Category Archives Photography


Big News: We taking the show on the road as Kelby Training Live presents Joe McNally’s Location Lighting Tour in London, England (for the first time ever), on Friday, July 23rd, 2010 and it is going to be just an unbelievable day!!!!! (photo above by Drew Gurian)

You guys are in for a real treat, as Joe’s tour has been playing to standing room only crowds coast-to-coast here in the U.S. and his tour absolutely gets rave reviews, and now we’re bringing the tour to Islington’s Business Design Centre, and he is absolutely going to rock the house.

Not only do we expect a sell-out in advance, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that while Joe is there, either (a) He gets Knighted by Her Majesty the Queen, or (b) He gets arrested on a variety of changes, mostly having to do with public nudity and the ensuing bar fight. It’s a chance we have to take.

Seriously though, we’re really excited to have Joe take the tour over there for us, and we hope you’ll get a chance to spend an amazing career-changing day learning from one of the most gifted, passionate, hilarious, and brilliant lighting and photography instructors on the planet.

Here’s the link with all the details. Don’t miss it!


Social Media magnate Scott Bourne had me on as a guest on his awesome PhotoFocus podcast on Saturday and I gotta tell ya—we had a blast.

He takes questions from listeners, and one of the questions I loved in particular was one about a viewer who got a pit pass to the upcoming Indy 500 race, and wanted some tips on shooting the race. I couldn’t have been more pleased with a question. :) As luck would have it Scott Bourne used to shoot motorsports for years (including Indy), and he and I just went off on this topic and had a lot of fun.

Of course, we covered all sorts of other topics, everything from lens selection to Photoshop questions, and it was an awful lot of fun. You can listen it to right here (he has three different feeds on this page: You can listen to it in iTunes, or outside of iTunes, or you can just download the MP3 edition of the Podcast, so you’ve got plenty of choices).

My thanks to Scott for giving me the opportunity to spend some time with him and his great listeners. Now go give it a listen. :)


I had a number of questions yesterday about the photos I took during my trip to China, so I thought I’d cover a few of them here today. Here we go:

Q. I frequently refrain from posting pictures of people (unless they are family) on the web. I worry about model releases and stuff like that, I realize that these folks are half way across the world, do you ever worry about that kind of risk?
This question came up a number of times yesterday, and this is probably going to freak you out, because do I not get model releases of people I shoot on the street, yet not only can I post their images on the Web, I can even sell prints of these images.

This whole topic was covered brilliantly by Copyright and Intellectual Property Attorney Ed Greenberg who was our guest on our weekly show Photoshop User TV last year. Ed specializes in copyright for photographers, and we had him on as a guest a number of times, because Ed has such a great way of explaining this stuff and making it understandable. You can catch his first segment in Episode 168 (link), and then it continues on Episode 169 (link), and than it continues again on Episode 170 (link), and we even added a bonus interview with Ed right here (it’s all free!). This is absolutely invaluable information (which is why we had Ed and copyright advocate Jack Reznicki do an in-depth series of online classes on Copyright for Photographers and the use of model releases over at Kelby Training Onlinelink).

Q. What I’m actually curious about is the font used on the last page. I’ve been looking for a nice “Handwriting” style for similar reasons.
Every time I use it, I get lots of people asking that same question. It’s called Satisfaction Pro. It sells for $20 and you can find it right here.

Q. Can you share how you put the panorama shot into 2 pages in [Apple’s] iPhoto. I tried it before but it seems like there is no one button solution in the software.

STEP ONE: You drag the pano on the left page, then you drag the same photo down on the right page (so you have two panos, side-by-side).

STEP TWO: On the left page, you zoom the size in quite a bit (using the Zoom/size slider that appears when you click on a photo in iPhoto).

STEP THREE: Use the Grabber hand (which appears to the right of the size slider) to drag the zoomed-in photo on the left page nearly all the way to the left (the photo drags inside the page template).

STEP FOUR: Then you go to the right hand page, and use the same technique (zoom in to the same amount, then drag that side all the way to the right). Now you have to kind of match up the two halves in the center so it looks like one contiguous photo.

Q. I am a PC user and was wondering if there is a program I can use to make a book like this?
iPhoto is a Mac-only program (and comes with some great drag-and-drop layouts like the one I used), but you can make photo books like this from a number of online labs, including, so I’d start there (here’s the link).

Q. Where’s that HDR photo you talked about yesterday?
That’s it at the top of the page. I did the processing using Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro. This was taken inside the ferry from Kowloon over to Hong Kong. I had to hand hold it, but I took it earlier in the day, so I had a decent amount of light. Although I took five bracketed shots, I only used three for the HDR tonemapping.

Q. Your wife speaks Mandarin? What don’t you guys do?
She is truly an amazing woman. Right now she’s working on her pilot’s license, and she has her first solo flight coming up probably later this month. I don’t know how she does it. She makes me feel like a slacker.

Q. This is probably a typical camera guy question but the shot of that ferry [yesterday] is fantastic and I wanted to know how you took it! It looks to be a long exposure and also appears that you panned along but those two things generally don’t play well with each other. Care to share?
Mostly, I got lucky. I was on another one of those ferries coming back from Hong Kong to my hotel in Kowloon. Since it was dusk, and the ferry itself was moving, I knew I was shooting in really tough circumstances, and that I would have to pan with the ferry going by, but to increase my luck I did these three things:

(1) I raised my ISO to 400

(2) I shot wide open at f/3.5 to increase my shutter speed

(3) But most importantly I shot in Continuous High Speed mode and cranked out a long stream of shots hoping that one of the images would be in focus (I’ve written about this trick in my digital photography book series), and son of a gun one was! There were plenty that weren’t, but all I needed was that one.

Q. Is the Birds Nest in as bad a shape as has been reported? I read that after the Olympics the govt stopped maintaining it.
From what I saw outside—it looked great. It’s kind of a tourist attraction now, and there were literally hundreds of people there just making the scene (kind of like people gather at Trafalgar Square in London). The bird’s nest was beautifully lit at night, and from all outward appearances it looked to be in good shape (our guide told me they hold football [soccer] matches there now).

Q. Did you go to the World Expo in Shanghai?
Sadly, we left port just a few hours before the massive fireworks display to kick off the opening of the Expo. We saw some of the Expo grounds, and it was just amazing. Shanghai in general was just amazing—I could totally live there. The people were incredibly friendly and open, and I’m still stunned at how capitalism has caught on there. I remember sitting at Starbucks, next to the Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant, right across from the Staples and UPS Store, right around the corner from the Häagen Dazs ice cream store, thinking, “This is a communist country?”

Q. May I ask how did u carry your equipment for all day? (ten hours)?
Once I switched to the D3 and the two lenses, I had to go and buy a small camera bag from a street vendor (paid about 240 RNB (about $35), which was way too much, but my wife was shopping elsewhere so I had nobody to negotiate the deal for me. As it turned out though, the bag the perfect size to hold my 70-200mm when I swapped out for my 14-24mm. However, at one point, the strap holding the top came loose, and my 14-24mm rolled right out of the bag. It’s a tough lens—not even a scratch.

Q. As a photographer, how often did you see a blue sky versus a gray one. Most of the recent travelers to China that I’ve talked to were amazed at the perennial gray skies due to pollution. They thought it impacted their photos not to mention their breathing.
We really only had two and a half days that were actually sunny—the rest were kind of gray and hazy (smoggy) which is why I usually avoided including the sky in my shots if at all possible. If you look at my Forbidden City shots, you’re seeing the gray, smoggy skies we saw most of the time. In fact, look at the first shot, and you’ll see more of that haze, with a slight hint of blue. But then on the day before we left Beijing, it rained overnight and the next two days were gorgeous so I tried to make the most of it.

Hope that answers some of your questions. :)

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Hi everybody—I’m back from my break, which turned out to be 16-days in China of nothing but rest and relaxation (with some travel photography throw in as we slowly made our way from Hong Kong to Shanghai by ship and eventually to Beijing for a few days before heading back home).

My wife surprised me with the trip as my Christmas present (I was totally blown away—-and still am), and what was cool was it was just us two—we left the kids at home this time (well, it was us and two other couples who are good friends of ours). Another cool thing is that my wife speaks Chinese (Mandarin), so that made everything much easier (even though they primarily speak Cantonese in Hong Kong, and “Shanghainese”[dialect] in Shanghai, they still understood enough Mandarin to help us get around and get everything we needed).

I’ll have a few more details tomorrow but China was absolutely incredible and loads of fun. I had been to Beijing 11 years ago and I can’t believe how much it has evolved since then. Just simply amazing.

Just like I did for my Tuscany trip last summer (link) I put together an Apple iPhoto book of some of my favorite shots from my trip, and I’ve included some of those pages below (click on them for a much larger view). I did take lots of regular vacation photos as well but those are going into a separate iPhoto book for the family and our friends that were with us.

About the Photos
Although China has all these amazing landscapes, and stunning mountain ranges, our trip was all to major cities and ports, so all the photos are from big cities we stopped at along the way.

The shots below are all taken during group sightseeing bus tours or guided city tours, so I could pretty much only snap shots during those times (though in Beijing we did take a taxi to shoot the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium at sunset, which was a blast). So, if you’re wondering where all those “fisherman in a small both in the mist with jagged mountain behind him” shots are—I’ll have to try and find those on another visit (I’d love to go back on a dedicated photo trip).

Camera Specs:
For the first few days in Hong Kong, I shot with a Nikon D300s with an 18-200mm f/3.5 – f/5.6 VR lens. Having just one lens that does it all was incredibly convenient, but then when I got to Shanghai I switched to my D3 using either my 14-24mm f/2.8 or a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I have no idea why I switched. I guess I thought the quality would be better, but lugging all that heavy gear around for 10 hours a day really turned out to be a huge pain in the $@#. When will I ever learn.

Before we get to the photos; a big thanks to everyone who covered for me here on the blog while I was slacking off. They did an absolutely fantastic job (and how about Alex’s awesome guest blog, eh?).

Anyway, here’s some shots from the trip (click on them for larger views).  There’s no HDR here, but I did shoot a few HDR shots during the trip, one of which I actually like, but it’s not in this batch. I’ll run it separately here tomorrow if I can:

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(I’m going to go ahead and apologize up front… There aren’t many, well, any, images in this post to help break up the text [I know, I should’ve had my camera with me the whole time!], but I’ve done my best to break the text up into smaller chunks to make it easier to get through. Hope it’s worth the read!)

How did I get to where I am today?

That’s a question that I get asked somewhat often when people meet me, so I figured I would share it here. That way, if we do meet some day, you’ll already know and we can talk about something besides me :)

I was born at a young age in the hills of East Tennessee…

Actually, let’s fast forward to the part where I pick up a camera, cool? Thought so.


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This weekend I had media passes to shoot the Sun n’ Fun Fly-in, a wonderful air show that takes place each year in Lakeland, Florida (my hometown no less), and this time I got to shoot it with my buddy Bill Fortney from Nikon Professional Services and professional aviation photographer Jose Ramos (check out Jose’s work here).

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It all started by setting my alarm to go off at 4:45 am on Saturday morning, and then driving to the airshow in Lakeland (about an hour or so away) to hook up with Bill to catch first light on the warbirds on display, and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds sitting on the flight line, who would be doing demonstrations that afternoon and Sunday, and some A-10s and FA-18s (that’s one seen above at dawn).

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It was a pretty cloudy morning, so we didn’t get great light, but once the light was up, I managed to get a few shots I liked of a Lockheed 12A Electra, shown above (at least I think it’s a 12A Electra) before the light was so harsh we had to pack it in (which was about 8:15 am).

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I headed back home to rest up because my son and I were headed to see Bon Jovi in concert that night (our favorite band), and we even got to meet up with photographer David Bergman, who is touring with Bon Jovi currently, and he’s scheduled to be my Guest Blogger this Wednesday. Great guy, and just amazing photographer—you might remember him from his famous gigapan shot of the Obama inauguration).By the way; the Bon Jovi concert was insane!!! Incredible show (with high tech lighting and video that was just incredible!!!!) Jon can still belt it out, and Richie Sambora totally screamed on guitar!!!!

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On Sunday, I headed back to the Sun n’ Fun with my whole family in tow, and we met up with Jose Ramos and spent the day shooting with him (mostly in the rain—the weather was rainy and gray the whole day), and waiting for the Thunderbirds demonstration (I had never seen them before, and I knew the kids would love ’em, which of course, they totally did!).

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Tech Specs
Shooting the jets would be easy, but I wanted to also catch some shots of the aerial acrobatics going on before the Thunderbirds, and this time I wanted to make sure I got nice propeller spin in the photos (Last year, I got to shoot for maybe 20 minutes, and was called away for an emergency, and I got just a few shots, and sadly I hadn’t found that sweet spot where the propeller has motion, and the plane is still sharp. This time, I was smarter. I asked Jose.

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He told me for those types of planes, and the speed of their propellers (Jose knows this stuff inside and out), he shoots in Shutter Priority mode at 1/320 of a second (I’m glad I asked—I would have shot much slower, and had a lot of blurry shots along the way). He says he doesn’t go for a full blur, and prefers to see motion and some of the blade as well, and so that’s what I went for, and it worked really well—-planning along with the planes and letting the camera choose the Aperture (since I was stuck at 1/320 of a second).


Once the jets came out (first a few FA-18-Fs then the Thunderbirds), I would switch to Aperture Priority mode and shoot wide open (which in this case was only f/5.6—-I was expecting a bright sunny day so I didn’t bring fast glass), to freeze the jets in motion.


Camera Gear
For the shots on the ground on Saturday, I took my D3 and used a 24-70mm f/2.8 and I borrowed Bill’s 16-35mm f/2.8 wide zoom. I also shot a few with my 70-200mm f/2.8.


On Saturday, with Jose, since now I would be shooting planes up in the sky, I followed Bill Fortney’s recommendation of bringing my D300s (to get closer to the action than shooting full frame), and my lightweight (yet very sharp), 70-300mm f/4.5 to f/5.6 lens, which worked great. I used that one lens for all the aerials.


Gray skies stink!
Although I really enjoyed the Thunderbirds (They are out and out amazing!), there is nothing more disappointing than shooting their incredible formations against a flat gray sky (as seen above and below). On Sunday, when they flew, it was raining on and off all day, with steady drizzle in between, and just absolutely flat, boring gray skies. Uggh!!! Even though it was gray and yucky, I enjoyed their show so much that I would make a special trip to another air show just to shoot them again against a beautiful blue sky.


So, it was “gray city” all day—but that’s the thing about photography; I didn’t get the shots of the Thunderbirds I wanted, but I still had a great time!!!! (and Jose was about as gracious a host as you could possibly ask for, and he was giving me tips and helping me with my technique throughout the day). I know so many photographers who would rather miss the shot, and instead spend the day fussing around with their camera settings, rather than just asking a follow photographer with more experience for help with their settings, or some tips on how to shoot the event.

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I was not embarrassed in the least to let Bill and Jose know this was really my first airshow shoot, and that I didn’t have any idea of what I was doing. I’ve found that rather than looking down on you, most photographers are happy to share what they’ve learned, and that’s what both Bill and Jose did without reservation, and now I know better what to do next time around, how to set my camera, and I bet my results will be better (especially if it doesn’t rain).

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My humble thanks to Bill and Jose for taking me under their wing, and for being so gracious with your time, and so warm and welcoming to my family. You guys are the best!!! :)