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Phil In the Middle of the Road

Mar 25

In On Location, Seminars & Workshops at 12:45am


It was rush hour last night in Cisco, Utah, so naturally we took the whole workshop onto the middle of the highway. That’s what you do as a photog. When you finally figure out the best angle it is always in the middle of something. Thankfully the rush last night in Cisco consisted of precisely one car, so we weren’t overly obstructionist.

I’m out in the wilds of Utah with my buds Moose and Sharon Peterson, Laurie Excell, Kevin Dobler, Josh Bradley and Brad Moore, all of us working on another edition of the Digital Landscape Workshop Series. It’s cool out here, and we always get into some great locations, thanks to Moose’s encyclopedic knowledge of National Parks, and amazing landscapes in general. It’s gotten so with Moose he should bring around small placards to put up in the best spots. You know those Kodak signs they have at Disney….”take good picture here?!” Moose could put up something similar, except his would read. “Shoot from here with the 14-24mm Nikkor on aperture priority with EV minus one dialed in. Double process the raw, set your black point in NX, move two exposures into blend mode, stack the images and combine them for foreground detail and background drama. Use Epson Ultra Smooth fine art paper for best results.”

I ain’t completely kidding. I’m along for comic relief and to bring out some SB800 units and mess around with what’s left of the daylight. Drug the ever patient Phil out there on the highway and told him to give me that old cowboy, hang dog, she done left me after swindlin’ my money, sleeping with all the neighbors, swipin’ my bible, stealing my pickup and shootin’ my dog kind of look. (All the other stuff woulda been okay but I’m right pissed about the dog.)

It was a tall order, but Phil actually pulled it off quite well. We lit him up via aperture priority mode (minus one EV) and one SB800 camera right, gelled to a warm tone and running through a Lastolite tri-grip one stop diffuser. Red rim light comes from 2 SB units on floor stands in the road, with red gels stuffed in the dome diffusers. Triggered the whole shebang with an SU800 unit hot shoed to the camera. That puppy is pretty effective. Looks like a small version or R2D2 and is a pretty directional, powerful trip for the remote SB flashes. Lens is Laurie’s 24-70 mil. Shot about 5 or 6 frames that worked out okay.

But hey, I’m a little bent out of shape about breakfast. You know, Moose blogged about me the other day and showed a pic of his empty breakfast plate. I wasn’t even in Utah at the time. Well, now I know why. He’s basically cleaned out the Jailhouse Cafe of all their ginger pancakes and now that I’m here I gotta resort to a breakfast of pharmaceuticals.


He’s across the table double ordering bacon, and I’m sitting here with my glucosamine and ginseng. Tomorrow I’ll fix him. I’m gonna order like, 5 omelettes.

Kelvin says:

on March 25, 2008 at 1:45 am

As the first Utard comment poster, I once again welcome you to Utah, Joe.
Phil is very well lit, though I am curious as to how high and how far away you have placed that SB-800 camera right?
Enjoy your eggs, the weather is gonna be great tomorrow.

Mike says:

on March 25, 2008 at 2:57 am

Your commentary is just as wonderful as your photography. Thanks for being an inspiration to those of us who find every reason to snap a shutter.

PS How many batteries do you carry for those SB800s????

John Baxendale says:

on March 25, 2008 at 6:40 am

The image on the RSS feed was from an old posting in my reader, took me a good few minutes of trying to work out the lighting before I realised you were describing a different picture entirely – visiting the site cleared things up a treat! Figured I’d just not had enough coffee yet this morning…

Your blog always makes me chuckle, keep it comin’.

Paul Beiser says:

on March 25, 2008 at 7:29 am

I almost launched my coffee this am reading your blog :-). Your book, btw, is AWESOME, your writing style is incredible, and I learn something every time I read something of yours. Thanks. Be sure to order 5 omlettes!

Paul McEvoy says:

on March 25, 2008 at 8:07 am

Hi Joe,

Lovely Picture.

I have a question for you. What’s the point of the diffuser things, either the lumiquest or the ones that come with nikons? From a lighting theory point of view, shouldn’t they be doing precisely nothing as far as light modifications go, at least in this situation? They are not changing the size of the light in relation to the subject. All I could see them doing here is cutting the flash power, so if you are in TTL I just see the flash pushing itself harder.

I could see that they might have the effect of a barebulb strobe in certain situations, but what are they doing here?

I’m ready to be edumucated. I had a teacher who hated them, and have never recovered. Lately I’ve thought of a couple of situations where they might be useful, but I’d love to hear how and when you use them, and what they are useful for.


Rutgher says:

on March 25, 2008 at 9:23 am

Call me stupid, but the light on Phil’s face is coming from the left, so how’s that you put the flash on the right?

Skunkabilly says:

on March 25, 2008 at 11:23 am

Mr McNally,

Ginger pancakes? That sure sounds tasty.

I’m an ounce-counting hiking/backpacking/climbing type and carry an SB800 and I am triggering my SB’s with my D80’s onboard. I’m the type that weighs all my gear on a postal scale so am wondering if you think it would be worth the extra ounces for an SU800?

Nasir Hamid says:

on March 25, 2008 at 11:47 am

Joe, surely the light through the tri-grip is coming from camera left? The red light is camera right. I’m wondering if you shot with the SB800’s on TTL or manual? I really like the SU-800 unit but I wish you could manually select in-between ratios instead of jumping in full stops from 1/8 to 1/16 to 1/32 etc.


trunkmonkey says:

on March 25, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Mr. McNally, you best watch out for all the lawsuits stemming from coffee being spewed out on computer screens. this phenomenon seems to be a frequent occurrence and seems to be catching.

Also, i’m a bit surprised i’ve not seen any of Denny’s finest meals being photographed here.

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