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Leaving Santa Fe….

Mar 1

In Seminars & Workshops at 4:58am

Leaving a week with a great class….

Home of the amazing Rick…

And the fabulous Freddie…

And former home of the magnificent Mawgie….

Leaving Santa Fe doesn’t quite have the same ring as, Leaving Las Vegas, but there you go. It’s what I’m doing. Wheels up and goodbye to the Land of Enchantment, Sister Moon and Brother Sky. And, this week, we had a visit from Uncle Indigestion.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love teaching at Santa Fe. Reid Callanan and Renie Haiduk have put together a wonderful atmosphere for learning about and teaching photography. Love it down there. Even the cow skulls over the all the fireplaces are growing on me.

I guess I’m just not cut out for Mexican food. And when that south of the border stuff goes wrong….

I had a great class who thrived, learned, and shot great stuff despite half of them being hampered by the aftermath of a visit to one of Santa Fe’s regular Mexican family style restaurants. It was a fun evening to be sure, filled with pixel banter, gregarious waitresses, paint thinner margaritas, and….southwestern food.

Hmmm, good. Green chilies, red chilies, refried beans, black beans, salsa slop, sour cream, taco this and that. Sorry folks, I fail to see the attraction.

The stuff all runs together in the middle, ya know? It congeals into this weird eddy of colors that looks suspiciously like the Cuyahoga River in the fifties. You might remember the Cuyahoga. It was such a pungent mix of effluvia, hospital waste and spilled diesel that it would regularly combust on it’s own and give the fire department the fits. I mean, how do you put out a river fire? More water? Open bottles of Evian and throw them in? Dunno. I lived in Cleveland as a kid, and the flaming Cuyahoga was always in the news. It must have been tough for the folks at the chamber of commerce to spin that positively.

Anyway, my valiant class bull dozed their way through a bunch of intestinal difficulties and found some great stuff to shoot. I told them about being in England as a photo student, and the whole bunch of us eating at the local kebab house down the block. We’d all be printing, and inevitably one of those kebab puppies would get legs and the unfortunate consumer would have to do a Carl Lewis to the john. This would occur so regularly that we developed a code word, which was, quite predictably, “KEBAB!” It would be shouted in the dark, and we all cover up the paper and make way for whomever to dash for the white light.

So, “KEBAB!”  became a bit of a class joke this week. Tough to concentrate at the lens when you feel like you’ve just ingested the equivalent of a welterweight boxer. Jab jab! Poke! Jab! Combination! Then of course the whole deal heads for the exit ramp with the insistence and force of a busted water main. I mean, it’s gotta go somewhere.

Anyway, I digress. In the air. Heading north. Lots of air time on this trip. Great flight attendant. She has one of those knowing looks, you know what I mean? Been in the skies for a while, this one. She gave the seat belt demo with an indulgent smile and a wicked gleam in her eye and for all the world she could have had a neon sign on her forehead that was blinking, “And now for all you complete, utter morons.” Click! She also encouraged us to fasten the belt “low and tight around the waist.”

Not goin’ there, sweetheart. Given the reverb of all that spicy food, I was thinkin’ high and loose, or all those folks on that tiny plane we’re gonna have a problem with me.

Speaking of morons, she had a few on the plane, by the look of it. I got one across from me for sure. We’re on a commuter hopper and he tried to stuff something the size of a hockey bag into the microscopic overhead. It had unzipped pouches at either end of it, and stuff just started pouring out. Watch, cell phone, loose change, Tonka toys, Etch-a-Sketch, you name it. He was wearing a ball cap. Think it said something like, “Did You Get Yours’ Today?”

I had my Ipod on, listening to Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.” Had to stifle myself.  Good thing I’ve got Annie’s voice in my head much of the day. “Inside words, honey…..”

More tk……

Ian Lozada says:

on March 1, 2009 at 9:38 am

You know, hold up a lighter in the right place and you’ve got a new light source.

Chris Keels says:

on March 1, 2009 at 10:43 am

Gill and I had dinner w/ Carol and scott her husband.
Reminisced, laugh and processed the class down the the studs.
By far my favorite photo instuct once again thank you JOE
got the pics you did on my blog-
love em

David duChemin says:

on March 1, 2009 at 10:43 am

So you’re a Cockburn fan? I knew there was a reason I liked you so much. Every trip I’m on a new album (and by new, I mean old) becomes my soundtrack. On my recent Bangladesh trip it was World Of Wonders. Got 19 of his albums on my iPod.

Safe travels or Welcome Home, whichever apply right now. :-)

Martin says:

on March 1, 2009 at 11:00 am

I love starting out my Sunday mornings with one of your stories. Absolutely fantastic stuff. Keep up the great work and thanks for all the great info./experience you share so willingly.

Marshall says:

on March 1, 2009 at 11:02 am

Next time, class trip to Geronimo or The Old House? (Nope, I ain’t payin’.)

kathyt says:

on March 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Mr. McNally — you always make me laugh!!! You are such a real person — in this most of the time — pretend world we live in. Have to say I totally understand the intestinal issues — hope you are feeling back to normal soon. — kathyt

Robert Theoret says:

on March 1, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Hi Joe,

Your descriptive of the week has got me feeling the same after effect as if I had been there, I mean my gut is hurting so much from reading your narrative and laughing to hard that even I had to do a KEBAB all the way out here in Calgary, Alberta.

Just to funny, thanks for the pain. Next time I will print the article first so I can take it with me to the WC instead of not being able to get up from my computer desk.


Ken says:

on March 1, 2009 at 1:50 pm


Love the boxer lady, wow, really caught that one…

Please lets us know how you lighted her. Was Photoshop used to bump up color,etc.?

Wonderful work,

A wanna be

Ken in KY

Jase Bell says:

on March 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Bruce Cockburn, excellent stuff. You should have sang the choruses out loud….

They can’t eject you from a plane at 35,000ft.


Christopher Murphy says:

on March 1, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Be still my heart! Another Bruce Cockburn fan!! Not only are you a creative through and through, you appreciate other creatives in other fields. Like, you, Bruce is a character and one of a kind soul.

Gotta love a lightchaser that loves Cockburn tunes. When are you coming to the heart of America, Kansas City, so I can finally meet you and learn?

Fred Troilo says:

on March 1, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Joe – Thank you for a terrific week! Still feeling the ill’s but haven’t had the need to yell KEBAB since returning home. The layover in Denver was “interesting”, I also ran into Leslie. Have fun in Vancouver and safe travels.
Thanks again and I’ll be sure to say Hi to Ferg.


David Cooper says:

on March 1, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Had a good laugh at your SF food stories but I did feel a bit of sympathy for you.
Then I went for brunch to a big buffet at a local hotel right after reading it.
I guess when you mix a plate full of shrimp, scallops, cold cuts, an omlette and ten other things on the same plate it doesn’t mix well. Now I’m back and forth to the washroom this afternoon with something nasty. Either got it at lunch or you are spreading some Santa Fe mexican virus through your blog! And I thoughts Macs were safe from these bugs!

Lewis W says:

on March 1, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Sorry about your recent trip to SF (Adobe Disneyland). Remember, it’s not an adventure unless you live to tell about it.

Ranger 9 says:

on March 1, 2009 at 11:07 pm

I hope it’s changed since I was there eight years ago, but don’t get me started on the Santa Fe Workshops — other than to note that you should have stuck to eating in the on-campus cafeteria…

About Santa Fe in general, though: The reason the flight attendant on that small plane had a “knowing” look was that she knows that if you’re ON that plane, you’re a nobody.

Santa Fe’s version of “middle class” arrives and leaves via fractional JetLinx membership; Santa Fe’s version of “upscale” arrives and leaves on their own jets, several of which you might have noticed parked around the airport (do they still have that cute little adobe terminal building?) The really rich guys have former-Soviet-bloc supersonic jet fighters that they keep around the airport for “fun flying”…

So if you’re such a pleb that you have to fly commercial, you’re pretty much beneath notice. Did I mention that they lost my luggage, too?

Michael Kan says:

on March 2, 2009 at 12:27 am


I read you blog religiously but have never posted until now….
Please don’t mix the crap South-westerners serve up as Mexican food as Mexican. It ain’t!

For some reason we think we can add some peppers and corn to food and call it Mexican. I am American but am in Mexico monthly —- never find or eat that crap anywhere in Mexico!

As hosts “we” tend to think everyone loves this TexMex stuff. Next time make sure your hosts take you for some Bison and Elk steaks.


Jack Miller says:

on March 2, 2009 at 12:28 am

Ahhhh. The beautiful Mawgie. I will sleep well tonight reminiscing my first SFW shoot two years ago with the Coop and Mawgie in the old abandoned hospital. Sorry David, twill not be you that will be in my dreams…

Alan MacRae says:

on March 2, 2009 at 8:34 am


Still say your second calling will be as a comedic writer. “Kabob”…too funny. My last experience in the southwest was about 18 years ago. While the countryside was beautiful, I haven’t had a strong desire to return for the food.

Looking forward to the next time you’re close enough to attend another of your seminars.


Tom McKean says:

on March 2, 2009 at 10:16 am

Hey Joe!

Thanks for mentioning Bruce Cockburn in your blog. Downloaded it and I love it also. Fabulous!

I’m a Bruce Cockburn fan now…


Jennie Sewell says:

on March 2, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Hey Joe, thanks again for the great week! I had a great time despite the “kabob” misfortunes. Fun to see the class picture, we are a bunch of nerds :)

Fabulous Freddy Lopez says:

on March 2, 2009 at 10:24 pm


Lindsey says:

on March 2, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Could you be any cooler?

Matt Timmons says:

on March 3, 2009 at 4:23 am

Hi, I’ve never commented here before, but I live down the road and I’ve never heard of any SF workshops with you- where do I get info to sign up? Also, sounds like your food troubles were more of a health code thing. Gotta watch where you eat NM foor or you will be crapping out both ends at the same time. Let me know when you come back through- Cheers, -Matt

Gil says:

on March 3, 2009 at 8:39 am

Thanks for a memorable week! I already put into practice some of the concepts we learn last week.
Looking forward to a second up of “Joe” some time soon.

BTW Chris….My name is spelled with only one “L”. at the end. I am not a fish.

randy baran says:

on March 3, 2009 at 10:41 am


Can’t talk long, have my own Kebab problem. If you’re going to eat ’em people, don’t do it for breakfast!

Just want to acknowledge your work and your incredible ability to analyze a scene and then proceed to set up the right lighting system, control it and come up with a highly marketable image.

What I liked best is your last sentence — where your wife reminds you to keep some of the dialog inside. No better advice. You obviously have a great woman. Make sure she eats no kebabs!

Fred Troilo says:

on March 3, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Hey Gil – you mean you guys lived to together for a week and he can’t spell your name? How was Idaho? Fred

Gabriel says:

on March 4, 2009 at 12:26 am

Please don’t confuse Tex-Mex crap for Mexican food! I wouldn’t serve that slop to my cats…

cameron griffin says:

on March 5, 2009 at 9:00 pm

awsome stuff!!!

soren blaesbjerg says:

on March 6, 2009 at 4:20 am

best remidy after spicy food is natural yoghurt – not beer, not water. free tip of the day :-)

elizabeth opalenik says:

on March 8, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Joe, you continue to tickle my funny bone with your outrageous stories. so glad I have had the honor of teaching with you. will miss you this year, but EVERYONE should take a class with you someone, if only for the comic relief!!! warmly…elizabeth

ramin says:

on March 11, 2009 at 7:36 am

You put out a river fire by using lots of foam… Not that I’d really want to have to fight one.

s l l says:

on April 11, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Would someone who was there tell me with what camera and lens the group photo was taken and also explain the lighting. thank you.

Leah Perez says:

on July 23, 2010 at 12:11 am

now, i am suffering from bad indigestion and sometimes it is painful too..”`

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