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Short Hops….

May 12

In Seminars & Workshops, Travels at 10:01am

My view, lately. A lot.

Checked in for a US Air flight. Very helpful guy at the counter. Checks my gear, charges so much excess baggage my credit card is handed back to me smoking, but does all this pleasantly. He looks over at me and asks, “Do I know you?” I say, you know, I don’t think so. He pauses.  “But I know your name…McNally. Are you a photographer?” I reply yes. “For Discovery?” “No,” I say, “But I have shot for the National Geographic for a long time.” He beamed. “I knew I knew you! That’s my favorite channel!”

So it goes for us ink stained wretches involved in that remarkable growth engine known as print media nowadays. We get more and more wretched every day. Suits me actually. When I’m this tired I’m truly unpleasant on board the plane, especially the 50 seat styler I’m about to get on. So I might as well be wretched to boot. Have to feel sorry for the poor bastards around me, all of us stuck together like spam in a can. I’ve been working all day in the heat of Charleston, and I smell like low tide.

Charming, huh? I guess I hear stuff like the above, as innocent and pleasant as the comment was, and I start to feel like the Clint Eastwood character, Walt Kowalski, still desperately clinging onto the Gran Torino of mass communications, the printed page. I start growling at 3 year olds with websites.

Oh, well. Got on board, with my trusty Moose bag. I have never had my cameras gate checked on a regional jet, because of this bag. Oh, not that they don’t try. I’ve had lots of gate side folks tell me the bag is too big and here’s a yellow ticket. I smile and nod and then tear the ticket off while walking down the jet way and get on the plane. Even had couple of people be insistent about it, whereupon I pull out my best, most imperious impersonation of Inspector Clouseau. “Aha, but zis is zee Moose bag, it is expressively design-ed to fit in zee compartment over zee head of zee regional jet!”

Had one airline type actually follow me onto zee plane to check. I slung it up there with a flourish, it fit perfectly, and he had to slink away, because I had heaped upon him zee great shame.

That’s for the cameras, especially on the small jets. Lately have been toting the bigger stuff in Kata Bags, and they are amazing. It’s like wrapping your stuff in Kevlar. Attached wheels, cool spacing and compartments, handles in all the right places. They rock. I’ve got all my flash gear, big and small, in Kata now. Check ’em out.

This hasn’t been long hauls with big stuff, though. This one has been a trip filled with regional jets. Short hops. Just came outta DLWS Outer Banks chapter, and I always have a great time with my landscape family. Shot some stuff, you know, windswept beaches, dunes, etc. It was cool, though I do think if I saw another damn light house I woulda called in an air strike.

I do learn a lot of stuff from Moose, Laurie and Kevin, though. They are always talking about eliminating the color cast of a digital file by dropping a black point/white point in either Photoshop or Capture NX2. Very cool. Always snaps up the frame. Thus inspired, I tried to eliminate the middle man and went to find a picture that really was just one big ass black point/white point.

In OBX we as a staff welcomed the lovely and talented Stephanie Cross. I’m glad she’s on board, cause she’s a complete hoot. Definitely a woman who runs with the wolves and takes few prisoners and less shit, especially from Drew, my assistant and DLWS staffer. Being a young female, she will help us ease up on the old guy testosterone gas pedal that gets stepped on big time whenever a DLWS meet up is called. She’s a very welcome addition.

I also got a chance to update…WHERE IS LAURIE’S HAIR? Put her next to these signs they have on the beaches down there. Evidently, per this sign, if you have a WWII era Willis jeep, you cannot go on the beach with it. But if you’ve got a Mini Cooper, or perhaps a Prius, you are welcome to try.

Went from OBX to Charleston, and met Annie, and the two of us were very proud to help our friends Stacy Pearsall and Andy Dunaway launch a workshop at the Charleston Center for Photography. It’s a great place run by terrific people. Both Stacy and Andy come out of the military, where they have had long and distinguished shooting careers. (Stacy was MILPHOG of the year twice, and Andy was for a period of time designated as Rumsfeld’s photog. Between the two of them, I believe they have 5 tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Andy’s still with Combat Camera, and of such stature they recently assigned him to the now infamous NY flyover of Air Force One. Lots of hoo hah, obviously, but through it all Andy just did his job. He’t a total pro. Supported the mission. Shot great stuff.)

Stacy did an amazing job wrangling talent for our class to shoot. Ashley came over and participated in a studio session.

Her sister, Meghan was with us as well….

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a good looking family. Total of five speed lights used here. Three effectively became one light via the Bogen Tri-Flash umbrella adapter. One is on the background, and one is skipped off the floor.

Used roughly the same combo, with some white walls and black cards to add and subtract light to come up with a group that included Wayne.

And then really subtracted some light to come up with a harder, more character driven light for a single of Wayne.

Used the tri-flash again with the amazing leaper, Michael Fothergill of the Charleston Ballet Theater.

Also went to the historic military prison in the middle of the city and tried a few things. Been playing with the Lumiquest Mini Soft Box 3.0 a lot lately. Great, punchy, hard/soft light all at once.

Tried using two of them, over and under, in a beauty light combo, and got this of Piper, a gymnast, diver and all around font of energy in front of the lens.

Just one overhead produced this of Courteny. Not a light for everybody, but she has such great structure to her face, as I mentioned to the class, you could hit her with a car head light and she would look great.

And the combo, with the low fill washed off a gold Tri-Grip diffuser, gave this look, with Mike in front of the lens.

And then one overhead Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox gave us this of Steven.

Been trying to ramp up my skill set a bit with the NIK suite of filters in Photoshop. These moves are terrific, and perfectly set up for me, who has kind of this love-hate thing with the computer. I’ve been messing around, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I get good at any of it, but it has been fun. Tried to include many of the models we worked with in Charleston, cause they all just worked so hard.

All in all, a great three days in a wonderful city. Stacy and Andy are on track to take the Charleston Center and make it a magnet for shooters everywhere. They will be doing more workshops, shows, custom printing, mentoring, you name it. Got a chance to hang with Bill Frakes, who came in to knock out a video promo for Stacy. He just shot yet another great SI cover of Mine That Bird at Churchill Downs. In the 25 years I have known him, despite the circumstances and the pressure, he just never fails. The guy defines what it means to be a pro. More tk….

Serge Van Cauwenbergh says:

on May 12, 2009 at 10:15 am

I think one of your flights this week will be a flight to Germany for the Nikon Expo in Cologne? I will be there on Friday to join your workshop and lecture. Please, sign my books :-)

Eric Politzer says:

on May 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

“where’s Laurie’s hair?” totally cracks me up. I shutter, hehe, to think where it will end up being photographed when you all make it here to San Francisco!

Marc Photography - Grand Rapids, MI says:

on May 12, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Wow! you used up almost the entire compartement meant to hold carry on for the other people in your row as well. Hopefully they didn’t have much.

Larry says:

on May 12, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I’ve had a little trouble with the Kata shoulder bag I purchased. One of the plastic rings broke. It wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t one of the rings to which the shoulder strap connects. I haven’t found a good way to contact the company so I’m left to improvise a fix. I have only used the bag for a couple of months. Frustrating!

Joe McNally says:

on May 12, 2009 at 1:10 pm

No Andrew, there was still lots of room. That Coolpix of mine has a wide angle adapter..Joe

T. C. Knight says:

on May 12, 2009 at 1:22 pm


The photo of Ashley and Meghan is set up with the umbrella, skip light, and a light on the background. What is causing the rim light in their hair? Does the light on the background cause this much rim light?

Adam says:

on May 12, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I went Nikon couse of you !


Martin says:

on May 12, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Nice luggage – Heatseeker, Joe? Pretty sophisticated for a bunch of half-assed mountain boys.

Craig Bendele says:

on May 12, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Thanks for the books and blog Joe. I appreciate all the help, tips, humor, and insight.

Stephanie says:

on May 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Wow, that Stephanie chick sounds really cool 😉

Jess says:

on May 12, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Oh, how much do you love those Kata bags… No more broken equipment circling the carousel & I even stand on mine when I need extra height to focus & look at the back. The frame doesn’t flex an iota. I use the big “body bag” size for lighting equipment–even with heavy packs it’s totally balanced and easy to lift/pull. Beats the hell out of the days I used to have to shoulder carry. (What was I thinking.) Plus I find the TSA goobers seem to be intimidated by it; less equipment goes “missing”…

I know I sound like a Kata rep, but I’m not. Just a thirty-something photog gal getting all misty-eyed over the best photo purchase I ever made! (Though definitely not the cheapest…)

Jeff Snyder says:

on May 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Once again, DLWS was a blast ! Great to hang with you, Moose, Laurie, Kevin, Sharon, Drew, Stephanie, and…Scott. Looking forward to the next one in Maine.

ron hiner says:

on May 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Joe – don’t tell moose this… and I’ll deny saying this at my next DWLS workshop..

That lighthouse shot of yours blows away all the others. I was waiting to see a lighthouse pic that didn’t look like every other lighthouse pic… you nailed it!

Lewis W says:

on May 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

These days, it must be fun being Joe McNally.

John Leonard says:

on May 12, 2009 at 7:54 pm

Stop talking about bags! do you know how many I own…….my wife’s shoe collection is jealous.

Luke Townsend says:

on May 12, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Well Gal-darnit Mr. McNally, Your mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.

by the way…I strongly advise you to blog more often

This message will self-destruct.

ron hiner says:

on May 12, 2009 at 9:15 pm

blog post idea… I’d love to see how you pack those kata cases… and what you travel with. Can you carry a 6 pack of 4×8 1/2″ foam core boards on those? If so, I’m in.

zhangyou says:

on May 12, 2009 at 10:24 pm

hi,Joe McNally !
I come from China,Thanks for your ! It’s so good!

Mark Griffith says:

on May 12, 2009 at 10:25 pm

I like the HEAVY tags on the bags man. 😉

Clayton Bozard says:

on May 12, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Grrrr. I wish I would have known about this workshop. I use to live in Charleston and I only live 1hr 15min from there now. It would have been so awesome to attend your workshop! I also can’t believe I haven’t heard of Charleston Center for Photography. Hopefully you will be back in South Carolina in the future! Joe McNally was in Charleston and I missed it. Dang it.

Mark says:

on May 12, 2009 at 11:46 pm

That WAS a great Frakes shot on the cover of SI. But even cooler in that issue was the tale of the slide. I almost missed my haircut because I was engrossed in that at the barber shop. Would love to see some of YOUR slides from the SI days.

Bo Jackson, anyone?

Jenn SY says:

on May 13, 2009 at 4:11 am

JOE! Please, please, please…tell me you’ll come back to the Left Coast, specifically British Columbia, in 2010 (after the Olympics, of course–no one in their right mind will want to be here during the Olympics…). How ’bout LA? I’m from both, so I will travel to be a humble student amongst your devoted throngs. I missed your last course in Vancouver last year (I wept for days. OK, maybe moments, but it’s the thought that counts, right?). I JUST got hold of HOT SHOE DIARIES–Canada’s a little slow to get stuff on the bookshelves. You ROCK and inspire my work every s-i-n-g-l-e day. Thanks for the terrific blog, too. So many delicious toys! My husband sorta giggles when I say, “Oh, Joe says this is the best piece of gear…” You’ve become part of our crazy family. There’s lots of purty stuff here to shoot…puhleeeez? All the best to you & your family…

arun says:

on May 13, 2009 at 7:32 am

Hey Joe,
Great work and some fine images there. Thanks to you and your workshop in NY this January, I was able to light some muscle men with some hard light to give a different look that I would not have otherwise gotten. Some of the images are here –

Thanks again and hope to catch up on the East Coast.

Spike says:

on May 13, 2009 at 7:51 am

Joe (or anyone reading this for that matter), what brand are the smaller gear bags/pouches that are shown in the Kata bag? Cool shots BTW :-)

Marc Photography - Grand Rapids, MI says:

on May 13, 2009 at 9:23 am

Ahhhh. I see. I think I am just jealous of the amount of stuff you have :-( Are those lumiquest big bounces? I have those…

drew says:

on May 13, 2009 at 9:35 am

Hey Spike,

The pouches inside are the cases that come with the SB-800 and 900’s.


Thomas Campbell says:

on May 13, 2009 at 10:04 am

McNally? Are you the map guy?

Spike says:

on May 13, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Thanks Drew – I’m always on the lookout for small gear holders (Eagle Creek style or similar). Shame that I’m a Canon shooter. Ho hum … :-)

drew says:

on May 13, 2009 at 12:49 pm

No problem…we do also use quite a few Eagle Creek pouches, both semi-hard and mesh to organize cords, batteries, etc..

And yea, it is a shame :)

Stormin Norm says:

on May 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Hey I recognize that Kata bag.. that’s the one I lifted down the stairs in Paso and herniated myself…

heeeh heeeh hee (in my best Michael Jackson)

tennessee says:

on May 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Joe, I hope you will show us zee Inspector Clouseau impersonation sometime, …perhaps during your next Kelby training video?

Terry Smith Images says:

on May 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm

The Lowepro Vertex 100 AW photo backpack has worked great for me. I’ve had it on two dozen aircraft or so since owning it, including the smallest puddle jumpers. On the tinyest ones I’ve had to take my laptop out and keep in on my lap in order to get it to fit in the overhead height-wise though. The two larger bags in the same product line definitely could never fit in all of the overheads.

Nathan Smith says:

on May 16, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I miss that lighthouse!! Went by it everyday for 12 years when I went to school down in Buxton! Such and Iconic site… Its funny where you will see images of it pop up!!

L.S. Carper says:

on May 17, 2009 at 11:31 am

Joe, the workshop was the best and with a great combo of learning and fun. Hope you and Annie had a good time in Charleston. We’re eagerly looking forward to your return next year. All the best….

Viren Patel says:

on May 19, 2009 at 1:09 am

I had a great time at the lecture portion of your “chuck-town” visit, and will def. be taking a seminar course from you as soon as i can make some dough after i graduate college. I also wanna thank Drew (we’ve never met, but i hear your the guy i can thank for starting joe’s facebook page 😀 )

PS: thanks for signing my book… your passion is a hero to us all.

Jon Miller says:

on June 5, 2009 at 1:16 am

Hey Joe,
When do you plan to visit us down under in Perth, WA?

Nike Kobe IV says:

on June 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

The photo of Ashley and Meghan is set up with the umbrella, skip light, and a light on the background.

vertexone says:

on November 23, 2009 at 1:58 am

nice snaps meghan.

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