!

If you want to add light to an image, read this book.

A great source for learning how to build your lights to get the image you want. Read more
Published 2 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars More right-on advice
Joe McNally is king of the speedlights. In this book he describes a whole series of real-life problems and how he solved them with lights. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Russ Lewis
4.0 out of 5 stars Son Loves Gift
I purchased the book for my son who is very excited about the gift. I thought it would be a hard cover so I did not rate it at the highest level because it was not.
Published 3 months ago by Deedot
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
It was exactly what my husband wanted! Perfect study of light in photography. It is a great book for photographers.
Published 3 months ago by Vanessa
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it
It's exactly what I hoped for and more. Fun to read and easy to understand. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone pursuing photography whether it be professionally or just... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Aaron James Prisk
5.0 out of 5 stars A great photographer and excellent writer
Joe McNally is not only a great photographer, but an excellent writer and raconteur. He tells a great story, with ample self-deprecating humor (in his lighting diagrams he... Read more
Published 4 months ago by James Bass
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Great book! I would highly recommended for new and experienced photographers. I would buy from this author again in the future.
Published 5 months ago by Troy T DeLorenzo
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