Fun With Pocket Wizards

First off, I debated even posting about this. But it was so fun I just had to. The names have been obscured to keep this from getting back to me.

Besides, I might want to do it again.


I had my bare bones gear bag with me in a local mall this weekend, as I was heading to the Apple Store for a little tech support. My laptop was with me, of course, but I also had a Canon G7, an SB-26 and a set of Pocket Wizards.

You know -- just in case. Month-old news photographer habits die hard.

So I am heading to Mecca The Apple Store, and I pass one of those let-us-shoot-yer-kid places where the fertogerfers wear the dorky photo vests and try to keep the little rugrats smiling for long enough to make a frame that mommy will buy. I kid, of course. But it is probably what I will be doing after you guys finally figure that I am a talentless hack posing as a blogger.


I would like to state right here and now that no shooting was happening at this point. I was not interfering with a shoot. There was no one there. Did I mention that there were no clients in the store?

What I did see was one of the Photographer Associates playing around with a camera, on top of which sat a Pocket Wizard Plus Model II, set to channel one. She was idly popping off frames, and the flashes were firing.

So, I sit down on a nearby bench in the mall, and reach into my too-cool-for-me new Oakley vertical laptop bag. My hand finds the PW transmitter, sliding over the familiar curved corners by feel. My thumb slides the power switch to "on." My forefinger selects channel one.

(Think Clint Eastwood in an old westen, quietly drawing his six shooter from under his smock as the razor held by a very nervous barber shaves Eastwood's neck a mere quarter inch from the jugular. Just like Clint, my hand just knows where to go.)

Photographer Associate brings the camera up toward her eye. When the camera gets to about neck-high, I fire the Pocket Wizard. Her studio flash goes off.

"Well, that's odd," her face seems to say.

She stares at the camera, lowers it, and starts to bring it up again. At the exact same location on the draw, I fire the flash. She stops in mid lift. She is beginning to detect a pattern. I am trying as hard as heck not to laugh.

Camera down. Nothing.

Camera comes up - neck level (pop.) Down. Neck level (pop.) Down.

She sits there, staring at the camera. Wondering what in the world would cause her flashes to fire every time her camera gets to a certain height.

Neck level (pop.)

(A smartass photographer, without a day job. That's what's causing the flash to fire.)

I do this several more times, all the while thinking, "Please-oh-please-oh-please go get the manager so I can NOT make it pop when they are watching and you try to demonstrate your new altitude-based synching issues. (Then of course I will start right back as soon as the manager leaves.)

But she doesn't bite. She just shakes her head, (no worries - not her camera, right?) puts it down and walked away.

So I head to the Apple Store and got my tech support. And bought some more computer stuff, 'cause I am pretty sure they pump in some kind of gas at The Apple Store that just makes me wanna buy things.

But I'll be back, missus Photographer Associate. And I will have my Pocket Wizard with me. Every time.

I am a little troubled at how fun this was for me. And how easily I could spend half an afternoon there doing the same thing again. Because I have that kind of time.

I ask you: Was I being an assho not-very-nice person?

Worse, am I a total dork for finding it so funny?

Would you have done it?

Would you do it again?

What would you do when the manager comes over to her?

Joker, jerk or dork? Hit me in the comments.

(Wonderfully appropriate Devil photo by Strobist reader TuckerUK)


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't stop laughing at 1.30 am imagining you doing that sort of thing. No one would suspect you doing that.Next time take a camcorder and let us have a blast together.

July 25, 2007 1:30 AM  
Anonymous M. G. Adams said...

being a rear end very much (but not as bad as it sounds)

dork no (nerd yes)

Not only would do it...have done it on more than one occasion...laugh like an idiot each time

if the manager comes over i would have to play it by ear...would be very funny if it triggered each time it came up to his neck

most of all I think as long as nobody gets fired it is just good fun

July 25, 2007 1:34 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

I did it once. I was being shot for a magazine and my mentor was the person assigned to do the photographs. He was with another good friend, in the living room, setting up.

This was back in the days when strobe detection triggers (before the peanut) and using a medium format film camera; and while they were setting things up, I was outside with a battery powered strobe, using the wall mirror to bounce the light in to the room.

- - FLASH - -
... copious conversation was flying around about the irregular flashes...
"Ah, I've got it. They flash when I do ... this ..." (no flash) "Huh?"

Eventually I could hold my childish mirth no longer and started laughing; at which point Barry poked his head around the door, saw me, flash in hand, put two and two together and I was chased down the street. Good job the back door was open.

Barry is no longer with us. He passed away due to a heart problem. I wonder if my capers contributed to it?

July 25, 2007 1:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is the funniest thing I have heard in years! Makes me want to break down and pop for the Wizard, just for entertainment purposes. I swear I will try this one day. You are my new favorite person!

July 25, 2007 1:41 AM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

That's an absolute classic! hahaha, you describe it so well too... Really made me laugh :-)

So long as it's just a bit of harmless fun, I'd do it again. And who knows, you might even prompt her to learn a bit more about the gear so you're really helping in the long run ;-)

July 25, 2007 1:48 AM  
Anonymous blindmike said...

Where are the pictures? Booooo!

Hahaha, the photography equivalent of invisible rope.

July 25, 2007 2:01 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Definitely funny. I'd of done it too, if I had the PW's.
How funny would it be if the Photographer Associate was a Strobist reader?

July 25, 2007 2:05 AM  
Blogger David said...

Brian- Thus the lack of location names...

July 25, 2007 2:07 AM  
Blogger leshassell said...

Well, if you're an a-hole I am too. I'm so easily amused I nearly wet myself after about 45 minutes of harassing a prom photographer one night... kinda just makes you want to carry a PW with you all the time, huh?

July 25, 2007 2:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny as hell, I had tears blurring my vision making it hard to keep reading, couldn't wipe them away quick enough so I could get to the next episode...that was so great, and quite harmless since they weren't lined up waiting for a photo op.


July 25, 2007 2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What I did see was one of the Photographer Associates playing around with a camera, on top of which sat a Pocket Wizard Plus Model II, set to channel one.

I've read this blog long enough that when I got to this point in the story, I did stop and think " He is not going he? Oh dear god, yes he is going to."

It's fun to mess with people's minds. I do think it's evil (don't we all hate that feeling when we believe our equipment is about to let us down with an untraceable problem?)...but yeah...I laughed!

July 25, 2007 2:19 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

Oh I think it's funny as hell and would totally do it again!! Seriously need to get it on could win $10,000 on AFV!!!

July 25, 2007 2:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's kind of jerky. It is funny, but the right thing to do after your fun would be to let her in on the gag. To be the but of a joke on a blog that she could very possibly feel apart of sucks.

July 25, 2007 2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are an evil evil but hugely funny man Ha Ha. next time flick your G7 onto movie mode and post us a clip to laugh at.

July 25, 2007 2:33 AM  
Blogger Bradley said...

LOL....even leaving out the would still be pretty obvious...Good job though...if I had a PW in that situation I'd have totally done it...just imagine the conversation she'd have with a coworker later...and it helps to imagine she has a Paris Hilton sort of voice...

"So like...I was sitting here...playing with the camera...and it started flashing for no must or something..."

Coworker: "That's hot...."

July 25, 2007 2:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too funny!

With the manager, I'd have been hoping that he looked directly at the flash unit before setting it off!

But I'm like that......

July 25, 2007 2:37 AM  
Blogger Aaron Linsdau said...

Oh wow, now that's funny. Real funny. As long as she doesn't have clients, it's a good run.

But, if she's cute, maybe it's a conversation starter. A single guy speaking, of course. And that's only if she's cool about it.

July 25, 2007 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds a bit immature to me :S

July 25, 2007 2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it would have been OK if you'd shared the joke with her. Without that, you were just being a pain in the ass.

Perhaps your victim will read this blog: it would be interesting to know what she thinks.

July 25, 2007 3:04 AM  
Blogger Paulo said...

You've gotta go back. Immature - ah humbug. If you can't have a little fun before getting ripped off in the Apple store......

July 25, 2007 3:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would.

Maybe I'll do it during one of your Seattle demonstrations, mwhahahahahahahaha...

Except that you'd figure it out in no time.

Funny story, tho!

July 25, 2007 3:21 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

I would have done it and laughed really hard at it! Way to go.

July 25, 2007 3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

smashing. I think I am on my way down to the Mall now.

July 25, 2007 3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im on my way to the mall now for some pranks.

hehe. inocent fun.

July 25, 2007 3:38 AM  
Blogger shelby said...

i totally would have done the same thing!

this is hilarious. thanks for posting.

July 25, 2007 3:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you do realise your co-workers from the Sun are reading this? All are probably jealous that you can sit in a mall in the afternoon AT ALL.
Seriously tho, maybe its time for a Hobby????? :)

July 25, 2007 3:40 AM  
Blogger Maarten said...

Jerk no, flash-nerd yes. But no news there, I guess.

July 25, 2007 3:54 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Smith said...

I'd like to think I'd have done the same thing, and I'd certainly do it again. It would be wrong not to :-)

July 25, 2007 4:00 AM  
Blogger visualdensity said...

haha! you're just mean! but if I were you, I'd definitely do it!

nice story. thanks for making me laugh. :)

July 25, 2007 4:02 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

hilarious, def. a dorky humor, but we're all right along with you. i'd go back, and see how far you can push them. video tape it.

...although that may be pushing it

July 25, 2007 4:05 AM  
Anonymous Andrew Smith said...

leshassell said: "kinda just makes you want to carry a PW with you all the time, huh?"

Kinda makes me glad I do!

July 25, 2007 4:07 AM  
Blogger kyle said...

yeah bro. Right down my alley. I usually just make people look at the flash and then fire it. Always funny. That is pure gold though. I would have done it, been called a dork by my girlfriend, and laughed. Real hard.

July 25, 2007 4:23 AM  
Blogger Carlton said...

Hey David, what took you so long to figure how to have as much as possible with your clothes on? Hahaha

July 25, 2007 4:33 AM  
Anonymous ben-s said...

Thanks for lightening my day. :)))

I know a particularly bullish photographer who could use a dose of this treatment.
Hmmm... where can I borrow a quantum transmitter from?

July 25, 2007 5:12 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

awh come on now...thats just mean.
But so so damn funny

I knew exactly where this story was going pretty early on.

Kudos to you Clint :D

July 25, 2007 5:22 AM  
Blogger Grega said...

If this was in the "get the PWs" post, I'd have them months ago.

July 25, 2007 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i did it once, i made them go when he was looking in the viewfinder, god damn hilarious

July 25, 2007 5:26 AM  
Blogger Kevin! said...

oh man. It was mean, but we all need some devious fun!

I say do it again

July 25, 2007 5:38 AM  
Blogger Daniel Berman said...

It would have been an even more amazing story if the associate had grabbed the manager and you proceeded as joked about :)

July 25, 2007 5:41 AM  
Anonymous Jaydee said...

Thats pretty sick. I could not stop laughing. I think, I would have done the same like you if I had a PW in my pocket. This reminds me of a video from David Jay where he had a lot of fun with an apple remote at an exhibition.

July 25, 2007 6:02 AM  
Blogger Bob Walters said...

>>"Sounds a bit immature to me :S"<<

Of course it's immature; that's what makes it so much fun. I think it's great, but unless the photographer has done something bad to you for which you are unwilling to turn the other cheek, I'd say there should be a limit to this little joke.

If, for example, the store cancels a shoot, or sends their gear in for repair, or purchases some replacement equipment, then this seemingly harmless prank will have gone too far. I think you should reveal the plot and remain a prankster rather than leave it as a mystery and become an A hole.


July 25, 2007 6:05 AM  
Anonymous EuropeanDesperado said...

Increditbly funny. Good laugh. Totally do it again.

July 25, 2007 6:14 AM  
Anonymous EuropeanDesperado said...

incredibly funny!

July 25, 2007 6:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny once.

What it suggests though is that PWs as well as other simple widespread control systems need some sort of handshake - perhaps a 4 digit code that is given to the transmitters and receivers in each use group. DECT phones and bluetooth gadgets have such things.

Or perhaps touching the devices together physically, and pressing a button to tell them to remember each other's names. They'd need enough memory to hold a dozen or so names.

July 25, 2007 6:41 AM  
Anonymous JB said...

Sure, it's a bit funny, but she's just doing her job. You know, to make money, pay bills, feed the family. And you think it would be even funnier to make her look like an idiot in front of her boss? What if she's already on thin ice because she's having trouble using the equipment, and was just practicing?

If I did that to you while you were setting up, say at the NCAA final four or some other event, how would you feel?

You should have walked over to her and had a good laugh with her. Since you both use PWs it's a good ice breaker. Besides, perhaps she's a fan, perhaps she becomes a new fan, perhaps she calls security, or perhaps she's the niece of Michael Grecco and offers to set you up with a play date.

It's all about karma, David.

Something else to think about: would you have done this if the photographer were a 6'6" 250 lb male with tattoos on his neck? If the answer is "NO", because you can envision his fist becoming acquainted with your face, then you're a bully.

July 25, 2007 6:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever since I got a set of wireless triggers I've been fighting the temptation to go out at night, set up a strobe underneath a speed camera and from a safe distance set it off every time a motorist goes by at what looks like close to the speed limit...

I guess we're just bad people.

July 25, 2007 6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilarious! I personally would have had a few minutes of fun, and then went and shared my joke with the photographer so she could have a chuckle too!


July 25, 2007 7:12 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Funny. Irresistible!

Yes, I know, immature, silly, etc etc - but come on, all, no harm was done and I must admit I would have done the same.

July 25, 2007 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

harmless hijinks David! Now, the question I have is if you were charged $5 for the privilege of entering the almighty apple store, which they are working on implementing to keep undesirable gawkers out. That policy may very well keep me from switching platforms (not that I was seriously considering it!).

July 25, 2007 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering the things I've done in life I won't judge you. But if you really enjoyed this and you ever frequent bars, especially sports bars, there are keychain IR TV controllers available. Almost as much fun...

July 25, 2007 7:44 AM  
Blogger focusfinder said...

If she was hot, it would be an original line worth coming clean for.

July 25, 2007 7:53 AM  
Blogger Fotorican said...

Not only was it funny but now I HAVE to try this myself. Thanks for sharing.

July 25, 2007 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cute. I would probably let her in on the joke after a while... or not. Also, if the manager got involved don't make it fire when the camera gets to certain height. Make it fire for a completely different reason just for the manager. for instance when the manager walks on a particular spot of the floor.

July 25, 2007 8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope she doesn't think there is a problem with them and end up spending time/money/rep trying to get them repaired.

July 25, 2007 8:20 AM  
Blogger Graham McBride said...

Very cunning... i could picture it there word for word very funny ;o) your always up to something!!!

July 25, 2007 8:40 AM  
Blogger thedoctah said...

OMG, I am totally laughing right now. This is just the sort of thing I'd do, given similar circumstances. You're a very bad man. Me too. :D

July 25, 2007 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is funny but the least you could have done was make an anonymous call later that day (or send an email) letting her in on it.

My first reaction would be to take the gear in to be looked at. That would cost me time and money. That's not cool in any way.

Have your fun but then make sure that the joke doesn't go any further. If I found out you were doing it to me, I would snap your antenna off -- and I don't mean from your Pocket Wizard.

July 25, 2007 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds like great fun. I would have been right there with you, trying hard not to laugh out loud! Yep, when the manager came, I totally would have stopped, until he or she started walking away, then.............pop

July 25, 2007 8:52 AM  
Blogger David said...

I think its pretty funny, but i'd say you should go tell her if you do it again, lest she thinks she's crazy and looses it.

alternately, wait till the manager comes and then fire it the PW's as rapidly as possible, as long as he holds the camera, ten stop when he puts it down.

July 25, 2007 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is too funny! I would have done the same. I would add though that if/when the manager came out, I would have waited until he was using the same motion then fired it off. Or I would have it happen jsut for her and when he tried to imitate it, nothing. She goes to show him, pop! He tries agin, nothing. If they put down the equipment and try to walk away, Pop!

But I am evil like that.>:\

July 25, 2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Nicholaus Haskins said...


1. I would have done it.
2. I would have kept doing it.
3, Until she figured out how to change channels.
4. Honestly Im surprised they used PW's.

July 25, 2007 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK seriously - that was totally obnoxious, uncalled for, and somewhat cruel to treat that woman like that with the PWs.

I love it.

July 25, 2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger jon said...

I am right with you! Loved it! I would do it in a heartbeat! Too many people take life way too seriously.

BTW- is the trick copyrighted or anything? I might want to use it.

July 25, 2007 9:16 AM  
Anonymous alek said...

Hilarious - made me laugh this morning!

July 25, 2007 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave. Now I can't see through the tears from the uncontrollable laughter and I think I skinned my knees when I slid out of my chair. I have to admit I would have done it myself...nah, I'll do it first chance I get.

Get an accomplice to shoot video next time!


July 25, 2007 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd kick the crap out of anyone who tries to interfere with my shoot with a prank like this.

July 25, 2007 10:39 AM  
Blogger Jacob said...

I'm laughing so hard I just blew coca-cola out my nose.

July 25, 2007 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Brock said...

Idle time hijinks aside, this little story begs the question: how often does this situation occur in the field when you're using PWs on a real assignment?

We have only four channels on a PW; you get a couple dozen shooters at the same event with a majority of them using PW's... how many times are your strobes going off, not out of good natured goofing around but because another three or four shooters have their PWs set to the same channel as yourself?

July 25, 2007 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Personally, I'd kick the crap out of anyone who tries to interfere with my shoot with a prank like this."

he said there was no customers and she was just dicking around.

second: ive done this before, i was using the nikon CLS and so was someone else and we kept firing each others off, when i went to go talk to him about it, he shrugged me off, so i kept making him misfire, even after i talked to him about it, he still didnt realize why his were going off.

July 25, 2007 11:29 AM  
Blogger Ikeaphile said...

Hilarious. No all is fine . . . well, I wouldn't have done the manager thing, but then again, I've been a low level worker bee enough to know it would've been funnier to do that to the manager instead of the associate.

July 25, 2007 12:06 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

OL!, I'm sorry, but that is just too funny. I would love to see them try and trouble shoot the problem thinking its a funky connection or something.

July 25, 2007 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She tells boss of her problem. Both she and BOSS take time to investigate --- TIME LOST AND SHE LOOKS LIKE A FOOL TO THE BOSS. At review time BOSS RECALLS WASTED time and she doesn't get outstanding rating. ;-(

Everyone bad mouthed using the arena strobes in the ceiling to "barrow/steal?" light from the pros at basketball games ... I don't see much difference. In fact I think this could hurt more at review time.

But it was fun -- except, as often happens, at someone elses "expense".

July 25, 2007 12:57 PM  
Blogger jimmyd said...

Thanks, dude. Laughing, I spit out coffee all over my keyboard. That is too funny!


July 25, 2007 1:28 PM  
Blogger Ben Roberts said...

Meh. I think within the context it was funny. Taking it further would have made it stop being funny - say if you'd wrecked a live shoot etc it would have been different. Everyone knows that sick feeling when their gear acts up at the wrong time.

And anyone who works with wireless equipment of any kind (radio, network, other) knows sometimes it does weird stuff... then stops. Right? :)

July 25, 2007 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vote for funny! Hey, next time stay out of sight, and trigger them a few times again at the same position. A few minutes later casually walk by, chat a little about how you have the same camera, and had to send it in to get the flash altimiter re-calibrated!

July 25, 2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger tedrzz said...

HAHAHA. i got so giddy when i read this. i would have done the same thing, it's harmless. you're the man, david!

July 25, 2007 3:46 PM  
Blogger TDH Photography said...

Man, I love your sense of humour! I would do this in heartbeat! And if someone did it to me I'd laugh even harder! For those who don't see the humour in this.... lighten up... no one was hurt, no one was even made to feel silly. C'mon you've got to be able to laugh at yourself.
David, I say if this is what come from having more time on your hands then you were well overdue to lighten your workload.



July 25, 2007 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome! I would've done it, no question about it. And... now that you've inspired me, I think I'll take my PW's with me to the mall next time so I too can have a little fun. :)

July 25, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Reminds me of when I worked at Sears in DC in 1967. TV remotes were new. As a local teen came into the TV department, I walked up to a set, snapped my fingers and the channel changed (my cohort had the clicker).

The kid was impressed. He tried it, and voila, whenever he snapped his fingers the channel changed. He left and returned with a group of his peers. He starts snapping his fingers and snapping his fingers... and nothing!

They razzed his poor ass right outta the store

July 25, 2007 5:12 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Reminds me of a similar story from high school. My high school installed new TVs in the corner of every room, at around the same time one watch manufacturer released a remote control watch.

Teachers learned quickly to look for students holding their watches in a funny manner when the TVs started acting up.

Around the same time, myself and some friends bought new calculators - HP48GX units. (Still IMO the best calculator ever made, its successors are mostly inferior...) Unlike most calculators, it had IR capability AND someone wrote a remote program for it.

As usual, my friends and I finished our lab assignment in chem class early. So one of us clicked on the TV.

Our chem teacher looked for watches, failed to find any, and made a comment about playing with the TV and turned it off.

We clicked it on again.

This repeated once or twice until we clicked it off just as he was about to touch it. You should have seen the look on his face.

Being the good students that we were, at the end of the class we came clean about the capabilities of our HPs. :)

July 25, 2007 5:29 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I do this every time I go to the mall in my hometown, and have been ever since that kiddy photo place went in there. It's very funny, and I also don't mess with them when they are actually shooting.

I am quite certain, from knowing quite a few people in that particular racket, that the manager would have checked the unit over, and having discovered nothing out of the ordinary, would have immediately figured it out. If not, shame on him. There's a freakin' radio transmitter sitting on top of the darn thing, for cryin' out loud. Get with the program.

Thanks for the laugh, David!

July 25, 2007 5:47 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I did this once during my school portraits. So much fun.

July 25, 2007 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My day job is as an assistant manager in a retail photography location (and in my opinion we do better than most of the photographers around us but that is neither here nor there) and I can tell you that this happens a lot at our location and it is a bit frustrating having to explain to the photographers over and over again that either someone is watching and laughing or that someone in the area is using something on the same channel. unfortunately when it happens at our lcation it is normally happening WHILE we are shootig and it messes up our flow in the studio, especially on weekends where we may have to do 15 appointments in our 12 hour day. If you had let her in on the joke that would have been fine, and really simply walking away is no harm either, but i will tell you that i curse the people who are doing it everytime they do (I caught the kid who i suspect is doing it the most once, gave himself away with his hand in a camera bag laughing at himself.)

July 25, 2007 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Tony said...

I'm just surprised that you only spent HALF of the afternoon doing it.
The urge to make the pilgrimage to Mecca must have overpowered your urge to play.
Funny = Yes
Immature = Possibly
The A-Hole factor = Definitely NOT
Do it again = Absolutely

Besides from your description of the event, the, ahem "photographer" didn't seem to bothered.

July 25, 2007 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Along the TV line....

In college one of the guys had a bit of a temper. Someone else bought a stereo with the programmable remote; a little distraction and they programmed the power button from the guys stereo. They would keep turning of off every few minutes, until the guy got angry enough to pick up the receiver and smash it to the ground.

PW-Mall story
I am glad no working photography was being done, but pretty rude to do to someone that is trying to experiment and learn without letting them in on the joke.

Oh, well...

July 25, 2007 9:32 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Done it many times, it's a hoot each time. Once, a buddy of mine was up in the rafters of the college gym, turning on his strobes for a basketball game. I was down below, triggering his lights, watching him run back and forth trying to figure out what was wrong. Of course, it never happened when he was right NEAR his receiver. Just when he started to leave. Finally, he saw me. Fun over. Just one of many. Love it, Love it!

July 25, 2007 9:36 PM  
Blogger Patrick Smith said...

I literally laughed out loud. Sounds like a youtube clip.

July 25, 2007 9:39 PM  
Blogger Steve Thurow said...

1. Funny.
2. They have a TV show called "Just for Laughs" right in line with this and it is funny so do it again and video tape it.
3. Anonymously let the manager or employee know after the fact so someone doesn't get fired or money isn't spent on equipment repairs/replacement (may be a good way to score cheap PWs, reconsider 3).

July 25, 2007 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Nicolle said...

HAHA yes that is hilarious, i totally would have done that too! but unlike you, i wouldn't have been able to hold back my laughter. when she put the camera down, i probably would have fired off a couple extra just for good measure, to really confuse her.

i am really wishing my fiance was awake right now so i could read him this post to see if he laughs as much as i did. i'm wondering if it's a photog thing...

July 25, 2007 10:04 PM  
Anonymous chris said...

Funny stuff. Now I have a reason to keep my pocketwizard on me at all times.

July 25, 2007 10:25 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

I used to sit beside a coworker that I'll not name here. When she went to the bathroom, I unplugged her mouse and keyboard and plugged my mouse and keyboard into her computer. She got back and whenever she moved her mouse, so did I. But she had a weird look on her face. Every time she moved her mouse, so did I, and she got more and more puzzled. Eventually I couldn't hold it any more and fell off my chair laughing. So she figured it out. :)

July 25, 2007 10:26 PM  
Blogger Quentin Fennessy said...

You can find a very similar story in the book 'iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It' by Steve Wozniak. When Woz was in college he designed and built a gadget that jammed tv reception in his dorm room. He used the jammer to train his dorm-mates to hold the antenna in very strange positions for decent TV reception. I think the book says that he stopped using his 'weapon' before his identity was revealed.


July 25, 2007 11:05 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Bastard.... Falling off my chair laughing but that's not the point :-)

July 25, 2007 11:26 PM  
Blogger Sabina said...

Ok bad thing is I know exactly where you are talking about David. I was up there last week on my way to the Apple Store when I too noticed the cookie cutter photo store using PW's.
Alas, I didn't have mine with me, but she was working with a client so i probably wouldn't have done anything anyway.
Seriously though I found this HYSTERICAL!!!!

July 26, 2007 12:23 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

LOL ... If you get to reading all the responses Canada has a "Just for Laughs" segment on TV where people play practical jokes on unsuspecting parties. Your post was just as good as any episode.

July 26, 2007 1:40 AM  
Blogger bmillios said...

"My, what a mean thing to do", he says, as he tucks his PW into his, well, pocket, and heads off to the mall.

I think the most important part of the story got left out. What'd you get at the Apple store?

July 26, 2007 2:53 AM  
Blogger Duck Hunter said...

Great joke. I would love to have this opportunity some day. It would only have been "jerk" if she had a customer.

July 26, 2007 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Marton said...

Hahaha! This is awesome! :)

I guess now she thinks, pocketwizards don't work properly. :P

Wished you let her in on the joke though! She might be a reader of the strobist blog :)

July 26, 2007 9:18 AM  
Anonymous TuckerUK said...

Very juvenile behaviour if you ask me. So glad I'm not the only one that differentiates between growing old and growing up! Keep up the good work!

Thank you for using my Evil Influence photo in your blog. I'm chuffed to bits (not to be confused with chaffed to bits), and my trusty model young Master Tucker is over the moon!


July 26, 2007 10:12 AM  
Blogger About Scott said...

Well, if you think you are bad about thinking it was funny you should hear the rest of us wondering if we can skip out of work now and run to the mall with our pocket wizards! Great story!

July 26, 2007 10:43 AM  
Blogger Bruce said...

Very funny..... but.... not everybody knows when to stop, and although I'd like to think everybody that reads your blog is responsible, somehow I doubt it! You've just corrupted potentially thousands of sweet and innocent strobists, and possibly made life a little more complicated for a lot of photographers.... and yet I'm still laughing!

July 26, 2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger info said...

Please discuss Annie Leibovitz' work further.. do you think she shoots the subjects individually and then composits them in PS?

July 26, 2007 3:43 PM  
Anonymous tuthdoc99 said...

I was laughing the whole time I was reading this. I wish I could have been the proverbial fly on the wall to watch this.....I probably would have done it myself if the opportunity arose.

July 26, 2007 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you knew the person, it would have been funny, maybe. If you had walked up to her afterwards and shared the joke, it would have been funny, maybe.

It does not matter no one was in the store. You don't know what she was doing and whether what she was doing was important to her. Playing? Practicing? Spending a couple of minutes with new gear before a shoot? You wasted her time, and since you did not bother to share the joke with her, that's all there's to it.

Reminds me of what we did as kids sneaking up to people's windows switching tv channels with a remote.

The difference? we were kids and 'did not know better'.

July 27, 2007 1:09 AM  
Anonymous JMR said...

ROFL, Sounds like loadsa fun. Get yourself some URL cards printed with just your blog URL on. Go in there pretending to be interested in the equipment she is using and mention you have a blog about that type of equipment and drop her a card. Try as much as possible to direct her to this post and see what her reaction is, I am sure she will comment if she has a sense of humour.

I am JMR from

July 27, 2007 7:20 AM  
Blogger Omless Wanderer said...

Sounds like you're reclaiming your teenage years. :P

July 31, 2007 12:17 AM  
Blogger Matthew Robertson said...

I just found this because I was looking for something to read while I wait for my three new Plus II PW's to arrive. Now I wish I'd gone for the more expensive ones with more channels!

Funny, but nobody do it to me, m'kay?

October 04, 2007 10:45 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...

Well, as a former employee (now disgruntled) of one of those fertogrefer places, I can't blame you a bit. As the only sane person in the joint, and also the only one to know what that little thingy on top of the camera did, I must admit that I did that once or twice as well from our second studio with the spare set of PWs.

And even if she did go get the manager, neither of them would likely have had the faintest idea what was going on. Most people who work those sinkholes of creativity are (at least in Orange County) bored housewives who think that the idea of editing a photo is taking out red eye...

Do I seem disgruntled? Do it again, David, just for me. Please :)

March 13, 2008 4:11 AM  
Blogger Dan Speicher Photography said...

I loved this story. We did that to a young photographer while were were working on location. a student was setting up lights (when i was in school) and didnt have much tech understanding. So when the strobes started firing for no reason and he is running around trying to fix it, we finally let him in on it.

Personally though, i would have messed with the associate and the manager. But I am an equal opportunity smart a*s. as long as no one gets hurt, jokes are a great way to spend the day when you dont have a 9-5

March 13, 2008 3:37 PM  
Blogger John Mielke Photography said...

LMAO! I just read this post now thanks to you linking back to it today... and I howled!

I work at a radio station. In fact, there are 4 radio stations and 1 TV station in the building. 2 weeks ago some photographer was in the building taking shots of various media types for the upcoming Media Idol (where radio and TV types get to pretend they're the next music idol - joy!)

I noticed he was using an SB 800 on camera, and 3 other SB 800's as slaves - one as key, one as fill and one for his background.

Guess who just happened to have HIS Nikon gear with him that day. Yours truly! So I waited until he was between "idols." I watched him chimping away, and as he'd put his eye to the camera, I'd fire my SB 800 in commander mode from up the hall. Bingo/bango his flashes would fire!!!!

He put his camera down, and started walking around to each of his flashes trying to figure it out. He got back to his camera, put his eye to it, and I fired my SB 800 again. BLAMO! His flashes fired! Now he's ticked right off... and he's stomping around trying to solve this "problem" before his next big celebrity singer wanna be shows up. I was on the air and didn't have a whole lotta time to screw with the poor guy, but everytime a long enough song was on the air, I'd wander out into the hall, give the SB 800 a test fire and watch him lose his mind.

I never did get a chance to tell him what was really going on... but I've been watching the blogs to see if I can find him posting about the time he was shooting at 4 radio stations and a TV station and all the radio waves that were in there were screwing up his equipment.

I'm also looking forward to taking my PW to a hockey game sometime soon and messing with the poor shooters in there. Evil lurks within us all Joe. I'm just glad to know I'm not the only rear end hole out there.

March 23, 2008 11:37 AM  
Blogger Roman Studio said...

Take note everyone, bring your PW's to David's seminars!

June 25, 2008 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This works at Disney world too. I was there last spring and near the gate of the magic kingdom they have a shop to buy photos taken by the parks photographers. To one side of that shop there is a small studio (for lack of a worse term) to photo the little girls who have been to the bibity bobity botque. I was waiting for my wife but had the pocket wizards in the backpack so pretty soon I was making the strobes fire immediately after he did. Every shot double strobes from the other side of the building.

June 25, 2008 4:42 PM  
Blogger Darien Chin said...

i love this!

June 25, 2008 9:37 PM  
Blogger Emmett Photography said...

I haven't laughed so hard for a long time. Wicked :-)

June 26, 2008 5:15 AM  
Anonymous MikeEvs said...

Only just seen this not done it but been the victim of, I was on a studio lighting course there were 5 of us on the course and the photographer taking the course leaves us to set up the lights for the next shoot so we get set up when all of a sudden the flashes start firing quickly and often and as we start scratching our head and staring inquisitively at the lights in walks the photographer PW in hand giggling to himself!

June 26, 2008 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you think she really made a few attempts to shoot, shook her head and set the camera down without calling the manager?

A) As implied, has no idea how Pocket Wizards work and couldn't care less - Not her camera.

B) Knows that every once in a while a prankster with a Pocket Wizard comes along, fancies themselves superior to anyone working in one of THOSE places and trips the flash for grins and giggles. Knowing they are easily amused, and usually go away quickly, she patiently continues trying to do her job. After a few attempts, she realizes this one is persistent and decides to find a better way to use her time until they go away.

Either way, she is probably ahead of where every one of us was (or is) at one point in our journey. I've never met a great photographer that didn't pay their dues.

The prank is moderately funny, and I've pulled similar, but let's watch the air of superiority that seems to be creeping in here. Well earned or not, it's pretty much counter to everything this blog stands for.

Kevin Halliburton

June 26, 2008 3:40 PM  
Blogger HUBCAM said...

I live for this shi.., stuff.
Glad you posted it.

June 26, 2008 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So long as the pranks don't interfere with real work, they are quite amusing. As soon as stuff like that starts to get in the way of some photographer trying to afford medicine for his sick daughter - I stop laughing.

June 26, 2008 7:56 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

I love it! I've heard of people doing it before but it is still funny. I've been wanting to get some PWs but couldn't come up with an excuse. I think I have it now!

June 27, 2008 7:24 PM  
Blogger Anna said...


If you have knowledge about photography, you should share it. I thought that was what this blog was all about. Instead, I stumble upon a mean trick on someone probably just trying to learn. Wow, how disappointing. You should apologize to that poor girl. People don't go to work for those places unless they have a sincere interest in it. She might be a young person trying to find her path. Sharing is what it's all about.
Take her to coffee or pizza in the food court and tell her what's up. sheesh.

July 06, 2008 8:39 PM  
Anonymous John said...

My wife assures me that I would have done likewise. For having the PW with you at the mall ... that's a g33k thing.

As far as being the east end of a westbound donkey, NOT. Had you interrupted a shoot, you would have been. Instead you were enjoying somebody's utter lack of curiosity and minimal knowledge.

This makes you Chief Joker to the King. The Joker was the only one who could ever tell the king the truth with impunity. Go spend an afternoon repeating the performance. (perhaps occasionally changing hat & jacket & location so that somebody doesn't figure out it's "that guy with his hands in his pouch"

And when the manager comes back? Do it to her, too. Taunting the associate is only so much fun, but confusing the big cheese? Priceless!

November 15, 2008 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

more than a year later, it's still funny. it's the photog33k version of tv-be-gone sniping. i can imagine doing this all day. that's a sure sign that we are all going to burn in hell. =)

however, my little circle of friends definitely includes people who wouldn't hesitate doing this to me! help! how do i go about defending myself from this kind of attack?

November 18, 2008 10:09 PM  
Blogger Elysian Photography said...

I'm laughing my ass off, and my wife is glaring at me.

Sounds like fun. Are you an assho-- jerk for doing this? No, I don't think so. I've seen to many of these "studios" here in my hometown and sadly, the people working there could not be more indifferent about photography or lighting or even cranking out quality product.

Would I do it? Yes, but only to those indifferent, deserving, "click, next" mall kiosks which make life harder for us freelancers.

I wonder if the same trick would work with Cactus triggers?

November 19, 2008 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to set up a pocket wizard on an sb800 in the darkroom confessional and watch someone go in to roll some film and develop, then blast them mid-roll at full power. This is evil, I know. But during finals week at my school, it's hard not to imagine someone running out of the darkroom scared shitless not understanding why lightning struck in the middle of the darkroom.

if any optometrists are reading this, could you tell me if this would blind someone?

December 19, 2008 11:53 PM  
Blogger Ido said...

This may be a little late for this thread but.......

Just remember some of the greatest creative geniuses have been notorious practical jokers...

Maybe you have heard of a guy called Mozart? He was known for musical practical jokes, including one he pulled on his teacher Haydn, which included playing a note on the keyboard with his nose.

Haydn, in turn, had a few practical jokes himself, such as the Surpise Symphony or the Farewell Symphony.

I think it was Maxwell (of the Maxwell equations which describe light) pulled a shenanigan on Lord Kelvin with a dancing man in the microscope.

R V Jones, the physicist, was a tremendous practical joker. He even wrote an article on the connection between theoretical physics and practical joking.


November 02, 2010 12:05 AM  
Blogger Nikki said...


I just now read this and I used to work for Lifetouch in JC Penney at one of these places and that is just pure hilarity. I can't tell you the amount of times we had flash issues and I can just picture you sitting outside our window hitting your pocket wizard. Definitely made me smile :)

December 14, 2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Didn't McNally do something like this to you in Dubai or one of those multi-photographer workshops not that long ago?

December 16, 2010 2:46 PM  
OpenID tnorm5828 said...

I was at a high school basketball game. Having gotten there early during the JV game there wasn't much of a crowd initially. I set my flashes up on either side of the basket with clamps to the railing of the bleachers. Pretty much out of the way of anybody watching the game but lighting up one side of the court.

After the JV game the varsity start to warm up and some of the middle school kids attending the game moved up into the stands right next to one of the flashes. When kids get near the expensive equipment it always worries me a bit because kids are curious and they sometimes don't realize that messing with equipment may damage it or alter the lights.

I'm getting rosters and talking with someone I know across the court and I'm watching these kids stare at this odd thing clamped to the bleacher railing. Eventually I just pop the flash one to let them figure out what it is, but one of the kids isn't done investigating and decides to go over to it while his friends ignore him and the equipment. He starts waving his hand in front of it and nothing happens. He gets a little more curious and places his face straight in front of it. Pop.

It wasn't like it was full power, but he was seeing a bit of stars for a second. A second later after he recoups from the bright light he sticks his head in front of it again. Pop.

He goes over to his friends and pulls one of them over and motions for him to stick his head in front of the flash. He does and nothing happens. The first kid obviously tells him the flash fired when he stuck his head in front of it becuse they start waving their hands in front of it thinking it is motion activated. Nothing happens.

The second kid shruggs his shoulders and goes back to his friends. Obviously a bit confused the first kid decides to put his face in front of the flash again. Pop.

He left it alone after that though I imagine doing what I did could have gotten him aggrivated enough to hit the flash or something. Thankfully he left it alone.

December 17, 2010 12:29 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Some years back, I was a LAN admin and we had just got new software to take control of client's computers to fix problems remotely. I went across one of my co-workers machines as he was typing. Just occasionally hitting the backspace key, and then the odd space key was hillarious! Once he saw me laughing he worked it out, so no harm done. Not evil at all...

February 03, 2011 9:42 PM  
Blogger Rajan Chawla Photography said...

Laughed my ass off so loud someone came in to see if I was OK.

Thank you for sharing this.


February 04, 2011 8:20 AM  
Blogger Wormsie said...

Funny though this was, I'm absolutely appalled at the lack of empathy people have. Thanks for making me a bit more cynical!

February 05, 2011 1:02 PM  
Blogger JF Machado said...

First and foremost, I plea the Fifth!

And, 'though I DON'T have a set of PWs, electronically pranking people is funny. Be it with a well placed SB with a set of eBay triggers, or with the good old car alarm remote...

February 13, 2011 5:20 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I did something similar at a Santa photo spot at the mall last year. It was one where you could take your own pic if you didnt buy theirs. They had a white lightning 1600 set up with a buff receiver and I happen to have had mine in the bag! I stood back while the kids were in line and figured out (discretely between kids jumping in/out of santas lap) which channel they were on. When it was my kiddos turn, I had dialed in my exposure and was using their complete setup. At this point though the ruse was up and 3 or 4 shots in they flipped the switch on the flash so I had ambient only.

The guy was pretty rude about it and I simply stated they allowed me to take my own pics, and nothing said I couldnt use my own radio trigger either. They asked us to leave immediately. Well needless to say I spent the next 2 hours on the second level mezzanine making sure they had to turn off the flash between EVERY single customer (I didnt interrupt anyones actual photo either David) because I was testing the duty cycle of the buff unit (which was quite impressive). They would change channels etc but I was not detered. Oddly enough they didnt seem to put two and two together, because they never really looked around like they suspected I was hiding out nearby doing that. Finally my wife came to get me (after spending a new 70-200 worth of my money on stuff I dont feel was necessary), scolded me for my childish behavior,which made it all the more fun, and we left ;)

November 23, 2011 12:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Bricker said...

I did this at a wedding reception with a not so astute photographer except I would wait until he took a photo and began to look at his LCD to which he glanced up to wonder why his lights had popped. I let in a couple people on the little trick who loved watching him react.

November 23, 2011 3:30 PM  
Blogger JRhyins said...

Good job! Shake people esp budding photographers out of their comfort zone.

November 25, 2011 3:40 PM  
Blogger Ian Pearson said...

Too Funny!

I can say as a manager of a photography studio that my associates and I do it to each other on occasion.

November 26, 2011 2:50 AM  
Blogger HunRover said...

This little prank reminds me of a similar (albeit auditory) one: I was working in a company, and we've got some stuff delivered, among the things a landline phone. My manager wasn't there at the time, and we put my colleague's mobile in it, set to "bell" type of ringtone... and left it on the manager's shelf. Soon enough the man arrived, and after a few minutes, I started ringing the phone. First he was casually looking for a mobile, and then he saw the box, and muttered: "That's impossible!" The look on his face was priceless!!!
Of course we lost our composure as soon as he opened the box and find the mobile inside :-D But best thing in the whole story, is that he was a cool guy, and he appreciated the prank too!

July 08, 2013 7:05 PM  

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