Sunday, April 12, 2015

New for 1991: Instructional VHS Tapes!!

This is the 1991 VHS Tape that Nikon sold as a "watch and learn" video to accompany the new Nikon SB-24 speedlight. When you think about it, the flash represented a major breakthrough, allowing the owner to use it with nearly any camera in the manual or with non-TTL (Through The Lens) exposure automation, and with TTL metering with selected Nikon film SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras. It also came with a set of flash cards (I misplaced my set) to help you when working in the field. Clearly, Nikon wanted to be sure that purchasers of the rather expensive flash got their money's worth, and the tape represents the state of the art in audio-visual instruction. In addition to the SB-24, there was one for the later SB-25, but it seems to have stopped there.

Times change, and replacing the VHS tape are several great instructional DVDs. If you're looking for some educational DVDs, here are my choices:

Lighting In Layers with David Hobby. I believe this is the best investment you can make if you're serious about learning to use speedlights. Each of the six DVDs solves a specific lighting problem that Mr. Hobby has encountered. The emphasis is on using speedlights manually, so the material is equally suitable for both Canon and Nikon users. Part of the Fuji family? The fundamentals work here too.

Each photographic assignment gives the viewer an opportunity to watch the step-by-step process Mr. Hobby has adopted to systematically build a lighting solution for each scenario. This a great investment for a photographer learning how to use artificial lighting on location. And one more thing: Mr. Hobby's experience include his weathering the decline of print photojournalism and his re-inventing himself in the new digital environment. He knows what he's talking about: His blog,, was included in Time Magazine's  25 best blogs of 2010.                                            

The Flash Bus Tour is a very close second choice, primarily because Mr. Hobby's step-by-step approach to lighting in his Lighting In Layers is so thorough. Both Mr. Hobby and Mr. McNally are at their entertaining best in the Flash Bus Tour, but there the outcomes are different. Mr. Hobby provides insights on why certain techniques are more effective for achieving the desired viewer response. If you've watched Lighting in Layers first, you'll be free to concentrate on understanding the a more nuanced approach to environmental lighting.

Joe McNally? He's a dynamo when he's on stage, in a videos, or on location. You almost gasp at the results of his virtuoso application of lighting. In many ways he is more inspirational, since watching him work is to reminded of an imagination that is totally without boundaries. If you consider pushing the craft of photographing lighting with speedlights to the very envelope, this is your guy. He is more of a "seat of the pants" photographer, and a major proponent of Through The Lens (TTL) exposure moderation.

I actually attended the "Flash Bus Tour when it hit South San Francisco some years back. Even with that, I still bought the DVD. Sometimes it takes more than one sitting for everything to sink in.

The Nikon School: A Hand-on Guide to Creative Lighting: In this DVD McNally gets a sidekick, Bob Krist. The two of the make a wonderful pair: Bob presents a thoughtful explanation of how the Nikon wireless Intelligent Through The Lens (iTTL) flash metering system works. Next, Joe shows how the system is tweaked, on the fly, to adapt to a variety of lighting situations. The best part is actually seeing Joe McNally at work. The two work well together, and while it is obviously a carefully choreographed affair, it makes learning quite entertaining.

You might just come to believe that Krist and McNally get along well. Krist takes the time to carefully explain the buttons and switch stuff, while McNally takes the playbook and runs with it. Consider this DVD if you want to, or can afford to, work exclusively with Nikon CLS speedlights in the iTTL mode.

This little gag reel is really a collection of insider jokes about flash, lenses, and the Nikon vs. Canon scrum. But it's about the most creative thing I've seen associated with photography in a long time. When you fully understand WHY this video is so funny, you'll be on your way to really understanding this whole digital photography thing.

"The Moment It Clicks" was McNally's first in a series of books chronicling his photographic career.