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Where Do I Begin?

Jan 24

In Rants, Thoughts at 6:39pm

So….where do I begin? As I dip a very tentative toe into the sloshing ocean of the blogosphere, I realize that the sensations I’m experiencing right now are the same ones I feel as I take those first few steps on a new location shoot. What is this about? Am I gonna survive? Where do I begin?

That of course is just the beginning of the battery of questions that ravage the psyches and befuddle the brains of location photographers. The “Where the hell do I begin?” query is a real biggie. Often times, it’s decided for you, of course. On your average, say, corporate portrait (which I do occasionally, and can even be fun [see Roger and Michael]), you are often shown a conference room. “Does this work?” they ask?

Michael Eisner with Roger Rabbit

And in the interests of being a good sport, you survey the grey walls, the cheeseball art, and the obligatory huge table that takes up 427 square feet of a 450 square foot room, one that has floor to ceiling windows on 2 sides both of which overlook a half demolished parking structure, and say, “This’ll be swell!”


You take a stand and tell them it doesn’t work and get labeled “difficult.” And you make demands, you know, like to get into the boss’s office and photograph him or her in one of those sumptuous big boss type wood panel rooms with chairs covered with the skin of the testicles of unborn calves and the motorized window shades.

They agree… nervously.

FricknFrack, the PR duo with the synchronized twitches, are assigned to monitor you so your C-stand boom arm with the medium Octa doesn’t swing into the original Mission lamp adorning the wheel’s desktop. You are watched like a hawk.

I used to twitch, too, as a younger shooter. I would get very nervous. Wired. Strived to impress. Reached to make idiotic banter. Now, I don’t. One of the last corporate portraits I shot was of the chairman of one of the real blue chip biggies who blew right past the niceties and told me I had less than five minutes. I looked back and said simply, “Good.”

The art director sucked in air through her teeth and made the kind of sound you often hear in a Japanese noodle shop. My subject tilted his head at me kind of like Nigel, my wife’s 19-pound cat, does when I tell him he can’t have another bowl of wet food. I said, “Look, you’ve done this before. Please step on the tape mark and look at the camera and I’ll have you out of here in less than five. Cool?”

He actually relaxed, and I made a few frames that they didn’t need to hire me for and could have cloned out of last year’s annual, cause the dude has three expressions, and I covered ’em all pretty much in the same fashion last year’s shooter did. But hey, I wasn’t gonna point that out. I mean, if I’m only working for 5 minutes, my day rate’s pretty good at that point, so who’s complaining?

But I digress. Instead of idiotic banter on location, voila! I now have a blog to blather away on. Hope to be amusing, informative, irascible, pungent, and occasionally even relevant. It’s an interesting time to be a shooter, and as the Chinese evidently said once, therefore a good time to be living. However, it should be pointed out that quite possibly that phrase, “May you live in interesting times” might actually be one of a trio of curses the Chinese wished on folks, the others being; ” May you come to the attention of those in authority,” (a given for photographers) and; “May you find what you are looking for.” (less certain).

Off we go.

Mentioned in this post:
Avenger C-Stand
Avenger Extension Arm
Elinchrom Medium Octa

Jim says:

on February 1, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Yeah! Finally you’re here. I kept looking and looking and thinking you just HAD to have a blog-site! I can only watch your Nikon Flash video so much before I realize there isn’t, ever, going to be something I missed coming from it, or you, magically, popping up with a new (and equally marvelous) flash technique for me to try.

ron says:

on February 1, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Wow! Congrats on the blog — and congrats on the book! I might be knocking on your door soon to ask you to sign it!

Joe — you are constant source of inspiration for me. I’m looking forward to reading your blog. And your book! Amazon tells me that the shipped it yesterday.


David Hobby says:

on February 1, 2008 at 11:14 pm

You had me at “synchronized twitches.” So glad to see you guys joining the blogging fray. The whole photo sphere just got better.

David H.

Dale Beam says:

on February 2, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for doing this Joe. Since I’m a newbie I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from you.

Dale B.

Jay Mann says:

on February 2, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Hi Joe,

I’ve been waiting for a blog from you. Between you and Mr. Peterson, I am both amused and inspired as I open my mail each morning out here in the desert.

Hope to see you in Dubai this year.


Vijay Varadan says:

on February 3, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Congratulations on your blog. Now, I have another wonderful source of learning in addition to Chase and David.


Bert Stephani says:

on February 4, 2008 at 3:10 am

Welcome to the blogosphere, Joe. I’m really looking forward to read more.

The situations in this post is already very familiar. I do admit that I’m still a bit reluctant to make that boring business portrait that many companies seem to want. But at least I already learned to make such a shot first and then try to get something more creative. But they usually end up using the boring one anyway 😉

Keep it up,

Francis says:

on February 4, 2008 at 3:13 am

Alright! I’m probably going to be one of the first from the slew of Strobist blogheads headed your way to congratulate you on your blog, and your book (which I plan getting very soon). Albeit, I wish I could clone you and just pick away your brain for years and years.

Welcome to the sphere!

Nigel Walker says:

on February 4, 2008 at 3:16 am

Joe, As a relative newb to off – camera flash and learning every day thanks to David Hobbie’s Strobist, I am delighted that you have set up a blog. Amazon has already shipped your book and I await to what no doubt will be an outstanding read and undoubtedly result in me being able to take better photos. I hope that you are able to make it to Dubai again this year. Many Thanks Nigel

Rob Smith says:

on February 4, 2008 at 3:21 am

Sometimes it difficult to share with other photographers (and scuba divers) out here in Gozo, Malta so access to information on the internet is key.

Caught your video on Scott Kelby’s Blog, and the review of your book on Strobist Blog.

Glad you have started this one yourself.

I appreciate your approach, and delivery style very much.


Rob Smith

Nick Davis says:

on February 4, 2008 at 3:52 am

Joe, thanks for jumping into the blog-o-pool. (New word!)

I caught the link off David Hobby’s site, and I want to let you know that the groundswell of openness in photography these days is awesome to watch and be part of, especially for somebody just starting out, like myself.

Thanks again Joe!

Wee Keat says:

on February 4, 2008 at 4:50 am

I’ve been waiting for this for so long. Congrats and I really look forward to reading your techniques, experiences and tips/tricks. Thanks so much for setting up this blog.

David says:

on February 4, 2008 at 8:09 am

Hi Joe,

Congrats on the new Blog. Thanks for sharing so candidly. I read a review of you book on and have placed my order, can’t wait for it to arrive.

Best of luck


Scott Slattery says:

on February 4, 2008 at 8:16 am

Joe! It’s great to be able to learn from you! My partner and I will be at the Santa Fe Workshops in March but, unfortunately, your class was filled so we will be there the week before. We are hoping for next year! Congratulations and I can’t wait to get your book!

Matt says:

on February 4, 2008 at 8:18 am

I look forward to reading all your future posts!

Mike Garth says:

on February 4, 2008 at 8:28 am


This is fantastic. Congrats on the blog. I preordered your book weeks ago and it shipped the other day ~ Should be here early this week. Your entry into the blog arena made my day. Looking forward to you setting up a workshop in the D.C. area sometime in 2008!!


Laurel says:

on February 4, 2008 at 9:01 am

I have been waiting for this book since you gave us a sneak peak in Cape Cod. Congratulations and welcome to Blogsphere! Tell Annie I said Hi and I bought the D300!


C-Zephyr says:

on February 4, 2008 at 9:37 am

I’m so excited to read what you have coming. I like this style of writing when it comes from photographers, it makes it much easier to learn!

Am I being a jerk to point out that there’s a typo “…director sucked in air through her teeth and made the kind of sound you often hear in a Japanese noodle shop. He tilted his head…” in your first post?

Thanks for starting one up!

Jason Chimienti says:

on February 4, 2008 at 9:50 am

Hi Joe,

To be honest I first learned about you and your new book through the writings and ramblings 😉 of Scott K. I previewed your book already (waiting for the real thing to arrive from Amazon) on your website and was completely mesmerized. Thus far, from what I can tell, everything that say about you and your book appears to lack any hyperbole.

I’m a 40-year-old novice currently enrolled in a digital photography program offered through Boston University and so hope to learn much from your blog and book.

Cheers and best of luck!

Jason Chimienti says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:27 am

Hi Joe,

To be honest, I recently discovered you and your new book through the scribblings of Scott K. After perusing the preview of your book on your website (waiting for my copy of the book to arrive from Amazon) and reading the reviews and remarks about you and your work, I have to declare there is no hyperbole in the commentary.

As 40-year-old novice, with an insatiable appetite to learn, and currently enrolled in a digital photography program at Boston University, I look forward to learning from both your book and any insightful crumbs you might share on this blog.

Cheers, much luck with the new blog, and thank you!

carlos benjamin says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:38 am

What??? Another freaking photography blogger?????


Love the writing style and the snippets I’ve read in reviews. Will be heading out this week to get the book.


tim swanky says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:39 am

Joe, nice too see you are finally sharing your incredible teaching skills to the masses.
I took your program in sante fe a couple years ago, and am still inspired by it, and was an extreme pleasure to work and hang with you. I look forward to spooking around your new blog, and continuing the learning process.
Thanks again, and have fun with this..

Steve Gadomski says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:46 am

The blog looks great, Joe! And I am still putting your lessons from Santa Fe (Spring 2007) to use.

Dan Bannister says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:52 am

Great to see you in the blogosphere Joe, looking forward to reading your posts and am also looking forward to the book.

Hope all’s well.


Mel Lammers says:

on February 4, 2008 at 11:12 am

Congratulations on starting your blog. After the initial euphoria wears off, you will discover that it is a horrible thing. To be really successful in a commercial sense, you have to come up with something every day. Or at least 5 days per week like Scott Kelby and others.

Just like a columnist, there will be days when you run dry [probably] and you will feel like not writing. It will be interesting to see how you cope with that. Much worse than not knowing what you are going to shoot. There at least, you can shoot a few and see how things look.

I have the book BTW and I observed you mostly photograph people. I am reconsidering my decision to focus on architecture and landscape pretty much exclusively. Who knows.

Congratulations on the book.

Mel [former Industrial Engineer, now retired]

Paul Treacy says:

on February 4, 2008 at 11:15 am

Welcome to the fold, Mr. McNally. It’s brilliant that you’re blogging now. I’ll be getting a copy of your new book for sure. Thank you for your enormous generosity in passing on your tips and tricks to folks like me.

Paul Treacy

P Moriarty says:

on February 4, 2008 at 11:44 am

Thank you so much for doing this. I eagerly await your next missive.

And yeah, that strobist guy sent me. :)

Josh says:

on February 4, 2008 at 11:46 am


Found you via Strobist. You’re going to get a ton of traffic from there. I’m subscribing to your blog, so don’t get any smart ideas about abandoning it. Oh, and I’ma buy your book.

Glad you’re here!


Tom Marriage says:

on February 4, 2008 at 12:13 pm

So glad to see you now have a blog. It will be a daily stop along with Scott’s and David Ziser’s. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of your book. I preordered a while back.

Enjoyed your class at Kelby Online Training. Hoping you will do one on using the Speedlights on location.

Thanks for sharing with us. Guys like you, David Hobby, Scott Kelby and David Ziser make photography even more enjoyable.

All the best,
Tom Marriage

George says:

on February 4, 2008 at 12:30 pm

A great opening post … thank you. I’ll keep reading as long as you keep writing. My copy of the book is on order. Can’t wait.

Dave Newton says:

on February 4, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Fantastic opening post and can’t wait to read more! Love the videos too and look forward to more inspiration!! I will be buying the book ASAP. I can’t wait!

Dave Newton

Oh yeah, Strobist sent me!

Marshalll says:

on February 4, 2008 at 3:03 pm

I once complained to a friend that I wanted to find the guy who offered “may you live in interesting times” as a blessing and pummel him senseless. He countered, “Sure, but ‘may you live a life of stultifying boredom’ doesn’t sound so good, either.” He was right.

Looking forward to following the blog and reading the book.

– Marshall

Jay says:

on February 4, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Loved your DVD – subsequent google searches led me to D. Hobby a couple of years ago, and today he points me back to you and this new blog. I like that.

Dave Wong says:

on February 4, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Hi Joe,

I look forward to your insights.

Kevan says:

on February 4, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Hi Joe,
Found this blog via Strobist. Like Jay (above) saw your DVD and was blown away by the Nikon CLS and the ease with which you passed on the information.

I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to pre-order your new book here in the UK – usually we have to wait a while for the rush to settle in the US of A.

Can’t wait for it to arrive
Thank you for sharing
Kevan G

Brad says:

on February 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Hey Joe,

Glad to see you finally got around to making the blog. We had talked briefly after you presentation, during your recent visit to Penn State, about you starting your blog and about David Hobbys strobist site. I just wanted to say thanks for all you have already done for the photographic community and really looking forward to what may come from all of this. But hey no pressure, you only have 5min.

Jan Winther says:

on February 4, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Hey Joe,

…what took you so long??? 😀

Great to see you as a blogger too!

Oh, I look forward to reading your new book on Wednesday.

I hear great stuff about it. ……keep them comming…

Nick says:

on February 4, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Welcome to the blog world Joe. Got your blog rss’d, and looking forward to reading your posts.

Pablo says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:03 pm

gracias por todo.

Thanks for generously sharing your knowledge & passion for photography. I eagerly await arrival of your book!

Andy Glogower says:

on February 4, 2008 at 10:35 pm

I’m not sure if I enjoy your humor or wisdom more. Both are inspirational. Thanks Joe for signing up to bare your sole. Oh, and I too took the strobist road to find you here.

Scotty Graham says:

on February 4, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Hi Joe,

you are truly an inspiration, and it is fantastic that you have joined the blogging world. You will be one of my regular stops. I have your book on order, and can’t wait to read it.



ShaolinTiger says:

on February 5, 2008 at 1:22 am

I’m subscribed Joe, keep up the posts and we’ll keep on reading :) Will be looking out for your book when it hits Malaysian shores.

Harold says:

on February 5, 2008 at 1:52 am

Terrific that you’re blogging. I just started a new blog myself and my first post was for your book and I haven’t even read it yet. It’s going to be exciting learning from the top tier. As for the times I think Dickens put it well, “it was the best of times it was the worst of times”…. :-)

Dave J says:

on February 5, 2008 at 4:49 am

Your post had me laughing out loud at 4:30am. Quite a feat!

I’ve ordered your book – looking forward to it and your journey here.

Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

tom says:

on February 5, 2008 at 10:50 pm

I have admired your work for years. Glad to see your in the mix.

Hafiz says:

on February 6, 2008 at 12:07 am

I’m very glad that you have a blog. have your rss in my reader already so i’m pretty sure that there will be so many exciting things that will happen in this blog.. I’m really looking forward for you next post.. congrats and good luck!!

Phil Monk says:

on February 6, 2008 at 9:27 am

Joe, I’ve enjoyed your materials, and this will be another great resource. Will check back for sure. Thanks for sharing, welcome to blogging.

Rafa says:

on February 8, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Congrats on the blog. I ordered your book as soon as I saw it on the Strobist. Looking forward to reading and learning from your vast experience!

SueB says:

on February 9, 2008 at 9:20 am

So glad to find your blog. I enjoyed your reading in Bar Harbor and I have been looking forward to the book. I can hardly wait to see what I might learn from you next!

For example, using some of what you”ve taught me so far, I have almost strangled myself -(trying to do that steady camera hold…I now reserve it for Sat. nites down town) oh and my new found love of portraits….(that’s easing somewhat since Grandma was heard saying “Alright already I’m heading for the light I’m an old lady and I don’t move so fast anymore.”)

Thanks for sharing I really appreciate it.

Ok Joe —the flash is ready to go, the lens cap is off (ummm check, yup.)

DominicD says:

on March 1, 2008 at 8:41 am

Thank you so much. I love your ambitions, your success and your respect for life and those in it. Great first blog. I read that “Good” line about ten times. “Good.” Hahahahahahahaah. Love it. Damn I wish I could have seen that guy’s face. That is so stolen brother.
1luv and thanks again.

Ronnie Jacob says:

on May 29, 2008 at 4:13 am

Hello Joe,

Received you book last week from Amazon. I bought it after reading David Hobby raving about it at

I am still digesting it slowly, and enjoying every bit of it.


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