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Tri-Grips in the Trees

Jul 30

In Seminars & Workshops at 9:16am


One of the truly hard things to handle out there is dappled light. Big blue sky, hot sun, breeze pushing the leaves every sort of which way, hot spots all over your subject like some sort of plus 2 EV measles. Sheesh. Drives ya mad.

Tri-grip diffusers come in 48″ sizes, which covers a fair bit of territory, used properly. Now using it properly might mean you gotta climb a tree. So that’s what I did today out at the Google campus. Part of being a photog is never growing up of course, which means you still climb trees at uh, well, an advanced age. The diffuser, placed thusly, provided some open shade quality–soft and even–to our wonderful model, Crystal. Gave the photog a fighting chance of beating back the hot sun/hard shade condition he was confronted with. (Photo above by Jeremy Joslin.)

Got another day tomorrow out at Google. Great place. 16 cafeterias. Hell, they’re not cafeterias, they’re like, 4 star restaurants you can eat at for free. I had the blackened salmon today. I wonder if they need staff photographers? This is wild. I mean, I came outta newspapers, where guys would raid the futures file for any gig that had a buffet attached to it. Some PR firm would send out invites to cover the announcing of the groundbreaking of the Museum of the Obscure Antiquities, and shooters would show up, pop a couple frames that would never have a prayer of seeing ink, and then attack the lunch line. A long, proud big city tabloid tradition.

On the way to Silicon Valley, stopped in Phoenix, or, Luke AFB to be exact, and shot with a colleauge,  Kenneth Robert, who had the unique assignment of making a picture of the bride of an F-16 pilot with the F-16, as a surprise.


It was like, 110 degrees out there. We had a wonderful, if melting bride, radio trigger trouble (no mystery, it being an Air Force base, with radar, all sorts of RF, and most likely some sort of double secret probation type frequencies blasting around). Not to mention the general mayhem that often occurs when the sun drops outta the sky faster than the stock market on a bad day. Fun to do, and working with Kenneth and the gang from his studio was terrific. Can’t wait to hear the report of the groom’s surprise on wedding day when he gets a framed 24×30 of his bride and his plane, in the same picture. Cool.


Here’s a shot of the Googlers…..we got one more day on campus, then Friday,  opening stop for me on Kelby Tours. South San Fran covention center. Over 700 people. Yikes. May the TTL be with me….more tk….

Brad says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:21 am

Hopefully the groom doesn’t read your blog :)

Trevor says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:32 am

I love the F-16 and Bride shot! That is fantastic! I can’t imagine how excited the groom is going to be when he sees that!

Joachim Næss says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:39 am

Bride and f-16 pic came out great! Nice work!

Daniel Baggs says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:39 am

WOW to the f-16 shot. I work with helicopters, so i’m totally gonna emulate this shot.
I love the lights in the under-carriage technique.

Theis says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:42 am

Google must be the place to work :)

Great food and you stopping by that would not be a bad day at work in my eyes :)

Kristof Pattyn says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:53 am

Haha, photography is just an excuse to get to places where one would be perceived as out of place or too old. 😉

I climbed in a tree last weekend with an umbrella and a Lastolite EZbox. Felt like a kid again.

I get the impression that working at Google must feel like going to a themepark each day and getting paid!

Greetz Kristof

Ranger 9 says:

on July 30, 2009 at 10:05 am

Looks like the F-16’s pitot boom is goosing the bride! Probably the groom will get a kick out of that…

Ben Olivares says:

on July 30, 2009 at 10:40 am

May the TTL be with me !!!! hahaha, this is a good one! I am going to adopt this phrase

Ken says:

on July 30, 2009 at 10:48 am

I am thinking Joe, Google may need an assistant Photographer to take photos of people taking photos. A sort of secret agent type thing.

I think I would work just for the free food

Ken in KY

Kenneth Robert says:

on July 30, 2009 at 11:18 am

Joe, thanks again for helping me with this portrait. Terri the bride is so excited to present the image to him. You and Drew were invaluable in pulling this off.

You are a great photographer and genuinely humble man.

All the best.


Jennifer says:

on July 30, 2009 at 11:42 am

We loved having you here Joe! I learned so much packed into just one day, it’s pretty unbelievable. You’re a great teacher… lots of practical skills to get out and shoot, plus more importantly, inspiration and vision to guide the way.

You’re ALWAYS welcome at Google! Did you try the calamari? It was pretty rockin!

Kevin Glackmeyer says:

on July 30, 2009 at 11:47 am

Nice use of the under lights to separate the jet’s silhouette from the dark horizon…was that an afterthought once you chimped the frame? or did you anticipate that? well done indeed…

Tina Harden says:

on July 30, 2009 at 12:21 pm

See ya tomorrow in San Fran!

Jim White says:

on July 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm

That F-16 shoot is great Joe. I too had to fight with dappled light on a photo shoot yesterday. I don’t own any of those nifty Tri-grip diffusers yet, so had my assistant make do with my less than adequate 20″ Photoflex . . All in all, not a bad day for it 1. being my 57th birthday, and 2. Doing a portrait shoot of a beautiful young woman

Richard Ersted says:

on July 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I enjoy reading your posts; thank you very much for your insights.

Quick questions: was the Tri-Grip diffuser the 1-stop or 2-stop version?; was the reflector white?; or some other surface?

Richard Ersted in Palo Alto, California

Tommy Lynch says:

on July 30, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Double secret probation…ha ha ha…..was Flounder there too?…..Nice one Joe!

jakob says:

on July 30, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Marriage is like war, sometimes:-) Awesome shot Joe! Great Idea!

Randy Hanna says:

on July 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Joe: Great work on the F16 shot. I would enjoy some details on just how you got this to work. Cheers and thanks for sharing all of your work with us.

Jeremy says:

on July 30, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Joe- I’ll be one of the 700 tomorrow. Really looking forward to it. -Jeremy

Scott says:

on July 30, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Loved the F-16 shot, just had to mention it on my new blog.

Mark says:

on July 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Great job with the bride and plane. Cool idea.

San Francisco…Polk Street….Nick’s Crispy Tacos…Double X beer…guac…chips..go for it.

Del says:

on July 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Great wedding shoot! I too was wondering how she’s going to keep it a secret until a September wedding since half the known world has now seen it on the two blogs?

See you tomorrow also. Really looking forward to it. You can’t miss me: I’m the middle aged guy with glasses. :-)

kevie says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

i wonder if stolen hotel bed sheets would work too…

kevie says:

on July 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

in trees

Giovani Ferlito silhouette says:

on July 31, 2009 at 2:19 am

Beautiful! I love the soft light on the bride and the silhouetted f-16!
Very beautiful light! I love the photograph!

Callum Winton says:

on July 31, 2009 at 6:52 am

Hi Joe.
How did you overcome the trigger problems?
Set the flashes to SU4 mode and hope one of them picks up the trigger and trips the others to go off?


arun says:

on July 31, 2009 at 10:57 am

” I mean, I came outta newspapers, where guys would raid the futures file for any gig that had a buffet attached to it. ”
You are quite the funny man Joe. Great shot of the bride and jet.

Sathish Mantha says:

on July 31, 2009 at 11:29 am

I love the F16 shot. And i am surprised you didnt use ton of those strobes. haha. Intentional or RF issues?? I think atleast one light in the cockpit or showing the body of the F16 would have been nice. Just like the way you lit the boat side body in “Nikon Guide to Creative Lighting”.
Neverthless,, amazing post.

Where is the picture of Crystal?? We got the nice tree set up shot. Would love to see the model shot? Pl post soon!


Eddie says:

on July 31, 2009 at 11:59 am

Double secret probation!

Tom O'Connor says:

on July 31, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Joe, Did you use CTO over the flash in the F-16 shot?
Was that shot through a Chimera?
Outstanding work of Art.
Tom O’C

cameron griffin says:

on July 31, 2009 at 1:48 pm

what a match,brides and jet airplanes :). awesome pictures!

Bruce Philpott says:

on August 1, 2009 at 12:36 am

Thanks for an absolutely terrific seminar today in San Francisco, Joe! Just fantastic! I wrote about it on the Photozo (

john Vouyoukas says:

on August 1, 2009 at 6:12 am

Simply fantastic…..could you please help with the shot details and how you got it?

John Leonard says:

on August 1, 2009 at 9:17 am

Joe, honestly until I went to your workshop in Dobbs I thought the whole TriGrip thing was over rated. Afterwords I bought 2 8in1 units.


I’m waiting to get an F-16 into a wedding (you know someone I could call if I need one right?)….but I do get skate boarding grooms!

Tony Drumm says:

on August 1, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Am I the only one wondering, did you shoot the F-16 at f/16? I hear congress killed f/22. Or was the F-22?

Catalin Onel says:

on August 10, 2009 at 7:54 am

Now how many pro wedding photographers could pride themselves to having a session with an F-16 jet fighter? Here comes our Joe and wipes the floor with all of them… and he is not even a full time wedding photog and probably did the shot in less than 10 minutes. I’d really love to read about this shot in you next book.

Bryan says:

on June 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Sweet shot of the jet and bride, that dude is gonna be stoked! Really enjoying following this trip.

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