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Heading West….

Jul 21

In Tips & Tricks at 9:09am

Got a grab bag of stuff I’ve been meaning to catch up to here…..

First, there was the Justin Clamp. Now comes The Sylinator. Sounds better, I think, than a Shure Line paint pole with a metal screw on thingy–Though David Hobby, at his Strobist workshop at Paso Robles did come up with “Metalhead.” Cool.


The pole comes in long and medium reach sizes…..And below, the metalhead…..



So, the naming of the Justin Clamp. I shot the first all digital story for the National Geographic. I didn’t really know diddly about digital process back then (and don’t know much more now, I confess) but it was okay. Not that many people knew a whole bunch about it, anyway. It was the time of the D1X, the first digital camera I thought approached the quality of Kodachrome. No matter to me what was happening inside the camera. It was a camera, and I was shooting a story, same thing I’ve done for quite a while now.


I was hanging SB-80 flashes all over aircraft with these cheesy, flimsy, third party piece of shit hot shoe clamping doobers, and getting frustrated as hell, cause the little ball heads really couldn’t hold more than a thimble full of weight, and they were always slipping and the flashes would spill light in unwanted directions.

I called my bud Justin Stailey, then of the Bogen Corporation, and complained. Photographers. We’re good at complaining. I said there had to be a better way, and Justin being Justin, found one. He brought some off the shelf Manfrotto parts over to my studio and cobbled this little Frankenstein of a clamp together. I said perfect, that’s what I want, give me 10 of them. (Shoulda asked for a percentage. Bogen’s sold a ton of these things.)


I wrote about in American Photo, and called it the Justin Clamp. Got Justin in hot water, though, cause his professors at RIT were pretty upset that a relatively recent graduate all of a sudden had a frikkin’ piece of equipment named after his own self. Justin is now with Leica cameras, and exploring the wonders of German optics.

So let’s see if we can turn the trick with this goober. I’ve really gotten fond of the combo of the Sylinator and an EzyBox Hot Shoe softbox, one of the new ones with an improved bracket (fits the SB900). Gary Astill, the resident genius behind all the springy, twisty, bendy Lastolite things that leap out of blue bags and run around making nice light for you has further improvements in the EzyBox tucked up his sleeve. Stay tuned.


I must be fond of the Sylinator, cause you can get a deal on it in tandem with The Hot Shoe Diaries on Amazon.


The “Syl” part of course comes from the originator of this gizmo combo, the irrepressible Mr. Arena, of the PixSylated blogspot. He just wrote one of those shock wave blogs, this one consisting of rants and wishes about the Canon wireless hot shoe flash system.


Hoo, boy….at Canon HQ they’ve gone to the mattresses after the world wide ripple of applause and approval about Syl’s very constructive dissection of Canon flashes turned tsunami-like. He’s become an expert at deciphering the wireless series of hoots, clicks and grunts Canon flashes emit in an attempt to display a primitive form of dominance in the exposure scenario. Took him a while to write this, I’m sure. I’ve had these visions of Syl in some isolated mountain outpost, having re-built the Unabomber’s shack, and sitting there with a battered Royal typewriter, a gas lamp, and a bottle of George Dickel, knocking out this manifesto.


My bud Bob Krist is blogging, and it’s a worthwhile read. Worthwhile? He’s got 30 plus years of experience covering the travel waterfront, shoots beautiful stuff, is very generous with his large store of knowledge, and is a helluva nice guy to boot. Even if he does allege he won that knock down drag ’em out fight we had when we were doing the JoeBob Tells Ya About the SB900 video for Nikon. I kicked his ass. I mean, that guy’s old. Uh, wait a minute, we’re the same age. Hmmm…


Anyway, he is the author of many books, font of shooting wisdom and the force behind the LKE, the Lighting Kit for the Elderly. Check it out….


Lessee…long time friend and quintessential photojournalist David Burnett has pointed me in the direction of numerous wonderful photos lately. David has remarkable intelligence and integrity behind the lens, and his work has always been a thought provoking benchmark. He recently had a post on the NYT lens blog about his coverage of the Apollo 11 launch. He also recently did a book on Bob Marley, called Soul Rebel. David’s ability to connect the storytelling dots in the middle of the fracas out there, and bring back something coherent to the readership of mags like Time and Life has always been something to aspire to, and emulate.


Scott Kelby and Mark “The William Holden of Flash Lighting” Astmann have a twofer video up on Scott’s blog. All about the Quadra. We’ve all been looking for something in between big flash and small flash, and the Quadra slides right into that territory. I’ll work with it more this week, and get back with more field stuff.


On the plane. Listening to Jakob Dylan. Something Good This Way Comes…..Good philosophy when you’re out there behind the lens. Patience. A good picture will come, and that one frame will make all the crappy ones we all shoot on a continuous basis just….go away.


Bound for Santa Fe, home of the Monroe Gallery of Photography, run by the wonderful, decent, and incredibly knowledgeable Sid and Michelle Monroe. The gallery is a breathtaking repository of historically important photojournalism that has transcended categorization and is regarded as art. Art that means something. Art that you can chew on. Whenever I am in Santa Fe, that mecca of all manner of art, and I can’t stand to hear another wind chime, or see another painted cow skull, or see another show of poorly shot photographs printed with the collodion print process (which makes them marred, chipped, aged looking and thus somehow “significant”) I go to Monroe and I wander the room.

And I find I’m looking at my memory, right there on the walls. More tk….

fozan malaysia.. says:

on July 21, 2009 at 9:16 am

wow….i get more info in this entry….
thanks joe..

Mark Olwick says:

on July 21, 2009 at 9:17 am

Nice blog, as usual.

One of the cool things about Bob Krist is that he doesn’t get all caught up in the megapixel race. If it’s light and gives good quality he shoots with it. It surprised me (pleasantly) that he shoots with D90’s!


Matt Brandon says:

on July 21, 2009 at 9:28 am

Joe, Yet another great post. I am move, for some reason by the “Drum Major and Children”. Getting old I guess. I remember that image, years ago, flipping through my parent’s Life Magazines (I think).I always thought Norman Rockwell could have painted it. I hope some day I can visit the Monroe Gallery in person. It’s a long way from Malaysia.

Dwayne D.C. Tucker says:

on July 21, 2009 at 10:50 am

Mr. McNally,

Can you post the finish photo of the lady in St. Lucia; really want to see how that came out :)

Dwayne D.C. Tucker II

Jeffrey Chapman says:

on July 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

The Sylinator is small, light and worth its weight in gold (or at least the $20 or whatever it costs). It’s become a must for my lighting bag. I just wonder if it’ll fit threads in other countries. Could I show up with just that in some other country, buy a cheap pole, and be good to go? Because I don’t know, the Justin Clamp is also staying in my bag.

Mark says:

on July 21, 2009 at 10:59 am

He’s alive!!!

Whew, though you might have fallen off that ladder in the previous post and could get back up. Glad to know all is A-OK. Great links…more ways to stay up late…

Sid and Michelle says:

on July 21, 2009 at 11:52 am

Welome to Santa Fe, Joe! Joe is too modest to mention that his photos are featured at the gallery.

Justin Van Leeuwen says:

on July 21, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Now if only the Sylinator was available in Canada… oh wait it is (who wants to save on shipping with me?).

Eric says:

on July 21, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Great stories Joe. So… was it this post that made the LKE sell out on Adorama?!?

Ben says:

on July 21, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Funny thing I just had the world wide photo walk with Syl this past weekend and he didn’t mention anything about Sylinator at all. If I knew this before, I would of been a little more intimidated. You know what they say about a man that carry’s a big stick don’t you?

Matthi says:

on July 22, 2009 at 4:18 am


What kind of softbox do you use for the speedlite? (first pic) i’m a new reader of you blog, maybe you wrote this information in older entries…


MaryT says:

on July 22, 2009 at 7:10 pm

“third party piece of shit hot shoe clamping doobers”

ROFLMAO!!! I had a hard time reading the rest of the blog after reading that line! I kept falling out my chair laughing! I think you have just given me my next favorite quote. 😉

Love your blog BTW … and back to lurkdom …

Jon H. says:

on July 23, 2009 at 6:54 pm

I’ve been doing something similar for quite a while with an old monopod for my “flash-on-a-stick” arrangement (typically an SB-800 with a shoot-thru umbrella). I screwed a 5/8 spigot that came with one of my flash / umbrella adapters on the monopod tripod screw, and my regular flash / umbrella adapters fit right on just like on my lightweight lightstands. (detail here:

I also picked up a little ballistic nylon toolbelt-type pouch at my local home repair center (for holding nails, screws, and other small stuff) that clips onto my belt. I rest the foot of the monopod in that pouch, which makes it a simple matter to balance the light-on-stick with one hand and the camera with the other if I don’t have a VAL available. (detail here:

I also keep a 5 lb sandbag bungied to the foot of the monopod. Helps to balance the weight of the flash / modifier and makes it a whole lot easier to keep the business end positioned where you want it: either by myself or with a VAL.

Love the blog, Joe!

Jon H. (

Diego Jose says:

on July 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Wow what a cool story on the Justin Clamp! Thanks for sharing Joe!

Rodney R. says:

on July 28, 2009 at 3:52 pm

So should I not buy the Ezybox Hotshoe kit yet? Are they coming out with a new version soon?

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