Joe Mcnally

Joe fills his belly with all the en­vi­ron­men­tal por­traits he can eat shoot­ing food trucks in LA


Joe tucks into a trio of food vend­ing vans in Los An­ge­les and shares his shoot­ing and light­ing se­crets with us

Noth­ing like light­ing on the fly, in­side a small, sil­ver box. That was the or­der of the day when I shot a se­ries of por­traits of su­per-hip, de­li­cious food trucks in LA.

First was Blast Ice Cream truck – a great look­ing truck. The truck is a shiny cube on wheels, which made light­ing in­ter­est­ing in this sit­u­a­tion. Thank­fully, I had a ter­rific sub­ject, Court Hack­worth, who makes ice cream with liq­uid ni­tro­gen! He’s got a great look, and the vapours make it ap­pear as if he’s cre­at­ing a sci-fi mon­ster!

I used all Speed­lights, SB-5000 units. Two be­hind Court, one with a warm gel and the other with a deep the­atri­cal blue gel. A third, also gelled warm, is up above the mixer with a snooted grid, pro­vid­ing some light for the nitro fog. Out­side are two more SB-5000S, fit­ted into a brand-new Las­to­lite strip soft­box, with a fab­ric grid. I shot the food trucks with a Nikon D850, and in this in­stance, a 16mm f/2.8 fish­eye lens.

Next up was Mac’d-n-loaded! These guys stand out with one of the coolest lo­gos on the planet – mac­a­roni ‘loaded’ in a re­volver for a graphic. The shot has Dwayne, Tet­su­jin and Dwight, the prin­ci­pals of our sec­ond food truck. They work events, large and small, and are al­ways there with their de­li­cious, com­fort­ing mac and cheese.

With the other trucks, I was deal­ing with shiny in­te­ri­ors, and in an­other in­stance, work­ing at night. In this in­stance, though, it was broad day­light, late af­ter­noon, and I had to cover these won­der­ful faces. So I went the other di­rec­tion, us­ing a Las­to­lite 4-in-1 um­brella as a broad shoot-thru, and it was fit­ted with a Las­to­lite Tri­flash, so I could get three SB-5000 units go­ing to match the strength of the day­light.

I shot from the driver’s cab of the truck, with a 16mm f/2.8 fish­eye and that big um­brella, hand­held this time, with the Tri­flash, stuffed into the tiny con­fines of the cab. Very fun shot.

We were also lucky enough to work with the folks at Bor­der Grill who have taken their leg­endary brand of cook­ing out from their well-es­tab­lished restau­rants and put it on four wheels.

The chefs, Mark and Zara, were won­der­ful to work with – couldn’t be friend­lier de­spite the very hot evening and queue of peo­ple. I served up about six or seven SB-5000 Speed­lights, some in­side the truck, oth­ers out­side, ei­ther on the side­walk or at­tached to the ex­te­rior of the ve­hi­cle. This is where ef­fec­tive, ac­cu­rate, ra­dio TTL Speed­light con­trol is es­sen­tial. A shot like this would have de­feated straight-up line-of-sight trig­ger­ing.

Can’t wait to get back to LA and go to Smor­gas­burg, a reg­u­lar event where all these trucks and food ven­dors gather for an in­tensely var­ied culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence.

From restau­rants to the streets, the Bor­der Grill gang were shot in chal­leng­ing and busy con­di­tions

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