Friday, March 11, 2011

REVIEW: Joe McNally & David Hobby’s Flash Bus Take Seattle By Storm

Joe McNally (left) & David Hobby (right) kick off their tour in Seattle
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

I was a lucky enough today to attend Joe McNally & David Hobby (of fame)’s Flash Bus Tour that kicked off in Seattle, Washington. It was a packed house of photography geeks eager to learn from these two flash masters.

It was a full house (more than I expected actually)
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

David Hobby’s Morning Presentation

The morning started off with David Hobby of showing some of his techniques in a visual presentation. During this discussion David shows how he starts off taking shots to get the ambient light where he wants it, and then how he builds up from there to do his fill light, accent light and then lastly his key light. It was very fun to have David walk through his thought process and light configurations to show how he goes about getting his results.

Shot of the projector of one of David Hobby’s Setups

I thought it was great that David not only went into detail about what went right, but also the trial and error he goes through about what goes wrong as he tries to build the ideal light setup. David’s explanations were very thorough and showed the lighting configurations very well so it was easy to learn how he does his magic.

The only gripe I had about this presentation was that it lacked any handout notes so you are left with the decision to scribble notes or pay attention. I elected to just pay attention and listen as well as doing a few photos of the projectors so I could have visual notes to refer to later.

Joe McNally’s Afternoon Presentation

Joe McNally rocked the house right away with his killer presentation
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

Joe McNally started his afternoon presentation exactly as you would hope after reading his awesome books The Moment It Clicks and Hot Shoe Diaries – with a hole shitload of gelled SB-900 flashes. He had the room lit up in blue and even featured jumps with electric guitars for a shot that makes you bend down and realize you aren’t worthy. Of course Joe made it all look so easy and did a great job of explaining how to get the amazing shots he does day in and out.

Black Swan attendee gets are 15 minutes of fame
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

Just as Joe promised on his blog, attendees with the best costumes were featured as models during his shoot. Unlike David who just talked about his shots and showed a presentation of his setups, Joe let it all hang out and just setup up the lights (with a team of assistants) and actually made the photos he would discuss.

Another local attendee gets the limelight in her “70’s” outfit
Copyright © Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

It was awesome to see Joe in action and see how he pulls off his magic. It was also interesting to note that he was fairly open to questions while he worked so you were able to see and hear his thought process (and see his miscues) in what it takes to get the shots that he does.


Everybody respects these guys for their body of work and what they’ve given back to the photography community in their blogs. However, it was a real honor to see these masters of the speedlite show how they build up to get the great shots that they get.

I’m a Canon shooter so I was worried how much I’d really get out of this presentation, but it was done in a way that your flash system really doesn’t matter. It was disappointing that there were special offers for pocket wizards for Nikon only and not Canon as well, but beyond that there wasn’t much ill will towards Canon shooters.

It was fast paced and informative, and a no brainer for the price. I highly recommend this tour if you are lucky enough to get a ticket before they sell out in a city near you.

Visit the Flash Bus Tour web site for more information.


I attended at my own expense (full price) and receive no compensation for your participating in the Flash Bus Tour. I only submit this article to you as a public service and as a token of appreciation to Joe and David for their great show today.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity


Scrapmuch said...

just googled for reviews - I'm attending in Chicago next month. Thanks for the pics and the nice review . . .

Unknown said...

I had the same experience in San Francisco on Sunday. After a trip from Portland to San Francisco which got the bus in to SF at 6:30am these guys were ready to go. We all havd fun. A wide range of photographers were there. Everyon had a lot of fun. Your review was spot on. David has a very good way of explaining the layers of lighting. Ambient, fill, key and accents -- great demo. And Joe's Geographic work is absolutely legendary.

Christian said...

Nice review. Now I _really_ wish I had an opportunity to see the Flashbus. Any chance they might swing by Copenhagen, Denmark?

Michael Meeks said...

Thanks for the write up. Going to the Indianapolis one! Canon shooter here too!

Digispeak said...

Thanks for the review. I will be attending the Flashbus in NYC in April and was wondering if people brought their cameras and if it was necessary to do so. said...

Digispeak - A lot of people brought their cameras, but honestly it was only useful for notes - you don't get a chance to shoot yourself. In addition there were stupid people who would shoot when Joe was trying to shoot which caused the flash to fire before he was ready so he'd end up with a black frame - doh!

My advice - pack light and only bright a camera for notes purposes - a flash is handy to get light on the stage to take shots of setups, but don't be obnoxious.

Christian - you'll have to ask Joe - no idea about that one. It's doing so well I suspect they'll have a European tour.

Enjoy Michal & Scrapmuch - you'll love!

Digispeak said...

Thanks for your quick reply Ron!

Anonymous said...

In addition to the great show, they gave out freebies such as Rosco gels, Think Tank Pocket Rocket,LumiQuest Strap, brouchures, etc... In addition show specials included approx. 15% off Pocket Wizards TT1 & TT5 for both Canon and Nikon, LumiQuest Softboxes, Nikon speedlights and much much more.

Anonymous said...

Attended the session yesterday in Buffalo, NY and it was fabulous! Learned a lot, especially through the live demos. It was great the way they stepped through their steps, well, step-by-step and showed the result of every change. Three-quarters Canadians in attendance I think...Buffalo was really convenient for many of us; Toronto is on the radar screen many others hope.

Anonymous said...

I liked the show today, but I am not all too enthusiastic about it. David's part is nicely structured and he walks you through each single step of adding one layer of light on top of another. I could take away many things from that part. Joe gave a good intro into TTL flashes, and he showed on live subjects how powerful a tool those little lights are. The first demonstrations with people from the audience were interesting and insightful but then, in my view, the show lost its edge. Another subject, another trick with diffusers and filters. It took ages until he got the "bad guy" shot with the green light from the back right. I wished he had addressed aspects such as working in the field with changing ambient light, effects of small (and not studio) diffusers, etc. I liked that both catered their presentation toward an audience of photographers but Joe should have given his part more structure and content. My two cents.