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Room With a View

Mar 17

In In The Field, Links at 3:49am

I’ve always enjoyed getting my camera in a different place. It’s rewarding, and occasionally daunting. Recently, an effort made by TIME magazine, and spearheaded by shooter and Senior Editor Jonathan Woods, got a whole lotta camera in a different place, which resulted in a truly unusual, not to mention massive photo.

The crew at TIME were kind enough cite my efforts at getting to the top of the Empire State building as inspiration for their drive to the top of #1WTC, now the tallest piece of real estate in the US. Here’s a link to their “making of” video.

I’m very thankful to them for citing my pix from high places, though I daresay they’ve offered too much credit. I’ve simply hauled my sorry ass up a bunch of towers. These fellas took it to a whole new level (sorry!:-) by cranking up a gigapan effort, and booming out a camera off the structure, and knitting together perhaps the most highly resolved image of Manhattan ever made.

I climbed the Empire State numerous times, and got to the light atop the mast four times. Some of those efforts resulted in no pictures, but, on my last climb, I finally did get an image that has hung around for a while. It was in concert, as always, with my good friend Tom Silliman, who has guided me to many high places.

There’s a certain synchronicity here. The pic above ran in the Oct. 2001 National Geographic. Which meant it hit the newsstands about two weeks after the Trade Center towers had disappeared from the New York City skyline. Geographic got a few letters about it, not irate ones, but missives that mentioned the somber, bluish mood of the picture as having some sort of emotional resonance with the events that had just occurred.

Now, all these years later, that tragic wound in lower Manhattan is healing, and out of it has risen up yet another amazing, silvery exclamation point of a building, one that will anchor the landscape of downtown for all the years to come.

Also, back then, before it was called a selfie, I actually shot one, up there at the light, with a Coolpix and a fisheye attachment. That’s typical of me, of course, to be ahead of cultural trends. (Joe make joke.)

Many thanks to Jonathan and the crew at TIME for the mention. They have, in turn, inspired me to continue to get my camera into unusual places. More tk….





Michael Preston says:

on March 17, 2014 at 7:07 am


I found the TIME images and the back story facinating and yours too. Out of curiosity in the last image on the post (the selfie with the fish eye) I can’t see any kind of safety wire/lanyard. Is that just clever work? (is it running down your sleeve for example). Or is there another reason?

Thanks for keeping us all inspired either way.

Dave Gunzenhauser says:

on March 17, 2014 at 7:35 am

Joe…. I get shivers every time I see you out on one of these shoots… I am a big admirer of your work but there are some things I would never try to emulate.. these shots are on that list :)

Jason Longbrake says:

on March 17, 2014 at 7:41 am

Awesome shots Joe. I also loved the video that was posted about this shot. I don’t have the kahonies to be that high. But thankfully you do.

Huge fan. Love to see all that you do.


Tony Mayo says:

on March 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Took me a minute to find the BTS video so I’ll save you the trouble:

Richard Kozak says:

on March 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Someone ought to send this to Marissa Mayer to see if she wants to reconsider her opinion about professional photographers.

Awesome work Joe – not for the faint of heart of amateur undertakings.

dan brien says:

on March 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I thought the cover was yours. Nice to see they credit the inspiration

Christopher Campbell says:

on March 18, 2014 at 11:35 am

I have always wondered, Joe, how it is that when someone asks you to take a picture of a lightbulb being changed, that you think of the light on the Empire State Building? What kind of mind does that?

I asked Jay Maisel this specific question. He said that there are really two kinds of great photographers: those who imagine an image and create it, and those who are good at seeing what is there and can present it in new ways. He said that you were the first kind of photographer. Jay suggested (in his own inimitable way) that I should seek to master the second kind of photography — the kind he does. He want on to say that in order to truly succeed, you can’t be Joe McNally or Jay Maisel, you have to be yourself.

Fine to all that. Still — you have a fascinating mind.

Richard Hales says:

on March 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

I’ll try and get to the top of the nearest building near me in the near future. Unfortunately it doesn’t even come close to the whoppers you have scaled, although I do have the benefit of fine view of the Cotswolds from my vantage spot.,-1.8357427,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xdf259d8a20829d2

Fotografo en monterrey says:

on March 21, 2014 at 8:34 pm

The first time I’m on the blog and the pictures are amazing. Being at the top of the Empire state is not something that anyone dares. I’ll be seeing more of this blog

Mark Seymour says:

on March 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi Joe
Was great to see you present on the Nikon stand at The Photography Show. Loved the presentation.
Would be great to catch up with you when your next in the uk as a fellow Nikon ambassador.

All the best

Jacob says:

on March 27, 2014 at 9:03 pm

That selfie is awesome…. the 3 day stubble, combined with the crunched up face. The young Joe, gettin’ after it.

ron says:

on March 28, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Joe, amazing photo. I could not take the heights. Your work is so inspiring.

SBOBET says:

on March 31, 2014 at 11:30 pm


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