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Kelby Video Training— #1 With a Bullet

Aug 31

In Videos at 7:48am

Been out in Santa Fe, shooting a new segment of the Kelby Online Video Training sessions. This one’s devoted to the update in the Nikon CLS flash system, the SB900. Above is my friend Thomas Wingate, who runs Eaves Movie Ranch, which is just a fun place to shoot pictures. I’ve been out there many times, and keep finding different stuff. Thomas, as always, is a natural in front of the camera. One of the all time great American faces. Mt. Rushmore comes to mind.

This was done in an old warehouse in downtown SF. I rummaged through the garage, which I have mentioned is an archive of old props from shoots gone by, and pulled this American flag. It is somewhere around 25’x 15′. I had it made back in ’96 for a project I shot for LIFE, which involved asking the ’96 Olympic team to take their clothes off. Used it a few times since, such as this shot of heavyweight lifter Shane Hamman, of the 2000 US team. This was for a Geographic story on the limits of the human body. He is leaping from a standing position, and he’s over 350 lbs.

For Thomas, we backlit the flag with 4 SB900 units, each banged into a wall behind the flag. There’s a slit in the flag I can stick a camera through, and Thomas just stands in the wash of light. Needed the big flag, cause those sunglasses are like frikkin’ TV monitors. The light hits me, too, so you can see my shadow behind the flag, which I toned down a bit in Photoshop. (Hey Moose, I used Photoshop!)

The videos have been fun to make and I always learn stuff as I go. Work with Jason Scrivner, “The Scriv,” the shooter from the Kelby Crew. Surprised he still puts up with me. This time around, he had to wade waist deep into a lake with his sticks and very expensive video rig. We both went in to photograph beautiful sea creature Deidre Dean, who is one of the most expressive and daring models I have ever worked with. She’s always up for a photographic adventure, and actually takes me seriously when I say, “How about you get made up like a a wild ass mermaid and take a dip in a cold lake? I’ll be in there with you, with a whole bunch of expensive electronic equipment. What could go wrong?”

Shot with one SB900, and a Lastolite all in one umbrella, used as a shoot through, and shaped with a whole bunch of black gaffer tape. We had just about the whole umbrella covered, except for a small opening, maybe 10 by 20 inches. That’s a pretty good way of controlling the light, so you light her, and not the water. No law of nature says that once you put an umbrella up, ya gotta use all of it.

The umbrella’s on a c-stand extension arm, being held by the intrepid Norah Levine, a terrific Santa Fe based shooter. She has teamed up with Karen Lenz to help me out here. (How much help do I need? As Jim said to Sherriff Bart in Blazing Saddles, “Oh, all I can get.”) They’ve been a terrific team, keeping things moving, getting everybody to location on time, and making sure I don’t swear too much on tape.

In Santa Fe for a couple more days, which is a great place, home of the Santa Fe Workshops, and a whole bunch of nice people. I mean, you gotta love a place where the community college offers courses in “Animal Tracking” and “Concealed Carry Training.” Take ’em both, and it must mean you can sneak right up on an animal and they won’t be alarmed cause they don’t immediately know that you have a gun.

In a couple days, Vegas-Baby-Vegas, for PhotoShop World. I tell ya, it’d be tough to measure the tremendous and positive impact Scott Kelby has on the field of visual communications. Between PSW, his books, lectures, blog, and the online training series, he raises his voice, and it echoes for a long time. I mean, via his blog, he got just about the whole world walking of late to shoot some pictures and share skills and enjoy themselves. If one of those powerful bastions of my photographic youth, say, Time magazine, had announced a walkabout for taking pictures, about oh, 3 or 4 people would have hit the streets. More tk.

Bruno Monteiro says:

on August 31, 2008 at 8:57 am

The first and last photos are amazing.
I never regret the time I come to this blog reading something new. :)
Keep up the good work (and fun, for some extent, I’d say)!

Ken says:

on August 31, 2008 at 9:36 am


I really like the “colors” used in these shots as well as the expressions.

Your last blog on Russia and the drinking problems really struck a cord in my heart. I have been sober 24 years by the grace of God. I have seen first hand what this disease does to folk.

I so thankful attention is being drawn to a country where alcoholism is off the charts. Good Job National Geographic and you.

It is a disease that brought me down to the bottom, thank God a 12 step program and friends saved me. Most don’t make it who are afflicted with this disease. But there is hope.

Again, thanks for telling a story in photos. For a drunk like me, a picture is worth a thousand delusions.

Kind regards

JH says:

on August 31, 2008 at 10:35 am

Wow! Those photos really make an impression. Thanks for sharing the story behind the shoots.

Mark K_NJ says:

on August 31, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Wow, that shot of Thomas is out of this world. Love the insight into how you achieve this. I remember that shot of Shane too. Always amazes me when I see a photo that I remember and then come to find out “Oh…Joe shot that? Cool!”

Steve Hyde says:

on August 31, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Another great post, Joe. The images are amazing as always. I can’t wait for this series to be posted on Kelby Training. Does this mean we’ll all be running out and buying SB900s?

Best regards,


Michael S. says:

on August 31, 2008 at 4:09 pm

As I have said before….your talent in image creation coupled with the written word = absolute brilliance!

Bob DeChiara says:

on August 31, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Great stuff as always. See ya on the 8th in Waltham!

Mike Jandavs says:

on September 1, 2008 at 12:12 am

Wow again. That certainly looks like a wild ass mermaid! I am always amazed at the amount of inspiration I get from your photos and fantastic sense of humour. Keep it up and thanks for making me buy more speedlights, umbrellas, stands, softboxes, clamps, gaffer tape(never enough) and whatever the heck else I need! I was never one to be interested in utilizing lighting so much outdoors, now I can’t look at a situation without asking myself where’s the best place stuff a speedlight.
Thanks. :)

Rich Taylor says:

on September 1, 2008 at 12:50 am

Those are fantastic photos, which is what I’ve become used to from you. I’m disappointed to hear that your genius will be focused only on helping us to learn to use Nikon equipment. It looks like Kelby’s training site is going exclusively Nikon as well which is useless for Canon folks like me. I guess it’s time to cancel my monthly subscription.

Whenever you talk generically about small flash lighting, you have me transfixed. As soon as you start telling me what custom values the SB800 (now 900) that I don’t own should be set to, you’ve lost me.

I’d love to toss in a good Porgy and Mudhead joke right now, but I’m not feeling very funny at the moment. Unless it had something about Louise Wong and her balcony in it. Now that would make me smile.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos. I wish you used Canon. I also wish Louise Wong’s balcony was visible from my bedroom window.


Ben Mathis says:

on September 1, 2008 at 6:53 am

Amazing photos as always. I think the slight bags under the models eyes are just the tiniest bit distracting since her face takes up so much real estate on the photo itself. The flag in the glasses on the first is just amazing. I love how it looks real and unreal at the same time, as only an in camera shot seems to have.

Johnnie says:

on September 1, 2008 at 10:59 am

If only a little piece of tail would have stuck out of the water in the last shot, that would have put it over the top.

Love that you didn’t light the water… but gaffing down a whole umbrella seems extreme.. maybe they should start making smaller ones :)

Chad Pennington says:

on September 2, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Joe I know you are a Nikon Man but can you please add words like , “You can also use this on the Canon 580EX II system as well” PLeeeeeeeeeease

Joe Spoto says:

on September 2, 2008 at 7:59 pm


I have always admired you as a photog, and as a teacher, and recently an author. I then saw the post on Tom and knew that you also have a good heart. Quoting sheriff Bart confirms that you are a well-rounded, all around great guyl!!!

my favorite quote was (Gene Wilder) “….well let’s play chess.”


Eduardo says:

on September 2, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Awesome shots, the first one is super amazing! great job!! I am happy to know you are having a great time!

P.S. Blazing Saddles rocks! :)

Niko G. Villegas says:

on September 3, 2008 at 4:40 am

Ah too close but too far, I live in Albuquerque, and I always wanted to catch you in santa fe, I just wanna meet you and maybe have coffee or beer for that matter . . . in the hopes that your awesomeness will rub off on me even slightly . . .

thank you Joe for being a source of inspiration, technical stuff and plainly for helping me get better at this thing we call photography . . .


blu says:

on September 4, 2008 at 11:37 pm

good imeg go head

NewssyLee says:

on September 5, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Thanks to you

Frans says:

on November 29, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Very nice shot of Thomas Wingate.
I saw your video and it was entertaining and full of knowledge. That’s a good combination.
Keep the good works!
I hear you’ll go to Malaysia next year, hope you come visit Jakarta next.

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