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The Wild, and Occasionally Wonderful Internet

Jan 13

In In The Field, Thoughts at 8:24am


Last year, when I stood on the railing that supports the aircraft warning lights atop the Burj Khalifa, 2,716 feet over the sidewalk, and I leaned forward slightly, I was cautious, of course. Not that I was going anywhere. I had safety ropes attaching me to the structure. And my cameras were hooked to me, and were quite secure. (Whenever I make a climb over an urban area, I run heavy gauge wire through my camera straps, so the cameras are literally wired to my person.)

What wasn’t connected, or tethered in any way, was my Iphone. I took that slippery son of a bitch in my hands, with great and grave care, looked down, and saw my feet. Made a snap, pushed a few buttons, and it became an Instagram. I had a sense of standing at a window clutching a bird I was about to release into the wild. I flung it outwards and up into the sky, and I knew it would go many places, and I wouldn’t have a shred of say in the matter. Which, for this pic, was okay. (If anyone out there had similar childhood reading habits, you might remember the last page of Sterling North’s Rascal, one of my favorite books as a kid.)

This little picture did in fact cover a lot of ground, and was retweeted, screen grabbed, printed, and chatted up all over the internet. It easily, and quite rapidly, became the most seen picture I have ever shot, and I have shot lots of pictures. And it certainly became an education for me about the life of a digital image, as it’s still being retweeted on a regular basis, even now, almost a year after shooting it.

I have to admit, when it started hitting lots of screens and the retweets piled on and on, I sort of stared at my own computer screen somewhat slack jawed, a look of bovine wonder on my face. ” I mean, at the risk of sounding stupid, or old, or both,  I knew the internet was big, and fast and linked, but the speed of dissemination and numbers of eyeballs glancing at my battered shoes was definitely bracing.

Here’s an upside, speaking of my shoes. I’ve been buying the same model Ecco Track II, for at least twenty years, maybe more. A pair of those shoes has been with me to the top of the Empire State Building, up some bridges, onto power line towers, in and out of helicopters, and trod ground in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Siberia, South America, and coast to coast back home. I guess the Ecco folks were pleased to see their shoes atop the tallest man-made structure on earth, but also mildly embarrassed by their disrepair. So, they sent me a new pair. They reached out on Facebook, and next thing you know, I had a new pair of size 11’s. Haven’t used them yet, as there’s still life in my old ones, but it’s nice to have brand new shoes in the wings.

The other cool thing about the marriage of the internet and the camera is that the resultant, instantaneous, widespread migration of your images can make someone like myself, who started looking through a camera way before it was also a phone and a tweet machine and all the rest, appear somewhat with it, even to my kids. The pic, as I mentioned, still gets rerouted and retweeted, though it has all died down to a comparative simmer. But with one recent mention, my daughter picked up on it again, and shouted out the below.

So, that’s kind of cool…..what an amazing world we live in….more tk….




Ken Colwell says:

on January 13, 2014 at 8:37 am

Ok… getting retweeting by most of the world is very cool. But I’m thinking that having your daughter actually claim you and take pride in your work is even more amazing.

ken c.

Michaela says:

on January 13, 2014 at 8:45 am

I really enjoy following you on Instagram, and I’m glad you use the site. I’m also glad you use Facebook, because that’s where I found your website and blog. Even though I subscribe to NG, I like the immediacy of following photographers and journalists online, and discovering their personal work —almost all of it incredible. In addition to your work, I enjoy the Instagram post of Robert Clark, Melissa Farlow, Aaron Huey and many others. So thank you for sharing your work online, even though it truly is a Wild West.

Marc Austin-Zande says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:12 am

I am one of those who saw that shot and immediately spread it to many friends, photographers, architects, thrill seekers and nerds. The reactions were all slightly different but all were amazed. Still a fantastic shot to look at Joe. Maybe one day I will take a shot that people will gawk at and spread around… one day.

As always, thank you Joe

Andre Favron says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:15 am

We really do live in a whole new world, don’t we. May I suggest that you add a hyperlink to”Ecco Track II, mid cut lac” in the article. Since you did such a great job of promoting them, I am going to buy a pair on line. Had you created a link, you could get a commission for your part in the sale. 😀

Life with Kaishon says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:18 am

What a fantastic image! I am so glad you took it. I love your daughter’s tweet. I also love that the company gave you new shoes.

Happy Monday!

Keith Maguire says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:21 am

It is amazing how fast the internet can get ones work in front of a large number of people. I’m mixed about it though. As an aspiring photographer I get really excited when one of my photos is liked by a lot of people, but I also want to one day be at a level where I can get actual prints out there too. Right now I’m so unbalanced because the internet is an inexpensive medium on which to show my work, it’s easy to focus on just that. I have a large amout of photos on my site, but very few prints. I’m beginning to look into local art fairs, etc, where I can show my work in printed form.

Tim Byrne says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

One of the great joys of being a parent is discovering that occasionally your kids get (sort of) what you are trying to do in life, and that they interpret for themselves the meaning of a mission. And that just makes me feel like I did something right (at least once.)
Celebrate, Joe.

Justin Van Leeuwen says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

Another great post! I wonder how many photographers this will inspire to take photos of their shoes in hopes of getting a new pair?

JerseyStyle Photography says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:45 am

Oh the places you’ll go… :-)

Rusty Moore says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:53 am

I look forward to day my daughter tells her friends, “My did shot this!”

John Fowler says:

on January 13, 2014 at 9:54 am

You have a fun dad, Claire McNally!

Zvonimir Fras says:

on January 13, 2014 at 10:09 am

I love Claire’s comment here :)

Rich Graves says:

on January 13, 2014 at 10:37 am

As a 50+yr old I’ve been around long enough to remember the first personal computers (timex sinclair) among others. I kept telling my family and friends that digital was coming, digital was coming, to photography. They really didn’t get what I was so excited about. I’ve been an avid photographer since the early 80’s when I picked up my fist 35mm Canon AE1, but knew the frustration of trying to process my own film and make my own prints. This story reminds me of how far photography has come in my lifetime, I can’t wait to see what the next 50 yrs will bring. And plan on being active and into it as long as the good Lord above sees fit.

Paul Frocchi says:

on January 13, 2014 at 11:04 am

of all the comments…I think that one would have made me tear up. It’s always wonderful when our loved ones share in the things we love.
JMc is a superstar. :o)

Ricardo Garibay says:

on January 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm

It’s fun to see how images move with a life of their own these days.

I have worn the same shoes also for over twenty years, I wish Ecco sent me a pair as well, I have a bunch of pictures with them on, I’ll try my luck (just kidding)

Keep having a good time Jon, greetings from Mexico

William Chinn says:

on January 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm

You are an expert at product placement. I have the same boots in black. Now if I only had the same Nikon gear.

Marleen den Brok says:

on January 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I knew they looked familiar! I have the same shoes. Love them. And need a new pair. So I guess I’ll have to climbed the Burj Khalifa as wel 😉

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on January 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm


Interesting way to get a new pair of boots. I wonder if Ecco’s site went down today with all of the traffic. It is too cool when your children actually think you did a cool job. We all new that already, but that moment they acknoweldge it is pretty great.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on January 13, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Oh yeah, and one more thing. Polish.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Simon Fleming says:

on January 14, 2014 at 12:25 am

Hey Joe!

I must admit I got caught up in the sharing frenzy of that amazing image too – it even made my business partner Ros more than a bit queazy when I showed it to her on a big screen (she hates heights).

I hope that one day I can experience a moment with my daughter that’s in a similar vein to your’s above – pretty cool stuff.

Wolfgang Lonien says:

on January 14, 2014 at 2:01 am

What a great comment from Claire! I love it when our Zuleikha (9) says: “Best photographer in the world? My dad!”, tho I know better 😉

Claire: your dad is great. I know it, because I’ve met him, and talked / listened to him for an hour or so.

Bharat Pania says:

on January 14, 2014 at 4:31 am

The concept for shoot shoe at this height is stanning

Tom says:

on January 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

So can we look forward to signature series Ecco Treks. Same as the regular ones but with white interiors? 😉

And I still can’t look at that photo without feeling dizzy!

Arno K. says:

on January 31, 2014 at 10:55 am

I love the comment from Claire. So proud of her Dad.

And at the same time I have no doubt that she’ll be dipped in #$%& before she’ll be seen with you in the mall right Joe??? No hug before going to school anymore? A shrug of the shoulders when you make them breakfast and ask what they are up against today???

I so recognize that, mine ACT luke warm to the pics I take of them, but do not waste a minute to switch their FB profile pictures to the latest greatest edition of themselves. I love how their brain works.

Ken Toney says:

on February 1, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Hey Joe, how many Canon butts have u kicked with those:)
BTW, congrats on being voted the #1 most influential photographer!!!!

ron says:

on March 7, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Joe, I saw that pic on your boots on the edge, holy cow, i was sitting down and was scared.

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