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And now, the weather report…

Oct 23

In history, In The Field at 8:44am

The weather is always with us as shooters, right? Unless we’re still life folks, and click away unhurriedly in a studio, to the strains of Bach or Brahms, safe from the howling elements. (I personally would rather try to shoot frames in the teeth of a hurricane than do still life, by the way. I suck at it so badly that I have great admiration for those who do it well. I’ve tried on occasion, with abysmal results. How can a thing give you more trouble than a person?)

My history with weather is a fractious one, indeed. Just ask my buds Alan Hess and Earnie Grafton in San Diego. I go there as often as I can, and whenever I do, I think Alan just starts nailing plywood boards over his windows. Earnie, a durable, talented, former military shooter who’s now with the San Diego Trib, has shot his way through a ton of shit conditions over the years just looks at me and shakes his head. I think he thinks that way back in Ireland. long ago, the local hag (Cailleach, in Gaelic) cursed my family tree with the rain. Earnie is sort of mystical about this himself, and every time I show up in SD, he tries to break the curse by the mutual imbibing of the holiest of waters–beer.

The curse was in full throat roar recently in Tampa, though, so the suds aren’t working. I was down there to shoot a video for Kelby Training on….well, I can’t even remember what we were going to do originally. I could say I was going to teach a class stemming from my latest book on PhotoShop, entitled, “The Layers of Hell,” but you would know that I am lying. Anyway, whatever we were going to do went rapidly away, and our hopes for a sunny Florida shoot went swilling down the sewers along with a whole bunch of Tampa topsoil. So, as you do on location, we rolled. Shot through the wind and the weather, sat in cars, tried to keep the cameras and the models dry, went inside, shot into the wee hours, sought cover, and cursed the rain. The result actually, was one of the more fun shoots I’ve ever had in Tampa, to be honest. Standing out there on a dock, getting pummeled by the backhanded breezes of an offshore hurricane does inspire some lunacy, and some ad hoc decision making in terms of what to shoot and how to shoot it. The Kelby folks, a generally solid group of relatively normal people, actually got a little dizzy themselves in the midst of the mayhem and went running off the deck into the deep end with the video below.

The elements are always with us as photogs, right? We gather our gear in the morning, squinting at the sky like some sort of Crocodile Dundee armed with cameras and glass, wondering what the clouds will conjure in the afternoon. Moose Peterson is actually quite amazing at this. He’ll gather a bunch of folks around him and say something like, “Well, the wind will pick up later and ricochet off that far canyon wall and drive the afternoon cumulus towards that cleft in the rock. The sunlight filtering through that cleft will give the clouds a nice shimmer. This will happen around 4:10 pm, so set your cameras on aperture priority at minus 1.3EV and go to continuous high as this phenomenon will only occur for about two minutes.” He says this type of thing with such authority that people just nod in response and start adjusting their machinery without ever cocking their head to the side and wondering aloud whether if that was the biggest bunch of bullshit they’d heard since the last presidential debate.

Of course, though, he is so damn good at this, he’s often right. I was standing next to him, and he told me the light would hit the waterfall just so, and everything would be alright. It did, and I got the only decent landscape picture I’ve ever shot.

My history with weather and the National Geographic is a sorry, almost punitive one. They sent me (just once) to the magnificent beaches of Cancun to observe Spring Break, that sun drenched celebration of tequila fueled hormones. I came back with this.

This was perhaps deemed, well, cheeky. So it was back to business as usual, and they sent me to Siberia, in February.

And I spent a dismal but necessary night in the local drunk tank, where the depression caused by the ongoing darkness gathers in sad, rough fashion. The drunks stumble out of the bars, and flop onto the icy walkways. Police patrols haul them in, restrain them, and let them sleep it off, lest they be stiff as a cord of wood in the morning, and just as dead.

On a more uplifting note, I did find my way into the ladies’ locker room in a mine, where the darkness problem is obviously exacerbated by the endeavor at hand, and watched as these shift workers bathed themselves in the salubrious wash of UV light, before heading home through the bleakness outside.

These Russian kids do the same thing at school, where the only evidence of the sun is painted on the walls, and they can perhaps dream of its warming rays and the resplendent promises of the rainbow.

Funny, I do the same kind of dreaming myself…..more tk….

Rebekah says:

on October 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

The video is awesome! “Is that the same cow?” lol I’m nervously checking the Weather Channel 3 or 4 times a day leading up to this Saturday’s outdoor wedding in Durham, NC. *biting my fingernails* I’m a rain magnet.

fotografo milano says:

on October 23, 2012 at 9:35 am

Well we all faced it now and then…I really think that we should get as it comes, and i just check outside the window in the morning…I’ll take whatever.
The only times I check before are the motorcycle rides, since I don’t ride a car.. :) as to avoid at least announced disasters..

Byron says:

on October 23, 2012 at 10:20 am


I saw the video and LMAO! You are definitely pure entertainment. I’ve always enjoyed reading your articles and books.

Nick Giron says:

on October 23, 2012 at 11:09 am

“I do the same thing myself”

Bleaching brain to remove mental imagery.

Andy says:

on October 23, 2012 at 11:17 am

You wouldn’t have happened to have been in San Diego this past weekend, would you? Worst weather we’ve had all summer! 😛

Deni says:

on October 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Hmmm, apparently Bad Weather + Mayhem = McNally Magic… I need to step up my photography techniques, maybe I’ll haul my gear in the shower with an electric fan on high  for a little practice… flying cows? eBay maybe?

Amir says:

on October 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm

The video was great. Your blog is entertaining as always :)

Bruce says:

on October 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

The video is priceless!

Tim Skipper says:

on October 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I’m just wondering how you convinced the ladies to let you into a locker room with a camera no less. The last time I was at a shoot with locker rooms I got kicked out of the hall two doors away from the ladies locker room. :)

david says:

on October 23, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I read this post and went outside to find rain pelting down harder than it had all day. Joe … take a non-photo vacation. Spare the rest of us :-)

Paul Howard says:

on October 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Your ‘Bad Weather’ class on Kelby was fabulous and just about as funny as the promo, which is what made me immediately watch it. It was almost as cheeky as your Cancun shot. Almost…

Keith Winsor says:

on October 23, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I love the video! Its great that you have such a awesome sense of humour and are so willing to laugh at yourself.

Well done!

Jay Mann says:

on October 23, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Hey Joe,

Thanks for the laugh, great way to start the day here in the jungle. The spring break pic reminds me, I was in Singappore for the F1 and some show girls from the Casino came through the stands between events. I had a similar view… it was the first time I was inspired to use the video on the D800. :)

shea says:

on October 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm

just wanted to say I loved this.

Mark Spoo says:

on October 24, 2012 at 7:36 am

Started as a shitty day today and clicked the video and can’t stop laughing. Thanks

Darrel says:

on October 24, 2012 at 10:06 am

Please move to Albuquerque! #droughtwatch (just leave during Balloon Fiesta, ok?) :-)

Mike Neale says:

on October 24, 2012 at 10:14 am

Actually, Joe, we’d like to hear you sing the full rendition of “I feel pretty”,…that umbrella may be a bit over the top.

Jay Mann says:

on October 24, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Hey, I have a suggestion. On the island of Java, whenever we had an outdoor event, we always budgeted for donations to the rain man. He would perform a ceremony to prevent rain during the event. I went to an outdoor wedding in the city of Bogor, which is one of the rainiest places on Earth,during the middle of rainy season. I commented to one of my local friends that it was great the it was not raining. He looked at me very seriously and said “There will be no rain today”. The wedding planner had paid a rain guy, but my friend ( an educated man) and the guys form his office had paid their own rain guy. It did not rain that day, rained like hell the next day.
Just an idea….

Simon says:

on October 24, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Being on the receiving end of plenty bad weather scenarios myself I really enjoyed watching these the other night/morning… I’m catching up on a lot videos whilst doing the night shift feeds with 3 week old Brooklyn.

I’m pretty sure there was some chemistry going on between Drew & the model from the shoot on the pier, and the fisherman loitering in the background… hope that all worked out well : )

Thanks as always Joe.

Joe McNally says:

on October 25, 2012 at 4:25 am

Good one Jay! I should bring a rain guy with me all the time!

Pierre Fischer says:

on October 25, 2012 at 5:49 am

There is a catholic saint at your disposal for Bad Weather issues: Saint Medard of Noyon.
IMHO he should also become the Patron Saint of animal photographers as he was allegedly protected from rain by a hovering eagle. The full story on him here:

Thanks for this great blog post,

Ingomar says:

on October 25, 2012 at 5:54 am

this is too funny Joe! I have a video of you shooting Matt K. in Dubai where it was so windy the eazy box was amlost flying away. there you making endles jokes too :-)
but this video here is really hilarious. have a great day!

wen says:

on October 25, 2012 at 5:57 am

love the video…you are awesome…xoxoxoxoooo

Sarah kavanaugh says:

on October 25, 2012 at 6:10 am

….because you MIGHT be able to reason with/ control a person, vs what you get with scenics (weather, sucky light, light poles, trash cans…)

Craig Taylor says:

on October 25, 2012 at 6:55 am

I remember the first time I attended one of Joe’s workshops here in Calgary in 2010. It was early November and the weather was alright the Saturday, a bit slushy on the Sunday and then Monday hit. Joe doesn’t just dish out rain he also does a lot of snow too it would appear. I have to admit that Joe had left for the next city already and we do get a lot of snow anyways but I can’t help but wonder…

Tim says:

on October 25, 2012 at 8:24 am

Loved the Video . . . sat laughing my #$$ off . . and as always sage advice (Tongue in cheek)
Thanks Joe!!!

auckland event photographer says:

on October 26, 2012 at 5:46 am

Hi Joe, probably the thing that inspires me the most is your courage. I am a shy shooter who uses a super tele lens. I love the fact you can get sooo close with a wide angle and take amazing shots.

John says:

on October 26, 2012 at 6:18 am

Yup. Same cow!

One of the items that needs to be in every photographer’s gear bag is a sense of humor! Seems like you always pack a spare for that as well. Thanks for the laugh and a dose of reality at the same time.


Paul says:

on October 27, 2012 at 4:46 am

I remember reading a long time ago somewhere, think it was atributed to you – that bad weather can mean good light! It’s very true and quite inspiring. Thanks.

Pascal Sauvé says:

on October 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm

From your weather report video, I now suspect that Wile E. Coyote and I have 2 things in common:

1. We both have cameras are made by “Acme”
2. We both have a small cloud floating above our heads drenching our shoots with lightning and rain.

Lovin’ the video by the way.

Good Shooting,

Linnea says:

on November 1, 2012 at 4:42 am

Wonderful!! Thank you!! :))))))))))

John says:

on November 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I watched the video / read this post and watched the corresponding Kelby video two days before SANDY slapped the northeast (I live in NJ).

Two trees hit my house (minor damage) and destroyed my backup generator. I promptly lost power for 11 days. I’m fortunate compared to many folks so I’m not complaining. I know you are familiar with the damage brought on by Sandy and I hope you made out well.


How about giving us a break and doing some studio work for a while…


José Caetano says:

on November 19, 2012 at 9:32 am

Thanks, Lord, that the picture of the beach is not here in Brazil. We have more beautiful beaches, butts, and we don’t have a guy with the horrible sneakers in the sand. Big hug Joe.

Yuette says:

on August 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I loved your blog.Really thank you! Will read on…

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