Joe McNally, God of Flashery

When I heard that Joe was having a one day lighting workshop in New York, I was sold.  Actually, when I found out he had a 5 day workshop in the tropical paradise known as St. Lucia I was sold then too.  I just didn’t have any money…  But a one day workshop that’s an hour’s drive from where I live?  I’m there!

Who’s Joe?  You know, Joe McNally! God of Flashery (at least that’s what I’m calling him), author of  The Moment it Clicks and The Hotshoe Diaries.  “Okay,” you say, “there are plenty of really talented photographers out there.  What’s so special about Joe?”  You mean besides his amazing portfolio working with National Geographic, LIFE, Sports Illustrated, and on and on?  Hmmm okay, fair question..  Maybe it’s his likeable New Yorker personality (you definitely can’t say that about all New Yorkers..)  Or it could be his knack for telling great stories.  Or perhaps it’s his openness to share his years of accumulated knowledge and wisdom.  But what took me aback was that for someone so accomplished, Joe is hilariously self-effacing.  And through all the stories he tells, it’s just clear he’s made of the same skin and bones as the rest of us.  That’s strangely reassuring..

Well anyways, when I walked in that glorious morning to see a warehouse full jam packed with lighting equipment, I knew I was in for a treat..

And that’s not even all of them.  There were these monstrous umbrella-like diffusers 4 or so meters in diameter in an adjacent hallway.

Attendee: “Joe, what ya need those for??”
Joe: “Outta everyone here, I got the biggest umbrellas.  *pause* Excuse me while I have a manly moment…”

I love it!

Anyways, Joe and crew had some beautiful models come in and a few talented (serious understatement) makeup artists.  Combine that with a dingy warehouse setting and we’ve got the makings of something incredible.  Now all we need is a dash of good light (or a truck full -your choice) and a photographer to masterfully simmer the ingredients together into a blended work of art.  Oh yes.  You better believe Joe delivered on all counts in spades, baby.

I was amazed at the efficiency of it all.  Big compliments to the crew that made the day flow like water!  Joe will be in one corner directing a model while simultaneously teaching to us what he’s doing and why. And then once he’s nailed the shot, he’s off to another corner of the room starting all over again.  Meanwhile, whoever wanted to hang back can take full advantage of the previous lighting setup.  Many of the pictures here show case the stations that he’s concocted on the fly, and a few of them are from when we were given freedom to work with the models.  Takin’ the wheels for a spin so to speak.  The flashes, not the models!  Okay, horrible analogy.

Overall, I’m really impressed that Joe really pushed himself to keep moving.  If we didn’t get through everything, none of us would’ve known the difference.  But throughout the day I would overhear Joe talking to members on his team about how they had to move faster to bring to us everything he had in mind to share with us.  Wow.  What’s not to love about this guy?

I’ll eventually get around to writing a blog post about the technical aspects that I learned.  I figure it’s just too much to write about it here, so for fellow photographers interested, consider the pictures here a sneak peek!  None of these pictures touched Photoshop.  Only minor tweaks in Lightroom.

Thanks for visiting!  More to come…

Can you seeee the light!?

Nope. But I guess that’s why they call it “flash”. But I understand how to use it a lot better now =)

Roughly a month ago I had a chance to go to Canon’s EOS Speedlite Workshop with Bob Davis. First of all, I have to say Bob is really a great teacher. I fired off a bunch of questions that day and he very graciously answered all of them. He’s got a workshop coming up and from my single day experience with him at the Canon workshop, I can only imagine what a blast his own two day workshop will be!

I’m a bit surprised that I actually don’t have too many photos to share, but here they are!

Bob giving us a quick demo of flash limitations in noon day light

It’s a weird feeling being surrounded by others who also understand all the technical jargon and equipment.. This is one of the first photography workshops I’ve been to so I’m not used to that yet.

The next two photos I snapped with a single Speedlite through a softbox. Nice, soft, even light even in indoor lighting conditions.

The next two are macro ring shots:

One light camera left with a spot grid

The side light really brings out the texture in the flat scene.

Speedlite shot through a water bottle to give the light some character

To the photogs out there

Going in, I think I had a pretty solid technical grasp of the Canon Speedlite system, but I definitely picked up a lot of hard won tips and a lot of confirmed hunches. I’ll rattle off a few:

  • Canon’s Custom WB (where you set the WB to a white wall) seems to go too cool for flesh tones
  • Adobe’s default handling of Canon’s RAW color profiles seems to mess up the yellow/orange colors
  • Usually dial in a Flash EC of +1/3 to +2/3. Otherwise the scene tends to come out underexposed

Probably the biggest thing walking out is getting a solid knowledge and experience on how to use my Canon 580EX I & II’s. I just wish they had a better interface than that darned LCD and convoluted sequence of buttons!! The ST-E2 is a big step up but c’mon Canon, no ‘C’ group? No manual control? Seriously?

That’s all! A quickie post -thanks for visiting!

Related Links

  • Find Canon Workshops here. (Click on the calendar after the page has loaded)
  • Visit Bob Davis’ blog