65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2011
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." If you have the other two and love him, then get this one since it's essentially all-new material, and his technique and philosophy are so useful and inspiring, that the more you read and see of his work, the better your photos will end up as a result.
*** Important note: McNally uses only Nikon and makes only passing mention of Canon. Everything is virtually interchangeable, *but* there's one important difference about flash exposure you need to know if you're a Canon shooter. All over the book, he's talking about the EV exposure compensation being a global adjustment (e.g., p. 213, 345) -- that is, if you change the EV on the camera, you program underexposure into the flash as well. That's how it works on Nikon, but *not* on Canon!
On Nikon: the camera EV and flash EV are indeed linked: lowering the camera EV lowers the flash output. So, to highlight the foreground, you go -2 EV on the camera, and then back up +2 EV on the flash to compensate.
But on Canon, this is *not true*: the camera EV and flash EV are independent. Dropping the camera EV drops the ambient exposure, but keeps the flash output the same! So to do the same as above on Canon, you want to do -2 EV on the camera, and leave the flash at 0 EV. If you do what McNally says, you'll end up over-flashing your subject on Canon.
This difference is *not* well documented, but you can find some more info on it at Canon's web page -- Google for "Canon EOS speedlite system tips" and click on the tips by photographer Stephen Wilkes, and there are a lot of sample photos for how this works. Neither system is better or worse -- but you do need to be aware of the differences!
*** Update February 2012. Nikon's new D4 will ship soon. The D4 offers the option to set the flash level using the Canon way, not the Nikon way... that is, on the D4, doing a -EV on the exposure will now leave the flash EV unaffected. Nice change, since it means you need to do one adjustment, not two, to lower the ambient level. It appears that this is an option (not a full-time change), and that this applies to the D4 only, not the D800. For details, search for an article called "Exposure Compensation When Using i-TTL Gets Easier with the D4" on Nikon's site.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2012
I have Joe's other two books which I absolutely enjoy. I was dissappointed with this one though. I had my expectations high because of some of the great reviews. I am not sure what happened here but the book doesn't flow well and it doesn't seem like it was layed out very well either. When he is talking about an image often times it is a page or two away from the information relating to it. This is in no way a diss at Joe. I have been a fan of his work for years. He is very entertaining in his videos and his writing. And he has forgotten more than most of us will ever know. I do recommend two books that are outstanding. Syl Arena's book is absolutely incredable "Speedliter's Handbook" and David Ziser's "Captured by the Light".I bought 3 copies of Syl's book 2 as gifts.
As a final note on "Sketching Light", it felt like it had material left over from his other books, I know this isn't the case it just felt that way. What I really like is when Joe discribes actual jobs that he has done and how he did it. It seems very contrived setting up scenarios to use as an example when I am sure his real life escapades are way more interesting.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2011
Wow. Just wow. 1/2 of the way through and I just can't say enough. Joe is just such an incredible teacher. And of the Language of Light, the favorite subject for many of us. And while I wondered how Joe might better his first 2 books on Light, I need not have concerned myself at all. The master did it. How? Well, unlike "Moment..." which was retrospective in nature (and flat amazing to boot), this book makes you feel like you are along with Joe on the shoot, examing the various possibilities on the shoot. You're seeing what works, what doesn't, and how you manage to make the light speak nice. I mean, how cool is that? Being with Joe on a shoot... you will learn more in minutes than you have in a long time. Truly, this is a work to be devoured again and again. And if it isn't THE photo book of 2012, well never mind, it just flat will be. Now, if you'll pardon me, I am going to go finish the other half of the book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2011
Got it 2 days ago and halfway through it. I can't put it down.
I just bought another book by another very well known NYC shooter, and he tried to do his version of McNally. But the other guy failed because he doesn't have Joe's sense of humor or style.
McNally is a storyteller and teacher at heart, who just happens to shoot really well.
I hope this isn't the last book of a trilogy, because everything Joe writes is full of little nuggets and has a lot of meat with the nuggets.
Just buy the book. You won't be disappointed.
FYI, Joe addresses head-on 2 knocks he always gets from the haters. First he tells you that you can do just about everything he does with a Canon, so it is NOT a Nikon book. He uses Nikon and talks about them. Secondly, there are lots of reasons he uses the small flashes, and lots of places he uses the big flashes. he explains the reason for both.
Get the book. You'll be happy.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2012
Some people have criticized past McNally books for seeming to promote Nikon products, but no need to worry about that. Just mentally change where it indicates Nikon and substitute a commensurate product. Hell, you don't even need the equivalent speedlight. You could figure out how to adapt some of his tips even with many of the no-name brands.
With that in mind, Sketching Light is a great book on lighting with flash--far superior to any of the recent popular ones that seem to be created for the digital market. Joe M. takes you on a brief tour of a simple one light set-up at the beginning, venturing from an on-camera flash image to reflected and light-through umbrellas to softboxes to beauty lights so you can get your bearings in understanding the basic differences among them (or between them for those that don't know proper English grammar). But that is just the very beginning.
The rest of the book displays McNally's lighting techniques in the field, and as importantly, the thinking that went behind the choices he made to light a particular shot. So, you don't have merely a book of instructions, but images that show his technique has ecological validity. I pulled this book from a bookstore shelf, and stood there reading and looking at the first 40 pages, completely engrossed. How many lighting books, how many books on any photography technique book can pull you in like that? That's because the style of the writing, the techniques and descriptions, the thought processes, and the images themselves--are all packaged together in a semi-stream of consciousness method that is nearly like being inside the author's brain as he goes through his lighting experiences and methods.
The book is inspiring and makes you want to DO photography. That in itself is a terrific feat, considering the number of manuals out there that are so tedious that by the time you go through them, you want to throw your Nikon 7000 or Canon EOS out the window and watch a good DVD where someone else is doing the creating.
Sketching Light really is a book by one of the "voices that matter," the description for the books in this series, which often don't live up to that appellation. So don't keep reading my tyronic, philistinic view of the book, go get it, review it, and start shooting!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2011
Joe's book "Sketching Light" is quite simply the finest book about lighting I have ever read. If you want to learn how to light people on-location, this book will teach you all you need to know. It is simple to understand, fun to read, very inspiring, and absolutely chock full of useful information and stunning portraits!
As a former UPI staff photographer, let me just say: Joe...your book would even pass muster with Larry D! I can't think of any higher praise than that.