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Archive for March, 2014

St Lucia in September!

Mar 31

In Uncategorized at 1:57am

Heading to St. Lucia again, and the Anse Chastenet/Jade Mountain Resort to teach advanced lighting techniques, and all manner of post production wizardry, courtesy of my good friend and co-instructor, RC Concepcion. We start with an introductory dinner and then, beginning Monday morning, run for five straight days of working with light in one of the most beautiful places on earth. We build in time to relax and explore as well.

Here’s a link to the workshop schedule, and all the day to day events, types of rooms, rates, etc.

 It’s one of my favorite places on earth, so much so, the ever gracious owners of the resort, which consistently ranks among the top resorts in the world, commissioned my studio last year to shoot a book about the place. Nick and Karolin Troubetzkoy carved out a piece of heaven in the splendor of the Caribbean, and the pictorial inspiration there is infinite. No matter how many times I go, I find something new to shoot.

We work with all manner of small flash techniques, from high speed flash to multiple speed light interiors. Balancing indoor/outdoor scenarios with flash, working with gels, line of sight TTL and manual radio syncing all gets covered, as does-available light! The week is dedicated to recognizing good light when you see it, using it well, and then augmenting it with small speed lights as appropriate. Hard light, soft light, and all manner of light shapers are discussed. We work with jungle bikers, island characters, and beautiful people on the beach. We work in one of a kind, magnificent sanctuary rooms with sweeping views of the sea and the Pitons, and solve the photographic problems of making a flash interior match a bright exterior.

And, numerous times during the week, RC takes over and shows HDR magic, Lightroom skills, and how to make your workflow flow. It’s a full week of skills, set in the splendor of what has been often rated as the top resort in the entire Caribbean.

Registering for the workshop is easy. Hit this link and it brings you to the description I mentioned above, and scroll down through the calendar of activities and hit the button “click here to enroll.” Or, just go to this link, which brings you immediately to an Eventbrite registration page.

Either link brings you to one of most enjoyable weeks of photography you’ll ever have.

More tk….


GPP.. Through the Eyes of the Lost Boys

Mar 27

In Travels at 8:35am

Cali and Jon here from the studio..

With another amazing GPP event looming in Singapore, Joe asked us younger shooters in the studio to comment on what the annual workshop has meant to us.


The crew has recently arrived back to the ranch after a lengthy, yet thrilling month and a half on the road.  I mentioned the crew’s return home, however, Joe’s schedule continued him onward to the marvelous city of Havana, Cuba.  At the end of each year, we look back at the previous 12 months and laugh about the crazed schedule endured by all.  It’s only nearing the beginning of April, and we’ve already had a few of those laughs this year.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have traveled the world as much as I have at 24 years old.  With regular trips to Europe (London; Birmingham; Germany; Prague & Vienna next month), the Middle East (Dubai; Qatar), South Africa (Cape Town; Johannesburg; Kruger), St. Lucia, and Asia (Singpore & Hong Kong this year), I invariably believe that I’m stuck in some sort of alternate reality.

Although we find ourselves exceptionally busy a great deal of the time, we still find it within ourselves to enjoy the travels and friendships that have been so graciously planted in front of us.  One particular trip that engulfs all the positivity mentioned is our annual trek to Dubai.  Gulf Photo Plus hosts a wonderfully beneficial series of photography workshops in the Middle East.. the biggest of its kind.  It’s a rare occurrence when so many of the top names in the photographic industry are in the same place at the same time, and GPP is one of those unique exceptions.

This most recent trip I made was my third Joe workshop with GPP, and I’ve watched the program grow tremendously year after year.  Having thought about how fast time has gone, since I first visited, and how much I’ve grown since, I am absolutely baffled.  Walking in the doors of the workshop for the first time, I was nothing more than an overly nervous, newly appointed second assistant.  When you’re placed in front of such raw talent, the only thing going through the mind is “remember to keep your mouth shut, and when spoken to, try not to say anything stupid.”  Although everyone is completely gracious and sympathetic, there was a perfectly normal, yet constant sense of feeling star struck.  Now that I find myself as Joe’s first assistant, and having worked in Dubai several times, my levels confidence and maturity have exceedingly developed, since my start with Joe McNally Photography.  As I grow older, and develop more into my role as Joe’s right hand man, my priorities have shifted dramatically (in a positive manner that is). However, experiences such as GPP allow you to sit back, forever humbled by the sheer love and joy shown by unbelievably hard working photographers.  I understand how lucky I am to sit where I sit, at such young age, and I’ve come to greatly respect those who have gone before.. handing down their passion of the craft.  For that, I am thankful.

I also find myself extremely proud of our newly appointed second assistant (I say new.. but he’s been here for almost a year now).  Due to all of his hard work in the studio, Jon was asked to join us in Dubai this year!  Having gone through the same experience with our former assistant Drew Gurian, I was just as excited for him to see this new world.




As the newcomer to Joe’s studio, this was my first year attending Gulf Photo Plus. I’ve heard plenty of stories about all that GPP and Dubai has to offer, so the anticipation had been building for months prior to the trip. Plus, this was my first international adventure with Joe and Cali, so the term ecstatic (and scared shitless) doesn’t nearly begin to describe what I was feeling. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

My week was largely spent soaking in the bottomless pools of inspiration left by the ridiculous line up of instructors Mo and Hala brought in. It was such an honor and a privilege to spend time with photographers I’ve admired for years. I also had my eyes opened to some extremely talented younger photographers, whom I now consider great friends. I look forward to following their careers, as they continue to make some serious waves in their parts of the world. The overwhelming measure of passion for their art, as well as the desire to spread their knowledge and grow the industry, was undeniable and immensely motivational.

In addition to sharing quality time with the instructors, I had the opportunity to bond with the incredibly diverse student body, from all corners of the globe. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their backgrounds and cultures, over the course of the week. It was so encouraging to see such a variety of ages and occupations, joined together in their dedication to learn and expand their proficiency in the world of photography.

I suppose there was some “work” involved as well, but when your boss is Joe McNally, there is rarely a dull moment. Every hour on the clock is further education in the school of life and the ever rewarding craft of photography. I can’t thank Joe enough for bringing me along and for everything that he’s done for me in my first 9 months at the studio. It is safe to say that I have never had the pleasure of experiencing anything quite like GPP and probably won’t again until I go back next year!


All in all, we cannot recommend experiences such as GPP enough, especially to the younger crowd.  If you find yourself so in love with a craft like photography, take that ambition and run with it.

Visual Notes, Cuba

Mar 26

In Travels at 6:57am

Just returning from Havana, where I taught at the behest of the Santa Fe Photo Workshops. I only took one DSLR with me, the newly minted Nikon DF, which proved to be the perfect, quiet, unobtrusive camera for the vibrant streets of that amazing city. Shot basically with one camera and one lens all week.

Exhausted boxer…..Nikon Df – 1/2000 sec;   f/7.1;   ISO 200;   28mm f1.4 lens.

More tk….

Some Flashes and a Cup of Water

Mar 24

In Lighting at 9:49am

So, what do you do when your location proves to be a stretch of pitted tarmac baked into desert? You stand there of course, in the blasted sun, with squinted eyes and a certain compressed, rueful expression on your face, realizing you had said yes to the location and now would have to make it work. The sun above is a freight train, baking your skull and barreling noisily through anything you might try to construe as a thought process. The only sources of open shade are wasted pieces of stubborn shrubbery, and none of them are higher than your kneecap, so to access any measure of open shade you would have to revert to macro photography. You are standing in what is known as the Dubai Velodrome. Let’s say the word velodrome has been loosely interpreted.

But, there are positive things. Power lines crackle overhead, and in the dusty distance, a real life blend of Oz and Gotham, glitters the skyline of Dubai, punctuated by the silvery slice of the Khalifa tower. You have lenses and lights. Best thing to be done, and the best lesson a location like this can teach you, is to be patient and carve out the pieces of this initially bleak vista into something that might work as a picture. Luckily, we had Miguel, an excellent triathlete, not to mention a bunch of speed lights. I was teaching a class called Fast Flash, Bodies in Flight at what has come to be a revered slot on the photo calendar, the estimable gathering of photogs and instructors known as GPP.

First thing, as always, was to find the field of frame, or, your point of view. Strip out the unappealing elements of the location. Keep it simple. We lined up the bike parallel to the skyline. Cali positioned himself at the rear wheel to stabilize Miguel, which meant he was about to get wet. Which wasn’t a big deal, as the giant sponge of the Middle Eastern sun dried him out instantly. He actually had the best job in the bunch of us.

Once Miguel’s position was defined, placed the lights. It being a workshop, we had a bunch of speed lights at our disposal, so I placed three and three at either end of the bike, just slightly behind Miguel’s profile. I call this position, for whatever reason, three quarter back light. That’s not an official, sanctioned term. Just my own convoluted sense of the language of location. The three apiece deal perched atop a pair of Manfrotto stacker stands via a Lastolite ratcheting tri-flash, which is a handy thing in an environment like this, as you can swing the sensors around to maximize their angle of reception for the commander pulse. We were working line of sight TTL, so these units proved handy.

Then, we simply blasted Miguel with light and got to 1/125th @ f22. Enter Jon and Ali, with multiple cups of water in hand. One, two three, splash! The pic above was the first frame of four I shot with water. I then turned the scene over to the class, and they happily proceeded to continue to drench our patient riders. The shutter speed/flash combo gave us a slight bit of motion to the water, and the depth achieved by f22 kept the city, which was far off, reasonably discernible.



Speaking of the tri-flash above, there’s a whole new group of additions to the Joe McNally range of Lastolite light shaping tools just coming on line now. I’ll be blogging about them over the course of the next few weeks, but if you want to take a look at some videos of them in operation, and what they can do, hit this link. It will take you right there and you can check out a couple of new ideas for light management that we conjured with Gary Astill, Lastolite’s resident genius designer, and mad scientist of the workings of light. Huge kudos to Gary and the crew at Manfrotto/Lastolite. They are good folks, and wonderful to work with.


More tk…..

Room With a View

Mar 17

In In The Field, Links at 3:49am

I’ve always enjoyed getting my camera in a different place. It’s rewarding, and occasionally daunting. Recently, an effort made by TIME magazine, and spearheaded by shooter and Senior Editor Jonathan Woods, got a whole lotta camera in a different place, which resulted in a truly unusual, not to mention massive photo.

The crew at TIME were kind enough cite my efforts at getting to the top of the Empire State building as inspiration for their drive to the top of #1WTC, now the tallest piece of real estate in the US. Here’s a link to their “making of” video.

I’m very thankful to them for citing my pix from high places, though I daresay they’ve offered too much credit. I’ve simply hauled my sorry ass up a bunch of towers. These fellas took it to a whole new level (sorry!:-) by cranking up a gigapan effort, and booming out a camera off the structure, and knitting together perhaps the most highly resolved image of Manhattan ever made.

I climbed the Empire State numerous times, and got to the light atop the mast four times. Some of those efforts resulted in no pictures, but, on my last climb, I finally did get an image that has hung around for a while. It was in concert, as always, with my good friend Tom Silliman, who has guided me to many high places.

There’s a certain synchronicity here. The pic above ran in the Oct. 2001 National Geographic. Which meant it hit the newsstands about two weeks after the Trade Center towers had disappeared from the New York City skyline. Geographic got a few letters about it, not irate ones, but missives that mentioned the somber, bluish mood of the picture as having some sort of emotional resonance with the events that had just occurred.

Now, all these years later, that tragic wound in lower Manhattan is healing, and out of it has risen up yet another amazing, silvery exclamation point of a building, one that will anchor the landscape of downtown for all the years to come.

Also, back then, before it was called a selfie, I actually shot one, up there at the light, with a Coolpix and a fisheye attachment. That’s typical of me, of course, to be ahead of cultural trends. (Joe make joke.)

Many thanks to Jonathan and the crew at TIME for the mention. They have, in turn, inspired me to continue to get my camera into unusual places. More tk….