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A Valentine for Annie…

Feb 14

In Thoughts at 1:46pm

Annie (Photo by Ken Sklute)My wife Annie (on the left, photo by Ken Sklute) is worried about this new blog of mine. (This entry should confirm her worst fears.) You see, she knows I don’t have much of a conversational filter. I occasionally say the first thing that comes to my mind, be it reasonable or ridiculous. And of course, with a blog, what you say is what you say. It’s out there, sorta like I’m out there.


It’s a bit like public speaking. I occasionally feel for the organizers of an event or workshop when I am at the podium and they are at the back of the hall downing valiums or chugging tequila to quell the anxiety over whether I’m going to drop the f-bomb on an unsuspecting crowd.

I don’t mean to be unpredictable. It’s just that in my mildly fuzzy grasp of the day to day, I find stuff funny in an irreverent kind of way. Annie is used to this of course, seeing me at breakfast with the news up on my computer, making a series of noises only she can interpret. She has a name for one. She calls it “snortling,” which is a cross between a mild chortle and an outright snort.

She knows me real well, obviously. She can often anticipate my coming out with something completely out of bounds at a restaurant, for instance, and, smiling beatifically, quietly say, “Can we use an indoor voice, honey?”

And of course, she’s got the eyebrow. It’s amazing. Specifically, it is her left eyebrow. Now most people’s brows, along with everything else on their face, are subjected to constant, moment to moment, twitches, ticks, winks and nods, a steady flow of minute reactions to the stimuli of the day. But Annie’s left eyebrow has seemingly escaped the control of the muscles usually associated with regulating facial architecture. It has somehow gotten connected to a steam driven catapult, much like the ones they use on aircraft carriers. I always know when that brow is near her hairline, I gotta reel it back in. It’s extraordinary, and, truth be told, extraordinarily beautiful.

[More after the jump]

You see, I’m in this club. Along with a few million other guys. We are card carrying members, have a secret handshake and hand signs similar to the tap to the nose Redford and Newman used in “The Sting.” It’s a huge club cause every lumpy guy who somehow ended up with a wonderful woman in his life is continually thunderstruck by that event. You look over at her at the end of the day and scratch your head. “How exactly did I swing this?” you ask yourself.

Cause face it, most guys just recently stood upright and discovered the miracle of opposable thumbs and the world of possibilities that presents. It’s pretty cool. And being in the club really can get you through the worst of days in the field.

Like a day I had in the scintillating world of corporate photography, shooting the triumvirate of big shots running literally one of the biggest corporations on the face of the planet. Here’s the deal: One of ’em I knew was never a problem. He was amiable, rarely said anything, and you could put him just about anywhere in the photo, a bit like furniture. The main honcho (Mr. X) was also actually okay too, except for the fact he was about 5’6″, and tilted the scales at maybe 160. His number two (Mr. Y) was at least six feet and a deuce, deuce and a half.

Enter the PR folks, all vibrating like tuning forks. “Now you can make Mr. X look bigger than Mr. Y, yes???” This of course is not possible when ya gotta pose them so close they could be the cover of a romance novel.

“No,” I said, “That’s not going to happen.” And I would explain why, stopping just short of a full blown dissertation on the physical properties of matter.

One year (I went through this every year for several years, my own corporate groundhog day) their solution was to have me slip a heavy duty piece of foamcore under the muslin drop, figuring Mr. X could stand on that and Mr. Y would not.

I was like, fellas, you think they’re not going to notice this?

Sure enough, the little big man was on the foamcore and I tried to maneuver his bulky deputy into a spot off the board when he turned and said to me, “I’m not standing in a hole! F#@xk off!” and gave me the finger. Only time in my life I’ve ever been flipped the bird by the head of a major multi-national corporation.

I thought he explained himself well, so I let him stand wherever he wanted to.

Those days are just impossible, right? You’re not a miracle worker, you’re a photographer. Sheesh. You have days like that when the demands are unreasonable, and the expectations are not achievable, and they need to be delivered yesterday and you are surrounded by empty souls dressed in all sorts of Armani who figure the only way to stay afloat in their own personal sea of insecurity is to use the freelancer as a life preserver.

And it is miserable, if you let it be. But then, you smile inwardly and you look around the room. And you remember this lovely, decent, funny, smart, patient, kind, sweet, beautiful person you can’t possibly deserve is in your life.

And everybody on location is debating, and sweating, and having issues, and making demands, and… all goes away. None of it matters. Cause you’re in the club.

Annie, I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day……Joe

Billy Mitchell says:

on February 14, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Way to go Joe.

James says:

on February 14, 2008 at 2:27 pm

it’s a great club indeed.

Ken Lawson says:

on February 14, 2008 at 2:48 pm

My wife says of me, “Ken does not think much of himself, but that is all he thinks about.

She also says, “Ken can complicate a straight pin”

and she say more like when she is sick. “Ken is very helpful when I am sick, he holds me up so I can do the dishes”.

You think I may learn someday after 20 wives!


not really, we have been married since 1965

Rick says:

on February 14, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Annie – I think Joe really likes you! Give him a big kiss.

Libby says:

on February 14, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Very sweet, Joe! Obviously, Annie’s in a club, too.

Paul says:

on February 14, 2008 at 4:27 pm

I’m a card carrying member myself! Great Valentines Day post, Joe. The picture of your wife is gorgeous. I went to your friend’s site, too. Wow!!!

Albert says:

on February 14, 2008 at 5:08 pm

I am a regular card caring member of the club also Joe.
By the way I just realized this week that it was you that took the picture of the lady hanging in the air with the Hollywood letters in the background. It has been one of my favs since I first saw it as a teenager.

Laurel says:

on February 14, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Annie is the sweetest! Please send her my regards! Happy V Day!

Walt Anderson says:

on February 14, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Wow, very nicely put Joe! I only got my special wife a card and some great flowers.
This is likely the only time that I will be in the same club as Joe McNally.

Timothy Broyer says:

on February 14, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Amen to that. I’m lost without my girl.

Great site. Great blog. Great insight.


M Todd Thiele says:

on February 14, 2008 at 5:46 pm

Card carrying member here. Many of us have outkicked our coverage.

Gerard says:

on February 14, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Joe, you are so right. And you are doubly blessed. A beautiful wife, AND she photographs?????!!!!!

Cris says:

on February 14, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Best club ever!

Lloyd Eldredge says:

on February 14, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Charter member here.

Tom Surratt says:

on February 14, 2008 at 6:43 pm

This is why you have her. Never forget to tell her…

Richard Cooke says:

on February 14, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Whoa! You mean those things on my hands opposite my fingers are called thumbs – and you can use them to grab things! I keep learning something new everyday. My beautiful wife indulges me by being my model (among other things).

I sure hope Annie gave you a great big kiss and hug after reading your post.

Frank Little says:

on February 14, 2008 at 9:48 pm

Really nice post Joe.

Robyn says:

on February 14, 2008 at 10:02 pm

That is one of the best Valentine’s tributes ever. With more posts like this, she’ll be your biggest fan, and she’ll be the first to say, “So why didn’t you post today?” She is quite beautiful.

Jim Donahue says:

on February 14, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Atta Boy joe..great to know your a human

Jason says:

on February 14, 2008 at 11:42 pm

What a great f***in post Joe – I loved it! Should I tap you on the nose now? *grin* (In the club myself…, check out my Valentine’s day post too over at…from the heart as well! )

Rob Byron says:

on February 14, 2008 at 11:48 pm

Hi Joe,

Just wanted to let you know that you lost a subscriber today. It is me. Apparently I had subscribed twice with different addresses but I’m thinking that maybe I should resubscribe with the other address again just to make sure I don’t miss one of your blog entries. They are true gems.

Oh, and don’t think you fool any of us. We all know that Annie’s a lucky gal. My bet is that she knows it too.

Best regards,


Roger Loeb says:

on February 15, 2008 at 12:02 am

Great post, Joe! She truly is a wonderful lady, and you wrote an appropriate tribute. I have no idea why she puts up with you, but I also don’t have any idea why my version puts up with me. And, yes, my version has that eyebrow trick that defies physiology and is impossible to ignore.

Rave blogs are nice, but roses, chocolates, and diamonds must not be ignored :-)

— Rog

Jonathan Ryan says:

on February 15, 2008 at 4:24 am

Oh yeah. Great post 😀 And a fabulous picture. But I bet she stills says “you posted WHAT on your blog? and WHICH picture???” 😉

Hassel Weems says:

on February 15, 2008 at 5:19 am

Joe, I am in the club as anyone who knows both my wife and I can attest. Some even enjoy telling me to my face.

Thanks for the blog.

Dan says:

on February 15, 2008 at 9:35 am

I’ve been to several of your teaching sessions, Joe, including the PSW workshop out in Red Rock Canyon. You are very good teacher. This day is no exception….and it has nothing to do with photography. Thanks for the gift of your knowledge.

RC says:

on February 15, 2008 at 10:16 am

It was such an awesome post. I went home and showed Jenn.. she loved it. What a fitting post for Valentines day.. I should learn. Cant wait for your next outing..

-club member since 2007

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on February 15, 2008 at 10:20 am


A wonderful gift to your wife, and to us all. That you understand and say this is the best. After 24 years of marriage to my stunning wife, I understand your feelings and second them. This is a club, unlike what Groucho Marx one said, that we all should want to be members of in our lives. You are the best!

I was one of your lightstands [a/k/a volunteers] at a Nikon Speedlight demo this October at PhotoExpoPlus. I learned more about my SB-800s in that short time than months of study and practice. Thanks so much!


Russ says:

on February 15, 2008 at 12:17 pm

I don’t normally respond to blogs. But this one…I just had to. What an incredibly awesome testament. It all struck very close to home. (Yes, I’ve got my card here somewhere.) Well done (to both of you! ALL of us!)

Susan says:

on February 17, 2008 at 6:53 pm

It is a special club indeed…and I share the honor of being in it as well. What a wonderful post!

Shawn King says:

on February 20, 2008 at 9:25 am

Card carrying and proud member of same club. :)

Daniel Root says:

on February 27, 2008 at 10:12 am

Hi Joe,

Wonderful words. I am also a card carrying member of this blissful club.

Siddharth Jain says:

on June 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

Mr McNally, U are really lucky to have such a loving wife and she is really lucky to have such a loving husband.

As for your blog, as always, I can’t help smiling and even letting a chuckle at some of your lines (For ex – The anxiety of the organizers in this blog).

All the best.

Caroline says:

on April 8, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I just came across this post doing a Google search for another Joe McNally item and just had to stop & comment. As the wife of a wonderful, up and coming photographer, I can only aspire to be what Annie is to you…what an inspiration you both are to us all! What a wonderful way to express your feelings – Cheers to you both!

Thank you for sharing not only your talent but “reasonable & ridiculous” thoughts as well.

Ed Davis says:

on December 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Annie. You are a beautiful woman! Eyes that a guy can fall into just like my wife of 36 yrs. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

Allene Ferko says:

on June 7, 2012 at 3:56 am

Im curious if you ever have problems with what people post? Recently it seems to have become an epidemic, except that recently it seems to have become better. Do you agree?

Life with Kaishon says:

on February 26, 2014 at 6:20 am

I had to look up and see if you were married after you said you did laundry in today’s post : ).
Annie is beautiful.
I think being married is kind of hard. I try to get better at it, but I fail. I realize every day how selfish I am.

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