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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…”

Lou says:

on April 5, 2011 at 7:41 am

Thanks for bringing TFB to Atlanta, Joe. You guys – you, David, and your entire team – were gold, 24K! The day went by way too quickly!

Will there be a TFB – Part Deux?

Thanks again,


Sunday says:

on April 5, 2011 at 8:14 am

Wow!! What an amazing day my friend and I had yesterday in Raleigh watching you and David speak and photograph. I still break into a cold sweat when I think about being photographed by you in front of 400 people! Totally worth it all plus I walked away with an amazing reflector. I can’t thank you both enough. What a blast!

Nick DeBrita says:

on April 5, 2011 at 8:55 am

ARGH!! I was supposed to see you guys in DC today, but I overslept! Oh well…

Heidi Welshans says:

on April 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

I’m excited to see you both in Phila. tomorrow (and I’m not even an older guy!)

Frances says:

on April 5, 2011 at 9:58 am

Thanks From Atlanta!! BTW you look talker and fitter in person!!

angry birds game says:

on April 5, 2011 at 10:13 am

it’s really great …thanks so much

Tim says:

on April 5, 2011 at 11:43 am

“Drew Shortbus”…Classic!

Jerome N. Fine says:

on April 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm

NEXT time around…. PLEASE come to Upstate New York….Syracuse,New York!! We have cameras too!

Dan D says:

on April 5, 2011 at 2:02 pm

No lighting diagram?
We’ve seen Dave’s – how about yours?

Kim Beyer says:

on April 5, 2011 at 6:34 pm

You’re coming to Grand Rapids. We have a Sushi bar here that you will like. Might change you’re rating thing. I’ll tell you where and when the Flashbus gets here. Might even buy. See you in GR.

Barbara says:

on April 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Attended your session in Durham, NC yesterday and I was completely enthralled. Thanks for such great info in a friendly format. Learned tons of things and it was nice seeing you buys in person. Can’t wait for you to come to town again!

Fred Morledge says:

on April 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I learned so much in such a small amount of time! You guys really are inspiring at what you do! I had a big corporate gig right after the convention and i must say just about everything you guys covered was put to use! Thank you for coming to Las Vegas and enlightening this dim city. Seriously, the photography in Las Vegas is lacking and i was honestly sad not to see more people in the audience, but hey 9am on a saturday morning is rough for people in Las Vegas! Good times! Keep kickin ass Joe!

Quinn says:

on April 5, 2011 at 8:38 pm

See you tomorrow in Philly!

Lee says:

on April 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Hey, thanks for a wonderful presentation in Raleigh. By the way, did you know you were walking into a room with all those open windows AND the open roof? When I saw the backdrop for a demo and I looked at all those windows letting light stream in I groaned and laughed at the same time. How could you control light in that environment!

Thanks again. Got home and started experimented with what you taught.

Sunita says:

on April 6, 2011 at 4:46 am

Thanks so much for a wonderful time in DC! Learned a lot about TTL and renewed my desire to keep shooting! Best for the rest of the trip. You guys rock!

Jenniefr Duffy says:

on April 6, 2011 at 7:07 am

Had a great time in Nashville and Joe, there were more women out there than you think. ;) And we really enjoyed Cali….why isn’t he on the bus again?

Learned alot and using it towards my next new project……

Matt Lollar says:

on April 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Great stuff, you are the man at off camera lighting! When you going to come to England?

Joel Pointer says:

on April 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Hi guys. Really enjoyed the class in Durham, NC – It was very insightful and enlightening.


Kimla says:

on April 6, 2011 at 7:28 pm

You guys rocked!! Entertaining, educational, and ever evolving. Loved it and am grateful you took the time to share. Have a safe ride and hurry back to Austin, anytime.

Anmmar99 says:

on April 6, 2011 at 11:08 pm

I can’t get enough of your Photos Joe,
Are you coming to Michigan ever??

Josh Chiu says:

on April 7, 2011 at 12:14 am


John G says:

on April 7, 2011 at 6:53 am

Only wish I had a trip to US planned so could fit you in sometime. As (subtly) commented above, UK visit would be awesome or other countries; or a DVD of some of it (expecting that’s under consideration/planned already).

Thom Gourley says:

on April 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed the SLC session. The glitches were a potential opportunity to see you squirm, which of course you DIDN’T. Joe Cool. Of course, that’s the moxie that’s gotten you through so many situations in your career. Always fun to watch!

Thanks for the show!


sue rakes says:

on April 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm

There is NO way to not love you Joe, you are the man! You are as big in person as you appear in your prolific writing in books and on the web. You were genuine, authentic and REALLY funny (looking) onstage. I was amazed at how patient and generous you were with your time while you were here with all of us dildos in Durham. Your writing remains my favorite, especially amongst any photography writing. Thank you so much for coming to Raleigh to share only a fraction of all of that brilliance you possess. Drop that David guy on your next swing through.

Fa'auma Jerome says:

on April 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm

YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!!!!! I’m a manual and TTL swinger now! :o P Thank you so much Joe for helping me understand more about TTL and David thank you for helping me pack less gear around. Here is a photo I took when you guys were in Portland, Wa.


Reuben Yau says:

on April 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Sounds like you’re getting to know each other really well. Looking forward to seeing you guys in Pittsburgh.

Mitch Marcus says:

on April 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

I had an awesome time yesterday in NY. Thanks so much.

Chris Davis Cina says:

on April 8, 2011 at 10:21 am

LOVED,LOVED,LOVED the FlashBus tour yesterday in NYC!!! Better than a rock concert! I’m still pumped up and want to go shoot everyone I see. Thanks for an awesome seminar. You NEVER disappoint. And I LOVE how you remind us that we all make mistakes and that’s how we learn! I’m a better photograher today thanks to YOU!

John G says:

on April 9, 2011 at 9:33 am

Hey Joe ran across this on twitter. Thought you might want one for the next tour

Christian Held says:

on April 9, 2011 at 10:24 am


sounds like an exhausting but fun tour across the US. Nice blog post Joe. Maybe you start an European tour any time in the next years?

Would be an honour to have you in Europe and share your experience with the people here.

All the best from Scotland


fat ninja says:

on April 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Can’t thank you enough for all the cool info we got from the NY stop of the Flash Bus! T’was my 3rd Mcnally event and I still end up learning a lot. (It rocked that i even won a lastolite grip thingy!)

The crew were really awesome sports! And as always, you and Dave were very approachable and this is what really separates you guys from a lot of superstar photogs. Keep on truckin’ man!

Dismayed says:

on April 9, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I just returned from the Boston session – FANTASTIC! Yes, I learned a lot, but it was really fun, too. Wonderful humor and enthusiasm. It was really obvious that you guys love what you do. Thank you!

Max Archer says:

on April 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Joe, I haven’t been to that sushi place in Denver (had surprisingly good ramen there, though), but I can almost guarantee that if you run over to Sushi Nozawa in Studio City next time you’re in LA, you wont’ be disappointed. The guy who runs it is down at the fish market first thing every morning, so you’re eating today’s catch. It’s not quite Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, but it gives anywhere else I’ve been in Japan a serious run for its money.

Jeremy says:

on April 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Just got back from the Boston show, it was, in a word, amazing. I don’t really look up to alot of people, well, not “Real” people per say, mostly star wars characters and indiana jones, but you two are a couple of real stars in my world, first because you know and have done so much, and second, well, cause your just good people.

While I appreciate the heck out of the diagrams, the setups, the ttl this and manual that, the biggest thing I took away from today is that everyone fails, everyone has challenges, thats just part of the game.

So thanks for validating my oft photographically induced panic attacks and bouts of self loathing in that its normal, and everyone goes through that, becuase honestly, to date, that was the only part of photography i wasn’t sure about.

Denise Duhamel says:

on April 9, 2011 at 11:05 pm

AA batteries to fire up my speedlights … $8, Parking and a Charlie Card … $10, Mexican Lunch $12, Attending the Flash Bus Tour with Hobby and McNally … PRICELESS!!! Thank you so much for an educational and entertaining day in Boston! It was AWESOME!

Carlton SooHoo says:

on April 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Had a great time with you guys in Boston!

Mark Houston says:

on April 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Joe, you forgot to mention that Grippi is quite the dancer, as witness recently by many in Orlando.

Since you folks are coming up from Indianapolis, if you get a chance stop by the Belles Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo for some of the finest beer brewed in Michigan http://www.bellsbeer.com/

See you in Grand Rapids, can I bring you guys anything from Detroit? you know, maybe some angst , a sense of abandonment , general bitterness or maybe a coney dog.

Matt Ballard says:

on April 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Hey Joe,

Great to meet you today at the Buffalo leg of the Flashbus tour! You’ve been my biggest photography hero for years, so it was a real pleasure to meet you in person.

Loved the seminar and learned a lot!



bycostello says:

on April 11, 2011 at 9:56 am

still waiting on news for the UK tour??!! hint hint…

Jeff J says:

on April 11, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Awesome time at the Atlanta stop. Thanks for the MONSTER Tri Grip, and the Bo Jackson stories! Y’all rocked!

amy parish says:

on April 12, 2011 at 1:26 am

Many, many thanks to you for coming to sleepy Albq. in the land of mañana….we hoped you liked us!!!

John says:

on April 12, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Joe you put on one hell of a good seminar! Great too see how you work through a shot. You and Drew was very helpful in answering the many, many questions I asked during breaks. Came away with a lot of very useful information. Thanks so much.

Eric Link says:

on April 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Thanks for a great and informative show in IN. Worth more than the price by far! As always, listening to you teach is a pleasure and I only wished I’d remembered my books so I could beg you to sign them… Oh, and thanks for the free DVD! Being a smart-ass can be a good thing!

Malinda Hartong says:

on April 13, 2011 at 7:11 am

Thanks for Indy yesterday, and overcoming your bounce-out-of-bed overnight ride with gusto. Thanks Phil for getting them all to Indy in 1 piece, shaken not stirred.
Thanks Grippi – you were totally like the taz devil up there at every turn, especially when stuff hit the fan. Drew too! You guys are fabulous! And keep the wheels turning even when they try to fall off.
Thanks Cali for putting up with Joe picking on you the WHOLE TIME! Especially when he had that lens pointing at you. The Nerve!

Thanks Dave for reminding me why it’s ok that “old gray ladies” basically suck, and no matter how bad they treat their talented staffs they can never take away that talent – it should be used, honed, nurtured for US not THEM.

Thanks Dave for the kick in the keister to get the blog rolling that just been gathering dust in my head.

Thanks Joe and Dave for sharing tips and tricks, many I already use but not nearly enough. Luv my trigrip trans. and my sb800′s, D7000, D300s. I use the wide + light in hand like the creek shot ALL the time – set from popup. And the blind shooting of little children too. Always fun to watch their expressions (if i’m looking their way) when the shutter fires and they notice i’m not looking thru the lens. (“did she just take my picture? Nah, she couldn’t have”) LOL. Here’s to really shooting from the hip!

Keep up the great work, and THANKS for sharing! Glenn & I had a blast, as we knew we would!
Put Sharonville Convention Center (or West Chester Savannah – Ikea nearby) on your list for next time… north of Cincinnati in the burbs, and we’ll take you to our favorite Mexican place or cook steaks here (Glenn was a steakhouse kitchen manager -I married a guy with SERIOUS Grill SKILZ). I’m off to search out a silk chinese lantern and my tackle box.

Deb P says:

on April 13, 2011 at 9:53 am

I had such a good time at Flashbus in Pittsburgh! I wish every class in college had been as entertaining as your seminar…I may actually have a career right now if that was the case! Let Grippi know this girl’s got a crush on him and if he’s ever in Brooklyn I’ll take him out for coffee. I suppose you can come too if you want…..

Louis Pang says:

on April 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm

“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.”

You crack me up everytime I read your blog. Jasmine and I miss you guys so much. I can relate to the logistical headaches and fun a road trip. We want you back in Sabah. This time, I am taking you guys for a diving trip!

Diane says:

on April 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Thanks for a wonderful day in Grand Rapids! Learned a lot and had a blast… You’re all awesome.

David says:

on April 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Thanks for the stop in Denver Joe! Loved watching you and David do your thing. Learned a ton.

Kevin Hudson says:

on April 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Did you try Umi Sushi on 1st Avenue in the Belltown district of Seattle? AWESOME!! I fly all over the place (in the pointy end of the aluminum beast) and have found this to be some of the best Sushi I have ever had. Period.
Oh yea…that foto stuff with all the flashy things is kinda cool to. haha

Always looking for bigger, better, faster,

D300s enthusiast…aspiring to be a D3x enthusiast.

Bret says:

on April 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm

TFB was a fantastic success! The differences between you and David created a wonderful diversity while united in the theme of small flash. I know that it has forced me to rethink my meager strobist attempts (for the better). Now if I only had more time…and more money…and more willing subjects…and more equipment…and more assistants! I guess, photographically speaking of course, I want to be just like you.

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