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Things to be Thankful For…

Nov 23

In Rambling at 8:48am

I’m thankful that when I take a picture, I can still hear the shutter:-)

I’m thankful for all the fancy new gear we have available to us as photogs, even though that time honored maxim of nothing working right when you really need it to still applies.

I’m thankful I still need to shoot about as much as I need to breathe.

And, I’m thankful there still remains a direct connection between my shutter finger and my heart and lungs. The very slight activity of that finger when it assists in recording what I might perceive to be a good photograph can completely arrest, for a split second, the activity of the other two. I’m thinking of donating my cadaver for forensic research so someone can write a learned paper about this physical oddity.

I’m thankful for Lynn in my studio, who in addition to producing jobs, paying the bills, keeping us afloat, and answering the phone creates a wonderful atmosphere of friendship, fairness and frivolity at our tiny shop.

She in turn is thankful that I don’t answer the phone, because when somebody calls and offers us zero for the rights to use our work, I’m prone to use the f word a lot, and we’d rapidly not have to answer the phone anymore, ’cause no one would call us ever again.

I think I’m thankful that the reprint rights to all photos recorded and yet to be recorded by any medium heretofore, forthwith and yet to be devised that will be reproduced at some point on the moons of Uranus via holographic transmission in future millennia are so desirable. That means us camera clickers must be doing something right, because, seemingly, everything we produce is truly excellent, valuable and will withstand the test of time.

Pursuant to all that, I’m thankful and still amazed that the phone does ring and people offer to pay for that which I would gladly do for free, most of the time.

I’m thankful my dad had a Beauty Lite III rangefinder camera which I borrowed in 1973.

I’m thankful, actually, for all the crazy jobs, long hours, heavy gear, busted assignments, heartache, insecurity, overfull credit cards, flight delays, outright despair, and the general personal and professional mayhem that swirls about the act of being a photographer like a personal mini-twister. All that bad stuff is like the debris on the sides of the road of one of those post-apocalyptic movies. Stay the course, stay on the path, and it leads somewhere, like to the reward of a very occasional good picture. I’m thankful for that road,  and the many lifetimes spent on it, even though I walk it now not so much in purposeful, smooth strides, but more of a broke down shuffle, kind of like Wily Coyote after an unfortunate encounter with an oncoming train. It seems a small price to pay.

I’m thankful for the gang down at Tampa, the Kelby tribe. They define fairness and decency.

I’m thankful for all the pixels, even though I don’t need anymore than I already have. If I end up getting some more, I don’t know where I’ll put them. I came into the studio the other day and a whole bunch of them were hiding under my chair.

I’m thankful Ernst Haas made a book called The Creation. At the end of a tough day in the field, just looking at it is like taking a shower.

I’m thankful for Sid and Michelle Monroe, whose wonderful Santa Fe gallery remains a place I go to remind myself of why I continue to do this.

I’m thankful to the bunch of folks who read this blog, or come to a workshop, and engage in a passionate pursuit of be being a better photographer. That pursuit is life long, and worth it.

I’m thankful that Drew, Cali and Lynda in my studio put up with me. They are terrific colleagues, and wonderfully talented.

I’m thankful Derek Jeter continues to play baseball, excellently. And I think I’m thankful, at least on one level, that the NBA season is in the dumper. That means a disappointing showing by the Knicks will potentially be avoided, at least for a time.

I’m thankful for my kids. Claire likes school. Caitlin might yet find what is very beautiful and worthwhile inside of her.

I’m thankful Jay Maisel didn’t become a painter. I’m also glad he throws the f-bomb freely. Some folks might be offended. I think it’s just creative use of language.

I think I’m thankful for Vincent Laforet’s blog, even though I can’t even pronounce most of the stuff he talks about.

I think I’m thankful for Google Plus, though I don’t know how to work it yet. I know it’s important ’cause Dave Moser at NAPP kidded that he was going to punch me if I didn’t add him to a circle. I don’t know. I might hold off just to test if he’s serious or not. On the other hand, that might be unwise, ’cause of the many wonderful things Dave is, “kidder” might not be one of them.

I’m thankful for my ten year friendship with Donald Blake in Santa Fe. His wise and mischievous face is the cover of my new book. We are now bound together, via a picture, forever.

I’m thankful I’m still able to travel into the land beyond the yellow border. The folks at Geographic continue to tolerate me. I’m also thankful that NGS photogs are largely not included in most of the conference calls, and story pitches, and all those magazine machinations that need to occur. We’re field people. We don’t do well in an office, or in meetings, for lots of reasons, including the possibility that we might actually say what we’re thinking out loud. Best to just shut up and shoot.

I’m thankful I’ve been around long enough to have known Eisie, Gordon, Carl, and Mr. Mili. And to still know John Loengard, Ralph Morse, Jim Stanfield, David Douglas Duncan, Neil Leifer, Walter, Johnny I, and so many, many legends who have taken up a camera over time. Their work is the bedrock on which we all stand.

I’m thankful airplanes generally go interesting places, ’cause I’m on them a lot.

And this year, I’m thankful for ground transportation, in the form of a cartoon decorated bus that logged 14,500 miles across this country. For all the folks who saw fit to come out to Flashbus, many, many thanks. For DH, Jeff, Grippi, Lenz, Cali, Drew and Phil–all praise.

The above mentioned crew riding on an enclosed, wheel borne metal can for six weeks also makes me thankful for air freshener.

And yes, I’m thankful for manual.

And I’m thankful for camera manuals. And for the fact I’ve really never read them.

Once, a video producer, exasperated by my antics and non-sequitur behavior during the shoot, looked at my ever patient wife, Annie, and asked, “Is there an off switch?” Her response: “I’ve never looked for it.” For her kindness, decency, patience and love, I am forever thankful.

110 Responses to “Things to be Thankful For…”

Lewis w says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:55 am

Many thanks for the man known to friends as “Joe McNally.”

Jesper Vang Skaerbaek Jensen says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

I’m thankfull for having the chance to reading this blog :-) Happy thanksgiving to you all …

Adam Haworth says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:57 am

I’m thankful for my dog Archie, I wouldn’t have fallen into photography so far without him.

Randy Aylwin says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:59 am

This is so well put.
It really hit home.
Thanks Joe,

Peter Puna says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:59 am

Thank YOU, Joe, for being an inspiration both as a photographer and as a decent, caring human being. And thank you for the many funny and touching posts you have graced us with.

gerald says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:59 am

…and i’m thankful for this blogpost. =)

Bob DeChiara says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:02 am


John Patton says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

Beautiful Joe. You’ve expressed perfectly what most of us feel. Thank you for sharing so much. You are greatly appreciated.

Vic Schmeltz says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

And I am thankful for you Joe. We have never met, yet you have taught me so much.

Wayne Berry says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

Thank you Joe for all you do. You are truly appreciated.

Al says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:08 am

And Joe…… I am thankful that I finally got to attend one of your workshops and meet you. You are an inspiration to many people. Not just to inspire us to be better photographers, but also to inspire us to be better human beings. You probably don’t realize your reach and your effect on a lot of us. Thank You and Happy Thanksgiving.

DLuker says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:10 am

I’m thankful that you are equally eloquent as a writer & as a photographer.

Sam Ogden says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

This pretty much sums up the year for many of us. Thanks for spending the time to put it in print. Happy Thanksgiving.

Don Koehler says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

Many, many of your fans ans friends are very thankful you’re around this world. Makes things much more interesting. Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family. Keep writing and shooting.

Doug S says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

Thanks Joe for being Joe. Your blog post was a great way to start my day. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sue Sikorski says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:36 am

I am thankful for Joe. Whether it is reading your blog, one of your books or a watching a Kelby Training course – you inspire me. You are an amazing photographer and an equally wonderful writer. Most of all, I love your undownable spirit and sense of humour. Thank You.

John says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

Thanks for sharing. I’m thankful to be able to watch your antics and skills meld together on the Kelby Training videos and in your work.

Skip Barber says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:40 am

Thank you Joe for all you do to keep us aspiring photographers motivated and learning and trying new things.

Bill Bogle, Jr. says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:45 am


We are all thankful for your inspiration and work. I wish you and Annie a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Bill Bogle, Jr.

Deb Scally says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:47 am

I am thankful for guys like you, Joe, whose stories and eloquence keep me smiling and inspired every day to keep my eyes open and my trigger finger ready. Great Thanksgiving post!

kyle jerichow says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

Well this stole the thunder of my next letter:

but I am thankful that your Asia tour was on top of my honeymoon.

I am thankful that you and Drew are such genuine people.

I am thankful that you allow me to bug you at will.

I am thankful for the sashimi place that Drew recommended in Singapore.

I am thankful I get to attend a workshop and seminar in January of 2012.

All the best and Thank you!,

Steve Shipman says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:52 am

Brilliantly put, a humble and timely reminder of good things and good people to remember.

Joe McNally says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:52 am

And I’m thankful you’ll be there in Jan. hang in and we’ll see you guys soon…best, joe

Jim Collins says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

Great stuff Joe. Lots of fun reminders here that the things we’re most thankful for are the things we often overlook…

Great meeting you this year as well. Let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Chris Nemes says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:15 am

Thank you, Joe! For staying a beacon upon a hill.

Hector Segovia says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:20 am

Joe i want to assist to that January Workshop, where is it, please !!!!!!
Best Regards from México !

Brad Hamilton says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

I’m thankful that I follow you on Twitter, and that you steered me to this post at a time when I needed it.

Charles Carstensen says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:29 am

You are the best.

Dan Bailey says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:39 am

Joe, this is such a great letter, and not just because it’s the generally accepted, appropriate and “right” kind of blog post to write on the day before Thanksgiving. No, it’s wonderful because it’s written with an insight and true conviction that we all know is genuine, and because we can all relate to it, even if many of us have never even planted our feet anywhere near your shoes.

Love the part about the pixels and the lack of an off-switch.

Happy Thanksgiving, and best to you, your family and your crew.

Paul Hara says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

You sir, are the Mark Twain of photography!
Thank you!

Nikki says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

I’m grateful that I stumbled across your name somewhere and have become a huge fan in the last few years. Hopefully you can make it back up to Canada again.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family and friends.

Dennis Oder says:

on November 23, 2011 at 10:58 am

And I’m thankful for all the knowledge that Joe McNally passes on to us photography lovers. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bob says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

Joe – I am thankful for you and hope the off switch remains a mystery…I am thankful for how much you give. All year long.

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

John O'Neill says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:04 am

And we, the readers of this blog, are thankful for Joe McNally, for sharing his knowledge of photography — both techniques and creative inspirations — and for doing so with style and grace. Happy Thanksgiving.

Ahmed Sharif says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:11 am

thanks to you, I’m now a strobo-maniac!!
you helped me become a become a better photog, Joe!!

gary smith says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:19 am

I’m thankful for Joe McNally who educates and inspires us to keep moving forward with our photography. Oh, and to not take things so seriously all the time.

John A. says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:26 am

I’m thankful that you decided to pick up the pen (err.. keyboard) along with your camera. I’ve learned so much over the years from you and continue to do so.

To quote a silly hairband from the ’80s, “its not what you got, its what you give” …and you give a lot.

I’m also thankful for the new book you wrote and am thankful I have a Christmas tree that it might appear under this year. Also thankful for getting to attend the Flashbus tour with you and Strobist, that was one of the highlights of my year.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and thank you!

patrick PAPOUGNOT says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

Joe’s last message is the very reason why despite 10,001 bad pictures, I take a decent one when all that could have been wrong, went wrong. Photography is an Art, not a science, and there is no more human activity than to take and share a good picture with somebody.

David Bundy says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:55 am

I am thankful for Joe McNally who took me and a handful of college students to his hotel room to review our portfolios until the wee hours of the morning at the Eddie Adams Workshop two decades ago. Still headed in the right direction. Thanks!

Ant says:

on November 23, 2011 at 11:59 am

I’m thankful of “shoot what you love” because it changed may way of making photographs.

Gregg heckler says:

on November 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Thank you Joe, that touched my heart. I’m thankful I have someone like you with so much experience to draw from and to inspire me to never get lazy.


Sam English says:

on November 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I too am thankful for Joe McNally…the blog, the books, the Flashbus tour, the shared insight, the humor and the inspiration…..thanks, Joe !!

Jacob says:

on November 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Amen to Joe

Mark Catizone says:

on November 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Thank you for all the inspiration. If only I can achieve a small fraction of what you do as a photographer, I will die a happy man.

Bill Griffin says:

on November 23, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I think I speak for all, Joe…. We’re thankful you think about stuff!

Ozan says:

on November 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Again, one more of the guys who I wish was my friend..

All the best Joe..


Steve Wylie says:

on November 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Thanks, Joe, for everything you do for us hacks out there, trying to be better photographers. You’re an inspiration to us all, on so many levels. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monico Havier says:

on November 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I’m thankful that Joe can tell a story by capturing a moment in time only 1/125 of a second long as well as with words like he shared in this post. With so many ways to express ourselves it’s always nice to have someone of Joe’s monumental talents showing us all how it’s done. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Joe. And Happy thanksgiving to your family and crew.

Ray Spencer says:

on November 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

..and I’m thankful that I have had the chance to absorb a bit of the McNally wit and wisdom. Dobbs Ferry always rocks!

PS – Your wife Annie’s response is oh so perfect

Jon T says:

on November 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Every now and again you write something that shakes me.

This was another one. Thank you.

I hope I get to meet you one day in person – because I shall give you a big hug.

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