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Apr 8

In Lighting at 7:58am

Some folks have asked for a couple of lighting diagrams of stuff that has been up on the blog, so here goes.

Shaft o’ lite… wall, no context.

Wall Color…..2 SB 800s on the floor open up detail and color. Only shot a couple frames here, and moved the EV dial around a lot, but I think we were at plus one or so. The units are literally just laying on the junk pile on the floor in front of camera. Nothing fancy, just a little blow of light, pushing it at the wall from a low angle.

Cowboy Phil…..this is shot right after Phil realized his pickup was missing, hence the mildly mournful look.

As you can see, the SB unit is high and camera left, basically in profile light position. Ran it through a hand held one stop Lastolite tri-grip diffuser, and got the diffuser just off the camera frame, as close as I could get it. The two SB units to camera right are on floor stands, on the tarmac, hitting him from low and slightly behind him. Gelled with red, running at a pretty seriously minus EV, as I recall. Kinda fun. Again, only shot a few frames and moved on. If I stuck with it and finished it, I might have brought the red lights higher and maybe used only one. Right now I got a bit of light wrapping around his shoulder and clipping his ear.Think that’s okay. If the camera side of his face was completely dead, dunno if I would like that. But, if on assignment for a mag, I surely would have pursued a couple of options for different looks. Come to think of it, keeping that light off Phil’s ear might have been a job and a half. I mean, Phil’s a great guy, but he’s got ears that belong on a basset hound.


Mentioned the other day we had a bunch of our DLWS buds in group A mode with SB800 strobes. Think it was twelve, which is pretty substantial for one of the groups, and I joshed about how it might be a record. No way, of course. You can push this stuff, though. The plane shot above was done in the era of SB80, SB50, SB30 technology, with some SB26 units thrown in for good measure. I believe we used 53 units. Lit the plane, the pilot, the cockpit, the maintenance cart, the cargo hold, the engines, and the background hangar. Brought in the fire truck for a nice wet runway, and kept my fingers crossed.

Damned if it didn’t work. No radio triggers. Everything is line of sight internal slave eye trip. Here’s the diagram:-)

Ivan says:

on April 8, 2008 at 8:46 am

Well, the one with the air plane is just sick 😀

Tom Hohl says:

on April 8, 2008 at 8:57 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you! It is sometimes very hard to understand how you do these cool shots without more detailed info. Sometimes pros tend to think that we mortals can read your minds (my wife often thinks the same way).

Johnny Yuma says:

on April 8, 2008 at 9:04 am

If I ever feel the need to light a ‘big ass plane’, I will definitely refer to this wonderful lighting diagram.


ron hiner says:

on April 8, 2008 at 9:16 am

I only have a couple dozen SB-800s. I feel so inadequate now.

Chad Phillips says:

on April 8, 2008 at 10:49 am

Ummm, shouldn’t the big ass plane been posted on April Fools Day
; )

Kelly A says:

on April 8, 2008 at 10:49 am

Love the napkins! I think we should all do layouts on them. lol

Ken says:

on April 8, 2008 at 12:22 pm


I am using the pop up on the D300 in commander mode.


Leaving the USA on Sunday.

I have (3) SB 800’s, D300 and I am lost….

What I know.
1. Can set them up to all fire wireless using the pop up flash on the D300


What I don’t know or what is the step by step (SB 800 for dummies) how to set up one to use as fill, add power to one less power to one,etc…

I see in the D300 to do this, ok. But to navigate thru the SB800 back and the manual. I just don’t get it……..I write this after 10 t o 12 hours and $20 in batteries. I read the strobist,etc,,,,,,,.

Do anyone know of a blog, book, web site that can give a picture and tell or plain simple (remember SB 800 for dummies) to help me??

A quick response is most welcomed.

Simple in Kentucky


Lance Calvin says:

on April 8, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Some images just grab you. The delicate and beautiful dancer in a colorful yet rugged setting is one of those for me.

David Hobby says:

on April 8, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Holy crap, Joe!

53? 53???


Blair Alderton says:

on April 8, 2008 at 6:34 pm

Awesome shot Joe! (Shaking head in awe)… Joe to subjects “don’t anyone move till we get the tarmac hosed down by the firemen”, Joe to pilot, “ah, ooops, sorry ’bout your pantlegs, I’m sure they’ll dry out quickly”

trunkmonkey says:

on April 8, 2008 at 8:48 pm

hey num nuts, who can read those napkins?

missin you at the masters and seeing whitey!

Tadatsune says:

on April 8, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Now here is a Big Shot with a lot of lights =)

Hope you enjoy

Joe McNally says:

on April 8, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Hey David…yeah, about 53…that’s what sticks in my head. Have to find the official lighting diagram to clarify…but it’s up there in that neighborhood….Joe

Mike says:

on April 9, 2008 at 1:22 pm

53?! Optically slaved?!

And here I’ve been pondering whether it’s worth the $$$ to pick up a 3rd strobe for backlighting. Hmpf… I have strobe envy now.

Jen Weaver says:

on April 9, 2008 at 7:53 pm

I love your diagrams! :)

Albert says:

on April 10, 2008 at 5:16 pm

I feel your pain. I have been reading strobist and now Joe’s blog for over a year. Lighting is not as simple or as complex as some folks make it out to be. I would guess that if you look hard you might find some of the details you are looking for on the strobist- you will have to dig around a bit.

Kyle Barnett says:

on April 12, 2008 at 11:48 pm

Honestly Joe you are one funny guy!! I bet you were that kid in class that had doodles all over your papers, books, bag …. hey wait a minute, so was I!! I love your site and check it daily. Im just delving off in the world of off camera flash and your book/blog have been fantastic.

Alex Kolyer says:

on April 13, 2008 at 10:47 am

I’m in awe.

Diego Jose says:

on April 14, 2008 at 4:08 am

Hi Joe,

What focal length did you use on Cowboy Phil’s portrait? Awesome photo.

Simon Beesley says:

on April 15, 2008 at 7:28 pm

Hey Joe. Love the Blog and all the information that you so freely share with us. One question about software. In previous articles/videos/blogs, you’ve mentioned the use of Capture NX. However, in one of the photos above where you show the lighting diagram for the shot of Cowboy Phil, there is a “cheat-sheet” taped to your laptop which mentions Stacks. The commands shown (or at least as far as I can see) seem to correspond those in Aperture rather than in Lightroom or Bridge. Are you using Aperture now? And if so, do you still use NX?

Kento says:

on May 31, 2008 at 9:52 am

I think that 54 units would have really made that plane shot pop! 😉

Ricarda Whobrey says:

on December 12, 2011 at 4:04 am

you are the best i love all your songs they are wonderful.

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