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Diaries, Questions, and Thanks…

Mar 30

In Books at 4:38pm

First off, many, many thanks to all the folks who have written to me about The Hot Shoe Diaries, and encouraged me along the way through the blog or email to finish it. I’m very grateful. As I mentioned a little bit, it was a bear to write. Talking about small flash means talking about light, which means talking about the whole shebang. The whole shebang requires a bit of thinking, a process I’m profoundly uncomfortable with. But it is out in the stores now, and I simply wanted to say all best to everyone. The book has prompted some queries, so thought I’d do a bit of a Q&A on the bloggarini.

Q: The “Hot Shoe Diaries” is a bit of a strange name for a photo book. Wazzup with that?

A: Yeah, you’re right. Hot Shoe obviously references the flashes, and it is in fact, a bit of a diary, or written a bit like one. It is an ongoing, mildly rambling account of flubs, miscues, gaffes, successes, failures, dropped flashes, blown exposures, rants, raves, and the (until now) interior ruminations of a 30 year photog. I’ve made lots more bad pictures than I’ve made good ones (every shooter has) and there has to be some value there in the scar tissue of a photographic career. So I kinda wrote like I shoot it–all over the place.

Q: Given the title, have there been any problems with folks confusing this particular photo book with books about something else? Do the bookstores put it in the wrong section ever?

A: Yeah, I guess a little bit. Couple folks found it in the adult book section, and one saw it up there with the bodice rippers. Some of the things that link to it on Amazon are pretty great, though, like there’s a link of the book to these…..

And these…..

I tried buying ‘em for Annie, but I got the eyebrow, ya know? She was like, “I’m not wearing those. I can’t walk in those.” My response? “That’s okay!”

A few people might think it’s a bit of a crime novel, with the K-Man in there a couple of times. I thought about writing it a bit like a noir novel…..

Q: Speaking of the K-Man, who is he?

Mark and I go back a ways. We worked together on a couple of annual reports. He was the client, I was the shooter. He has always been interested in photography, even back when I used to give him grief about the disposable cameras he was shooting. He got me back though and recently blogged a pic he made of me, which shoulda been disposed with the camera that made it. Over numerous Jamesons and a few Johnny Walker Blues, we realized we both were fans of noir movies and crime novels and such. His blog and his photography often go in the direction of mystery, mood and selective light. It’s a fun blog, and there are more adventures awaiting the K-Man on the streets of Gotham, to be sure. Below is Mark’s, uh, disposable effort….

Sheesh…look at that, and the question that springs to mind is, of course, who’s the ass?

Q; The book has done pretty well so far, but let’s face it, Scott Kelby is still the man, is he not?

A: No question. Scott is, like, the number one selling author of our time or any time, and the reason for that is, he’s a damn good writer and a teacher whose humanity and humor shine through even when he’s talking about the frikkin’ liquify tool, ya know? But, one of the reasons Hot Shoes is doing well is because of my own little guerrilla marketing campaign. I target Scott’s books, ya see, cause I know people are gonna go right there to those shelves to buy ‘em. And then, I look around, and well….see for yourself……

Q: What’s with small flash? Why is it a topic of interest?

A: David Hobby.

Q: Now hold on, here. You mean to say one guy started this whole thing? This planet wide fervor over all things strobist?

A: Yep. David, from what I know, started teaching flash informally a few years back to get some friends and fellow shooters on track with it. He began blogging, called it Strobist, and the rest is history. He has built a worldwide community of learning, sharing and participation around the phenomenon of small, portable flashes. Pretty incredible.

Q: Why did you stick a flash in the chicken?

A: Didn’t have floor stand for it, and I found a dead chicken worked pretty well. Hmmm…..does that qualify as a field tip?

Q: Who’s in the gorilla suit?

A: It’s really a gorilla. The Nikon Creative Lighting System is so simple, even a monkey can do it! (Geez, I’m goin’ straight to hell for that one.) No, it’s just me. After years of chimping, well, that’s what happens. More tk…

99 Responses to “Diaries, Questions, and Thanks…”

Talke Photography says:

on April 1, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Joe…awesome book! Fantastic info. I’d love to get into portriats in the future and you are teaching me tons! I enjoy the Nikon DVD you did as well! …and D-Town guest spots! Your work is inspiring!!!! Thanks!

Travel Photo Blog:

Rosanne says:

on April 1, 2009 at 2:45 pm

This book is amazing. When I read the Moment It Clicks last year and you would provide the equipment for the shot at hand, whenever there were lighting instructions my eyes would glaze over. Months down the road, I was in a situation where I needed to know how to light something and I went to the Momment It Clicks to try and figure it out. I cried up to the heavens, “Alas, but if only the McNally of Joe would ‘LIGHT’ the way on how to shoot with flashes like this.”

I guess my prayers were heard. The best part of the book…now I am saving up for one of your workshops…okay better for you…but still.

Thanks! I did a little pimping for you over on my little photo blog.

Kristof Pattyn says:

on April 1, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Hi Joe,

got my copy this week and love the feel of it again after reading the previous book.
Worth every penny even for a Canon shooter! As the first poster suggested come to Belgium sometime, A workshop would be filled in no time.

Greets Kristof.

Israel Z. says:

on April 1, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Mr. McNally, wonderful book, love the natural way its written, easy to understand and full of info!!! Hope one day you could come down to Baja for some wine!!!


Fred Troilo says:

on April 1, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Joe – love the book! I consider it my new pocket-guide, just need bigger pockets.
Great work, thank you.

Kurt STENBERG says:

on April 1, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Nice book… just got it from Amazon yesterday and have started to read or at least look at the great pictures. Joe, you take amazing photos and inspire me to take such great photo’s like you, David Hobby, and Chase Jarvis. Sharing photo information and off camera flash IE stobist is the new modern movement of photography. I am glad I can be a part of this movement and hope to eventually become a big player in it.

Hope to meet you one day. Can’t wait for your third book… or DVD?


Mike Ignatov says:

on April 1, 2009 at 10:38 pm

And all this time I thought this was a reference to “Red Shoe Diaries” series of softcor…ahem…films. That would at least explain the book being “misplaced” into the adult section.

Coventry Bob says:

on April 2, 2009 at 3:12 am

Hot stuff on many hot hot days. Not only did I get the first UK copy of Hot Shoe Diaries in the UK but I took (exported) the book to Egypt whilst on a cruise down the Nile. Found it very useful to get the SB 800 off the camera in Nefertiti’s Tomb and bounce the flash. I tried the same technique in Rameses II tomb in the Valley of The Kings and was chased by a guard shouting Arabic obscenities and waving an Uzi at me. Perhaps you could add an addendum explaining how to get out of tight scrapes when following your hot shoe suggestions.
Have you ever thought about stopping off in the UK during one of your trips to Europe or Dubai to do a Hot Hot Shoe session for us hard up Brits?
Great book, humourus from start to finish but a great Nikon CLS guide book. Keep up the excellent work.

Jamie Willmott says:

on April 2, 2009 at 4:32 am

I’ve nearly finished the new book, have really enjoyed reading it. Once I’ve finished I will probably read through it again (like I did with The Moment It Clicks) to make sure the info sticks in my head! A big thanks to you and David Hobby for showing us what is possible with small flashes.

By the way, any chance of you coming over to the UK? (or Liverpool specifically?)


Edwin Arceo says:

on April 2, 2009 at 5:25 am

Dear Joe,

My copy just came in from the mail. Im looking forward to learning a lot from it. I have one request though. Im in the Philippines and it would tickle me pink if you would, in your usual fashion, to send me a sort of an autograph that I can place in my copy. Can you please write it on a napkin and scan and email it to me please? I would really, really, REALLY appreciate it.


Martin says:

on April 2, 2009 at 3:08 pm

I’ve now read two of your books, cover to cover, in less than a few weeks and loved ‘em both. Anyone who quotes Hot Fuzz as a favo(u)rite movie more than once has my vote. Brilliant information packed into an easy to read format. So good my head is still spinning and my credit card whining. Thanks Joe!

Cheers, Martin

andy says:

on April 2, 2009 at 6:23 pm

I’ve never laughed and learned so much at the same time in my life! you should win a Grammy for this :)

And DH is right, you’re nuts and a genius!

Ozine says:

on April 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Joe, although I’m a Canon shooter, I’m gonna buy your book real soon. The short version of your book is amazing, and so is “The moment it clicks”. Sometimes I wish I had chosen Nikon. The flash system is so much more advanced … but don’t tell my collague. When is Canon gonna put some serious effort in their strobe techonology?

Tom Hohl says:

on April 3, 2009 at 9:40 am

You book is FREEKIN AWESOME. Finally, it contains the questions we all ask ourselves on a daily basis!!!!! “Why would I ever use this “Rear Sync” thingy?” “How did he get that Killer blue sky?” “What the hell does that mean?”

Your an awesome teacher and I can’t wait to attend one of your workshops when you make your rounds this year. Your also a very witty writer.

Keep em coming, I’ll buy ‘em


Clay Anthony says:

on April 3, 2009 at 10:30 am

I’m about halfway through it now, and yes it is a great educational (and inspirational) read – even for a Canon shooter! Joe, if you’re ever coming through Wyoming and need somebody to buy you a beer, give me a shout.

Elizabeth Gower says:

on April 3, 2009 at 11:02 am

Hahahahah, love your blog!!!!!

JBelle says:

on April 3, 2009 at 11:19 am

Congratulations on mounting a new and serious challenge in your career: being an author! Big ups on making change and, forgive me, lighting the path for new hobbyists, like me. But I have to tell you, I’d much rather buy this book autographed by you as we stand a few paces off a sundrenched square in Arles. I guess I’ll trudge over to Amazon and get my copies. But I’ll bring ‘em next time so you can sign ‘em….

Best of wishes!

Mark S Elliott says:

on April 4, 2009 at 9:54 am

Great book, great photographer, great communicator….Just….er, great!

Thanks Joe.

Best wishes from over the ‘Pond’.

Iden Ford says:

on April 4, 2009 at 10:20 am

You’ll be pleased to know that Hot Shoe DIaries is atop the Canadian bestseller list today http://www.theglobeandmail.com/v5/content/readerschoice/bestsellers/#CanadianBestsellers

But in the print edition of the paper they listed it atop the Mystery bestsellers.
Must be they were looking at the photos eh?

Robert Theoret says:

on April 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Congratulations on the book’s success! ! ! and also for answering that age old question.

“Why did the chicken cross the road”? “So he could hold the flash for Joe’s new book.”


Michael S. says:

on April 4, 2009 at 10:24 pm

A brilliant artist and a brilliant author you are. Thanks for giving back SO much Joe!

Jim says:

on April 5, 2009 at 12:17 am

Flash in Real Life: Just read that Chapter in Your ‘New Book’ and I just have to Tell you that it was an absolutely AWESOME Story. Thanks you for sharing that with Us.

By the Way.. Were those your shoes in that Chapter..If So..or whose ever they were , they need to be in the Smithsonian or MOMA.

Awesome Story..Awesome Photos…Totally AWESOME Photographer..Thanks.

Randy says:

on April 5, 2009 at 12:27 am

Your book sits in the thinking room, or inspiration throne. Great book, it got me thinking about the little strobe. I made a bracket kinda like the Lastolite 3, but it works for any speedring for any size softbox. I would like your input when you get a chance.

Nicola says:

on April 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Learning how to use the speedlights is something that can be done by a major number of people, porbably including a dork like me. What is not accessible to each and every person is the idea of how to use them. What to do with them. Where to put them. The book is full of amazing ideas that open up the poor man’s mind. Now the problem is to grab any of those and not copy it, yet still doing somehting decent. I very much enjoyed the book and the way its written, sometimes it reminds me a bit of Bill Bryson’s writing, great fun.



Matt Gordon says:

on April 8, 2009 at 9:32 am

Joe –

I thought this post would be the best place to say congratulations on the story in the 4/08 issue of USA Today!



Chris Vincent says:

on April 8, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Dear Joe,

A friend of mine bought me your book as a gift a several weeks ago. The short story is, I was a full time pro shooter, crippled in a horrible RTA, unable to hold a camera, lost my studio, lost my business, my wife and kids. (don’t need sympathy, just setting the scene) I gave up on life and creativity and settled down in and unrewarding, unchallenging data entry post (I would NEVER take benefits..).
Your book re-ignited the flame. 6 weeks ago I had trouble holding your book. Now I can handle a D2x. Got some old SB-26′s off eBay, got some gels. Tried shooting. Loving it!
Figured shooting form a wheelchair would give me a rather one-sided point of view. So I decided I needed to to walk. Figured crutches would cramp my style, let alone do your funky hold/grip move (yeah, I’m a left-eye man!). So decided to ditch them. Doc said I couldn’t, but I proved him wrong. Motivation is an incredibly powerful tool. Sure, I’m not gonna be running a marathon anytime soon, but hell yes, I’m mobile and shooting.
You put the fire back in my heart and nothing is gonna stop me now from getting back in the game. I may be old – older than you, my friend, but I have some tricks up my sleeve from way back when… Watch out small fry!

Joe, you reminded me of everything that I loved about life. I was gutted to find you have an earlier book – which I have now and have read!. Wish I had read it a year ago, I’d be flying by now. You probably hope your book to inspires people and motivate them and make them creative and lighting McGuyvers..
Hell, you did way more than that, you gave an old chap his life back, the will to be, to do, to excell and to defy odds.
I posted this with a spoof e-mail addy, ’cause… well, I’m still a bit of a mess and not proud of the state I’m in.., but Joe, someday I’m gonna look you up and give you the biggest hug you’ve had in your life. And I’ll be standing tall, walking and have 23 SB-900′s remoted, gelled, grouped and prepped and modified to capture the moment. When that is over, I’d love to sit down and buy you an honest beer and tell you that you are a life saver. Maybe not physically, but mentally. Thanks for the CPR (Creative Photography Revival). I owe you more than can ever repay.

Severely In your debt,


Jeff Freeman says:

on April 8, 2009 at 7:45 pm

I LOVE the book!! My only problem–I can’t put it down! SH**, it’s been impossible for me to get any work done for the last 2 weeks since I got it! I’m glad it arrived while I was out of the country, on vacation–otherwise I would have been dumped by my girlfriend while I was in mexico.



PS if you are on the fence for buying this book — get off the damn fence and go get it!!

jakob says:

on April 10, 2009 at 9:15 am


Bill says:

on April 11, 2009 at 2:18 am

Even though it may not mean much, I just want to thank you for writing this book, as well as “The Moment It Clicks”. Thank you for showing that even in a world as selfish as ours can be, someone at the very pinnacle of their career will share the wealth of knowledge and experience with the rest of us.
Now, get to work on that next book because I should be done with this one in the next hour or so. Go on!
All the best to you.

Dan Rode says:

on April 13, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I’ve read The Moment it Clicks and now The Hot Shoe Diaries and both have been inspiring and illuminating (pun intended). I’m interested in the technical details of photography only as an means to make great pictures. How do I make the best image possible with whatever is available to me? You seem to approach every photograph with that thinking and an abundance of passion and imagination.

You express your train of thought as you compose and work through challenges so well that it’s like I’m there with you trying to figure it out. Spending some quality time with a great photographer is a more valuable than any nuts & bolt book I’ve ever read.

I hope you write another book soon. Thank you.

John M Roberts says:

on April 21, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Hello Joe,

On pg. 75 you compare using the Norman 200B to current wireless as roughly being the equivalent of striking two rocks together to make sparks. I recently had my 200 and 400B stolen and was considering other replacement options. Yes, like you I acquired these during film days.

Do you find the need for higher powered portable strobes as well? Considering that I’m already covered with speed lights, what would you recommend these days for such a replacement and why?

I learned of you in the early 80′s while doing some contract work with SI and have admired your work ever since. Many thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge. Great book.

John M Roberts says:

on April 21, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Added note. I’m new to your site and just noticed on the equipment page that you use the Elinchrom which has a great reputation which is reflected in the price. I see its fast flash duration capabilities. Any other comments you care to share about this over the less expensive Norman 400B and others would be appreciated.

Chris Morrison says:

on April 23, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I have a question about one of the examples in your new book. It’s entitled “Up on the Roof” and it’s the one where you shoot “your friend, Rita” with the cityscape behind her. The gist of the example is showing how you can correct for the green tint of the city lights but treating them like a fluorescent source and then “green”-ing the strobe to match.

I’m with you there but then in order to then compensate for the overall green tone, you put a magenta filter (a 30 right?) in front of the lens. I’m with you still, but do you get the same effect if you set your camera to the fluorescent WB setting? Is this just a habit from the days of shooting daylight balanced film or is there some other reason? Would the sunset still gets their pink hues enhanced if on a fluorescent (or maybe a Kelvin WB if the fluorescent WB setting didn’t quite get it) WB setting?

Brent says:

on April 24, 2009 at 7:59 am

Awesome post. LOL

James Dawson says:

on April 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Pimped my McNally’s

I bought both of your books but I didn’t like the way the books lay and they didn’t suit the way I wanted to read and use them. So I took them to a print/copy place and had them cut away the spines and hole punch them so that they could be spiral bound. I also had clear plastic covers put on them…. now they are damned near perfect……

Alexander Miller says:

on June 10, 2010 at 10:47 pm

i love all Eddie Murphy movies. i like also the movie DAVE where he co stars with Elizabeth Banks.;`’

Jordan Edwards says:

on October 11, 2010 at 2:37 am

it is nice to know that eddie murphy is still popular until today, he is my favorite movie actor~-”

Andrew Dunbar says:

on November 18, 2010 at 1:35 am

Nice post mate.

transformers the game says:

on July 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm

quite intriguing post

David says:

on October 6, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Oh, a wonderful article! No idea how you managed to write this report..it’d take me long hours. Well worth it though, I’d suspect. Have you considered selling banners on your blog?

łańcuszki says:

on May 2, 2012 at 6:37 am

Magnificent web site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your effort!

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