Archive for the ‘Lighting’ Category
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.
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.
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…..
Heading home from Santa Fe. Again, thanks to all for this very hectic week on the blog, with the new site posting, and all the comments. It’s been terrific. Thanks to Drew, Mike Cali, and Lynda Peckham at the studio. I’ve been doing this a long time, and those poor folks went through lots of pictures.
Next week, I’ll be posting some new results from a line of light shaping tools I worked to develop with Lastolite. They’re pretty cool, and I worked this past couple weeks pretty intensively with them. An example below….
I used the rubber stamp tool to clone out a tiny nick in the wall of the background. (I know, I know, I’m getting fancy with the post production stuff….) But other than that, nothing. This is the quality of light right out of the camera, which I’m pretty happy with. TTL, small flash solution. More tk…..
Finishing up a week long lighting class. I’m only teaching one more week of lighting for the rest of this year, in St. Lucia. One of the biggest reasons I return to Santa Fe is re-connecting with the model community down here, many of whom have become my dear friends over the years. Deidre, who I once described as a “one woman Cirque du Soleil,” and I have worked together for about nine years. I’m writing a story in my new book called “Working with D.” It’s really about building trust, and the collaboration of imagination. So, when I ask her if she has any crazy fashion duds with her (she always does) and would she mind climbing up on an industrial strength boiler in an abandoned electrical plant, she simply says “Yes!”
Lighting here is simple stuff. Almost all the gear was out in the field with the lighting teams, so I built a soft box out of a big umbrella and a Lastolite 6×6 diffuser. Fill is two SB-900 units banged off a silver reflector on the ground. She did the hard part.
Earlier in the week I showed the class a bit about putting lights far away, and up close. An Elinchrom Ranger is out in the parking lot, and that in turn is driving two units up front, a deep Octa, and an SB-900 in a ring flash. The light outside is gelled warm, and we just played with the power on the inside lights. I keep changing the ratio virtually every frame, just to show the class how small, incremental power shifts, along with juggling shutter speed and f-stops can have powerful effects on the feel of the photo. Almost never shoot more than one frame of any combo, so the dozen frames I shoot end up being a bit of a mess, but Yvette saved the day here with a beautiful expression.
Never had this much fun with pushpins, I tell ya. 29 cities, spread all over the U.S. Numnuts with his TTL high wire act jumping on a bus with Captain Manual, aka Strobist, aka St. David of Baltimore. We’re gonna converge on Seattle on March 11, pack a bunch of speed lights into the hold of a bus, and just roll from there. Go to this website for the straight skinny on the whole shebang.
David does manual. I do TTL. It was always gonna come to this, right? Packed on board the bus with us are Drew Gurian, Grippi, Cali, and of course, Jeff Snyder of Adorama, which is the major sponsor of the tour. Geez, I wonder if the bus runs on methane? Our saving grace will be road manager Karen Lenz. She will, I think, keep the bus from being a zoo on wheels.
Kidding aside, there’s gonna be a great day of teaching at each stop. David does the morning shift, showing manual flash, and creating buzz by adding and subtracting lights. He’s going to concentrate a bit on the “why” of light, which is something a lot of shooters don’t actually think about all that much in the midst of just doing light. I take over in the afternoon, go TTL, walk the plank, see if it works, push the system and fire lights from way far away. Both David and I have been on the beta team for the new Pocket Wizard Flex-Mini’s, and this tour is a big time rollout for them. The units rock, and the envelope of all small flash, TTL and otherwise, just got a whole bunch bigger with these puppies coming into their own.
So go to the site, www.theflashbus.com. I’ve been a bit of a cartoon my whole life. Now it’s official. More tk….
Pushpin photography by Mike Cali.
When I wrote yesterday of Melissa leaping into the big Octa, that was what she was doing. I should have been more clear, ’cause there were a couple questions about the light. There is a backlight as well. Didn’t mention it ’cause it wasn’t the main, and I was so tired when I wrote that blog that my head was about to hit the keyboard. That would have been embarrassing. Might have even hit the publish button in that instance and the whole blog would have read…..zzzzzzzppppppppppppwwwwwwwww…
So, to be more precise, the backlight here is the big Rotilux strip light, also an indirect softbox, along the lines of the Octa, just long and skinny. To get more punch out of it, as it is firing from a good distance, we stripped the diffuser off of it, and simply used it undiffused, bouncing off of the interior skin of the box. That brightens the quality of the rear highlight off Mel. So effectively, she is bracketed by these two big light sources.
Also didn’t mean to suggest that the big Octa solves all your problems in the field. If there were a softbox like that, or even a pill like that, I would have taken it long ago. It’s just one of those lights, you know, that is so broad and so beautiful, that well, you put it up and most of the time your subject gets a ticket to dreamland.
Here’s another from the weekend.
We threw this together fairly quickly on stage. Will’s light is a strip light as well, but a small strip, about 1×2 foot, with an egg crate dropped over it, thus corralling the light pretty tightly. Background is an SB900 firing on SU-4 mode, and driving off the pop of the strip, which is has a Quadra head in it. Third light provides the glow on his hands, and that is another SB900 on SU-4 mode, just flicking lightly off a gold Tri-grip reflector laying on the floor to camera right. Wanted to go with gold in this instance to provide a little color vibration with the blue tones of the background.
The light shaper for the background is a wooden cargo pallet we found on the loading dock. We put it up on an angle, zoomed the 900 unit to 200mm (very punchy) and gelled it with a deep theatrical blue gel. Bang, the background gets a touch interesting.
Still in Canada. It was beautiful in Vancouver yesterday, but I’m shooting outside today, so it’s bound to be raining….more tk….