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Ahhh Venice…..

Apr 22

In Seminars & Workshops at 6:36pm

In Venice currently, teaching at the VSP Workshops, run by Jonathan Maher and his lovely wife Marzia. (Jonathan’s one of those guys, you know, in the club. Married waaayyyy out of his league and wanders around dumbstruck that somebody as nice as Marzia actually said yes.)

Jonathan’s a good guy, and he and Marzia team up to run a wonderful set of workshops staged quite literally around the world. I’ve been blessed to teach two of them here in Venice, and when asked to teach in this most beautiful of cities, I really don’t even bother asking them where their other workshops are, even though they are in some nice places. I just come here and teach. I mean, why go anywhere else?

We go to palaces and villas and theaters and piazzas, and drag along some grip equipment, a stash of Nikon SB 800 strobes, and light up some beautiful places and people. Julia, above, makes a great veiled lady of the castle. She is also a ballerina who will brave the 6 am pre-dawn chill of Venice and come with us to Piazza San Marco on Thursday dressed in a tutu. She is truly a lovely person, and has worked well with both the classes I have taught here.

The above was shot as a class demo with two SB800 strobes firing through a shoot thru umbrella. Key to the deal was the outer skin of the shoot thru was peeled back halfway which is a good trick to use when trying to get the flash to concentrate a bit and gradate down the body. I use Lastolite umbrellas, with an outer black/silver skin covering the standard white umbrella diffusion. You can peel the outer layer back by half, and thus block low spillage of light. Concentrates nice, soft light on the face, right where you want it. Jiggled the hand held camera a bit just to get the edge of movement, which was a cinch cause I had downed about 5 double espressos by that point. The shutter was dragging pretty good for the ambient backlight, but she stays sharp cause the strobe dominates the foreground.

It’s great here. The waterways churn like crazy, gondoliers passing constantly, and I hear accordion music and the occasional “Arrivederci Roma” from my hotel room just over a canal. (Actually wish it was occasional. It’s more like, often, which, depending on who’s singing, can easily verge on too much. From there it’s a beeline to “Jeez, can’t you just shut up and row?”)

Yesterday I saw a guy driving a cargo boat through a busy swatch of water, standing on the boat, arms folded over his chest, sort of swaying back and forth. The boat was turning here and there, and I was wondering how that was happening when he passed us by and I looked back and saw that the tiller was firmly jammed in his butt crack, and he was making course corrections by doing his version of an easygoing maritime rumba. I hadn’t noticed if he was smiling broadly while doing this, but hey, it’s cool. You gotta love your work.

Hard to call shooting pictures in Venice work, but it sure is easy to love.

Mark Scheuern says:

on April 22, 2008 at 6:57 pm

The half-peeled umbrella sounds like a great technique. I’m wondering why you used two SB-800s. It seems like there would have been enough light from one at that distance and what seems to be a fault large aperture.

Mark Scheuern says:

on April 22, 2008 at 7:00 pm

“Fairly” large aperture, that is. Sometimes the iPhone tries to be too helpful with spelling.

Skunkabilly says:

on April 22, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Funny about the tiller in the butt crack. Gives me ideas where to put my SB800 when I forget my Justin Clamp.

Nick Fancher says:

on April 22, 2008 at 7:56 pm

So sick. Beautifully executed and with great composition and colors to boot. A deadly combo. Thanks for sharing the info. Every nugget you share I literally store away and try it out as soon as I get a chance. I am excited to try this method. I tell everyone who wants to get better at photography to read “The Moment it Clicks”. Hands down the best book on photography I have ever owned/read. Thanks.

Jim says:

on April 22, 2008 at 9:16 pm

“Jiggled the hand held camera a bit just to get the edge of movement…” Damn, this is priceless, now I see why you are where you are and I am not.

Kyle Barnett says:

on April 22, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Little off topic Joe, but was perusing the strobist site and saw the article on the radio poppers starting to ship and I thought “I wonder what Joe thinks about these!?” Have you had a chance to check these out yet? . You think Nikon/Canon are going to be putting this type of technology in their next flash versions? Just curious to hear your two cents. 😉

Fabiano says:

on April 22, 2008 at 9:59 pm

I like the warm tones in her face, and that little blur from dragging the shutter is really cool!

jason says:

on April 23, 2008 at 2:50 am

joe is 100% right about the company that run the courses, the group of people who attend are relaxed (forever enthusiastic) and the one i attended in venice with joe was run prefectly

venice was a great location to get your camera out, the teaching in that in stance was led by joe so that speaks for itself

highly recommended

Ken Anderson says:

on April 23, 2008 at 4:48 am

Great pic Joe. Looks like it would be hard to take a bad shot of the subject, but I guarantee I could! Sure I’m preaching to the choir, if you have not, you should at the very least have a drink in Harry’s over in the Piazza San Marco. One of Hemingway’s favorite haunts, and since your job is a lot about people, a great place to watch them! Enjoy, travel safe………….

Joe H says:

on April 23, 2008 at 8:50 am

Joe — another great lesson. Question: the light on the face is nice and warm — I assume you’ve got a CTO gel on your SB-800?

William Chinn says:

on April 23, 2008 at 9:31 am

Did we miss the moment it clicks with the butt steering control? Where’s da picture?

Jon T says:

on April 23, 2008 at 10:27 am

Reading this reminded me of a wonderful story about the filming of the Bond film – Casino Royale – in Venice. Sadly, it has a tragic twist, in that Mick Newman, who’s boat it was, and who wrote the article, was killed last year aiming to fulfil a lifelong ambition to fly a small plane from the UK to South Asia.

Worth a read:

Gerry Travis says:

on April 23, 2008 at 11:09 am

There is nother place in the world like Vinice, wonderful shot caught the feel of the city without the iconic views.

Mark K_NJ says:

on April 23, 2008 at 11:44 am

Sitting in New Jersey on a beautiful April day…and I’d give anything to be in back in Venice lighting something up with you. The Grand Canal at night…ahh…One of the most unique places in the world. Have some sardines for me…they’re wonderful there.

Charles says:

on April 24, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Joe: with your lighting style and love of speedlites, I’m surprised not to see you using monolights occasionally (especially considering how good Elinchrom’s are). Have you messed around with them, or do you just want to higher power available from packs & heads? (Obviously, the battery-powered ranger is a different beast entirely.) Thanks for any thoughts you might share.

briandaly says:

on April 26, 2008 at 5:08 am

Nice perspective. What focal length are you using? Somewhere around 35mm on full frame body?

Labasta says:

on August 2, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Well, I’m sure your Venice photographs put my tourist pictures of Venice to shame. 😉

Janeen Zanella says:

on October 7, 2010 at 8:38 am

Nice post, thanks for posting. Now I just need to get up off the couch and actually do something… Pleasee continue this great work and I look forward to more of your great blog posts.

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