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Sports Illustrated Cover

Nov 6

In Jobs, News at 8:05am

There are many things that identify a city–the location, the food, the weather, the music, the culture, the pace of life. All solid, wonderful indicators of the character and soul of a locale. Another one of those indicators, and often a big piece of the puzzle of any metropolis, small or large, is the local sports teams. It’s incontrovertibly true. You don’t even have to be a sports fan to acknowledge it. When the ball team does well, the heartbeat of a city quickens. 

The Boston Marathon bombing pierced the heart of the proud city of Boston. And, as with all tragedies, ordinary people rose up and became extraordinary. The cover of Sports Illustrated, the week after the bombing, featured three of those people, Boston Police officers Rachel McGuire, Javier Pagan and Detective Kevin McGill, responding immediately after the explosions.

Then came Big Papi and the Sox. A bearded band of brothers rose up, put a city on their shoulders, and made an unlikely charge to a championship. I shot the cover you see up top on Friday last week. It was an honor to be selected, and help create a visual memory of a special moment, when the emotional connection between sport and a city was at its most evident. The Bosox swept away the hurtful memory of panic and smoke filled streets, replacing it with a joyous, rolling parade of ducks winding through delirious crowds, and a third world championship in ten years.

But how do you show that connection, visually? It was a conundrum for an editorial magazine like SI, an astute observer of the world of sports. How do show the tragedy of the marathon, and the healing, transformative triumph of the World Series? The grouping above was not my idea. It sprang from the mind of the mag’s creative director, Chris Hercik, and immediately got the go ahead from managing editor Chris Stone. Find the police officers who were on the marathon cover, and put them with Big Papi. All those moving parts had to be assembled pronto, which was left to director of photography Brad Smith, and his formidably experienced department. Hard to do, but they came together quickly, and, Cali, Jon, Drew and myself found ourselves prepping late on Thursday night, and rolling to Boston at 6am on Friday.

This is where, as a photographer, you need a good editor. Brad and I probably talked a dozen times over the course of Thursday night and then Friday morning. I was nervous, and playing in my head with the potential visual arrangement of four people in the relatively confined vertical space of a cover. Four people, room for type, room for logo–kept playing in my head. Brad called, and he suggested placing Big Papi slightly separate from the trio of officers, or on the side, and for some pictures, not having him look at camera, but regarding the police with a quiet, “job well done” smile. That clicked in my head, and gave me an anchor, a starting point.

(There’s a bunch of stuff on the web about how the magazine conceived and prepared for this job. There’s a BTS video. USA today did a piece on the pulling together the idea. Yahoo Sports had some thoughts as well.)

We rolled heavy on this job. Six Elinchrom Ranger packs and heads, backdrops, sandbags, apple boxes, grip stuff, multiple big Octa light shapers. We stuffed the Suburban. Of course it was raining, and really, really windy (hey, it’s me) so I set up a quick indoor studio as a safe zone.

You need a backup, and a Plan B, C, D and F, ’cause you shoot these things fast. I looked at Big Papi, and said, “Okay, how much time I got.” He came back and said, “Twenty minutes.” From that point, I played a game with him. I’d burn like twelve minutes and look at him and say, “Okay, I’m checking the clock, and I got 17 more minutes.” He’d laugh, and shake his head. He gave us more time. Truth be told, I think he was enjoying himself.

If I were a major league pitcher, the above face, which, even in repose, is radiating a certain kind of “I’m a big cat, and you’re just a little mouse” confidence, would not be a welcome one looking out at me from home plate. I saw the scoreboard, left in place from the last Series’ game, and I grabbed Big Papi for a single. I even styled his scarf for him, and took him by the shoulders and rotated him into position. It was like moving a large tree trunk. I asked him to go dreamlike as well.

All this stuff happens very fast. The drumbeat in your head is to give the magazine options in your allotted time, no matter how brief. Don’t belabor a single point of view. Stay mobile. So we tried a set by the “Boston Strong” logo on the Green Monster.

And played that old kid’s game with the bat, to see who’s up first.

And I asked Big Papi to throw his arms around everybody, which he is quite capable of doing.

Cali and Jon make pretty good sandbags. Half the time out there I thought I was shooting the America’s Cup races.

A heartfelt, visual tip of the hat to the city of Boston and the Red Sox, who pulled off an amazing worst to first miracle season. Despite the wind and the rain, it was a wonderful day at Fenway, and I was honored to be a part of it.

More tk….








glenn usdin says:

on November 6, 2013 at 8:19 am

sometimes, karma sets in and you realize that they picked just the right guy to shoot the job. nice work…great story.

Geoff Penn says:

on November 6, 2013 at 8:33 am

Well done Joe! A fabulous story, and the front cover says it all.

One thing though, – do you *never* book the good weather ahead of your shoots?

Ed dougherty says:

on November 6, 2013 at 8:50 am


Fadi Kelada says:

on November 6, 2013 at 8:52 am

Congratulations, Joe! Good people like those deserve to be known to the world.

Dana Rouleau says:

on November 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

Great blog post Joe. I was at the Boston marathon, in between the two bombs when they went off (I got really lucky), with camera in hand. It took a couple minutes for the shock to wear off when it happened to realize I did have a camera in my hand, then went to work before we were all told to leave. There were people down on the road and sidewalks all over the place, barriers trampled and thrown about and debris scattered. It looked like a war zone in some ways. It was a surreal day to say the least. There were tens of thousands of people streaming out of the Boylston Street area towards MA Ave to get outside of the perimeter set up by the Boston PD, most of them on cell phones and/or crying. It took me a half hour just to get out of the Copley Place parking garage (a couple streets over from the finish line) as there were so many people walking by. It was a crazy day; I can only imagine how bad 9/11 was being in NYC.

Dave Cleaveland says:

on November 6, 2013 at 9:03 am

Hi Joe,

It’s been a long season, but a good one, for us Red Sox fans and the people of New England. Having a stud like you come in and pull the Marathon tragedy and the Red Sox together, photographically, just adds to surrealism of it all. Did you happen to see Papi address the crowd at Fenway after the bombing? If not, make sure to take a look. Ortiz drops the F bomb in front of 37,000 people! He was a big factor in helping Bostonians get past the tragedy. A month ago, I was working in an R44 over the city, shooting video of Boston for a client, and grabbed some shots of the Red Sox taking batting practice before the World Series started. My client was in the helicopter with me, but I didn’t know if he was a Sox fan or not, so I didn’t hang around too long overhead. But even from 500′, it was pretty cool.

If you’re ever headed up to Maine for anything that I can help with (scouting, etc.) let me know.

Chris says:

on November 6, 2013 at 9:08 am

Great work as always Joe. Although, I am not sure if I am jealous of your chance to shoot these wonderful people or the fact that I am a local guy outside of Boston and you got to walk on Fenway’s grass! You get to have all the fun…

art meripol says:

on November 6, 2013 at 9:19 am

Great cover, Herculean effort in very short order. Best for me what how well you showed that it was so much more than ‘one shot’, how well you worked the ideas and opportunities while the clock ticked (boomed?) in your head. Reflects a great working relationship with your crew as well as the importance the ‘talent’ felt about the cover subject. Love to see how you ended up deploying those six packs, heads and modifiers. Did you break them up between sets to move faster from ‘studio’ to field?
Congrats on a super cover.

John Mersits says:

on November 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

Amazing work as always Joe! Thanks for sharing!

Gordon Gurray says:

on November 6, 2013 at 10:01 am

I like the story… and the picture.
As usually well done job, Mr McNally.
I really love your work, the people look incredible naturally…

but my favorite is the last one thought, especially the acrobatic act of your helpers *ggg*

rhanks for sharing this

Maryellen says:

on November 6, 2013 at 10:35 am

The cover is great, but the heart that comes through in your description of the job is wonderful!

W Kilburg says:

on November 6, 2013 at 11:09 am

Joe, are you wearing a sport coat?

Nice job too…..

Damian Vines says:

on November 6, 2013 at 11:25 am

Man I love everything you do and say Joe!!! What an amazing experience that must have been for you, and you handled it as always with humble honor and razor sharp experience. Aside from you, your team must have the best jobs in the world 😉

Laraine says:

on November 6, 2013 at 11:46 am

Lovely story, brilliantly photographed. I love it! Thank you.

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on November 6, 2013 at 11:57 am


Love the image and the BTS information. I personally like the hands in front almost hug with the four of them, with the Boston Strong in the background, but the cover image works best with Fenway and the direct on shot. Way to go.

PS, I once witnessed a Vanity Fair shoot with a huge 8′ Octagon sailing across the street untethered, flying with a tiny sand bag still wedged on the c-stand. I am glad you had both Cali and Jon holding it down.

All the best.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Tom says:

on November 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Outstanding work, as always, Joe. I noticed that they gave you a photo credit on the cover, which is something I don’t recall ever seeing on there. I scanned the last 12 months and didn’t see any photographer credits on the cover. Not that photo credits pay the bills, but that’s pretty cool. How did that come about?

Bob DeChiara says:

on November 6, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Great work Joe! I had the pleasure of covering the Sox this year as well as the entire playoffs, World Series and victory parade. It was an incredible season. One of the most memorable games was the first home game after the bombing. I had tears in my ears photographing fans who were also crying during a tribute shown on the jumbotron. Great work by the Boston Globe photog who captured the above image. The field looks pretty good after the duck boats made a mess of it!

Eric H. Adeleye says:

on November 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Congratulations on the cover of Sports Illustrated. What camera and light gear did you use for the photographs?

Joey Lozano says:

on November 6, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Awesome post Joe!!! Awesome advice as always and great looking shots!

Ronald Pollard says:

on November 7, 2013 at 10:02 am

Well Greatness Continues with this post again JOE!! Lighting, spacing, colors, posing, angles, storyline and your heart, you are doing what you were put on this Earth to do!!! Thanks for continued blessings and inspiration!!!!

Sam says:

on November 8, 2013 at 3:08 am

Cool cover! It’s the coolest one I’ve ever seen.

Matt Doebler says:

on November 9, 2013 at 11:20 am

Saw you on “The Grid” and remember you talking about choosing a modifier that produces a quality of light to match the feel of the ambient. That was really insightful. Too often, I just choose a modifier without thinking of how it will interact with the ambient environment I’ll be using. Thanks, once again, for a sneak peek inside one of the best photographic minds! (By that, I mean yours.) = )

Jeff Babineau says:

on November 10, 2013 at 11:32 am

Great blog post Joe.

I just got home from Boston where I’d spent the last (9) days watching six sporting events including the World Series Game 6 clincher. What an amazing night that was and I will always remember it.

Incidently, I brought a ton of camera gear along with me but elected not to take it to the game. I decided I’d rather enjoy the moment itself, instead of watching the game behind the lens as I often do.

I’m glad I did.

Scott W. Smith says:

on November 13, 2013 at 6:53 am

Sports Illustrated, Joe McNally, Boston heroes, World Series, BTS video, cover shot—this is the single best photo blog post I’ve ever read over the years. Love the cover photo and seeing the variety of other shots you tried and knowing your time constraints.

The concept, the photography, the art direction, the layout, and of course, the larger meaning/story behind this SI cover are really something special.

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