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Many things to be thankful for….

Nov 26

In Thanks at 10:27am

There are so many things to be thankful for, every day. Too many to list here for sure. One of those things, for me, is the readership of this blog. I am always honored by the fact that you stop by, regularly or occasionally, and for your thoughts, input, questions and critiques. It, for me, is all part of the adventure, one that is evolving for all of us almost daily. This whole idea of greeting the world with a camera in your hand has changed over time, but yet another thing to be thankful for is that while the numbers of pixels change, the basics of picture making don’t. These turbocharged computers with lenses stuck on them are nothing without our heads, hearts, and guts driving them.

So, community, and the sharing of information is important, and I thank everyone for that. The internet laces us all together now, and in this digital maelstrom it has largely replaced the post deadline bar gatherings of ink stained wretches that were the staple of my early days as a shooter. (Not entirely replaced, thankfully. Still happens, if only every once in a while. This development might be for the best, perhaps. After several beers, the information and wisdom exchanged at these meet-ups, while certainly colorful, is mildly suspect.)

So my hat’s off and my thanks are offered to everyone who participates in picture making, that endeavor that is so essential and necessary, yet so frivolous and fragile. Chasing good pictures can be as complex and cerebral as an unsolvable math problem, or as muddy and ridiculous as a greased pig contest. At the end of the day, we often fall short. Thankful for that, too. If I didn’t regularly goof up at this, and the grid of my thumbnails didn’t frequently spell out a message of failure to me, my desperate Irish Catholic need to embrace suffering might impel me to do something else.

So, thankful for it all. For the pictures and those who make them and share them, and also share the travails of going click on a regular basis. Thankful today for my family and friends. And Annie…..especially thankful for Annie, without whom the world would be monochrome, and my pictures would be just so much noise.

Thankful Vanessa came to the bridge! Some folks have written in about this pic, so I’ll parse it out a bit.


Lens (mm): 14   ISO: 200  Aperture: 8  Shutter: 1/40  Exp. Comp.: -1.3  Flash Comp.: +1  Program: Aperture Priority  Focus Mode: AF-C  White Bal.: CLOUDY


Got a pretty nice quality of light on Vanessa because of two things. Volume (size) of the light source, and closeness to the subject. (Where have I heard that before?) The light panel is perched just at the edge of the frame, camera right. Drew is floating the bar with the 3 SB units about a foot, foot and a half away from the panel. Someone asked why the two independent VALs? Basically because of foot traffic on the bridge, having two guys as large as Will and Drew seemed reasonable, and with the wind potential up there, used mini-booms instead of a paint pole. Mini-booms are sturdy stuff, but heavy, and one guy would get tuckered out pretty quick holding up the whole rig. Used an SB900 hot shoed as a commander, cause the camera was almost under the remote flashes and I needed the commander signal to translate upwards, not vector out from the hot shoe in linear fashion, which is what an SU-800 would have produced.

Got pretty good recycle with 3 units cranking away, and ramped up the quality of light at the same time. Vanessa does her mystical, pensive muse thing, stunning as always, and made my job easy. The city and the sky gave us a gift in the background. Done. Thankful, yet again.

More tk……

phil says:

on November 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

Thanks for the explination joe… I see it helps to have a plan in place before ya go!

Mark says:

on November 26, 2009 at 10:34 am

Thank YOU Joe for all the knowledge you give and the inspiration you impart.

And for being a pretty nice guy, too.

Annemarie Mountz says:

on November 26, 2009 at 10:37 am

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Joe. I’m thankful to have met you a year ago when you and Annie visited Penn State. (And sad you didn’t make it back this year!) I’m also thankful for the wisdom and humor you impart in your blogs. I am a better photographer for having met you and being able to soak up some of your knowledge.

Wes says:

on November 26, 2009 at 10:37 am

Very true Joe. Much to be thankful for this holiday season. beautiful image. As usual. Thanks for the diagram as well. Nice touch to the post. Question: Where can I get one of those “numnuts”? ; ) Enjoy the day off, and maybe even a couple of them. Catch up with you on the road. -Wacom Wes

John Rice says:

on November 26, 2009 at 10:48 am

Joe, I don’t know which I like better; your photos or your drawings.

Mary Anne Morgan says:

on November 26, 2009 at 10:54 am

Amazing work, Joe! I just read, ( well, consumed what my brain could hold) your latest book. Wish I could understand more about the lighting stuff. You do brilliantly with it. Thanks for making information so accessible to people like me. Your work is inspiring and your writing is always so engaging. I always feel as though I am reading a letter from a friend rather than another professional drone on about how they do stuff when I read your writing. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your lovely family.

Mary Anne

Stephen J. Zeller says:

on November 26, 2009 at 11:13 am


Happy Thanksgiving to you too and thank YOU for sharing your knowledge with our community.

All the best,


Marc Durocher says:

on November 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

Hi Joe,

I have many things in my life to be thankful for (even though us Canadians Celebrated Thanksgiving last month) but I wanted to mention one reason I have for being especially thankful. You see, I am an amateur numnuts (just love the way you always refer to yourself in your diagrams), and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate experts like yourself and David Hobby taking the time to share your incredible talent and insights with others than can only aspire to create such beautiful images.


JDM says:

on November 26, 2009 at 11:32 am


I know I speak for a ton of us when I say… thank YOU!!


Bobbi Lane says:

on November 26, 2009 at 11:37 am

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Annie! I hope you have a warm and peaceful day, enjoying the company of loved ones and the tastings of excellent food. We are all thankful for the love and joy of your photography, the inspiration and education of your words, and the ridiculous craziness of your attitude!
My best to you and Happy Holidays! to Drew, too!

Israel Zenteno says:

on November 26, 2009 at 11:52 am

I am thankful that we get people like you to write this blogs!!! That share their knolodge and show is great photos and how to make them!

Beautiful image of Vanessa!!!

Thanks for sharing

Kevin Steele says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Thank YOU, Joe. Thanks for the great stories and priceless fly-on-a-wall insights into your shoots. For this shot, would you have also considered a 5000-5500K daylight WB (to keep the blues in the sky) with a 1/2 or so CTO (to match sunset tones on skin) on the lighting rig? Or did the cloudy WB give the reds and tone you were after?

Chris Leventis says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Happy Thanksgiving Joe!

As always, thanks for the inspiration


Louis Pang says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Yes, so much we should be thankful for. Keeping the business running in the midst of global financial crisis. Having the ability and tenacity to pursue our dreams and the next great image. Having a loving family and great friends. And of course, having this blog to read. Always love the voice in your post. You communicate with honesty, earnestness and frailty…the third thing, more than anything else, connects you with people around the world. We all love big victories but life isn’t like that. When you share your fears, fall short & frailty, you connect with the audience.

Happy Thanksgiving, Joe & Annie!

Federico says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Thanks to you, Joe! Really… Thanks for sharing your wonderful art with us!

Lyndon Smith says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Beautiful shot! Hats off to you, Vanessa, and the team on that one.

Nice to have the camera exif info and the detailed lighting diagram included in the post.

I too am thankful for many things, including the smiles and knowledge gained from reading this blog.

Charles Verghese says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm

…and a big thanks goes out to you for sharing all this information in an attempt to raise the bar of photography around the world!

Hope to see you in Dubai for the next GPP event.


Peter Puna says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Here in Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving a month ago (some say we have it earlier because we have less to be thankful for. I’m not sure about that). But I am still moved to say thank YOU, Joe, for all your wit, wisdom and for being a continuing source of inspiration on this wonderful road called Photography.

All he best

Lewis W says:

on November 26, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I am thankful for Annie, your light in the window. I believe she is the reason you can go out in the world with confidence and lightness in your step and bring back such incredible images. I am thankful for your friends and mentors who shaped you into what you are today. I am thankful I am in a business where we share the joy and sorrow with each other. And finally, I am thankful we are the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Jeff says:

on November 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm

That sure is a wonderful picture Joe. Thanks for sharing the setup napkin. Those things are great. Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy the ensuing nap!

Kev Isabeth says:

on November 26, 2009 at 1:29 pm

we dont celebrate thanksgiving in our part of the world, but thank you Joe for what you give to us, the photographic community. You are an inspiration.

Jason says:

on November 26, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Thanks for sharing the setup. Wonderful picture. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sue S says:

on November 26, 2009 at 3:41 pm

All is can say is WOW! I bought my first DSLR about a year ago and am only getting started. Your blog, your photography, your spirit and your sense of humour are simply amazing! Thank you for sharing. My next dream is to attend one of your DWLS workshops. Not quite worthy of attending just yet…but once I get a little better with my camera…I will be there!

Peter Phun says:

on November 26, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I see you’re headed to Malaysia where I’m from. I’m envious. Enjoy the food Joe.

I can picture you using this landmark as a backdrop.

Call it a dare, or even a challenge. I suspect if anyone can pull this off, you can.

How about seeing if actress Michelle Yeoh is available as your model?

Thank you for sharing your inspiration.

jakob says:

on November 26, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Thanks for all the information about the setup, very nice! Awesome Picture Joe, love it! Keep up the good work!!! Mmmmmh, Im still hoping for a workshop over here in Switzerland…I really would love to meet you in person once, Master McNally.

Cheers Jakob

jakob says:

on November 26, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Oh yes, happy thanksgiving! :-)

Juan Rojo says:

on November 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Happy Thanksgiving Joe! The image above is simply breathtaking. Your post also got me thinking, in today’s cyber-everything culture, we are more “connected” than ever before. However, while the knowledge and information is out there for all of us to take, creativity is what brings it all together to produce those iconic images that we constantly chase after. Keep that creative torch burning!

Mike McFerrin says:

on November 26, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I tell you how thankful we are for you!! You’ve never forgotten your roots and I admire that. Most successful people won’t give the struggling ones the time of day, much less keep up a blog, answer questions, and share your secrets. You are truly a person that deserves the top spot. I may never have the privilege of shaking your hand in person, but I will always consider you my friend……. and mentor!

Thanks for everything buddy, but most of all, thank you for being you!!

Doug E. says:

on November 26, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Joe –

Thank you for this post and all you do for “us!”

I hope you have a wonderful day hangin’ with no deadlines, airlines, or stress – just family, friends & home!



Lennart says:

on November 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Happy Thankgsgiving Joe!
And thank you for being such an awesome blog writer. I enjoy reading all of your posts and your style of storytelling and writing puts a smile on my face everytime I visit your blog/ read your books.
Keep rockin’

F360 says:

on November 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm

Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with the rest of us. You are always an inspiration and a joy to read.


John says:

on November 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Thank you for the time that you put into communicating with all of us!

Happy Thanksgiving!


KLBO says:

on November 26, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Just like everyone else. I too wanted to say THANK YOU.

I’ve been shooting for just a couple of years now, but you are definitely one of the photographers that inspire me. So keep it up.

Thank you.


Ranger 9 says:

on November 27, 2009 at 2:28 am

Since it’s Thanksgiving, thanks for the additional info on the Vanessa photo. It was interesting to read how it was set up and also about the thinking behind the setup.

Question: When you’re conceiving a photo like this, do you try to have some kind of “backstory” in mind about how a fully-costumed, pointe-shod danseuse came to be perched on a rusty bridge girder? Or do you figure that if the image is strong enough, it will create its own internal logic? Just curious…

TenisD says:

on November 27, 2009 at 5:27 am

Great job as always!! The colours are true Mc Nally for that picture :) Love it.
Thank You for sharing.

Richard Lee says:

on November 27, 2009 at 10:33 am

The picture is wonderful as usual for your work but for a second type of look would a reflector to bounce light on her dark side be acceptable trying to put an even glow on her face?

Linda Brinckerhoff says:

on November 27, 2009 at 10:54 am

Happy T-Day to you and Annie and your girls!

Having a fear of heights, this image makes my stomach go flip-flop everytime I look at time I look at it. All I want to do is pull that pretty girl off the girder before she falls over the edge! It scares me!

But back to the point, are the diagrams drawn before or after the shoot?

Angie says:

on November 27, 2009 at 10:56 am

Hi Joe,

Happy Thanksgiving to you too. Awesome picture! I looked @ the picture first before reading the explanation, I thought it was a digital background. Then I read your post and thought, wow, what a great picture.

Happy Holidays!


Nat says:

on November 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Joe, time for me to stop “lurking” and step into the light here! I’ve been reading you here since you first started and have always enjoyed what you have to say. I also really enjoyed meeting you back on July 1st at your workshop in Dobbs Ferry [] [even though you’re taller than I expected! 😉 ].

Obviously, your use of light and color are amazing, that’s why you are where you are on the professional pyramid. Your willingness to share you experiences and your knowledge are exceptional. Your storytelling skills are superb and most enjoyable because of your somewhat twisted sense of humor, which I really appreciate, and the self-deprecating way in which you tell them.

But the one thing that really sets you apart for me in addition to all of the above, is your skill, sense of self, and emotional content/context in your prose. I so enjoy reading what you have to say, both here on the blog and in your books, because you have a remarkable way with words! Who’da thunk it from a visual?! Please thank the Sisters for me! 😉 !

Thomas C. says:

on November 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Thanks for sharing knowledge and those beautiful pictures Joe.


Debs says:

on November 27, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I too am thankful for many things, not least of which is YOU! Your ability to make photography and lighting by your brilliantly funny descriptive writing into a pleasure to read. I often dip into Hot Shoe Diaries, not just because I want to read about a praticular setup, but because I love reading your prose! As an Irish Catholic myself, your references to the eternal guilt trip are right on the mark. It is due to you that I have taken the big (for me) step of braving the world of off camera flash (and Nikon speedlights in particular), and your willingness to share your knowledge in such an endearing way is wonderful!
I hope to eventually, (in the not too distant future, mehopes) be able to meet & thank you personally at one of your workshops, so am busy saving my pennies! I don’t suppose there’s any chance of you doing any in the UK? :^).
The image of Vanessa is truly stunning & I shall use this as a discussion point at the next camera club meeting!

All the very best to you & your family!

James Saxon says:

on November 27, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Nice picture and explanation. Many thanks to you for sharing your techniques. FYI. I attended the two session in Houston and have been busy utilizing some of your teachings. My wife still thinks I purchased the paint pole to paint one of the rooms in our house. (That won’t happen.) Thanks again.

PaulT says:

on November 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The images of Vanessa are amazing. Just love your diagrams… so helpful and the added benefit of a bit of humor at the same time. I would have never thought of posing a ballerina on the bridge — wow! Beyond a doubt, you have had an enormous impact on my photography and I just wanted to thank you for giving so much to the photography world — it is much appreciated. Once again, thank you and happy holidays to you and your family!

Mike Neale says:

on November 27, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Ahh,…com’on Joe,…now you got me crying! Back at ya!

Bill says:

on November 27, 2009 at 8:52 pm


Ya shood be reel happy a KY boy ( Bill P. ) introduced you to a great gal within NPS .


Bill says:

on November 27, 2009 at 8:57 pm

BTW Joe !

I wish you would expand on this point:

” Used an SB900 hot shoed as a commander, cause the camera was almost under the remote flashes and I needed the commander signal to translate upwards, not vector out from the hot shoe in linear fashion, which is what an SU-800 would have produced.”


Marc W. says:

on November 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm

HI Joe,
Thank you for sharing yourself and constantly giving back. I remember when your first started your blog and have been following it ever since. Last year i purchased your first book and THe Hot Shoe Diaries this year. Both of them entertaining and enlightening (big time!). THSD has definitely changed the way i think about available off camera lighting and opened a whole world of creative possibilities.

Wow! These Lastolit Tri Grips are hard suckers to find in the market place here in Orange County Cali. Tried Samy’s and Calumet…nada. Was able to snag the last one on the shelf at a small store, Cal’s in Costa Mesa. They had a 30″ 2 stop diffusion. These TG’s are phenom! Much easier to handle than the other large and often cumbersome round or square diffusers.

Joe, my questions is this: You mnention the use of Tri Grip diffusers often on your blog and in THSD (your new book). What i’m curious about is do you favor the 1 stop diffusion or the 2 stop?

Another question for you. I know you are a Nikon shooter. Is there a way to do the kind of multi-flash set ups you do with Canon gear?

I’m looking forward to testing my 2 stop Tri Grip tonight with a speed light.

Thank for contributing and building a community for growth and learning.

John A. says:

on November 28, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Happy (late) Thanksgiving Joe! One of the plethera of things I’m thankful for, is your continuing efforts to share your knowledge and educate other photographers thru your books, blog and videos. I’ve learned so much from you and continue to soak up everything you do. Thanks for your effort and generosity!

Jonathan Fleming says:

on November 28, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I’m thankful for instructors like you Joe! I’ve very much enjoyed watching your videos and reading your books, and I sincerely appreciate your efforts to share your vast knowledge and experience.

Jim White says:

on November 29, 2009 at 12:38 am

Happy Thanksgiving to you too Joe . . beautiful work, as usual. You truly are an inspiration to those of us that want to master the art of making images . .

Jeremy Wade Shockley says:

on November 30, 2009 at 2:34 pm


Beautiful image-thanks for sharing as always!

– I am a big proponent of the photographer community you have just described, be it over beers or ethernet, there is always something to learn…or teach!

I check your site regularly and have it posted on my own page….

Keep the great work coming- always a treat!

Cheers, Jeremy

John says:

on November 30, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Curious. Did you shoot this with a cloudy white-balance so that her skin would be warmed up and the background would be more orange, or is this all just natural colors with bare flash?

Alex Hurtado says:

on December 1, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Hi again Joe!

It’s been a month since we said goodbye to each other in NYC, after the NGS workshop, but I see you are as generous in your blog as you were in person. We are the ones who must thank you, sure.

I’m reading your “The Hot Shoe Diaries”‘s book, so I’m starting to get used to your drawings, but I still have some difficulties in making the kind of pictures you make…I think I only will need 30 years more and visiting your blog more frequently. I’ll do it.

See you soon


Dirk says:

on December 5, 2009 at 1:39 am

Beautiful shot. Thanks, as always, for sharing your art and your know-how with the rest of us!

Kent Wedding Photographer says:

on December 13, 2009 at 6:45 am

The composition on this shot is simply great, the sense of scale and the positioning of the lady over the intersection of leading lines works a treat as expected.

maurizio says:

on March 28, 2010 at 6:24 am

hi Joe,
just love your work…you are great inspiration for me. I have one question: when you set your wb to cloudy to obtain warmer colours, how can your subject eg the girl naturally coloured? do you use any colour aompensation on your flashes?

Dallas SEM says:

on October 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for this astounding tidbit! I will definitely have to try this in my blog!


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on December 1, 2010 at 5:31 pm

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