My Week in St. Lucia With Joe McNally

Last week was Joe McNally’s workshop down in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, and I was there as a guest instructor (teaching some Lightroom and stuff), and man, did we have a ball. (NOTE: Joe posted the final image of what you see him shooting above over at his bloghere’s the link).

Of course, Joe was the main attraction, so he had to work his butt off, and well….I only had to teach on Friday, so I could hang out with the class and go on shoots, or sleep in (which I did a lot of), or just hang out on the beach and do nothing (ditto). It was an awesome week of relaxing and fun, at one of the top-rated luxury resorts in the world (and yes, I totally know how lucky I am). :)

Joe does a pretty cool thing at this workshop. At the beginning of the week, he takes his students through all the gear he uses (off camera flashes, portable softboxes, hot shoe EZ-box, Lastolite tri-flectors, and so on), and then he splits them into small groups, and gives each group their own set of gear for the week, in a carry bag, so they have access to the gear on each shoot.

One of the shoots I went to was in the jungle, on a mountain biking trail, where Joe had arranged with some local riders to work with the class, and I went out with a group, and we set up and lit a rider with an SB-900 flash. We used Rear Curtain Sync and dragged the shutter to get movement at the beginning of the exposure, and then the flash fired at the end to freeze some of the rider. That’s the team I was with above working the shoot.

Above: I only took about four frames, because I didn’t want to take any longer and take time away from the students, but this was the general idea of what we were going for. Some of the students got much better shots than this, and when that happens, you really win, because that’s exactly what you want.

Then I brought our rider inside the bike shack and we did a quick 5-minute portrait with one off camera flash. Weird side note: What are the chances that I’d shoot two mountain bikers, within 10 days of each other, 3,000 miles apart—one in the desert, one in the jungle, and wildest of all—-they were both named “Tyson.” (Insert twilight zone music here).

For some of the location shoots, Joe would do the shooting, and honestly, I found this more valuable because just watching Joe work with his subjects is really a learning experience unto itself. Getting that connection with your subject is such a key part of all of this, and Joe did an amazing job I learned a lot from how he talked with, and directed his subjects.

That’s Joe above, shooting a local singer/guitarist at some ruins out in the jungle. She was amazing, Joe was hilarious, and yet focused, and of course, we all learned a ton.

Of course, his lighting is insane. Simple, but just so perfect, and he does it all with such ease. He really reminds you that you don’t need to have a bunch of lights to create some really captivating looks.

One night we went down to the beach and shot a local saxaphone player, and Joe had her get in the water (up to her knees anyway), and he lit her with just one light (An Elinchrom Quadra with a deep octa softbox) and a reflector, and the final image is just really magnificant (I’m sure Joe will be posting some of the finished images on his blog soon).That’s one of the students holding the tri-grip reflector, and Drew is holding the deep throw octa mounted on a painter’s pole.

Above: Another side note—there’s a art gallery there. In the gallery they sell a canvas print of a shot that I took from my room at the Jade Mountain Resort when I was there last year, and I grabbed the shot you see above (hey, while I was there they had just sold another one. Sweet!) They send me the orders, and I have Artistic Photo Canvas print and ship the panos directly to the buyers (APC totally rocks) and it works out just great!

The woman that runs the gallery asked if I could create another pano to go with it, so while I was there I arranged to have a boat take me out, and I got a nice companion pano to go with it. I haven’t finished the high-res version yet, but when I do, I’ll post a photo of it here on the blog.

The week in paradise was over all too quick. Friday came, and I did my Lightroom training, and we got a lot accomplished that day. That night, class was back on the beach for a sunset shoot, and then the next day my wife and I were on our flight home.

It’s NFL Game Day!
I shot an NFL game on Sunday (no rest for the weary), and finally got to shoot my home team, the Tampa Bay Bucs, vs. the St. Louis Rams, and the Buc’s pulled out a win in the last 15 seconds to go four and two. Whodathunk it. I’ll have photos on Tuesday (with any luck).

More Jay is a Good Thing
Speaking of Tuesday, I’ll be up in New York City shooting (wait for it….wait for it….) a follow-up to our incredibly popular online class at Kelby Training Online with Jay Maisel. This one’s called “Another Day with Jay Maisel” and we’re off again to different parts of New York learning while we walk (and ride) around the city. I can’t wait.

Catch Me In New York on Thursday
Also, I’m speaking at Photo Plus Expo in New York on Thursday, at Wacom’s booth, and at Manfrotto’s booth. I’ll have details tomorrow, but if you’re going, I hope you’ll stop by.

That’s it for today. I want to thank Joe for letting me be a part of his incredible workshop. It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime for his students, and to be a guest instructor alongside Joe, is a real honor (plus, Joe and his wife Annie are the most gracious hosts on the planet—my wife and I had an amazing time—thanks you guys!), and thanks to you guys for reading today.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow.

  1. What an amazing experience that must have been; one of the most luxurious places in the world and also getting to spend time doing what you love and with such incredible company; glad to hear you had a great time Scott, but then was there ever any doubt that would be the case :)

    Cannot wait to see the 2nd installment of your ‘Day with Jay Maisel’; I like many others clearly were from reading the feedback, was totally glued to the screen watching and listening to every word; Kelby Training just keeps on going from strength to strength.

    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Loved the article, maybe one day when I’m done rocking the poor college student gig (shooting sports and concerts all week) and get a real job I’ll be able to do one of Joe’s workshops.

    Just one small thing, its saxophone (with an “o”) you spelled it “saxaphone”. I’m a sax player myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought it up.

    Thanks for all your insight!

  3. Great article! I know that you guys recorded this for the Kelby
    Training website. Please get this mastered and up to the learning site. I could afford the trip, but I can afford to watch on!

  4. Hey Scott,
    A week with Joe McNally and Scott Kelby, what a dream! Just the few days with you guys in Vegas last month was cool, but nothing like this.
    Your shooting the NFL is extremely cool. I can’t wait for the shots. Ken Toney hooked me up with some pit/garage passes for NASCAR in Texas in two weeks. I am quite excited about this.
    Thanks for all you do,

  5. I’m so totally and completely jealous. I would love to go to that workshop….one of these days, right. I am also, by the way, completely jealous at the thought of being able to sleep in for a couple of days…… I look forward to seeing the new pano and think it is cool your working with the owners to share it in their gallery.

  6. Sounds like it was a great experience, Scott! And you took your wife, which must have thrilled her to no end. Does she share your passion for photography, as well?

    Thanks for sharing.


  7. Awesome place Scott! I just read McNally’s blog on it as well. Sounds like it was a fabulous time. I’m very much looking forward to meeting Joe and attending his class next week in ATL. Thanks for helping him get down here finally!

  8. Sounds like fun. Those pictures remind me of my days as a photo assistant shooting weddings. I was the main light for double lit weddings. Strobe on a stick (monopod) with a battery pack on my shoulder. I had to set the flash level by hand, but those were the days of film. The flashes were barebulb.

    That off camera flash makes for much better pictures.

    I don’t know If I’d stand in salt water with that flash equipment though… Capacitors and water don’t mix…..

  9. No offense Scott, but a week with both of you would be too much. Between you giving all those PS and LR tips, and Joe making me think why it worked or didn’t work I’d be in input overload.

    For those who don’t have Joe’s blog (I don’t know why they wouldn’t) and have to see the picture of the lady with the sax (and you should) here is the URL:

    By the way, Joe mentioned his wife being there. Shouldn’t you do the same?

  10. I live in St. Lucia and I’m a member of NAPP and this is the second year I’ve heard about the workshop only after you have left the island. I am so disappointed. I wish I could’ve signed up for the workshop and met you guys. Anyway, hopefully next year. Great shots and I’m glad you had a great time here in St. Lucia.

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