How many Speedlights does it take to illuminate a street scene like the one pictured here? If you’re Joe McNally, Nikon Ambassador, photographer,
educator and author, the answer is 32.
McNally says he has “always loved pictures of store fronts
and street scenes with an Americana feel,” and he created
this image to show off the capabilities of the Nikon D850 and
the SB-5000 and SB-910 AF Speedlights. The photo is also
a tribute to the production abilities of his longtime studio
manager, Lynn DelMastro, who helped orchestrate the
challenging shoot on Main Street in Tarrytown, New York.
Before the shoot, McNally sketched out a rough placement
of the Speedlights on a laminated photo of the scene. On the
day of the shoot, the lights were deployed in and around the
storefronts and apartments.
“[Planning] a shot like this is like building a wall brick
by brick,” McNally explains. He divided the buildings and
apartments into six groups (the maximum number of
groups allowed for the radio-controlled SB-5000). Of the
32 Speedlights, McNally strategically placed 18 SB-5000
units (the maximum number for the radio-controlled SB-
5000’s bandwidth). The remaining flashes were a mix of SB-
5000 and SB-910 units—all of which required line-of-sight
placement in order to be triggered by the SB-5000 radio
units. This was, McNally recalls, “an interesting problem to
solve.” But, thanks to the SB-5000 radio TTL system, McNally
was able to place the 18 units behind walls and inside
buildings. And, with their compact size, rotatable flash head
and broad coverage (24-200mm), the SB-5000s were easily
tucked away and hidden as needed.
The shot “was really all about resolution,” McNally says,
because of the 21 people across a row of storefronts in the
frame. “Detail is of the essence to make the shot work.”
That detail was handled by the 45.7-megapixel Nikon
D850, which McNally coupled with the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm
f/2.8E ED VR lens and mounted on a sturdy tripod. At 29mm,
the field of view was wide enough to take in the entire scene
and, at f/8.0, the lens provided a broad enough depth of field
for edge-to-edge sharpness.
Speedlight settings varied, but many were set to full
power, McNally notes. And rather than a light meter, McNally
used the D850 blinking highlights and the histogram to judge
exposure since the “LCD on the back of the D850 is extremely
resolved,” he attests. McNally had minimal post-processing
to work on, other than pulling a little shadow detail from
Joe McNally and his
team pull o; an intricate
street scene in
Tarrytown, New York.
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