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Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Talking Down Under

May 28

In Friends, Fun at 12:54am

Winding down now, after a month in Australia. Heading home this week. It’s been a wonderful trip, and I’ve learned a lot. Such as…

G’day is actually one word. And when an Aussie says it, even to a total stranger, they generally really mean it.

I would be hard put, I think, to use the word “uptight” in the same sentence as the word, “Aussie.” Folks down here are pretty relaxed and easy going about most stuff, which is probably quite healthy.

They do talk a little strangely, though. Being here has been a wonderful adventure and education in language.

For instance, I went to the State of Origin Rugby match the other night, which is a huge event in the Aussie sports world. (This is referred to as “going to the footy.”) It was fun, and quite an amiable affair, with folks cheering for the home side and all. There was only one “incident” where an inebriated Queensland fan sort of danced along in front of the New South Wales fan section, his gestures suggesting to that section of the stadium that they engage him in a level of physical intimacy that would have been anatomically impossible for that many people to achieve, at least simultaneously. He was forcibly exited by security, to much cheering and a beer shower.

All my mates were cheering for New South Wales, so I sat in the blue section, and got with the program. They scored first, but ultimately lost. The Blues did, however, have a terrific cheer. “Queensland are wankers!” Pause a beat. “Queensland are wankers!”

I asked what the specifics of being a wanker entailed, and was told it meant that you know, you’re just a tosser. Okay! That explains that!

The Foster’s beer campaign in America has convinced, I’m sure, lots of Yanks that it is the brew of choice down under. Definitely not, I am assured. Most self-respecting, beer drinking Aussies (and that would be the entire country) would rather be caught dead than drinking a can of Foster’s, which is routinely referred to as “cat piss.”  Which is not, perhaps, as negative as it might sound. Beer down here is generally referred to as piss, and if you’re “sinking the piss,” you’re drinking bunches of beers.

In the beer department, the way to go (and this is an admittedly limited research sample) is Crown Lager, aka, “Crownies.” It’s a limited sample as I’ve never been able to drink lots of beer. In college they referred to me as a “two can commando.” Down here I’m a “two pot screamer.”

And, if you drink a lot of beer, you’ll have to “take the kids to the pool.” (Go to the lavatory.)

If you really, really drink too much beer, you might end up having a “liquid laugh.” Back home, we might refer to upchucking as having a Technicolor yawn, or a long talk on the big white telephone.

Went to the movies in Sydney and bought a Gold Class ticket. What a treat! You go to smallish theater and are shown to a incredibly comfortable recliner of a chair, and waiters will bring you snacks, beers, wine etc. Awesome! It was $40 for the ticket, though, which is pricey. They do offer half off on Gold Class tickets on Tuesdays, though, and their marketing slogan for same is “Tight Ass Tuesdays!” Somehow, I don’t think that slogan would fly back home. There would be somebody offended, somehow, and the results could involve placards, protests, lawsuits, and the like.

We trekked overland from Sydney to the Gold Coast and to Melbourne, so I’ve seen a bit of the country now, which of course I didn’t when I was here shooting the Olympics. When working an Olympiad, you basically see the inside of the sports venues, and the inside of your hotel room, briefly, before you pass out from exhaustion every night.

So, I’ve seen the Big Banana, and the Big Merino. (I missed out on the Big Prawn.) And, in keeping with the Aussie philosophy of everything being big, I have to say the Big Merino’s testicles are, as they might say in Aussie speak, “absolutely bangin!”

If you’re a bit loopy, or behave foolishly, you might be referred to as having “kangaroos loose in the top paddock.” Back home, I’m proud to say we have equally innovative phrases for dimwitted behavior, such as, “one or two fries short of a happy meal,” and “one sandwich short of a picnic.” You could also say someone didn’t drink from the fountain of knowledge, they only gargled.

I kept hearing that people were “absolutely wrapped,” which means they enjoyed themselves. At first I thought this condition was “rapt,” as in rapt attention, or maybe even tending towards rapture. But, then, the only time I’ve seen Aussies approach rapture has been when we’ve offered some of our subjects a case of VB beer in return for signing a photo release. I mean, they stopped short of speaking in tongues, but their eyes definitely glazed over. I later learned I was indeed wrong and the word for pleased or entertained actually is “wrapped.” Cool.

I would guess the opposite of being wrapped would be to engage in a whinge. “Whinge” is akin to whining or complaining. When I’ve gotten together down here with some fellow photogs, and we’ve imbibed a fair bit of alcohol, we’ve come quite close to having ourselves a right good whinge.

If I’m surprised by something at home, I might say, “My Goodness!” Down here, some folks express surprise by the phrase, “Holy Dooley!”

If you’re a Bogan, you apparently don’t dress particularly well.

A pash is evidently a long, passionate kiss. Caution. This could lead to rooting.

Giving it a good try, or perhaps keeping too much for yourself, is referred to as a “fair squeeze on the sauce bottle.” And if you think a lot of yourself, it might be said that “you’ve got tickets on yourself, mate!” This type of individual might also bear the nickname “Figjam.” (F**k I’m good, just ask me!)

If you play hooky from work without being sick, you are “chucking a sickie.” Men’s swimming trunks are “budgie smugglers.” (My Aussie mates did seem to enjoy the phrase “banana hammock,” which I offered in return.) A “bush oyster” is what you produce when you blow your nose. A “journo” is a journalist, an “ambo” is an ambulance driver, and a “garbo” is a garbage collector.

If you’re really, really busy, you could be “flat out like a lizard drinking,” or a “cat burying shit.”

Anyway, gotta shove off here. Going to go into Melbourne to have a Captain Cook and a walkabout. Day off today, actually, so I’m being a bit of a bludger and not doing any yakka whatsoever. Had my brekkie, and it’s London to a brick I’m not doing much today. Going to put on my trackie daks and my sunnies, and see a little of the city, and just spend some quiet time, ’cause since I came to Oz I’ve definitely been yabbering a fair bunch.

I’ve met some really nice people here, and made some wonderful friends.  It’s going to be tough to say “hooroo.” (Goodbye.) And that’s the fair dinkum truth.

More tk…

In Transit….and Many Thanks…

Apr 30

In Fun, Thanks at 7:33am

Flew home yesterday from Dusseldorf. 18 hours here, and then another plane (hope it’s really big and has lots of engines cuz it’s going over lots of water) to Sydney, and magical land of Aus. I had a blast down there during the Olympics and this is a return visit I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Here’s a tour link for our itinerary down there.

But, before anything, I just have to thank the incredibly wonderful folks who came to Essen for this past weekend’s Nikon Solutions. The whole Nikon team did amazing stuff, but I really have to single out Yasuo Baba, of Nikon Germany. Where he gets the energy to do so much of the creative and logistical planning a huge event like this requires, I’ll never know.

Mostly, though, I have to thank the folks who came out to the expo. They were amazing and gracious, and made Annie and me feel so much at home. Throw in great beer, good coffee and lots of laughs, not to mention an elephant, Marco the amazing body builder, a ballerina, and a couple of wonderful models from the Czech Republic, and well, you’ve got a fun weekend, that’s for sure. Once again it was my honor to teach with all the shooters there, and of course my long time bud, sports shooting legend Bill Frakes. He had basketball players, rhythmic gymnasts, heavy weight lifters, you name it.

When you’re shooting live and stumbling around, essentially doing a location shoot in front of 400 plus people, you really feed off the participation and energy of the folks in the crowd. Once again, thanks to all who hung in there during some fun shoots…..all best, and Annie and I already can’t wait to return!

More tk….

In Today’s News…New Classes at Kelby Training

Feb 6

In Fun, Videos at 8:30am

Just finished two new classes for Kelby Training, which are in the pipe, and will most likely come out fairly shortly. They’re pretty in depth looks at creating, with just light and a plain wall, an environment in which dancers can thrive, create their own sublime shapes, which then, at camera, you simply hope to capture. I’m a big believer in the fact that when the camera observes a performer, it simply stands in service to their creativity.  Consequently, the best thing a shooter can do is provide a comfortable place for them to experiment, light them simply and well, and then sorta, kinda, get the hell out of their way.

I’ll never be known as a dance shooter. I’ll really never be known as any particular kind of shooter at all, being resolutely, the generalist. (I spun from this studio into a job for the Geographic where I’m traveling with 27 cases of gear, two Suburbans, and negotiating the shooting of large, static objects.)

And I enjoy both of the above styles of assignment in equal measure, though I have to admit that the interaction with dancers is a helluva lot more fun. It’s a safety valve for me, to shoot dance. Think of a vent on a pressure cooker.  I’ve always been a star struck kid when it comes to virtually any of the performing arts. Recently, I was in Vegas for a gig, and I took my youngest daughter with me. (Her first time in Vegas, and she really liked it. Should I be worried?)

We went to the “O” show, and both sat there with our jaws dropped at the exquisite talent on stage. I feel the same way about looking through the lens at dance.

The above set featured modern dancer Jeff Mortensen, and he was able to create whimsy in the air, assisted by two Elinchrom Rangers into long strip soft boxes, one directly overhead, and one off to either side, depending on his gesture. I “found” Jeff through the long standing relationships of David Cooper, a friend and fellow shooter based in Vancouver. David is one of Canada’s leading theater and dance shooters, and his daughter Emily (who calls herself Mini-Cooper) is not far behind in terms of skill. They are prominent members of the creative community in Vancouver, which is a city I love to go and work.


I was also able to work with Lisa Gelley, Josh Martin, and Shay Kuebler of the 605 Collective modern dance troupe based in Vancouver. They are dedicated to creating new versions of aesthetics in the air through the intricate interweaving of their articulate bodies while in flight. Above is Josh, lit with two TTL speed lights. Below, bigger lights were used, a combo of Ranger and Quadra.

Keeping things simple, we used just one speed light for the above shot of the soulfully expressive Bevin Poole. Here’s where you need to explain yourself as a photographer, and try your best not sound like a complete lunatic. I had no relationship, really, with Bevin, until she walked into the studio. I had just seen her picture. But for some reason, I saw her short hair sort of tufted and her face and body painted in some way shape or form. I don’t know where that came from, it just did. Here’s where collaboration with an excellent makeup artist is irreplaceable. I discussed this off the wall notion with Tamar Ouziel, an extremely talented HMU artist in Vancouver, and she immediately got on board with it, made suggestions, refined the idea and made Bevin up. Bevin, bless her, listened to me, a complete stranger, as the first things I said to her were that I wanted to paint her face and body and nestle her in a bird’s nest of tulle. She listened, smiled, cocked her head to the side, and said, “Sure.” (This is another reason to love working with dancers. They not only agree to your fevered, improbable imagination, they then take it and enlarge it, enhance it, and embody it.)

I helped Lastolite re-design their very popular 24″ Ezybox, creating one with a white interior instead of a silver. (As I’ve mentioned, I kind of feel like a golfer who’s been on the Tour for thirty years, and finally got asked to design a course.) I was happy to pitch in, as I’ve been using the Lastolite stuff for a long time now, and their product manager, Gary Astill, is an amazing designer. I used the white Ezybox for the above. I would have been a bit apprehensive about using a silvery interior on this white on white study. What I needed was a quiet fade from highlight to shadow, and not something abrupt and contrasty. It worked well, as the one light in the picture. What you see below is the whole set, and all of the lighting. (To the left is a heater. With the tempura paint drying on Bevin, she got cold. Dancers don’t have much body fat, so that was a point we made during the shoot in terms of creating a comfort zone for them.)

Keeping it simple, once again, the below is two speed lights, a main and a fill. The main is kind of a new kid on the block called the Lastolite 8 in 1 umbrella, which I’ve been using a lot, mostly in shoot through mode, with the mask on it. It tends to create a more controllable light, with good fall off into shadows, which you can, in turn, choose to fill in or not. What the light is doing here is simple. What the dancer, Alexander Burton of Ballet BC, is doing, is not.

Speed lights were also used for the wonderful leaper, Gilbert Small, below, also of Ballet BC.

The classes really discuss fully the use of all manner of lighting, most of it very simple, brought to bear in the studio, which is, as I always feel, an empty box you fill with your imagination. It also emphasizes the importance of collaboration with the dancers, the makeup artist, and the crew. Any photo that might be any good that comes out of a day in the studio like this is very much the result of a team effort and the creative input of all involved. I was blessed on the set with Tamar, and Syx Langeman,  a talented Vancouver shooter, our own Mike “Double Guns” Cali, and of course David Cooper, whose studio we rented. (Anyone traveling to Vancouver in need of a studio, contact David. His shop is about as comfortable and complete as studios get.)

The above is of Alexis Fletcher, who is truly magnificent. She is particular, as classical dancers tend to be, and she can float through the air as effortlessly as the rose petals we blew into the frame with her. She would look at every frame we shot together, and effectively, she coached me through it. She remarked on my timing, and her form, critically, but also wonderfully. Because of her devotion to craft, she, effectively, pushed me to be a better photographer on the set that day.

A number of years ago, I had a show of my dance work at the Shanghai Art Museum. They asked me to write up something that addressed the notion of why one would shoot dance as a theme. Here is what I wrote.

“I have always photographed dance, ever since I moved to New York to become a photographer. One of my first apartments in the city was on 65th St. just by Lincoln Center, nexus of the dance world, and home to the New York City and the American Ballet companies. Through my windows and walks in the neighborhood, I would see these lissome creatures, hair pulled tight in the inevitable bun, dance bag over the shoulder, lovely to look at, even in their occasionally ungainly, splayfooted gait. Dancers all, making their way to the studios just across from my tiny, dungeon-like  studio apartment.

I grew curious about this world, and managed to find my way into the studios with my camera. There I began to witness the beauty, the audacity, and the sheer grit of the dancer. The reasons for their sidewalk awkwardness became apparent. Dancers are not meant to trudge through the concrete grime and blaring traffic of the city. They are creatures of flight, stopping just short of having wings, with astonishing abilities to parse the human figure into a wide range of shapes and stances, all of them equally, impossibly beautiful. They are meant to be in motion, on stage, magnets for the eye, and thus the camera.

In the course of their careers, dancers will have many partners, but a constant one is the camera. Why else to fly and leap so magnificently, except to have that flight recorded and preserved? No other medium has the ability to slice time, and freeze moments. Given the quicksilver, all too brief career of a dancer, this is highly desirable. The photograph preserves that split second when it appears gravity is suspended, and the rest of us, earthbound earth forever, gasp.

These photographs are my own gasps. I have been privileged to simultaneously have had my breath taken away and my camera to my eye many times. This selection represents a few of those moments. The camera is the dancer’s eternal partner, lockstep in a lovely pas de deux.”

I sincerely thank Scott Kelby and the whole Kelby clan down in Tampa for creating the opportunity to both shoot and teach something that means a lot to me.

More tk….

A Fun Frame for Friday

Jan 13

In Fun at 8:52am

Gotta love bulldogs. D4, 1/250 @f8, ISO 100. Have a great weekend everybody!