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Still Bouncing Light….

Nov 17

In Equipment, Lighting, Seminars & Workshops, Stories at 7:24am

Out here still trying to get caught up to my life. Running behind everything, per usual. Hit Penn State on Friday, and did a small lighting workshop in the afternoon, and a lecture Friday night. The program at PSU  is driven by John Beale, veteran photojournalist from the Pitt Post Gazette, and Curt Chandler, who has forged alot of new ground in multi-media, both at the Post Gazette and at the Penn State program. Great school, great students, all of whom benefit enormously from the real world stuff that John and Curt bring to the party. Visit was orchestrated by my wife, Annie Cahill, from Nikon. It’s great to go with her to places where she is so obviously revered and see the fruits of the 80 hours a week she logs, the emails she returns, and her steadfast, disciplined, relentless professionalism. She brings it, 24/7. By comparison, I’m a non-stop goofball.

Nikon supports the Penn State phojo program, so it was fun couple of hours mixing it up with students and small flash. Sarah, a photo/theater arts major was volunteered to be a subject and turned out to one of those smile machines for whom it is impossible to look bad in a photo. Per usual, she was cringing at all her pix, and my standard response to someone as effortlessly wonderful in front of the camera as she is to remark, “Oh, so if you think you take a bad picture what are the rest of us supposed to do? Put a bullet in our brains??!!”

Used white light flash with incandescent balance to push the look into the cool realm, given the blue seats. Used overhead 3×3 Lastolite and fill bounce off the gold reflector sheet that comes in the Lastolite kit. Zapped a backlight snooted courtesy of Honl. Simple. Fun. About a ten minute portrait or so, with all our yakkin’. Michelle Bixby, another student lens lugger (who was just published in USNWR) volunteered as a subject, which was great cause she gave the folding theater seat a run for its money the way she kind of did a transformer type thing to get all her legs and arms into the frame.

The big upside for us of course, was that John swung a couple of shooting credentials for the Penn State-Indiana football game on Saturday, which, given the blue and white football fever of State College, Pa., is kind of like dialing up a couple of front row seats for Obama’s inauguaral. It was way cool. I hadn’t shot a football game in about 20 plus years, so the rust was pretty thick, plus the fact that even when I was doing it as part of my living I wasn’t very good at it.

Last time I shot, of course, it was all manual focus stuff, and the dividing line between the men and they boys (and trust me, I was one of the boys) was the ability to follow focus. I was a contract shooter with SI at the time, and I saw up close magicians like John Biever, Walter Iooss, Heinz Klutmeier, Johnny I, and Manny Milan just knock it back game after game. You could hang these guys upside down with one eye closed and a bug in the other and they would still be able to fine tune the focus on a 400 or so. Biever especially, had radar. (I think he might have had a contract on the side with Lockheed, when they were developing stealth systems.)

The lenses sucked, too, by comparison to what we have now. I had a 300mm f4.5 that was sharp when you shoved it to critical focus and all, it just took about a week or so to get it there. I put it to my eye once and watched a critter make its way across one of the interior lens elements. It looked like a little inchworm, swear to God. Called NPS and told ’em there’s something alive inside my 300 and they said it wasn’t just possible, it was highly likely. I used that puppy in the rain constantly, and there was no aqua-techie, Kata raingear and stuff like that. I didn’t want to use it after that, cause with my imagination I kept seeing this eyeball sucking, multi-fanged squiggly thing like the ones in Aliens poppin’ outta my eyepiece, boring its way into my skull and chewin’ up all my inside wiring. Yecchhh!

Anyway, did all right as a first timer in a long whiles. Was shooting the 200-400 f4 which is a non-stop wonder of a lens. The D3 fears not the rain and the gloom cause ISO 1600 looks like frikkin’ Kodachrome. The shot above is a ISO 3200 frame, cropped in half. Crazy. Nice fillip on the D3 is you can program DX crop into your function button, so if the action is on the other side of the field you can add reach to the lens with one flick.

Me and my honey at the ball game. Annie manages to pull off radiant, beatific, even, in a downpour wearing a garbage bag. My face looks like they just used it for punting practice.

Photo courtesy of John Beale…


On the way home, over the sounds of the rain drumming and Faith Hill on the country station, we heard…. the sound of a tire rim on concrete? Oh, yeah, Annie’s Honda was skating all over Rt. 80 for a minute while we pulled over, to find that Honda made their jack a tad too short! Wonderful. Maxed out, I still needed another at least half inch to push on the spare. Hmmmm… wood block. If I was still shooting a Nikon F, I coulda used that, but wasn’t gonna get medieval with one of my D3’s, and then remembered I had a c-stand! Pulled out the turtle base, put the jack on it, and changed the damn tire.

One of the reasons the blog’s been up and down is I am crashing, late of course, the final writing on my new book, The Hot Shoe Diaries, Big Light From Small Flashes. It’s been kicking my ass. Almost done though, and should be out in about a month or so.

In it, we’ll cover…BRIDES IN THE WOODS! YIKES!


As Donald said that day, “Joe, where the hell is Israel?”





John Leonard says:

on November 17, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Well, that is a seriously bad place if a capacitor decides to just let go!

Andy Colwell says:

on November 18, 2008 at 12:06 am

Said it once, and I’ll say it again, Joe, but it was just fantastic to meet you and Anne on Friday. To have you busting out the wisdom and comedy here made more than a few of us Penn State photogs glad to be where we are.
Bummer about the ride home, but at least you seemed to be having some fun beforehand in the rain down on the field with John and Annemarie etc..
See you next time you’re here in Happy Valley. Thanks again to you and Anne, and Nikon as well. Take care

Mark K says:

on November 18, 2008 at 12:32 am

Cut me, Mick. Cut me…..

Wow. Aint’ got nothing to say but wow. The images in this post are outstanding. You shake off 20 years of rust pretty well….you DID shoot Bo Jackson when he was still a pup, right? Great stuff, great post. You and Annie look very happy, rain or no rain. No JoePa portraits though?

Great stuff. As usual. Can’t wait to see the book.

Marshall says:

on November 18, 2008 at 1:51 am

Maybe you should just put all the images up front, ’cause by the time I get to them I’m all teared up from laughing too much. Seriously, I can’t believe you give out this kinda funny for free, but I’ll take it! The Father Pre Flash is just a wicked awesome shot. Oh, and where do I pre-order the book?

Ziv says:

on November 18, 2008 at 6:19 am

Not just anyone can walk up tp a man at the urinal and say, “hold this”.
If we ever run across each other in an airport bathroom, just keep your distance.


brett turner says:

on November 18, 2008 at 8:45 am

As always te blog is great. i pre ordered the new book the first day amazon had it up. thanks

Kent Weakley says:

on November 18, 2008 at 9:03 am

Joe, great shots, as usual. But the the not so usual part is — your ability to share your talent with so many others. Thank you, you’re a GREAT teacher!

Annemarie Mountz says:

on November 18, 2008 at 9:21 am

Joe, as Andy said it was fantastic meeting you and Anne on Friday. I learned so much from both of you, both at the lighting seminar and on the sidelines. I appreciated being able to look over your shoulder, and Anne’s, and ask lots of questions about what you were doing and why … what an education that was. Thanks to both of you for sharing your wisdom and wit with all of us here at Penn State. See you next time you’re in town, I hope.
Take care

Billy Mitchell says:

on November 18, 2008 at 11:16 am

Joe, is that you posing?

kathyt says:

on November 18, 2008 at 11:17 am

Mr. McNally
Love your posts!!! Listened to the new Nikon Video — it is really great — I really enjoyed it, lots of great information, especially for one who knows very little about using SB units. Looking forward to your new book. Cute picture of you and Annie! thanks again for all your posts.

Carlos Bruno says:

on November 18, 2008 at 11:24 am

Finished right now the NIKON DVD with you and Bob.
SAME words … incredible! Wonderful! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!
One more time, even the subject is a repetition (I discovered the best thing to learn … duhhhh!), the change of scenarios and applications of this fantastic NIKON CLS in your FABULOUS work just make anyone flip.
Adn Bob! He is an amazing person as well.
Thank you Joe, I really mean: THANK YOU!
I know you’re making a good money this works, but, I trust believe is not enough for what you guys teaching to us.

Carlos Bruno

(By the way … you didn’t change the assitants? At Kelby Training you had the “other” one, but at the DVD still the same guy … hehehe sorry “same” guy. My mind is awful for names. I jsut remember Joe because is his blog … kidding. Or not …)

Lewis Woodyard says:

on November 18, 2008 at 11:34 am

My favorite photo of Annie, is still the one where you surprised her in the cafe by coming home early. She looks like an angel. That look of surprise and devotion should grace a wallet sized photo you take to the far corners of the earth. That would be the light in MY window.

Martin says:

on November 18, 2008 at 11:58 am

Hey Joe I just finished my second pass through the Nikon CLS DVD with you and Bob Krist. It is a freakin’ steal at this price. The production, tips, and instruction are absolutely first rate. All Nikonomaniacs should have 2 copies saved in separate locations. Thanks for the fantastic work. I can’t wait to attend another seminar with you in 09.

Jason Bell says:

on November 18, 2008 at 2:08 pm


I only feel it my duty to tell you that Monty Python now have a channel on YouTube.

Kind regards and blessings

ryan mcbride says:

on November 18, 2008 at 4:13 pm

can’t wait for the new book Mr. Joe! keep pluggin at it!

Darrell says:

on November 18, 2008 at 6:12 pm


Wish I would have known you were going to be in State College. I would have loved to come up and see you. My son is a Senior up there and was doing video of the game and your presence would have been another reason to visit. I am a photographer at Penn State College of Medicine so it could have been a business trip! Anyway, love your blog and all your work. Thanks for sharing so much with all of us. Take care.

Andrew Howson says:

on November 18, 2008 at 7:18 pm

From a long away a way but wanted to say how much I liked this edition of your blog, amusing and informative at the same time. I, for one, would like to have a couple of your new book when it’s ready.


Andrew Howson

Levi Gardner says:

on November 18, 2008 at 10:37 pm

I’ve decided you need to come to Australia. You have fans here. Real ones.

You can fly with Qantas or something..

David Walker says:

on November 19, 2008 at 3:44 pm

I enjoyed my time spent at the workshop and playing with the new Nikon gear Anne brought (I fell in love with the 45mm tilt shift lens). I will be shooting the Michigan State game this week with my new D700 and wondered about having only the 300mm for reach. Thanks for talking about the DX function to get that 1.5 factor back. Everyday is a day of learning.

Alwin says:

on November 30, 2008 at 1:24 am

Heya Joe, I got your first book, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on this!


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