Yesterday I attended the Joe McNally One Light Two Light tour that I posted about a few weeks back.
I've seen Joe teach before and knew what to expect, fast paced content, lots of movement, interesting stories from his lengthy career and Joe's somewhat dark sense of humour. I also expected to learn something new, and if I was paying attention, multiple new things.
I was not disappointed, and neither were the list of club members that I saw and spoke with. Gabe, Jay, Geoff and Richard all said how impressed they were. New members Barb and John were also pleased and I saw Paul there as well. Unfortunately Bryan could not attend because he got jerked around by a co-worker (my words entirely - not his). I also saw Martin Ingles who runs Amazing Adventures along with his wife and trip attendees Kate, Liz, Holly and Chris. Clearly lots of people were looking to learn from the master of small flash.
The most compelling message coming out of the seminar is that you can do most anything you want with TTL small flash. Joe experienced some regular issues with his Nikon Creative Lighting System getting multiple flashes to go off, all due to line of sight issues, but he did demonstrate that indoors, when line of sight is maintained, this system works very well. I can confirm that Canon's system also works very well as I've used it myself. Joe is not a fan of TTL radio, he was clear on that. I will say that the PocketWizards for Canon work brilliantly but I have no experience with the Nikon implementation.
Joe made clear that the best use of the built in pop-up flash on DSLRs is to be a Commander for remote flashes. He made no attempt to justify its use as a flash and it was pleasant to hear a real professional say the same thing I've been saying for years.
I surely cannot go through the entire day as it was eight hours of very fast content, but there are a few things I will note for readers.
Every flash Joe uses has a dome diffuser on it. On close inspection they look like Sto-Fen units. They only come off when being used as a trigger for other flashes, he leaves the domes on even when he will be shooting through other diffusion options. I confess I learned this in a previous Joe training and have one on all my small flashes as well. Joe did not bring up the use of the Gary Fong tools that I like so much, but he has spoken about them in past courses and I concluded that he is not fond of Mr. Fong, although that is my opinion. Member Jay has shared a story of Mr. Fong's arrogance at an appearance so that may be related. The Sto-Fen diffusers are inexpensive and while they do not diffuse like the Fong Lightsphere, they serve to spread the light decently.
Joe advocates getting your ambient reading before firing up a flash so you can decide whether to support the ambient, fill the ambient or displace it completely. He also gave numerous points to using the zoom head position on his flashes. For this tour he was using his stable of SB-900s, but any TTL with manual zoom override on the head would work. I've written in the past about how much I like the Metz 58 SAF-2 model.
The most compelling message that Joe sent was also the most subtle. There were no professional models. He invited audience members to be the model for segments every time. They were all enthusiastic participants with the exception of the last young lady, possibly because Joe kept calling her by the wrong name. What matters is that with effective use of light, these regular folks could be portrayed in a number of different ways just by changing how he used the light. This message went unsaid, so I will repeat it here. You don't need to hire professional models to work up your portfolio. Friends and family can make excellent subjects, when you apply the light.
I hope to be able to attend Photoshop World in Las Vegas this fall, and be assured there are plenty of classes for not photoshop and look forward to more classes with Joe McNally. I heard some criticisms that Joe spends his time on the how and not on the why. This is a true statement, but for me at least, this is what I go see him to learn. And learn I did. I rate Joe McNally as 5 out of 5 when it comes to helping me learn how to solve a lighting problem.
Please register and I hope to see you there!
A big kudos to Daytripper Photo for arranging the visit at the Northwoods Zoo last weekend. I had as much fun working with my assigned guests as I did making photographs. It was a great day and resulted in a great tip.
Here it is. Take time to think about what you want your photos to be, before pressing the shutter. Visualize your images in advance. Then look critically in your viewfinder and ask "will this give me what I want" before blasting away. With digital being nearly "free" compared to the days of film, overshooting is common and many pros recommend doing so, but in looking at the work of other nature photographers like Juan Pons and Art Wolfe, while they shoot tons of images, they have a view in mind. Out of nearly 600 images, I was really hoping to get at most 20 that I would give five stars and I achieved that goal. Fortunately the number of images that on loading caused me to say "what were you thinking" was very low and once the misfires were tossed, I could accept the screw up count.
So in summary, shoot lots, but visualize ahead and you'll be much happier when you get down to vicious editing.