Last week I had the chance to attend The Flash Bus workshop in Denver, and I can say without a doubt that it was well worth my time and money. I even got to meet one of my Twitter friends face to face for the first time, Breckenridge shooter Daniel Dunn. And, I even won a Lumiquest Softbox III for being the guy who traveled the farthest to see the show.
So, what did I learn from a day spent watching two very talented, creative and technical photographers? Well, let’s see: I learned that no matter where he goes, McNally carries WAY more gear than Hobby, as was clearly seen by the enormous array of Lastolite gear, Justin Clamps, C-Stands and SB-900s that were all lined up next to the stage, almost all of which belonged to Joe.
I also learned that you can get great results from both Manual flash and TTL, and of course, I learned that whenever you get a couple of longtime Nikon Speedlight users in the same room, they can’t help but make jokes that are aimed at the Canon people. They’re all in fun, though, because when asked about Canon, David confirmed that at one point, he had been very close to switching.
During the presentation, I took lots of notes, drew lots of little diagrams, and listened intently as each one shared their tried and true methods and techniques with the audience. Although I’m still digesting the material, and probably will be for months to come, I did take a couple of things away from the workshop that I think clearly sum it for me.
First of all, it’s not about how much gear or what kind of equipment you use, it’s about HOW you use it. Like I pointed out above, David and Joe have a VERY different styles, backgrounds and methods, all of which are reflected in nearly every aspect of their approach to photography.
Hobby goes light and fast, McNally, needs a truck to carry all his gear. Hobby shoots Manual, McNally shoots TTL almost exclusively. Hobby always wears shorts, McNally, jeans. Hobby comes from a newspaper editorial background, McNally from a commercial and magazine background.
Yet, they both produce beautiful, expressive and dynamic imagery, which yet again proves that there is no “One Right Way” to do anything, even when it comes to photography. You need to figure out what works for you, which, of course, may involve years worth of trial and error. However, in the end, if you’re able to produce the type of photograph that you set out to make, then you’re doing it the right way for you, and that’s all that matters.
And secondly, I learned that no matter who you are and how much experience you have, lighting, much like any other aspect of photography, involves experimentation, pushing your boundaries and a great deal of saying “let’s try this,” or “oops… that didn’t work like I’d hoped, let’s try something else.”
Even the masters continue to try things that may or may not work in their quest to capture a great image. And just like you and me, Hobby and McNally screw up plenty of times and make lots of mistakes. They just keep going until they get it right.
Obviously, experience and techniques like the ones that they teach help you get there more quickly, but the point is, if you’re not making mistakes, or if you’re always playing it safe with the same setup that you always use, then you’re not trying hard enough. If you don’t push yourself, then eventually, all your photos will look the same. Do you really want that? Didn’t think so.
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I have an inside assignment later today, which will be the perfect opportunity to try out some of the things I learned last week. I’ll let you know how many mistakes I make.