Avoiding the Blinding Obviousness of the Flash

A couple of blogs ago, I wrote about the common problem of red-eye and how to avoid it.  The bottom line was, don’t use the on-camera flash if you can help it.  I looked through the photos I shot this year with flash and realized that while I got some decent portraits- it was as much by luck as it was by skill.


  It made me acknowledge that I really have only a basic set of skills with my remote lighting tools.  So 2013, assuming we survive Friday’s Mayan apocalypse, will be the year that I really learn off camera lighting.  There are two main sources I plan to rely on to accomplish this task—Kelby Training and the magic of Joe McNally, which we have plugged before and a Website/blog/cult called “STROBIST® . http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/02/welcome-to-strobist.html


David Hobby who runs the organization is fairly local—he lives up in Baltimore.  He lives, breathes, writes and shoots lighting.  He has created a self-help course entitled  “Lighting 101, which goes from the very basics of flash terminology to a series of more complex assignments.  Bes of all, the entire content is free.  I’m going to work my way through it, over the next few months and hopefully, will be able to get results like this all the time, instead of, “Oh wow, I shot that?  Joe McNally says “Light is the language of photography, we must learn to see it and shape it”.

Ten Years Later

This week we observe and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Al-Qaida attack on the United States.  For all Americans it was a watershed event.  For those of us who lost friends or family in any of the incidents, it marks another year they will not see, and it is up to us to keep their memories alive.  I have only shot two photos  of the WTC.  Back in 1985, I was in Newport, Rhode Island for a Navy School and took a trip down to visit my friend David Turner.  David is a professional photographer, now teaching in Mass.  He needed to scout out some locations in a cemetery on Staten Island for an upcoming fashion shoot, so we took the ferry over.  My slides have seen better days, but the sunset on the towers was striking. In 2001, like most of the East Coast, I was at work.  I worked in a government building, right in the flight path for the Dulles airport.  When the news of the attacks came, the building was evacuated because no one was certain if there was another plane out there.  We saw the attacks on the Pentagon and as most of the people I work with are military, government or retired from same, we knew that we would recognize someone on the lists.

It wasn’t until several days later that we realized our team’s administrator, who had just moved back to Long Island with her son, did not make it out of the South Tower.  In a sad postscript, a postcard she sent to our wonderful receptionist, showing the WTC with her office circled in ball point pen, arrived the very next day.

In the days just after 9-11 one of the worlds’ best photographers, Joe McNally, started to take photos of the first responders with a huge Polaroid camera.  His 9’ portraits captured the dust, the exhaustion and the determination of the firemen, construction crew and police working around the clock to find remains and clear the rubble.  He wrote about the project on Scott Kelby’s blog this week.   http://www.scottkelby.com/blog/2011/archives/21260   Everyone should read his piece and look at the exhibit on his own site at http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2011/09/05/a-sense-of-place/   If you are in NYC, go to the free exhibit through the 12th of September.

Now 10 years later we still are fighting against the ideals of the people who launched those attacks.  Here we are still rebuilding.  Some places like the Pentagon were rapidly restored.  Ground Zero in New York is still a work in progress.  But a new building is arising phoenix-like from that deep hole in the ground.  As we think about those days, remember all of those who died there and those who have perished in the fight to root out those who did this.