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Great photography with just one light

One Flash!, the book/eBook from Tilo Gockel available on Rocky Nook, does what the title promises: guides readers through a complete workshop on flash photography. With a single flash!

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Creating great photography with just one light is accessible to more people than many initially may think. The photographer Tilo Gockel reveals how a single flash can be used to create magic in 232 pages that will enlighten your path in photography.

It does not matter how many books on flash photography you’ve read, there will always be some surprises on a new one. That’s one of the characteristics of this area of photography. In fact, even photography itself is a bit like a cooking experience: many people have their one recipe based on a base recipe that everybody knows.

With flash it becomes even more obvious that recipes are, many times, adapted to each author’s flavour and experiences, meaning that it does not matter how many books you read about the subject, there will always be something or some recipes that you’ll find offer a new take in a “dish” you thought you already knew. Time to try it yourself. That’s what this book/eBook offers you.

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I’ve a respectable collection of eBooks/books about flash photography, as the thematic interest me. I always consider that knowing what to do with a “portable Sun” is essential for you to not be limited to photographing with available light. In fact, I consider that flash is also ambient light – especially when I remove the other ambient light away, through exposure control – so there is another good reason to learn how to use it.

My collection of books on flash includes everything, from Syl Arena to Joe McNally or less popular names from which I still learned a few tricks and essential tips. While I like them all and have learned a lot, I never refuse the experiences a new book offers me, sometimes unexpected challenges that will take my flash photography to a new level. This said, I will never dream of doing something as Joe McNally, who can use 40 flashes for a single shoot, so I prefer simple solutions, those, also, provided by McNally and people like Syl Arena. The fact that Syl Arena uses Canon is a bonus to me, as we talk the same language and that also helps.

So, with those “masters” in my past, do I need Tilo Gockel’s book “One Flash! Great Photography with Just One Light”? You can bet I do. In fact, I devoured it, in the free time I had to dedicate to reading. The title attracted me, because there is a challenge there, and also a truth that many forget: making things simple enough so that even an amateur with a single flash can enjoy the discovering process of photography. That’s something that resonates with me, as I always try to share that same “truth” with people, and nothing better than to learn with others new options you can then share with the people you know.

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Tilo Gockel’s book was a refresher course for many of the things I already knew, but as always happens, there are new things – or new ways to do old things – that will make the reading interesting. Remember the recipes I mentioned above? We find them here. It’s just the author’s way of doing things, a subtle or more drastic change that reflect the ways and from whom he learned how to use flash. This is, I believe one of the very important aspects of this and many other books: they create bridges to discover the work of other photographers, some of them completely unknown to you, others that only through these pages you’ll come to finally notice. That’s another value of multiple books about a same theme: they give you access to multiple visions and solutions for what are sometimes the same problems. Understanding that there are, many times, different ways to reach the same goals helps us to understand the variety of photography. Tilo Gockel’s book does exactly that. And all it needs is a single light!

The photographer opens the book with an introduction on his vision on flash photography, and then takes readers through 26 workshops that are there not only to read, but to practice. Not all of them will interest everybody, but there is enough variety to seduce a wide range of readers, from food photography to models, jewellery or… special effects. And the use of light in one setup can easily be adapted for something else, so the limit is, very much, the reader’s imagination.

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As always, you do not have to follow all the tips and suggestions in the book. Tilo Gockel’s battery-powered DIY bare-bulb flash, for example, is something I would never dare to try myself, but his stroboscopic tips seduced me to try something on my own in an area I’ve not paid much attention to. The important thing is that you read the book, practice whatever interests you most, and understand through that practice a little bit more about the use of flash. Light diagrams, tips, before and after photographs and even post-processing examples help to understand all the magic a single flash can introduce in your photography.

“One Flash! Great Photography with Just One Light”, published September 2015, is available as printed book ($ 39.95) or eBook ($31.99) from Rocky Nook. Tilo Gockel has another book published at Rocky Nook, “Creative Flash Photography Great Lighting with Small Flashes: 40 Flash Workshops”, from 2014, which also explores the same theme. You might want to check it out too if the subject really interests you.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…

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