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It’s Done…It’s Real…..

Feb 22

In Books at 11:59am

Finally…it is done. 320 pages, and the thing kicked my butt, up, down and sideways. I thought, naively, hey, write a book about small flash…cool!

Thing is, you start talking about light, you start talking about color, and exposure, and f-stops, and EV compensation, and white balance, and well, the whole technicolor enchilada. I was really gettin’ stymied. The book….the book……the book. Everyday I tried to write I would plop myself down in front of the computer and stare at the screen with about as much energy and appeal as a big turd that just dropped out of a tall cow’s ass.

I finally turned a corner, thanks to Annie and my long suffering editor, Ted Waitt, with them beseeching me to drop the numbers and the specifics and the half stops of clogged imagination and just write about using a flash. So I mentally put myself at the front door of my house, gear in hand, and just started writing about everything (well, not everything) that crosses my mind as I go out to shoot a small flash job. It really cleared the decks of the tramp steamer of my brain and became a section up front in the book called, “What I Use and Why and When I Use It.” It runs pretty long, surprisingly, seeing as I’ve got the attention span of gnat and a great deal of my memory bank is used up by storing useless movie quotes.

But this really did open up the barn doors and cleared some cobwebs. I went through everything, tips, tricks, exposure modes, types of flash, types of light shaping tools, strategies, EV, mixing light, you name it. It marries up with a couple other sections on holding cameras, and also holding flash, general notions about quality, color and direction of light, and pictures of the whole camera bag, every item that goes out the door. The whole chapter is called, “Nuts and Bolts” or Don’t Worry. As long as you hit that wire with the connecting hook at precisely 88mph the instant the lighting strikes the tower…everything will be fine.”

Also did a back section that is all buttons and dials.

The book is Nikon-centric, obviously, cause that’s the system I use, and to the extent I talk over buttons and dials and where they are and what they do, they are Nikon buttons and dials. But the much larger part of the book is devoted to using light, in this case, light that comes from hot shoe flashes. I try to show progression and the tools that are used, and how to use small flash in an intuitive way.

There’s a bunch of stuff on light shaping tools, cheap and easy, others, more of a commitment….

There’s several sections of the first chapter, in which one small flash is used…only one….

Some advanced stuff too…

I talk a bunch about color, and how to use, quick and easy…

And everybody’s favorite thing….

And I show progression, from the pop up flash treatment, to a sophisticated quality of light, in minutes, using no more than two flashes…

And of course, Numnuts did some sketches…

So…it’s done. It’s a big reason the blog has been intermittent of late. But it is officially out the door, done deal, and it’s up to the printer now to follow the type out the window, as they used to say. The Hot Shoe Diaries, Big Light from Small Flashes, is out March 12. That’s the date it ships, so dunno when that translates to it actually getting on the shelf. You know, it leaves the warehouse in a shrink wrapped pallet and gets put behind Mrs. McGillicuddy’s Ikea order, and the truck shows up there and she’s at the Piggly Wiggly, so they can’t deliver, which means that pallet stays stuck on the truck for another day or so. Then it makes its way down the interstate on an overnight, and it gets delayed a bit by rain, so it sits in the truck in the parking lot of the Extaxy Gentlem, er, the truck stop, and finally it gets to the loading dock, and the crew there is on their lunch/reefer break, and finally it gets on that little cart that they use in the bookstores and out into the aisles and the dude putting the books on the shelf sees the title, “Hot Shoe Diaries,” and puts it in the romance section, or worse, in the adult titles section, you know the one with the opaque plexiglass covers and the big signs warning you that if you go in there you might actually see a breast.

There’s lotsa stuff that could happen along the way. But it is done. More tk….

148 Responses to “It’s Done…It’s Real…..”

Robert Hooman says:

on March 4, 2009 at 2:06 am

Joe is probably the only human on earth who can wrangle these suckers so effortlessly. Of course i’d really like to read that he uses some sort of radio slave to fire them. I’ve really struggled with the IR slaves on the Speedlites. Looking forward to the book.

Jamie Willmott says:

on March 5, 2009 at 7:31 am

Loved the last book and have this one on pre-order (even though I shoot Canon).

benru says:

on March 5, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Please….don`t forget an spanish version. Regards from Argentina

Shadi says:

on March 11, 2009 at 12:19 am

Will it be on sale during GPP Dubai ?

Tman1966 says:

on March 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm

The book was supposed to be published March 3. It’s now March 16 and not available from any major bookseller. What’s going on?

Charles Verghese says:

on March 17, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Hi Joe,

Was one of the students at one of your workshops at the Gulf Photo Plus 2008 event. Picked up your previous publication and loved it. I was wondering if you would be bringing down or arranging to have a few copies for sale when you attend this year’s event?

I look forward to meeting you again this year!


Stefan says:

on March 21, 2009 at 7:57 am

Just reading your book – thanks for sharing this great compendium of good lighting ideas.
Oh – BTW: I was an aperture mode guy, but now I’m a manual mode man. You know why? You need two fingers for changing the EV in aperture mode, but only one finger in the manual mode ;)

Ned Jackson says:

on March 21, 2009 at 8:16 am

Got the Hot Shoe Diaries on Thursday – almost done. Excellent book. Well done Joe. Thanks for passing on all this knowledge unselfishly to the next generation.

Glenn Olsen says:

on March 24, 2009 at 2:02 pm


Got mine yesterday. Half way through and an awesome read. I have got to get out to a workshop on of these days and listen to your ranting and raving live. Trying out the flash through the window…



Stephen says:

on March 26, 2009 at 7:22 pm


Received my book today – I’ve only read the first few pages, but I already know that it is helping me to understand Nikon’s CLS far better than before.

It’s such and enjoyable and informative read that I am promoting it to my friends on http://www.LPMG.org.uk and the London Flickr meetup group for them to go and place their orders on Amazon.

Well done once again.


D. Cole says:

on March 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Can’t wait…oh, wait, Amazon is telling me it will ship sometime between April 19th and May 23rd. OK, I guess I have to wait. :-)

RaiulBaztepo says:

on March 28, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
See you!
Your, Raiul Baztepo

Rick -Z- says:

on March 29, 2009 at 12:30 am

It looks like a good book, Joe, but I had to write immediately when I read this huge gaffe:

“In the spring of 1981, America returned to manned space flight.”
“The last manned American space flight had taken place 20 years previous…”

20 years? What happened to Apollo-Soyuz? Skylab? The moon landings? The entire US manned space program going back to Alan Shepard in May 1961? I think the proofreaders were asleep.

That aside, I’m a fan, and hope to enjoy your latest work. :-)

Geoff Dodd says:

on April 12, 2009 at 10:39 am

Thanks Joe McNally – great flame dancing you do! I love your photographic blog here. GPD.

Ron Martinsen says:

on May 8, 2009 at 2:11 am

I finally got around to reading your book and adding a review on my photography blog (
http://ronmart.blogspot.com/2009/04/review-hot-shoe-diaries-by-joe-mcnally.html). It’s a great book, but definitely a bummer for Canon shooters.

Carole Jeffs says:

on May 14, 2009 at 10:02 pm

I LOVE the Hot Shoe Diaries! It’s very entertaining along with being educational. First thing I did was “pimp it up” by getting it spiral bound & the cover laminated. I’m sure this baby’s gonna see alot of use! You have inspired me to get out and light things up!

Sheldon Reich says:

on May 20, 2009 at 7:25 pm

I have devoured this book and I learn something new every day!

One of the topics pushed me to shoot this shot…


…and I think you’ll agree that the shot was totally inspired by Joe!

Viktor Krokavecz says:

on May 25, 2009 at 9:53 am

The book is arrived few weeks ago. A really helpfull and amazing writing.
Thanks for it! :)

Mike Le Gray says:

on July 7, 2009 at 10:58 am

An absolutely fantastic book. I was lucky enough to meet you and get it signed in Cologne, Germany at the Nikon Solutions Expo and couldn’t wait to read it. Not only was it an inspiration, but it’ll continue to be a resource that I’ll refer to over and over again.

Many thanks, Joe!

Gabriel Sánchez says:

on August 12, 2009 at 5:55 am

Cuando tendremos una versión traducida al español. Somos millones de hispanohablantes!!! Un saludo

dypeVavy says:

on October 29, 2009 at 5:45 pm

I could agree in 100%.
He’s the best part if this.

Order soma in New Zealand

Nathan Gehman says:

on December 14, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I have seen your work before and absolutely love it. I am primarily a wedding photographer and am really trying trying to understand lighting. I bought the book and have been blown away by all the tips and tricks. I am just starting out and your tips are incredible. I am having trouble translating the stuff over to Canon, probably because I am a newbie. The over/under exposure tip with the flash is priceless but on the Canon, the ettl2 seems to correct what I am trying to do. Any place you have tips for Canon users?

David Solo says:

on January 17, 2010 at 8:18 am

Hi Joe just wanted to say thanks for signing my book in New York recently. See ya at photoshop world in Orlando. I owe you a beer.

diane says:

on March 28, 2010 at 6:44 pm

ugh, how disappointing that i have to take this book back – it’s completely about nikon flashes!!!! it came highly recommended, how could i be so silly to trust people without checking this major detail out? *facepalm*

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