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Peachpit Q&A..Up and Running….

Aug 18

In News at 7:38am

It inevitably happens that I fall behind, and don’t catch up to numerous questions we receive here on the blog. I’m able to get to some on an individual basis, but I often don’t get back. I have the best of intentions, but things do slide, given the road sked we have had this year. And those unanswered questions nag at me, cause I really do appreciate folks chiming in here on the blog, and often they are terrific notes and notions that could open up worthwhile discussion. Also, cause I was raised Irish Catholic, I feel guilty as hell about it, and probably sometime in the late spring of 2014, when get around to my next confession, the priest will slide the little trapdoor, urge me to confess my sins, and might be taken aback when I mention the whopper of “unanswered blog questions.”

My dear publisher, Peachpit, and the creative folks in their office came up with a bit of a solution. A photo Q&A that will acquaint me with unfamiliar traits….being timely, predictable, and organized. Hit this link, and while I still won’t get to all the questions, they will organize them for me, and I will ping it regularly, with encouragement from my editor Ted Waitt, who worked all this out last time we were out in San Francisco. That week in San Fran was great. Was at all these cool places, like Apple (the mother ship), Livebooks, Lexar, Google….while we were there, Drew had some correspondence with folks at Twitter, who asked about doing a lecture there next time out. Ted, ever the wordsmith editor type, saw a golden lining there. He said, “Wow, what an easy lecture. You have to keep it under 140 characters.” :-)


One question we will answer here, though, on the home blog. We have been getting numerous queries about our work flow, and the intrepid Drew is gearing up a blog for next week where he will explain it in detail. He knows it better than I, because, as soon as the job is done, in the grand traditon of NY based prima donna asshole photogs, I immediately don black garments and retire with a gaggle of insufferably hip swells to some ultra-hip, downtown eatery to begin a round of partying that will reel into the wee hours. It is Drew’s current lot in life to roll up his sleeves, pound back several vodka laced double espressos and begin the grim task of saving my sorry ass yet again by making the hundreds of relatively incoherent frames I have just shot (alot of my takes kind of feel like I had a seizure while holding a D3 on consecutive high) and presenting some sort of reasonable visual document to the client.

It should be a good blog, as our work flow invariably involves high drama, passenger pidgeons, and a truly unique machine we refer to as the digital transmogrifier. You see, I’m still shooting Agfachrome (those rich earthy tones) but Drew is able to dump it all into this machine and it crunches everything down, embeds metadata and spits out files at the end that make it appear that I am shooting high end digital cameras. It’s a tough day at the studio when we kick in this machine for a big take, cause it sounds a bit like a wood chipper, but hey, deadlines call.

Drew will then wait for the red phone to ring, usually late at night. It will be my agency, run by the one we simply know as “The Corsican with the Scar.” Voice suffering from french inhaling too many Gauloises, he will rasp, “Do you have ze photos?” Drew acknowledges that we do, and then immediately gets onto the train for a late night trip to the city. There’s a bank of pay telephones at Grand Central, just by track 17, and if he hits it right, when he gets off the train, the 4th phone from the left will be ringing. There, an intermediary for the Corsican will give him instructions where to drop the files. The exchange point is usually the first garbage can (are they trying to tell me something?) on the right side of the pedestrian ramp to the Staten Island Ferry. Drew drops our bag o’ files there, and behind it is a paper sack filled with non-sequential, used dollar bills. Though, I must admit, with tough times lately, it had generally been a bag of loose change, most of it zlotys.

Lynn, bless her, has a hand in this process as well. She scours the rubble of one of my takes, desperately searching for a frame that could be loosely interpreted as “portfolio material.” She then will run it to the local CVS and have an 8×10 printed, which she then takes to the basement and runs off hundreds of copies on a hand crank mimeo machine. She will then take the copies and staple them to light poles all over the neighborhood. (Business isn’t up, but boy, complaints are, so someone is noticing.) The stuff off the mimeo machine is kinda monochromatic, lacks detail and is certainly out of focus, but we figure that’s the sweet spot of the marketplace right now. Just trying to catch up here with current trends…..:-)

A quick note of thanks to the folks at Shutterbug, who worked with the studio to produce the August cover….


And thanks to Barry Tannenbaum, who puts together Nikon World Magazine. He’s a good writer, and a knowledgeable photo guy, and we just collaborated with the Nikon gang to produce a wraparound cover for the new issue. Kinda cool for me, in a very personal sense. I grew up looking at this magazine, and other anthologies Nikon would produce, and my eyes would get pretty glazed over. I would think, maybe, someday, could I get a picture in there? Far fetched at that moment of course, cause I was ragtag photo student and this mag was replete with work from my heroes like Jay Maisel, Pete Turner, and Eric Meola. They were at the forefront of the wave of Kodachrome shooters who were taking color photography to places it had never gone. Many years later, made it. Another thing on the list of things to do before I die I can check off.


The cover subject is dance, and the dancer is Jenn Concepcion, one of the most truly gifted and physically expressive dancers I have ever worked with. Imagine how hard it is to do ballet. Then imagine keeping your line, your cool and your moves together on a nearly blacked out stage with multiple stroboscopic flashes going off in your eyes. Then you get your head around what Jenn did for me to get this picture. We shot this for Kelby Video Training, once again working with all the gifted folks at NAPP. More tk….

Mike Clemons says:

on August 18, 2009 at 7:50 am

Great photo, another in your great series of dancers..

would love to see how this was done.

Link to Kelby Video Training is broken.

BTW, great training video on single flash on Kelby.

Bobbi Lane says:

on August 18, 2009 at 7:54 am

I knew someone would channeling S.J. Perelman, but I didn’t think it would be you. BTW, I still have ten rolls of Agfa 1000 in the freezer. Call if you get low.

John Leonard says:

on August 18, 2009 at 8:21 am


It’s great to see a Q&A. I’m sure you’ll get bombarded with questions. Also Congrats on both covers. I love the dance shot; it’s just one smooth flowing image….very fluid.

Jase Bell says:

on August 18, 2009 at 8:43 am

There must be an inside joke in Nikon, someone obviously likes all that old rap/Sugar Hill Gang stuff :) “Grand Master Flash”. Love it.


Joe McNally says:

on August 18, 2009 at 8:44 am

Thanks Jase…do you think I have a future in hip hop maybe? Dunno….

Brad Moore says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:02 am

Hey Joe… Any reason your picture is a pic of me? I’m honored that you would want to look like me on the internet, but I think people might catch on when you do live appearances. Though this may be good for my career… “What’s that Nikon? You want me to shoot the D4 catalog? Why, I would be honored!”


Patrik says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:18 am

Looking forward to that Kelbytrainingvideo, because i cant see it on Kelbytraining as of now. So iยดll guess we have to wait a little bit longer. :)

Rob Sanderson says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

That’s a stunning cover for the Nikon mag, I hope the UK version runs with it too, I’ll be watching my letterbox for delivery.

Mark says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:25 am

Corsican with the scar snicker snicker.

Truly one of your most well-written pieces to date.

Great cover and interview in Shutterbug, too.

Hottshots says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:36 am

And now witness protection will have to invent a new identity for the Corsican…sigh.

Your writing is as clever as your lighting is remarkable.

Thanks for both!

Linda Brinckerhoff says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:37 am

Joe – you rock! I am amazed at how you continue to come up with these keeping-them-in-stitches-stream-of-consciousness-quadra-syllabic ruminations. That Syracuse journalism degree must come in handy. To paraphrase a recent tag line from a recently defunct camera line – “From the Mind of McNally”.

Michael Materazzi says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:46 am

As always, spectacular shots. Well, if you can’t get into hip hop, you can always shoot Bar Mizvahs.

Lewis W says:

on August 18, 2009 at 9:47 am

Good photographers? Dime a dozen. Good writers? Likewise. But a great photographer who writes well? Worth their weight in gold. Congratulations, on all that’s coming your way.

Tom Peterson says:

on August 18, 2009 at 10:10 am

I know not what course others may take, but as for me, I’m happy with the one way conversation of just reading your blog. If I thought you had the time to answer the inane questions I might ask I’d seriously question your scheduling. You’ve got to have better things to do than feel a need to respond to those who grovel at your feet. You lead with such humility and humor that we come away amused, enlightened and frequently humbled. It’s an honor to follow your ramblings.

You keep writing your wit and we’ll keep reading. Somehow I don’t think anyone’s going away.

Greg says:

on August 18, 2009 at 11:05 am

Call him “Grand Master Flash” all you want, just be sure he keeps his clothes ON! :-)

Ranger 9 says:

on August 18, 2009 at 11:10 am

Does anybody know the cover date of the Nikon World issue (it’s too small to read on the blog shot) and if it’s available as a single copy?

I try to keep an eye out for everything published on dance photography (since Lord knows there isn’t all that much!) so would like to snaffle this one. I wouldn’t mind subscribing to Nikon World to get it, but they say it takes 12 weeks to start your subscription, so I’m concerned they might be on to the next issue before my subscription started. Thanks for any info…

Luke Townsend says:

on August 18, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Wonderful post and interested to see Drews blog too. So how does it feel to have the title of Grand Master?

Oh, and maybe I’ll finally get an answer for how you set those repeated strobes off remotely….maybe…pretty please…you know, with a cherry on top…and all that other crap…

Levi Sim says:

on August 18, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Thanks for continuing to share great images and good reads. I’m looking forward to the post on workflow. Maybe you could persuade your team to compile a post on the preproduciton workflow–getting the job, making a quote, some of the logistics that go into the shoots, etc. That would be really interesting, too. Maybe a good platform for a book. Thanks,

Levi Sim

Andrew says:

on August 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Joe, I love your humor. These blog posts have been a delight to read and I am always checking for the next one. Your work has been real inspiring to me.

jakob says:

on August 18, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Yeah Im sure you will get thousands of questions…good luck.
Very nice image, as always!


Trude says:

on August 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I really hope that’s what Drew has to go through! That Nikon cover is to die for.

Kevin Glackmeyer says:

on August 18, 2009 at 7:05 pm

So I was just wondering…was this was shot with the SB-900 flash that overheats when rapid fired? I just purchased one and am amazed by the danged thang. Thanks again Nikon.And thank you Joe “GRAND MASTER FLASH” McNally.

Alan Hancock says:

on August 19, 2009 at 1:10 am

Good stuff Joe, I think you should get into writing movies next though because they would be hilarious!!! Thanks for bloging

Sunita says:

on August 19, 2009 at 9:26 am

I really enjoy your blogs – your humor is delightful and this post is no different. You make it all sound so easy – anyway, I learn a lot about lighting from your blogs, so thank you and do keep them coming! Also, congratulations on both covers.

Rory says:

on August 19, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Grand Master Flash. I think it’s a very apt title! Especially since your headshot on Kelby Training has you looking like a Jedi Knight. I’m just waiting for your monopod to turn into a lightsabre!

Piotr says:

on August 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm

“[…] most of it zlotys.”

My family keeps asking why am I LOL-ing like crazy ๐Ÿ˜€

Whispering Ed says:

on August 20, 2009 at 9:50 am

As a Polish Catholic I can truly appreciate your angst. I love your humour and tongue in cheek comments. Great fun while giving is great insight.

Levi Sim says:

on August 20, 2009 at 10:56 am

You might check your batteries in your SB-900. I’ve heard that there is milliamp-hour restriction for SB-900’s. I think you’re supposed to use batteries under 2500…?

Geoff McGeachin says:

on August 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Joe Man,

I know it’s photo blog (and a great one) but I keep coming back for the writing. Did I see somewhere you did some schooling in England? The writing gets a wee bit Goon Show sometimes and that is never, ever a bad thing. Right now I’m searching ebay for a Digital Transmogrifier, preferably something Spike Milligan might have used. And I’m seriously hanging out for the autobiography.


Andy Glogower says:

on August 21, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Holy crap, you guys have that file drop off sequence down pat!

San Diego wedding photographer says:

on August 27, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I am dying to know how did you take this dance picture…
Can you tell a little bit about your technique?
Thank you

Jayshil says:

on August 31, 2009 at 3:31 am

hi Joe!,

Im not sure if you read these but i must say your work never fails to impress me, i just got started in DSLR photography until now it was the good old 35mm. Anyway any tips for someone who wants to take a photo like the one you did for the “Nikon World” add, for someone whos a low budgeted student? Im using a 50D with a very old vivtar 2800 strobe that my dad lent me (still saving up for maybe a Canon 580EX II)btw dont hate me for saying Canon!.

Keep up the fantastic work mate!


John Leonard says:

on December 24, 2009 at 11:17 pm


I keep coming back to the Nikon World cover image. I am still floored with this image. I personally think it exemplifies your mastery of not just technical skills, but your ability to design an absolutely stunning image! Just wow.

wedding photography Liverpool says:

on July 25, 2011 at 6:49 am

Thanks for your delightful blog. I enjoyed a lot and looking forward for your latest update..

Tim Driver says:

on November 16, 2012 at 6:52 am

Love the Nikon World cover – another great dancer shot – are you planning on showing how this was captured anywhere (or is it in Nikon world)

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