Bus_Rider_Mexico_NS306AGirl_in_Doorway_NS307AIronman_Underwater_newAMcNally_283_G_v3 copyA copyRwanda-Pano_NS026.tif
responsiveslider_lol_02 The Language of Light DVD - More
MeetJoe_02 Meet Joe McNally - More
inthebag What’s in the Bag? - More

Profoto at the Opera!

Jun 26

In Jobs, Lighting at 2:35pm

It is always advisable to travel light going into China. It is a country of many rules and regulations, and that age old photog ethic of “Damn the rules I’m here to make pictures!” can be blunted a bit if displayed to the wrong, say, customs official. Hence, I was exceedingly grateful that Profoto USA, Sweden and China all pulled together and offered the assistance of a strobe package for my latest visit.

The city of Beijing is a fascinating place, filled with practitioners of ancient and time honored art forms, such as Chinese opera. I was very lucky to work with these actors and actresses for a few hours.

I was using mostly B1 units, for the first time. First experience in the field, for me, with these guys, was all positive. They’re not just good, they’re terrific. Solid state, built like a little armored vehicle of light, and just locked on in terms of the getting the signal from the air remote. (I always approach the transceivers, signalers, radio remotes, or smoke signal system associated with specific lighting brands with a bit of trepidation. In some instances, it feels like an afterthought, and performs like one. No worries on these. Even at distance, reception was reliable.)

For the basic light setup, I had a 4×6 RFi soft box overhead of camera, and a 2×2 under for beauty fill. As I backed off, to incorporate the actors in their staid, traditional poses and stage personae I noticed the ornate ceiling of the theater was going black. I put one B1 back there and just banged it into the ceiling, and it had more than enough juice to bring out the detail.

All the above were shot at one second on a D800E, which is a super resolved, sharp camera. Hence I really relied on the power of the flashes to chisel out the details. In the tight beauty portrait above, for instance, the right side of the frame does have the vapor of motion about it, which I ended liking in that instance. But most of the time I’m keeping my tripod steady, and encouraging the actors to make their moves, and then hold, hold, hold.

I love working over in Beijing. The folks I work for are pretty exacting in what they want, but you also get to have fun as well, such as with a legendary chef and his helpers in a famed duck restaurant. Below, I’m just blasting some B1 light through a shoot thru umbrella, working fast, and hoping to get out of this busy kitchen’s way before the chef decided to take a cleaver to the annoying photographer.

I learned a lot on the trip, and had a blast with, what was for me, some new lighting gear. I’ll be continuing to experiment, which at the end of the day, is what a career as a shooter is all about.

Quick note: Tomorrow, Friday, I’m in Seattle teaching The Power of One Flash Tour for KelbyOne. I’ll be using B1 units on stage for the first time, which again, is a new wrinkle for me, and it should be fun.

More tk…

24 Responses to “Profoto at the Opera!”

Francois Nadeau says:

on June 26, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Hi Joe,
beautiful pictures as usual!!! .And i completly agree with you, for being there for the same event as you, that the chinese folks are fun to work with. I had a blast myself.
Take care

Steve Schuenke says:

on June 26, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Hadn’t heard that the B1s were available for Nikon yet, so you must have an early copy. I’m assuming you were using them in TTL mode — did you have much trouble filling that ceiling in the hall under TTL?

Robert Emunds says:

on June 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Joe, would you be able to get these shots if you had used small flash (like SB 910)? I’m trying to study their use as much as I can, thanks to you various tutorials, love you work. Thanks. PS – any chance of a workshop in Brazil this year?

Brad Mathews says:

on June 26, 2014 at 9:33 pm

As with my last input regarding the LOL, It’s about the light and knowing how to use the gear, any gear that can make it happen. Thus you have the Joe McNally photo!!! By experience if he just had a candle and two rocks to spark the flame, He would put his head down and shake it just a little, then he would say let’s do this, maybe say woof as the flame was sparked and he would end up with the quintessential image and simply say! just like I planned it!!!! (Inside voice: It worked!!!!). As always he’s just a shooter, but what a shooter he is!!!

Brad Matthews says:

on June 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm

It’s time I spelled my own name correctly Matthews with 2 TT LoL

Jon Tiffin says:

on June 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

Howdy Joe!,
Always a pleasure getting your posts, truly enjoy your style and humor. As a forever student I indeed learn from your writings and images, I find great value in what you have to say. This is my first posting to your blog comments and is simply a need for clarification. As a fellow Profoto user I’ve been waiting for Profoto to announce the addition of Air triggers for us Nikon guys. It appeared that Nikon was withholding the unique ones and zeros that Profoto was needing to allow Nikon cameras to utilize TTL (or even non-TTL) communication with Air triggers.

I’ve been holding off on the B1 kit pending Nikon and Profoto playing nice with each other in the all things technology sandbox. If an elaboration could be dispatched I’d be grateful.

Best and much appreciative,
-jon

Donald says:

on June 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

You mentioned the [brand specific] transceiver trepidation in your article, which lends to my curiosity. What trigger & receiver did you use with your Nikon D800e and the B1s, Joe?

Samantha Hadlock says:

on June 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm

I absolutely love your work, Joe. I’m at the beginning of my career but I am confident that one day I’ll be taking shots like you. Your work is intriguing and original! Thank you for sharing. You are truly great at what you do.

David Apeji says:

on June 27, 2014 at 8:19 pm

How does this affect your long-standing relationship with Elinchrom?

Tim Bradley says:

on June 28, 2014 at 12:21 am

Joe,
Thanks for coming to Seattle. I learned so much today. I’m glad my idea for your new book is in the works, it will be great reading. One of the main points was watching your rapport with you models. You took the time to make them feel comfortable with you. You took the edge off.

Thanks again for signing your book and allowing me to have a photo with you.
Regards,
Tim

Damian says:

on June 28, 2014 at 8:13 am

Mr. Mcnally (or if you let me, dear Joe): is always a pleasure reading your blog. (Please excuse me for my basic english). Your photos are amazing!!!!!. Is not only the lighting but the colours, details, enviroment and characters.
In this case ¿ did you used the profoto B1 with TTL for nikon or did you fired them in manual mode?.
Hope to see you soon in Argentina!!!

My admiration

Ken Mendoza says:

on June 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Hi Joe,

I am fascinated to hear what is your take of the pros & cons of using the B1 versus Tri-flash-type setups, I have used the B1 in over 15 weddings this season, mostly in Yosemite National Park, where in the past, I’d have to use 3 or more Speedlites. My experience is for Ceremony, I use speedlites and for everything else, I prefer the ease and power of the B1. Over the years, I have come to use mostly Elinchrom light shapers, from your online recommendations. And now with the B1, I use a Profoto speedring adapter and have the best of all worlds: Elinchrom Light Shapers with Profoto B1! No more heavy Quadra batteries for me! Anyway, I will be closely following your journey incorporating new lighting technology into your photography. I can’t thank you enough for the contributions you have made to my photography and the never ending process of learning the “Language of Light”.

Lindsay says:

on June 29, 2014 at 12:47 am

These pictures are great!

Graeme Williams says:

on June 29, 2014 at 3:14 am

WOW! I just love these images Joe! I’m pleased you have tried the B1′s – I’m a Profoto D1 user and am saving like mad to get a set B1′s for myself. You using them (along no doubt with your/my trusty Nikon speedlights ) is a fantastic endorsement for my plan… :)

Richard Lopez says:

on June 29, 2014 at 9:49 am

Hi Joe,
Great stuff. I’m just wondering, are the Profoto B1′s TTL compatible with Nikon yet?

Ken Mendoza says:

on June 30, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Hi Joe,

I am fascinated to hear what is your take of the pros & cons of using the B1 versus Tri-flash-type setups, I have used the B1 in over 15 weddings this season, mostly in Yosemite National Park, where in the past, I’d have to use 3 or more Speedlites. My experience is for Ceremony, I use speedlites and for everything else, I prefer the ease and power of the B1. Over the years, I have come to use mostly Elinchrom light shapers, from your online recommendations. And now with the B1, I use a Profoto speedring adapter and have the best of all worlds: Elinchrom Light Shapers with Profoto B1! No more heavy Quadra batteries for me! Anyway, I will be closely following your journey incorporating new lighting technology into your photography. I can’t thank you enough for the contributions you have made to my photography and the never ending process of learning the “Language of Light”.

Joe McNally says:

on June 30, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Not yet, Richard, assume they will be coming down the pike sometime or other, though…Joe

Joe McNally says:

on June 30, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Hi Damian…these were straight up manual!

Joe McNally says:

on June 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I used the Profoto Air Remote system, Donald and it worked great. Not always the case, as I’m sure you know….lots of systems out there have gaps in performance, but this one was really solid. Joe

Joe McNally says:

on June 30, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Hi Steve…no TTL yet. Straight up manual remote. The air remotes worked great…Joe

Joe McNally says:

on June 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Hey Ken…thanks for the kind words. Yep, the B1 stuff works great, and is a good partner to speedlights. I’m looking forward to playing with all sorts of combinations of the these guys, and see where it takes me….best, Joe

Ken Mendoza says:

on June 30, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Hey Joe, one last thing think you might find interesting. I remembered from my first days using DSLRs,I had a Nikon D70 that had an electromechanical shutter that would sync at 1/500 of a second, but if you used a sync chord it would sync at well over 1/1000 second! The B1 happens to have a very fast flash duration and even has a freeze mode that is even faster. SO I thought that if I used the B1 Air Remote I could shoot my 85mm 1.4 wide open in broad daylight. Well, it works! I can reliably get flash sync at 1/1600 of a second with a D70 I purchased on Ebay for $75. The funny thing is that my clients are specifically pointing out these photos as their favs. 6MP is surprisingly fine, if one shoots tight and doesn’t crop. Thought, you’d be interested. Cheers!

Todd Brown says:

on July 1, 2014 at 8:11 am

My Grandpa would always say, once the 4th was over, “it’s all downhill from here kids.” Like you Joe, my shoulders would slump and I’d try my best not to think about it. Trying not to think about it also included not looking at the daily newspaper, already filled with “Back to School” sales ads. But that’s pretty hard to do when you’re a paper boy.

Greg McConaughey says:

on July 2, 2014 at 8:39 am

Can you expand a little on the restrictions going into China? I’m spending a couple of weeks in Tian and Beijing in March and I would like to maximize the opportunity without any ugly surprises.

BTW – I was at the Seattle class and loved the presentation. Had a good chuckle with Thelma and Louise. They were good sports.

Leave a Reply