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The Hot Shoe Diaries

Aug 26

In Lighting, Upcoming Events at 12:42pm

Back in the country, and back on the internet. Couple of reasons for blog lite (or, truth be told, blog zero) over the last two weeks. I’m shooting a Geographic story and they moved the sked up one month on me, which takes away a month for scheduling field time. Kinda compresses things. Another is I’ve been writing like a banshee on my new book, due in December, “The Hot Shoe Diaries, Creative Applications of Small Flash,” which you can find at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I wanted to call it HSD, Big Light from Small Flashes, but the above is okay by me.

I’ve always been a bit interested in noir, and crime novels, and my buddy Mark is the perfect subject. He’s a good guy and a good photog, so don’t jump to the wrong conclusions about him from all these mean streets pix of him. K-man, shot with small flash, just may be a recurring character in the book. Above, K-man on the streets of Gotham. Who knows where he’ll turn up next?

You can blame David Hobby, at least a little bit. When I told David the title, he was like, cool, you should shoot some noir stuff, and make stories. Fits, I guess. Remember Rear Window? Jimmy Stewart catches the bad guy with…flashbulbs.

The book will not be an instruction manual. Basically, it will be an irreverent brain dump of my whole history using small flash, back from when I first got my hands on flash powder to the SB-900. There will be sections on buttons and dials, batteries, flash attachments, light shaping tools from gaffer tape to umbrellas, and sketches. Along the way, of course, there will be lots and lots of pictures, some good, some not so. (Some will even outright suck!) I’ll show the ups and downs and sideways of using flash in the field. Mistakes, which I’m very open about, come with the package. There’ll be other notable sections, too, like one devoted to the instruction manual titled:


An homage, if you will, to the lucidity and riveting nature of instruction manuals everywhere.

Another event in the history of small flash will be noted….


And of course, the current transition from SB-800 to SB-900 will be discussed.

In Tucson right now for the Geographic. Continuing true to my history with them of going to places at the worst time of year. Arizona in August. Siberia in February. See below.

Above is noon time, Lake Lavozero. The Russians were impressed that I suffered on the ice all day with them, and that of course led to a vodka soaked dinner at the polar observatory where we were housed. It was an upgrade, actually, from the hotel I was staying at. In my room the day previous, I heard a repeated smashing sound from down the hall. Again. Again. Smash! I walked down to check it out, and this enormous woman, chef for the hotel restaurant, was lifting chunks of ice out of an ancient freezer. Inside those chunks of ice were chickens. She would then raise it over her head, and violently throw it down on the floor, freeing the chicken parts. Dinner that night? Chicken soup!

Anyway, one of the guys at dinner turned out to be the police chief of Murmansk. The next morning he opened the trunk of his car, which was filled to the brim with automatic weapons and handed me a Kalashnikov. He gestured at a row of milk bottles in the distance and took the safety off. “Shoot, yes?”

In the macho outback of the Motherland, one does not turn away from such a command. Honestly, it ain’t hard to chew through a buncha milk bottles with a machine gun, so it went very well. This lead to a conversation that became an opportunity to engage in one of the most depressing nights in my life. I spent the whole night in the drunk tank in the city of Murmansk.

I was doing a story on light for Nat Geo, and they sent me up there to where the cold and the dark lead to a lot of alcoholism and suicide. The drunks leave the bars in the wee hours and stagger into a snow bank and are dead by morning. The police send out patrols to look for these guys, and drag ‘em into the cozy confines of the drunk tank to dry ‘em out. Brutal.

Come to think of it, Arizona’s really nice in August… More tk.

68 Responses to “The Hot Shoe Diaries”

Marcus Thelen says:

on February 27, 2014 at 5:54 am

Very nice pictures. I particularly like “The Birth of Speedlights” :-)

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