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Random Thoughts in the Cold

Jan 3

In Seminars & Workshops, Thoughts at 4:12pm

Thankfully, this year will start pretty much the way last year did–with the Digital Landscape Workshop Series in the cold of Yellowstone Park. It is magnificent. Hell, even I got a couple of decent landscapes, but that was mostly cause I went over and stood by Moose.These jaunts are terrific for me, cause I get to brush up on my wildlife biology. Did you know bison use their overlarge head as a snowplow in winter months to push aside the surface snow and get to the vegetation underneath?

Actually, me in the wild is ridiculous. I can spot a creep or a weirdo three cars away on the NYC subway, but out there I’m frikkin’ clueless. I looked up last year and the whole staff was waving at me, desperately gesturing. A bison had walked up behind me and was close enough to pick my pocket. This horned beast bigger than a mini-van just strolled up beside me while I was like, checking my white balance or blowing my nose or doing some other nerdy, East Coast, big city, pansy ass flatlander bullshit . Thankfully, he was uninterested, probably cause I had been wearing my snow pants constantly for about three days and smelled bad. After he walked past, I looked out at Moose, standing on the road. He just closed his eyes and shook his head.

I’m looking forward to it. Maybe we’ll have the same driver! I tell ya, wheeling around in a six ton snowcat with somebody as psychologically brittle as the ice in the trees adds zest to the day. We had a couple brothers out with us last year who were both docs, and they sat directly behind me. After one particularly harrowing slide around the back roads, complete with narration, I must have looked very worried cause one of ’em reached around and patted me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, Joe, we’ve got the hypodermic ready.” I hope they signed up again.

Hey, how about that Kelby guy? Has he got connections or what??!! A custom made Nikkor 14-24 f2.8 lens with VR! Talk about having your cake and being able to hold it steady while you eat it!

Scott was joking around of course, and the lens don’t exist, but some folks kinda took the news and ran with it. It re-convinced me of a couple of things….A) the power and reach of Scott’s voice in this industry, and…B) the passion folks have out there for digital photography. Pretty cool. Got me to thinking.

If I could custom design a camera, what would I put in there?

First, it would be called the D3Z Transformer model, or something like that. It would have the voice of Optimus Prime and at the start of each shoot, his rich, reasonable, impassioned baritone would beseech the subject: “Give this worthy photographer time and access to do his good work upon which the fate of many hangs.”

I mean, who wouldn’t listen? If they didn’t you could switch to “Vader Mode” and the camera would start to emit aqualung type noises. A far more sinister voice would then intone: “I find your lack of enthusiasm disturbing.” The camera would then send out some sort of sonic infrared radio signal that would constrict the subject’s air passages. I mean, they figured out how to send flash exposure information wrapped around light frequencies, surely they could figure this out. Talk about useful technology.

It would have—Custom Menu Function M3—This is the  “NOT THAT LENS, ASSHOLE!”  custom function that activates automatically whenever you are about to make an irretrievably stupid lens choice. I would hear this often.

It would definitely have “The Moose Peterson Move.” This would cause the camera to stop and make a beautiful picture out of something you just walked past and didn’t see.

I would attach the blinking highlight warning to an air raid siren.

The grip on the camera would be wired to read my pulse and blood pressure, and it would also have audio sensitivity so that my muttered utterances which currently simply bounce quietly off the lcd and disappear unrecorded into the air are actually duly noted and metered for stress in my voice patterns. If my pulse or BP spikes, or I complain too much about the situation, the light, the time, the fee, or my own ineptitude, a voice from deep within the camera quietly but firmly says, “Remember Joe, you said yes.” Thus admonished, I continue to shoot.

It would have a very selective function button called the “Celebrity Tool.” You could only apply it to certain subjects who have, you know, potential. This would lighten and coif the hair, maybe trim a few pounds, smooth out the skin, automatically turn the photo vertical and slap some appropriate tabloid magazine logo on it, like, you know, “Starrzz with Buzzz!” In a sub-menu of this move would be a variety of add-on or design options:

Insertion of an incredibly cute puppy.

Selection of splashy, eye grabbing pull quotes, such as…”____Speaks! I’m Still Pissed!” Or, “Available Now! Space in My Womb!” Or perhaps an inflamed admission: “_____to _____ : It’s The Bodyguard’s Baby!” Thus packaged, it would then be dispatched wirelessly to your agent who could possibly pass this person off as “the next big thing.”

Right next to the RGB selector in the new color menu would be an autofocus mode called GWB…means the camera will focus on nothing.

I would also request a sports version of this highly advanced picture making machine that would include:

Custom Function “Brett Favre” -An auto function. Whenever you make a good frame, the camera runs around and slaps you on the butt, shouting “Way to Go!” Being whacked on the ass is vastly preferable to what is generally happening back there to most photographers in the current business climate.

The “Plaxico Burress Default Mechanism”-This is a locking device that initiates whenever you have it slung over your shoulder, dangling at your hip. It prevents the camera from accidentally shooting your leg. (Good thing Burress didn’t shoot himself in the ass, he’d have brain damage on top of everything else.)


Lessee….hey, if you want to start your New Year off right, have a laugh, be photographically enlightened, and look at pictures that leap right out of a very spring loaded imagination, go to Drew Gardner’s website and blog.

As they say in England, positively “mad” not to mention “brilliant.” Drew is based in London, and shoots and teaches everywhere, including good old Maine Photo Workshops and over at GPP in Dubai. He has categories on his site, like “Epic Fashion,” which perfectly describes his approach and invariably involves beautiful women, dangerous men, funky teenagers, all manner of woodland creatures and an entire array of barnyard animals. He also has the audacity to have a category called “eccentrics.” I pinged that and expected a self portrait.

He’s unstinting in dispensing his considerable knowledge, a genius at controlling huge shoots (fashion models and wild animals, what could go wrong?) and a hoot to boot. He’s also a good guy. I know this cause he tolerates my antics when we teach together. Last year in Dubai I tried to light a room by bouncing an SB800 off his bald pate. He was very patient, even though he got a little sunburned when I went to manual 1/1.

Check out the K-Man who almost took the plunge with a bunch of Jersey Polar Bears who ran into the Atlantic Ocean for charity. Cool post, and nice shooting. Photographers. We’re crazy, right? The manual says don’t get the camera wet, and we just don’t listen.

I’m always shooting my own stuff, but might try for some sort of personal project stuff this year, along the lines of Mark Seliger’s pictures in his elevator shaft thing. I’m thinking about, “Pictures from Under my Porch.” There’s a lot goin’ on down there, I tell ya.

I jest of course, though a buddy of mine, Aaron Ansarov, started a project called “In My Backyard” which has taken on a life, literally, of its own and the last news I had, a piece of it might run in the National Geographic. As I always say, the best pix are right there in front of you.

Hope some real good ones will be in front of all of us in 09….

Matt says:

on January 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Be careful when using Brett Farve mode, half the time it will give your it picture to photographer next to you. Trust me, as a battered Jets fan I know.

Michael Warf says:

on January 3, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hey Joe, let me know when your imaginary gear goes on sale, I’m in for two!

tom says:

on January 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Joe, sometimes you quack me up…. Your such a cool numbnuts. Hey bud, Can’t wait to see and shoot with you in a couple… I’ve been chatting with the K-man, he’s really a neat guy.
Warmest to you Annie and the midgets…

Timothy S says:

on January 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Great read! I couldn’t stop laughing.

Richard Cave says:

on January 3, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I would have a Uncle Joe function on the camera, you initiate it at weddings and when someone with pro kit sneaks up behind you and starts shooting your set up. It will emit a blinding flash in their direction as they release the shutter. You can even tweak it to give them comedy sunburn so they have to walk round with a camera shaped white bit in the middle of their face.

I would have a voice shouting wipe out on over exposure, and darth vader saying come to the dark side on under exposed images.

It would come with a sensor that iniates when anyone of the short wearing fraternity comes near, it would scream “strobist”.

The sensor would also listen out for anyone complaining about the fee, it would automatically dial John Harrington.

It would also dispense some pain killers every time you post a blog as I always end up hurting myself laughing.

Thanks for the post, made me smile.


Tim says:

on January 3, 2009 at 6:05 pm

The Bison didn’t bother you because you didn’t know it was there. You weren’t putting out negative vibes for the Bison to pick up. Since you acted normally the Bison acted normally. Of course if that had been a lion !!!

Mark K. says:

on January 3, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Love those custom functions. Though the Brett Farve function probably wouldn’t work well in December. And the Tony Romo function doesn’t work well from Thanksgiving on. And the Donovan McNabb function would just think you’re always giving it a hard time for no good reason.

Wait…my camera came with a manual?

Here’s to a great 2009!

Teymur Madjderey (icedsoul photography) says:

on January 3, 2009 at 7:54 pm

awesome read. and maaaan would I love custon photogear in any form. well well. :-) and just booked the workshop with you in venice coming june can’t wait!!!
enjoy your year!

Justin Scott says:

on January 3, 2009 at 8:41 pm

That top shot is beautiful.

Johnny Yuma says:

on January 3, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Ah yes. The voice of Optimus Prime as you attempt to ‘fly the plane’. “Pull up – Pull up….” That should get you some elbowroom.

John Leonard says:

on January 3, 2009 at 11:21 pm

You know Optimus Prime’s voice is done by Peter Cullen. I’m sure Nikon could hire him on.

Brad says:

on January 4, 2009 at 3:40 am

Geez… I knew you were in a good mood when we talked the other day. You must’ve been working on this! There are only a handful of people who can truly appreciate your knowledge of the bison’s use of its “overlarge head,” but I was doubled over in laughter from that sentence to the end. And I hope oh-so-badly that your friend is still there to drive you around the park… You two got along so well. I know Moose can’t wait to see you again in a few days, but I have a feeling that you won’t be getting any warnings from him if those bison try to pickpocket you again… Enjoy the winter wonderland, and travel safe!

Leif says:

on January 4, 2009 at 5:39 am

Hi Joe
From where do you get all your ideas – you are fantastic!
Heard about some earthquakes in Yellowstone – was that you and your friends
//Leif (Sweden)

Richard Cave says:

on January 4, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Joe just checked todays USGS seismic chart for Yellowstone, my advice is get out of the area ASAP.

They have 140 tremors up to mag 3.5 in one fault area, slap bang on top of the magma chamber, 400 quakes in one week. In a 2 mile area.

Sorry if I am being alarmist, but its one place I would not like to be now.


Karen Nace says:

on January 4, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Love the custom functions – especially the Vader voice – it would need the intense breathing too, of course.

Reminds me of a hilarious comic after the D3X drama. Have you seen this?

Eric Schneider says:

on January 4, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Don’t feel bad about the Bison. That sort of thing has happened to me a few times, though mostly I just get surrounded by large coyotes. Oops.

I’m always left thinking “a wide angle would really work great here, on the other hand, I could beat the coyote off with the telephoto…” Ah, decisions, decisions…


Elizabeth Gower says:

on January 4, 2009 at 8:22 pm

As always your post brings a lot of smiles. Love your pictures.

Les Doerfler says:

on January 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

Joe, don’t forget the very useful Uncle Fester feature.

If your flash unit fails while on a shoot, you can just pop a standard lightbulb in your mouth and keep shooting. Don’t forget to adjust your WB though. 😉

If my camera had a voice it would most likely sound like Don Knotts.

Bill Ferguson says:

on January 5, 2009 at 7:50 pm

I haven’t laughed that hard in weeks…thanks Joe!!!

Scott says:

on January 5, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Just got your “Moment it Clicks” book for Christmas – you’re a genius! I wish I had the equipment and the talent to control all the subtle lighting details of my photos.

Love your description of a custom camera. Give the engineers a few years, I’m sure they’ll get pretty close!

Michael S. says:

on January 6, 2009 at 1:40 am

Geez, where do you come up with all of this? You are definitely out there (must be a fun ride in that head of yours!)

Hehehe….enjoy the cold in Yellowstone. Wish I could be there :)

David says:

on January 6, 2009 at 3:30 am

Man that bison story is just a riot. ANd I bet no one got a picture of it or of Moose rolling his eyes and shaking his head. That would be priceless. Thanks for the alugh Joe, lord know we need it these days.

Richard B says:

on January 6, 2009 at 7:19 am

Don’t worry not that cold (or dangerous) in Dubai, currently 18-25C (night-day).

Just heard that your comming this year which is great news.
(As soon as GPP open up I’ll be and the front of the que for booking.)

robert norman says:

on January 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

‘psychologically brittle’—i was ON that van with you and know exactly what you mean—very funny!!! (think she reads this blog?) :)

Sybren A. Stüvel says:

on January 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Even though I’m a fervent Canon shooter, you make the Nikon D3Z Transformer sound like I want it!

Happy New Year, Joe, and all the best wishes from Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

wow power leveling says:

on January 9, 2009 at 12:54 am

Rafael Wild says:

on January 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm

hey joe

i like you photos

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