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Thread: Observations: Let There Be Light Seminar by Joe McNally

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    Moderator sebastiansong's Avatar
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    Default Observations: Let There Be Light Seminar by Joe McNally

    Joe’s seminar is as much a demonstration of lighting possibilities as well as a sharing of philosophy. Due to field constraints, Joe’s lighting solutions have to be deployable quickly and effectively. He travels with an equipment load of 240 kg, consisting of a wide array of lighting tools as well as backups of backup kits. He shoots RAW + jpeg, the former format for archival and the latter for quick workflow. He has two assistants but he is still vulnerable to human error.

    He is, however, not afraid of making mistakes. ‘So what?’ he challenged. He is confident that many editors at National Geographic have seen his every mistake when he shot with slide film. Instead he encourages us to appreciate that mistakes are paths to your future. ‘If you don’t make mistakes, you are playing it too safe,’ he added.


    On Limitations
    Joe has a fierce reputation of winning assignments that others avoid. He likes to solve problems and handles challenges as part and parcel of his learning process. He urges us, as photographers, to realize how short and precious our time is when we are behind the camera. Hence it is for us to optimize every minute of it. The objective is to convey the impact to those who are not present with good images.
    Joe advises us to ‘take the job and pull it out of the fire.’


    On Joe’s White Balance (WB) Rule of Thumb
    Get the skin tone right and be prepared to let the background go to hell.
    Crude as it sounds, WB@location is never precise science. There will always be a need to compensate for the flash due to the ‘ambient bleed’. Since no camera system, presently, can solve all the issues, we have to actively work things out ourselves.


    On Being Hands On
    Joe highlighted perhaps the one main flaw of his, and any other, seminar.
    Practice. Photography is a very hands-on activity. The photographer doesn’t learn merely by watching or reading. Seminars and books inspire and share knowledge but they are not replacements for actual photographing. The photographer must experiment and learn from practice. The best way to start, according to Joe, is two speedlights and any lighting tools that can be packed into a camera bag.

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    Moderator sebastiansong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Observations: Let There Be Light Seminar by Joe McNally

    On Visualization
    Joe is prepared to improvise, constantly varying and trying new ways to approach the same problem. One way is to think of the cool things people can do and then use light to showcase them. Joe likens each photograph as throwing darts at the wall, with each getting closer to the bull’s eye. Watching Joe work, however, is a great visual and audio learning experience as he voices out his every thought process. There are no secrets or mysteries, only a free flow of information.


    On Lighting Tools
    Joe spent most of his time demonstrating the various lighting tools available. With umbrellas, he showed how lighting changes by first casting light through them (diffusion) and by reflecting light off them. A Rayflash ring flash attachment was used to give portraits a ‘pop’ effect. He adjusted the zooming effect of his flashes to illustrate the fine control of light dispersion. With softboxes, he pointed out how light does not spill but collect around the subject. Even the blinds, pallets, and wire grilles of Shriro House were utilized to give portraits a unique lighting effect. By the end of the demonstration, Joe has opened our minds to the many possibilities that patiently await our discovery.


    On The Zone
    There are three, to be specific. Joe’s system is to perceive set lighting distinctly as
    • the foreground,
    • the middle (subject), and
    • the background.
    By this division, the photographer can breakdown and tackle the set as distinct components. Each zone can be lighted up accordingly to the desired effect. Joe does offer some pointers. White backgrounds should be lit at least 1 ½ to 2 stops higher than the subject while fill lights should be 1 to 2 stops lower.

    Joe believes portraiture and landscape photographers share much in common. The human face is similar to the terrain since the quality of light conjures a different look.


    Let There Be Light seminar is a great learning experience. Both Joe McNally and Louis Pang were willing mentors, encouraging questions from the participants. In the end, the participant will take away, not just, valuable learning points but a refreshed approach to enhance his craft. A participant remarked to me that Canon users will be disadvantaged as both Joe and Louis and use Nikon and speak in Nikon’s “Creative Lighting System”. I disagree. Systems are but tools, designed as enablers. Lighting is lighting. It is indiscriminate or as Louis say, misunderstood. Users of Canon and other systems are well capable to create great images. The history of photography which Joe reminded us constantly to pour through, bears the burden of proof. All that remains is great imagination and a relentless commitment to excellence.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Observations: Let There Be Light Seminar by Joe McNally

    hi sebas, another great article from you. Not only the content is solid, the flow and grammar etc is excellent. I hope i could write like this.

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    Moderator ed9119's Avatar
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    Default Re: Observations: Let There Be Light Seminar by Joe McNally

    how was the hands on session ?
    shaddap and just shoot .... up close
    Walkeast

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    Moderator sebastiansong's Avatar
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    Default Re: Observations: Let There Be Light Seminar by Joe McNally

    Quote Originally Posted by ed9119 View Post
    how was the hands on session ?
    The time constraint and the nature of being a seminar and not a workshop makes it a demonstration. Participants were encouraged to ask questions while Joe worked on the lighting solutions.

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