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In Copenhagen…

Oct 27

In In The Field, Rambling at 2:24am

Which remains one of my favorite places. Folks here have always been remarkably gracious and welcoming, and the city is beautiful. Tivoli is a toy-like dreamscape, a looking glass you can disappear into in the midst of the concrete trappings of the city, much in the way Central Park is at once a greensward and a safety valve in New York. When I lived in the city, during the lunatic, tumbling free fall that often constitutes a day of work there, I would find, suddenly, that I just had to go to the park. I often had the sense not so much of walking there. Rather, it was more like pulling a rip cord and getting abruptly snapped out of the tumble and thus into more of leisurely, wafting drift, so pleasant in and of itself you didn’t much care where you would alight.

Tivoli has the same feel for me. Plus, throw in the coffee, the pastry and the beer, and well, these folks got it going on.

One of the last times I was here was shooting for FedEx, and we scouted and shot in this kind of twofer arrangement that has come to be as Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmo, Sweden have forged closer ties. Separated only by a very cool looking bridge, there is a lot of back and forth between these two cities,  in terms of people, commutation and culture.

I had, blessedly, a truly wonderful art director  I was working for during these campaigns, and she literally pushed and prodded me to see differently. I’m a pretty lumpy traditionalist with a camera in hand, meaning I often observe certain rules of the road, like composing in thirds, focusing the camera, balancing and saturating the exposure for good color and the like. Kind of what you do when you grow up photographically as I did, shooting for mom and dad’s magazines, like LIFE, Nat Geo, and SI. I don’t get too many calls from Hip Hop Weekly. In fact, I don’t remember a single one.

But she encouraged me to break out a little bit, literally shoot from the hip, and handle the camera and the frame more casually than I had generally done. They wanted the look and feel of the pix to be more of a snap, a quick look at the brand, which was often not really overt in the picture.

It was fun, simply moving and shooting through the day, looking for light and trying to construct what would appear to be a chance encounter with those very familiar letters and colors on the packaging.

Of course, shooting in a city and culture that is very at ease with itself, and doesn’t ruffle or fuss about much, is wonderful, but does have its moments. We scouted a brand new subway hub in the city, looking for potential locations, and found some good angles we determined we’d come back to and shoot over the ensuing couple of days. The recently constructed metro stop we liked was perfect, with all sorts of silvery textures, a gleaming new emporium of commutation. Thing was, when we returned, one of the major areas we had in mind to shoot, was newly adorned with the below.

I remember looking up at this very sizable ad and doing a head tilt. I mean, this isn’t the kind of billboard you might see on good old Interstate 80 heading past Moline, fer chrissakes. As I’ve alluded to before on the blog, Europe is generally, wonderfully, much more blase’ and frank in their sensibilities about things of this nature than, say, a good deal of America. This particular ad roughly alludes to the fact that it was, at that moment, World Cup time, and the menfolk would be so ardently, utterly consumed by football that their female counterparts would be, at least temporarily, quite lonely, and thus left to, uh, their own devices.

Such are the vagaries of location work. We found another angle. More tk….

Chris Gosling says:

on October 27, 2012 at 3:19 am

I caught your talk yesterday at the fotomessen – what an hour, wish that they had let you go on a little longer (say all afternoon).

I didn’t get a chance to talk afterwords as you where mobbed by too many people – the life of a rock star huh? – but I just wanted to thank you for a very lively and inspirational time.

On a side note – have you any plans for doing a workshop tour of Europe – and hopefully CPH?

Many thanks

Robert K. says:

on October 27, 2012 at 5:23 am

When you have finished your session this afternoon , please go and comfort poor Jens Dresling. He has a session in the other end of the hall same time as yours and he does not expect many attendants 😉

Bill Trudo says:

on October 27, 2012 at 8:16 am

Interesting color for the “device”, reminds me of the old space shuttle fuel tank!

Trevor Johnston says:

on October 27, 2012 at 8:36 am

I’ve always felt that reading a Joe McNally piece was a two-fer. As in “two fer one.” The pictures you paint with words are every bit as compelling as the photos you paint with light. This blog post is prime evidence of that.
Trev J.

Christina Bruun Olsson says:

on October 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

It is one of my true passions … not the orange vibrating device! But going up the escalator one this subway station in Copenhagen and see these giant posters on the end wall and see if the art director has taken the small stationary surveillance camera on the wall into account when layouting the poster.

I wrote a blog post about this phenomenon some months ago: – Sorry but it is in Danish but it contains a very amusing/grim example. In your example the placement of the camera does not disturb the layout.

Kind regards
Christina Bruun Olsson

Mark Carruthers says:

on October 27, 2012 at 10:47 am

Hi Joe… Still laughing about your ‘Hip Hop Weekly’ comment. I agree, you have more of the ‘white toast’ photographer in you! :-)

Great image of the FedEx van on the bridge. Love the lines…


WPDWA - Jørn B.. Lund says:

on October 27, 2012 at 10:48 am

Hello Jo

I’m a great admire of your work. Did enjoy our brief chat after your show this afternoon, and do hope that you will pay the World Photographers Donation for World Aid a visit, and consider a donation to benefit charity and relief organizations around the world etc. MSF – Medisines Sans Frontiers, Doctors without borders who are present in all of the worlds hotspot.

WPDWA is operating out of Copenhagen, collecting images from photographers around the world to be sold in online auctions at the WPDWA auctions.

Great to know you and I do hope that we can have a future work together in making this project hugely known around the globe.

Best regards Jørn Berg Lund, Founder WPDWA – Copenhagen, Denmark.

PS – Remember the world exhibit on donated images next year in Copenhagen on donated images – June 3 – June 17 2013, Copenhagen City Hall – you are for sure invited

Torbjorn says:

on October 27, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Hi there!
Just wanted to say thanks for an interesting and inspiring hour at Fotomessen in Kopenhagen!
Nice to see you live, not only at Kelbytraining!
Torbjorn from Malmoe, Sweden.

Mikkel Bo Rasmussen says:

on October 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Hey Joe,

Very kind words regarding Copenhagen, thank you.

I hope to catch your talk tomorrow at Forum, and get a chance to say hello and get a book signed.

Hope you enjoy your stay in Denmark and come back soon.


Anders Dahl Tollestrup says:

on October 27, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Hi Joe

I just want to thank you for a very inspiring hour at Fotomessen in Copenhagen today. Your work and your training courses at Kelby Traning and elsewhere online has and still do help me to extend my photography.

Thank you so much – and have a safe trip back to the states :-)

Kind regards – Anders

Erik Jacoby says:

on October 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hi Joe,

Saw your one hour gig at Fotomessen in Copenhagen today. Thank you for being very entertaining and informative at the same time.

Since you like athletes so much have you ever made a series with free divers?

Jens C Hilner says:

on October 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Hi Joe thanks for a inspiering talk today in Copenhagen. You are my biggest insperation and it was nice to say hi today. I´m gonna produce my frist behind the scens DVD next year. Do you have any good advice for me what to think about? I´mean you are the one when it comes to behind the scens movies. I have seen everything on Kelbytraining. Thanks for everything I wish you all the best. Hope to see yo soon again.

Morten Fjord Stengaard says:

on October 27, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Hi Joe,
Glad you enjoyed CPH and the Danish way. I wasn’t able to attent the Fotomesse – I wish – but have been in your country for 3 weeks now.
Well – enjoyed your writing about your trip. Loved all the Danish photo colleagues comments.
Hope to see u soon in DK again.
Thanks for your contribution to the world of photo!
Regards Morten

David DuPuy says:

on October 27, 2012 at 10:03 pm

That someone else knows that I-80 runs past Moline is like balm to my soul.

Yassar Hamid says:

on October 28, 2012 at 6:41 am

Hi Joe!

Big fan! I met you and Drew at Digital Expo at Melbourne this year. You have been a great inspiration to me and many other photographers around the world. When I saw the video for “The Sense of Sight, 1992” it made me think that you are the best of what you doing right now because of its just who you are….
i hope you will conduct a workshop down at Melbourne one day.

Thank you!!! please write a manual about everything you know!

William Chinn says:

on October 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

Had the good fortune of spending 3 days on my own in Copenhagen after coming off a transatlantic cruise a few years back. Great place to slow down and take tourist pictures. Tivoli was a little commercial for me but hey its a tourist spot. Still don’t know why I sat through a Pippi Longstocking’s show since it was in Danish. I treasure my Hard Rock Cafe ballcap with “Copenhagen” embroidered on it. As for the nightlife, I was with my wife. And yes, I took the train (my hotel was a block away) to the airport and flew to LA through Dusseldorf (just luckey I guess). Thanks for the memory recall, enjoyed the stories too.

Jacob says:

on October 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Hi Joe
I love you…well I love your work, and love the way you tell your story. I saw you on scene 1 in Forum today( 28/10)and like many others I wanted to hear much more. I feel with my fellow photo-friends, as many of them haven’t seen you yet. Have you made any plans to visit Denmark anytime soon again ?

Best regards

Lars W says:

on October 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Hi Joe.
As many Of the others allready said, Thanks for a great show toddy.. Damn, somme good laughs you can produce.. I ,too, find that you are a great inspiration, and Im offcourse a membre Of Kelby Training, where I watch your traningvideos..
I sincerly hope you could comeback to Denmark a do a seminar on, eks. Flash photography.. That World be so nice..
Thanks again for a Nice experince..


Jesper Vang Skærbæk Jensen says:

on October 29, 2012 at 4:08 am

Really enjoyed your seminar/speech yesterday, at Fotomessen :-) As always very inspiring. Hope to see you again in Copenhagen on a full day seminar, á la Speed of light 2008. Thanks again for a great day, hope you had/have a safe flight home :-)

Stig Nygaard says:

on October 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Hi Joe
Enjoyed your talk Sunday on Fotomessen yesterday. Thanks a lot for stopping by.
Oh, and btw. Just looked you up on Google+ because I wanted to add you to my circles. Turns out you already was added. You should post directly on G+ instead of just posting links. When skimming your home stream it is easy to miss those posts that are just links, because the images are so much smaller. Yes the fault is partly mine, I know, but still :-)

Tai Segel says:

on October 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

ARUUUGA!! Thanks for a very good talk about your work through your life, on the Saturday. Thumbs up!

Tomas Nilsson says:

on October 31, 2012 at 5:43 am

I will chime in with the positive voices after Fotomessen. I was there on Sunday with some photo club friends that I had “dragged” across the water from Sweden on a Sunday morning. Everyone was very happy to have heard your talk afterward and we talked a lot about how inspirational you were with both your words and images. Definitely a Sunday well spent!

Lennart Frost Larsen says:

on November 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Hi Joe

Thanx a lot for your presentation in Copenhagen. I always enjoy your presentations in DK. Last time was your Nikon D4 promotional presentation in “Den Sorte Diamant”.

Everything I know about lighting Ive learned from reading your books and by seeing your videos. Many hours of enjoyment. Thanks a lot Joe.

Btw : Saw you in the canteen in Forum sitting on a table with your D4 and laptop preparing for the presentation. Should have warned you about danish coffee. As you noticed – it is strong.
;-). Althoug you have recently passed a new milestone in terms of age you are still on the top.


Jeff Walton says:

on November 7, 2012 at 11:29 pm

You writing about an art director encouraging you to shoot more casually than you usually do is humbling to me. Many photographers dream of being untouchable in the field yet here you are saying “yes ma’am, I can loosen up and try that”. Seriously, thanks for this! It really makes me feel better.

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