Joe McNally

The same sub­ject, the same an­gle, but two com­pletely dif­fer­ent im­ages

NPhoto - - Contents -

Donut shops wake up early, and Ralph’s, that em­po­rium of deep fried dough in Cookeville, Ten­nessee, is no

ex­cep­tion. We got there one morn­ing this past sum­mer about 3am, which is roughly when the bak­ers get your ap­ple frit­ters ready to roll. Oil bub­bles, dough gets swirled in big buck­ets, ic­ing gets spread, and trays of de­lights make their way to the front counter to brighten the day of work­ing folks who stop by. Af­ter a pit­stop at Ralph’s, they ei­ther hit the work­place with a glazed­cruller-fu­elled de­ter­mi­na­tion ac­com­pa­nied by a fren­zied burst of ef­fi­ciency, or they curl up on a pack­ing blan­ket un­der their desk to sleep off a sugar coma, hop­ing no one else no­tices. (Or hop­ing ev­ery­body else also went to Ralph’s.)

Re­gard­less, life at Ralph’s starts in the wee hours. So, how do you light up some­thing to con­vey a sense of dark­ness? One Speed­light in the street is a po­ten­tial ap­proach. Street lights are nasty, right? Hard, edgy, off-colour. So, make your light look like that. I put one SB-910 out in the street on a Man­frotto stand. No shaper. Zoomed to 200mm. Hard light, de­signed to cre­ate shad­ows. Specif­i­cally, the shadow of the name of this es­tab­lish­ment, cast up on the wall. A hot-shoed mas­ter flash fires through the win­dow and trig­gers the Speed­light out­side. Thank good­ness there’s no traf­fic in Cookeville at 3am, ’cause my stand was smack in the mid­dle of the street. You want dis­tance, as the fur­ther a light like this is from your sub­ject, the more it be­haves like a real, dis­tant street light.

I placed two gels, green and warm, ver­ti­cally ar­rayed on the flash head. Street light colours are a nasty mix of warmish, green­ish, and God knows what else. I lit­er­ally tried to make my light look off-colour. Splat­tered with the un­even hard­ness of a sin­gle light beam­ing through win­dows, doors, and signs, Thomas Ro­driguez, one of the bak­ers, mops up the store (left).

But, later in the day, the store is in­flected with the steamy, full, va­porous light of sum­mer­time Ten­nessee. So, I de­cided to chuck the hard light ap­proach, and make the Speed­lights not so much light the scene but blend with it in soft, vir­tu­ally un­no­tice­able ways. This ap­proach is not light­ing, really. It’s just mix­ing a couple of hot­shoe flashes into the mix of what ex­ists and let­ting them clean up the colour and direct the ac­tion a bit – the ‘ac­tion’ be­ing peer­less fid­dler Nathan Stoops ser­e­nad­ing the ob­vi­ously en­chanted Kiren and Koby (above).

I used a Las­to­lite tri-flash, but pop­u­lated it with only two flashes. I fig­ured I al­ready had strong light com­ing from cam­era left, through the win­dows. So, again, ex­per­i­ment. Maybe I don’t need that left side flash, and I’ll just have two of them push a lit­tle light to­wards the right and deeper into the shop. The shaper is a Las­to­lite four-in-one um­brella. Seemed to work okay. First ex­po­sure on TTL was the right mix, so I went with it. Kids perched on the counter, work­ing fast.

Same an­gle on the same shop. Couple of Speed­lights. Night ’n’ day.

• To see more of Joe’s amaz­ing im­ages, visit his web­site at www.joem­c­

Thank good­ness there’s no traf­fic in Cookeville, Ten­nesse at 3am, ’cause my stand was smack in the mid­dle of the street

Shot on a D810 and 20mm lens, at 1/250 sec, f/5 and ISO800 – plus that all-im­por­tant flash out­side, mod­i­fied to look warmish, green­ish and God knows what else

Same shop, same an­gle, same num­ber of Speed­lights – but a to­tally dif­fer­ent feel

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