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Archive for June, 2009

A quick introduction..

Jun 11

In News at 11:55am

Drew here, Joe’s first assistant/tech guy/personal darkroom, etc.  I’m the guy who helps Joe keep up with all this stuff when he’s on the road, as I tend to be back in the studio a bit more than he is.  I started working for the studio back in October, when my good pal, Brad Moore moved down to FL to assist Scott Kelby.  Previous to this job, I was a PA-based freelancer (website), doing a lot of work in the music industry… 


So, first off welcome to the new blog, and thank all of you for the amazing feedback on both the blog and website.  Hopefully, all of the little glitches will be ironed out very shortly, and YES, that includes the RSS feed issue (most of which “should” be fixed right now).  The amount of feedback we’ve gotten, and the speed at which we’ve gotten it has been extremely helpful, so keep it coming.

Also, wanted to give you a few tidbits about the redesigns, and say a few thank you’s.  We worked on the website with our friends at Livebooks, and would like to give a big thanks to Jon Lucich, Pochih Chang, and everyone else we worked with over there!  The blog was designed and coded by the great Lauren and Eric Murrell at Volacious Media, who patiently worked with us to bring our ideas to life.  They all did an amazing job, and without them, we’d still be tinkering with a sketch pad.

A few things have changed around here…we think, for the better :)   There’s now links to Joe’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc..  This handful of online sites can hopefully help you keep up with Joe, no matter where he is (and no matter where you are, for that matter).  Twitter is the place to see all his spur-of-the-moment thoughts, cool links, and other quick updates, especially while we’re on the road or on-location.  Facebook will be continually updated with all kinds of behind-the-scenes photos/videos.  The blog..well, you’ve all come to know what to expect here!  We’ll also be adding much more video content on both YouTube and the website in the coming months.

You’ve probably also noticed that the workshops calender is no longer on the blog- but you can check that out if you click the “workshops” link up top. That’ll bring you right to the workshops page on the new site.

The “What’s in the Bag?” page has always been one of our most requested items, so we moved it up in the right bar…just about any equipment inquiries you may have can be answered there.

We have a bunch of great ideas rolling around in the studio, but being that we have this incredible community here, we’d love to hear from you as well….feel free to comment anything at all you want to see, and it very well may come to life.  Any questions you have, just drop us a line.

Lastly, for an update on the One-Day Lighting Summer Workshops (click here for PDF), there are only FOUR spots left!  If you’re interested in getting in, email Lynn, our studio manager/producer at

Looking forward to bringing you a ton of very cool content in the coming months.



New Website, New Blog….

Jun 10

In News at 7:46am

The world wide web is the deal now for photogs. Gotta have a website, gotta have a blog. I credit Moose Peterson with nudging me into the blogosphere. For about a year, he was givin’ me the Moose Eye, ya know? “Where’s your blog?” Every time I’d see him. “Where’s your blog?”

So did a blog, and it’s been fun. But our website and blog have never been synced up style-wise, till today. Credit to first assistant Drew Gurian, who has been laboring on these puppies now for some time. Happy to say, they launch today. Lots of new work, new design, new linkage between the two. Love for you to check ’em out. (If you’re reading this, you’re halfway done!)

Lots of inspiration, great work and strong voices on the web. One particularly inspiring voice is Chase Jarvis, who in terms of innovation, creativity, and the sharing of knowledge is at the top of his game. He just launched a series of really fun videos called The Consequences of Creativity, in which all sorts of dastardly things happen to him while he’s pursuing an image. He falls off a bridge, explodes into flames, gets hosed down, and also gets run over by a fast moving vehicle. So my studio started buzzing, and well, we have a lot of sick puppies here.  One of our interns, Mike Grippi had an idea and here’s what we came up with…

a ton more stuff in the pipes..

more tk.

Notes from the Flightline….

Jun 7

In Rants, Travels at 10:46pm

Man it was rough at Kennedy. I mean, it’s never easy at that nexus of sweat, angst, nerves and fatigue nestled near the Brooklyn shoreline. It’s a classic case of way too many of the frayed, obnoxious and demanding being serviced by way too few of the disinterested and disgruntled.

The cafeteria line was really long, made longer by people demanding specialty food alterations that really didn’t have a prayer of making anything that had been baking under glass for several hours in the noxious JFK terminal air taste any better.

One of the guys slinging food behind the counter did a quick, mostly covert move and appeared to get his finger so far up his nose as to indicate there might have been something truly valuable up there, but, ahhh, relief, he turned around and put on gloves. Thank goodness….with the motley and colorful variety of pizzas served there it would be tough to pick out a booger.

I got stuck behind two pleasant ladies who insisted on debating the various tantalizing merits of almost every offering, but then got themselves one slice of cheese pizza to split and moved forward. I was right behind them at the register when they sparked a lively debate with the cashier about getting the pizza/salad combo price and were informed the discount didn’t apply to a piece of plain cheese pie.

It was all cordial and chummy, but it took several minutes to agree to the ala carte pricing. And then! Drumroll please! The search for the wallet begins! Both of these ladies had shoulder bags the size of say, a large turkey. They were both crafted in that puffy, fabric-y style that looked like they were stitched together from the also rans at last year’s county fair quilting contest. Colorful is the kindest word I can find at this writing.

Eventually, the wallets were found, and the aforementioned pizza was bought. Why do women do that? Wait for the cashier to tell them the total and have a hand out before they in turn reach for the dough? I mean, they hadda zip open these bags and begin a rummage that would make the search for the holy frikkin’ grail look as easy as a connect the dots game on a Denny’s placemat.

I would not have put my hand inside one of these bags. The innards were spilling out and looked a bit reminiscent of that plant in Little Shop of Horrors. I was waiting for one of them to belch “Feed me!” in guttural tones. I’m surprised these women had all their fingers.

See, men don’t do that. They belly up to the counter, $20 in hand, and just fork it over. Like Robin Williams says, you get your McBurger and fries, grab your McChange and get the McFuck outta there. Maybe it’s cause we all remember our first illegal beer bought at a bar and we had no idea what it was gonna cost so we had a twenty ready to go so as not to get embarrassed by having to fish out some extra dough on the spot. Dunno. Might be genetic. Might be that chromosome right next to the one that causes Male Refrigerator Blindness.

Back to the ladies. Oh, we’re not done!  They also asked for cokes with lots of ice cause they had just got back from Europe, and you know, “In Europe, they just don’t serve anything with ice! I mean, really! They drink their soda warm! Can you imagine? And you can’t get tap water anywhere, it’s all in bottles, they cost like $6 each! I tell you, we’re glad to be back in America!”

And by golly, we’re glad to have you back…

I got on the plane and was seated next to someone who was part of a group that couldn’t get seats together so they were shouting to each other over the aisles. Pleasant. My neighbor allowed in a loud voice as he probably shouldn’t have just had those 4 beers. It was a swell flight. More tk…..


Jun 5

In Stories, Travels at 2:12pm

The blog’s been a touch erratic. (Okay, remember who writes it.) But definitely having ups and downs. Truth is, I’ve been completely knackered of late. It’s been harder than usual for my pinball machine of a brain to make it to the keyboard. Fatigued. Get up in the morning, and feel like going back to bed–right away.

Plus my legs have been killing me. No surprise there. Trust me, after being a photog for 30 odd years, there’s not too much on my body that don’t hurt. My legs have taken the biggest beating. When I started in this game, it was standard operating procedure to use a camera bag (Domke was the way to go) and walk, run, adjust, bend, climb, scurry, jump, sing and dance all day long with a 40 pound anchor on your shoulder. This is the reason the x-rays of lots of photogs spines look like the S curves at LeMans.

My back, being of Irish descent, remains intact, thankfully. But the knees and ankles–yikes. I think about the offensive linemen in the NFL, the big guys. They pretty much shoot their lower extremities to hell and back in the course of a 5-10 year career. A fast cha-cha to Limpville. For photogs, it’s more of a slow bump and grind. You basically throw your knees in a blender and hit stir instead of liquefy. It takes longer, but the end result is the same. After an average Olympics, for example, for about a week I’ll unfold out of bed like an unwieldy, collapsible card table. When I was shooting the Sydney Games, for instance, my first few steps of every day sounded like I was walking on bubble wrap.

But lately, with both the pain and the fatigue meter spiking, my wonderful wife, Annie, blessedly (and sternly) greeted me at the door and turned my sorry ass around and pointed it at the doctor’s office. Pop diagnosis? Lyme disease. I pretty much concur. Had a bout of it before.

First got it in Nashville, on assignment for SI. I was shooting Mike Reid, former pro football player turned singer-songwriter,  and lighting his house from the outside, traipsing my lights around his garden.

Then shot in a local theater….

Noticed at the end of the day I had picked up a tick. Hmmm. Not much I could do about it, cause my next stop was Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost tip of the continental United States, and one of the true garden spots of all time. My ultimate destination was Cooper Island, a tiny stretch of ice and sand a bit off the off the North Coast. I was shooting a cover for the New York Times Sunday magazine, and was going there to profile George Divokey, an ornithologist who had been studying a colony of birds on Cooper for over 20 years. His copious notebooks of their behavior had become an empirical, indisputable record of bird biology to be sure, but additionally, very significantly, global warming.

Had to helicopter out there due to the ice conditions, and the weather had us socked in for two days. Welcome to Barrow.

I was staying in a shack of a hotel, feeling worse and worse, and by the time I got choppered out (small bird, had to lash all my gear onto stretcher boards out on the skids) I was running about 103 fever or so. No source of heat on the island, except the cooking stove. Had a pup tent, out there shimmering around in the icy wind. I crawled into my sleeping bag and started dosing myself with antibiotics I had in my old Nat Geo medicine kit.

It’s all a little fuzzy now, but I basically spent two days sleeping and taking doxycycline. Poor George thought the magazine had really sent a deadbeat. Out there they give you a PLB (personal locator beacon) which, if you punch the button, means the Coast Guard rescue choppers are on the way. I remember looking at that thing. The magazine was paying me the princely sum of $350 bucks a day to shoot this, and I thought, ya know, I don’t wanna die out here. Had all sorts of fever induced imaginings. Like my remains would be eaten, along with my Kodachrome, by a polar bear and crapped out on the tundra, and then found many years later by a team from the National Geographic, and somehow the pictures would be published, albeit in a different magazine.

Spent 8 days out there with George, his research assistant Tamara Enz, call sign Tango Echo, and the birds.

George is a great guy, very dedicated scientist. He did enjoy the fact that when I returned to life, I was very hungry, and started cooking up a whole bunch of Dinty Moore stuff with red pepper and anything else spicy I could find in the food locker. Also, the article did him some good, cause he ended up on the Letterman Show of all places, which had to help his fund raising. We’re still in touch, off and on.

But the antibiotics are kicking in! Feel better today than I have in two weeks, and I’m driving everybody in the studio nuts. I think they’re gonna hide my prescription. Got some energy back, thanks to my doc, and my regular breakfast of cheerios, skim milk, a banana, a couple of those little red sudafeds, and 8 cups of Cafe’ Bustelo.

Good thing too, cause there’s a bunch of stuff in the pipe. On a plane tonight to Italy. Then, in couple weeks, a commercial gig I be looking forward to. Great folks, fun to work for. Got a Geographic job cooking now, and a story coming out in the June issue. More on that stuff, as they say, tk….