responsiveslider_lol_02 The Language of Light DVD - More
MeetJoe_02 Meet Joe McNally - More
inthebag What’s in the Bag? - More

Notes, Thanks and…. In the Beginning, There Was Greg….

Oct 22

In Friends, News, Thoughts, Upcoming Events at 8:41am

Lessee….bunch of stuff….this just in, from David Hobby….many thanks to him from one half of JoeBob….me and Bob Krist did have a punch up on the new 900 video, and we’re thinking of doing a tag team guest appearance now on WWE;-) I loved Joe Bob’s reviews. Just loved ’em. My kind of movies always scored well, in other words, those kind of movies where stuff blows up, the women are as fast and sleek as the cars, and there is a subtle exploration of the nuances, depths and shadings of the human condition…you know the kind of movie I’m talking about….sort of a “Harold and Maude Meet the Killer Bugs from Ice Planet X” type of thing.

David’s onto something with that chainsaw. I think I’ll put it in my cargo bags, and it’ll be the first thing I bring out on location when I get to someone’s house. Kind of an ice breaker, ya know? More on that tk…

Many thanks to Scott Kelby for the mention of the Geographic cover story this month. I’ve shot for the yellow magazine for over 20 years now, which is wild to think about. For me, it’s just humbling to share ink with folks who have gone before, like Jim Stanfield, Bill Allard, Sam Abell, Jim Richardson….list goes on. More on adventures with Wilma, our striking cover subject, in blogs tk.

Ahh, location work. Shooting the spread above, we slid into a Spanish national park at sunrise, because it offered the only glimpse of the type of rocky terrain Wilma and her cohorts most likely experienced in their day. The cave where they found the new Neanderthal DNA, about 30 klicks away, is now surrounded by deciduous forest. I was a tad nervous, as we unloaded things, cause we did not have a permit to shoot in the park.

I’ve snuck into more places and shot pictures from more spots that I ain’ supposed to be than I can remember. Nothing unusual about that. Most photogs wouldn’t have a portfolio to show if they actually listened to the word “no.” And there are lots of folks out there with the word “no” already teed up on the tips of their tongues. I call ’em the walkie talkie assholes. Give somebody a 3 week course, a flashlight and a walkie talkie, and they can ruin your day. But I digress.

I was more worried about the light. Sunrise was not looking good. Pulled out an Elinchrom Ranger pack, which is my field light of choice. Gelled it warm and slapped a tight grid spot on it. Made some decent pix, but there was no rationale for this warm golden light hitting Wilma’s face, while the rest of the world was obviously gray.

But I should remember this morning the next time the light don’t work out, but, being a photog, I probably won’t. A slice of sunrise came through a break in the Eastern clouds, and hit the rock face behind Wilma. It was all I needed. I got about 10 frames and we were done.

Then we decided to move Wilma and give it another go, as it were. She is, well, not a delicate flower. She is 200 pounds of silicone wrapped around a steel frame. The best way to lift her is to circle round back, crouch a little bit, throw your arms around her ample pelvis, and basically give her a good, hard shag. Up she goes off her pedestal, and then you can trundle her, rather ingloriously, wherever you want.

We were in the process of doing this when around the corner came a patrol car with two Spanish National Park rangers in it. “Hola!” “Yes, she is naked!. But she’s not real!  No, its not what you think. See? She’s not inflatable!” The whole thing had to have looked hinky and kinky at the same time.

Luckily, one of our party spoke fluent and evidently persuasive Spanish, and engaged the officers while I told Brad to take the shot cards and put ’em someplace the sun don’t shine. We were allowed to leave, along with Wilma. I miss her, actually. When she was wrapped back up in bubbles for her drive back to the Netherlands, it was quite emotional. I told her it would be alright. Even if we never see each other again, we’ll always have Spain.

Photo East is coming up, and the toy warehouse will be spilling all over the Javits Center in NY, with widgets, gadgets, biddybops, thingamawhooziewhatzis, fast glass, smart cameras, whopper hard drives, and a lot of yakkin ’bout pictures. I’ll be doing some of it myself, teaching small flash on Thursday morning, doing a couple stints in the Nikon Booth, and signing some posters for Epson.

A word about Epson and Dano Steinhardt. I ain’t exactly Moose Peterson, JP Caponigro, Jay Maisel or any of these kind of master printer/shooter guys, but Dano continues to be an enormous source of faith and support for my studio, year after year. He is one of those guys who stays in the background, facilitating photographers, showing them the latest and greatest Epson stuff that in turn makes their stuff look great, and all the while, one of the best kept secrets in the industry is that Dano is one helluva shooter. He makes incredibly beautiful imagery out of things most of us walk right by. I think the key here is seeing photographs. He sees. And then he distills all the jumble and cacophony that attends just about any walkabout of modern life into clean lines and stunning symmetry that makes sense, not to mention beautiful pictures.

Same thing can be said about Kriss Brungrabber and Mark Astman of the Bogen Corporation. Their commitment is unflagging in support of photogs, and photographic education. If we decide to do something together, we do it on handshake, and its a done deal. Good people, and Mark in particular, who has been out on a bunch of my workshops, is a striking presence as a photo subject. Sort of a William Holden who knows everything about Elinchrom flashes:-) I’ll be hanging in the Bogen booth a bunch, with my buds Bill Frakes, Drew Gardner, and of course, Moose.

Strikes me a whole bunch of the yakkin’ about to occur on the West Side of NY is gonna be about light, and lighting, which means flash. Hmmmm…..interesting thing, this flash stuff. Lots of folks playing with it, yanking it around, trying different stuff, myself included. It’s all good, some of it is even really good. But it gets me to thinkin’, always a dangerous thing.

I really feel alot of the conversations about flash and light we’re having nowadays wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for Greg. When I say “Greg” I mean Heisler. To me, he’s always been one of the one name photogs, up there with Annie and Avedon.

Greg changed the way we all see. He burst onto the magazine photo scene in NY, oh, about 1980 or so, trotting out Norman 200B’s, gels, camera work and color that popped our eyes, stopped our hearts, and made for legions of imitators, myself included. He started working for Geo, LIFE and doing annuals for outfits like RCA (Remember that name? Remember the dog and the victrola?) and doing special projects like Day in the Life Australia.

His take outta the land of Oz just flat out flattened folks. He brought to the pages of that book color and drama that had legions of experienced shooters looking around and going “Wassup???” And of course the next question was, “How do I do dat?”

In the years since, Greg has shot about a bazillion TIME covers, and done it all, from the movie lots to the halls of state. No one has done it better, or with more panache and versatility. He single-handedly changed magazine photography by introducing a “look” (I might call it style) that all of sudden re-directed the missions of magazines and editors everywhere.

Olympic athletes have been one of his fortes. I’ve been involved with Olympians to a degree as well. You know, every four years, you get a call and start working with these amazing athletes. Its been fun to do.  And every four years, like clockwork, I have had my ass kicked. I would shoot somebody, think it worked real well, and then Greg bombs into town for a day, no less, and leaves with this ass kicking TIME cover. Frustrating. Maddening. Inspiring. Head shaking. In a word….Greg. A look see at his website is a must.

JBelle says:

on October 22, 2008 at 9:05 am

Actually, here in The ‘Kan EWA there has been no copy of NG/Wilma to be found! So we had to call New York for ours and it should be here any day. We cannot wait to see it. This must be your best yet!

Emon says:

on October 22, 2008 at 11:44 am

Are you there at PhotoPlus on Saturday as well?

Kevin Steele says:

on October 22, 2008 at 12:11 pm

That was a great Natl Geo issue and I loved the shot you mention as well as the farmhouse shot with the muslin backdrop. Nice. BTW you mentioned Tom Sperduto the other day, he just posted his Aurora@15 image which is a project that us Aurora photogs submit to being randomly chosen for a single 48 hour window over a period of four months. Once tapped, an image needs to be created based on the previous image and so on. It may already move past Tom to Gale Zucker, then Michael Clark (changes every two days).

Bay says:

on October 22, 2008 at 1:22 pm

You rule Joe, I love the story about Wilma – you’re like a modern day, completely f’d up Romeo and Juliet :) Although she’s already long gone, so where does that leave you?
I have your book, The Moment it Clicks, and it’s amazing. Thanks for continuing to share stories and thoughts through the blog.

Mark, In New Jersey says:

on October 22, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Wilma seems like you type of gal, Joe. Bet you never threatened to leave her by the side of the road, like you do to your assistants.

But, um…did you mean Harold and Kumar? Wasn’t Harold and Maude that old 1971 move starring the stunning Ruth Gordon?

Hope to see you at the Expo!

Billy Mitchell says:

on October 22, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Joe, A lot of us have those early mentors. For lighting, mine was Dick Balli. The creator of the first umbrella for photography. We met in the sixties. The man knew light and how to use it. He created the Balcar light products and I still shoot with Balcar today.

imajes says:

on October 22, 2008 at 5:08 pm

“And there are lots of folks out there with the word “no” already teed up on the tips of their tongues. I call ’em the walkie talkie assholes”

In the UK, we call them jobsworthies, as in “Nah, more than my job’s worth.”

Ken says:

on October 22, 2008 at 7:19 pm


If you want to see why Pro guys like you don’t get paid enough for your corporate work, see this graphic “goodness” at the NYT

Gracious giving

Jim says:

on October 22, 2008 at 9:22 pm

I noticed that you also had the picture of the day 10-21-08 on the NGS web site. Niagara falls with a rainbow. Neat

Jay Mann says:

on October 23, 2008 at 2:37 am

I always wondered how to spell “thingamawhooziewhatzis”. Got two copies of the “Wilma Nat Geo” locally. Nice. Next time I see you I ‘ll be looking for an autograph.

Leif says:

on October 23, 2008 at 11:10 am

Always nice to hear the story behind – especially when its told by you Joe.
Im so disappointed I cant get a day of to visit Nikon and your workshop i Stockholm next week.
Good luck
Regards Leif (Venice workshop)

Scott Kivowitz says:

on October 24, 2008 at 9:01 pm


I really enjoyed your lecture today at the Peach Pit booth. I stood there watching, and Twittering 😉 and felt very glad that a photographer that myself and so many other look up to is so down to earth and whole hearted. Thank you for inspiring me, and sharing your photography with the world.


Jase Bell says:

on October 25, 2008 at 5:37 pm

And I quote, “basically give her a good, hard shag.”.

You are either into birdwatching or watching Blackadder, if you like Monty Python then there’s a good chance you like Blackadder as well.

Mike C says:

on October 27, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Hey Joe,
Saw you on Saturday at the Nikon booth doing the SB900 demo. Loved the way you handled yourself when the lights wouldn’t work.

Mike C

Ryan McBride says:

on October 29, 2008 at 4:33 pm


How would i go about getting Nat. Geo’s october issue with your work in it since that issue isn’t on the shelf anymore?



Malinda Hartong says:

on October 30, 2008 at 11:09 am

O Man. In trouble again! Thanks to clicking KRIST, I’ll be going to Columbus to make funny faces at Bob from the audience. Joe, ya gotta make me promise to cut back on the spending. I gotta save up for some of those SB900’s. I just glare at my 800’s and wish they had that tricky one button remote! Argh!

Acceltyimmive says:

on November 4, 2008 at 11:28 am

I don’t even know,fellow!) continued to write in the same vein, it is interesting people!

Trevor Lush says:

on November 7, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Greg’s 1988 SI piece on Muhammad Ali and his entourage was a huge early inspiration to me. I just remember sitting there, starring at the pages and being totally blown away and inspired.

Leave a Reply