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At DLWS, Everything’s Jake!

Nov 19

In Seminars & Workshops at 6:37pm

Just finished another year with my dear friends and family, Moose and Sharon Peterson, Laurie Excell, Kevin Dobler, new addition Drew Gurian, and of course, the chip off the old Moose, Jake Peterson, seen above. Out near Bozeman, Montana, they’ve got this city that is basically the archeology of rural Montana (is it redundant to say “rural Montana?”). This repository of Montana history is called Nevada City. Anybody else think that’s odd?

At any rate, they’ve got old houses, jail cells, water towers, general stores, barber shops, and of course, my favorite, old trains. They’ve even got a historically significant, two story outhouse, which I imagine created some interesting problems if both floors were active at once. Every time I see an outhouse and have a camera in my hands, I think of Rich Clarkson’s story about being on site at some location and the corporate staff photog came over to meet him. He was trying to impress Rich and let him know he was available for freelance work, which is understandable, since Rich is a legendary shooter and editor who shaped talents such as Chris Johns, Jim Richardson, and Brian Lanker back in his days as the DOP of the Topeka Capital Journal.

Rich is a pretty easy going sort once you get to know him, but he presents a somewhat flinty, no nonsense editor exterior, so the meet probably had this poor shooter nervous cause he introduced himself as being “the in house photographer, but I do outhouse work.” Ouch.

I stared for a while at this railyard jalopy. It didn’t move.

But I had a thought, always dangerous. Wonder it would look like if the sun were setting off to camera right? With clouds like this, you can conjure the direction of late light, so I dialed in a little angle of incidence, angle of reflection sunset type of deal.

Spread out 4 SB800 units in a line, designed to fan out warm highlight along the length of the rail car. That did okay. Lit the train up pretty well. Couple of problems occurred, like light spilling immediately onto the ground in front of the flashes, giving away their position. A little gaffer taping, and some artful cropping (What’s the easiest way to get rid of a problem in your picture? Crop!) and it was starting to look okay.

Programmed in minus 4 stops EV into the D3. Yikes! Had never done that before, but it seemed to work. Now I got highlighted train, cool moody sky and a big black hole in the foreground of the picture. Enter Jake.

We swiped his mom’s hat, and his bud Tyler’s jacket, stuffed an SB900 into the Lastolite EzyBox (just like its name, pretty easy, nice light), moved that off to camera left, gave it to a Moose to hold (they’ll do that, its just part of their moose biological instincts) and knocked out a few frames.

Very happy to be a part of DLWS. Great friends, good times, pretty stuff. I mean, being the sort of people oriented, general assignment knockabout photog I’ve been for my whole career, I’d have to bribe somebody or get an editor really drunk to get an actual assignment to go to shoot sunrises and old buildings in Montana. If I asked to do something like this, my editor friends would look at me like I just lost a few more of my marbles. (“No, Joe, no big sky country for you. But we do have something involving people who don’t want to be photographed standing around in an ugly fluorescent lit room!”) Oh well.

DLWS goes to Yellowstone in January. I can’t believe I’m looking forward this much to freezing my ass off.

Yanik's Photo School says:

on November 19, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Great image Joe!

I just got 2 new SB-800s bringing my total to 4 thanks in part to you and David Hobby! :) I could actually do this shot now…. Just need a few EzBoxes! 😉

Rodolfo Arpia says:

on November 19, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Great portrait Joe!

What do you mean by “Programmed in minus 4 stops EV into the D3″?


ron says:

on November 19, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Joe… am I close here? Incandescent WB in camera, full CTO on the train (more?) 1/2 CTO in the ezybox??

Jake’s key light is nice and white… the fill is warm… how DO YOU DO that?

Love the bar napkin sketches!

Ron Hiner
Westport CT

ron says:

on November 19, 2008 at 7:27 pm

p.s…. I’ve very psyched! I just signed up for my second tour of duty in the DLWS Sleep Deprivation Workshop! NYC in November!

Fausto Rowlan says:

on November 19, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Joe. I watched you piece this shot together and was amazed at the result, you’ve really got a head for troubleshooting problems in the field and it was fun watching you work. The DLWS was different from what I imagined it would be, but thanks to you, Moose, Kevin & Laurie, I came back with a brain full of new ideas. A big thanks to Drew for all his help, and to you for making me really like my flash again.

Patrick Cavan Brown says:

on November 19, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Joe… you’re funny… I get a real kick reading about your exploits in this blog. Thanks for taking the time to post and inspire… it’s much appreciated.

Mark K says:

on November 19, 2008 at 10:02 pm

…involving people who don’t want to be photographed standing around in an ugly fluorescent lit room!”)

LOL! I think I might have put you in that spot once or three times myself.

Wow, great stuff. Jake isn’t too shabby either – as photographer or model.

Really nice!

Ryan McBride says:

on November 19, 2008 at 10:19 pm

the top photograph of jake is fantastic… editors have a lack of creativity, we just have to pardon them… i’ve been involved in photography for 2 years now and can’t believe some of the photos that are chosen over others… i’d like to consider myself halfway decent as well, so no its not because i suck( or atlteast i hope not :/ ) … being so young i probably have a much different style as well, so that could be why…. wait why am i even trying to conjur up an excuse… editors will just never understand us visual beings. good stuff Mr.Joe

Waldek Chadzynski says:

on November 19, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Big respect to you Joe. Use Moose Peterson like Mobile Light Stand? Wow! :)

Michael S. says:

on November 20, 2008 at 12:15 am

An awesome life you lead! Much fun to read about it. Give my best to the DLWS gang. MIssed you in the San Juan Islands :(

Jay Mann says:

on November 20, 2008 at 5:48 am


Got to admit, I would not think of lighting an entire train car with SB’s. I have a saying that I use often which applies here: “Never let Physics or common sense get in the way of an idea!” You have been inspiring me to start using that as a mantra for Photog. Thanks for that.

I have changed deserts, I am now located in Tripoli, Libya. Should be some interesting photo ops here.


David Powell says:

on November 20, 2008 at 7:15 am

Hey Joe, thanks for another informative post! Quick question – what sort of batteries do you use to power all your speedlights? You must go through quite a few given the number of lights you’re often using, so I’m curious as to whether you’re using rechargeable or throw-away jobs? Cheers, David.

Ron Mandsager says:

on November 20, 2008 at 7:38 am

It was great fun being there w/ you & the rest of the gang – and to gain just a bit more insight into how your mind works! Thanks for sharing your insights w/ all of us!

Kent Weakley says:

on November 20, 2008 at 8:34 am

Hey Joe, That shot with Jake reminds me alot of the shot you did on our DLWS of Phil in Utah. I love how you can take a scene that looks dead or past it’s expiration date (the scene, not Phil) and make it come to life.

Also, thanks for using the SB800s and not leaving all us regular guys in the dust with the new 900s. I’d love to have one just to see what the “engineers” did with the interface this time. I hear good things. Be sure to post photos of face icicles from Yellowstone

Waleed Alzuhair says:

on November 20, 2008 at 9:19 am

Nicely done, I like your use of the multiple SB flash units. The well controlled lighting added a warm touch to the final work.. I liked it a lot.

Great work and a wonderful team..

Waleed Alzuhair
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Tim Norcia says:

on November 20, 2008 at 9:21 am

Joe, Just love your reading your blog! The DLWS does seem like a great bunch of folks. I haven’t had the opportunity to sign up for any of the events…but I am sooo close to reserving the Bar Harbor Maine trip. Im in CT, so the trip of to Maine isn’t a far trek. Actually the NYC event would be even closer! About four years ago, ever since our son was born I have been unable to find the time that I used to find (when I was single!) to go out and shoot. I am a photographer for Kaman Music Corp/Fender but shoot inanimate product photography can at times drive you nuts. Anyway, if I sign up for a DLWS next year, I look forward to meeting you and the whole DLWS team.


John says:

on November 20, 2008 at 10:27 am

As I recall from seeing it as a kid, the two story outhouse has cracks in the floor/ceiling (depending on your point of view) making it even more of an adventure!

Michael Carney says:

on November 20, 2008 at 11:18 am


I just want you to know that your napkin drawings always make my day (and confuse the hell out of my classmates as I start laughing at a napkin…).
Can’t wait to get my self to a DLWS either!



Will Foster says:

on November 20, 2008 at 11:40 am


Awesome shot. Did have enough lights or think about lighting up the inside of the train cars?

Tom Marriage says:

on November 20, 2008 at 6:13 pm


Love the shot. I just watched your latest DVD for Nikon on CLS & it was great! Just loved the last ballerina shot with the strobe shooting through the window. Terrific.

Gee, you have a Numnuts behind your camera too. Thought I was the only one.

Thanks for all the info.


Johnny Yuma says:

on November 20, 2008 at 6:14 pm

There is a lot of light on the camera right side of Jake’s face. Is this spill from the ‘force field’?

Doug Chinn says:

on November 20, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Hi Joe,

As usual, and as everyone always says, awesome posting. I always find them highly interesting, informative and funny. Maybe it’s just me, but I still chuckle over your desert flash Christmas tree! I’d love to try that, but my three Canon speedlights won’t let me. Ahh. Neither do I have access to junked trains and ‘interesting’ old buildings, outhouses or not. England ain’t the same, you know…too damned small, physically and mentally. Ho well, maybe one day I’ll make it across the pond. Until then, Joe, could you clear up a couple of questions? How does the idea of dialing down 4EV carry over to Canon gear? It sure as hell ain’t a setting on the back panel! The othe thing….whats a ‘DLWS’ ?? I think I got the Work Shop bit covered, but ‘DL’ daylight? Nahh. Lighten my darkness oh master of the photon force field. Catch you soon, Be Well,


Eric Lee says:

on November 21, 2008 at 5:33 am

McDonald’s napkins FTW!

Carlton says:

on November 21, 2008 at 6:29 am

I’ve learned so much from reading your blog, Joe. And please tell Moose that I’ve used his warm polarizer for years. I started out as a landscape guy (golf courses, mostly) and thanks to you and David Hobby, I’m now hooked on SB-800s and buying/rigging a seemingly endless supply of crap to accompany them.

The most important thing I’ve learned from you—the thing that has made me more money than anything else—is to have fun on a shoot.

Thank you, Joe.

Skunk says:

on November 21, 2008 at 9:09 am

Hi Joe,

Great post, I love it when you put up the before photo.

With -4 EV dialed in, do you have to dial up the SB800s and SB900 +4, but aren’t they limited to +3 resulting in a -1 flash EV? Or how does that work? Looking forward to your book…

Aric Hoek says:

on November 22, 2008 at 10:49 am

I have become a daily reader of your blog. Love the napkin sketch. Have gels been applied to the SB800s in the background, or has this been done with white balance or dragging the shutter?

James Walker says:

on November 22, 2008 at 11:58 am


I love these “How Joe Shoots” blogs to see how a particular shot was created.

Are you any good in the kitchen Joe? “How Joe Cooks -pork and beans” for instance 😉

Freiburg, Germany

Fotografo says:

on November 28, 2008 at 11:45 am

Wow really nice and interesting. Wonderful picture.
Thanks for sharing.

mrken says:

on November 28, 2008 at 4:53 pm

“…. But we do have something involving people who don’t want to be photographed standing around in an ugly fluorescent lit room!”

haha priceless!

mrken says:

on November 28, 2008 at 4:54 pm

“…. But we do have something involving people who don’t want to be photographed standing around in an ugly fluorescent lit room!”

haha priceless! great blog.

Dan DiMuzio says:

on December 6, 2008 at 10:41 am

Hey Joe,

I know you own a cat (or he owns you?) and thought you might get a kick out of reading about this feline photographer:

Andrei says:

on December 7, 2008 at 4:43 pm

I must say that if the whole idea of the photon force field was to create a low setting sun it didn’t quite work in my opinion. I’m not complaining, the portrait is great, the set up is great and all, but to me the sky should have had some “bouncing” light from the low sunset, right? To me it looks like an old-light-pole-in-the-country kind of light, which I like. I just couldn’t buy the 4 SBs as being our Sun going down. I’m just sayin’.

Cory Taguchi says:

on March 14, 2012 at 10:21 am

TYVM! Keep up the good work.

Peter Cane says:

on October 29, 2014 at 6:32 am

Hi Joe
Thanks for the background on how you got this shot, very interesting. Thanks for sharing with us. I was curious how you gave your speedlights the warm yellow glow on the side of the train, very nice, what filter did you use?

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