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: