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Mystery Photo….Revealed?

Sep 3

In Best Guesses at 2:14pm


Had some traffic over time about the lighting grid for this photo, which we have used as a blog header. This was shot for Kelby Training, and re-confirms my fondness for seedy motel rooms. It is all small flash, but it is not all flash. It’s a mix of sources.

So I’m throwing it out there. Whoever wants to have a shot at this, and figure out the lighting plan, have at it. Person who nails it gets an autographed copy of Hot Shoe Diaries, and a Lastolite Tri-Grip diffuser.  Hell, I’ll even sign “Numnuts” on the diffuser, if you want. Remember though, everything I sign has a tendency to plummet in value, so choose wisely.

This ain’t a contest, and there’s nothing formal about it.  I’ve even talked in general terms about this pic in workshops, so it’s not like this is gonna be the search for the holy frikkin’ grail. It’s just that enough folks have pinged about this image so we thought it would be fun. We don’t get out much in our studio. More tk…..

216 Responses to “Mystery Photo….Revealed?”

Rangefinder General says:

on September 4, 2009 at 10:22 am

I reckon you ran out of strobes and stands lighting the room and had to set light to the ‘grip truck’ for the outside ambient.

Green says:

on September 4, 2009 at 10:43 am

Backroom- SB-900 (orange gel) lightng back wall and man in doorway. Same room, SB-900 (orange gel) hidden by male figure, light skipped through legs.

Inner Room (VICTIM) – SB-900(blu gel) plash against wall in back of bed which victim is on. Soft Boxed SB-900 main light far left of victim. SB-900 (orange gel) snooted on victms legs, SB-800 inside lampshade (difuser on flash) (tippeed lamp on floor), natural light from snowy flat panel TV and SB-900 (blue gel) splashed on wall behind flat panel display.

Great shot !! I wish that in my years of crime scene photography, that I would have the opportunity to set up a lighting scheme such as this.

Lewis W says:

on September 4, 2009 at 11:01 am

Nice try, everybody. It was lit with the human brain. Amazing instrument when used with the right gear.

FrankKlimek says:

on September 4, 2009 at 11:04 am

The lighting plan…
Sb900 outside the door with 2 cuts red gel gunmans right, and one more at gunmans left up high with half cut orange. Lamp has a 15 watt incadescent bulb. Tv on. Two sb800 inside, one on the victim, half cut orange high to camera right to highlight the legs and the peanusts (which are an eyecatcher)… the other low with full cut blue gel down low shooting under the TV.

Am i close?

Andrew says:

on September 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

It was Professor Plum, in the library, with the candlestick.

Kenneth Robert says:

on September 4, 2009 at 11:38 am

I’m guessing smoke and mirrors, Joe… smoke and mirrors.

Tommy Compton says:

on September 4, 2009 at 11:42 am

Okay, I will take a stab at it. Here we go:

Light Source #1, appears to be either an sb800 or sb900 gelled with stacked CTO gells
Light Source #2, appears to be something on the shooters right ankle, with out seeing it big, hard to tell but my guess would be another SB unit Gelled CTO
Light Source #3, a fallen lamp giving tungsten light towards the victim
Light Source #4, Wall mount TV tuned to no station giving off white light
Light Source #5 coming from behind camera right. Looks to be kitchen light casting the shadows behind the tv
Light Source #6, SB unit gelled CTO with 1/8 Grid Defuser aimed victim’s knee.

Thanks Tommy

Louis says:

on September 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm

You start by exposing for the TV, because that’s the one thing you can’t really control. You gotta shoot slow, to get a full scan of the TV screen, so 1/30 or 1/15 something like that. You also seem to have lots of depth, so aperture is f7.1 or (and this is probably nuts, f11). Also guessing you set the WB a little cool to get tone down the color of the TV screen.

Outside the window SB900 on the floor gelled red, pointing down the hall. Behind the Man is another SB900, also gelled red pointing toward the camera (I’m guessing this from the reflection at his feet).

Inside, a 900 gelled blue (just behind her left leg), pointing at the wall behind the TV (probably set to 28mm because it’s hitting the wall with the door as well. The lamp is just a lamp, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you gelled it orange to more match the red of the background.

Finally one last SB in a med. Softbox held high and camera left, pointing down at her knee (this would give you the red highlights on the table and the medicine bottles.

Ahh, I want to call this C.S.I. :McNally.

Jef PEnczak says:

on September 4, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Main room lite with SB900 @ 3/4 on light stand with red gel.
Lamp on floor is just a lamp.
Blue wall on right side of room done with SB900 and blue gel on light stand to camera right.
Backroom with SB900 red gel facing up on back wall.
Light on floor at feet of man SB600 with snoot and orange gel

Dave says:

on September 4, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I can’t believe she wore those shoes with that gown. No wonder he shot her.

Brendan Ahern says:

on September 4, 2009 at 1:38 pm

This is a morning after a workshop shot. I think Joe peeled his face off the floor. Yawned. Grabbed a D3 beside him and took the shot. Talk about being at the right place at the right time.

Lyndon Smith says:

on September 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm

OK here’s the crime scene as I see it, without referring to anyone else’s posts because that would just take away all the fun:
Camera – Nikon D3
ISO – 200
White Balance – Auto
Lens – Wide, fast glass about 17-24 mm
Aperture – 5.6 – 8 Some decent DOF was needed to get both the corpse and the gunman in focus.
Shutter – Slow enough to burn in the tungsten but fast enough to ensure the television screen didn’t turn into a white blowout. 1/15-1/30 second or so.
Mode – Aperture priority i-TTL. The background is dialed down 1.5-2 stops to saturate it, and so the flashes are cranked up a bit to compensate.

Joe is on his stomach and the camera is resting on a jacket or something just off the floor to help stabilize the slow shutter speeds.

Drugs – Tylenol is on the floor not because the model overdosed (she was obviously shot), but rather because they spilled out of the perpetrator/photographer’s pocket. The other drug on the scene is caffeine since several photographers are present…

Crew – Since this is a Kelby Training thing 2 video cameras were present – one on a steady cam and one shoulder/tripod mount. Joe was mic’ed with a wireless lav. Some kind of HD format – probably XD cam or Red because Kelby’s sold lots of books. To me anyways…. ; )

Joe is ably helped by 2 assistants – one of whom he won or lost in a card game with Scott – I have a hard time keeping this part straight. Speaking of which, Scott is off in the background hanging out & telling jokes because you can sometimes see glimpses of him on the set of Joe’s videos on KelbyTraining.com.

On to the lighting. Based on an analysis of color, shadows, highlights and reflections – and having read every Joe McNally thing I can get my hands on – here’s the gig:

Let’s start with the key light. This is an SB800 or 900 zoomed in tight with lots of CTO – at least a full cut. It’s mounted on a C-stand to the photog’s right probably 4 or 5 feet off the ground. It’s pointed to the left a bit and directed towards the leg. There’s a dome diffuser on it – because hey – this is McNally… Kidding! There might be a little more softening on it _Tri-Grip I bet) but not much as the leg shadows on the bed are moderately hard. The focus point is the model’s rather nice right leg, heel, and stockings. The stylist/makeup artist did a great job here.
Joe paid careful attention to the specular highlight on her knee to make sure he didn’t see the dreaded LCD “blinkies”. But he’s shooting tethered to Lightroom 2 on a Mac book pro resting on a Gitzo stand just to be sure….

The 2nd speedlight is also camera right with a dome diffuser on it, but this one is very close to the wall, pointed so it illuminates the wall behind the television. It’s gelled with a full-cut of CTB, and it’s dialled down a stop from the key.

There may be another speedlight just to the left of Joe – or held over his head. This one’s ungelled and dialled way down to give just a “Kiss of Light” to the aforementioned Tylenol. This one’s a maybe – as it might just be lit by the key. But this detail is important because it helps tell the story. After all Joe’s assignment mantra is “what’s the story”? So I think the pills probably have their own light.

Moving on – the television is a light source. Looks like channel 1357 – one of my favourites, after the Kelby Training videos of course.

The desk lamp is of course a light source. Could be the tungsten or a speedlight CTO dialled down in there. Not sure which, probably the original bulb because the shutter speed is slow.

The final speedlight in the room is behind the bed near the door. It’s gelled with at least a full cut of blue, zoomed in, possible has a Honl grid on it to control it. The purpose of this light is to add interest to the frame, separate the model’s left leg from the wall, and subtly draw attention to the gun in that area of the frame. Darn this guy’s good, or maybe he’s just been incredibly lucky for thousands of shoots over the last 30-some years. The flash is sitting on a floor stand, or possibly an uncooked large chicken or small turkey carcass, as Joe McNally seems to find the darndest things to mount his Nikon SB’s on.

Speaking of which, this whole thing is triggered by an SB800 or 900 sitting on the D3’s hot shoe, but set not to fire. It could also be an SU-800 commander unit. There might be an off-camera shoe cord to help direct the flash trigger.

That’s the crime scene. Let’s move outside. There are 2 light sources: one is the sun &/or a flash to enhance &/or simulate the setting sun. The 2nd light is a car with its headlights on behind the gunman. This could be a flash gelled orange, but the car headlights are the theme here. It’s probably a Beamer, Mercedes, Lexus, etc. because – like I said – these guys sell lots of books.

The window is covered with a stolen bed sheet (or a paid-for Lastolite panel) to soften the fading daylight. Coming through this is a bit of the setting sun and 2 lights outside between the door and window, both gelled orange and up high on C-stands. One is snooted, zoomed, and pointed towards the gunman’s face from about eye level. The other is a bit higher and pointed towards the window.

So Obi-wan, how did your Padawan Jedi learner do?

bill says:

on September 4, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Hey, Kelby stays at the Hyatt Place while traveling – Joe, is that the Bambi Inn?

i think it’s all lit with cigarette smokers littered about…

Iden Ford says:

on September 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

A Gelled CTO speedlight outside the door and window aimed at the man angled so that some of the light spills through the doorway and mixes with the purple light on the wall behind the tv and well as catching the edge and legs of the table that the tv sits on , he hangs his head and shoulders out to get a bit of the beam and his body in front of the wall which acts as a gobo to block the rest of him. His hat brim gobos part of his face to keep it in shadow. You got a purple gelled light on the floor behind the far corner of the bed and aimed at the back wall behind the tv which peeks through the girls leg, a hint of it creeps up the wall. You have a diffused and fully cto’ed light aimed straight down toward the girls leg right where the hot spot is on her knee, . You have a gelled cto’ed speed light in the lamp on the floor which also gets the pills across the floor and creates that lighting effect on the floor to get her foot and pills, kind of like a snooted floor lamp idea.
You have the tv on static no station. And that is my theory. Four lights.

Frank says:

on September 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Wow Joe,

there is lot’s to read and evaluate.

Maybe easier you give each one a book… :)

David says:

on September 4, 2009 at 4:47 pm

My best guess after reading The Hot Shoe Diaries. I’m going with all small flashes. 6 either SB800 or SB900′s

TV on static.
Lamp on floor.
1 Blue gelled SB behind bed firing into wall at a low power.
2 Blue gelled SB raking the wall behind the TV from an angle higher than the TV (camera right)
3 CTO gelled and either snooted or gridded SB firing from high camera left.

4 CTO gelled SB behind man at about knee height to replicate an old-time car headlight.
5 Red gelled SB to provide the red in the window, gobo’d or barn-doored to keep it from flooding the man.
6 Red gelled SB with a snoot or barn door at head height maybe a little higher to throw some light across the mans face and shoulders and throw some red light into the room.

cameron griffin says:

on September 4, 2009 at 5:45 pm

here goes my best guess.you have got a sb unit somwhere above the vivtim(orange gell).then you have the lamp giving off some light, also to light the victim.after that you have light off the tv lighting the room a wee bit.behind the tv you have another sb unit(gelled blue) possibly on a justin clamp.then you have a sb unit(gelled red)to light the hallway.and here goes a wild guess,i think you may have one more light off to the left of the killer, maybe above him.that was my best guess.

Thomas Dattermark says:

on September 4, 2009 at 7:24 pm

Available light, no doubt about it!

ron hiner says:

on September 4, 2009 at 7:41 pm

“Hey Brad… set this scene up for me will ya? You da man! Scott and are going out for a few pops. oops, sorry, I mean we’re going to scout some locations for tomorrow. Isnt she an amazing model.. look at those cheek bones. Give me a hi-key beauty light setup. And those legs! Whoa. Vogue will put us on the cover. After we do a couple cover shots, we’ll do some ‘artistic’ shots for the private collection… nudge nudge you know what I mean. You do great work Brad… man sometimes I really miss working with you! I’ll see you later. Text me when you are all set up.”

just kidding… another awesome shot! (hey, are those your multivitamins on the floor?)

Mark11Photography says:

on September 4, 2009 at 8:22 pm

After reading THIC & HSD, I’m taking a ‘wild’ guess here and saying that the strobes used are going to be some combination of SB800′s & SB900′s. I’m seeing one-two SB’s gelled CTB camera right fairly high (shadow on the side of TV) & diffused through a 3×6 Lastolite panel. It’s not spilling on the top of the tv or behind, some you might have even snuck something like a Honl flag gaffer taped to the side of the SB. Second source, the TV. Not much light coming from this one – but part of the mix. Third, the tungsten table lamp laying on the floor. Third light, another tungsten source – guessing vehicle headlight coming from in behind the gunman around his knee level but reflecting off the polished lino. Fourth source, another CTB gelled SB about two feet off the floor aimed at the wall to provide depth away from the models legs. Fifth source, the ominous red cloud outside – guessing the tail lights of a truck diffused through it’s own exhaust (or fog machine). Sixth source, a CTO gelled SB snooted tight on the face of the gunman (hidden in behind the wall with the crooked picture). Seventh and final (?) source, another CTO gelled SB directly (& high) above the camera and about 2-3 feet to the right. Finally – guessing this was shot through a Nikkor 17-35mm lens, unless the pic was within the last couple years in which I’d say probably the 14-24mm.

Then again, knowing what you’ve accomplished in the past, and your reputation for eating Speedlights for dinner, there could just be another fifty or so I haven’t yet found!

Jon West says:

on September 4, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Let’s start outside… flash in a shoot thru umbrella outside between door and window with 1-1/2 cuts CTO aimed in the fog with a flag to create shadow on man’s body but reveals the face. Inside there is a small gridded softbox above model to highlight her leg. Camera right has blue gelled flash aimed towards the TV with the crumby reception. How’d you get that snow? Must have tried to tune in an analog channel cuz it ain’t happnin on digital signal. The lamp on the floor definitely has a diffused CTO’d flash in it cuz I’ve never seen a half lit lampshade before. I can’t for the life of me see the detail at the gunman’s feet, but the glare seems to indicate there must be a light back there. If I could tell where the floor starts and his feet stop it would help. Need more detail for a stab at it. And let’s not forget about the little flash behind the bed with the blue gell aimed at the wall.

Go ahead and sign the book. Thanks.
J West.

Joe says:

on September 4, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Red-gelled flash high camera-right, lamp on the floor for her feet, TV static for a bit of blue light off her leg, and a couple of red-gelled speedlights outside the door; one for the window, and one for the man.

Oh, and a numnuts with extra batteries. ;)

Mark Holloway says:

on September 4, 2009 at 11:10 pm

I’ll take a stab/shot at it.
1. SB 900 snooted lighting girls knee, camera right high, full cut cto.
2. sb900 camera right w snoot, blue gel pointed along wall.
3. sb800 inside lamp (bulb would have lit the entire shade)and wall
4. sb behind bed pointed to wall, zoomed to 200mm, (1/128?)
5. sb900 outside pointed at man in door with red gel
6. sb900 behind man, low and pointed down.
7. ambient light from TV.
BTW — He didn’t kill her. He showed up after she was dead. He’s either a cop or a PI. ;~}

Adam Sanders says:

on September 5, 2009 at 1:47 am

From back to front

The red outside is a hot source. My guess is one or two lights that sponsor your blog that I cannot afford – Red-gelled Kenoflows? A two-headed Westcott TD5?

They are flagged to light the profile but not the whole detective.

One warm-gelled tungsten lamp or TD3 at his feet toward camera.

Small gridded flash with blue gel behind the bed and close against the wall.

The lamp has a warm gel on it.

Small flash softboxed and gelled blue above the table from camera right.

One VAL with a warm-gelled tungsten room lamp or spot light from above camera and slightly right of it.

It’s early in the investigation, so he’s trading in his scotch for some mouthwash and gettin’ his sea legs. He’s got the heart of a lion but the leg speed of a granny with a walker. She’s the mystery witness he’s been wantin’ to talk to. Finally, he got a lead he could count on, but it was too late. The bad boys in blue got to her first. They suffocated her and then force-fed her prescription strength jujubees. The red lights are from his rental car, now an unnecessary expenditure.

Tony says:

on September 5, 2009 at 6:21 am

FYI, saving the pic and reading the EXIF gives you quite a lot of details:

FSTOP: f/8
Exposure Time: 1/4sec
ISO: 800
Focal Length: 14mm
White balance: Manual
Metering Mode: Pattern

and regarding the lighting, im quite sure its all explained above:)

Pretty good work Joe.

lukasz kruk says:

on September 5, 2009 at 6:26 am

let’s see…

outside – gelled for red
1 flash on the far left, firing right, lighting the back wall and therefore the ‘window’ and the wall behind the stylish bloke
2 flash directly behind him, firing towards camera and down
3 flash behind the bit of wall in the middle, gridded/snooted on his face, casting shadow on the door

4 flash on camera right, high, with grid, at a hard angle on the girls knee. gelled red.
5 flash back camera left, almost on-axis, lighting the bed, gelled red.
6 flash giving a highlight under girls left knee and lighting up the back wall a touch. blue.
7. flash on the wall on the right from back canera right, through a cokie (cables?). gelled. for a moment i though that could be ambient through the window, but the fall-off seems to quick.
8. lamp on the floor and tv

7 strobes? seems a lot. let’s see if i was right.

Martin says:

on September 5, 2009 at 9:06 am

It’s a screen grab from an episode of CSI?

Timothy Herzog says:

on September 5, 2009 at 9:29 am

Have to Revise my answer…

The more I look at it the more obvious this became…

It is shot in Tungsten WB – That makes the ambient BLUE.

This also explains how the blue fades to purple, its the tungsten balance mixing with the red gels…

Everything else is as I guessed, with the exception of the right wall – there is no strobe, it’s ambient from the window, gone blue from the WB…

here is the rundown of the rest…

1 strobe in the hall – shoulder height – gel’d red – either bounced off the hallway wall, or a big white bounce surface (bed sheet – lastolite panel, etc)
1 strobe behind the man in the hall, aimed down, gel’d tungsten – grid’d or zoomed
1 strobe, behind the bed, no need for a blue gel – white light goes blue in Tungsten Balance – aimed at the back wall
1 strobe in the lamp on the ground, gel’d tungsten – zoomed.

-this is where it gets tricky-

1 strobe up camera left, aimed down, look at the hard shadow from her hand – must be almost straight above that – this give the red glow to her legs, her hands – lights the pills on the floor


1 strobe up camera right, snooted tight, gel’d orange – on her knee.

Can’t wait to hear yer side of it. Thanks Joe..

Michelle Knight says:

on September 5, 2009 at 9:54 am

OK – I’ve taken a longer look. I’ve already had a wrong guess, so this won’t put me in line for any prizes, but here goes.

The shadow on the womans hand identifies a flash on camera, or slightly above and to the left of the camera, ungelled.

The ladies leg shows it is not lit by the on-camera strobe but rather an off camera and high snooted, gelled flash, slightly camera right.

The purple light behind the bed belies a gelled flash there.

The odd shape of the light coming out of the lamp on the floor indicates a strobe in there, pointing towards the ceiling.

There is another purple gelled strobe off to camera right which is responsible for lighting the wall and the medicine bottles on the table.

The TV is .. the TV.

The outside is a mystery because it looks like it is out of doors rather than a hall, and it appears that the light is coming through clouds. THis makes it either natural light, or gelled strobes through a smoke machine or a piece of fabric on the outside of the window. Whatever it is, it is powerful enough to reach the medicine bottles on the table as well as the table legs.

The light on the floor at the mans feet is a mystery. The floor is showing a reflection of the man, indicating that he is outside and standing a little lower than floor level. However, the shadow of his right leg isn’t reflecting correctly off the floor. The reflection in the floor tells of a gelled strobe behind him, presumably deliberately to cast the shadow of his body forward on to the floor. Either way, the missing part of his leg looks suspicious.

John Gettis says:

on September 5, 2009 at 10:28 am

Oh hell I can’t figure it out. I will just have to buy the book.

FanX says:

on September 5, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Nice !

diala chinedu photography says:

on September 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm

5 hot shoe flashes

1. SB-900 stacked with red gels bare and faced to wall on the front right hand of model with a gun

2. SB-900 with blue gel on the right of camera firing at the wall behind the tv
3. SB-900 with CTO gel and a spot grid behind camera from overhead aimed at model’s right leg
4. SB-900 with blue gel on the other side of the bed facing the wall on low power
5. SB-900 at low power with red gel gridded/snooted and aimed at the man’s face

Chris Roberts says:

on September 5, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I think Lyndon Smith should win, for such a wonderful post. I laughed out loud.

Its nice sometimes to just look at photographs, and not care how they’re made. Thanks Joe.

larry wells says:

on September 5, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Exposed for T.V., lamp and sodium vapor street light outside.

Flash with blue Gel behind T.V., CTO snooted flash camera left.

Dean Doll says:

on September 5, 2009 at 10:32 pm

I’ve drawn out what I think would be the setup for this shot, and pasted it in the following web link. Thanks for the fish!


Barak Yedidia says:

on September 6, 2009 at 2:14 am

D3 with 14mm/2.8 @ f/8 1/4″ about 8 inches off the floor and 18 inches from the shin of the corpse. That exposure will expose the TV tube.
SU-800 on camera.
Flashlight held by some guy above and to the right of the camera to light paint the leg, hand, and Good-n-Plenty on the floor.
Bulb on in lamp on floor.
SB-x00 with CTB behind bed.
SB-x00 with CTB camera right with a Honl flag on the left side.
Dude outside door with gun.
SB-x00 with CTO behind dude’s knees pointed back towards camera.
Some weird mural behind dude.
SB-x00 with CTO to dude’s right about head high snooted to light his head and chest
another SB-x00 with CTO to dude’s right about gun high snooted to light the bottom of his coat.
Bedsheet that is no longer on the bed over the window lit with another SB-x00 with CTO to dude’s right.

That makes 6 SB’s, a TV, a Floor lamp, and a flashlight.

TC says:

on September 6, 2009 at 2:32 am

Lyndon Smith FTW. Even if he isn’t right, he should be!

chrisdavid42 says:

on September 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Ok, so i tried to do this without reading the other comments, as I figured that wouldn’t be sporting. so here goes: from back to front. 1. a large light source outside the window (3 SB lights: one CTO gelled and bounced from the ceiling, one snooted amber gelled and pointing at the perp’s face from camera left, one 1/2 CTO gelled and pointing in the door from camera right). Next there is the tungsten floor lamp, the television, a gelled (1/2 cto) SB pointing 45 degree down on-axis (snooted)from above the knee, a flashlight lighting the pills, and from behind the camera a blue gelled sb diffused via softbox splashed along the right wall of the room.

You may begin autographing now. (just kidding, I hope I was close though.)

chrisdavid42 says:

on September 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm

OK, here are my revisions to the above answer. If it is a motel, then there is no hallway and we are seeing the outside, outside of the door. in this case, I believe that the red outside is gelled headlights (and i agree with the smoke machine theory), the light on the perps face is from a porch-light (tungsten) and there is a speed light splashed in-between the perp’s legs. the blue gelled flashis on the far side of the bed, and the light behind the TV is ambient from the next room (bathroom, kitchen, ???, breakfast nook.) other than that my previous answer stands. (two autographed books, for two answers? hint, hint.)

Ken Wilcox says:

on September 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I’m going to guess that the “lady” on the bed was your um “escort” for the evening and after some tele and recreational drugs the lady’s husband found you guys in your favorite shady hotel and popped her. You used what tool you knew, your Nikon D3, and firing at 9 frames a second the guy thought you had a tommy gun so he took off running.

No lighting here – just ambient.

The lamp fell over from mattress action.

Chad says:

on September 7, 2009 at 2:03 am

I am thinking that it was dusk, with WB to give the orange cast, a kicker behind the man, one above to highlight his head, The lamp, A light above down upon the girl directly at her leg, and a geled flash of to the side of the table. Oh and a speedlight behind the bed with a snoot to imitate a tv.

Mitch Sevier says:

on September 7, 2009 at 8:56 am

Seems to me the guesses are getting too complicated.

The knee and pills look like they are lit by one boomed or voice activated light stand with a small modifier to keep it fairly confined

Blue light behind the knee… just an alarm clock glow

The red light in the back room might could be a true neon sign or a red gelled strobe

T.V. screen… just the way it is

The blue light outside behind the window I would almost guess as natural, but I know how much you like to put strobes outside. I will say it is a strobe with slight blue gel on it.


T Lofstrom says:

on September 7, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Without looking at the other comments, because I love trying this decoding, and who cares is I get it, all right:
camera is shot with exposure compensation of -2.
ladies leg is lit camera left: SB900 (cause I read you love them) at +2, gelled 2 CTO with a loose grid;
lightshade is what it is: a light on;
TV is what it is: on to static;
right wall is lit with an SB 900 +1 above the table level on a stand pointed at the wall;
back wall is lit with an SB 900 -2 tight gridded from the floor behind the bed aimed at the wall, justs to give it some definition;

Window: lit with 1 (or 2) SB 900 +2, from 15 feet behind between the window and the man on the far side angled up from near the ground directly at the wall to feather across the lower left side of the window and spill to the right and light up the doorway as well;
The orange at the man’s feet, another SB900 gelled CTO -3 aimed at the guy’s foot used to trigger the outside lights.

Throw in a D3 on a tripod set low on Aperture Priority with a cooler WB, Matrix metered,a 14-24 set near 16mm;
and don’t forget a lady in shoes and dress “dead” on the bed, a guy in hat shirt and tie and coat with gun in hand at the door, and a bunch of pill bottles, and one spilling tylenol sinus on the good old hardwood floor.

All makes sense, except the orange light at the guy’s feet.
(now to post and read others’ better guesse… okay knowledge.

T Lofstrom says:

on September 7, 2009 at 9:51 pm

The only thing I’d add after reading the others is to mention how the D3 fired the flash. It had an SU-800 on it, or more convenient, corded to the right from the camera.

Love the good stabs at how the shot was done that have nothing to do with lighting … or do they all describe where Joe’s inspiration for lighting comes from?! I guess that’s it.

I’ll never have all that inspirat— fun getting inspired.

Gavin Keats says:

on September 8, 2009 at 5:42 am

Nikon D3, 14-24 set to 14 mm, ISO 800, 1/4 exposure, Manual.

Light sources;

1. Blue gel speedlight behind bed facing wall
2. Blue Gel off camera right
3. Red gel speedlight outside window
4. Tungsten globe in fallen lamp
5. Red gel above models leg
6. low amber? gel speedlight behind gunman
7. TV set white noise light

Gavin Keats

MikeScott says:

on September 8, 2009 at 8:31 am

The dude just went all kinds of JoeMcNally on this shot. Big flash, small flash, radio triggers, colored gels, slow sync for the tv… he should write a book.

Rodney_Durrett says:

on September 8, 2009 at 11:37 am

What a great idea to get reader involvement!

Here’s my take:
Three lighting groups.

First group outside: A couple of SB800 or SB900 with diffusers and red gels behind a diffuser aimed at window. Another SB also with a red gel aimed behind the man with the gun to light up behind him and produce the silhouettte. Let the the splash from the SBs make the rim light on the face. Also used a light block to keep the light off the rest of the gunmans body. Small incandescent source (flashlight or something snooted) behind the gunman to get the light between the legs.

Second group: An SB900 gelled blue on camera right(zoomed to give crisp shadows) a little above tabletop level pointing behind the TV with wires hanging for the effects on the walls, the TV, and the right side of the medicine bottles. Also a small flash behind the bed diffused with blue gel to light the wall with the window which helps define the far leg of the girl.

Third group: An SB with a warm gel on a c-stand high to the right concentrated on the close leg and providing the light on the edge of the bed and the pills on the floor.

Here’s where it gets tricky.
You can see the snow on the TV. Must have set up the camera to catch this before adding the lights.

The lamp in the floor puts out light at the top of the shade, a little coming through the shade, and none at the bottom of the shade. A lot of black tape was used to block the incandescent low watt bulb from lighting the wall.

A large reflector was used at camera left to bounce the light from the window to make the red outline on the table and the red on the left side of the medicine bottles.

I would say the shot was triggered with a SU800 off camera on SC cables high and to the left. This would have a straight shot to the inside flashes and through the window to the outside flashes.

Joe, you must have some crazy dreams to come up with these shots!


Andy Glogower says:

on September 8, 2009 at 8:56 pm

I loved Lyndon’s description. The only thing missed was refering to the photographer as “Numnuts”.

Mi says:

on September 10, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I believe there’s a flash unit behind the photographer’s left, it drops light over the girl’s right leg, pills & ground; another in the corridor, in front of the male model. The blue background behind the TV was lit also by a flash unit standing right to the photographer, facing TV & wall. A little light source behind the dead girl’s leg, plus the lamp & TV. 3 flashes with strong shadows so I don’t think any light modifiers were used, and the other 3 scene-related light sources (2 lamps & TV).

Chris Biele says:

on September 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Someone may have already gotten this, but I’m not gonna read through all 202 posts to find out, haha.

I’d say WB on camera set to tungsten.
Snowy TV turns blueish from camera WB.
1 SB gelled CTB shot hard at wall behind bed.
1 SB gelled CTB shot hard, bounced off rear/right room corner, camera back/right.
1 SB gelled red or double CTO in soft box above camera over victim.
Tungsten bulb in lamp at very low wattage to get more saturation.
1 SB gelled red or double CTO behind man on floor shooting up towards camera left into tri-grip bouncing onto man and filling the window.
Numnuts really low on one knee trying to see up victim’s skirt.

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