responsiveslider_lol_02 The Language of Light DVD - More
MeetJoe_02 Meet Joe McNally - More
inthebag What’s in the Bag? - More

Taking it on the Road….

Jul 20

In Seminars & Workshops at 2:13pm

We took the ever lovely Melissa down to the basement just yesterday, and she was her elegant self in decidedly inelegant surroundings. Really only one flash in the picture. It is a vertically arrayed small strip light, plugged into a Quadra head, with a Light Tools egg crate covering the surface of the strip. It is boomed over head of Mel. Now, truth be told, there is a full blast Ranger head with a long throw reflector outside the building, firing through an incredibly dirty window off to camera left. But, I was dragging shutter so thoroughly to bleed the daylight pouring through the back doors of the boiler room, that it really had very little effect. In fact, I overshot it, by firing too fast for it to recycle, so there are frames where you see the hint of it, and many where you do not. That is actually not a bad ad hoc strategy to use occasionally. If you fire before a pack can catch up with you, your take will have an erratically occurring bracket of exposure that occurs. Considering how imprecise most of my calculations are on location, most of the time, you wouldn’t notice.

The key to the pic is not flash. It is shutter speed. Daylight outside was intensely bright, but I needed it to slide around the boiler and fill this dingy room with light, so my shutter for this is around a half second or so. The tank blocks the backlight, and forces it to creep around the walls and light them up. If I can get a combo of shutter speed and the sun to light something I’d ordinarily have to put up a flash for, all the better.


Had met Melissa back at the dawn of D3. I had 5 of the first prototypes of the Nikon D3 in North America delivered to my studio a few years back, with a mandate to shoot the bulk of the catalog to accompany this new, super secret camera. (The secrecy thing was no joke. We had to even get the caterers at the studio to sign non disclosure agreements.) Wanted to push it to see details and patterns, so the shot below is what we worked out with Melissa.


Surprised she came back, after the first time meeting me and having me wrap a snake around her neck. She handled that and more with aplomb and style, as always.

The workshop staff is also quite stylish, I think. They are a great bunch, very talented. And for a workshop series with 15 total participants, having a manic group of 7 staff members makes sure details get attended to, and as many questions as possible get answered.


And, as I mention above, we are taking it on the road. Drew and I leave the gang behind and head for Portland shortly to run an intensive, all day, two day workshop in that fair city. Here’s the link.


On Saturday, after the workshop, we’re going to hit the streets and cover something called Plunderathon, a Portland tradition involving pirate themes and lots of alcohol. Dunno what I’m getting myself into. I think it may be another name for ritual sacrifice of East Coast based photographers who use flash. Unsure of this. It’ll be a cool couple of days, and I’m really going to push myself and the class to respond to the terrific locations that are lined up. Also, David Hobby is in town that weekend, giving a seminar. Which is sold out, but would worth checking out a wait list on. (Maybe David and I can get together at Plunderathon, dressed like pirates?)

Tomorrow night, Drew and I head for London, to do our first international stop for Kelby Tours. Should be cool. I love London, and have lived there for brief stints, both as a student, and then on assignment for the National Geographic. Can’t wait to get back.

More tk….

Kevin Glackmeyer says:

on July 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Great stuff as usual…no complaints about trudging through the article this time to get to the meat…I still can’t believe your coming to Montgomery in August for a workshop…see you then. KG

Dodo Villar says:

on July 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Joe, Please post the lighting diagram for this!! lol!
I said half of a second speed? How can u handle this? Do u use a tripod, and the models frezzes only because the flash? thanks!

Ken Toney says:

on July 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Joe, Your the only person I know that can take a mistake (not waiting for powerpack to recharge) and make it part of the “style”. (CYA) By the way who uses Group 2 (bad shirt choice)….just kidding, you guys are funny as usual. Now I’ve got to get back to peeling these grapes, man this is hard!

Geoff Penn says:

on July 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm


I’m really looking forward to learning from you on Friday in London, but you can peel your own grapes.

Have a safe journey!

Simon Grosset says:

on July 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Looking forward to Friday in London – not sure that grapes will survive the trip down from Scotland though! Perhaps beer would be a worthwhile alternative?

Phil Gibson says:

on July 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm

You guys crease me up! Looking forward to a great day learning from you in London on Friday. Safe trip!

Bob DeChiara says:

on July 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Off to London…does that mean no post for weeks? Boy we followers have been spoiled the last couple of weeks. This has been fantastic…Very Kelby like.

Tim Skipper says:

on July 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Montgomery in August? Dates please!! Not in your workshop list, I need to be there

Steve Schuenke says:

on July 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm

First, love the blog. Can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from reading here and on Hobby’s Strobist blog. I notice that one of the rotating photos on the banner is the motorcycle rider from the Kelby Training video on the Elinchrom Quadra. During the shoot I noticed a couple of lights were out receeding into the background. But now as it appears on the blog, the lights are uniformly unlit and if I remember correctly they are different lights altogether. Is this Photoshop, or was there more to that shoot than what appears on the video? Just wondering — for someone who gets so much done “in camera” if Photoshop was used, any qualms about it?

Patrick Delany says:

on July 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Gee Joe, when I got back home from the workshop Sunday night and looked at the last series of pics I shot at the studio, I realized that a quarter of them I shot too fast for the fill light to recycle. I thought it was a lucky mistake as those were the best pics of the incredibly lovely Marianna. Now I can just say “it’s one of the Joe McNally strategies I learned at his workshop.” Regardless, safe travels!

P.S. Thanks for allowing us to watch a little bit of the shoot above, it really insightful seeing how you work for real. Awesome! Looking forward to the 28th!

Greg Townsend says:

on July 20, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Also looking forward to London. If it’s just the four of us turning up we could go all to the pub and have the seminar there instead 😉

Joe McNally says:

on July 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Hey Steve….lots of ups and downs on that last setup of the day with the sun dropping like crazy. The lights were firing, and not firing. Tons of problems with the slave eyes seeing the master. We had to keep adjusting like crazy, and got more hits than misses. But, a couple of hits. So that may be the source of the inconsistency you are seeing in the video. What we sent to the video crew was stills as they were shot, so it might be the way they got spliced into the overall video that gives the impression of lights being on, then off….best, Joe

Bill Bogle Jr. says:

on July 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

An Irishman trapped in a city where alcohol and plundering are essential to the day. Enjoy! They may think again about scheduling the workshop around that day.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Brian H says:

on July 20, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Light Tools Elinchrom grids released next month??? That’s going to put a dent in the ol’ wallet… I guess if it’s going to hurt it only hurts once… they are top notch though.

Jake Chapman says:

on July 21, 2010 at 1:37 am

Wish i could head down to Portland from Olympia on saturday just to come say hey and hang out for the SWEET PIRATES! lol

whos knows, maybe i’ll find someone that wants to head down… if i see a QUADRA flashing I know where to walk towards!

good stuff McNally..

Dario D. says:

on July 21, 2010 at 3:42 am

Heya Joe!

Nice post and nice shots.

See ya in London!

Mathieu Wauters says:

on July 21, 2010 at 7:34 am

Nice vid! Seems like McNally Tours is pretty booked the coming days…

Jonathan Thompson says:

on July 21, 2010 at 8:43 am

Hey Joe,
Looking forward to seeing you in London in a couple of days, a group of us learned a lot from Tim Wallace at the Morgan Car Factory last week, he says hi by the way, so I for one am ready to sponge up more info from you on Friday. It’s so great to get to learn from the best………… Never mind, I guess you’ll do ;o)

Cheers Big Ears!

Ian Pack says:

on July 21, 2010 at 8:54 am

Can’t wait ’til Friday. Concerning grapes – seedless are the best we can do. Peeled, no way;-)



Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on July 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm

The basement keeps getting better and better to shoot in. Who would think to use a dingy, dirty basement to make great images.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Penny says:

on July 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm

I am signed up for the Portland lighting intensive. Just googled the pirate party, should be able to get some MasterCard “priceless” moments Saturday night. Lol.
See you soon!

Joe McNally says:

on July 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Awesome. Thank God for autofocus! Joe

Greg Brave says:

on July 22, 2010 at 6:05 am

Joe, great post as usual! One thing puzzles me though – if it was such a simple setup, why did you need such a big crew?
And don’t tell me to peal the grapes :)

Joe McNally says:

on July 22, 2010 at 11:08 am

Hi Greg….they’re not just for that setup. They are the workshop staff and we shot this at the end of a workshop day. We do staff up, as I mentioned, in a big way for the classes, trying to make sure things move quickly and smoothly for the participants. And peeling grapes is hard. We all have to pitch in….Melissa was such a goddess the guys on the staff were bringing them to her on bended knee:-)


Terri Jacobson says:

on July 22, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I’m sorry that I won’t be in the workshop this week-end, but I do plan to attend your gig Friday night and I am looking forward to that.

I’m also looking forward to the Moose and Joe show at PSW. :o)))

Greg Brave says:

on July 23, 2010 at 2:28 am

Oh, ok, silly me. Thank you for the reply. Peeling grapes for the goddess! That I can understand! :)

Martin Beddall says:

on July 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Just been to your show in London – TOP STUFF!

Great to see a photographer from the top of the game such as yourself be so self-effacing, engaging and funny! Learnt lots, the trick now is to see what my Canon speedlights can do! :-(

Stunning model, but no ballerina on stage? :-)

Tom says:

on July 24, 2010 at 5:57 am

I was in London yesterday too. You wouldn’t believe just how hard Joe works at these workshops until you see it. I met several people who’d traveled from Europe to be there. Had a useful chat to Drew about a couple of things. For me, the most interesting part was Joe’s battle mixing flash with fluorescents in the CEO in the audience shot. That’s something I’m faced with regularly and I have to say if I’d worked that hard to get it down I’d have needed a change of clothing afterwards!

Zeke says:

on July 26, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Since you are in Portland for the weekend, why don’t you drop down and visit us at Burning Man? You had better bring your big memory cards!


Michael Alan Bielat says:

on August 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm



Leave a Reply