The summer run of Joe McNally’s One-Day Lighting Workshops has just concluded in Dobbs Ferry, New York (about 15-minutes up the Hudson River from NYC). As a guest instructor, I had a front-row seat and a backstage pass for the entire event. I have to say that when Joe puts on a workshop near his home turf, he pulls out all the gear and spares no expense.
I’ve never been to a workshop that had such a high ratio of staff to students. In addition to Joe, there was Lynn (his long-time studio manager and lightening rod), Drew (Joe’s first assistant), Lynda and Will (both NY pros brought in to assist), Trevi (Lynn’s mini-me) as well as Andrew, Holly, Mike and Lindsey (still more photo assistants). Jeff Snyder (Pro Markets rep from Adorama) and Mark Astmann (Product manager at Bogen for Elinchrom and Lastolight) each provided tech support for several days. My role, as a guest instructor, was to periodically translate Joe’s Nikonian into Canonese. About a third of each 15-student class was Canon shooters.
Spread across two weeks, the eight one-day sessions brought in nearly 120 students. While most were from the tri-state area around NYC, several students came from Canada, one from Mexico, one from California and a handful from the midwest. For the students, the day was 9.5 hours long. For Joe and the staff, the days were typically 11–12 hours in the studio.
The gear available for use rivaled the inventory of any photo superstore. Virtually all of Joe’s lighting, grip and camera gear was on hand. In case you’re wondering, it takes a good-sized U-Haul truck, a Suburban and several cars to move the McNally arsenal.
Joe brought in models along with stylists for hair and makeup from the Emmanuel model agency in Manhattan. Many students commented that they had never had the chance to photograph professional runway models before. I noted that even when standing around the hallways, they all seemed to strike statuesque poses.
Joe also asked several of his friends, including Joe Hodges, a 27-year veteran of NYFD, to come out and serve as models. Knowing how to light the “seasoned” face of a firefighter is as important as knowing how to light the pearlescent skin of a model. In a day, literally, a student could go home with a portfolio of shots ranging from NY high-fashion to gritty editorial.
Joe demonstrated the use of studio strobes and large modifiers – like Elinchrom’s gigantic 74″ OctaBank on the white set and the Elinchrom 39″ Deep Throat OctaBox on the black set (both were lit with the portable Elinchrom Ranger).
Joe also demonstrated the use of single and multiple speedlights along with a variety of small modifiers – like the Lastolight Triflash and the Lastolight EzyBox Hotshoe (being held aloft with the painter’s pole and adapter that I wrote about here).
The demos were tethered into an Apple Cinema display via Nikon Camera Control Pro so that the students could see what Joe was shooting. The monitor and laptop were wheeled throughout the building on a Metro kitchen cart.
We worked on sets large and small. The 8,000 square-foot daylight studio provided room for a number of sets to be in operation for student photography simultaneously. Joe also hauled the class down into the basement where the long, narrow hallways provided opportunities for completely different types of shooting.
In the afternoon, the students were set loose in small groups for an hour or so with a flash, a diffuser and a model. Their assignment was to put their newly discovered skills to work in the vast number of nooks and hideaways to be found throughout the 70-year old industrial building. These afternoon interludes also provided the opportunity for me to give Canon-specific training as needed.
The vast majority of sets were available for students to shoot after Joe finished a demo. For sets lit with Nikon Speedlights, the Canon shooters were encouraged to stuff their CFs into Joe’s D3 and shoot away. Likewise, the Nikon shooters triggered the Speedlights by putting Joe’s Nikon SU-800 Commander onto their cameras. For the sets lit with studio strobes, all the students slid Joe’s Elinchrom Skyport radio trigger into their hotshoe.
Of course, it’s no surprise that Joe’s photos from the workshops are amazing and inspirational. You can see many of his pix and read his posts about the workshops in these articles on his blog: They’re Back, Vanessa Times Two, Rub A Dub Dub In Dobbs, Windows and Doors In Dobbs, My Friend Joe Came By, Workshops Wrap – Part One
Joe, thanks for the opportunity. It is always an honor and a pleasure.