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Wide Lens, Tight Spaces

May 25

In In The Field at 10:18am


The Nikkor 14-24 f2.8 is a pretty cool lens, but ya gotta be careful tipping that puppy around, or pushing it in way close for a portrait. On board a nuke sub, though, especially with 30 degrees down on the dive planes, it’s gonna get a little tippy here and there, mostly ’cause you’re standing at an angle that generally is reserved for mountain climbing and the like.

It’s the perfect lens for the tight spaces of a sub. Shot this with a little fill flash the other week in San Diego, onboard the USS Hampton, a Los Angeles class fast attack sub out of San Diego. Great day. Hit 600 feet on a dive, and did some of what submariners call “angles and dangles,” which you can guess the nature of. Great crew on board, who really looked after us landlubbers. We were the guests of Commander William Houston, the CO of the Hampton, and Commodore Brett Genoble, who is in charge of the Point Loma sub base. They really filled us in on the nature of the mission of the boat.

Hadn’t been onboard a nuke boat since the book Day in the Life of the U.S. Military, where I went out on the boomer Henry Jackson, out of sub base Bangor, in the state of Washington. The boomers are huge by comparison to the Hampton, which is designed to dive deep, and move fast. Regardless of size, though, the subs are absolute marvels of space use and economization.

On the Jackson, crewman takes a rest just a few feet from a ballistic missile. Welcome to the strange world under the waves.


Up at Bangor, the sea lions like the warmth of the boat’s power plant, and just park it there all day long, getting toasty.


My thanks go out to the men and woman who serve across the board, and especially the crews who undertake this very daunting task and lifestyle. When they slide under the waves, they are gone for a while, and few know where they travel. Especially grateful to all the folks at Point Loma who made the visit happen. It coincides with a book effort I am currently writing for my alma mater, LIFE Magazine. More on that tk…..

35 Responses to “Wide Lens, Tight Spaces”

Tony Curtis says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:23 am

Joe, as a US Navy Photographer, I appreciate you going on the subs to tell our story.

Tony Curtis

Jim White says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

Sweet! Reminds me of the subs in Pearl while I was stationed there back in the early 80′s . . USMC. I wasn’t allowed, even as a military photographer, to go anywhere near them though :(

Brian Jackson says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:28 am

Nice to see you up in the Pacific Northwest Joe. I took a ride on one of those subs a few years back but wasn’t allowed to bring a camera. The shot of the crew quarters by the missile tubes brings back memories. Great images!

Cary Spangler says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

I spent a couple of summers building and testing subs at Newport News Shipbuilding when I was in college but never got to ride one. Heard a lot of stories about angles and dangles.

Bill Henderson says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:47 am

Very cool images, love the close-up of the guy, and sea lions on the sub

Mark says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:48 am

Great images. But love the sea lions!

Kevin Illingworth says:

on May 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I’d be a disaster on one of these. I can’t help myself when it comes row after row of buttons one would just have to be pressed!

Martin says:

on May 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Another book!! Where do I pre-order?!?
Did they let you push any buttons other than the ones on your camera?

kevie says:

on May 25, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I hope you enjoyed your stay in SD Joe. One of these times you’ll need to come to SD for the Redbull Air Races.

Stephen Uhraney says:

on May 25, 2010 at 1:13 pm

HI Joe;

14-24mm is a must have for the camera bag, use it all the time.
Maine Workshops Class 2003

Gordon says:

on May 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I was lucky enough to be shown round a UK nuclear sub. I was amazed at how cramped and confined they are. Incredible people submariners to be able to live like that with no sight of daylight for weeks on end, even months at times….amazing

nick wilson says:

on May 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm

nice joe – i know some people in the navy and hope to get out on the water one day!!!

Rusty Bryant says:

on May 25, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Those photos take me back to when I was on the USS Louisiana (SSBN-743). Thanks Joe!

Jim says:

on May 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Amazing…Absolutely amazing… Thanks Mr. McNally

Randy Frost says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:29 pm

You know Joe, your like crack cocaine. I’m always needing a Joe fix! Great job, where next, the space shuttle?
Hey while you were done there, you guys should have swung around to Gulf and plugged that damn hole.

Tom grigsby says:

on May 25, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Joe, as a former ”bubble head” I wanted to say thank you for your kind words. Angles and dangles are ok, but an emergency blow is where the real fun is!

David Kelly says:

on May 26, 2010 at 3:19 am

Hi Joe. Great post. I’m sure it was a great experience.

You gotta respect those submariners as Gordon says. How people could do those tours of duty in such cramped conditions knowing they’re hundreds of feet under the sea, I dunno. They’re obviously tough nuts – I’d go stir crazy.

Really looking forward to seeing you over here in the UK in July.
All the best.

sewa mobil says:

on May 26, 2010 at 4:44 am

nice picture…thanks

Alberto says:

on May 26, 2010 at 8:39 am

I ‘ve just finished the Mc Nally books and I never get enough of this stuff!!

Just one thing: fill flash on the ceiling?

thank U for sharing – really!

Ken Wilder says:

on May 26, 2010 at 10:48 am

Spent six years in USN during 60s. Thanks for the tribute and thanks for sharing the images. My favorite – the sea lions. k

James Clark says:

on May 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm

When I was on the USS Kentucky, I was the ship’s photographer (along with about 15 other collateral duties on board, as a submariner you have a dozen different jobs). I used a 85mm f/1.8 and a 14mm f/2.8. Dark and cramped were the norm onboard.

About that guy getting some rest next to the missile tube. He ain’t just resting, that is where the junior personnel slept on bunk pans between the supply lockers. It beats sharing a bunk with other crewmen or sleeping in the bilge, which Seamen also sleep there as well.

TMC says:

on May 26, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Thanx. I had the pleasure of being a crewmember of this fine submarine a few years ago. This really takes me back to WESTPAC 09′ Whoo-YA Hampton.

Ken Toney says:

on May 26, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Gives numbnutts a whole new meaning.

Jason says:

on May 27, 2010 at 2:32 am

My favorite lens is my most recent purchase – the Canon 10-22 EF-S. Made only for the crop sensor cameras, it’s the widest non-fisheye there is and I love it! Even with the edge and barrel distortion, shooting wide has given me such greater reach than I’ve had before…a sub would be SUCH a cool place to shoot that glass! *Green with envy* :)

新人报到 says:

on May 27, 2010 at 5:00 am


Stephen J. Zeller says:

on May 27, 2010 at 6:39 pm


Glad the weather was a little better for you during this trip, as opposed to January. If you ever want to go for a ride on a Tin Can (guided missile destroyer), let me know.

All the best,


Mark Holloway says:

on May 29, 2010 at 1:16 am

My nephew is serving on the USS Nebraska right now.

joe says:

on May 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Served on board SSN-705 and SSN-719, sure wish the D300 and SB900s would have been around back then !!

Joost says:

on May 31, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Are those the little speedlight softboxes on the ceiling in the second picture?
And how many warm-gelled SB’s did it take you to light the sea lions?

Liked the 2nd picture the best, picturewise but I’m a sucker for animals.

Did you get around to awarding the biggest sinner yet?

Wedding photographer Essex - Studio2 says:

on June 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Wow, you have such a great job Joe

JABrown says:

on June 8, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I worked there for 2 years and wished I had a camera with me all the time (not allowed). Thank you for doing it justice.

Augusta Ga Homes says:

on June 8, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Some really nice shots, I must say the one of the sea lions were incredible. As a Realtor, I take pics regularly and I’m always interested in learning, especially about wide angle shots. I will definatly be checking back in pick up some great tips.

stinna arto says:

on June 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I love your job. Can I have it ?? ;-)

Shannon says:

on July 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Mr McNally,
I hate to sound like such an ass kisser, but you are definitely my hero and you ARE why I started the quest of being a photographer. Thank you!. As for the sub shoot, as a disabled vet I commend you for showing a different side of the service that people can relate to more so than the wars going on, so they can stop being so damn negative. I have been trying to find a way to contact you for months and this is really the only way I found to do so. I am not trying to get a reply, I just want you to know what you have done for me as sappy as it sounds!

Fotograf Rene Asmussen says:

on October 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

Respect respect respect! You have something here …. A way of expressing yourself with a great attitude. Love it! Keep it up!


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