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The Workshops Week, or Two….

Feb 4

In Seminars & Workshops, Tips & Tricks at 12:42pm

Just getting back on top of things….that’s a lie, I’ll never be on top of things. What a crock of shit. Can’t believe I said that. Anyway, update from this particular bug on the windshield of life, the workshops were a huge bunch of fun, and lots of folks liked ’em. In the latter part of the couple of weeks, ran a lighting gig for friends from Atlanta and Florida at Shoot Digital in NYC (my favorite NY studio, Hector runs a bad ass coffee bar) and we were blessed with Martina Redux….

Call this cove lighting. Can’t take credit for it. Swiped it from Gilles Bensimon, legendary fashion shooter and long time creative director of Elle magazine. My first cover story for the Geographic was called “The Sense of Sight,” and it was an in depth look at how the human eye works. A coverage item was eye makeup, so I got hooked up with the chief eye makeup artist from Lancome, and off I went to Paris to shoot on the set with him, during a Bensimon fashion take. Man, what a treat. I just sat in the corner most of the day and tried to soak up a tiny speck of what this man knows.

He looked at me and said, “You have ze best job, no? For ze National Geographique, eh?” Seeing as he was making many, many thousands of dollars a day shooting pictures of the world’s most beautiful women, I might have debated him, but I just smiled and shut up. (Good tactic when you are in way, way, over your head.) Thing was, word had circulated on the Paris fashion grapevine that Gilles was shooting at this studio, and during the day these unconsciously beautiful women were showing up, unannounced, to show him their portfolio. He was quite nonchalant about all this, dismissive, even, barely saying a word to these young ladies as did a high speed flip through their books. He would hand it back, and walk away. Crushed, these stiletto shod aspirants would slip back out the door. I remember looking at them (alright, ogling, gawking, jaw on the floor glass eyed dumbstruck staring; choose one) and timidly thinking about raising my hand to get their attention. “I’ll photograph you! I’d be happy to! Really! Your portfolio’s great! I like it! Does that matter?” Uh, no.

Martina is a joy to work with, and totally sweet, but man can she kill ya with a look.

He was shooting in a cove. When you take the time and trouble to rent a cove (think of the shooting set in the shape of half an egg) you might think you would do the expected and shoot into it. No. Bensimon arranged V-flats in the cove, banged his lights into them, which then washed back into the curved white surface and sloshed forward onto the model, who was sitting there on seamless paper. By doing this, he instantly created a huge light source. He settled in, crouching, back comfortably resting on the curve of the low part of the cyc, and proceeded to make pictures. “Voila,” flash. “Voila,” flash. “Voila,” flash. I’m thinking of trying that line of patter next time I do a portrait for SI. You know, in the locker room, going, “Voila!” I think it will be well received.

Trying to show it here. Nigel helped me.

And Vanessa came the next day. Quite honestly, one of my favorite subjects, and an enormously talented ballerina.

Always wanted to blow her hair around, seeing as she’s basically never cut it. Did this with the new-ish Elinchrom deep throat soft box. (That’s the name they’ve marketed it under. Gotta love those wild and crazy Europeans!) Actually, I think they’ve changed the name up but it’s this very deep, mid-sized Octa shaped soft box that produces an amazing, columnated quality of light. It’s soft, but it doesn’t spill or spread. Wonderful. Tried an over/under combo with Eric and Hope, who were terrific, enthusiastic newlywed subjects.

Those things will be a go to soft box for some time to come….

We had Day 8 of The Lighting Workshops, and I didn’t blog, so I really didn’t win my bet with Moose Peterson. He told me I wouldn’t blog every day, but I did for 7 straight days. Sheesh. I don’t know Moose and Scott Kelby do it, cause I got plain knackered. Anway, we were once again blessed with Jasmine’s presence, who is so effortless in front of the camera as to just about defy gravity.

Used a few different approaches to this, mostly starting with the Ezy Box Hot Shot soft box, and then upping the ante to run through a 3×6 Lastolite diffuser panel, if my memory serves. Had low bounce, or floor skip going as well. The bigger 3×6 really smoothed out the light.

Jasmine works so well, we succumbed to plain old natural daylight for a bit. What a great studio…

And then messed with a Honl gridded, SB-900 through a Tri-grip diffuser. Made it soft, but didn’t allow the light to spread and wash out the shadow pattern on the wall.

And Cara came by, FOL (friend of Lynn). She had a great soulful presence so we lit her really simply, with one SB unit through a Tri-grip, camera left.

Phil came back as well and this light is an Elinchrom Ranger with a long throw reflector, about 79-80′ from him, one story down, in the parking lot. Great light. Love dirty windows.

We’re thinking about doing it again this summer. Stay tuned….More tk….

Victoria Will says:

on February 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Just wanted to say hello and tell you that I love reading your blog. In addition to making my day each and every time, you are a wealth of knowledge and I very much appreciate both your candor and your honesty. You make continued learning so much fun and equally as accessible! Most of all, you images are spectacular and inspiring.

So thanks! a million.

Hope to see you soon.

Victoria Will

Bob Montgomery says:

on February 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm

More great shots and details on the shoot. I would absolutely come down and do this again, in a heartbeat. Even if it was warmer… oh, you “southerners” and your chattering teeth. The basement was only 10 degrees F or so 😉

David Apeji says:

on February 4, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Question for you: Is there any possibility of using the Elinchrom deep throat soft box with an SB strobe?

Ole M says:

on February 4, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Awesome images. Love the one with Jasmine in natrual light..

Totally wish Id be able to come ot one of your workshops once.
I dont spouse you have anything going on around New York Spring 2010? =D
(moving there then)

Ryan Brenizer says:

on February 4, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Jasmine is a champ. I have never seen a model quite so intuitive about how the light will hit her, even those with a metric ton of experience.

Mick Lerlop says:

on February 4, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Great shots. Do you have a clip from the shoot with Martina to share with us? You also want a workshop here in the DC area :-)

Bob DeChiara says:

on February 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Deep Throat soft box??? Holy crap! Gotta get me one of them.

More great stuff from one of the world’s best bloggers & shooters.

Looking foward to your classes at PSW!


Richard Cave says:

on February 4, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Quite clever of Nigel to do that drawing.

UK, would be a great place to do a workshop, beer, all the napkins you want to write on. Correct english spelling, we could do with some of your wit and wisdom over here.

Im sure there would be lots of interest, and the hotels here have the best light diffusing sheets you can imagine. On some days it doesnt rain. David Hobby even braved it with shorts on.

I would help you type your blog,


trunkmonkey says:

on February 5, 2009 at 12:18 am

i KNOW you weren’t in ATLANTA. i’m going to have to send the posse out for you.

Jay Mann says:

on February 5, 2009 at 2:54 am

Hi Joe,

Great to see you back on-line,

So, to put the cove lighting in term I understand, he basically duplicated the way a highend car head light works? The strobe is facing the model, but the V flats bounce it back to the cove, which diffuse the light into a monster sized soft source. I am a bit of a slow learner, and just by asking this question, i figured it out. I couldn’t understand the sketch right away, there is no Numnuts reference. But I already typed this so….

This must take some significant strobe power, a few SB 800’s would be gasping.

Anyway, its a cool idea.

Tuffer says:

on February 5, 2009 at 5:35 am

these workshops look soo fun. really enjoyed reading about them.

Harvey V. Chua says:

on February 5, 2009 at 7:19 am

You look up to Bensimon and we look up to you! :)

Rich Moll says:

on February 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

Hi Joe,
Great shots, thanks again. On the shot of Jasmine in front of the window, with the Lastolite 3×6, did you use more than one SB900 shooting through the panel? Were you shooting using the CLS or were you on manual?

Carlos Bruno says:

on February 5, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Question: How come (second picture of Jasmine) you got a “semi-bokeh” (read shallow depth of field) with a 140mm lens at f/10???
Now you’re making miracles now?
The windows are gorgeous out of focus meantime she is ALL in focus?? How? Hoooooooooooooooooow???
By the way #1: Still piss because I WAS the first to call and send e-mails to participated of this last workshop (save 2 years of my money in drugs to pay for! … kidding … o no) and I WAS NOT included.
Yeah, yeah … still discussing with Lynn why and how …
By the way #2: change the captions of the pixs … stil having “Tom Aellis and his son Jared” on them.
Maybe we can meet in Boston .. .and you’ll look at me AGAIN like who is this f*** fat brazilian?
Take care!

John says:

on February 5, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Hi Joe,

Just wanted to say I love how you sculpt and mold light on your subjects! I am so glad you are blogging now and I like Moose and Kelby, I hope you find it in you to do it more frequently.

Also, ever given any thought to traveling around the country to do these lighting workshops? I’m only guessing, but I bet you would have a packed house every where you went!

Thanks again for awesome information and inspiration!

John says:

on February 5, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Again this summer, in Westchester? I’ll travel there for a vacation if I can attend that workshop. Let us know in time!

Theis says:

on February 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Hey there,

All these post and nice pictures only one thing makes me crazy….. the distance from Denmark to NY it’s a damn long trip :(

Thx for sharing here on the blog you should consider putting up a few videos from workshops like these, I bet you people would eat them raw 😀

Best regards

Milan Simic says:

on February 5, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Amazing experience during workshop, such lighting brainstorming all day long. Incredible how you managed to cover both more and less experienced photogs.

Workshop takeaway: ( )

— Milan

Pat Morrissey says:

on February 6, 2009 at 4:48 am

Hi Joe,
what happened to the original “cove” lighting shot? It was the pick of the bunch!

Miguel says:

on February 6, 2009 at 5:37 am

Hi Joe,

Cats aside, I cant see clearly the “cove lighting” scheme.
Can you please provide a better explanation on how did you achieve this effect?

Kind regards,

Mark Howells-Mead says:

on February 6, 2009 at 8:22 am

Amazing photos as always, particularly the cove lighting. I’ve blogged about the technique here, with a link to your blog:

David PRitchett says:

on February 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Please, Joe. In Toronto!


Dmitry Zaslavsky says:

on February 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Your workshop was awesome, I had a great time.
Your teaching style is great, and your skills are superb.

Mike Ignatov says:

on February 7, 2009 at 8:51 pm

That Jasmine has some sharp knees.

Cat says:

on February 9, 2009 at 1:13 am

I’ve really enjoyed keeping an eye out and seeing some of the shots you’ve gotten in this studio – I especially love the lighting you did in the basement with gels. I haven’t seen stuff that cool with gels since the 1980’s and I like it!

Thanks for sharing!

cameron griffin says:

on February 9, 2009 at 6:30 pm

i liked the one where you made where you made the borders of the window a little over exposed, you made it look good.I cant make anything look right if im trying to make it look good it always turns out crapy

matt haines says:

on February 18, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Hey Joe. A bit puzzled, as the first three images don’t seem to match your description of the ‘cove’ lighting. Light is soft but directional, coming from the top. And the falloff down her chest is pretty dramatic, as if the light source is pretty close. Oh and the highlights in her eyes are pretty small…one would expect a giant white sphere in there. So I gotta ask…are those pictures really of the cove lighting?

And why did you take a picture of a cat puking into a dish? :)

Jane May says:

on February 21, 2009 at 11:15 pm

I have been reading your book, The moment it clicks, and love your photos, but you sure spend a lot of money on lighting. I find some of these photos so interesting though. I only started taking photos because of my daughter’s running. The coach wanted all of them to review and found that taking so many photos benefited the team by allowing her to see the form of all of the team members and improve it. I deleted one of the best ones because I thought the boy would not want the one seen with him falling over the hurdles resulting in a compound fracture of his right arm. Some of the techniques that I find in your book are so good with high school seniors. Thanks

jeff says:

on February 27, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Great stuff, as always. Umm, do you actually have bound napkins that you draw lighting sketches on? I saw that in another post too. Care to explain?

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