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Make the Voices Stop!

Jul 1

In Lighting at 12:01am

So I’m home after 26 days in a row on the road. Great arrival at Kennedy. Usual deal. One of those line shepherds at passport inspection, probably pulling in at about a deuce, deuce and a half was screaming, I mean screaming, at people to make sure the lines moved fast. Have your documentation ready, have your passports out, your tie undone, your pants down at your ankles, and your vaccination card open! I mean she was operating at the top of a pair lungs that sounded like they were powered by a Cummins Turbo Diesel. She meant well, but for all the world sounded like a Marine DI shouting, “Quit your grinnin’ and drop your linen!”

Or something like that. Oh well….home and it only took about 3 minutes to get yelled at.

But happy to be home, for sure, even though both of my pieces of luggage went missing. They’ll show up. I don’t get upset anymore. Happened so many times, I just shrug. Used to have one of those T-shirts that said the rings of Saturn are actually made up of lost airplane luggage, which actually might be true.

So after some interrupted jet lagged sleep, I come downstairs and wander towards the kitchen. Annie’s already up, and the TV is on, and I hear a familiar voice. Wait a minute. Who is that? At five frikkin’ thirty in my house??!!

DAVID HOBBY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Annie’s watching David Hobby’s new lighting DVD set at 5:30 am on Sunday! I mean the Strobist community is a lot like church and all, but geez…..

A little background. Annie is beautiful, wonderful, fun, smart, kind, decent (about this time, the question forms in your head, “So why’d she marry you?” I know, I know….). She’s also a real good photographer. And a perfectionist. “Perfectionist” and “photographer” are not terms that mix well. My work is so far off course sometimes I coulda captained the Exxon Valdez. I accept that and am used to the whole ongoing photo proposition about the day to day, unpredictable, on and off relationship between the windshield and the bug.

But not Annie. When she takes on a job, in this case a pregnant portrait of a dear and beautiful friend of her’s, she feels the pressure. As we all do. But unlike many of us dyed in the wool photogs, she actually does something about it, like prepare.

And obsess. We talked about the job, as we always do, and she was stressing a bit, and studying. I tried to make her feel better, and mentioned it was kind of relaxed and low pressure, i.e., she’d be among friends, unlike most of my jobs, where I can count the minutes till I wear out my welcome with an egg timer.

She countered with the fact that her friend, who’s got one of those faces the camera just loves, was very excited about the picture, and had gotten her three year olds’ hair cut and, you know, made everything just right. I mentioned the haircut and all as being the least of it. “I heard they put an addition on the house and had the whole place painted, just for the photo,” I said.

She had two words for me, and they weren’t “happy birthday.”

Hence, Strobist on Sunday. It’s cool, actually. The DVD is terrific. Complete, in a word. David’s got a straightforward way of representing the mysteries of flash that make it seem not mysterious at all. I figure that’s at least a bit about his career as a newspaper shooter. When you pound the pavement for a big city daily, you get real no frills, real quick. Down to earth. Improvisational. Fast. Call it good photography that is grounded in common sense. All of that is in these DVDs. If he’s not sold out, order ’em. They’re so good, even Nigel has taken to relaxing and having a brewski, and figuring out strobe.

Three light setup. boom on a c-stand overhead with Honl snoot, Honl grid on another light for the Strobist DVD package, and a light with a full CTO behind the screen for a bit of separation. I tried to figure out what filter to use for David, but came up short.

Part of the deal was closing off the room to ambient light, and a 3×6 Lastolite Panel worked fine for the skylight. Popped it on a c-stand and ran it up there to seal the deal.

You might have noticed the strobes at my temples in the top photo look, well, a little different. More tk….

Jay Mann says:

on July 1, 2008 at 12:51 am


So now you are teasing us with new equipment? I thought that was Moose and Scott’s gig.

You must be jet lagged if you are doing three light setups first thing in the morning!
Unfortuneately, I cannot see any of the images in David’s blog, ( local UAE censorship) so reading it without images is not very effective.

By the way, thanks for the list of books that you posted in your guest blog at Scott’s site.


Josh says:

on July 1, 2008 at 1:00 am

BAHAHAHA that first shot, you’re such a dork.

Love reading your blog :-)

Oh yeah, and I’ve learned a ton from it, and your book. There’s also that.

Ken says:

on July 1, 2008 at 1:07 am

Good Morning Joe,

Great story, and sounds like you really married up, lol. Great wives are hard to find, at least in KY. I lucked out, I lied to her.

Kind words
Ken from KY

Ally B. says:

on July 1, 2008 at 1:29 am

Sweet! I’ll have to look into getting the DVD’s. More stuff to learn (: Speaking of learning, I went over to Kelby Training and it’s pretty awesome. I like how all the videos are more hands on, like yours are in your studio, rather then someone just telling you. I took to photography classes at the college here (not yet in college), and while I learned a lot, it was hard to wrap your head around it without seeing it.
-Ally B.

Matt Bowker says:

on July 1, 2008 at 1:39 am

I’m guessing those are the new SB-900s by your temples. You would have the connections to get them while the rest of us are left to covet.

Since this is my first comment here I gotta say I love your writing. That dry yet informative humor never gets old.

Kingsley says:

on July 1, 2008 at 1:46 am

Ooooh… are those SB-900’s!!!!!!!

Oh serious lust!

…. I know, I know…. its not the gear that makes a good photographer but… those puppies look great!


Perth, Western Australia

Kingsley says:

on July 1, 2008 at 1:48 am

Oh and ofcourse even Mr Hobby has made it down to our neck of the woods!

Its worth its weight in gold… actually both you guys are too!


Thanks heaps for all sharing, support and encouragment


James Duncan Davidson says:

on July 1, 2008 at 1:52 am

Love the lighting rig to illustrate David’s DVD set. No fair with the strobe teasing, tho! :)

Ken Wilcox says:

on July 1, 2008 at 3:13 am


Nice. Lemmie guess, you shot it with the D700 too.

Roger McCarty says:

on July 1, 2008 at 3:43 am

Dual SB900s, yowza! Here’s hoping you got a mixed gender pair and they multiply like rabbitts …

Richard Cave says:

on July 1, 2008 at 4:58 am

Stress and photography go hand in hand, its always hurry up and wait. I did a job the other day, came off vacation for the day to cover it. Turned up and it took a lot of security checks, clearances and a lot of travel. Really pushed the boat out. I covered the event with the client asking for this that and the other. Even throught the job I had a prospective picture editor ring me on the mobile asking for the images from the event.

Once the job had been done I raced across the city where a good friend and fellow photographer had his computer waiting for me so I could write the caption and transmit. Eventually got the job done sent off the files.

Client was a bit lazy and had not passed on the files to various picture agencies. My manic day was spent for nothing!

But as you say Joe a bad day out of the office is better than a good day in the office.

I am now looking forward to watching another phot work, if it makes my life easier and less stressfull, so I am ordering my strobist dvds.

Glad to hear from you Joe,


Adam Swords says:

on July 1, 2008 at 5:42 am

Is there a reason why David is wearing a surgeon’s operating gown in his new DVD’s? Looks more like an episode of scrubs to me!

Glad you’re well Joe.


Tom says:

on July 1, 2008 at 7:29 am

Joe, your an amazing photographer, earned every single bit of fame you receive but please let me ask you. Why would you have to write “probably pulling in at about a deuce, deuce and a half was screaming,”

Does that really matter? The amount of one’s income? Do you remember when you were pulling in less then that? Did you, Scott and the rest of the marketing machine circle forget where you came from?

I expected more from you.

Joe McNally says:

on July 1, 2008 at 7:44 am

Yo Tom…I’m not speculating on lady’s income. For all I know, she probably does pretty well. I was just riffing on her size a bit, as she was quite imposing. I did indicate she was trying to be helpful and move us along, albeit in over the top fashion. Anybody who reads my blog kind of knows I have (as many guys do) a movie archive spinning in my head and that line is right out of Matt Dillon is “Something About Mary” when he is trying to discourage Ben Stiller from going to see her. No finances involved here…..Joe

Steve says:

on July 1, 2008 at 8:21 am

So, what are your first impressions of the SB-900 vs the SB-800?

Mike Clemons says:

on July 1, 2008 at 10:02 am

yeah Tom… quit being a duck….

Joe, great blog.. I’m so glad you finally broke down and gave into Scott. My second check each day after Scott, even Hobby’s after you… lol

Your pre-con class is sold out already, what’s up wit dat dude? Gonna add a second show? If I can’t get into your class what’s the sense of coming??? 😉


Daniel Cormier says:

on July 1, 2008 at 10:11 am

Ken, the EXIF data on that shot shows that it was taken with a D3, not a D700. Though with Joe’s connections, it was definitely worth a look.

Peter says:

on July 1, 2008 at 10:32 am

I guess it helps being married to a photographer in the way that setting up strobes and panels in the living room is perfectly normal :-)

International travel is always interesting. One day just for the fun of it try out the non-citizen line. Tons of fun 😉 and they have a little memory quiz going on with cross examination to check your “story”.

ohh and btw. sometimes facing a lion doesn’t seem as scary as facing a pregnant woman. Tread lightly around those ones 😉

Terry Reinert says:

on July 1, 2008 at 10:51 am

Your Kelby Training lessons are the one thing that really makes me think hard about switching from Canon to Nikon. I love Canon cameras… always have and probably always will. But the Speedlight 580’s cannot compare to the features in the SB-800’s. I can only imagine what the SB-900’s are going to be able to do. If I didn’t have so much invested in Canon I’d probably make the switch…

Anyway, love the set up in the living room there for the Strobist DVD shoot. My wife curses every time I want to take a photo of something in the house for the same reason… I have to pull out all my stands, lighting, diffusers, etc. There is no “just snap a quick shot” with me… it is always a production.

Marshall says:

on July 1, 2008 at 11:58 am

“Came up a bit short”? Ouch…

David Hobby says:

on July 1, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Holy crap! My DVDs were watched by Nigel??

I gotta go tell my wife!

Bob DeChiara says:

on July 1, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Joe you are the best! Great blog, great photos, simply great stuff. I hope you enjoyed your stay in beantown earlier. Take a break, get some deserved rest and enjoy!

Keep inspiring!


Bill M says:

on July 1, 2008 at 9:56 pm

I’m not sure what bothers me more.

The fact that you hear David’s voice coming from your living room at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and you think “photography” …

or the fact that your cat is having a brewski at 5:30 a.m.

Tom says:

on July 1, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Joe, thank you for having the class to post not only my OM but a response. No censorship, must be from the good ‘ol days of the paper?

I re-read and I see. I’m new here and will have to get use to the humor. It’s a good one no doubt, I just missed it this time.

Skip says:

on July 2, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I have to echo the comments about learning so much, both book and your site.

Nice to know Nikon has such good stuff coming out, I can probably purchase cheap D300 as back-up (I have to learn more about mine), some nice used SB800s (again I have not learned all they can do), and maybe even more DX lenses when people jump on the new SB900 & D700.

Thanks for sharing and giving freely to other photographers and want-ta-bees. I learn more each time I read your words or hear you in person.

Question; Any sunscreen before the 2 flash headshot self portrait??

David Hobby says:

on July 3, 2008 at 3:26 pm

By the way, as for the “what filter to use one David” question, I shot the whole DVD through a quart-cut CTO and a double-cut FUGLY filter…

Hence the final result.

Filip says:

on July 13, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I just wanted to say, that your photos are amazing!

Ivan Boden says:

on July 14, 2008 at 9:14 am

Love your new book!

Just curious, for the photo on page 25, could you have shot Michelle Yeoh on the wirein a studio, and shot the Hollywood sign separately and composited together in software? I know it’d be tricky, but seems like an incredibly dangerous shoot.

Also, not to mention what you must have went through to make the arangements!

Alejandra Scarboro says:

on May 26, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Thats a lovely blog post! I’m so pleased you decided to talk about it.

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