First morning of the first Monday of the first work week of 2021. Woke up at 4:20am to the sounds of a snow plow screeching and struggling for footing on our hilly road. Which might mean my workout today could be with a cranky snowblower and a couple of bags of sand. All good. Home and safe, and facing off with a new year.
Starting off the blog this year with a production we made for the Nikon D850, with some elite obstacle course competitors. 2020 felt a bit like running through the mud, seeking traction, on a day to day basis, didn’t it? These athletes do that superbly, and their ample power and spirit feels like a good picture to start ’21 with.
The job did present us with the chance to shoot one of our most fun BTS videos. with excellent cinematographer Andrew Tomasino helming the camera. Click below for the video and others that live on our YouTube Channel.
It was a fun, if a bit complex day in the field. We had scouted, so we knew we could create this small, muddy ravine for the runners. The mud was in the making from the day before we arrived, via a canal from the pond, and I knew I’d be looking into thick forest greenery, so we toted the big flashes, and lit up the trees. Also built a big bonfire, courtesy of Tuff Scramblers, who stage obstacle course events all the time. Fire obstacles can often be one of the dramatic pieces of the race the runners have to negotiate their way past.
Main light was a Profoto beauty dish, powered by a B1X head. I also had the runners come through a gauntlet of SB-5000 Speedlights, all firing via radio control, on either side of the runner’s mud gully. That’s the beautiful thing about radio flash. With the Nikon system, I can plug in a Profoto Air Remote, and the Nikon WR-R10 and simultaneously control A, B, C groups of Profoto flashes, and D, E, F groups of Speedlights, without ever leaving the camera. Just button clicks. The Nikon controller used here is an older version. There is a new version, just out, called the WR-R11b. I recently used a prototype for a couple hours. Very dependable, good range. Can you imagine? We’ll soon have a radio controller for flash that goes to 11!
Setting the stage and lighting is all well and good, but then you need the talent to fill the picture with energy. Which these competitors did, marvelously. All were strong, and game, given the mud and the cold. They just kept charging. I was hunkered down in the gully, low angle, to make them loom more powerfully. Used the 200-400mm for compression and telephoto picture power. Single cursor, dynamic AF, back button, cursor drop on the lead runner. The Speedlights pumped warmish backlight into the water droplets and the runners’ hair. The background Profoto B4 units lit the trees like some dappled sun. The fire was a variable intensity source.
And after all the mud and sweat and fire and lights, my favorite picture of the day was….available light. Okay, available late, warm, strong sunlight through a 12′ silk, and assisted with a low Lastolite Tri-Grip reflector. (Goddam it Joe, ya just can’t leave well enough alone, can ya?) D850, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 lens. Some simple clicks near the end of a fun day in the field.
As always, the team rocked. Lynn DelMastro produced a stellar opportunity, and Sam Brown as always styled it out with aplomb. I don’t know if Sam had ever styled a group of talent like this, destined to get everything muddy and messed up! Deborah Engelsman did the lovely makeup. Mike Grippi ran the crew in great shape. And terrific photog Omar Rawlings came down from Beantown to help us out.
What we saw in each other last year was as energetic and powerful as these runners’ churning legs. People reached out and helped each other. We stayed the course. Got through a relentless year. It’s a new page. Best to everyone as we climb our way out of the hole known as 2020. Stay safe, and let’s look out for one another, as we make that climb and turn 2021 into something special for all.
Happy New Year! More tk….
Marco Garavaglia says
Happy New Year and with New Vitality. I am always reminded that the best make the best out of any condition. Benjamin Disraeli put it this way “He who takes the advantage, get’s the advantage in life.” We are never without doubts and fears, but can grow despite them. Without some stress, there can be no success. Considering the past year, I’ll bet you still succeeded. You’re still here showing your followers how to make remarkable images. To coin another phrase, this is a “picture under discussion,” made far differently than most can imagine. So, with a renewed spirit we build on 2020. Best wishes!
Ian Stewart says
Wow, great stuff and interesting story on how it all came together. Looking forward to LACP webinar with you on Feb. 13. Best, Ian
Dave Prelosky says
Joe – you’re on your own for the second part of this lyric, but I think Peter Townsed got it right in this small section from Tommy, c.1969
I’ve got a feeling twenty-one
Is going to be a good year
Especially if you and me
See it in together
Joe McNally says
Nice one, Dave….Tommy. Lots of memories associated with that album.
Joe McNally says
Same back, Marco! Be well!
Rick Rickman says
You are a Rock Star Bubba. I miss seeing you. Say hi to Annie as well. I’m doing a lot of in water and near water stuff. Having a lot of fun.
Joe McNally says
That’s great, man. I miss seeing you as well. Hoping to make it to SoCal this year, so fingers crossed. Happy New Year! Stay safe! At our age, can’t be too careful:-)
Rick Rickman says
If you come to our coast be sure to let me know and we’ll get caught up. Stay safe sir. I hope to see you.
Mark Foster says
Very impressive that you decided to photography the obstacle course in the mud. The closes thing I’ve accomplished to that is the pumpkin path in a down-pouring, which is nothing compared to what you did. And one of me next ventures when it comes to portraits for me is acquiring a Profoto Air Remote and doing more staged shoots. I love the lighting and color In your photos, excited to see more your work this year!
Kyle Reynolds says
This sounds like an amazingly fun photo shoot. As a person who can often be found running the trails and collecting a fair amount of much I really appreciate the way you captured these powerful people out running and getting dirty.
I would love to see what your approach would be to capturing a live event in this style. Myself and other fellow runners and photographers would be interested.