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At Home with Donald…

Dec 14

In Friends, Rambling at 9:12am

Laughter comes easy to Donald and I. We’ve know each other for ten years or so, and to me, it’s just one of the small but rich gifts of this nutty business that he ends up on the cover of this new book. He’s a decent soul who takes his honey out for several spins on the dance floor every Friday night, sips Cuervo like it’s medicine, and always has a bit of a twinkle in his eye. As he said to me once, “The day they put me down, all the music in the world’s gonna stop.” I think he’s right.

Home. Feels good after a tumultuous year. For the rest of the year on the blog, I’ll be focusing on some of the highs and lows of another year of survival as a shooter. I looked around my tiny apartment in NYC in 1979, and realized I was paying all of my meager bills with a camera, and knew right then that I was a professional photog. At that point in time, being called a pro was high praise indeed. It was a mark of distinction that acknowledged the fact that your pictures were not only being consumed by people and influencing them every day, but that your livelihood flowed through a lens. It was a stamp of approval that only a hardy few could merit and sustain. So, as we approach 2012, 33 years with a camera in my hands and counting. Sheesh. I get points for stubbornness, anyway.

But, lots of highs and lows, as always. The new book is one of the highs, and it’s a fun read. Lots of survival lessons in there, right next to the lighting diagrams and production shots. Having my friend Mr. Blake on the cover of Sketching Light is one those wonderfully odd pieces of serendipity that occasionally come a shooter’s way.  Donald looks a bit stern and forbidding on the cover for the gentle soul that he is, but I know he likes the picture.

Shot this during a workshop demo, when the sky and the wind just gave me a feeling I could find my way to a picture.

On the other hand, one of the more notable lows occurred this year aboard Flashbus, when a hard turn ended me up in bed with David Hobby. He reported on this incident thoroughly in his blog of yesterday:

Also, if anyone woulda told me five years ago that one day I would be traveling in a tour bus with Joe McNally, I woulda told them that they were nuts.

And if anyone woulda told me five years ago that one day, I would suddenly and unexpectedly find myself in my underwear, sharing a bed with McNally, I woulda punched ’em in the mouf.

Suffice to say you never know what turns life has in store for you. Especially an unexpected hard left-hand turn by a bus, resulting in the above. After that, I slept in full clothing.

Lots of laughs, twists and turns out there on the road.

The picture up top was shot by Kent Skibstad who attended a workshop and who wrote to me that the workshop “really kickstarted my photographic career, thank you!” It was a wonderful note to get as a teacher.

More tk…

Paul Alers says:

on December 14, 2011 at 9:28 am

All the best in the coming year Joe and Happy Holidays.

Adam says:

on December 14, 2011 at 9:33 am

Toronto PLEASE

Kent Weakley says:

on December 14, 2011 at 9:38 am

Friends are what it’s all about. You’re blessed to meet so many interesting people Joe. Enjoy them all!

Stacy R. says:

on December 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

I’ve never used lights in my short career, though my particular field doesn’t call for it, but after a recent experience, I suppose it’s time to branch out and learn a few things…why not learn from the best???

“Sketching Light” is on my list for the day and should you venture South for any workshops or seminars, I’ll certainly be there.


William Chinn says:

on December 14, 2011 at 10:21 am

One of the best things about Joe’s stories are the images on how the picture was taken and its subjective meaning after hearing the story. But sharing a bed with David Hobby is input overload because the mental image is definitely blinding.

Joe Howe says:

on December 14, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hey Joe
Looking forward to the new book, it’s on my Christmas list. Any chance of you coming back to Calgary after your stop in Vancouver?

Darren Elias says:

on December 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Joe, I told you in Philly, and I’ll say it again… You changed my life. Your classes, your books, your openness with sharing information. And your work… It INSPIRES, CHALLENGES and DRIVES. Thank you!

My tracking link for my copy of the new book says: Out for Delivery! :)

Angel Wynn says:

on December 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Love the Donald. He too was an incredible lighting teacher with plenty of patience. A great model too.
Thanks Joe for the wonderful experience during your Lighting workshop in Santa Fe. You are definitely the best!
Cheers and Happy Shooting, Angel

ps. Can’t wait for your latest book “Sketching Light”

Tee says:

on December 14, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Hi Joe,

Just got Sketching Light yesterday. I tore open the packaging and just stared at the cover pretty darn cool! It makes me want to get back to what I really enjoy doing. I wish I could say I couldn’t put it down but crazy stuff gets in the way like eating, sleeping and work but I look forward to all 417 pages. Happiest of Holidays to you!

Sue Sikorski says:

on December 14, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Perfect time for the release of your book Joe. A friend and I always get together just before Christmas, have a glass of wine and shop on-line and each choose our own book as our gift. This year I have pre-ordered Sketching Light. Funny, last Christmas I also ordered a book of yours. Please keep ’em coming…

Nate Parker says:

on December 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm

i read tons of photoblogs and there’s something about yours that makes my eyes stick to the words when i read it like no other- looking forward to your year end tops, man where did the time go!

Phil says:

on December 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Just got my copy of Sketching Light today! Awesome! Well ahead of promised delivery. Can’t wait to spend some time studying.

David Wilson says:

on December 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Somehow, I think you and Donald are two mischievous boys trapped in adult bodies and, most of the time, have to act as adults.

And you are right in that we are all richer for having known the many wonderful we meet.

Dene wessling says:

on December 15, 2011 at 2:40 am

Well all i can say is its great to see this book come out i remember saying in dec 13 2009 you should bring out a book like this with your drawings who do i see about getting a autograph one :p

T. C. Knight says:

on December 15, 2011 at 9:02 am

Just got the book Joe and it is certainly your best. I am thoroughly enjoying it. Congratulations!

Dave Block says:

on December 15, 2011 at 9:44 am

Had a chance to work with Donald this fall at a Santa Fe Workshop – the man has forgotten more about lighting than I will ever learn. A study as a model and a patient teacher. Glad to see him on the cover of the new book.

Evan E says:

on December 15, 2011 at 11:14 am

I just got my book yesterday in the mail. MAN IT”S BIG! My brain is trying to wrap itself around all the content and Joe humor going on in there. So far just thumbed through the book and I”m looking forward to a couple of good lunches and evenings to digest all the info.

Now I’m trying to decide, do I watch the Flash Bus Videos or read this book first?

Deb Scally says:

on December 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Nice post, as always Joe, and thanks to Kent for the fun shot, above. I love the shots of Joe laughing… you can tell it comes from the belly and it’s infectious. Cheers!

Mario Plouffe says:

on December 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Since i see you in Boston in the Flash Bus Tour i got so much confidence and i try so Many things, i Never taught That i can do photos That i can be proud of…. I have a lot to learn , but i’m hungry to learn since i see you. Thank you for that.

Meilleurs vœux pour le temps des fêtes.

Save thé Planet, the only one with Joe Mcnally

Ron says:

on December 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Joe, my copy of Sketching Light arrived today – I flipped it open and started reading some parts randomly. In no less than 15 seconds I was laughing out loud…(it was your story and photo from the Russian space center.)

I can’t wait for a break so I can sit down and dig into this thing.

Happy Holidays!

Libby says:

on December 16, 2011 at 3:34 am

I just got notice that my book is shipping today and I couldn’t be happier. I have some time off over the holiday and will sit down with it and some nice Irish coffee.

All he best to you, your family, and your crew during the joyous Holiday Season. I wish you a very busy and prosperous New Year!

gary schafer says:

on December 16, 2011 at 5:28 am

Sketching Light arrived today, Dec 16, 2011 in CANBERRA AUSTRALIA! on my doorstep via Amazon. I think i ordered it nearly 12 months ago. Always knew Joe would finally get round to finishing it. I think i own the complete works of McNally inc now. Very good stuff. I work full time as a newspaper photographer for 30 years now. currently shooting with nikon d3 and paul buff cybersynchs and softboxes on manfrotto c stands. Photos never looked better. Back is very sore from lugging all that stuff around though.

Tom McKean says:

on December 16, 2011 at 8:47 am

As quoted from Darren Elias: Joe, I told you in Philly, and I’ll say it again… You changed my life. Your classes, your books, your openness with sharing information. And your work… It INSPIRES, CHALLENGES and DRIVES. Thank you!

Joe, same goes for me also. Thank you!

Duane Hall says:

on December 17, 2011 at 12:17 am

Took shots of The Donald in Santa Fe during August 2010. He was a real gentleman as we trudged around the abandoned penitentiary outside SAF. Your workshop was going on that same week, in fact. I did a double-take when I saw your cover! Good to see him get some pub.

Henry says:

on December 17, 2011 at 1:21 am

I recently just seen one of your photos featured on Photoshop Disasters can you explain what’s up with this?

Joe McNally says:

on December 17, 2011 at 8:47 am

yep….on’ll be fun…:-))))

Paige says:

on December 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Joe, I can’t tell you how much you’ve inspired me through the years, and getting to meet you at Photoshop World in Orlando made my whole year. I shoot and teach and recommend your books to all I meet. Have great holiday and new year.

Ed Boynton says:

on December 18, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Please a seminar\workshop Toronto
Thanks for sharing your skills.

sallya says:

on December 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm

wish all are best .

Kristina Jacob says:

on December 19, 2011 at 11:37 am

Joe, I was able to learn from you several times this year in person and am truly thankful for those opportunities. I’m also thankful for having “Sketching Light” to finish out my year of Learning with Joe (sounds almost like a nice Masterpiece Theater setting, doesn’t it?!). I hope that 2012 brings more opportunities for classes/workshops!

Merry Christmas!

Arturo says:

on December 20, 2011 at 12:10 am

I am really looking forward to read “Sketching light”!! I already preorder it from amazon UK. Sadly they have delay deliveries due to delays from supplier :-(.
Can’t you make it for the Stockholm photography week, May 28-June 3? It would be fantastic to have you as a speaker around this side of the world!

Slanger Photography says:

on December 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm

The book (finally) arrived, and I’m sponging every page. It is truly inspiring, motivating and depressing. I can only hope and strive to have the unique opportunities you have had in your illustrious career. When I ran into you and David at the L.A. Bus tour, you made some half-assed excuses as to why the book was not out yet. Well, it was worth the wait. Aside from a few typos, it is priceless for the small-time strobists and anyone seeking inspiration. But I dig. I look forward to your next California visit. You should be very proud of this one. So….when’s your next book coming out? No pressure.

Dave Berner says:

on December 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Just got Sketching Light and I am on page 30. Can’t put it down, just like the last two books. Thanks for sharing your experiences in such a great manner. All your books are a great read.

Luis says:

on January 4, 2012 at 11:04 am


“Sketching Light” was one of my own Christmas gifts but unfortunately didn’t arrive on time.
Any idea why the book is not available in the amazon uk ?


Frank says:

on January 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Awesome book Joe! Almost finished and I’ll probably just start it again. Fun stories and a great sense of humor make it a really fun read. I’ve learned a lot also as evident by the numerous highlights throughout the book.

Anyone thinking about this book – get it!!! You’ll love it!

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