responsiveslider_lol_02 The Language of Light DVD - More
MeetJoe_02 Meet Joe McNally - More
inthebag What’s in the Bag? - More

Archive for September, 2010

Over the Mountain and Through the Woods

Sep 28

In In The Field at 2:51pm


At DLWS with the Mooster. He looked at me yesterday, and asked me to do the warm up talk when we got to location. You know, gather everybody around and tell them what the place is about, how to maybe go about shooting it, etc. I said fine. Then I asked him, “By the way, where the hell are we?” I wasn’t completely joking. Got off the plane from Germany, and Grippi from our studio picked me up at JFK and between the two of us and the state of Massachusetts, which evidently needed to re-pave every single one of it’s highways the other night, turned a 51/2 hour drive into an 81/2 hour drive. Got to the hotel at midnight (it’s haunted, by the way) slept for a few hours and then headed into the rain and mist of early Monday morning.

We are evidently in New Hampshire. There are trees here.

More tk….

And now a word from our FNG..

Sep 27

In Friends, Thanks at 5:15am


When Joe and the gang asked me to write about my experience as the “intern” for the blog, I was pretty damn close to having a panic attack.  Exactly how do I sum up one of the best experiences of my life in a few paragraphs.. especially for all of his followers to see?  Pretty nerve racking, huh?  After countless failed attempts to start my post, all of which sounded like I was about to give a speech at a high-school graduation, I decided to revert back to why I do what I do.. why I became a photographer in the first place.

This feeling of loving what you do is displayed from each and every person that takes a step through Joe’s door each day.  I can honestly say that I have never met a group of individuals who care about their “job” as much as those with whom I work beside.  We all bring everything we have to the table to make what we love possible.. beautiful imagery with meaning.

I must say; however, that they did have their fair share of “fun” with me.  For those of you who desire that internship opportunity with Joe.. you better have a strong head.  If I wasn’t such a tough and manly dude, I would have shed a few tears throughout my stay (thankfully I am, though).  From spending some time in a heavy-duty plastic bin, to being a carrier mule for gear, it was almost like going through a boot-camp of photography.  They tried to break me, but I think I’ve managed to come out in one piece :)


In all seriousness, words could not possibly describe my experience with Joe and his crew.  How many interns can say that they spent their very first assisting job on Jay Maisel’s rooftop photographing a ballerina? Or had the chance to spend an entire month helping with lighting workshops? Or got to personally know the photographer who made them love what they do in the first place?  I am proud to be one of those rare individuals that can say that they fall into that category.  The relationship that I am walking away from this whole experience with is something that is more valuable to me than anything on this earth (aside from my family.. and my friends.. and my dogs.. and.. just kidding Joe).


All in all, it has been an honor and a privilege to work beside such a great group of people for the summer.  It was tough saying goodbye to the big guy and his assistants, but more opportunities opened up to me through my time spent at the studio.  Aside from the intern hazing rituals, they treated me like family, and that’s what made the whole experience for me–a boss and coworkers who you can call family.  How I managed to find someone like Joe, who is  always willing to put you before himself, is beyond me, and that is a quality I will carry with me until I die.

I know this is blog post about my experience as a summer intern for Joe McNally, but it is also a huge thank you to him and his team for giving me an education and an experience that I could not have received otherwise, and for that, I am grateful.  I wish him the best in everything that he does, and I look forward to the day that we work along side each other again.

I am now off to continue working as an assistant in Newport, RI, as well as pursue my passion as a wedding photographer.  Thanks to Joe, I will be ready for anything that happens to come way.  Although my wedding site is currently being redesigned, you can check out my personal work in the mean time (

From Joe….

Way to go Cali…..nice job, even when we put you in that box in the garage…more tk….

Photographers and the Search for the Holy Bag

Sep 22

In Equipment at 2:09am


Photographers. If somebody offered us a cool bag in lieu of a day rate, we’d probably take it. I can’t tell you how many times over the course of my career I’ve just about keeled over with the rapture at the sight and feel of some shoulder borne, web slung, wheelie driven mix of cordura and zippers. Gotta have it. Just gotta. Hence my garage is a bag graveyard, strewn with relics of cases gone by and zippers gone off the rails. Once mighty containers, with the double stitched linings and the thirteen secret zippered, waterproof compartments in the front flap alone, hang lifelessly, toting only dust and the occasional mouse turd. (Photo above by Will Foster.)

So, we’ve had a good tour of bag land, and have finally arrived at some conclusive (for us, anyway) evidence that bag science is finally delivering on the promise of a cure for the bagaholic shooter. We’ll be posting intermittently (did I have to say that, faithful readers who put up with my erratic blogging?) on bags we have experimented with and are fond of. While I stop short of saying we are in bag heaven, the mix of Kata, Thinktank, and Moose bags have really elevated the game.

Let’s start with the big guns, what we do our heaviest shipping with, the Kata line. We use their OC line, a mix of mostly 88’s and 97’s, with a couple 86’s mixed in. (Check out the website, the numbers correspond to different sizes.) I have to say that our experience across the board with these guys is pretty flawless. They are made from some type of ballistic material that can probably fend off an RPG, hence since traveling with these, I have had zero, zero damage to my stuff, despite the fact that there are certainly some airline bag handlers, disgruntled with lifting them, who have played bombadier with these puppies, dropping them out of the airplane to the tarmac without the benefit of mechanized conveyance.


The interiors, blessedly, are the color of a school bus. Makes sense. Every drop some tiny little biddy bastard screw thing, or plastic whozimawhatsis down into the hold of a standard black bag? You might as well have dropped it into a black hole. (In fact, you did.) The yellow brick road interiors of these bags simply makes sense for mostly black photo gear. They also smartly divide up the top flap into zippered compartments for the interior, and hollow spaces (2 of them) on the top of the exterior. These two pics are how we travel with speedlights. The whole nine yards fits into one bag….SB900s, SD9 battery packs, SC-29 cables, SU 800, Maha chargers, Flashpoint stuff, Lumiquest light shapers, Honl grids, Ray flash, gels, batteries, Hoodman loupes, instruction manuals, Wave tool, Swiss Army knives, gaffer tape, and spare batteries. Everything is numbered, and color coded with tape.


We throw this puppy into FedEx, or the hold of a plane. It survives admirably. The question mark is the wheels. They have hung in there, mostly, but I have busted a couple of sets over the last year or so. (They are independent of the case, thus replaceable.) But, as I hark back, I have busted the wheels on virtually every case I’ve ever owned. Ever smash a set of the built in wheels on a Pelican case? Not a happy day. The wheels turn into non-spinning lumps and the bag turns into the equivalent of an anvil. (Ever swung a heavy, hard, plastic type case, loaded with gear, out of the back of a Suburban, and before it hits the ground, the first thing it makes contact with is your shins? Oh, my. You feel like you just attached a set of jumper cables to your lower legs, the way you start hopping around.) The Kata’s are padded all around. And the zippers, the Achilles heel of most bags, have remained resolutely intact.

All in all, great bags, well thought out, and good protection for the gear. Next up, quite soon, bags for the smaller stuff. Thinktank, and how we’ve adapted them to our traveling ways, more Kata, and the Moose bag.

More tk….

Kelby Tours, Hartford: Elex and Bleu

Sep 16

In Seminars & Workshops at 7:00am


Had a great time in Hartford yesterday, doing a Kelby Lighting Seminar. It’s fun, and a challenge, and a bit daunting, at least occasionally, to keep the ball bouncing and think up stuff to do when you’re shooting live in front of hundreds of folks. But, I lose myself in the process, and just try to have fun. On a big commercial shoot, there are often many people on the set with you, observing what you do, so I just figure on these outings, I’ve got a few hundred art directors in the audience, so it’s cool by me.

I make mistakes like crazy up there, but that doesn’t really faze me. For 25 years, at National Geographic, my editors there have seen every single frame I’ve shot, good, bad or indifferent. Every frame. It was true with film and is true now with digital. I don’t edit in the camera, I don’t tweak in post. Raw files out of the camera. Every picture, whether it’s a gem, or a giant steaming turd that might have just dropped out of a tall cow’s ass, goes to the building with the yellow border around it.

So at these seminars, every frame I shoot goes immediately to the screen. That’s one way to get naked really quick, but again, I enjoy the process of building a picture, and the audience tends to be right there with me, involved in the process. Yesterday, the folks in Hartford were great. Very patient and kind, even when I completely lost all sense of where I was and fell off the stage. Yep, that was a first. I was at the edge of the risers, pursuing a picture, and I just stepped out there on the air, which wasn’t smart. I felt like David Copperfield, minus the good looks and hot babes, doing one of those tricks where he just drops through a trap door. Oh, well, once a numnuts, always a numnuts.

The saving grace of yesterday, apart from my distracted antics, was working with two of the gentlest, most beautiful people I have ever worked with–Elex and Bleu.


They are a married couple who are wonderful in front of the camera, either singly, or together. (As I said onstage, I suspect their children are beautiful. Just a hunch.)


We experimented with decidedly big flash, up above, for the couples portraits. Those two images were made with the Elinchrom 74″ Octa, a truly wondrous light source. When you gotta go with one light, this is a good one to go with:-)

Elex, alone, is shot small flash. The main light is a Flashpoint beauty dish, and in the background are two raw SB900s. All TTL, hi speed sync at 1/4000 @f2. 200mm lens.

Below, we experimented lighting two surfaces, the subject and the background, with one small flash. The light is about 20′ away, camera left, and it is hitting the white background, ungoverned. In between the light and Bleu up front is a large Tri-grip diffuser, which steals some of the intensity of the flash and smooths it for a portrait. Hence the background snaps white and the foreground is lit nicely. One light, TTL. Fun to do.


More tk…..

Road Work

Sep 14

In News at 6:37am

Three things up and running, which have the studio up and running. First, Kelby Lighting Tour Stop, Hartford, Ct. this  Wednesday.


Then, it’s onto Texas, at the behest of my long time friend and partner in madcap antics, Sharlie Douglas of Nikon. She has worked out a two day stint in Houston for this weekend, and it should be a hoot.


And from Houston to Germany. Very excited. I’ve been in this field for thirty five years and never, ever been to Photokina, that every other year photo fest that makes all others look like a county fair. From what I hear, you could put all of, say, Photo Plus East in one wing of Photokina. It’s like, I don’t know, the Louvre of digital imagery. Joining the Manfrotto School of Excellence (I know, I know, what’s numnuts doing at a thing like that? Uh, comic relief, maybe?)

But I am excited to go, and honored to have been asked.


Lots of pictures, lots of miles…..more tk…..