Jonathan Fleming's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Mcnally

Flash Bus San Francisco

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Joe McNally and David Hobby’s Flash Bus arrived in South San Francisco today for an all-day conference on all things flash. To see these two live was a big deal for me. These guys are masters!

According to Joe and David, San Francisco’s attendance was the largest yet since the tour started. I wasn’t expecting so many people to be there, but wow, was it packed!

A quick FaceTime with Suki (left). Bag of goodies courtesy of Adorama (right)

The gear table. That’s about $4000 worth of SB-900/Justin Clamp goodness lined up right there. And below, about a bazillion dollars worth of lenses. Drool.

Hey, I want my name on my Lastolite Softbox! Apparently Joe had been bugging Lastolite to make a white-lined Ezy Box instead of silver, and they finally gave in, and named it after him. Coolness.

I also would have liked to be one of the V.A.L. volunteers, with these front row seats (right)…you’ll see why in a moment.

Chattin’ it up with Joe during  a break. After reading all of his books, following his blog, and watching every video he’s been involved in with Kelby Training, it was hard not to feel quite star struck when meeting Joe for the first time. After all, everything I’ve learned about flash photography, including so much of the technique that went into last years 52 week project, I learned from this guy. Meeting him was awesome. Very down to earth, funny, and mild, yet so full of photographic knowledge and experience.  A legendary artist and a skilled teacher.

Same goes for David Hobby. Crazy cool guy, and so knowledgeable in the language of light that it blew my mind. Too bad I arrived a little late and got a pretty bleh seat. Unfortunately, the auditorium was not sloped, so it was nearly impossible to get a shot of the stage without someone’s out-of-focus head getting in my shot.

Chicken Scratch.

David started off the seminar with a great lecture about on-location lighting technique.

After lunch, Joe took over and got hands-on with TTL flash photography demonstrations. While I did learn a ton listening to Hobby in the morning, there’s nothing quite like watching Joe do his thing.

The lighting was atrocious in the conference center. Most of these shots sit between ISO3200 and ISO6400.

Joe called up some volunteers to help out with a shot that ended up involving nearly 30 speedlights. The result was, well, see for yourself:

Very cool. See the actual image on Joe’s Blog.

He’d also pick random people out of the audience and make portraits of them. Running two SB units through a large diffusion panel gave him the result on the right. So simple, and yet such a fantastic result.

A little QnA at the end of the day.

To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement!

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D700 | 24-120mm f/4 VR | 70-200 f/2.8 VRII

The Grip!

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4D at f/5.6, ISO200 1/200 Second, CLS triggered SB-900 camera left

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.4D at f/5.6, ISO200 1/200 Second, CLS triggered SB-900 camera left

Or as Joe McNally (my hero) would call it, “Da Grip.” One of the many things I learned from studying Joe’s work is a camera hand-holding technique that I’ve found to be very solid (above left). The shoulder makes a steady base for the camera to rest on top of and keeps the camera’s center of gravity close to the body. The left hand can brace the right hand for extra support, or can even roam free to hold an off camera speedlight. It’s a great technique if you want to get your flash off the hot shoe and create some directional light when you’re on the move, but there’s only one catch: you have to shoot left-eyed.

I’ve always naturally put my right eye up to the viewfinder, so it took some getting used to. But after forcing myself to use the technique for a while, using my left eye started to feel natural as well. The effort was worth it because once you lock the camera in the grip, you think “wow, this is rock-solid!” I’m pretty comfortable using either eye now. But one more thing is needed for this technique to work: a grip! What?

A battery grip, that is. Before very recently getting the MB-D10 battery grip for my D300s, I had trouble with “Da Grip.” Without it, the camera is not tall enough to rest on your shoulder and still get the viewfinder to your eye comfortably. The only solution is to raise your left shoulder, which makes it a less stable platform than when it’s relaxed.

I was hesitant about getting the MB-D10 for a while. It has, after all, turned my D300s into a giant, D3-sized monster. It’s also pretty expensive. But the added ergonomics, particularly when shooting in portrait orientation (above right), made it a worthwhile choice.

About the images above (a screen capture taken straight from Lightroom 3 Beta’s library module):

I took both of these shots in front of a mirror, which means I had to cover the pop-up flash in order to use it trigger the SB-900 I had off-camera, otherwise the commander pulse coming from the camera would have hit the glass and ruined the shot. So I used a hot shoe attachment that blocks the visible light coming from the pop-up but allows the infrared to pass right on through it, which the SB-900 can still see. It appears that some of the light bounced off of the back of this filter and hit me, however, heating up the right side of my face a little. I must say, the accessory looks a little goofy, especially in the image above right, where I look like some sort of weird cyborg.

So yesterday I had a day off (woohoo!). I spent the entire day with Suki and the camera (not the best combination if you want to concentrate on taking pictures), and we were all over the city! I look forward to uploading some images this weekend.

Written by Jonathan

December 4, 2009 at 10:54 am