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

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!”

JayM says:

on July 25, 2011 at 8:26 am

Sold! Just ordered the new Tri-Flash bracket. Love the design – have been wanting something like this for a while. Hopefully I’ll get people asking ME if I’m Joe. ;-)

Jennifer Farris says:

on July 25, 2011 at 8:33 am

Thank you so much. I swear I learn more from your blog than anything else I read. And I saw the cowgirl image in an earlier blog and was curious about how you worked the light, it’s fantastic. I live and grew up in the Southwest so these images are a natural draw for me. Again, thank you. Great post.

Libby says:

on July 25, 2011 at 8:36 am

It’s great to have you as a voice for practical solutions. Looks like he Skylight product will serve me well for some projects I have in mind. I really should grab the Uplight too as I usually concoct something similar out of cardboard. Like a box cut on angle with paper taped over it. Hey, it works.

BTW, that Justin Clamp – I never leave home without it. Gracious Thanks!

hd says:

on July 25, 2011 at 8:58 am

The McNally Range — should be the name of some mountains in Alaska. Or Ireland for that matter.

Small flash + big gear — Why bother with the small flashes when you have sandbags and c-stands and huge diffusers — isn’t it kind of a joke? Would using “real” lights add that much to the ton of gear you travel with?

Don’t get me wrong, please. I love your blog and your photos and your willingness to share (while building huge market share, btw). Congrats on all that… but… the small flash thing. That’s for me — carrying the gear by myself, hoping to manage to pull something wonderful out of the hat with a camera, two lenses, three pocket wizards and two small flashes in my backpack.

(Small) power to you, Mr. McN!

Joe McNally says:

on July 25, 2011 at 9:20 am

Geez, a mountain range in Ireland! That’d be cool:-)

Steve Wylie says:

on July 25, 2011 at 9:26 am

Gotta get the Skylight. I’ve been meaning to use this setup for awhile now, but combining the flash rig along with the panel on the same stand is a great idea. Much better for those of us who work alone without assistants to lug multiple C-stands around to locations. Thanks, Joe! (BTW, I just got the standard Tri-Flash last week, and now you come up with a better, ratcheting version THIS week….)

Keith I says:

on July 25, 2011 at 9:28 am

I bought my 24″ EzyBox (silver lined) right before your white one was officially released! I even knew it was coming thanks to you showing it to us in New Hampshire for DLWS. Darn my impatience. Keep on them to keep making their products even better. I know I am very happy with the multitude of gear I seem to acquire thanks to your “What’s in Joe’s bag” link.

Derik Gutowski says:

on July 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

HD – On the surface, your criticism seems fair, but you are only looking at the setup side of the equation. These portraits were captured with TTL, which means he never had to meter the light, and wasn’t tied down to one specific place in the location. If he wanted to back up 5 feet or get 5 feet closer to the light, the metering is still spot on. Theoretically, he could have positioned his subject to cover the ding in the wall and had no post processing, which is manna to someone who loves being behind their camera instead of the computer.

Scott Bromley says:

on July 25, 2011 at 10:45 am

Thanks Joe….just what I need, more gear to spend money on!!! :) Seriously though that Uplite looks great and I will be purchasing one soon.

Rob Oresteen says:

on July 25, 2011 at 11:27 am

Wow…incredible…I had to look at the set for minute then the light came on (no pun intended).

I don’t have any flashguns so i will get an up lighter and try this with my bee’s…

Thank you Joe for the great and free seminar…

Win says:

on July 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

Hey Joe,

Thank you for sharing the great info. I always find your setup photos and funny comic drawings are very helpful. So, please keep posting them on the blog. BTW, I called my local pro photo store on the other day to ask if they have a Justin Clamp in stock. They told me to call my local hardware store. I think you need to visit Pacific NW more often, Joe, to educate people what a Justin clamp is.

Arnold says:

on July 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Joe, do you know if 3 tt5 pocket wizards will fit on the triflash?

Kristina Jacob says:

on July 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm

See Joe? All I needed at Vern’s for DLWS was a height extender! ;-)


Scott says:

on July 25, 2011 at 5:11 pm

What I want to know is how the heck Mitchosky got the first comment on this post? Is there a leak somewhere in the McNally camp….?

hd says:

on July 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Fair enough, Derik, nothing like TTL… but… not exactly necessary when you have a bunch of people on set who have set up all that gear for your shot… as a Canon shooter, maybe I’m just jealous. I do know for sure that Joe’s a talented photographer who’s worked hard since the moment he first clicked…

Joe Howe says:

on July 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Hey Joe
Next thing you know Nikon will introduce the ‘D4-Joe McNally Edition’.
Congrats, Looks like good stuff!

Joe McNally says:

on July 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm

thanks man…it’s kinda cool…more stuff in the wings…Joe

Allan Jackson says:

on July 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Gorgeous pictures Joe. Your Tri-flash sounds great but the Gods are not smiling on me because I just paid out for the ordinary one. It hasn’t even reached me in the mail and I’ve already got a severe case of buyer’s remorse!!!

By the way, didn’t you work on the TTL pocket wizards? Can’t say that I remember seeing your review of them?

Joe McNally says:

on July 26, 2011 at 4:43 am

Yep, got the TTL pocket wizards. Still messin with them…..work in progress….and will let you know…joe

Mike Simons says:

on July 26, 2011 at 8:37 am

Awesome, Joe – and the set-up pics are great to have along for the ride, too. Would you ever take/post snaps illustrating how you build the light — show the cowgirl before, then after, the Uplite? No under-brim fill, then the whole shebang? The description is excellent — seeing it happening would be great, as I use some of your images and explanation with high school students of mine here in New York.

Keep ‘em coming!

Bill says:

on July 26, 2011 at 10:25 am

Beautiful lighting, as always! Thanks for being so willing to share. Quick question though. Why not just duct tape the diffusion material to the window instead of using the frame and two c-stands? Much faster to set up, lighter to carry, and would work equally well. Just curious.

Gregg Heckler says:

on July 26, 2011 at 10:27 am

Great stuff one more time Joe. I understand your love and support for Lastolite and Nikon, I love them too. But I also know you use Elinchrom as well and I was curious why you wouldn’t use a tool like the Ranger Quadra for power hungry applications shooting through a large Skylight? A lot more power and only one light to set up. Looking forward to the next one.

James Spencer says:

on July 26, 2011 at 11:46 am

There’s a McNally opticians in Ireland, that’s as close we come to a famous McNally :) Loved this style of shot from the Hot Shoe Diaries, that extra uplight really finishes it off nicely :)

Michael says:

on July 26, 2011 at 11:52 am

What a grate idea for the Rotating Triflash, i have the regular Triflash, it is nice to have more power, and faster recycle time, but not having the rotating feature sometimes makes me about ready to throe it right out the window, if I’m in a nice wight room, (the same color as my padded
sell) its fine but out in the open its a pain when you can git only 1 out of 3 to trip.

Grate post Joe..

Joe McNally says:

on July 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

def. a good solution Bill…to seal the window, we would have needed a ladder for the tape idea, so we just went with C-stands…Joe

Bill says:

on July 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I knew there was a reason! Thanks.

Tom Kostes says:

on July 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

So…. Are you Joe McNally?

Daniel says:

on July 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I would love to see a pulled back shot with the light set up and the model (cowboy/girl) in place. Thanks for posting! I am going to get that trihead for sure.

Scotty B says:

on July 26, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Damn it, Joe…..had just saved up enough money that I thought I could take the wife & kiddo on vacation….and now it all has to go to more light shapers! But……I……just…..gotta…..have……em!!!!!!
Now, to look in the want ads for a 3rd job to pay for that Nikon D4 McNally edition that guy was talking about! (Let’s see, at $8.25 an hour before taxes….I should have it by….yep, 2067!)

Aaron Wulf - Become A Photographer says:

on July 26, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Love seeing how you set things up, Joe. These behind-the-scenes shots are SO eye-opening and informative.

Question: Is the Michael Karsh Haze Machine available at B&H or Adorama? And will they ship it ground? =)

Hope you’re well,

Tim Worms says:

on July 27, 2011 at 12:37 am

Joe, you talked about a haze machine and linked to another photographer. Does he actually create and sell a haze machine? I’ve been looking at local stores and have yet to find anything of the kind. I’d love to get one for some added depth in portraits.

Glyn Dewis says:

on July 27, 2011 at 1:17 am

Great post Joe and really useful to see the kit in use; another purchase coming me thinks :)

I see you mentioned about using the PocketWizard Mini, Flex etc…really interested to see what your thoughts are on these guys when you have time.

All the best to you,

MP Singh says:

on July 27, 2011 at 6:22 am

Thanks Joe…. you are GSII
Great source of info and information.
best !

Brittan McGinnis says:

on July 27, 2011 at 10:41 am

Great stuff Joe thanks for the post!

Chris says:

on July 27, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I received an All-In-One umbrella by Lastolite today and it’s kool. I like their ideas to put many things together to get something like an utility knife. :)
But the TriFlash is too small! I mean, the LightwareDirect FourSquare Block can hold up to 8 flashguns – that’s awesome! Also their FourSquare Softbox is so kool!
Maybe Lastolite would develop something like that so it’d be easier to purchase it in Germany or EU in general (imports from the US are so costly).
Wouldn’t that also be a great tool for the Joe McNally range! Go tell Lastolite Joe! =)

viscara says:

on July 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm

These are great photos and I do not put down the great skills of Joe but seriously this is just one be “Product” indorsement to sell 4 and 5 SB900′s or Canon 580′s… Why in the world would you use 5 pocket flashes “Unless it was extremely” neccessary in some remote location with no power. All when one studio head would run circles around those 5 sb900 flashes for even less money to boot! only reason to shoot something with the pocket flashes is to make a big product endorsement. Not wallet wise or logical in the least! 3 and 4 pocket flashes hanging on a pole in the air and if one just falls there goes 450 bucks? Not to mention the slow recycle times and all those batteries to constantly charge? NO Thanks. Short of packing my own gear down into the amazon on my backpack I would never choose these tools!

viscara says:

on July 27, 2011 at 7:25 pm

p.s. This entire lesson is no reflection on the lastolite products I have used them they are great. But to shoot constantly with “Multiple” 450 dollar pocket flashes in place of a powerful single studio flash head is down right a waste of money and actually a lot of “Time” locking down all those pocket flashes slaving them up and charging that many batteries “then set dies out” gotta change them in mid shoot “Clients Love that”… This is purely bad advice or more like a one big Product endorsement. I mean if once in a while Joe was to be demonstrating these “Great setups by the way” with something other than pocket flashes I would believe these tutorials are more than a plug for big Camera equipment makers. If you really want to teach something useful get these people not to be afraid to use the actually “Simpler” studio heads and manual exposers and control instead of all this ETTL pocket flash control stuff. Joe through in a few lessons with how the “Commercial shooters” really shoot things not with pocket flashes razzeling the new starry eyed photogs that are starting out and dont know better. I love your ideas and things you shot but these examples are not in the rainforest crawling down in a cave 100 miles from no where. You can use a outlet and plug in 1 or the 2 studio lights you need to get the job done fast and with the “Power” you need most of the time.

Richard Garrow says:

on July 28, 2011 at 8:27 am

Hi Joe,
Thanks for posting all this great information, as always I really enjoy your input. I will look into these new products as well. Who wouldn’t like to be asked if they were Joe McNally, the hard part would be to say no.. But as I am bald I guess I would not get asked.. LOL.. I would be really interested in your thoughts on the Pocket Wizard I just purchased the entire set, but still having a few problems working them in with the old PW II Plus so any information you could pass on to the group would be greatly appreciated. The new Site is Great as well.
Thanks for all the help I really enjoy your work..

Levi Sim says:

on July 28, 2011 at 11:42 am

Love the setups, love the pictures, love the gear. Keep it coming, and keep nagging the makers. Heck, start a petition when you think we need a new tool and we’ll overload them with desire!

vincent says:

on July 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Like, Like?? awsome stuff.

Thanks for your post!

Jim child says:

on July 29, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I just can’t stop laughing. Not more can be said about your photography. But the writing…you crack me up!

Mallury says:

on July 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Hi Joe,

Your work and blog are beyond inspiring. I hope to earn something a step or two above my D90, and start to stretch my comfort zones. Thanks for sharing and educating.

JayM says:

on July 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

Got my Triflash. Very well made, solid. The knobs are all top quality and easy to turn. Plus the screws to tighten the shoes and umbrella are big and knurled rather than being little and dainty. The rotation on the individual shoes is very tight and solid so you can set and forget without worrying about movement. However, all is not rosy (at least with my sample):

1) The cold shoe screws should be captive. Take care when using them not to loosen too much else the clamp, and springs, can pop out. Shouldn’t need much movement to accommodate a flash anyway so no biggie, except…

2) Three of my five Nikon speedlights won’t fit in the shoes! One out of two SB-600′s will, as will my SB-900. No joy on either of my SB-800′s. The fixed slots of the cold shoes are too thin to accept the flash plate regardless of which side you enter from (fine on the clamp sides). Given that Joe is a Nikon shooter I am operating under the assumption that something is off on my copy and have reported back to Lastolite. If anyone else has had similar issues (or none at all) please advise. I want to play!

Ted Washington says:

on July 30, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Next time you talk to the guys at Lastolite, see if they can do something to prevent the Ezybox from detaching for the mounting ring in the slightest breeze. Works fine inside but becomes a kite in the slightest wind.

Joe McNally says:

on July 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hi Jay…I just put my remaining SB 800 units on there, and they work fine. Jumped up and down, shook it around, and they are on there really well. You’re right about the clamps…as with all spring clamps, don’t unscrew them too far! Those little springs will get away from you. Best, Joe

R says:

on August 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Beware, I discovered the 24″ was actually 21″. When brought to the attention of the company and the reseller, the reseller basically said too bad you have been using it.

Johan Sopiee says:

on August 1, 2011 at 7:48 pm

JoeMcNallyStrobistProducts!! i want 1.. err.. 12 would be better! yay!

Doğum Fotoğrafçısı says:

on September 5, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Cowboys’ dramatic light feels quite tidy and original look. Thanks for sharing great info.

Work Photography says:

on September 22, 2011 at 7:24 am

I would like to point out my gratitude for your kindness in support of folks who have the need for guidance on this subject matter. Your personal dedication to passing the message all over appears to be quite good and have specifically encouraged guys just like me to achieve their desired goals. Your entire important information indicates this much to me and substantially more to my peers. Thanks a lot; from all of us.

Eloisa Curro says:

on November 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm

wow, awesome post, I was asking yourself precisely the same issue. and found your site by google, discovered a whole lot, now i have got some strategy. I??ve bookmark your web page and also add rss. maintain us updated.

Leave a Reply