Sunday, December 07, 2008

A very informative night with Joe McNally

Kudos to friends Renee and Nathan Derksen for hooking me up with a seminar that Joe McNally was doing in town. Considering I had been following his work through National Geographic, Strobist, and his book ("the moment it clicks") over the past couple of years, I was stoked to be able to hear him speak in person. It was an inspiring enough to see him talk about pictures he had done, but even more inspiring when he did a sort of bonus live demonstration (complete with a ballerina as model). It was the live demonstration that was really neat to see.

He demonstrated how easy it is to be able to take quality, lit, on location portraits with just a few speedlights, and a reflector. He also demonstrated that even the pros experience difficulties on the field sometimes. (One of his flashes kept malfunctioning during the session.) It is comforting to know that even people who have done this for 25 years still encounter the same problems!

I put what I learned to practice that Sunday by doing a quick, lit portrait of Abby. She had needed a portrait for her upcoming prayer card / short term missions letter, and I thought what better way to practice what I learned. Here are some of the results:

Photo Caption: This was taken in a boardroom with 70s style wood panelling.
I shot this at ISO 400, 1/200, f4.0 @ 73mm with flash 1/2 CTO at 1/8 power
camera right through umbrella, reflector underneath subject to
slight camera left.

Photo Caption: Against a white wall. ISO 400, 1/200, f4.0 @ 70mm.
Flash at 1/8 power camera right, reflector underneath subject to slight
camera left, plus background flash at 1/4 power aimed at the wall.

Photo Caption: Taken outside against North shore mountains.
ISO 100, 1/200, f/16 @ 75mm. Flash full power camera right throwing
hard 1/2 CTO'd light from further distance than previous two shots. (attempt
to sort of emulate a setting sun.) Reflector camera left, close to subject.

It took about 20-30 minutes for all three scenes including setup. All things considered, this is really a very easy way to do some quick portraits - definitely good enough for the purpose she wanted. To be honest, this sort of stuff (off camera lighting on manual) used to scare me a bit - but as I've been practicing on how to effectively use off camera lighting, I'm beginning to understand how much more control one has over the photograph when you can introduce light.... and as they say, practice makes perfect.

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