responsiveslider_lol_02 The Language of Light DVD - More
MeetJoe_02 Meet Joe McNally - More
inthebag What’s in the Bag? - More


Dec 14

In Seminars & Workshops at 2:37am

It was time to leave Vancouver….maybe it was the rain, but my imagination was getting a little dark.

Done with two SB 900 units, TTL, with the trigger device being the SU800 attached and extended off camera via the use of two linked SC29 cords. I do this often to extend the TTL signal and reach units that are fifty or sixty feet away in a creepy alley. The SU800 is perched atop a light stand and aimed so it will clip the sensor of the green gelled light that is on a floor stand and sitting behind Pooyia, Vancouver based shooter and Vancouver Workshop assistant for the week. He embraced his role as “lunatic in the alley with the axe” with a disturbing amount of fervor. Up front, my friend Hannah does the  noir “young damsel in distress” thing incredibly well. She is lit with the Lastolite Ezy-Box Hotshoe light, the new one with the interior baffle. It makes a great, localized, portable portrait unit. Nice and soft, not too much spill. It too, is positioned so the SU800 can see it.  It looked something like this on paper….

Hannah Coleman is a wondrous New Zealander and one of the truly talented ballerinas I have photographed. We worked together on the Nikon SB900 video, when she was dancing with the Boston School of Ballet. For the video, she pulled some absolutely stunning dance moves, in addition to this amazing sort of on pointe catwoman. (Halle Berry move over!)

She mentioned she was leaving the school to dance for the Calgary Ballet Company. Hmmmm….things pass into the rolodex of my noodle, and when I was heading for the Vancouver Workshop, I pinged her on email. Wanna do some pictures and work with the class?

She basically emailed back the words, “En route.” It was a terrific stroke of luck for the class as they had Hannah flying, leaping, turning and twisting, all with grace, enthusiasism and good humor. I threw my hoodie on her and brought her outside by the docks to do a TTL fill flash demo, and she immediately turned into the most beautiful hobbit you’ve ever seen.

The above is TTL, shoot through one half an umbrella. Left the backing on half of a Lastolite all in one, and then took some stripes of gaffer tape over the diffusion half, just to break up the light a little. Kept moving around her hand held, cause the flash is giving me some stop and sharp oomph, and the background is okay if it gets a bit moved and fuzzy.

My thanks to the BC gang for making it a wonderful week.

Onto the mild climes and laid back style of mid-coast California, and the Lepp Institute, run by the non-stop duo of Hal and Victoria Schmitt. We had a great class and a good time, knocking around the Los Osos/San Luis Obisipo area, or “SLO” if you want to pull off being hip and local.

Its stressful for me, though, to be in these super relaxed, hip, California type villes, mostly cause after being around NY for 30 plus years,  I jaywalk like crazy. Jaywalking is a lifestyle in NY, a non stop life and death board game played by motorist and pedestrian. It spices up your day, gets your heart rate going and provides ample opportunity for any of the aggrieved or irritated parties (that would be all of them) to be creative verbally, and loudly. I would be in SLO and simply cross in the middle of the block or against the light, and get eye daggers from the crowd at the corner, those relaxed and civic minded folks who are there drumming their fingers and obeying the big electric hand. But then, we’re here in grape country, and I figure its easy to be relaxed and pliant if you routinely have a half a bottle of wine for breakfast.

I found this great crosswalk in SLO….

Its got these sensors that activate flashing lights in the pavement when you walk into the street! Cool! I was fascinated by this and kept walking back and forth for a few minutes, much to the dismay of the traffic pattern on Higuera St. Some motorists got outright annoyed, but then I figure in downtown SLO, where every other shop seems to be devoted to the sale of pizza, there can’t be a real rush to get anywhere. Also, what was novel to me was that the lights were pointed towards the cars, alerting them to the presence of crosswalkers. (Not cross dressers, we’re considerably south of San Francisco.)

In Manhattan, they’d be pointed at the pedestrians so the drivers could aim their vehicles better.

Anyway, through the good relationships Hal and Victoria have with the local community, we gained access for the class to the Madonna Inn, which is, well, one of those places that happen only in America. Each room has a theme, from “Caveman,” to “Love Birds,” to “Sugar and Spice.” The gaudier rooms are a little piece of Vegas tucked away in California wine country.

For a lighting demo, we put Samantha, a lovely model who can look like peaches and cream one minute and Aphrodite the next in one of the uh, more understated rooms. Luckily, she showed up looking like she had just been dipped in the cotton candy spinner at the county fair, and thus fit right into all the sparkles and spangles of this exceedingly pink room.

Now, one could drive oneself batty lighting this funhouse, and try to manage every little bit and piece of glitz on the walls, but life is really, really too short for that. So I put up one big ass light–an Elinchrom Ranger with a long throw reflector boomed off the balcony just outside the windows. Cranked it out there as far as the boom would take me, and racked out the power and let fly. It comes through the window in the shape of the window, predictably, but then hits the walls and does unpredictable things, kinda the way sun light dappling through the window might. One light, no waiting!

More tk….

Ken says:

on December 14, 2008 at 2:59 am


Very nice photos and info.

Merry Christmas

Ken in KY

Derek says:

on December 14, 2008 at 4:31 am

wow nice and long! I love your little diagram drawings haha. I have got to get me a Lastolite Ezy-Box!!!

Kyle Carter says:

on December 14, 2008 at 5:23 am

Damn, I wish all the women in New Zealand were like Hannah… How dare you steal such a brilliant model and make her work in your country.

Dave Brown says:

on December 14, 2008 at 10:04 am

Wicked shots, especially the fill-flash demo portrait. And thank for the double-cord TTL tip.

Mark K. says:

on December 14, 2008 at 10:19 am

The catwoman and hoodie shots are fantastic. What a model!

Did some shooting in NYC myself this week….it’s waiting for you to return.

Nicole Young says:

on December 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm

I’ve been planning a “shadow” shot in my mind for a while now … thanks for posting yours! I’m getting motivated to give it a go, now that I finally have some PWs in my possession 😉

Israel says:

on December 14, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Great photos! next time you are in the wine country stop in Petaluma, you will have tons of fun with the crosswalk!

Also they have the funkiest hotel called The Metro…

Skunk says:

on December 14, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Great photos as always.

Thanks for showing the diagram of the chained SC29s and SU800. I always wondered how you are able to pull that range with CLS.

Can’t wait for the new book!

Jay Mann says:

on December 15, 2008 at 12:37 am


The diagram is scrawled on a conventional piece of paper!!!!! Not a napkin ??? or letter head form some seedy motel? I am going to be off balance for the day!!!! ( Well, just a little more off than usual)


Bill Bogle Jr. says:

on December 15, 2008 at 12:37 am

They tried the lights in the cross walk in Poughkeepsie, NY, about 1 1/2 hours north of NYC, for Route 9 near Marist College. The lights ended up confusing most, and the number or rear end accidents. After about 6 months, they took it out. Even though NY Law requires people to stop with pedestrians in a cross walk, my best memory is when a struck swerved to miss a pedestrian in the cross walk, running over the sign tethered in the road telling drivers to stop, and then dragging the sign down the road as it never slowed down.

It is a game of chance to cross a NYC and many other town’s streets.

Did you forget to mention the point system? Canes and walkers are always extra points.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Ally B. says:

on December 15, 2008 at 1:59 am

Haha. We have some of those crosswalks in Arkansas, mainly on college campuses. Great post, as always.

Deji Osinulu says:

on December 15, 2008 at 3:00 am

I remember seeing that in the video, going – whoa! … and then hitting the rewind button. Love the hoodie shot … beautiful wrap of light into the shadows.

Mark C says:

on December 15, 2008 at 7:19 am

OK, 1st you P me off calling the stunningly beautiful Hannah a Hobbit. I’m sure you meant “Elven Princess”. But THEN it’s onto “In Manhattan…” and coffee-outta-the-shnoz time.

All’s forgiven :)

Bill Moore says:

on December 15, 2008 at 8:51 am


I started off this Monday am reading your blog entry and laughing my ass off…what more can this grunt ask for on a Monday am-lots of great info and a great big smile on my mug! Thanks…

Bill Moore
Baton Rouge, LA

Stuart Marks says:

on December 15, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Cool photos as usual! Quick question on the Creepy Guy In Alley shot. Was there a gel or something on the ‘900 lighting the damsel in distress, or did you adjust the camera’s white balance? The foreground light looks moderately warm. Thanks.


Jason says:

on December 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Thanks for the great week at Lepp, Joe! Your set from Samantha in the pink room turned out nice (of course … to be expected, right?!). Was great to see how you do what you do in person and pick up some stuff from your massive “brain dump” – my head’s still spinning from some of your lighting tricks! Best workshop I’ve ever attended.


Ben Harriott says:

on December 17, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Wow. Found your blog through Scott Thomas’s (stphoto) blog. I’m amazed. Great blog you have and really inspiring photography Joe.

Blake says:

on December 19, 2008 at 1:27 am

Love SLO, went to school there. Check out Linnaeas Cafe on Garden street for some great coffee and local vibe – my favorite place! They have an amazing garden in the back … feels a bit like New Orleans.

Robert Grubba says:

on December 20, 2008 at 6:44 pm

You are right Joe, she is the most beautiful hobbit I’ve seen. Beautiful photographs, as allways.

Dwayne.D.C.Tucker II says:

on December 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Okay Mr. McNally WOW!!!!

I can’t remember if the first time I heard about you was on PhotoshopUserTv or if it was on Scott Kelby’s blog, but from the whenever that time was I feel in love with you work!

I bought the Oct national geo mag just for your cover shot :)

I think it’s time you know about me I am Dwayne Tucker and I am a fan of your work. I love photographs.

Dwayne.D.C.Tucker II

Richard Swaffield says:

on June 16, 2009 at 7:13 am

Thenks for the great blog and recent book.
We had great fun trying to recreate the ‘Creepy guy in the alley’ shot recently.

Shemale says:

on February 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I’ve really enjoyed reading your articles. You obviously know what you are talking about! Your site is so easy to navigate too, I’ve bookmarked it in my favourites 😀

Trans fan says:

on March 20, 2010 at 7:54 am

Wow , please do us a favour and post some more stuff like this one ! thank you a lot

shemale cam chat says:

on March 31, 2010 at 7:19 am

I d love to read a lot of stuff like this pone but I think it will not be possible 1 Thank you ffor the post!

Happy Ladyboy says:

on April 11, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I can just reccomand everyone to read this posts , and enjoy them all this guy knows what he is writing about!

Hisako Hanenkrat says:

on April 12, 2010 at 9:37 am

I can just reccomand everyone to read this posts , and enjoy them all this guy knows what he is writing about!

Leave a Reply