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Tale of the Tape

Nov 28

In Fun, In The Field at 9:18am

I have never trusted lens shades. That doesn’t mean I don’t use them. I use them religiously. I just don’t trust ’em. They are generally somewhat flimsy, plastic things, that, once in place, are an assist to your lens, to be sure, but the marriage to your lens is about as solid and lasting as a set of drunken wedding vows uttered at 3am on the Vegas strip. Meaning the mounts generally suck, and the lens and the shade are going to part ways, most likely in rapid fashion.  You clip them on, bayonet them into place, and then start rattling through your day in the field, camera perhaps on your hip, bumping along, and it’s just a matter of time before that protruding piece of plastic hits something–a subway turnstile, a door, a crossing pedestrian (in NYC, in rush hour, in Christmas season, the sidewalks are a non-stop rugby scrum)–anything really, can send this piece of plastic crap spinning through the air and onto the ground with a familiar sounding clatter.

Hence, I always tape my lens hoods. There’s generally multiple little bits and pieces of gaffer tape festooning the tulip shapes of the shades in my bag. I put the shade on, then wedge this little stitch of gaff into the seam with my fingernail, and presto, it locks in there in far more durable fashion.

So, just last week, I was in the middle of a coverage where, to quote Monty Python, it was good not to be seen. Creeping along, cameras in quiet drive mode, I shot a frame here, a frame there. Then I noticed I hadn’t engaged the Gaffer Tape Locking Mechanism! The tape was on the lens hood, but, it was just on the lens hood, not in the seam where it’s helpful. So I thought I’d take care of that, and started to peel off about a square inch of tape. And of course, the lens shade peeled off with it.

I felt like I was in one of those slo-mo action sequences you see in a movie. I saw the hood cartwheeling into the air in merry fashion, spinning with abandon, and reached in vain to grab it. Of course I missed. And watched it skitter onto a tile floor with the telltale, and unfortunately loud burst of clacks and taps, as if someone had let a woodpecker loose in the room.

Right in the middle of a speech by a Nobel Laureate. Of course it wasn’t that loud, but to my cringing, trying to become invisible photog self, it sounded for all the world as if someone next to me had just cut loose with a thirty caliber machine gun. D’oh! I sighed inwardly, and retrieved the errant shade, taped it dutifully, and went about my picture gathering.

How many years have I been doing this? After all this time, the ghost of Numnuts lurks…..more tk.

Jay says:

on November 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

Good tip man. I’m always paranoid about this happening when I’m up high (in a plane or a catwalk) Luckily it hasn’t…yet

Lewisw says:

on November 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

Don’t quit your day job.

Don Bromberg says:

on November 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

I always love reading your books and blog because you write from the heart in a style that is so geniune and honest. You impart knowledge and advice in the same style that I use in training others in my “real” job; which is “There are a 1000 ways to screw-up in this job, and I’ve done about 950 of them…Now having said that, don’t make the same mistake twice!” Thanks for advice.

Tim Skipper says:

on November 28, 2012 at 10:11 am

The best part of your stories is the honesty on not being perfect.

Richard Kimbrough says:

on November 28, 2012 at 10:31 am

My lens hoods do that now and then and it is a pain. What worries me is when my lenses do that. Luckily I’ve caught them all but one time. That one time was a crazy one though. I was standing on a timber someone had laid down to bridge the gap between the ground and a 100+ year old railroad trestle. While balancing on this 8″ wide piece of wood over the abyss, I took a shot and felt the camera spin the lens, I assume as it tried to stop down the aperature, and then eject it from the camera. At least that’s what it felt like. It fell, hit the timber, bounced up and hit the timber on the other end just to maximize the damage, and bounce one last time at which point I somehow managed to catch it in the air before it fell onto the rocks below and rolled 200 feet into the valley. Not what you want to see your 14-24mm do on a once in a lifetime trip. Still trying to figure out something like the tape idea to keep this weird event from ever happening again. The worse part is my friends are videographers and had been filming every moment… except that one. It might have almost been worth it had I had a humorous video of the event to look back on :)

DQ says:

on November 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

it’s funny to think that the same stuff that concerns us “little people” also applies to those whose stars glow brightly… income, fame, notoriety aside, we’re very similar — us working joes and you, Working Joe.


Jerome Yeats says:

on November 28, 2012 at 10:48 am

Dear Mr McNally, I remember waiting with many other press photographers for Diana Princess of Wales come to a vist a hospital in Chelsea, London. For some reason another photographer’s metal lens hood fell off and fell at her feet as she walked cum entourage towards the hospital doors. She bent down and gave it back to ny colleague. He was, as we say in London, “gobsmacked” and was too shocked to say “thank you”. He went bright pink. Anyway, after that, she could do no wrong as far as he was concerned. As for noise when there should be no noise, I had and still have a Canon Eos 1 with motordrive and I was shooting a ballet full dress rehearsal at the Royal Opera House, and I believe the orchestra was being recorded. I forgot that this camera rewinds film automatically and very very loudly. You can guess what happened next and I left very very quickly.Argh! Cheers

David says:

on November 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I also believe in Murphy! Thx (unfortunately) for confirming he is still alive and well. (-: (-:

Rebekah says:

on November 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I hate these things. I will definitely try the tape to make them behave. I’ve lost a couple of them because they are always looking to make their escape. Do you think lens hoods have a secret meeting place that they long to get away to? Maybe Guadalajara? And that’s why they’re always jumping off?

Darryl Brooks says:

on November 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Great tip. Reminds me of the time I slipped into an indoor arena where a young woman was practicing for a walking horse competition. I very quietly found a spot with a good background and metered the light and set my focus. Just as the horse and rider got to my focus point, pressed the shutter. I don’t have a quiet mode and the sound of the shutter spooked the horse for a second. Every head in the place turned and burned a hole in my head. And what is worse, I didn’t even get the shot.

Ola Ã…keborn says:

on November 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I was shooting an open heartsurgery with a crapy lenshood on. Just as I stretched my camera out about two feets over that pounding heart I remembered the issue with the hood and I could se the scenario of what should have happen if it fell of. It did´nt! But no I have pieces of gaffa everywhere…

Ross den Otter says:

on November 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I was shooting the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in a dress rehearsal with David Cooper a few years ago. Few things are more embarrassing than walking across a stage, filled with acutely tuned sound perceptive professions, while wearing a squeaky shoe.


Greg says:

on November 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I’ve been taping my lens hoods on since I learned about this in some early read I did of your Joe. Countless people have seen it and remarked what I good idea it was. Thanks again for all the insights.

Greg (Numbnuts wannabe)

Larry Eiss says:

on November 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Thanks a lot for another honest look at the life of a real-life (or is that “a real LIFE”?) photog. I have the same issues with my hoods. Your tip is invaluable, and I’ll be using it forthwith. So sorry to hear of the machine-gun sound of your hood falling to the floor. I can relate to just how loud that seemed to you and how embarrassing it was. Thank you for your candor, Sir.

Greg Babineau says:

on November 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I’m at work and I let out a guffaw while reading this. Teach me to read your blog during business hours.

Georg Simmerstatter says:

on November 28, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Hey Joe, there might be a better fix for that.
If you distort the inside of the bayonet on
the hood by tapping on it with a hammer (slightly),
the bayonet gets really tight and it will not get loose on
its own again.



Gerardo Arriaga says:

on November 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

The amount of noise you hear is directly proportional to the silence you want to keep! :)

Hate when those things fly away from the lenses, will tape them now, good tip!

Jack Flemmings says:

on November 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Joe, that’s why we follow you. As John Locke would put it, you are OOU, not OOT.

One Of Us
One Of Them

A very special Christmas blessing to you and Anne this year.
Keep shooting and keep writing about it, that’s our Christmas gift from you.

John Fowler says:

on November 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Then there was the time the compendium hood, complete with filters, fell off. From the second balcony at the rear of the church. It only landed on the marble floor, not on a wedding guest.

Hannes Uys says:

on November 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Besides the piece of tape makes you look hardcore.

Jerry W says:

on November 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Thanks so much for these posts, Joe. I am an ardent admirer of your work and really enjoy your humanism. Your blog has helped and inspired me countless times and I need to say, Thank you. Really, thank you. I wish you and your family a great holiday season and wonderful New Year. Take good care, Joe.

Bruce Feingold says:

on November 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I went back to using the screw in, collapsible rubber lens hoods. You rarely lose them, they protect the lens a bit, they’re quieter when you bang into something… Plus, when you use a circular polarizer, you can turn the entire lens hood rather than reaching into the hood to turn the filter.

Knut says:

on November 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Lens hoods are designed that way because it’s a nice extra income for manufacturers when they disappear once in a while. 😉

JerseyStyle Photography says:

on November 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I lose more lens caps than lens hoods. New Ice Cube movie maybe? Lens ‘N The Hood?

Libby says:

on November 28, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Would only happen to you Joe, only you -) It’s a god thing you weren’t sitting next to Barbara Walters or something -)

Matt Timmons says:

on November 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Could have been worse. At least it wasn’t a loud fart getting the room’s attention followed by a stench worthy of shock and awe.

ChasVS says:

on November 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Your routine screw ups are very comforting indeed! If you can manage to do it, I feel so much better knowing I’m not the only one!

Joe, Greatest wishes for the Holiday Season and many, many more years of your Wonderful Life!

Jerry says:

on November 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm

good tip Joe. I also agree with JerseyStle, lens cap are more notorious for me.

Simon says:

on November 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Lost one over the side of a boat once… I remember it felt like it took about 10 minutes to noisily skip & bounce it’s way along the deck, until it dropped over the side to the sounds of clapping & evil stares from the guests of the event I was photographing. It wasn’t long after that I began to appreciate yet another use for gaffers tape too.

Joe McNally says:

on November 28, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Oh, yeah….good idea. Who’s the sidekick? :-)))

Brian Powell says:

on November 28, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Always love your stories, Joe :) Keep them coming, and keep including them in your books as well.

Josh says:

on November 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm

The lens hood on my 85 broke a few years ago. Gaffer-taped it on and never looked back.

Mike says:

on November 28, 2012 at 11:40 pm

What are ya, NEW??? Rookie!! 😉

Ben Weddle says:

on November 29, 2012 at 12:08 am

You write as beautifully as you see.

StanChung says:

on November 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

Hahaha- I so feel you- having lost at least half a dozen shades. The resent ones being for 12-24[2nd time] and a 17-55 I haven’t applied this yet on my shades as i dislike the glue residue.

Although I’ve taped my lightsphere to the SB’s- countless flying tub incidents prompted that-very embarassing. After looking at other event photogs flashes-[not a pretty sight-lots of straps and velcro etc], I decided that some form of securing is needed.

Thanks Joe for the humorous story and a tip in there as well. I’ll start taping my hoods. LOL

StanChung says:

on November 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

*recent [doh]

Gordon Gurray says:

on November 29, 2012 at 10:12 am

Great tip… and a quite funny story! thanks for sharing

Jay Mann says:

on November 29, 2012 at 10:19 am

I lost one with my signature yellow tape on it somewhere along a river bank in Papua and another along a little used trail in Borneo. No doubt some unsuspecting indigenous persons are using them for bracelets. I carry a spare when in the boondocks, the tape doesn’t always work for me, don’t know why. There is a 77mm Nikon NC filter out there too, but that is another story……


Ray Sanford says:

on November 29, 2012 at 10:19 am

Man, you just crack me up. There are two people I read daily that put a smile on my face. You and Scott Kelby. I can imagine what it’s like with both of you in the same room playing off each other. My ribs wouldn’t be able to take it.

Joe Howe says:

on November 29, 2012 at 10:55 am

I’m still amazed at how many people I see with the lens hood reversed on the lens. Drives me nutty, my little pet peeve.

ken says:

on November 29, 2012 at 11:18 am


Great idea, reminds of a shoot I did on Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm. I just bought the D600m my first full frame, and a Nikkor f/4 24-105. By the way, thanks for your suggestion on a lens for this body,, I ran out of money for the one you suggested. Back to my story. A beautiful October day in Kentucky, start shooting with my Elinchrom lights with battery pack. Having great fun…..back to office to see photos…..well the lens hood on my lens was not secure, it has shifted to where the lens shade was in 90% of my shots leaving a big black shading…..

A painful lesson in beautiful Kentucky

Merry Christmas
Ken in KY

Bob says:

on November 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm

so simple, so easy…so seldom done!

Great tip! Thank you!

Ken Byrne says:

on November 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

The tip is a great help. All those years of having it fall off, I thought I was me. Have never forgotten your description of lens hoods as “flimsy pieces of crap”. Once I started using the gaff, it hasn’t happened….so far.

Of course, we all are reassured that this stuff still happens to you, and feel so much less like idiot ourselves.

Just the nature of the biz.

Thanks very much Joe

Publius says:

on November 29, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Try changing batteries in the balcony at a wedding, and drop one. They are certain to drop to the hard wood floor, and roll down wooden staircase. Much more effective than yelling out, “Everyone look this way!”

Simone says:

on November 30, 2012 at 5:05 am

ehehe i always enjoy reading your funny tales, you’ve a ‘quite engaging’ style of narration… 😀 oh and i love your work, did i mention that?!

Rick Joy says:

on December 1, 2012 at 4:53 am

I use that stuff all the time, it’s saved my butt more times than I can count. People look at it kind of weird and ask why I duct tape my softboxes (lumiquest sbIII’s and LTP’s) to the flashes. As much as I like the straps that hold the softboxes to the flashes… They don’t quite hold on as tight as they should…

Ray Casbourn says:

on December 1, 2012 at 7:36 am

Hi Joe! Ever thought of buying a rubberized screw-in type? That has cured my lens hood problems….but, they are round in shape and do not have the Nikon trademark, but at least I don’t have to worry anymore. Granted it’s a little slower to take off but worth it.

David Powers says:

on December 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Sorry to demur. Given what Nikon spends on development and engineering and what those of us who actually have to buy their lenses spend on the glass, the lens shade and its mount could be much better imagined, engineered, and constructed.

Paul Papanek says:

on December 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

So glad to see that I’m not the only one whose shade go bouncing down the street! I’ve taken to carrying a roll of black electrical tape (very flexible) and I ring the entire circumference of the lens and shade. Totally works.

Tim Biller says:

on December 3, 2012 at 6:57 am

I dropped a 135 off a 60ft scaffolding tower when holding it by the hood mid-lens change at a submarine launch in, ooh 1982.

It hit the ground with a sound like a grenade just as the dignitary was intoning “….and all who sail in her.”

One of the slipway foreman gave it back to me in a very crunchy-sounding plastic bag later on.

I still have the hood.



Tony C says:

on December 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Shows how cheap (or broke) I am. I’ve got no need for no stinkin’ tape! All my lenses are Nikkor AF-D versions….with SCREW-ON, METAL lens hoods, lol.

And I gotta admit, when they dent slightly and lose some paint along the edge and sides….now THAT looks hardcore!

Clifford Beshers says:

on December 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Try lining the threads with Sugru or InstaMorph. You can tighten them so that it requires steady force and over a much larger angle. Since I’ve done that, it never comes off by accident.

Mark says:

on January 12, 2013 at 9:03 pm

My lens hood fell off my new canon 24-70 when I got up to leave the professional bull riders event in MSG. I didn’t realize it until I climbed the stairs and almost left. I went all the way back and an usher was holding it for me. I’ll tape from now on, joe.

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