Doesn’t always stay in Vegas. Especially the silliness.
PhotoShop World, that anchor event in the photo calendar, always has a theme, wrapped in a mini-movie of purposefully dubious production values. This year riffed on Wayne’s World, with the redoubtable Scott Kelby doing a very convincing, capable Wayne and Corey Barker doing just a remarkably loopy version of Garth Algar, Dana Carvey’s character. Corey is a wonderful artist and PhotoShop master. Who knew he could do goofy this well? Especially at this PSW, when he got inducted into the PhotoShop Hall of Fame? Especially with his mom in the audience?
Separated at birth?
Anyway, it was good fun, for sure, and the typically accelerated potpourri of educational offerings and amusements that is the core of PSW. From Scott and Corey as the dynamically demented duo, to KelbyOne instructor Mia McCormick as the bombshell, to RC Concepcion as the Mexican shaman, to Roberto Valenzuela strumming romantically on the guitar…..it was, well, schwing!
Vegas always represents, for me, an opportunity to shoot. At PSW this time around I showed a quick series I worked on last year, thematically referred to around here at the studio as “The Garage Guys.” The below was shot in good old Vegas.
Ok, ok. Maybe it’s the neon. Maybe it’s the surreal colors and characters of Vegas. I shot the above, well, let’s call it in the spirit of things. Color, smoke, theater. I invited my friend Drew Moore, formerly of the NFL, to be my main character. Robo-mechanic!
Then we broke out some lights. And Oscar the dog. What a wonderful pooch. Not much of a watchdog, ’cause he likes everybody, but a total sweetheart. He and Drew bonded. There’s a lot going on here, so the camera of choice was the highly resolved Nikon D810. The file had to have sharpness, detail and color punch, and there is nothing like the D810 for that kind of mission. The lens of choice was the Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8.
On a set with lots of moving parts, the first and foremost thing is to get your field of frame Not very good English perhaps, but you get the idea, and it’s essential. Figure out the frame. Figure out what is going to be in the photo. Compose, not just the picture, but your damn self. Keep clarity of thought and peace of mind. Lots of stuff to think about, so take it a step at a time, and have fun doing it.
I liked the above angle but needed a place to put Drew. Fortuitously, there was a shell of an old vehicle we were able to drag over. Fit my imagination perfectly, as he is literally coming up out of that frame of an old car, and it gave me a place to hide my lights and gather some smoke.
Lots of different places to light in the photo. Big flash, small flash, shapers, bouncers, you name it. Big tripod job all the way, in this instance our four section Gitzo. Main light was a Profoto beauty dish, running off a Profoto B4 pack. Underneath, creating the creature from the black lagoon smoky warm light were two Profoto B1 units. Perfect place for a cordless battery unit. In the background nooks and crannies, there’s a mix of big flash and Speedlights, and once again an instance that I am very thankful for the onboard slaving capacity of the SB-910.
This is where it really gets to be fun, trying to go with the flow of what be there anyway (at least in my imagination) and having light be the expression of that. This is one of those jobs where reality gets left at the station, and just trying stuff that might look cool, or be informative, or simply try something you ordinarily don’t get a chance to play with.
Like a xenon arc light. They have those in Vegas. Enormously powerful, directed lights. I got a small one for the garage, fearing a big one would superheat the environment and cause some sort of enormous explosion.
I know there’s xenons in Vegas as I went to the top of the Luxor pyramid once, on behalf of the National Geographic, doing a story on light, and photographed the reason there is an huge beam of light shooting to the sky at the top of that hotel. It is the most powerful beam of light on earth, measuring 42.3 billion candela, and deploys 39 major xenon arcs to do it.
It was hot as blazes up there. I kept wondering about the fact that I was in a t-shirt and shorts, and the worker was in a flak jacket and safety visor. Hmmm…
But, in most instances in the garage, I went a relatively logical path. Like, back where there’s taillights, I red gelled my flashes.
I just follow my instincts when lighting like this. I see what’s there already, most of the time. There was an office in the back right of the frame that had these crazy, green tinted windows. So I augmented that feel with a deep green gel, and bounced a light in there. Hence the greenish tinge that is bleeding into the frame on the right.
This kind of lighting job is just plain fun, really. It allows me to stay in the sandbox of my imagination, and build a photo, block by block, light by light, color by color, and learn things along the way. It also reminded me of the happenstance of location work. We had all the lights and stands we needed, but of course, what we didn’t know we needed was…Oscar the dog. A total gift of the location, absolutely unforeseen. Now I’ve been the recipient of many location gifts, some quite unpleasant, but Oscar was welcome indeed. It gave our big guy, Drew, a chance to react to something other than the camera. And, of course, it being the time and age we live in, Oscar was paid a fee, and photo released.
Any questions about the gear, reach out to the big guy at Adorama, Jeff Snyder. [email protected]
Location photography! A great way to relax:-))
Fred Langer says
Great – fun post Joe! Makes me really disappointed I missed PSW. The garage shot is really cool and complex and interesting. I am stumped by those 3 ceiling florescent lights. They add so much to the feel of the shot, but I can’t imagine how they are lit. Was there some magic there?
Tim Siegert says
Joe, what do you use to make your smoke?? Dry ice??
Joe McNally says
Hi Tim..no, this was a full blown smoke machine….best, Joe
Joe McNally says
No magic, just available fluorescence, Fred….all best, Joe
Sebastian Hamark says
Why did you use a beauty dish instead of a softbox? Im just curious about your choice. No criticism.:)
I like the style of your images so much. will definitely take you in in my Bloglovin list to stop by here regularly as possible. Greetings from Germany
Joe S says
As always, enjoyed seeing your presentation in Orlando. Would love for you to post that last shot of Curtis so I can show my friends what they missed!
Did you use a fan along with that fog machine?
That is really interesting about the light at the top of the Luxor… I just checked… yup… most powerful light on earth…
And the old laser seemed so much more eye catching… brighter even
Love to hear more about that light set up on the Luxor. Have you written more about it somewhere ??
Mitchell Krog says
Love this garage shot , somewhat sinister but awesome. Your lighting is always fantastic and so dramatic, that’s what sets you apart. Fantastic images.