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Lastolite Light Shapers!

Jul 25

In Lighting at 8:03am

It’s always amazing to me, after doing this as long as I have, when a photographic manufacturer actually listens to a shooter. I mean, there’s good reasons to not listen to us for sure. We’re often crazier than a rogue pixel.

On the other hand, when you’ve gone out and hammered it for a good long while, and hung in there over time, continuing to produce work, there are a few things you do end up knowing.

I’ve used Lastolite stuff for a long time, well before ever having a conversation with them. I use the stuff because it works. Tri-grips, Ezyboxes, umbrellas–they make all manner of light shaping tools for all sorts of lights, and they are well and thoughtfully made. I’ve been drawn for a long time to their light, hand holdable stuff. Stuff that helps turn small flash into big flash.

I experiment all the time, and given some of the lengths I’ve taken small flash, I’ve found out a few things, and offered them feedback. The result has become a small array of light shapers known as (drum roll) the Joe McNally Range.

White Interior Ezybox!

Two or three years back, I asked Lastolite for a 24″ Ezybox with a white interior, as opposed to the standard silver. I’m a fairly persistent bloke (i.e.,pest) and eventually they made me one. Which made me the only person on the planet for a period of time with a white 24″ Ezybox. Just dropping this fact here and there would get me great tables at restaurants, and all manner of perks and amenities everywhere. Joe make joke.

But it’s a cool light. A little softer, and a touch richer and creamier than the standard silver, which is already a terrific light. Their brilliant designer Gary Astill came to one of my workshops in Dobbs Ferry. I showed him the results, with the two different lights from the same place with the same model. He nodded, and the white Ezybox was born. Given the softer quality of the interior, it behaves and looks like a slightly bigger soft box.

I know it’s a good light cause I got this note from my bud Earnie Grafton, who’s a former military shooter, and terrific staffer at the San Diego Trib.

“So after buying “your” softbox (which I love by the way) I realized that your name was blazed on each side of it.  So after the umpteenth time of some dude asking me if I was Joe McNally, the following conversation ensued:

Q. Are you Joe McNally?
A. Of course.  Why the hell would I put somebody else’s name on my softbox?

or my favorite so far…

Q.  Are you Joe McNally?
A.  Do I have 57 cases of camera shit around me?
Q. Uh, no…
A. Then I ain’t Joe McNally….

(I DO love the damn thing though…..)”

Earnie’s a good friend and a helluva shooter. On this location, though, I left a bunch of the cases home. Here’s a production picture. As you can see, I’m out there with a huge crew, and highly sophisticated smoke making machinery, the type of thing you see really big Hollywood features use. This version is the Michael Karsh haze machine, which having gotten to know Michael a bit, is, well, appropriate.

TriFlash and Uplite!

My subjects here are Rick Iannucci, and Nancy De Santis, two extraordinary people who devote their own time to a project called Horses for Heroes. In this program, Rick, Nancy and Thomas Wingate work with vets who have come home with physical injuries or combat trauma. I’ve done some pictures over the years out west, working with cowboys, and had the good fortune to get to know Buster Welch, a legendary rancher and cutting horse trainer. His wife, Sheila, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, always told me, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a human being.” That’s exactly what Rick, Nancy and Thomas are proving with these vets. Endorsed by the Purple Heart Association, their work in helping these heroes is remarkable.

Used the Triflash and Uplite in combo to produce some western portraits. Very happy with the results. The Triflash has been made for a while, but in the original version, the points of attachment (cold shoes) were fixed. I suggested ratchets instead. That way, you can swivel your flashguns (Doncha love the way the English call them flashguns? Awesome.) so that the light receptor panels can orient in either exactly the same direction, or close to it. With the fixed cold shoes, all the receptors were at right angles to each other, and TTL line of sight pickup could get rough. Love this thing. I just crank the flashes around till I maximize reception, and it has increased my line of sight working distance for this multi-flash rig by yards and yards. As you can see here, the Triflash is on a stick, and my commander is looped outside the building from the camera via SC-29 cords. Those three lights, firing through a Lastolite 6×6 diffuser, make for the main light. But remember, I got cowboy and cowgirl subjects, and I need to get light under the brim of their hats, and into their eyes.

Enter the Uplite. It’s very diffuse. You can fire your lights through it straight up, or clamp them via a Justin Clamp to the metal riser in the unit and bounce them down to relfect back up. You can vary the intensity of the bounce by zooming your flash heads, or using dome diffusers such as I do here. This provides the soft lift I need to light the eyes. Two small flash light shapers, in combo, and it looks like window light.

Notice I got some sandbags on the Uplite. The winds on location were up, and, like any light shaper, out there in the world, you can very easily stage your own version of America’s Cup, if you’re not careful.

Back to the Triflash, all on its’ own. When I go light and fast, but think I need some power and recycle, lately I just take the Triflash firing through an all-in-one umbrella. Pop it on a paint pole, and you have a mobile, powerful, TTL light with directional sensors. Leave the dome diffusers on, the light gets very wrapped and soft. It’s especially handy if you, say, take a walk in the woods, and you want to travel light. Copper Perry, a terrific makeup artist (she’s one of the HMU folks for Breaking Bad) had this notion of going into the burnt out woods of New Mexico and doing something emotional and primal with D. As usual, D took it to another level, and I basically tagged along with a camera. The light and fast paint pole/Triflash thing is especially handy if your assistant happens to be the ever wonderful Nerissa Escanlar, who is 4′ 10″.

I shot other stuff in the last week as well, and I’ll share that in a Light Shapers Part II and III coming up. Lemme know if you like any of these and the setups…..more tk…..

56 Responses to “Lastolite Light Shapers!”

Richard Haskin says:

on November 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Joe, could you recommend a durable tilting bracket for the Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox ( 24″ x 24″ ) ?

Joe McNally says:

on November 11, 2011 at 7:06 pm

hi richard…good question. dunno, would have to think…I usually use my ezyboxes with C-stands, so I’ve got some durable rotation capability. I’ll look into it, though…good thought..Joe

alexander wang sweatpants says:

on December 15, 2011 at 2:27 am

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了了了了 says:

on December 25, 2011 at 6:56 am


Nicholas says:

on January 3, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Hi Joe. What’s the velcro on the outside of the 24″ Ezybox for?

tom shue says:

on November 10, 2012 at 2:20 am

@Richard Haskin for a Badd Ass tilter, Buy the All Metal Photoflex Heavy-Duty Aluminum Swivel SKU: AC-ALSWMNTB it is the beast of all tilt/swivel brackets. If it is too big, the Manfrotto 026 is hard to beat, it’s all metal but not as big. I use both and they will never fail you.

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