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Archive for May, 2009

Pretty Pictures….

May 14

In Tours at 3:38am

Rare that you find someone like Anna Hammel in front of your lens….

Shot this yesterday of Austria’s reigning Miss Austria in Vienna. Doing an SB900 tour of Vienna, Amsterdam and Cologne, en route to the Nikon fest called Creative Solutions in Cologne.

Whaled away on this with 3 SB 900′s outside the window, pretty much lighting up the room.

Had hard light everywhere, including Anna, but then just interrupted the flow of that light with a Lastolite Tri-Grip. Softened it up, but then also saw the white tablecloth. Nice! Numnuts like tablecloth! Just rested an SB900 on the tablecloth, bouncing down at TTL minus 2 EV. The other lights I sent a signal to go manual, Group B at 1/1 and Group A at M 1/2. That way I had full blast of light in the back of the room, where the crowd is, and eased up on the blast hitting Anna. Further softened with Tri-Grip, and then made a little beauty fill out of the tablecloth.

Did some other stuff just with hard light, gelled warm and shifted into incandescent white balance, and also did a preset with the camera, which worked out well.

This last is just hard, gelled light coming from the window, interrupted by a Lastolite 3×6 skylight panel. Pretty simple and worked out okay. Of course, if I had somebody like Anna in front of my lens and didn’t come up with something reasonable it would be time to go back to the hotel and hit the bar really hard…. those long plane flights home when you think you didn’t do well….hate those…more tk


Short Hops….

May 12

In Seminars & Workshops, Travels at 10:01am

My view, lately. A lot.

Checked in for a US Air flight. Very helpful guy at the counter. Checks my gear, charges so much excess baggage my credit card is handed back to me smoking, but does all this pleasantly. He looks over at me and asks, “Do I know you?” I say, you know, I don’t think so. He pauses.  “But I know your name…McNally. Are you a photographer?” I reply yes. “For Discovery?” “No,” I say, “But I have shot for the National Geographic for a long time.” He beamed. “I knew I knew you! That’s my favorite channel!”

So it goes for us ink stained wretches involved in that remarkable growth engine known as print media nowadays. We get more and more wretched every day. Suits me actually. When I’m this tired I’m truly unpleasant on board the plane, especially the 50 seat styler I’m about to get on. So I might as well be wretched to boot. Have to feel sorry for the poor bastards around me, all of us stuck together like spam in a can. I’ve been working all day in the heat of Charleston, and I smell like low tide.

Charming, huh? I guess I hear stuff like the above, as innocent and pleasant as the comment was, and I start to feel like the Clint Eastwood character, Walt Kowalski, still desperately clinging onto the Gran Torino of mass communications, the printed page. I start growling at 3 year olds with websites.

Oh, well. Got on board, with my trusty Moose bag. I have never had my cameras gate checked on a regional jet, because of this bag. Oh, not that they don’t try. I’ve had lots of gate side folks tell me the bag is too big and here’s a yellow ticket. I smile and nod and then tear the ticket off while walking down the jet way and get on the plane. Even had couple of people be insistent about it, whereupon I pull out my best, most imperious impersonation of Inspector Clouseau. “Aha, but zis is zee Moose bag, it is expressively design-ed to fit in zee compartment over zee head of zee regional jet!”

Had one airline type actually follow me onto zee plane to check. I slung it up there with a flourish, it fit perfectly, and he had to slink away, because I had heaped upon him zee great shame.

That’s for the cameras, especially on the small jets. Lately have been toting the bigger stuff in Kata Bags, and they are amazing. It’s like wrapping your stuff in Kevlar. Attached wheels, cool spacing and compartments, handles in all the right places. They rock. I’ve got all my flash gear, big and small, in Kata now. Check ‘em out.

This hasn’t been long hauls with big stuff, though. This one has been a trip filled with regional jets. Short hops. Just came outta DLWS Outer Banks chapter, and I always have a great time with my landscape family. Shot some stuff, you know, windswept beaches, dunes, etc. It was cool, though I do think if I saw another damn light house I woulda called in an air strike.

I do learn a lot of stuff from Moose, Laurie and Kevin, though. They are always talking about eliminating the color cast of a digital file by dropping a black point/white point in either Photoshop or Capture NX2. Very cool. Always snaps up the frame. Thus inspired, I tried to eliminate the middle man and went to find a picture that really was just one big ass black point/white point.

In OBX we as a staff welcomed the lovely and talented Stephanie Cross. I’m glad she’s on board, cause she’s a complete hoot. Definitely a woman who runs with the wolves and takes few prisoners and less shit, especially from Drew, my assistant and DLWS staffer. Being a young female, she will help us ease up on the old guy testosterone gas pedal that gets stepped on big time whenever a DLWS meet up is called. She’s a very welcome addition.

I also got a chance to update…WHERE IS LAURIE’S HAIR? Put her next to these signs they have on the beaches down there. Evidently, per this sign, if you have a WWII era Willis jeep, you cannot go on the beach with it. But if you’ve got a Mini Cooper, or perhaps a Prius, you are welcome to try.

Went from OBX to Charleston, and met Annie, and the two of us were very proud to help our friends Stacy Pearsall and Andy Dunaway launch a workshop at the Charleston Center for Photography. It’s a great place run by terrific people. Both Stacy and Andy come out of the military, where they have had long and distinguished shooting careers. (Stacy was MILPHOG of the year twice, and Andy was for a period of time designated as Rumsfeld’s photog. Between the two of them, I believe they have 5 tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Andy’s still with Combat Camera, and of such stature they recently assigned him to the now infamous NY flyover of Air Force One. Lots of hoo hah, obviously, but through it all Andy just did his job. He’t a total pro. Supported the mission. Shot great stuff.)

Stacy did an amazing job wrangling talent for our class to shoot. Ashley came over and participated in a studio session.

Her sister, Meghan was with us as well….

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a good looking family. Total of five speed lights used here. Three effectively became one light via the Bogen Tri-Flash umbrella adapter. One is on the background, and one is skipped off the floor.

Used roughly the same combo, with some white walls and black cards to add and subtract light to come up with a group that included Wayne.

And then really subtracted some light to come up with a harder, more character driven light for a single of Wayne.

Used the tri-flash again with the amazing leaper, Michael Fothergill of the Charleston Ballet Theater.

Also went to the historic military prison in the middle of the city and tried a few things. Been playing with the Lumiquest Mini Soft Box 3.0 a lot lately. Great, punchy, hard/soft light all at once.

Tried using two of them, over and under, in a beauty light combo, and got this of Piper, a gymnast, diver and all around font of energy in front of the lens.

Just one overhead produced this of Courteny. Not a light for everybody, but she has such great structure to her face, as I mentioned to the class, you could hit her with a car head light and she would look great.

And the combo, with the low fill washed off a gold Tri-Grip diffuser, gave this look, with Mike in front of the lens.

And then one overhead Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox gave us this of Steven.

Been trying to ramp up my skill set a bit with the NIK suite of filters in Photoshop. These moves are terrific, and perfectly set up for me, who has kind of this love-hate thing with the computer. I’ve been messing around, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I get good at any of it, but it has been fun. Tried to include many of the models we worked with in Charleston, cause they all just worked so hard.

All in all, a great three days in a wonderful city. Stacy and Andy are on track to take the Charleston Center and make it a magnet for shooters everywhere. They will be doing more workshops, shows, custom printing, mentoring, you name it. Got a chance to hang with Bill Frakes, who came in to knock out a video promo for Stacy. He just shot yet another great SI cover of Mine That Bird at Churchill Downs. In the 25 years I have known him, despite the circumstances and the pressure, he just never fails. The guy defines what it means to be a pro. More tk….

Noo Yawk

May 4

In Computer Technology, Friends, Stories at 11:05am

Knocked around the city last week with a great group of folks. Been a long time since I’ve done that, picking up a camera and wandering the streets of the city, looking for pictures. Truth be told, I’m not much of a street shooter. I’ve always needed the box of an assignment, a destination for the pictures, and some sort of narrative in my head, however hazy, that directs my efforts. But last week, out on the avenues, the boardwalks and the eateries of Manhattan and Brooklyn, it was fun.

We freelanced it a great deal. Bogging down on the lower East Side, with a guide who seemed absolutely pre-occupied with telling us why a building might have been important 100 years ago (all valid information, just not to us, cameras in hand, index fingers twitching in sync with our focus eyes, desperate for a lively frame of street life). We dismissed her and I headed us into Katz’s Deli on Houston, a place I have always had good luck shooting. Thankfully, some things don’t change, and we were welcomed.

This gentleman was checking the food tickets at Katz’s, and one of our group, Lex, had misplaced her’s. He went by the rules, not allowing her to leave, until she found the ticket. Sensing Lex’s immediate future might involve washing dishes, I looked over at the guy, and told him he reminded me of Hollywood actor Delroy Lindo, which was the truth. He relaxed a bit. I then told him that if I had an assignment to photograph my 10 most favorite, interesting faces in Hollywood, Lindo would be on my list. In lieu of getting such a job, I asked if I could take his picture. While all this was going on, Lex found her ticket.

We went out to Nathan’s on Coney Island, a place with hot dogs of such stature that the very sizable fish just plucked from the ocean will have to wait.

Closing time on the the Boardwalk. Closing time for Coney Island as we know it may be coming soon with the advent of new developments.

All in all….fun on the street.

Lessee…onto my own personal area of expertise–computer technology. This is a strength I share with my bud, Moose Peterson. We are down right now in the Outer Banks, on another DLWS adventure. He recently blogged his method of organizing files. Very cool. Good, straightforward, essential, completely boring information.

He knows all that, but it is his lot in life to explain stuff like this to folk like me, who are organizationally challenged. I have written right here in this blog that Moose is a walking, talking main frame who can accomplish more in a one hour concentrated burst of energy than I can in, say, a week. I daydream. I look up movie quotes. I stare at pictures of Annie. I make coffee. I nap.

But Moose’s folder blog really lit a fire under me. I thought, hell, I can do that. I use Aperture, a really elegant, versatile program. Just gotta figure out topics, and general headings, and load my stuff into those respective folders. Piece of cake.


This just about covers it. I feel better. I can really find stuff now…..more tk……