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Many Thanks to All as We Ramble and Roll…

Apr 3

In Tours at 10:29pm

Picked up again for the second half of the Flashbus Tour. Atlanta Saturday, Nashville Sunday, Raleigh Durham today. This has been one of those once in a lifetime adventures, nothing short of amazing. People across the country have been so gracious. The bus has alternately been loaded with gifts of cookies, donuts, beer, brownies, coffee, candy, beer,  flashlights, and, well, more beer. We have certainly been a motley crew, especially anybody who sees us in the morning, staggering around a loading dock, pre-shower, moving gear and boxes out of the hold of the bus. Very glam, life on the road. Often, we wake up behind some giant building in a parking lot, near a dumpster. I think we have gotten some gifts just because people feel bad for us.

No loading dock in Austin though, where we got a chance to move the bus inside the venue we were staging at. Cool! Gave us a chance to light the bus. Had about 20 VALs (you can see their feet under the bus) and about 50 or 60 art directors for this shot.

This trip has been one of discovery and reaffirmation for me.

For instance, I can confirm that breakfast sandwiches anywhere are really just a vehicle for ketchup.

Heard on the road: “You’re actually really nice. In all your pictures, you look mean.”

A life on the road as a photog makes you quite adaptable to all manner of conditions. For instance, living on a bus is not a big deal. In fact, it’s much, much nicer than many places I have temporarily hung my hat.

I can sleep anywhere, even at dinner. the younger guys on the bus chuckle about it, as the geezer just drifts away, but each of them has had some sort of malaise or illness so far, while the old guy chugs along.

Young Cali is in the throes of an internet romance. If I see him text one more time, I’m going to de-digitize him somehow.

Grippi is a road warrior, and may have found his calling as an emcee. He routinely describes Hobby as “The man who made us re-think the use of our tupperware!” Hysterical.

Sam Spratt is an incredible artist. He did the amazing illustration for the bus, and Andy Szejko at a Few Loose Screws worked up the overall artwork for the bus and the website. Jamie Mullican and the crew at Adnormous wrapped the bus and turned it into a giant, rolling cartoon.

Heard on the road: “Joe, are you limping, or are you just old?”

Hapa Sushi in Denver is the best sushi I have ever had in the continental US. Only thing better I have had is sushi at the fish market in Tokyo, and well….the only more immediate thing I could do would be to  catch it myself and go Gollum on it.

Heard on the road: “Is this bus like the one in Girls Gone Wild?”

Don’t have a group meal at a Mexican restaurant and then get on a bus. (I’m resigned to it though. This summer I go back to Santa Fe, and inevitably one of our class dinners is at a big Mexican type restaurant where all the food sloshes into the middle of the plate and looks like somebody already ate it once.)

The crew on the bus…..

First off, the big guy….Jeff Snyder of Adorama. As I always say, Adorama is the one who put the gas in the tank. Their support got us rolling. So, technically, he’s the client, and given that fact, we should be bringing him cappucino and scones on a platter every morning. But, Jeff ain’t like that. He pulls and hauls like the rest of the crew. He’s sleeps across from me, so when I pull back my curtain, he’s the first thing I see in the morning, which is very disconcerting. My morning salutations to Jeff have ranged from “Good morning, sunshine” to “Fuck off.”

David Hobby….he sleeps in the bunk below me, and I can always tell when he’s awake, ’cause his light glows upwards along the wall and I can hear him tapping out his blog, or moderating comments, or other tasks involved in running the worldwide strobist web. Given the amazing numbers of his readers, it’s very tempting to grab his computer while he’s not looking and tweet, you know, “TTL rules!” or “Manual Sucks!” or something pithy like that to his network.

Drew Gurian….overall producer. He keeps things running, which means paying attention to all the detail stuff, as well as the big stuff, and keeping Grippi and Cali organized, which is a bit like herding cats. He has to ask a lot of questions, some of which Phil, our driver, has deemed so dumb that he has nicknamed Drew “Shortbus.”

Karen Lenz….Lenzbaby directs traffic, organizes the VALs and is our interface with each venue. If it goes well, that’s a happy face, and if it is problematic, well, you don’t want to mess with Lenz before she’s showered, breakfasted and caffeinated. The fact that we have had very few of the typical last minute venue bobbles you could expect is a tribute to her fearsome organizational skills, and uh, persuasive demeanor. Lenz is also a goddess among women. Has to be, as she has put up with 6 flatulent men in a confined space for weeks.

Sleeping on the bus for me has been like sleeping on a train. Engine rumbles, low hum…lights out. a sleeping pill on wheels.

Heard on the road: From the waiting line to get in…..”Hey Joe, try not to suck today.”

Waking up every day at 5am in a loading dock is a good way to keep your feet on the ground. no blue only bowls of m&m’s, no vats of Dom sloshing around on this bus.

Everyplace we have staged has it’s own personality. At the Colorado Convention Center, we, as usual, put up stands with directional signs to our room, and each stand cost $10. We couldn’t use carts to load in, unless we wanted to take out a second mortgage. By contrast, the Seattle Convention Center did back flips for us. The manager there, Bruce, was so helpful we all started calling him Bruce Almighty.

More crew… Grippi….Is a whirling dervish of activity, except after setup in the morning when you can generally find him under a table, asleep on the floor, with his shoes off. It’s okay, he can go zero to sixty in about a half a second.

Cali… aka, Justin Bieber. He is the star of the soft core porno portion of my teaching stint. When he goes double guns for a picture, women in the audience just melt down. Lots of people in audiences have probably wanted to take him home. Unfortunately for him, most folks in our audience are older guys.

Phil, our driver…..Phil tells it like it is. He has driven a motorcycle at over 200mph. I suggested he could beat out any trooper on the highway at that speed, and he shook his head. “Radio’s always faster,” he said.

When told we had done a group shot while he was asleep, and thus not in it, he shrugged and said, “Well, then, it’s not a group.”

I can tell we are becoming family ’cause we are starting to eat off each other’s plates.

If you’re going to take a break from a long road trip, San Diego is a real good place to do it.

The volunteer corps, all the VALs, have been routinely amazing. So helpful. They have been gangbusters at every stop.

I think the younger guys are worried that I’m going to have some sort a nervous system train wreck, and they’ll have to start wheeling me onstage, where I’ll tap out out “Group B, Minus One” on an Ipad with my chin. Or I could be like George Lucas as a director and just have a bicycle horn taped to my chair. One beep is “faster,” and two beeps is “more intense.”

More tk…

107 Responses to “Many Thanks to All as We Ramble and Roll…”

Michel Jacobs says:

on April 3, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I attended your seminar in Salt Lake City. You were both terrific. My baby eyes are opening.

Lee Love Photography says:

on April 4, 2011 at 12:14 am

Hang in there Joe. Us old guys have to stick together and we are rootin for you.

See ya in DC on Tuesday !

Brycia says:

on April 4, 2011 at 1:33 am

Entertaining and humorous post as most are! Nice un-group photo too! Man, that Karen must be one tough chick! I didn’t think there were any women brave enough to hang with all of you!

Looking forward to seeing you Tuesday!

Brycia says:

on April 4, 2011 at 1:36 am

Entertaining and humorous post! Nice un-group photo too! Man, that Karen must be one tough chick! I didn’t think there were any women brave enough to hang with all of you!

Looking forward to seeing you Tuesday!

Peter says:

on April 4, 2011 at 2:21 am

I’m so jealous… Wish you guys could put the bus on a ‘plane and come to South Africa…

But hey – we only have 3 “major” cities so I doubt it would be worth your while!

Very enjoyable read, Mr Mac :)

Thomas Kristensen says:

on April 4, 2011 at 2:46 am

Hi Joe

What a fun post to read, it sounds like you guys and gals have a lot of fun on your tour.

Any plans of taping one of your shows and put it up on the Net? I only ask because I’d like to see one of your shows, but I live across the planet and can’t really make it to a live performance… :-)

Kevin Glackmeyer says:

on April 4, 2011 at 5:48 am

Atlanta was a knockout…be safe OTR.

Bryan L says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:02 am

Attended the show in Nashville – Awesome!!

Kris Mitchell says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:14 am

I’ve been really enjoying the updates between you and Mr. Hobby – Always a pleasure to read, and even more so since there’s no chance you’ll be bringing the bus over here to the UK. (See that? That there’s some reverse psychology in action)

Looking forward to the rest of the updates.

Thanks for the entertainment!

Paul Alers says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:19 am

Ciya tomorrow in DC :)

Mike Clemons says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:46 am

Great show in Atlanta! The end shot with a hundred or so flashes for rim lights on the guy with the beard was amazing! Hobby may even have been impressed for a few seconds…

I need to see this one again!

Bob says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:51 am

I attended the San Francisco event. It was great. Both of you guys are great speakers, teachers and are entertaining to watch, listen and learn! Thanks!!
PS Received the DVD’s and they are wonderful. Highly recommend

Al says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:56 am

Looking forward to seeing you in Buffalo next weekend. I am coming at great sacrifice….leaving my nephews wedding early to travel. Hey….priorities!! :)

Kristin says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:56 am

Hey Joe –

Caught the Flashbus in Nashville and loved it. You guys are great…keep up the good work and thanks for coming to our neck of the woods.

Rebekah @ It Only Gets Better says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:09 am

Reading this update made me appreciate all that you’ve done to make this happen. We had a blast in Atlanta! All this lighting stuff is brand-new to me and the most important thing I took away from it is that it’s not rocket science that I will never understand (okay so maybe it is a little bit) but, rather, intuitive and takes a bit of tweaking each time (even from “The Masters” like you and David). Once I get the hang of it, I will have one more trick up my sleeve and that is always helpful. I want to be a GREAT photographer and I’m trying to absorb as much information as I can. Thank you for being so generous and for sharing what you know with a peon like me!

TeeWayne says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:12 am

Hey – where are you going to be in Raleigh? Any opportunities to stop by ‘where ever you are going to be?

Terri says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:18 am

Nashvile was AWESOME!! Many thanks to you all for coming.

Jacob Härnqvist says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:18 am

Totally hilarious as usual!

Randi Anglin says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:31 am

We in Nashville so enjoyed the day spent with you folks. Thanks for including us in your travels and please come back.

Deb Scally says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:31 am


Yesterday in Nashville was one of the best-spent days I could have asked for. You guys kept us entertained–and informed–from the first minute til the last. After following your respective blogs for some time, it was really awesome to see you and David in action, and I learned a lot. I am truly inspired today to take that flash off my camera and see what happens. Thanks for a terrific day!

Lou says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:32 am

Thanks for bringing TFB to Atlanta, Joe. You guys – you, David, and your entire team – knocked it out of the park. The day went by way too quickly, until the final shot antics unfolded :) THAT was some fun stuff!

Will there be a TFB – Part Deux?

Thanks again,

Lou (aka The Pentax Guy)

Mike M says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:33 am


The FBT Atl stop was AMAZING!!
Thanks again for letting me on stage for a awesome portrait session!!!

what a dream come true…
The Best FaceBook picture EVER!! (as you said)

Thanks again for all you and your crew does.

Annemarie Mountz says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:34 am

I’ve enjoyed the updates from the tour … see you in Pittsburgh one week from today, where you’re going to have the best VALs yet. Can’t wait!

Tim Skipper says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:38 am

It just sounds like fun.

frank says:

on April 4, 2011 at 9:00 am

Fun post! Looking forward to seeing you in Pittsburgh.

pete collins says:

on April 4, 2011 at 10:53 am

Joe, I can say definitively that you did not suck! Thanks for putting up with us in Nashville. A delight to hear both of you share your heart and your passion.

Jason E says:

on April 4, 2011 at 10:57 am

Really enjoyed yesterday (Nashville, TN) entertained and educated at the same time! Thanks to the crew for the well-oiled operation; Joe and David the insight over the years has taken me from looking through a glass rectangle hoping for a decent ‘fridge print to me considering putting together a photobook portfolio.

Consider the mentoring you received at Life as having been paid forward.

Bob DeChiara says:

on April 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Great post Joe! Boston is only 4 days away! Looking forward to it!

GRL says:

on April 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I said it on Facebook already, but Atlanta was a lot of fun. Thanks to you and Hobby for teaching me some great stuff in an entertaining way. Kudos. Also, I hope to see the group portrait shot from ATL sometime!

croby says:

on April 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Have been following both you guys on your blogs for several years now.. Have the books. Saw the movies. Live on stage in Nashville rocked the house!! Learned bunches from both guys. Can’t wait to see if any of it stuck to the wall. ;)

Thanks to the whole crew. Well worth the long drive up to see the show, and even the long drive home after the show was over.

Carter says:

on April 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Saw you guys in Austin, and had a blast. As a newbie, it was invaluable to see how you guys went through the process of lighting, and especially to see the dichotomy of your two approaches to accomplishing the same ends. Well worth it at 5 times the price!

Killy says:

on April 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Caught the flashbus in Houston. It was awesome to learn from both you and David!

Michael Murphy says:

on April 4, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Awesome bus shot! Hobby’s is great too. Hate posting to either of your sites. Feel like I’m cheating when I give the other compliments. LOL. Enjoy Philly. will there be a DVD from the tour, about the tour?

Chip says:

on April 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Joe, I wasn’t try to rag on you about your considerable age– I was legitimately concerned about your limp!

Had a blast in Nashville. You guys are just a wealth of information, and it’s so cool that you have always shared it so freely.

Dwight Atterholt says:

on April 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Thanks again, to you David and the crew. As I mentioned before, Nashville doesn’t always make the cut for great opportunities like this.

Being a relative neophyte to the ways of the Speedlite, I found the training to be a really great foundation to build my skills from. The balance between you and David worked very well and the flow was just great. Time just flew by.

BTW, did Drew ever head into town for some bluegrass music?

Brian says:

on April 4, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Your Dallas show was a blast! Now queue the audience erupting in unison, “You forgot to repeat the question!”

patrick papougnot says:

on April 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The tour looks fantastic. When do you come to UK? Please, please, please…

Matt Timmons says:

on April 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm

OMG that guy up front (Cali) really does have a full-on Bieber cut. Wow. You know you’ve reached the pinnacle of cool when you clone yourself as Justin Bieber. He must really be wanting to meet 13 year-old girls. Oh the material just writes itself!

Patrik says:

on April 4, 2011 at 5:39 pm

A great read, as always!

Dirk says:

on April 4, 2011 at 5:59 pm

See you guys in Madison on the 15th! I’ll bring my SB’s — never hurts to have a little extra VAL firepower. Glad the tour hasn’t killed you yet!

Lee says:

on April 4, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I found the whole event very informative and a lot of fun.
The way they both presented material was educational and entertaining

John A. says:

on April 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Man, had a great time at the Nashville seminar! I really don’t see how you guys do it, day after day, waking and teaching herds of folks just wanted to get a glimpse of you guys.

I learned something from both you and David, and was thrilled to find out that you guys were just as cool in person as I thought you might be. A HUGE thanks for allowing me to be a VAL, it was an opportunity I won’t forget!

Oh, and for the record “I” didn’t say you look mean in pictures of you, I was quoting what I had heard someone say in the Flickr Flash Bus group. I think you look quite illuminating in your photos. ;)

BTW, your assistants were very cool too. A friend of mine at the Nashville stop (a very cute gal) wanted to take Justin Beiber home.

Gene says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Love. The writing.
“try not to suck today” …still laughing
See you in INdy

fritz meyer says:

on April 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Caught you in Houston, awed, inspired, and educated. I
really enjoyed the day, though I must say that I am more in
your camp than David’s even though I learned so much from both
of you. Thanks so much Fritz Meyefr

Deb P says:

on April 4, 2011 at 9:22 pm

OMG….this made me laugh and laugh. I was on the fence about attending the tour, and this post….almost talked me into going! LOL “Try not to suck today”! Classic!!

Breandan Dezendorf says:

on April 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm

You guys are awesome. I’m decompressing from the Raleigh/Durham session – it’s a lot to take in and assimilate. It was pretty amazing meeting you and David in person. Anyone who hasn’t yet gone to a Flash Bus session… Go! It’s worth it, by far.

James Bruce says:

on April 4, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I do miss the shot that made you and Hobby look like you are throwing fireballs at each other. Very clever, and a great day in Austin. Thanks again…

Joe Sankey says:

on April 4, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Joe- Nashville was great. You didn’t suck. (Well, not much.) ;-)

Now Cali on the other hand… :)

John Swarce says:

on April 5, 2011 at 1:21 am

Really looking forward to seeing you and David in Boston on Saturday!


Greg says:

on April 5, 2011 at 4:15 am

Great time in Raleigh! You guys rock!

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