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With Thanks…

Jan 21

In In The Field at 6:05am

To all the folks who stop by the blog, and sent condolences and good wishes about my mom. That blog kind of wrote itself. Had a sense you know, that she was there, telling me what to do, or in this case what to write. Glad I have those pictures from that day, to be sure. It doesn’t really matter if you’re shooting for National Geographic or your Facebook page, the pictures you make of those close to you, the people you love, are the most important pictures you’ll ever make. And they can be the hardest. Your family can be a tough subject, and a tough editor. They’ll complain, perhaps, and your kids will roll their eyes. “Dad’s gettin’ weird with the camera again!” Or there won’t be enough time, so doing pictures at the next outing seems best. It’s up to us, the family documentarians, to be the  insistent curmudgeon, the bump in the road, the one who gets everybody to go stand together in open shade. It’s what we do. (It also appears from reading all the comments that a whole bunch of us out there have or had strong willed moms:-)

So being a photog can be a bit painful, or awkward. It can also be a bit odd. The below pix I guess fall into the category of “weird stuff that happens to a shooter.” I just documented the Hindu festival of Thaipusam for the second year in a row. Last year, when I came to Malaysia, I didn’t know anything about it. And now, once again, I found myself in the midst of twirling, entranced devotees.

Thaipusam is basically a haymaker to most of your senses–sight, sound, and smell. Smoke, sweat, blood, incense, heat and music all attend the procession up to the Batu Caves to honor Murugan.

Light source for these is the new Lastolite Speed-Lite which produces a real nice quality of light for its’ size. Popped it onto a paint pole, and started playing with mixing flash and shutter speeds to get more or less motion in the pix.

But, you know, after all the craziness, for me, the best picture of the day was a simple shot. This incredibly patient little baby, getting his noggin shaved for his trip to the cave. Just a sweet face in easy light.

More tk…..

Amryl Malek says:

on January 21, 2011 at 6:45 am

Thaipusam in Batu Caves is such a chaos. That the devotees carry the kavadis that are attach to their bodies with pins are a sight to behold. Most if not all are in a trance. It’s too bad that the photos can’t capture the sounds and the smells. That’ll be a total experience..

Juan C Ettedgui says:

on January 21, 2011 at 7:11 am

Hi guys, the italics on the first paragraph together with the motion on the first photo made me dizzy!. Strong willed moms made us good will people. Great images as always.

Kyle Jerichow says:

on January 21, 2011 at 7:18 am

Joe, ironically I only saw drew there and ended up with a picture of you and the small soft box as you passed under the gate…

I wasn’t able to stay for too long so I only got a few pictures.

See you in a few days.


Ian Mckenzie says:

on January 21, 2011 at 7:20 am

Funny but nobody says it has to be the hardest to create shot that is the best. Just we photographers associate degree of difficulty with better.
Love your blog Joe, there isn’t a photographer out in blog land that gives more of themselves than you.

Thank you.

Steve says:

on January 21, 2011 at 8:02 am

Hi Joe. I have watched your videos and read your blogs to educate myself and help improve my own photography over here in the UK. Many thanks for all the helpful input and great images. Also read the one on your Mum which moved me greatly. My dad is now 91 and from being a very mellow person has gradually become more cranky with age – but I will miss him too when it is time.

Chorwin says:

on January 21, 2011 at 8:11 am

Can’t imagine McNally to Malaysia’s famous cave all for Thaipusam. It one of the big event for Hindu in Malaysia. Penang Island is another famous spot for Thaipusam too.

Tim Skipper says:

on January 21, 2011 at 9:39 am

Great images Joe, glad to see you still moving on.

The little boy getting his head shaved doesn’t seem to sure about the process but the picture looks awesome

Andy says:

on January 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Great shots Joe. I presume if someone else is holding the pole then it isn’t a Hobby Strobe-on-a-rope setup? 😉

I like the new look for the website too. Fresh and fun.

Mike says:

on January 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Last year I was at a friend’s kid’s birthday party and as always, had my camera. I took a little extra effort to get a nice shot of great-grandma who was 92 with the new 1-year old great-granddaughter and other family.

Great-grandma died about two weeks later. I framed the shot for the family and was proud they displayed them at the funeral. You never know.

Thanks for posting and being an inspiration.

Glyn Dewis says:

on January 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Joe, what you say about us being the documentarians is so true. it reminded me of a good few years back when my brother in law gave me a couple of bags full of slides containing photos from when he along with my wife and other siblings were children growing up covering holidays, family parties and so on…

I scanned over 3000, colour corrected them and so on which took months but what was real special during those months was that from looking through all the photos I felt like I actually knew and had met my father in law who sadly passed away one year before I met my wife. This more than anything reminded me of the importance of photos and taking lots of them as one day those close to us won’t be with us.

Joe thanks for sharing this and the previous post; it’s hit a chord on so many levels.


viscara says:

on January 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Straight razor and little tyke ? yikes! Sorry I think I will pass on doing that for my kid. But then again were talking about a country where they throw their dead in the Gangi river and then drink and bath in the same river.

Paolo says:

on January 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I’m with you Joe, our families are the thoughest subjects and I got so many rolling eyes from them you can’t imagine…but still I’m glad I did or else we wouldn’t have those memories printed on photo paper!
In the end, it’s our way to say…I love you!


Amryl Malek says:

on January 22, 2011 at 3:43 am

@viscara: You’re confusing India with Malaysia. Thaipusam is one of the biggest Hindu celebration in Malaysia. The mighty River Ganges is in India.

Tom says:

on January 22, 2011 at 3:51 am

Nice pictures. Remind me never to ask Viscara for directions though ;-(

Pag says:

on January 22, 2011 at 11:32 am

So, I’m still learning about flash photography and I’m wondering: why are you using a Sto-Fen diffuser in that outdoor shot (where we see you)? I thought that kind of diffuser was mostly useful to bounce light on walls and ceiling indoors, but that’s obviously not how you’re using it here. My naive self would just assume you’d be losing a lot of light all around you without it hitting your subject, but I’m sure you’re doing it for a reason. So what am I missing? Or are you just using it to trigger the flash on a stick that serves as your main light while adding a bit of fill light?

(And what does “More tk…” mean exactly?)

Paul Murray says:

on January 22, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Very nice and insightful comments about the blog on your Mom.

The Malaysian stuff is great. Are you doing this in KL?

Alex Filatov says:

on January 22, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Hi Joe,

It hasn’t been long since I’ve been in the biz. I am a huge fan of yours. Thanks for sharing these fantastic, highly enjoyable shots. Love the baby shot, great find.

Thank you for sharing the stories about your mom, it’s so highly private. She was a fighter, just like you, may she rest in peace.

Joe McNally says:

on January 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

You guessed it Pag….the light is spraying about at minus 3, filling my subject just slightly. That dispersion also makes it likely (not 100%) to trip my main light, with is the little soft box on the paint pole. And “tk” is just an old journalism convention that means “to come” best, joe

Edwin Yap says:

on January 22, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Hi Joe, i like the 1st shot.really fantastic. Is so happy to work togather with you. Hope to see you again next year.

Ingoman says:

on January 23, 2011 at 1:51 am

Just visited batu cave during our stay in KL. impressive. Saw pictures of this festival in the newspapers and badly wanted to be there. People r freaking out at this event. Have you gotten shots of ppl “hurting” themselves with something sharp or metal?

Riordan says:

on January 23, 2011 at 7:18 am

I’m really interested in this flash panel light source you are using.. it looks brilliant! I can’t seem to find it on Lastolite’s site, is it called something else?

Csaba says:

on January 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm

The last one is really cute :-))

Jazmin Miranda says:

on January 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Hi Joe,
I always enjoy your stories and photos. Love the photo of the little boy! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us and teaching as you go.

J.San José says:

on January 24, 2011 at 5:08 am

Glad to see you going up and continue with your life Joe.
Thanks for your lessons for sharing your work and your life attitude

We love you !!

Tom says:

on January 24, 2011 at 5:33 am

Din AA says:

on January 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

Good to hear you’re back in M’sia, Jo. Too bad most of us ordinary mortals can’t afford to attend your workshop.

bycostello says:

on January 24, 2011 at 10:44 am

true what u say, my wife my biggest critic…

Jason says:

on January 24, 2011 at 11:13 am

Hey Joe,
Nice seeing your photos after looking at Michael’s back at the conference. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us back in M’sia. Hope you enjoyed your stay!


Ed O'Boyle says:

on January 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Among all those great images, I agree – the patient boy getting the haircut is my favorite.

Couldn’t agree more about the importance and implicit responsibilities of the family documentarians – highly valued and rewarding work.

JD says:

on January 27, 2011 at 4:27 am

Great to see all your works of KL, makes me feel great to be a Malaysian to have our festivities being showcase on your blog!

Jeremy Knop says:

on February 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Joe, this is a wonderful thing that you are doing here at the Hindu festival of Thaipusam! I am sure many Malaysians were glad to see you there again bringing attention their culture and customs. The picture of the little boy is awesome!

I would love to see a B&W version of the this picture also! Even though there is so much color at this festival I love the simplicity yet captivating power of an up close B&W portrait.

Was there anything really cool that caught your eye about the festival this year which was new the second time around that maybe you didn’t notice the first time? And what lens were you using on this shot Joe? It looks like possibly the 17-55mm f/2.8 if it was the same lens as in your other pics with you in them.

Sebastian Hamark says:

on January 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Hi Joe!

Im like Pag also learning about flash photography. And I would be really happy if you could answer my question. When you are mixing around with the shutter and flash, in what mode are you in? Shutterpriority or Aperturepriority?

All the best,

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