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Thinking, Shooting…Always a Dangerous Thing….

Oct 8

In Seminars & Workshops, Thoughts at 11:54am

Was in Vegas last week for PhotoShop World, and gave a quickie 40 minute demo for my buds at Bogen. Used the new Quadra, a 400 watt second little big man of a flash unit. Lotta fun. Just grabbed folks off the floor and made a few pix.


Lastolite makes this thing called a background hi-liter, which is basically an empty mattress pad you can stuff lights into. It gives you this incredible, lock solid, done deal white background. Uh, Joe, this photo is shot on black. Yep, turned around and used the wall of light it creates as a main. Gorgeous light for Rae, a terrific young shooter who is hopefully bound for FIT in NY this fall.

Then there was Rodney. He was in the crowd, mildly bemused by events, so I made him the event. Terrific face for a photo. He had a wonderful sense of merriment to his eyes, and at the same time could look like a professor I just turned my term paper in late to. This is shot with the Deep Octa, which, allows the light to marinate really nicely before screaming outta the box



And then of course, there was V.


V is the spark plug, the security detail and a one man tidal wave of enthusiasm who comes and puts his massive arms around PhotoShop World twice a year. I asked him to pose for me, and he was great. As I described him to the class, he’s like a block of granite with feet.

And then there’s Kathy Siler…….


I’m in so much trouble. At the closing ceremonies I announced a “Draft Kathy Siler” movement to get her in front of a camera. So why am I compounding my difficulties by mentioning this in my blog?  I’m in enough hot water as it is. Could it be, that as photographers it is part of our mission to be a pain in the ass:-)?

Lessee….a colleague showed work at PSW he specifically described as all shot “without flash or reflectors.” The holy water of available light! No evil photons generated by the machines! He used the phrase, “God is my gaffer.” Okay! Who’s your grip? There’s a whole blog’s worth of material in that phrase, just not gonna go there right now.

Speaking of available light, had my midterm review on my current National Geographic story the other day. Virtually every frame was shot with available light. (I can walk! I can walk! Thank God almighty, I can walk!) Biggest compliment the editors can offer a shooter is to expand the page count of the story, and that’s what happened. Now I just gotta figure out how to shoot the next half of the darn thing.

Headed from PSW to PRW, the Paso Robles Workshops, run by my friend with the hair with a mind of its’ own, Syl Arena. Given the dense, rich, textured, complex and multi-layered cultural experience of Vegas, when I hit Paso I decided to stay shallow and photograph Robert for a class demo with a 50mm lens at f1.4. Been experimenting a lot lately with limited depth of field portraiture. Good look at the camera for Robert here. Shot with Ezybox Hot Shoe softbox on a Sylinator paint pole rig for up front, and then just a hard, warm gelled light in the background off the tin siding.


Speaking of turns of phrases, Del, one of my participants here at the Paso workshop had trouble with a scarf someone was wearing in a photo. He said during crit it was “surprisingly luminous.” Love it. I’ve run into stuff like that too, over time. We had a good laugh, and during the deal I uttered a couple of colorful metaphors, which just bubble outta me occasionally, a bit like farting in a pool. The class, thankfully, endorses such frivolity. Frank, a Continental pilot who shoots real well, and, I’m sure, is no stranger to the use of pungent commentary, commented that my language was “surprisingly luminous.”

Buddy of mine who is a terrific shooter and is currently assisting in NY just moved on from his regular gig and is now awash in the turbulent freelance seas of the Big Apple. He had just got to the point where the job was owning his life, and he wrote to me describing that and letting me know he’s out there ready for work. Describing how a job often goes, I wrote back….

“Ahh, yes, grasshopper….a job is just a job, until it becomes it becomes like one of those things in the Alien movie that springs from a pod, smothers your face, deposits an embryo in your guts that gestates with incredible rapidity and chews through all your inside wiring, leaving you bloody, dead, mouth agape at the utter unfairness and speed with which your life force was sucked out of you. With your vision flickering like an old TV, your last image is that of the predator you incubated lurching down the block, looking for it’s next meal. Welcome to the workplace!”

I thought that was helpful, no? More tk….

Robert Vanelli says:

on October 8, 2009 at 12:45 pm

It was an honor to have my photo taken by you! Your seminar was amazing as usual

William Beem says:

on October 8, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Glad to see Rae’s shot. Very nice young woman who seems to get around the world. I asked her if she was coming to PSW in Orlando next year. No, she’s going to be in Africa.

I’m lucky to get out of Sanford.

Jim F says:

on October 8, 2009 at 1:17 pm

So, Joe. That last big…are you trying to discourage the competition? (grin)

Also, maybe you should suggest a story to NG about participants in photo workshops. You got that one in the can!

jakob says:

on October 8, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Love that 50/1.4 portrait, it`s really nice dof Joe, have to try this once!!! Nice read as always!

emma jackson says:

on October 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Really nice photos.
I’m just starting to get in to it.
Can you give me some tips?
Maybe a good guide on how to start?

Alan Hess says:

on October 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm

“one man tidal wave of enthusiasm” that sums up Mr V. beautifully.

As for photographing Kathy…. Since this was my first Photoshop World as an Instructor I did not know that she had ninja stealth powers when it came to avoiding the camera.

Even in the photos I took where she was a background character, she seemed to always make sure that she hidden by others, a pillar or post. It is like she has a 6th sense knowing when a camera is pointed in her direction. Maybe she is int he witness relocation program…

just a thought.

Mickey White says:

on October 8, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Joe, I guess I missed the expression on your face when I got up to help you at PSW, but V described it to me. I didn’t mean to upset you show just wanted to help.

V I can’t wait to hear from you about the trip we were talking about.

Ray Kimbrough says:

on October 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Thanks you so much for everything this weekend, it was an honor to work with you and I learned so much. I can’t wait to get out an apply my new knowledge to working on my school applications ^-^

Joe McNally says:

on October 8, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Hey Mickey, I was just wondering how you were gonna drive your rig up on stage:-)

Mark says:

on October 8, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Killer images. Deft, tight, perpetual. Love ’em.

I’m headed out where the yellow frame lives….except not for the yellow frame.

Hope to get some good ones…

Sarah Kavanaugh says:

on October 9, 2009 at 9:15 am

To Emma Jackson, one of the best ways to get inspired is to read things like NG – oh, and pick up Joe’s books, they are faboo! And of course, shoot shoot shoot.

Eli Silva says:

on October 9, 2009 at 9:48 am

Very easily presented Joe as usual…. great writing as well…

Fred Mancosu says:

on October 9, 2009 at 11:20 am

Yep, that 50 portrait is really incredible and V is just killer:)! I’ll definitely have to try the setup with the 50 though… I just find it too awesome.

Been following and admiring your work for a long time and figured I’d holler a bit from time to time.

All the best,


albert says:

on October 9, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Great stuff as always McNally, but I’m commenting for the first time for another reason – your shot of Del looks just like me! Future me though, not current me. I’ve been passing around the link to this post to a bunch of friends and family and everyone’s in agreement too, so it’s not just me being narcissistic. Here’s a shot of me and a friend, you be the judge:

Hans van de Vorst says:

on October 11, 2009 at 2:54 am

Great info Joe and a fun read. Will check out all the stuff, some look quite interesting. I’m experimenting potraiture with the 50mm lately as well. Feels a bit like back to how it all started with film and the one fifty in the cam. Love the shallow depth but still do it all with simple window light. Tx for the effort Joe blogs are nice but do cost time. Lotsa cheers from Amsterdam. Hans

Kristina Jacob says:

on October 11, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Joe’s Lighting on Location class was just amazing. Mickey was a great participant, and V was a great subject.

Joe, I look forward to your NAPP class here in LA in November.

Frank Burch says:

on October 12, 2009 at 1:15 am

Hey McNally, what a great workshop! Paso Robles is an amazing little town and a fabulous venue for a workshop. Syl is a terrific host and I can’t imagine how he could have made it any better. Well, perhaps he should have had a mandatory “last call” since the allure of all the restaurants and wine bars was more than some of us could resist!

You have a remarkably gentle way of saying “your stuff sucks today”. By the time the laughter stops and all the colorful metaphors mercifully come to and end, one still feels good about himself. Well done dude! You ever need a truck, I’m your man!

Cooker Hoods · says:

on November 4, 2010 at 5:18 am

there are many wine bars in our area and i always visit them coz i love to drink ”

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