Before I dive into the story some background story. I bought my film camera in 1993, in 2003 I bough the Sony A-100 digital camera because I could use my Minolta lenses. I was happy snapping picture but with limited skills in November 2010 I did get a full frame Sony A-850 camera with a Zeiss Lens. While I was waiting for the camera to be in my hands I did discover: Scott Kelby and gang : Matt, RC, … eventually they did mention the name of Joe McNally from there I was hooked on the style and power of photography. There is however one piece of equipment I was still not good at using “my speedlight” after many books Brian Peterson made it finally clear and I sort of knew on how to use a flash. It remained mostly in my bag from another 2 years.
In early 2012 I did attend a wedding workshop, just to learn that I had missed a recent session by Joe. I told the vendor that for the next event I would be the first person registered to attend the event. It did take time and there never was a show, in a few instances I almost traveled to the US or London, just to see Joe in action. Meanwhile his appearance on-line where just enough to stopping my carving. Being really busy with my camera, I almost forgot about workshops when one morning at breakfast I saw this e-mail headline “Joe McNally Seminar in Switzerland” the e-mail had arrived around 6:20 am and by 7:40 I was registered for the session. This was including: eating my breakfast, rearranging my planning and getting the OK from the wife.
Sunday Morning with Joe in Bern. The night before I was shooting an ice hockey game and it lasted longer that usual with request to stay a little longer for some extra pictures. I manged to leave the venue at 23:00, by the time I was home showered pictures backed up and stored on an external hard-drive to process on the train it was 0:30.
6:00 the alarm clock was a reminder that this was not a day to relax. Everything was ready and packed ,I headed to the train station getting the 6:55 train. I did sleep a little on the train and the managed to work on my pictures. The objective was to finish everything before I would start the workshop. The train was racing through snowy Swiss landscapes while I was racing through my pictures editing. We got to Bern when all the pictures had been edited but not processed. A small bus ride and I was in front of the venue.
Profot and Nikon Switzerland did welcome us with a breakfast while we waited for the start. After chatting with a few people the doors did open. Getting my laptop some power to process the images and upload the jpegs to client websites.
A nice Jazz club with a Stage for Joe, Anne, the models and the Nikon, Profot team assisting.
After a brief intro, Joe started with questions form the audience about the expectations and speedlight problems. Interesting insight and suggestions .
Joe started to work on the scene, it was amazing how fast he asses the scene and light requirements. The first picture on the screen with no processing was already way better than anything I could create even with more time. Right away Joe points at “issues” with the picture that most in the audience did nott see. A little piece of gaffer tape, another speed light in group B and the shot is pretty much there.
It is really disconcerting to see the way Joe builds the scene and how well he understands light and the nikon TTL speedlights. It is really hard to keep up with his speed and vision. I had hardly grasped the current picture when Joe was already 2 speedlights and modifiers ahead me.
Breaks and lunch did come quickly, after some more talks with the photographers in the audience it was back to another half day of seeing Joe working through more complex scenes with the same ease and enthusiasm. Way to soon the day was over and Joe exhausted and sweating.
Bus and Train back to Geneva finally back home 20:30 just in time for a family dinner.
How would I rate the experience ? That is a tough one. It was a long intense day. To some extent a lot of what Joe showed on the day are not related to what I mainly do which is Sports, direct on camera flash pictures, landscaped. However the language of light is universal. Shooting a game 3 days after the day I had definitely some of Joe’s ideas haunting my head, I found my self experimenting more, playing more with the light. There are also many up coming shots where many of the techniques will be very useful to build the pictures I or the client have in mind. I am not going to rush out to buy a few boxed of speedlights or strobes. My current gear should be enough, I will know when I need more/different gear. It was definitely an inspiring day where it was interesting to see a master of light going through challenges to bend the light to match his vision. I am far of from the master and struggle on really basic steps it was good to know that even the best does not get it handed down but works it hard and with determination.
Initially my temptation was to sell all my gear and spend the money an alcohol, Joe makes it seem way too easy to even try. The real lesson of the day was that you need to work hard at it. One must be stubborn, driven and just try the extra shot to get it right. What was a amazing through the day was how well Joe and Anne work as a team. Photography is really a team work, working with a team of photographers every week there are clearly ways we can work together at getting better together, there is a healthy competition to get better shots, knowing that somebody is covering the base we have the luxury to spend one period or even whole game and just experiment and fail miserably.
I am excited, more passionate about photography and just a little wiser about light. Thanks Joe