Had a bunch of questions about pix I’ve posted on our Instagram account of late, so thought I’d throw a bunch of them onto the blog and try to answer. Instagram’s a great forum for fielding questions about approach, style and technique. Below, this picture, shot on the streets of Havana, generated discussion. Folks were interested in the lens use, and the precipitous drop in DOF. Speculation was that it was perhaps the 105 f1.4, which is solid conjecture. However, it is the Nikkor 300mm f4, shot on a D850, at ISO 400, 1/250th at f4.5. This, BTW, is the new generation of super light Nikkor long glass. This 300 is lighter and smaller than my 70-200. It’s crazy hand-holdable.
One individual mentioned that he thought I had painted in blur in post, and he could pick that up by zooming into her foot, where “I missed some spots.” I checked with Jon Cospito, a terrific young photog, who used to be full-time here at the studio, and still does a bit of retouching for us. He came back: “Looks like I just did some dodging and burning, added some contrast / saturation to make her pop, cleaned up her skin using frequency separation, and finished off with my usual bit of sharpening. Really not much needed here. Definitely no blur added.”
Long lenses are a particular piece of this art and craft. They magnify, and convey power, and the focus drop corresponds to length of lens, f-stop and closeness to subject. Always thankful I grew up as a contract shooter for Sports Illustrated, and got to watch long lens toting geniuses like Walter Iooss, Heinz Klutemeier, John Biever, Johnny Iacono, and Bill Frakes. They would use long glass like a surgeon uses a scalpel, carving out the essential piece of a scene
The light for the above is simple, a small Profoto RFi strip light, powered by a B1-X. It serves to give her some pop in her face, and separate her, but it is not sufficiently strong enough to throw a shadow. I also believe I had a fabric grid on the box, which concentrates the flow of the light, so there wasn’t any spill towards the ground to speak of. By contrast, when we worked with this trooper of a dancer earlier in the morning, it was considerably darker. Hence, the flash is more pronounced, as you see below. My flash, which is the same source, definitely throws a shadow here.
Have had some great adventures with locations and light, to be sure. We documented some of them in a video, shot in Havana, called the Dance of Memory. It’s thoughtful and sweet, and we had a great subject, Jossie, and some wonderful dancers.
Few more questions came in about the portrait pic below, in terms of flash, no flash, composition, etc. It is a flash pic, just a small kiss of a Speedlight through a Ezybox Hot Shoe Soft Box, just over camera and slightly right. Camera is Nikon D800E, ISO 100, 1/2000th at f1.4. Happy with the mix of light, as it is soft, and the available light basically swallowed the feel of the flash. Composition is another thing and completely personal to the photog at hand. It was suggested I crop the sky out, her head should be closer to the bridge, and that the bridge looked like a big, ugly hat. Which is cool. Pic remains a keeper from that trip, one of the simpler ones, done with one small flash, and a favorite.
Had a few questions come across about lens and light on this one from the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, below. It’s the Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8, racked out at about 18mm. D800E, shot at ISO 100, 1/320th at f8. Aperture priority, minus 1/3rd EV. Natural light. A rare blue sky day in Beijing.
Enjoy the week upcoming, more tk!
David Barnes says
Thanks so much for all of the wonderful info on choices and final print info. Your work will always inspire.
Tony Ulchar says
I absolutely love your work and share your appreciation for Cuba and Havana. I’ve been fortunate to take 2 groups of photographers there and help spread the word of this beautiful place. Thanks for sharing and inspiring me to work harder and improve my craft every day.
Kory Addis says
Don’t forget our mutual photog Ken Regan
William Chinn says
It’s scary how I was going to skip watching Cuba – The Dance of Memory, but then thought hey, It has Joe’s name on it. Watched and loved every moment. Each second was seen as a still picture just as good as the previous, waiting for the next. A beautiful story is told. Bravo!
Lorne Martin says
Joe, What a moving and wonderful video. Your talents continue to amaze me. As a longtime fan, and one who had the great pleasure of spending a week with you in St. Lucia I want to thank you again for giving us all that you give.
Joe McNally says
Thank you Lorne…that was a great week in St. Lucia!
Thank you for sharing
The Cuba move is amazing!