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Traveling Light

May 2

In Travels at 9:03pm

Home now. Recently did 10 stops in 14 days for Nikon Europe’s Speed of Light Tour. Been doing this in various shapes and sizes now for 4 years. It’s really Annie’s doing. She’s routinely adored by her colleagues both here in the US and abroad. (Trust me, I understand.)

But she rarely gets to see her mates from Europe and Asia, save at big international events, like what just occurred up Vancouver way. So I think they dreamed this up a few years ago just so they could get to see her over on the continent on a yearly basis. Beyond the likability factor, she also commands enormous respect for her knowledge of all things digital, her ability to communicate and teach well, and her non-stop force of nature work ethic, and, well, you get the idea.

Me? I’m, like, you know, happy baggage.

I bounce into these various locales, halls, conference centers, and theaters sight unseen and try to light ’em up ad hoc right then and there, and talk through small flash, TTL, hard light, soft light, movie quotes, fast cars, German coffee, Viennese beer, and why the hell isn’t this cord working right now? It’s all off the cuff, and everything I shoot goes right to a screen, which is fun, and has a big gulp factor right there along with it. I also spend all day with a microphone around my neck which makes Annie very nervous.

Been experimenting with getting the most I can out of one light. At the Brabus Motor Works outside Dusseldorf, there was a huge screen essentially made out of strings, so I put up SB900, zoomed to 200mm, with a slight warm gel about 30 or 40 feet away from it. Blogged this last week….


But also managed to move my subject around a little, let the strings drop, and move camera angle to get these two looks. 



Couple of different looks from one light on a stick. The nice thing about trying light like this, and putting it through something, or around the door and down the hall is that it might end up….unpredictable. Umbrella? Cool, looks nice. Soft box? Okay, been there, done that. But through a bunch of strings? Or glass bricks? Or something? Anything? Might be fun. It also might suck. That’s a given. But to light well on any level is to experiment, continuously.

Onto Berlin, and this amazing cave like night club place. I had a notion, always a dangerous thing. Ended up doing this with Christian, a body builder, in front of the bar. Nine flashes. Why do I do this to myself? We tried at first to work it out, and just crashed and burned. It was the kind of setup that needed time and attention, two things I didn’t really have available. The audience was gracious, but they were like, huh? I kinda shrugged.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But then, during dinner hour, the crew said, hey, you know, if you want to get this, we’ll stick with you and get it. So we did. 9 lights, one hour. Everybody came back from dinner, and we walked through it, piece by piece. It was a hoot. There were three lights on Christian, three back on the bar, one up top on the upper level, one for Caligula back there, one bounced for fill, and we got ’em all triggered TTL with an SU800 held up above camera.


In Hamburg, got a chance to work with an amazing couple, Mr. Olympia Oliver Reinhardt and his wife, Iris. Two tri-grips, each to the side. Gave up on this way too soon. Shoulda really stuck with it and worked it out, ’cause they are stunning together. But the mandate of these days is to move fast, and present as many issues and as much information as possible, so kept moving.


At Munich, we worked in a great studio with a cyc wall. You woulda thought I could leave well enough alone, but I went out to the dumpster and pulled in two broken wooden pallets, and put 3 SB900 units on the floor and let ’em rip, creating a, well, irregular shadow pattern.


Into which we dropped Tobias, a body builder whose arms and chest had a life of their own. Put him here.


And here.


Then moved him out of the hard shadow light, and lit him with a couple flashes. The wider he flexed, the wider his smile got. (If I had arms like this, I would smile a lot, too.)


Then thoroughly bronzed Tobias (no need for cloudy white balance here, folks) posed in front of the NPS loaner delivery car. Yep, in Europe, you need a lens from NPS, it shows up hours later, transported by this Lamborghini:-) Ever try lighting a car with speedlights? In less than a half an hour? Yikes, we moved fast. It was fun even though it was the type of shot you could work on for, oh, about 3 days.


In Switzerland, we had another great studio setting. When we walked in, we found Alexa, hanging from the ceiling and decided to light her, right then and there. Pascal Richard, of NPS Switzerland, sorted out a terrific combo of setting and talent for two days of smaller, group workshops, where everybody milled about and stayed close to the action and the lights.


This is 4 SB900 units outside the building. The three in the back are gelled blue, and the key light for our silk flyer is gelled warm. All are zoomed to 200mm, with no diffusion or light shapers of any kind. I loved this location. Ground floor, great windows. Used Win as a subject, too. A terrific shooter who just happens to have, like, 5 Harleys, he’s definitely got the kind of face that has been pointing into the wind and peering over a set of handlebars for a long time. (He’s also a card carrying member of the “Too Much Fun Club,” and has partied hard with the likes of Peter Fonda, so this is also a face that lives life, and well. This is two lights, one outside, and one into a small ezybox hot shoe soft box.



In Frankfurt, another great location, and surprisingly there was a body builder and a ballerina already there! :-)  Ground floor, huge windows, and after I rummaged a bit, a 30′ ladder. Justin clamped a single SB900 to the ladder, trundled it outside and across an alleyway, and leaned it against another building. No one seemed to mind. White light, no diffusion. 200mm zoom.


That light, a white wall, and Marco produced this. Also could look like this from the side, with Daria.


All hard, daylight looking light. Until you put a table cloth in the flashed window. Then you get this.


In Slovenia, everybody was incredibly gracious, and man, Nikon’s  Tomas Puh and Rok Gasparic really rallied the troops. Almost 300 people showed up. I faced the typical photog challenge. What to do with four walls?  Did have a pair of lovely gymnasts to work with, who were great kids. Washed three flashes off the projector screen to get this, which was a lot of fun.


Then I told them they could freelance a move, and boy did they.


This was shot from the audience by the terrific Ljubljana based shooter, Borut Peterlin, whose imagination is about as wide as his lens. On his site he’s got a terrific set of quirky, provocative (definitely provocative), fascinating portraits of numerous cultural icons of Slovenia. He snapped this just as the two young ladies went into the stratosphere and totally overwhelmed my 14-24. I just put the camera down and lost it. Leaping ladies!

Last stop, Vienna, and a movie theater. The darkness of the place was daunting, but also gave me a measure of control. Was able to try a couple lighting scenarios with the lovely Miss Austria, Valentina Schlager.Worked out a nice combo of light for her up front, assisted by two SB900 units in the back of the room.


Then got the audience involved.


Lots of pix today on the blog, mostly ’cause I have lots of thank you’s to offer. The NPS gang over in Europe was terrific. Yasuo Baba, the architect of the whole deal, just spins ideas and creates possibilities like crazy. His team of Michael Ramroth, Nicola Best, and the tireless Nils Pajenkamp and Stephanie Doll were there for Annie and I every step of the way, even down to staying ahead of the volcano ash and jumping on trains loaded with German soccer fans.

Here’s the team, with the NPS delivery vehicle, which Annie got to drive. (Since she’s been back, I’ve noticed she’s driving her Honda a lot more aggressively:-)


I show Marco how it’s done. ms3_9253

The helpful crowd puts a tablecloth in the window. ms3_9387

Setting up a commander to fire the lights outside. You can translate TTL through as many as three SC-28 or 29 cords.


Annie working out a light.


Smoke and silk flyers in Switzerland. _par3282_003



Annie on a train. Saved my biggest thank you for last…..more tk

Chris Parker says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:19 am

Great stuff. I’ve just read Hot Shoe Diaries – inspirational, as is this post!

Thanks Joe.

Thomas Lammeyer says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:26 am

Dear Joe,

the workshop in Hamburg/Germany was fantastic. Thank you very much.


Martin O'Neill says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:29 am

Interesting as ever, Joe

Jaro says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:32 am

Great,great…I like your photography….great!

Edwin Arceo says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:43 am

As usual, a great series from “da great numnuts” himself! can’t wait for him to return to Manila.

Jim says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:43 am

Boy, that looks like it was a whole lotta fun!

Rebstar says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:47 am

Fabulous!!! Love the pallet trick!

Chris says:

on May 3, 2010 at 5:49 am

unfortunately I missed the date in Berlin. Hope there will be another chance! hot shoe diaries really opened my mind for creative flash usage. thanks lot, joe!

Loy Yuong Siang says:

on May 3, 2010 at 6:13 am

Very nice and informative write-up! Thanks..

Nicolas Feret says:

on May 3, 2010 at 6:20 am

Hey Joe,
I was in Orlando a month ago and followed the NAPP Safari thing in Tampa. I’m amazed by the amount of things we can learn in one day with the pros.
I just read that you came to Switzerland… too bad I missed that. Where can I found out about the next event you’ll have there (Switzerland)?


Dominik says:

on May 3, 2010 at 6:35 am

Hey Joe,
it was great to see you work and teach in Zürich

Stuart James says:

on May 3, 2010 at 6:50 am

Really inspirational words and images – really showing what can be done with what you have infront of you, something many of us seem to forget!
Absolutely stunning post. Thanks for sharing Joe!

Howard Haby says:

on May 3, 2010 at 7:09 am

That’s for the tour coverage, Joe! Looks like a lot of fun, and gave some great photos to look at. I really appreciate how consistent you are with this blog. Good job, can’t wait to see more.

Mustafa Sazak says:

on May 3, 2010 at 7:23 am

Awesome post Joe! I enjoyed a lot while reading.

Carol Galanty says:

on May 3, 2010 at 7:34 am

Great post Joe. I’ve been taking your advice and using my SB800 in my studio as an alternative to the soft box. I love the results. I just bought an SB900 so I can play around with using the both of them. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge with us! I will hopefully see you at your next NYC seminar.

Luka says:

on May 3, 2010 at 7:43 am

Joe, that was a great Euro trip you did! Thanks for stopping by in slovenia, for signing your book for me and for this photo that will always remind me of the inspiring event you provided!!/photo.php?pid=3686544&id=115819429856

Ken Toney says:

on May 3, 2010 at 8:05 am

Joe, how about telling us your settings on the shot where the audience is involved. I would think that you had all the “right” shooters with Nikon flashes set them to a particular remote channel and group, then on manual at about 1/128, then use a flash to light the subject and drag the shutter some. If I am right give me a call :).

Diego says:

on May 3, 2010 at 8:16 am

What a cool adventure! Great photos and same quirky storytelling. Thanks for sharing, Joe!

Simon Fleming says:

on May 3, 2010 at 8:35 am

Great story & images as always Joe. Looked like a big 14 days full of plenty of rewarding moments.

Pierre says:

on May 3, 2010 at 8:58 am

Reading this and listening to Photograph by Nickleback at the same time… What more can a guy ask for?? Tz Joe.

John franco says:

on May 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

Great article Joe! Amazing results you get from simple 😉 setups never cease to amaze.

Mike Neale says:

on May 3, 2010 at 9:19 am

Thank you Annie,…you add balance and beauty to Joe’s work,…and on soo many levels,…;-)

Richard Davis says:

on May 3, 2010 at 9:49 am

As usual Joe, a great post full of inspiration and learning. Hoping you’ll get to Houston some time soon, maybe in a Kelby Training or some other workshop mode. I recall from your comments on the Hakeem Olajuwon shot in “The Moment it Clicks” how the natural light here sucks most of the time but if anyone can work around that, it’s you.

Kevin Williams says:

on May 3, 2010 at 10:02 am

You know, you could give politicians a lesson or two in humility. You are amazing, yet you insist on beating yourself up, working harder, and never being satisfied. I respect and admire your lack of ego – love it!

Great images, Joe. So inspirational. I wish I had been there. :)

Otto Rascon says:

on May 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

I am amazed at the quality of work you continue to pump out and share with us Joe. I super appreciate your blog and the hard work that you put into it. I am inspired and want to go and buy a few tri-grips :) Rock on and much love from Chicago!

Sarah Rider says:

on May 3, 2010 at 11:19 am

Please come to London!

Alessandra Meniconzi says:

on May 3, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Dear Joe and Annie,
tx a lot for your interesting WS in Switzerland. I have learn a lot and I hope one day to join you both in a longer WS. Workshops like that are such an invaluable way of helping to improve the photography work: so refreshing! Now my very used “Hot Shoe Diaries” is a great reading before too sleep 😉
Thanks, thanks again!!!

Alfred Borja says:

on May 3, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Wow! I am inspired!

I am reading your book Hot Shoe Diaries.

Thanks for sharing experiences :)

Konfral says:

on May 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Looks like a great journey! Wonderful pics as always!

Juan Reyes says:

on May 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Hey Joe, great stuff as usual. Glad to hear you were able to travel with Annie for a change. Hey, I’m going back to Jay’s bank in July for the alumni session ( I was there with you last October).
Anyway, keep up the spectacular work!

David Helms says:

on May 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Of all of the wonderful photographs, my favorite was the last one, you know, the one of Annie looking out the window….. I’ll bet that that is your favorite too, because it is always difficult for a spouse (photographic) to catch a moment like that one…. Good catch!

Girish says:

on May 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Late again :S

One of the best posts I think till date. Lot of read there. Thanks as always on the tech information. Seriously, it’s amazing to see you move around so many places withhin 14 days and carry out the entire shoot.

All the shots are fantastic. Getting so much done, setting up everything within matter of minutes and taking the shots, explaining as are the best!

José Caetano says:

on May 3, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I hope you come to Brazil anytime! I’m your fan and I can organize some weekend or one week workshop here in São Paulo if you want to travel to our beautiful country. Or, if you want to take some photos on beautiful and almost desert beaches, I can arrange something in the São Paulo’s beaches. What can you say? August is a good month. It didn’t rain, it’s not so hot, and the beaches are deserts.

Mark says:

on May 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Fantastic post. Is that your shot of Annie working the light? Looking slightly Antonin Kratochvil-ish there. Like Otto above, I too appreciate all the hard work you put into this blog. Keep trailblazing.

Hans says:

on May 3, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Hey, that’s me in the picture in Frankfurt :-)
Hope you emember the z-key for zoom in Photo Mechanic. Very inspiring workshop. Wished Nikon would have sold SB-900s right on site.
Keep up the good work!

lorenz says:

on May 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Joe, as always great stuff. Keep following (I mean creating) the light!!

Sergei says:

on May 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Nice post, Joe. Thanks for sharing experiments and ideas.

I mean its sure nice to see old and trusty schemas and stuff.. WWW is full of them.. But experiments – thats what gets whole thing moving.

Richard Hales says:

on May 4, 2010 at 4:36 am

Great set of shots, glad to see you are coming to the UK

almostinfamous says:

on May 4, 2010 at 7:30 am

that theatre shot is something! love it!

Michael Wiesman says:

on May 4, 2010 at 8:24 am

Joe, I don’t know how you do it! 10 stops in 14 days and 1000’s of photographers later you have inspired minds on a level that not many can do. Your dedication to your field and passion is overwhelming. Thanks again for everything that you share.

Frank Burch says:

on May 4, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Blogging has to be one of the world’s greatest inventions; right up there with WD-40 and the air compressor. Well done Joe!

Jay says:

on May 5, 2010 at 1:26 am

So inspired! I got my hand on the Hot Shoe Diaries, looking forward to pick your brain :)

Borut Peterlin says:

on May 5, 2010 at 2:24 am

Ciao Joe,
You truly inspired me and I published a post and interview with you on my blog.

Also a big thanks for mentioning me on your blog. I hope out paths will cross again. Greetings also to Annie. I told you about a Slovenian proverb, that behind every a successful husband stands a wife that supports three corners of a house :-)

jakob says:

on May 5, 2010 at 5:28 pm

You were with Annie in Switzerland? I really missed that workshop Joe:-( I did not even know that you`re coming…hope to see you next time!

Well,well done sir!

Jakob (from switzerland)

karl bratby says:

on May 5, 2010 at 11:26 pm

super cool joe, great post thanks for sharing in such depth..

Mario says:

on May 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Fantastic photos, especially the one of Ollie and his wife. BTW, he’s Mr. Universe. You’d need to bust out some wide glass to fit Mr. Olympia into a frame.

I love both your books and this blog, thank you for showing us (I avoided using the word “illuminating”) how to light properly.

When are you coming to Hawaii, Joe?

ned leary says:

on May 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

some post…gotta go over that one again…

forum mobile says:

on May 6, 2010 at 11:37 pm

So inspired! I got my hand on the Hot Shoe Diaries, looking forward to pick your brain

vasja says:

on May 7, 2010 at 7:44 am

Great photos.
The presentation in Slovenia-Ljubljana it was very instructive and interesting. You show how to build a photo in the foreground or background and you tried to get the best from the conditions you have.
Everything you do, you do with pleasure and fun.
Borut Peterlin is photographer who uses light from the flash.
Greetings also to Annie.
Well, Joe.Thanks for the presentation and hope to come back to Slovenia.

Nicola Zingarelli says:

on May 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Any chance to see you in Madrid, Spain?



Mark Holloway says:

on May 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

Great post. I love iTTL but Nikon should just build radios into the CLS system, OR, help Pocket Wizard get theirs in flight. I hear it’s close but the wait has been agonizing. The cabling thing kind of a mess.

Ken Wilder says:

on May 9, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Kudos, Joe, that’s all I can say over and over, kudos!

Pierre Bourgault says:

on May 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

Great post, I love reading about your adventures.
Have any plans in the near future to head up to Montreal, Canada?

karl bratby says:

on May 12, 2010 at 8:05 am

Brilliant work, very informative thankyou

John Rayl says:

on May 26, 2010 at 12:29 am

Great work and fun read as always Joe.

However, I must ask why you do not use Radio Poppers.

No more stringing SC-29 cables and trying to get SU-800/SB900 commander to fire the lights.

villeurbanne says:

on July 29, 2011 at 7:09 am

What would most of us do without the excellent concepts you write about on this blog? Who has got the endurance to deal with essential topics with regard to common visitors like me? I and my buddies are very happy to have your website among the ones we usually visit. We hope you know how considerably we appreciate your hard work! Best wishes from us all.

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