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Driving To Slovenia….

Apr 20

In history, Thoughts at 2:46am


Working in Europe, under a giant umbrella of volcanic ash. No fly time now. Just as well. I’d rather drive just about anywhere than fly. Except home, of course. Gotta fly home, and pretty soon, so hoping for a wind shift, or maybe one of those movie special effects deals where all of sudden the volcano goes into reverse gear and sucks back down what it just threw up.

Working with Nikon Europe and a bunch of Annie’s extraordinary colleagues over here. What started small in Copenhagen 4 years ago has become a barnstorming tour, with stops in a various cities across Europe, particularly, this year, in Germany. Yasuo Baba, the manager of NPS Germany, and a complete, total force of nature,  has put together a terrific itinerary that has us in Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, as well as 6 stops in Germany. Somehow, through his efforts, every place we show up, there’s ballerinas and body builders.

Just crossed into Austria. Gonna be a while before we hit Ljubljana. Darkness closing in. Domen and Rene up front sharing the driving. Young guys, they are, somewhat oddly, into 80′s music. Dire Straits through the speakers. Annie eating gummi bears.

People across the board have been wonderful at the various stops. Meeting photogs from the commercial world, newspaper guys, wedding shooters, you name it. Playing with light and shooting stuff. Talking gear, the language we all understand.

Years ago, my first foray out of the US sent me to England. I was a student, and my photography professor, Fred Demarest, urged me to come over and mix chemistry for the Syracuse London photo program. I got 9 free graduate credits, and 5 pounds a week.

I jumped on it. Got myself a cold water flat with a shower down the hall in Parsons Green, south of the Thames, for six pounds fifty a week. Ran the lab, shot stuff at Speakers’ Corner, looked at lots of pictures. Went to the London Royal Photographic Society, where they had a show of Gene Smith’s work. Went back six or seven times.

Ate at the original, and at that time, the only, Hard Rock Café. Played basketball for a semi-pro team called London Amber. Had a blast. Starting five was a crazy Ozzie, me, and some terrific English blokes, one of whom was a chauffeur during the day. For a road trip, he could stuff the whole team into his massive limo. Played some pretty basic gyms, lacking, uh, amenities. Jesus, that car stank after a game.

Went to sea. Wandered up to Lowestoft, the eastmost tip of England, and signed onto to a fishing trawler named the Boston Shackleton for a two week stint in the North Sea. In November. On board, they called me “Hank the Yank” and made fun of the fact I had to hang on to stand up. Couple of them piped down a bit after I climbed the mast, which most of the crew wouldn’t do. Fun up there, a seaborne roller coaster, complete with salt spray.

Nighttime on the the Dogger, as some fishermen liked to call the North Sea, is particularly, deeply black. The wheelhouse was like a cocoon. Outside the sea circled the boat like a powerful snake, waves coiling and uncoiling. Wind sharp as a thrown knife. Inside, the glow of instruments, and the smell of strong tea.

Thirty five years and nearly 60 countries later, still at sea. Still love staring at darkness, slipping by. Still love the uncertainty of photography. Still love the fact that it kicks my ass. Nowadays, love knowing that all those millions of pixels, hot wired for color and speed, are still blind without the eye of a shooter pointing them the right way. Still love that my imagination precludes the possibility that I will ever grow up.

Still love the passport stamps, and the fact that each one means a connection made, a culture observed. Lessons learned. People met. Bridges, however temporary and fragile, made. Never get tired of the sound of a shutter. Never tire of nights like these, especially now that I share them with Annie. Here in the dark, asleep now, listening to her breathe.

Ljubljana still couple hours away. It’s okay. They can drive slower if they want. More tk….

93 Responses to “Driving To Slovenia….”

Gordon says:

on April 20, 2010 at 2:52 am

joe, you really do have a great way with words. These posts just ring so true in my head. You are my go to philosopher!

Marco Iraola says:

on April 20, 2010 at 2:56 am

Joe ur a beast!

Stuart Mackenzie says:

on April 20, 2010 at 2:58 am

Viz: Dogger. In marine terms Dogger is an area of sea referred to in the UK shipping forecast, largely centered around Dogger bank, a dirty great sandbank in the middle of the North sea which rises in places to only 15M under the surface. So it is possible they were referring to this, rather than the North sea as a whole. ( you can see Dogger about half way up on the east coast…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipping_Forecast)

Anyway, I’m sure the Uk has ballerinas and bodybuilders too :D

Ivan says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:03 am

Hey, will you stay somewhere in Austria, or are you just passing through?

Donal Cunningham says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:03 am

Went to Ljubljana with my then girlfriend, now wife in 1998. If the Gostilna Pri Mraku is still open, they do a nice venison steak (her: Good god, you’re eating Bambi!). Oh, and the caves in Postojna are awesome, assuming you get any free time whatsoever.

Good thing Annie’s with you – can’t imagine what it’s like to be separated from your loved ones by A FRICKING VOLCANO. Hope she’s enjoying the trip too.

The ferries are running to Ireland, too. Just sayin’.


Matej Stefanac says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:09 am

Where exactly in Slovenia are you heading to?
greetings from Ljubljana!

Frank Burch says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:10 am

At the Paso Robles workshop you told a really funny story where the punch line was when a guy said, “Livin’ the dream man, livin’ the dream”. But I swear Joe, you are “Livin’ the dream”!

Martin O'Neill says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:10 am

Wonderfully evocative Blog Mr McNally !!
Hope you get home (eventually!)

Joe McNally says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:14 am

Hey Stuart, have heard of references to the Dogger Bank. The fellas on the boat just seemed to refer to “the whole bloody thing” as The Dogger. Crew of 7 aboard a 90′ sidewinder trawler. Good bunch. Gave this landlubber a good deal of good natured grief:-) Joe

luka says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:14 am

safe driving joe! Just cant wait to meet u 2day in ljubljana!

Dave Ewers says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:24 am

Joe, you have to be one of the luckiest guys alive. LOve your work, love life. Be well.

Jesper Skærbæk Jensen says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:26 am

Joe, it’s great that you do these tours around Europe :-) I still recall your visit in Denmark in 2008, at the Nikon Speed of Light, it was a fine fine day :-) Any chance to see you in the Nordics again ?

Jon danielsen says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:35 am

Hey joe,

since youre in europe – any plans on beeing in Norway for the near future? (we have cookies..)

David Kelly says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:36 am

Joe, love the posting – very evocative words as Martin has said. You’ve got a nack for conjuring up great imagery with words as well as your photographic gear ;-)
Would love to see you over here in old Blighty again soon. Hopefully the volcanic cloud will clear soon, but I’ve heard this morning that another spewing of volcanic ash has begun. Spain seems to be the best bet currently if you want to get a flight back home – their airspace is pretty clear I believe.
Have fun.

Matthias says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:38 am

Haribo ‘gummi bears’ that’s what I some how miss.
Enjoy your trip in Europe and especially in good cold Germany ;-)
Regards from sunny Taiwan

Valdez says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:39 am

I am so going to print that last paragraph. That’s the way of the photog allright! Here’s to more bridges Joe. Keep on truckin’

Dušan Smolnikar says:

on April 20, 2010 at 3:47 am

We’re waiting for you in Ljubljana :)

Matic Kos says:

on April 20, 2010 at 4:07 am

Yeey, Joe! Can’t wait for you to arrive. :)
The weather is sunny atm and that dust cloud might provide some diffusion ;)

Theis Poulsen says:

on April 20, 2010 at 4:11 am

Nice with a road trip :)

As usual great wrinting, cant wait for the next book :)

Remember the times you have been in Denmark, I am pretty sure we can find a ballerina or a bodybuilder if that is what it takes to get you back here :)


Mihai says:

on April 20, 2010 at 4:34 am

By any chances, will you be traveling to Romania, Joe?!
Would be a real thriller if you would / could! :)

Richard Hales says:

on April 20, 2010 at 4:45 am

Good luck with the trip, weather forecast indicating that the wind direction will change at the weekend to a south westerly so flow of ash should slow down.
A|so, Scott Kelby let slip you are on the way to the UK some time soon, any ideas of when and where?

chris says:

on April 20, 2010 at 4:49 am

when are you coming to London?.. PLease!!

Dusan says:

on April 20, 2010 at 5:00 am

Welcome to Ljubljana!

Can’t wait for your presentation today…

Claus Jepsen says:

on April 20, 2010 at 5:16 am

Looking forward to have you back in Copenhagen again soon .. maybe for a Nikon NPS part 2?

Richard Cave says:

on April 20, 2010 at 5:34 am

Hey Joe, if you want to shoot a few hoops and knock back a few beers or a OJ in my case, Englands a short distance away. I am sure there are a few togs here that would make you feel welcome.


frank johannes says:

on April 20, 2010 at 5:58 am

thank you Joe for being in Berlin.
You workshop was such an insparation for me.


Mike Rawcliffe says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:01 am

i saw the Gene Smith exhibition too, travelled up from the north of England and back in a day just for the exhibition. That, and Sebastiao Salgado’s Workers show are the best I have ever seen.
My dad sailed out of Lowstoft on a mine-sweeper during WW2. The boats were converted trawlers – wooden so as not to attract magnetic mines.

My wife and I love Austria and go there almost every year.

She’s not called Annie, though.

Best wishes, good light (but you always have good light don’t you? You make your own),


Frank says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:12 am

Joe, you need to write another book soon. I’m enjoying the narratives just as much as the pictures.

You ever coming to Australia or are we just too far away ? :(

Takki says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:14 am

Thanks for the workshop in FRA! I really got motivated to try out the creative lighting system – Thanks for sharing and all the best to you and Annie

Verino Popovic says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:17 am

Until today I didn’t know that you’ll come to Slovenia. Now it’s too late.
I’m so sad right now… . :(

Sean McCormack says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:17 am

For short prose, this sure read like poetry.

Thanks Joe.

PS see Donal’s comment above about ferries to Ireland.

Ban_D says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:19 am

Great post, just loved to read – especially the last section, thats why it’s really good to travel!

Mark Holloway says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:24 am

Very nice. Love the McBlog.

Daniel says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:48 am

Slovenia, what about Croatia??? wow, Mcnally to be so close…yikes…if only I had known before.

Daniel says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:51 am

…you could at least stop for a holiday on Croatian coast, visit the city of Split, 1700 yrs old city. Maybe shoot a ballerina or two there. Sorry for spamming…it’s just that you were never this close.

ingomar says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:53 am

kind of sad that I could not make it to eisbach studios. finally found out where you are going to be in munich, but could not get any further information about the nps show. you are crossing my country right know (or yesterday) this is fun! enjoy it, enjoy vienna and the peeps there!
greetings from munich
PS: isn’t annie much better than drew as a travelling partner? :-)

Ranger 9 says:

on April 20, 2010 at 6:58 am

Ballerinas ARE bodybuilders… they just build themselves in a way that isn’t so obvious. Joe knows that, so I’m just sayin’…

Drew Gurian says:

on April 20, 2010 at 7:23 am

Ingomar, She’s definitely got a few notches on me in the looks department…time to start lookin for a new job.

Hope you’re doing great bud!

Alejandro Cerutti says:

on April 20, 2010 at 7:25 am

Another GREAT post from GREAT photographer AND novelist, Joe McNally :)

Greetings from Argentina,


Mark says:

on April 20, 2010 at 7:31 am

Jesus…what a life….

Doru Oprisan says:

on April 20, 2010 at 8:21 am

Is Romania on your travel list ? I wouldn’t want to miss you for the world !

John A. says:

on April 20, 2010 at 8:37 am

Your narrative is only second to your photography! I can always picture what you are doing by your descriptive story telling.

Glad you’re getting to share what you love to do with your wife too!

Paul says:

on April 20, 2010 at 8:55 am

Dogger, Fisher, German Bight…….stuff of legend.

Kent says:

on April 20, 2010 at 9:01 am

Love the love Joe.
It’s great to live through you.

Michael says:

on April 20, 2010 at 9:04 am

They’ve moved Parsons Green to the other side of the Thames now…

Tina Blum says:

on April 20, 2010 at 9:10 am


If this photography thing stops working for you, you could try poetry. That was a beautiful post. Thank you.

Stuart Mackenzie says:

on April 20, 2010 at 10:19 am

@Joe. Ah I see, well you learn new stuff everyday dont you :D

Ljubo says:

on April 20, 2010 at 10:46 am

Coffee break, snakes are behaving, can’t wait for part two :)

Paul R. says:

on April 20, 2010 at 11:21 am

Hey Joe,

Great writing as usual. Love it. Have to mention though that we don’t have any active volcanos in Canada (not Southern Ontario anyway) and we’re easy to fly in and out of (and we have GREAT BEER to boot!!!) When are you going to bring big top to Canada – love to see you hear!

Ian says:

on April 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

Would love to come to one of your seminars, even a short one, but I can’t believe that Nikon Switzerland are charging US$370 for 3.5 hours. Especially when full day seminars in the US are $99!
I think I’ll wait and try to get a place in GPP next year, hope you’ll be there!

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