Earlier this spring, Profoto sent Joe McNally on a mission to squeeze everything out of the entire Profoto system, with the new Profoto Connect Pro as the key player. Now, it wouldn’t be a McNally production without stretching the abilities of both gear and staff to the max, and the three days outside New York turned into a technical and creative drama. Endless trials, testing and repositioning of lights and talent until everything was dialed in. The result in the shape of a stunning mystery scene came from a collaborative effort of planning, experimenting, creativity, gear and patience - along with the half-century know-how of one Mr Joe McNally.
Setting up for drama
Two days were spent on setting up. On the day of the shoot, talent and crew found each other in this slow dance where poses and positions were tried and tested for hours. Somewhere in the back is Joe, directing everything with a calm but certain voice. The camera on tripod, and the all-new Profoto Connect Pro hot-shoed to it. This trusty little thing would not only prove itself as the enabler of this extraordinarily complicated shoot, it would become clear to the whole team that there’s a new remote in town.
Joe’s not a man that settles for anything short of what he sets out to do. He accessed a range of Profoto gear, flashes and light shapers for this assignment, and his goal seemed to be to use every last bit of it. In the corner of the scene is a large fireplace, that suddenly catches Joe’s attention. Two hours later and three different lights were specifically aimed at the fireplace. Perfect. Moving on.
Eliminating down time, maximizing creativity
Now, the game changer in the mix is really the Profoto Connect Pro, which was able to command each of the countless flashes in the room, from Pro-11’s to B10X’s down to A10’s and even the C1 Plus. All perfectly synced up in more groups and channels than probably any remote in the history of camera gear, also with the option of HSS and TTL. Across the system. The Connect Pro just delivers, and Joe can direct everything from behind the camera. The magical and confidence-inspiring trigger is referred to as "The keys to the kingdom", and it surely frees up energy and time from fiddling with individual lights, and steers the collective work toward what really matters: creativity.
– I wanted to build a classic mystery scene from the Gatsby-era, says McNally. He continues: ’There was extensive planning, treatments were bounced around, and on set we ended up using more flashes than I can account for, all with a very specific purpose. And the story, a sly thief in the mix that I wanted to expose. Hair, makeup, wardrobe, emotion, and nerves thrown into a cocktail shaker for three days. When working in a complex way, you want something to govern the whole thing. With the Connect Pro hot-shoed to the camera, I could stay in one place and dial in the values in real-time to each zone of the photograph.’
Camera as essential, light as art
McNally shares stories on how basic these tools were when he started out many years ago, like ’sophisticated garage door openers’. The amount of effective light that could be produced was limited, and you’d have to run around and check on each light. Now, with the Connect Pro, he can focus on the creative, and not worry about getting the lights to fire.
McNally continues: ’This business is all about confidence, and with a tool like this, I can approach any scenario with confidence. I know it’s going to work.’
It’s obvious how much McNally cares for the storytelling aspect of photography. When he lights a scene, he thinks of it as starting a conversation - and adding or taking away light is sending powerful messages. Light is guiding the viewer to what’s important, and what’s not. And watching the final result of the shoot, the care for detail has truly created intrigue. Joe explains: ’The camera is essential, it’s the tool that we use, but the light... that falls more in the realm of the arts.’
But what’s maybe most interesting, when hearing McNally talk about photography - is how much gut feeling plays in for him. You’d think a guy like this is all about abiding to every technical angle, worshiping f-stops, shutter speeds and lighting ratios. Instead, he emphasizes instinct. How you have to feel the light, and go from there.
That’s all good, but the thing with instinct, creativity and feel - those power tools are freed up when you’re able to control what you’re doing. McNally agrees, and concludes:
– Small things have big impact. The Profoto Connect Pro is certainly one of these things.