It’s actually real. Just got sent a copy, and physically held it in my hands. It’s hefty, at 420 pages. I was feeling good for about thirty seconds, but I am cut no slack in my studio. Drew came up to me and nodded approvingly. “It’ll make a good doorstop,” he said.
So it goes. I do have apologies to offer, because this book was supposed to have been done long ago, and there are some folks (bless them) I’ve heard from who have left their pre-orders ride for over a year. Really, truly, apologize. The last couple years have been assignment work run amok, and I’ve had to improvise and re-invent our studio schedule constantly to just keep going out on location. (Which is where I am today, in an open field with a bunch of folks looking at me and expecting that I should know what to do next. Heh, heh–are they in for a surprise!) The delays weren’t entirely self-inflicted–I did wait to experiment with some light shapers, radio TTL and the like as they came on board. And, thankfully, we have been very assignment driven for the last year and a half. Lots of shooting. No down time.
This book was a long and winding road indeed. I looked at tried and true methods, new technology, big flash, and small flash. I experimented with lots of light shapers, both store bought and found, in the studio and on location. I pushed light through umbrellas and windows, off walls and cardboard, and into soft boxes and panels. I disclosed everything I did, via text, sketch and/or production photos. As I mentioned in the intro sections: “There’s a ton of basic information in this book. there are pictures, sketches, production photos, notes, and metadata. In most instances, I’ve divulged virtually everything you could want to know about any particular shoot, short of the color of my boxers. They’re generally blue, by the way, though I do have a couple of pinstriped numbers, and on really big shoots I wear my lucky thong. Joe make joke.”
A great deal of the book coalesces around the use of one light, be it a speed light, a Quadra, or something bigger. I also gaggle two or three speed lights into single sources (so they behave as one light) which is currently popular with new tools and light shapers coming on board.
Advanced techniques are discussed, but the book starts with one flash, hot shoed to the camera.
I take a look at radio TTL, and the new Pocketwizard technology, and examine all manner of triggering, from PW’s to Skyports to line of sight TTL to good old fashion manual slave operation.
The main deal with the book, and why I wrote it, actually, was to cover the gear, the nuts and bolts, the machinery if you will, very, very thoroughly. And then, having done that, get to the much more important questions about why we shoot. As I say, the “how” serves the “why.” There are several chapters called TITIK by my irrepressible editor, Ted Waitt, short for, “Things I Think I Know.” These are simply life lessons derived from 35 years of photography, all over the world, for all sorts of clients. Things to be aware of. Things to avoid. How to behave when things go wrong, knowing that they often do. Advice, if you will, on how to survive and navigate these perpetually uncharted waters.
Why big flash instead of small flash? Why does a certain face need a certain light? Why f11 as opposed to f2? Why would you choose one face over another? How to move fast, in a swirl of uncontrollable events, and keep your cool, light well, and come away with pictures. Building trust on the set, with models and crew. Self assigning, the key to everything. Mixing big flash and small flash. (The lede to that section: “THE BIG LIGHTS FORM YOUR SENTENCES. The little lights are the punctuation marks.”)
How to tell stories with light. How to use light as language. The underpinnings are technical, to be sure, and information about technique abounds in these pages. But the soul of the book resides in the realm of reasons we are compelled to use that technology to shoot. And why, despite repeated failure, we never, ever lose that boundless enthusiasm the eye exudes when it is comfortably nestled into a lens. For those moments at the camera when everything works, I express thanks.
“…. I remain thankful to be a photographer. In the midst of the torrent of technology we swim in daily, the unchanging mission for all shooters is to make pictures that arrest the eye of the viewer and describe our chosen subjects eloquently. We are part of an honored tradition, that of storytelling, which goes back to the dawn of time. Those prehistoric people, painting on their cave walls—were they doing anything different than we are now, with all our pixels and technical wizardry? I think not. They were leaving their footprints, and telling the story of their times, and their lives. With those ancient pigments on those rough walls, they were saying one simple thing: Remember us.”
Remembrance is important, and the discussion of how we achieve significant remembrance, for us and our subjects, is ongoing and important. As I say, again, in the intro section….
“The discussion is important, because talking about this stuff makes us all better shooters. It’s just that when the talk starts and stops at the numbers, and the whole world revolves around the precious, soulless hardware in the bag, we miss the point. The point is the picture. The conversation starts there.
So we do need to know the numbers, and that’s a beautiful thing because they are, indeed, knowable. There are good, clear, reproduc- ible, precise approaches, distances, f-stops, and shutter speeds here in this book, and elsewhere. Sure-footed knowledge of technique feeds your pictures, and grows your confidence. and that confidence enables you to pursue ever more aggressively the answers to the far more interesting questions that are really the heart of the matter.
So read on, if you will. Study the numbers. Learn the techniques. Ask the questions. Create your own beautiful pictures. Risk failure. Court disaster. Entertain possibilities.”
This is a book about what might be possible when you pick up a camera.