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Nikon SB-900: Joe Bob Goes to the Movies

Those of you of a certain age will remember Joe Bob Briggs, who used to review guys' movies for the newspapers the way a guy would want a movie reviewed.

Steel Magnolias? Zero stars. Way too much emotional junk.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Instant classic -- it has chain saws, fer cryin' out loud. Get the Oscar buzz started!

I was very disappointed to find out that the "Joe Bob" in the new Nikon speedlight video were in fact Bob Krist, internationally known travel photographer, and Joe McNally, some guy I have never heard of.

Sadly, the video is not available yet, nor are the online excerpts -- they are coming next week, from what I hear. So why am I even telling you this?

Because the release of the SB-900 video trips in a little gentleman's agreement about the previous, SB-800 "Speed of Light" video...


A few years ago, this Joe McNally guy filmed a video for Nikon on the (then) new SB-800s, showing just what they could do by using CLS in a real-world environment. It was a capabilities/brochure type of thing, and they probably underestimated the demand for nuts-and-bolts, exact "how-to" type of stuff.

The video was called, The Speed of Light (spoiler alert: 186,000 miles per second) and was a great tease to get you pining for six SB-800s.

The feedback, of course, was that now everyone wanted to know exactly how to do this stuff: What do I set the +-TTL at? Why use the dome outside? How do I find a contortionist and a glass box in the middle of the desert?

So, from what I understand at least, they are looking to be more nuts-and-bolts in the current iteration which is now in the can and ready for release. The new video is five times as long as the last, which should allow for more detail in the process.

From what I hear, they had fun filming it, too. Rumor was that Bob and Joe actually pretended to get pissed off at each other, almost to the point of coming to blows (my money is on Bob -- he's a scrapper) just to worry the director while shooting. That's why you never let the photographers outnumber the directors.

But enough of that. Back to the Speed of Light video.

Here it is, embedded. If you are viewing this post via RSS or an email subscription, you probably won;t be able to see the video. You can get to the full web version, with video, here.

The vid has been up on Google Video for several months, and is a total bootleg upload. I was tipped to it by several readers way back when.

Normally this is a strict no-no, and results in DCMA takedown notices out the wazoo almost immediately. But I talked to several people at Nikon and the idea was batted around that letting this one go into the wild at this point might not be such a bad thing. Simple cost-benefit analysis. But I agreed that it would best to wait until the next-gen SB-900 video was announced before linking to the old SB-800 video.

There is a lot of information in it, but the flash itself is discontinued. (Bastards! They killed Kenny!) Which means the commercial value for an SB-800 video is down to the flat part of the long tail chart. So, given that they (a) know it is out there and, (b) have not yet DCMA'd it, you are not starving anyone's babies by watching it.

It's about half an hour long. IMO, the best part of the video has nothing to do with lighting. CLS shooters will learn from it, of course. But the real takeaway is watching this Joe guy work.

When you are watching this, pay special attention to how Joe paces his shoot. Note how he keeps his subjects engaged, how he uses their time and attention efficiently. A good shoot is all about a steady stream of communication and keeping a good rhythm going with the subjects.

He's too modest a guy to tell you this, so I will: His long-practiced ability to interact with his subjects is just as key to the success of his photos as is his lighting skill. More so, actually. It's a dance, and someone has to lead.

You can get great photos all day long with good subject interaction and finessing whatever available light you can find. Not so the reverse. If you do not gel with your subject, all the fancy flash in the world will not make a great portrait.

I am very much looking forward to the new vid (hopefully, with a director's cut including the fight scenes) when it pops up. I'll point to the excerpts online whenever they are posted.

Hey, Nikon -- why not YouTube that trailer and let it fizz a little?

And I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the interaction and rhythm thing in the comments below. What did you come away with?

New Speedlight Video: Nikon Press Release


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