responsiveslider_lol_02 The Language of Light DVD - More
MeetJoe_02 Meet Joe McNally - More
inthebag What’s in the Bag? - More

Lord of the Skies

Mar 30

In Friends, In The Field at 6:49am

Those pearly blue, magnificent skies of post production, that is. Russell Brown…genius, bon vivant, humorist, master of disguise, thespian, uh, animated photo subject, genius, photog, inventor, genius, software guru, good guy, and finally, truly, genius…..

Ten flashes (you can tell, some of them are in the picture), 45 minutes, SU-4 mode, manual exposure at 250th at somewhere between 4 and 5.6. Had able assistance from our Safari shooters as we threw up a bunch of lights and just winged it. (Ouch!) 14-24mm Nikkor f2.8 with a D3X.

Basically throwing a bunch of hot light around the background to define it. One light up and at the flag. Another right at the tail of the lead plane, creating some floor heat and separation. Another at the deep blue nose of the lead plane. Then, up front, an over under combo of an Ezybox soft box (24″ white interior) and a Lumiquest LTP softbox. All are SB-900′s with no gels. Fun to slap it together ad hoc, with a bunch of people helping.

Shot it Tuesday at Photoshop World, when we trekked to a couple cool places with even cooler planes. The above was made at Stallion 51, home to magnificently restored P-51 Mustangs, among other wonderful flying machines. Just amazing. They are tended to by an equivalently amazing lady, KT Budde-Jones, who was patient enough to actually embrace a visit by some 5o plus photogs. She and her colleagues pulled out planes, pushed them into the sunset for us, and in general made shooting easy. She even got in front of the lens in her WASP mechanics outfit, circa WWII.

Stallion 51 is a remarkable repository of historically significant aircraft, and the way KT takes you through the place, and talks reverently of the planes, you can tell this is a labor of love. There are, if I remember her figures right, about 125 or so Mustangs still flying, and they have several. Folks come to be trained on them, understand the mechanics, or just take a ride and check something off the bucket list. Take a look at their site.

PSW Orlando….nothing like it….more tk….

45 Responses to “Lord of the Skies”

Ted McAusher says:

on March 30, 2011 at 7:11 am

These are always my favorite posts of yours Joe, where you get specific about the what and where. Love this, thanks so much!

Andor says:

on March 30, 2011 at 7:36 am

Another great story with awesome shots in it – thanks for sharing it!

Rodney says:

on March 30, 2011 at 7:40 am

Just trying to figure out how you tripped 10 flashes. I thought the SU-4 only has a working range of 25 or so feet.

Rodney says:

on March 30, 2011 at 7:40 am

Oh, great photo by the way! See you in Raleigh next week.

Karen Messick says:

on March 30, 2011 at 8:14 am

Awesome set up and wonderful results thanks for sharing!

Paul Hodgson says:

on March 30, 2011 at 8:28 am

I adore Russell Brown, genius he most certainly is.

And the colours you get are lovely Joe; another good post.

Mark Stahl says:

on March 30, 2011 at 8:30 am


WOW baby wow…. Thats really a cool set up and great shots. I’v shot in some of caves not easy and you hit it out of the park with this one. -Mark

pirut says:

on March 30, 2011 at 8:31 am

Another great shot + tips bro.. :) Thank you for sharing! :)

Nick says:

on March 30, 2011 at 8:45 am

Joe, brilliant set up. I forgot SU-4 even existed. Can’t wait to hop on the Flash Bus in Pittsburgh on 4/11. See ya there!

Anthony Dayton says:

on March 30, 2011 at 8:48 am

Just a question – why the use of SU 4 with the SB 9000 flashes instead of putting them on remote?

Thanks in advance for an answer – especially if it’s obvious

Kevin says:

on March 30, 2011 at 9:18 am

Not to be a jackass…but I don’t think I like the propeller growing out of their heads.

Tim Skipper says:

on March 30, 2011 at 10:26 am

Cool photos, but I am missing one flash. I only counted 9 on your diagram.

Joe McNally says:

on March 30, 2011 at 10:40 am

not a jackass kevin….debated it myself, and knew there would be people who would not go for it…but the idea of Russell Brown’s manic brain and propellers…well….:-)

Viveca says:

on March 30, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I love the lighting in these shots, and they are great portraits too.

Manny Nieto says:

on March 30, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Very Nice Once again Joe! Thumbs Up! And Kevin……..The Propeller is just fine. Probably could of not been better. Think about it. The only other way would be turning it 45 degrees more and then you have a change of pattern on the lines of the pic way to much randomness plus the Flag would end up with an “X” pn it plus it would cover all the stars on the flag. Anyways thats my 2 cents! Keep Clicking away Joe!

Karen B says:

on March 30, 2011 at 5:18 pm

Genius, Joe… absolute genius! …and such fun :)

Bobby McGee says:

on March 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Wait a minute, where’s Numnuts in the illustration?

I think this fine rendering is a forgery. ;0)

Anim8me2 says:

on March 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Joe, I’ve been to your sessions at PSW and read your blog, but getting to watch up close how you set up the shot and solved the problems that popped up was great!
Not to mention the levity and kibitzing you kept up the whole day… big ups!

Matteo says:

on March 30, 2011 at 8:36 pm

wow. 10 flashes. fantastic lighting as always!

Glyn Dewis says:

on March 31, 2011 at 4:50 am

Joe, superb images and the expression on Russell’s face says it all…”How the heck do you do this??” :)

Thanks for sharing,
All the best to you and yours,

Kyle jerichow says:

on March 31, 2011 at 7:04 am

Joe and Drew,

Since SU-4 Mode is mentioned in this blog…i figured I would ask this question again (I still haven’t been able to find an answer.) Is there a way to set up an SB-900 so that it fires in RPT mode as a slave without being in SU-4 mode?


Bob DeChiara says:

on March 31, 2011 at 9:48 am

youda man Joe! Boston is 1 month away!

Ian Loomes says:

on April 1, 2011 at 4:53 am

Joe – great shots. Christine and I thoroughly enjoyed our class sessions with you yesterday. Very convenient to have your very own Justin Bieber look alike as an assistant!

Also loved the Midnight Madness video! :)

David says:

on April 1, 2011 at 7:28 am

Looking forward to Saturday. You guys do know that Wrestlemania is going to be in the same general area? (World Congress Center/GA Dome)Maybe you two can enter as a tag team. Strobo-men!

Barbara Thorbjornsson says:

on April 1, 2011 at 7:29 am

I want to thank you very much for being so eager to teach. You ALWAYS give lots and lots of information about what you are shooting and how you are shooting. I just watched a Weather Channel special featuring another photographer and, out of curiousity, I went to his site. No one even knows with what camera he shoots. You have NEVER failed to offer lots of details and I appreciate it so very much. Thank you Joe for your generousity.

John Batdorff says:

on April 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm


Great info. I have a chance to go up in a B-17 in the next month so this has been really helpful. Look forward to seeing you and the Flash Bus in Grand Rapids. John

Ken Toney says:

on April 3, 2011 at 10:51 pm

This is cool dude! It was nice seeing you at PSW in spirit too, see you in Vegas in real! 8-)

Alan Langley says:

on April 4, 2011 at 2:36 am

I love the first shot, the technical bit conmbined with a perfectly captured expression thanks for sharing.

Logan Gibson says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I took picture of that P-51 about 4 weeks before you ;-)

angry birds game says:

on April 5, 2011 at 10:14 am

It’s really great .Thanks so much .Another great story with awesome shots in it –

Gordon Gurray says:

on April 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Really awesome photos.

Bogdan says:

on April 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Quite a few Pocket Wizards there… :)
I would have turned the propellers at 45 degrees if I’m honest.
Love the lighting, love Russell’s expression as well.



Christian Held says:

on April 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm

What a great post! When you arrive at a scene, do younreally create those scetches or is it all already in your head? You’ve been working in this business for so long now that I could imagine that you don’t really need a map overview with the light positions.

How much time did you have and how long did it take before you were happy with the photos you presented us?

jason harry says:

on April 16, 2011 at 12:14 am

like the lighting on the plane series Joe, tour bus looks awesome


jkar says:

on April 18, 2011 at 9:40 am

fantastic shots! its very clean photos

jkar says:

on April 18, 2011 at 9:40 am

fantastic shots! very clean photos

Venura Herath says:

on April 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm

His expression is really funny!
Nice Photos Joe!

Harry says:

on May 31, 2011 at 8:35 am

Since you didn’t write numnuts with an arrow pointing to the photographer in the diagram is it safe to assume you were sick that day?

Sebastian says:

on November 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

Wow, I really like the first picture. I seems looks the never stoping pilot. From Dog-Fight to Air-races. Great to see these planes still in good condition and be maintained. Apart from being war-machinery it is some terrific kind of technology and progress made during WWII.

Leave a Reply