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Mongo Make Pano……

Oct 29

In In The Field at 7:57am


In New York City leading a National Geographic Expeditions Workshop. Doing alright so far. Haven’t lost anybody yet. Nice group of folks. Hope they’re not disappointed that I’m not, you know, Nick Nichols, or somebody like that who’s got a lot of great Indiana Jones type photo stories. “I stood there in front of the enraged water buffalo, with the only thing between me and his massive horns was my Nikon DS4000XL Red Sonja series camera with the 12 to 3000mm over under combo zoom with the bore sighted grenade launcher. I had one round left…” I make up stuff like that, but nobody in the class believes me.

I think it’s going okay, even though I was pretty mean the other day and told everybody they had to go into a shop in Chinatown and get a portrait of an owner. Lots of ’em got yelled at. Heh, heh, heh. Welcome to the intensely human experience of being a photog and trying to work it out ad hoc. Sometimes, you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you get yelled at, or worse.

Shot the above in two pics and then dropped ’em into PhotoShop. Oh, yeah. Am I smokin’ on post or what? You see, the DLWS gang–Moose Peterson, Laurie Excell and Kevin Dobler–think I’m not listening when they’re up there teaching. That may be because of the guttural, snoring noises I make from the back of the room and the large drool stain on my t-shirt that inevitably results whenever the room goes dark. But I do absorb certain things. It’s kinda osmotic. You can’t hang with Scott Kelby and Moose and Matt Klowskowski and all and not pick a few things up.

I mean, I joking here. This is embarrassingly basic. I dropped these two guys into photomerge and sat there at the computer, staring at it like it was a slot machine. I did use the string of pix to talk to the class about exposure though.

Shot both frames ISO 200, hand held, aperture priority. But, I had to change up my EV compensation in between shots, because the brighter, sunset section of sky would push my shutter speed higher and I would lose the glow of the city. It’s a small thing, but significant for the file. The matrix meter reacts to the brightness of the sky, and if I let the camera fly on it’s own, the city for that portion of the pano would have been a touch darker. So in between frames I adjusted EV, and ended up actually with the same shutter speed across the two pix, which makes sense, cause the city at that point is a constant source of light, requiring the same exposure. It’s the sky that is constantly changing, if only slightly.

Here’s a screen shot of both in Aperture….



Feeling stupidly giddy about this, cause I don’t do this type of thing very often. Running the pano below, cause the horizontal constraints of the blog make for not really being able to see long, skinny pictures. Pushed both pix as jpegs into PS, and did a couple basic curves to brighten certain areas, and then used the Nik darken/lighten center move. Like that option, cause it harks back for me to newspaper work in the 70’s. There was a National Press Photographer’s Association “style” back then that really pushed us to burn the heck out of the corners of the print, and of course ferrocyanide (bleach) the eyes to bring them out.


Back down on the street, it was business as usual. Shoot and move, shoot and move. Visited the Apple store on 5th, and shot a pretty typical up looking view of the spiral staircase there.


Liked the graphics of it, until of course an Apple employee stepped up and told me I couldn’t shoot up at the stairs cause somebody might be wearing a skirt. Now in Manhattan the array of people who could be potentially wearing a skirt is widely varied, so I could understand their concern. But really–all you see are the bottoms of shoes. Do I look that desperate? The guy who complained to me musta had the nuns.

So, cause I was acting like a pervert in the Apple store, I had to go to St. Pat’s. I like St. Pat’s. Lit candles in there for the birth of both my children. They’ve got little sanctuaries, alcoves, devotional areas–I don’t know what you call them–all around the sides of the church, and three of them are devoted to saints I am fond of. I’m a pretty irreverent sort, but I do have favorites. On the left is St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes. I embrace him for obvious reasons. Then there’s St. Michael the Archangel. I took Michael as a middle name cause I thought he was cool. He was like the Chuck Norris of angels, cause he kicked butt and took names. And then there’s St. Anthony, who looks after you when you lose stuff. (Very important guy for me to know.)

And for the first time ever, I saw the guy who takes care of the candles. Never think about it, right? But there has to be somebody who does it. Very nice man.



More tk….

Roger says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:08 am

Joe as a pervert? going to church afterwards looking for spiritual relief?
Must have been Moose writing this.

Francesco Bonomo says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:17 am

the pano is cool, but the staircase shot and the candles man are absolutely gorgeous!!!
Thanks so much for sharing them!

Tim says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:20 am

Joe – that “burn the corners, bleach the eyes” wasn’t limited to the NPPA.

I did this all the time working on a tiny local newspaper in the North of England back in the 80’s. Great days.

When are you coming over this side of the pond again?

Best, Tim

Marty says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:23 am

Nice post. Good to hear you’re enjoying the city. You should have your blog people install a lightbox script for those long skinny pictures.

jeremy mayhew says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:37 am

first off, how many people get the “mongo” refrence? i love that movie, but these days i have to watch it with headphones on, oh mel brookes…

its nice to know even you get the occasional “what are you doing’ experiences, i mean, Joe McNally taking photos in a store, hello? asking you not to take pictures is like asking tom brady not to throw the footballs in the “sports Authority” store cause he might breaks something if he misses.

your the tops Joe.

Jeremy Sale says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

Awesome photos, Joe. Love them all. You want to get some real perv looks? Duct-tape that D3 of yours to your shoe with a remote cord.

Jason D says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:52 am


Is it possible to make the images “click to enlarge” with a slightly larger version when you click?

It’s hard to appreciate this pano picture and the “flash seance” photo from the last post at the default size in the blog.

It’s the only thing I miss from the old website.

Joe, thanks again for your great Saturday afternoon seminar at Photo Plus last week. Thanks also for signing my book and tolerating me in the newsstand.

PS: I took your telescope article to my photography class and told them all that The National Geographic was a bunch of cheap bastards that pay less for photos than most people pay for high school pictures.

Stefan says:

on October 29, 2009 at 8:56 am

Hey Joey… to honest I was smiling when I read your description on the pano. Are you serious? How’s really shooting a pano with any automatic mode? Nevertheless, the result is stunning 😉


Lucca says:

on October 29, 2009 at 9:05 am

Hey Joe,

Great post! By the way, what ISO were you shooting in the church? How far can you push that D3…


Remek says:

on October 29, 2009 at 9:27 am

Francesco is right, it’s the staircase and the candle man photos that are the strongest points today… thanks

Mark says:

on October 29, 2009 at 9:31 am

Joseph Michael…love this post and thanks for showing how it’s done. I’m still afraid to try a pano. Someday maybe….

And don’t sell yourself short. I’ve been telling people you’re the Indiana Jones of Photography since the Kalamazoo days.

Tom Peterson says:

on October 29, 2009 at 9:49 am

The Saints on the side of Joe McNally. I guess stranger things have happened. I just can’t figure out what. Another great post. Everybody needs to laugh and you provide the fodder.

Chris Davis Cina says:

on October 29, 2009 at 9:49 am

Love the pano and the candle man and I especially love two of your favorite saints – St. Jude and St. Anthony – for the same reasons you gave. (I’ll add St. Christine the Awesome as described by Frank McCourt to my list) I especially love reading your thoughts – you are truly one awesome, talented, and, thankfully, generous human being.

Mark Byrne says:

on October 29, 2009 at 9:59 am

Joe – Love the Pano shot, how though, do you manage to shoot at 1/4 sec shutter speed hand holding ? and chimp between each shot too ? I reach for the VR lens and monopod at 1/30th !!


Alex says:

on October 29, 2009 at 10:01 am

Couldn’t make it to assist to the workshop, but folowing it thru your posts; and very happy you are having good times in the most exciting cith in the world!
Greetings from Argentina,

Joe S says:

on October 29, 2009 at 10:08 am

In response to Jeremy Sale….I know you meant to say gaffer tape!!

Kristina J says:

on October 29, 2009 at 11:05 am

I owe Saint Anthony some serious cabbage. But I don’t have 1/100th of the equipment you have for him to worry about finding.

Love the candle caretaker photos.

cindy williams says:

on October 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Terrific shots.

Damien says:

on October 29, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I love the 5th Ave staircase… there’s like this natural depth of field thing going on through the steps. Very cool.

Brian Strauss says:

on October 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm

One of my favorite pano moments in NYC was when I was there working for NattyG at St Paul’s post 9-11. I brought both iPix & QTVR hardware with me and I was attempting to document the space and I wanted street view points of the tribute walls and the context of the church and the lack of the Twin Towers next door. Making conventional frames of a missing building/block of NYC was tricky enough, getting a node that was contextual and illustrative of the environment was challenging. So here i was rambling about the sidewalks with what must have looked like “who knows what” to the NYPD. An iPix could be grabbed with two frames in about 30 seconds but running a kaiden Kiwi VR rig was going to take awhile to level & shoot.

2 officers decided I was worth bothering with and walked on over to my tripoded mass of “high technology”. After a minute of talking and explaining my process they were happy to watch as I ran my Goldbergian devices. As I finished the node, one of them came over and said “Hey Buddy” (oh teh noes! I am going downtown…) I have one question for you… “Yes, sir?” Would you like a bottle of water? 😉

I think my efforts are still online in a seldom visited back water of the site

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on October 29, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Wonderful images. I think some of your Maisel Bootcamp rubbed off on you and your subjects. Sending them into the store unarmed. Hopefully some of them had been in Chinatown before. Did they leave running for their lives? What’s next, have them open up a tripod in front of a police officer and try to shoot the Brooklyn Bridge?

And you bring your sensitive side out. Maybe Mongo just pawn in game of life. I am sure that you set a few candles ablaze there. It is such a beautiful church, and it gives you a sense of being centered in a very busy place.

Keep firing! (and firing everyone else up!)

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Jo Evans says:

on October 29, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Wow, love the pano, & the Apple stair case. I can actually visualize that little scenario of you getting busted. touché!

Cindy Farr-Weinfeld says:

on October 29, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Mongo make GOOD pano! I agree, I’d love to see it larger, too. . . I loved the Apple Store story AND photo, as well as the candle man shots. Very nice. I was glad to see that you gave some of the EXIF data on the pano at least–but would you mind giving EXIF data on photos you post across the board? I’m trying really hard to learn portrait photography (got the pano thing down! lol!) and seeing how you do it EXIFically, would be really helpful! Thanks and keep writing and clicking, Cindy

John A. says:

on October 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Awesome pano Joe! …I can’t believe you hand held those, mine would have looked like a big funky plate of dark spaghetti had I hand held it.

I really like the portrait of the candle guy too. Was this available light, or did you sneak some CTO’d flash in there?

Great shots, thanks for sharing!

Barak Yedidia says:

on October 29, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Hey Joe!

Over on the left side of the top of your camera is a big knob like thing. Turn it until the M is next to the little mark next time you want to do a pano. It’s a lot easier than using EV compensation.


Ryan says:

on October 30, 2009 at 12:34 am

Hello Joe:
I am the guy who met you on Monday in Times square.
It is so exciting for me who came from Taiwan can see you.
I am a good fan of you, and will keep going on cortrollng ‘light’.
Best Regards.


Jerry S says:

on October 30, 2009 at 12:44 am

Outstanding pano! How did you get all those SB900s into all those offices and apartments?

Francesco Bonomo says:

on October 30, 2009 at 5:54 am

Lucca, the pictures in the church were both shot at ISO 3200 (the first at 1/50 and the second at 1/125).

Susan says:

on October 30, 2009 at 7:14 am

Fantastic pano! I was in the 5th Ave Apple store last month shooting up the stairs and no one said anything to me…but then again I was shooting with my Leica M8-a little less conspicuous I suppose. That’s definitely got to be one of the busiest Apple stores I’ve ever been in-it was practically elbow to elbow in there. Would love to be participating in this workshop!

Rick Paul says:

on October 30, 2009 at 8:54 am


I’ll believe your Indiana Jones stories anytime.

Like the staircase shot. Perverts in Apple Stores?

Michael Wiesman says:

on October 30, 2009 at 10:47 am

Joe, great content and great stories as always. I really enjoy your story-telling side mixed with a bit of humor. Keeps fellow photogs coming back to check out what story comes next in the world of McNally. (Much like the stories in The Moment it Clicks and The Hot-Shoe Diaries.

I have to ask Joe, I shoot at high ISO’s often, what where those shots of the candle guy taken at, I have a feeling that they were 3200 or above. I know that “look” of high ISO files.

I love that look. Have you used Noise Ninja at all?

Thanks again!

Rod says:

on October 30, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Photos are stunning, but I enjoy the humor even more. Thanks for making m’day.

jakob says:

on October 30, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Joe goes Tutorials:-) Nice!

Joe says:

on October 30, 2009 at 9:37 pm


Which building did you shoot the pano from? Beautiful shot. I thought it may have been the Empire State building, but noticed it in the background. Thank you for all your comments and illustrations.

Norm Cooper says:

on October 31, 2009 at 1:57 am

Another great shot of the skyline, tho I prefer the Western Mountains over the concrete jungle.

Perused the Photo section of the local big box bookstore this evening and found a copy of the Hot Shoe Diaries lying under a book titled “The Going Down Guide”

hmmm, I think you need to check out that one part of St Pat’s you seldom seen the inside of – the CONFESSIONAL!

Donnie Miller says:

on October 31, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Hey Joe,
Nice meeting you yesterday outside of Calumet. Nice to finally put a face to the name!

Aldis says:

on October 31, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Amazing panorama shoot, would love to have it as my desktop background.

Xw Han says:

on November 3, 2009 at 8:33 pm

hey where’s my message of yesterday? maybe chinese cannot be read by yr server

JR says:

on November 6, 2009 at 5:06 am

Jeez, Joe, that candle man looks a lot like, like, um, er, like you?

Scott says:

on November 6, 2009 at 7:42 am

What building was the pano shot from…Or from which building was the pano shot???!!

Andrei says:

on November 10, 2009 at 2:39 am

I’ve been reading McNally’s books and he mentions not having much clue about Ps. I have to say that you really don’t believe him because you think he’s kind of a well known guy and he should know more about this kind of stuff if he’s trying to make a living as a photographer. Then he posts a vertical panorama on his post and you REALLY BELIEVE HIM that he has NO CLUE about Ps and web format and such.

only kidding, Mr. McNally.

Colin Patterson says:

on November 11, 2009 at 11:03 am

Joe, I absolutely love the staircase shot. Wow. The pano and candle shots are awesome too, but I spent about 15 seconds staring at the stairs. I feel like an idiot that I didnt realize right away that it was an upshot 😉 Thanks for the information and inspiration. God bless you.

iheartfilm says:

on November 16, 2009 at 1:15 am

St. Pat’s is such a wonderful place. I got a few decent shots the last time I was there.

Stuart Macrae says:

on September 26, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Loving the NYC pano such a cool sky. Was around this time (28th) I met you in a bar in Grand Central where my wife and I were celebrating our wedding and you took a few shots of us, love the shots and get so frustrated not knowing who you were at the time, respect to you and your work.

bronney says:

on June 4, 2012 at 3:31 am

Joe, I hope you had your confession in St Pat for your upskirt stuff hehe.. nice one.

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