Beauty, Glamour + Fashion

Shooting Acrobats On Top of a Tripod in the Desert? Why Not, Joe McNally [RF Video of the Week]

May 8, 2015

By RF Staff

There's nothing like finally playing out that photo idea you'd had for years. For lighting master Joe McNally, that was shooting acrobats balancing themselves on top of a tripod in the middle of a desert.

The starring tripod was the Gitzo GT5532LS, a three-legged, 6.5-pound piece of equipment known for its heavyweight durability and apparent ability to support posing gymnasts. McNally's major disclaimer: Don't try this at home. The photographer mentions in the video that he can't quite explain why a concept like this would pop into his head, but it's one that took careful planning and preparation.

"Originally I thought of three gymnasts on it, but that was a little too much," he says. "I'm just very fortunate to know some of the amazing performers in Las Vegas, and they are incredible athletes. These two ladies [Daria Shemiakina and Anna Melnikova] practiced on this tripod for a week prior to the shoot."

For a Joe McNally shoot, this one is sparse on props: just one tripod and one acrobat at a time. He used a Nikon D810 camera with a 24-70mm Nikkor f/2.8 lens, in tandem with a Profoto B4 flash, two rims with narrow beam reflectors and—when "it got more mellow and manageable" once the sun set, he says—a 5-foot Octa.

"The challenges were, of course, fighting hard desert light, but I liked the look of it," McNally says. "We just had to supply a fair bit of light ourselves to compete (shooting at 1/200th of a second around f/20 or so)." Check out how it all played out:

See more Videos of the Week, and email Libby Peterson with submissions.

Related Links

3D Capture Made Possible by 64-Camera Photo Booth

Photographer Explains How to Light Outdoor Portraits During a Family Trip in Hawaii

A Photographer's Very, Very Lucky Shot of Greg Louganis