Review: Onelight Field Guide from Zack Arias

OK…so one of the photographers I pay attention to, Zack Arias, has indulged himself with a self publishing project the Onelight Field Guide. He announced it on his blog and I succumbed to temptation and shelled out for it. I’m a sucker for stuff like this…constantly looking for inspiration and new techniques and this hands out a healthy dollop of both.

Now, the bad stuff. First, it’s not a field guide. a field guide is the size of a pocket book, which this isn’t. Second, it’s awfully expensive. $28+shipping! But that may be the cost of self publishing. Zack anticipates this being the birth of a new, non advertising driven magazine, and if it happens, I’ll be delighted to support it.

So…the field guide. 88 pages of high quality images, most with a description and some with the lighting diagram. Zack apologizes for the diagrams, but they communicate everything you need to know. The descriptions are oft times too brief for beginners. This is really not a beginners guide as it assumes quite a bit of knowledge. Zack may not have meant it to, but it’s really pitched at people who are already there when it comes to off camera flash. What this guide does is give you ideas to push the envelope and stretch a bit and for me, that’s where this over sized and overpriced book really shines. I spent a couple of hours reading it….nay…devouring it…then grabbed a child (or two) and annoyed the heck out of them while I tried some new looks and “feels” inspired by the book.
The shot here is so simple I could weep. Nikon D700 with a Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 @ 26mm, f7.1, 1/320, ISO 100. Single SB-800 to camera right on a 8′ lightstand, shot into a 43″ silver umbrella and a full cut CTO on the head. WB set to just over flash (5900K). The umbrella was set with the shaft parallel to the ground to get the light drop off on his lower body. Flash triggered with Nikon CLS and metered iTTL.
I took 3 frames for this shot. Simple, effective and Nick loves it. All inspired by the field guide.
I admit it. I love this guide. it did (and does) exactly what I want from a field guide…give me ideas and inspiration to get different (better) shots. I’ve done much more complicated stuff, but this was a really great kick to get me out of my comfort zone and try something new.
If you are familiar with Strobist stuff, then this is $28 (plus delivery) well spent. If you want a beginners guide….save your money and go play with David Hobby and come back to this once you have some basic equipment and have practiced a little. Then buy this book.

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