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The Nikon Wedding Truck Studio: Love, Joy and Pictures on Wheels

When Joe McNally offered to photograph his friends’ wedding at the New York City Marriage Bureau some time ago he had no idea that day would lead to creating a studio on wheels—then parking it outside the legendary building where, every week, hundreds of people say “I do.”

Whose Idea is this Anyway?

Like many of his photo ideas, this one had been spinning in his head for awhile; in fact, since that day at the Marriage Bureau. McNally reveals, “Photographing my friends’ wedding at City Hall was one of the most memorable and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had behind the camera: watching all those couples proceed before the judge, awash in giggles, smiles and love. I noticed only one thing missing that is generally associated with a wedding—many had no photographer and were having informal snaps taken by well meaning friends and family. It got me thinking.”

Photo by Annie Cahill © 2015

Photo by Annie Cahill © 2015

He continues, “What if a fully equipped, ready-to-shoot studio was just outside the Marriage Bureau, and these couples could have a beautiful set of pictures done? Free photos by a really good photographer? All they’d have to do is walk up a few steps into a truck.”

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

“One of the benefits of being a Nikon Ambassador is that you are partnering with a company that will step up to support a photographer’s ideas.” McNally states that the team at Nikon was immediately onboard with this project—a project where the focus is the love and emotions of a wedding day, and there exists an opportunity to provide truly wonderful photo memories.

The Truck Rolls

Brooklyn, 5am, June 4: The garage gates swing open and the Nikon Wedding Truck rolls across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan. It makes its way through Chinatown, turns on Worth Street, then parks just a few yards from where dozens of couples will have just taken their vows.

McNally and the Nikon team begin the prep, and hours later they are ready to start meeting couples. Over the project’s two days they mixed with more than 70 couples who stepped up into the big yellow truck for a quick and memorable photo shoot.

But it wasn’t just couples to claim the center of the frame—entire families bunched together for a smile. McNally’s largest wedding party was a blissful 15 celebrants. “The larger groups were amongst the most fun to photograph. Given the confines of the truck, we had to get pretty creative about how we arranged people. Getting the group of 15 back there was almost an athletic event.”

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

Precious Cargo on the Go

McNally explains how he worked from a level platform that had been built up at the backside of the wedding truck. Couples would alight a few steps to reach the platform, and then position themselves just inside the open truck. Most sessions were no longer than five minutes in duration.

“I created two studio sets in the back of the truck. One was a ‘quiet’ set for more intimate portraits. The other was more openly lit for both groups and couples,” states McNally. “I used Speedlights (SB-910 AF Speedlights paired with Lastolite shapers). I had a dedicated commander flash on each set. I would switch those commanders on-the-fly as I rotated back and forth. Each ‘master flash’ would give me accurate exposures from the Speedlights in each area, even though the feel and arrangement of the lighting was very different for each. This worked out well in terms of enabling me to shoot quickly.”

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

The gear of choice for his marathon wedding portrait stint was the 24.3MP full frame Nikon D750, plus an AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR. “That camera body is light, fast and responsive. The images created are excellent quality and the autofocus is very accurate.” The 24-120mm hit the mark for subject matter, plus the range of distance within his working environment. “That lens was perfect. It accommodated every situation, from a single portrait of a bride, to the pictures of the couples, to shots of the big wedding parties.”

With a smile, he adds, “Love conquers all. There was such a wide array of guests that day—many nationalities, races, religions. It was simply a time to photograph people who are in love. I can honestly say it was one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever done.”

The Nikon Wedding Truck Studio is part of Nikon’s “I AM Generation Image” Campaign. Read more about the day on McNally’s blog at blog.joemcnally.com. Want to see photos? Visit Nikon social media activity on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Also view interaction via hashtags #IAMGenerationImage and #NikonWeddingTruck.

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

Photo by Joe McNally © 2015

About the Nikon “I AM Generation Image” Campaign

The concept of “Generation Image” was born from a desire to understand people’s relationships with their images. The number of images captured and shared every day is significantly increasing and after extensive research, it became clear that image quality is critical to celebrating and purposefully representing the motivations of this new generation of image makers. Across the country, people are using their cameras as a tool to share what is important to them and each have the potential for significant impact. From families or hobbies, personal causes to accomplishments, this generation enjoys expressing and sharing their passions through photos and videos. On social media channels, the hashtag #IAMGenerationImage is a rallying cry. It echoes the desire to deliver the best images possible, in order to convey emotions and passions that rise above the noise. “I AM Generation Image” reminds us that we are all part of this generation, and Nikon will enable our stories to ring loud, true and authentic.

About The Contributor


Joe McNally

Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed photographer whose career has spanned more than 30 years and included assignments in 60 countries. McNally is often described as a generalist because of his ability to execute a wide range of assignment work. His expansive career has included being an ongoing contributor to National Geographic—shooting numerous cover stories and highly complex, technical features for the past 25 years; a contract photographer for Sports Illustrated; as well as shooting cover stories for TIME, Newsweek, Fortune, New York, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

McNally regularly writes a popular, occasionally irreverent blog (joemcnally.com/blog) about the travails, tribulations and high moments of being a photographer, and has authored several noteworthy books on photography. While his work notably springs from the time-honored traditions of magazine journalism, McNally has also adapted to the Internet driven media world, and was recently named as one of the “Top 5 Most Socially Influential Photographers” by Eye-Fi. McNally was also named the 2015 Photographer of the Year by PMDA. His work and his blog are regularly cited in social media surveys as sources of inspiration and industry leadership. He is also among the rare breed of photographer who has bridged the world between photojournalism and advertising, amassing an impressive commercial and advertising client list including FedEx, Nikon, Epson, Sony, Land’s End, General Electric, MetLife, USAA, Adidas, ESPN, the Beijing Cultural Commission, and American Ballet Theater.

A sought-after workshop instructor and lecturer, he has taught at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop, the Eddie Adams Workshop, the National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institution, and the Annenberg Space for Photography, Rochester Institute of Technology, the Disney Institute, and the U.S. Department of Defense. He received his bachelor’s and graduate degrees from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and returns there to lecture on a regular basis. He is proud to be named a Nikon Ambassador [United States], an honor that has a special significance for him, as he bought his first Nikon camera in 1973, and for forty years, from the deserts of Africa to the snows of Siberia, he has seen the world through those cameras.

See more of Joe's work at www.joemcnally.com.

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