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Apr 28

In Travels at 8:19am

Was in Paso Robles last week, teaching a workshop launched by my buddy Syl Arena, he of the Pixsylated blog spot and the homemade wood frame box with 12 Canon flashes attached to radio poppers operating at high speed sync, otherwise known as the Hi Speed Square of Death. I think he did some self portraits with it, and that’s how his hair got that way.

Syl’s doing a cool thing, opening the Paso Robles Workshops, which promises to be an interesting, eclectic series of offerings in an interesting, eclectic setting. He knows everybody from the mayor to the police chief to the winery gang, and all have welcomed the workshop as another creative turn for the town. Everyone was gracious and easygoing, but then again, this is the heart of sun drenched, mellow, wine country, where conversations are dominated by words like “nose,” “big fruit,” “hint of licorice and elderberry,” and the like. You’d be mellow, too, if you drank that much wine. At times the entire town seemed to be a large day room at a high end psychiatric facility, with lots of pleasant people making a sort of disconnected wander through their day. It was really quite lovely and easygoing. Syl also fixed us up with a couple of cool locations that were right out of The Shining. (See above–two SB-900 units out the window, one inside, lighting the model’s face, with a 1/8″ Honl grid.)

Speaking of distracted, I left with the apartment keys, which meant that David Hobby, who is teaching there this week, had to jimmy several windows to gain access. Sorry, man. I tried to think of something devious prank to do, like take several of the diet Mountain Dews in David’s refridge and attach them to pocket wizards connected to a heating element, so I could trigger them remotely and they would explode at all hours of the night. But I realized to work out a flash engineering marvel like that I would have to call, uh, David Hobby. Oh, well.

The workshop signaled a return to working with MD Welch, who just launched a blog as bent as MD himself. He’s a good shooter who, given the fact he hails from idyllic Reno, Nevada has a wild portfolio. Any collection of pictures of Roller Derby gals with names like “Priscilla the Killa” bears looking at, I tell ya. And, between the two of us, we have most of the dialogue to virtually every bad movie out there memorized.

Headed to LA, and had a great weekend with Annie, who is also traveling, and then got up at 3am Sunday and hit LAX, bound for NY. Dubious about this Delta/Northwest merger thing. Delta’s a decent airline merging with a bad one, and the resulting economy of size probably spells more passenger pain.

Fast forward to NY, where I am in a hotel just by Madison Square Garden, which is relatively quiet right now, given the fact that it is playoff time so the Knicks aren’t playing. This room has all the charm of a holding cell for recidivist offenders. Well, I guess it’s not so bad. It has the basics–bed, roof, bowl, spoon, latrine. Last night I swear I heard something that distinctly sounded like a police baton being dragged across bars and a harsh, world weary voice shouting “Lockdown!”

My view when I woke up….complete with an individual promoting his series of books that evidently coach people to riches by becoming real estate predators. Nice.

Oh well, I calmed myself by gazing serenely out at the bucolic view from my window. I love the smell of rotting garbage and diesel fumes. Combine that with the racket of a broken air conditioner, the wail of police sirens and insistent blaring of taxi horns mixed with bellowed Russian curses from the drivers of those taxis, and well, my joy is complete. There’s a set of office windows not 20 feet from mine. If those folks come in soon, I swear I’m gonna moon ’em.

The ironical fact of being a shooter. You’re told to charge, gotta be there, we need ya man, you’re essential, a star, a go to guy! We’re such insecure sons of bitches that we still listen to all that crap like a googly eyed schoolgirl, and even believe it, right up to the moment we check into hotel reality.

Photographers. We’re often like brightly colored wind up toys placed in front of a brick wall.

Life on the road…..more tk.

Paso Robles Workshops says:

on April 28, 2009 at 8:39 am

Morning Joe.

David’s wondering if he has you to thank for the short-sheeted bed in his room. (Of course, we could blame that on MD, too.)

Enjoy NYC. Come back to Paso when you need to decompress.


Jon T says:

on April 28, 2009 at 8:57 am

Never mind Joe we still luv ya!

Just finished Hot Shoe Diaries – so useful, great fun, and makes me want to come to the US for a workshop.

Ain’t gonna happen anytime soon sadly… :(

M.D. Welch says:

on April 28, 2009 at 9:38 am

I guess being called bent by a guy who is going to moon office workers would offend most people, but I am curious if I get a medal or something.

Great working with you Joe. I learned so much. Sorry to hear about the holding cell, but it beats the drunk tank in Russia, I am sure.


Adam says:

on April 28, 2009 at 10:16 am

Great first pic.

I wonder if you even read those comments?

Anyways Joe I must say you are realy talented guy and makes amateurs like me wanting to be better and better each photo!

I’m from Poland and I was in book store few days ago watching some Sex books (doh!) and my girlfriend shows me your book, they translate it “catch a momment” (should be The Moment It Clicks) and I’m sayin I know this guy and she said “he writes so cool”.

Yeah I will probobly get this book for my birthday I was hoping for sex book ! But yours book will do just fine hehe.

You make me wanna switch to Nikon system you bastard! I’m Olympus guy and I hate prieces of Nikon lenses..

Cheers and good luck !

PS> Nice TV…

Matt Sinclair says:

on April 28, 2009 at 10:18 am

The New Yorker right – they cover the air conditioners with pillowcases to keep the cold air out of the room :)

Jason Lykins says:

on April 28, 2009 at 10:55 am

Don’t feel too bad. Last week I was on assignment in Louisville Kentucky and they had me sharing a room with another photographer. Fucking cheap bastards… Read the diaries twice now, great book. Great way of explaining things.

Jose Fernandez says:

on April 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Interesting contrast. Small flash in paradise followed by long exposure in hotel hell. Blogging the window snap is a sure sign of distress…

reg says:

on April 28, 2009 at 3:04 pm

HAHA for once i have one up on Joe McNally.
I was a go to guy last week, had to make up for another photog flaking and had to travel around Ireland photographing tourist sites.
I got to eat in one of Irelands most respected restaurants, AND got to sleep here

gotta be honest tho I totally ripped off your canoing shot for one of the images.

Jason Schorr says:

on April 28, 2009 at 3:33 pm

hey dont worry about the room! NYC has some great stuff ALWAYS. GET OUT THERE AND FIND EM!

Rusty says:

on April 28, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Hey Joe. Thanks very much for the great workshop last week. You, Syl, and MD were all very nice, patient, and helpful. I learned a lot and had a great time!

Mark says:

on April 28, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Knicks…OUT. Rangers….OUT. Joba…back to the pen! Mets….struggling.

Ah! Springstime in New York.

Welcome home.

Lindsey says:

on April 28, 2009 at 11:39 pm

I kept thinking as I read this post… “doesn’t Joe live in NYC? What the hell is he doing in a hotel?”…. In any event, another awesome post! I’m still workin’ my way thru the Hot Shoe Diaries and loving EVERY MINUTE OF IT, thank you! Just a suggestion… get on TWITTER! :)

Tatiana Boyle says:

on April 29, 2009 at 12:26 am

The “Inn” at Jack London’s Square in Oakland, CA might “compete” with that NYC hotel in a category of extreme lodging; and Oakland might compete …

Chris Dickey says:

on April 29, 2009 at 2:45 am

You wrote “Dubious about this Delta/Northwest merger thing. Delta’s a decent airline merging with a bad one, and the resulting economy of size probably spells more passenger pain.”

So how was the flight? I am a pilot for NWA , I mean Delta, and think you will be pleased with the results of the merger.

Also and avid photographer. spend most of my time on layovers shooting what ever I can.

Have both you books and think they are both fantastic. Both are excellent info to help the average photographer become a much better shooter.

Zhu Lihan says:

on April 29, 2009 at 5:01 am

i’ m a student from P.R.China, i love photography. when i saw the AD of nikon D3 i knew you. i saw a lot of pictures shooted by you and national geography, i’m really interest with your speedlight using skill. how can you do that! how can be a good photographer? what do you think of a 15-year-old student study photography by him self? Thank you!

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on April 29, 2009 at 8:54 pm


Good to see that your travel per diem and expense account has not taken a hit in this economy, and you were in the first class New York City hotel. For just a couple hundred more you could have stayed at the Marriott Marquis. But then, it is a longer walk to B&H. Hope you had the $35.00 egg breakfast special as well.

Great new book.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Norm Cooper says:

on April 30, 2009 at 10:18 am

Joe! thanks for all of the invaluable photographic wisdom so graciously shared at the Paso Robles Workshop (4M)…

looks like Syl picked your accommodations again and now he’s figuring out how to get at 18 of us down into that construction pit for some shooting.

again, many many many thanks for a GREAT week!


Nick says:

on April 30, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Alright Joe, figured you would get a kick out of this, and I thought this was the best place to share it with you. This past weekend, i was part of a herpetology class that went to southern illinois to wrangle up and identify anything that was slimy or had scales. On the last day, i saw a snake we hadn’t seen yet, grabbed his ass (snakes don’t have asses, but who’s keeping track), and he turned around and bit me on the hand. Who would have thought snakes and my ex would have so much in common! =) Anyways, I grabbed him, pulled out the few teeth he had left in me, put him up in a tree, and fired off a few frames. Got some really cool shots. When I got back, and as I was taking out the memory card, I noticed some dried blood on the body of my D200. Needless to say, i just got done removing this caked on blood from my camera. Extreme photography at its best


LisaNewton says:

on April 30, 2009 at 11:36 pm

I love the view of your hotel…………………….:)

BTW, I’d like to invite you to post any California pictures you might have taken in my Visiting California group on Flickr. I’m a LA resident who loves my city and state, plus photography.

Sharing photos, memories, and life in general is great. That’s what makes blogging and taking pictures so much fun.

Alan Blacklock says:

on May 1, 2009 at 4:28 am

Yo, my man, been there an dun that so many times it aint true.
Never mind, would ya look at the pix.

Another long suffering tog

krista lee says:

on May 7, 2009 at 1:15 am

Ooooh… So THAT’S what happened to Syl’s hair…. It all makes sense now.

Gary Rhodes says:

on May 17, 2009 at 9:57 am

Joe, I’ve just received ‘Hot Shoe Diaries’ and I can’t put it down. Your words beautifully convey your enthusiasm and passion. It’s eclectic! I’m having an epiphany-my own excitement is overriding prior concerns for recognition and reward ($), and all I want to do is take pictures…just for the sake of taking pictures!
p.s.-I had the great fortune of sitting in on 2 of your presentations last year @ Photo-Expo. Thank you and may you enjoy continued success, Gary Rhodes

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