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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…”

James says:

on November 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Wow great words! Going to read again in a moment!

Patrik Lindgren says:

on November 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I´m very thankful for your continuos insights that you share with the rest of us. And i´m very thankful that you exist, cause you are a true inspiration in so many ways.

JoeH says:

on November 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Thanks Joe

John says:

on November 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Very well said. I’m personally thankful to YOU for the inspiration your work provides to me and to so many photographers who love this craft and art.
Thanks for being so unpretentious, approachable, and willing to share your knowledge and experience with us mere mortals.
Best regards,

Graham Thoburn says:

on November 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Good read. Joe if you didn’t take pictures you would have made a fine Canadian bush pilot! Your life and thoughts and antics are much the same as a pilot. That’s what connects me to your humor. That and a camera of course. I love the blog. Cheers GT

Libby says:

on November 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I’m thankful for you Joe, because without you I would have never found the light ;-)

Have a safe, warm, and Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to wear the elastic waist pants to dinner LOL.

Steve F says:

on November 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Nice. Thank YOU!

Carlos says:

on November 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Very inspiring words. Thx

ruksangel says:

on November 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm

wow that was awesome! :)
and also, thanks to you for being my greatest inspiration!

Tom says:

on November 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I’m thankful to you for spending time sharing your insights into the world of professional photography. Great blog!

Garyk says:

on November 23, 2011 at 5:56 pm

I’m thankful that Joe McNally continues to share his photos and words with us.

Mike Daniel says:

on November 23, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I am grateful that a good friend sent a link to your blogspot. I enjoyed your post. Thanks Joe.

uki6 says:

on November 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm

awesome! can’t wait to read more!

Jay Mann says:

on November 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I am thankful that there are people like you who give so selflessly so that the rest of us can improve our craft. One morning in Iceland, I asked you how you could maintain the 14 hour a day schedule working with us for 5 days in a row. You looked me straight in the eye and said “Jay, you came all the way to F—g Iceland, you deserve my full attention”

Thank You

Cindy (Cali's Mom) says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I am thankful that you are part of my son’s life. You are a very special person!

Dianne A says:

on November 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm

And, I’m thankful for a superb photog who is confident enough in his craft to teach and show us how he “makes the sausage” and to call himself “numnuts” and to laugh at life’s foibles. You’re a real pro, Joe. Happy Thanksgiving.

ChasVS says:

on November 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Thanks for all you bring to all of us who love what you do and strive to do it as well as you!

Johannes says:

on November 24, 2011 at 12:10 am

…and we’re thankful for you, man! Keep it up.


Simon says:

on November 24, 2011 at 12:56 am

Joe, I’m thankful that you exist, and continue to be ‘you’. Your influence & inspiration mean more to me than I can ever really put down in words – I hope my images tell the full story.

Marci says:

on November 24, 2011 at 2:20 am

Happy Thanksgiving, Joe! We’re all thankful for your insight and willingness to share it… :)

Frederic CHELMAS says:

on November 24, 2011 at 2:34 am

Superbe Joe, quelle classe !
Tu es un trés grand photographe mais aussi un grand homme,
si tant est que quelqu un en ait douté.

Merci à toi pour ses superbes photos !

Sorry for my English it looks like French !!!

Thanks for all your creativity, humanity, and so on…


Sherwin Dela Peña says:

on November 24, 2011 at 2:54 am

Thank you for being an inspiration and setting the bar of what a successful photographer should be.

- Loybuckz

Lee Ann says:

on November 24, 2011 at 6:48 am

I am thankful to you for putting it out there everyday and writing about it so perfectly.
Happy Thanksgiving!

randy baran says:

on November 24, 2011 at 7:04 am

thanks for a career that inspired this great column. pixels hiding under your chair! they become like children to a father goose, don’t they?

Pascal Sauvé says:

on November 24, 2011 at 7:12 am

After reading your latest blog entry, I was left with the same sense of wisdom that was imparted to me after absorbing “Desiderata” for the first time.

Joe, thank you for your passion. Please keep going and please realize it’s okay to occasionally make the wrong turn at Albuquerque – heck, sometimes it’s downright fun :)

With respect,
Pascal Sauvé

Steve Burns says:

on November 24, 2011 at 7:26 am

And we, well most of us, or some of us, or just me am thankful for all that you have shared with us. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Ian Loomes says:

on November 24, 2011 at 8:14 am

Joe, we are ALL thankful that you do what you do, and that you are willing to share your vast knowledge with those of us who strive to become better photographers. Can’t wait for your new book (had it on pre-order at Amazon since the day it was announced). Please keep doing what you do. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and to all at Joe McNally Photography.

Adrian says:

on November 24, 2011 at 8:18 am

Thank you, Joe Mcnally.

Bill says:

on November 24, 2011 at 8:31 am

Thanks for a great day at the Chicago stop on the Flashbus tour!

Tom Marriage says:

on November 24, 2011 at 8:39 am

Thankful for all the great photographers that are so willing to share their talent like Joe, Scott and David.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Cameron Davidson says:

on November 24, 2011 at 9:12 am

Your post brought a smile to my face. Thanks Joe!

Joseph says:

on November 24, 2011 at 9:14 am

Joe, happy Thanksgiving… I’ll echo what was already said… I’m thankful our paths have crossed and you continue to inspire me and so many others to pursue this craft with passion…

Joh Leach says:

on November 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

Thanks for coming to St. Louis on the tour and putting a “Human” face to what some consider an enigma. It was worth the drive for me and others. Your visual perception can make subtle changes in the flow of life’s understanding on this little blue rock.

Richard says:

on November 24, 2011 at 11:59 am

I am thankful that after 29 years
I’m still in this crazy profession.
The people I have met and the
experiences I had, I would not trade for
Also thankful that my daughter took a
photography class in high school, of which
she said, “hey this is not as easy as it looks”

Keep the blogs coming Joe!!!!



Paul says:

on November 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I’m thankful there are people like you that inspire and astound us! You style and wit in writing humors me, and your style and grace in shooting wows me.

Hannes Uys says:

on November 24, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Moving Joe! I may have moved a few inches.

Dana says:

on November 24, 2011 at 2:39 pm

And I’m grateful for your generosity and expertise, humor, and tireless blogging. You inspire me!

Mario Plouffe says:

on November 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Merci, Joe de partager tes connaissances, tu es une source d’inspiration sans fin. Un être exceptionnel.
Now in english
Tank you Joe to share your experience, you are an inspiration Wotherspoon no ends. À gentleman.
I watch your’e video your books and it’ s very inspired

Save the planet, the only one with Joe McNally

PS. I Hope to see you in Montreal one of these days… Or i take my car and go to the next Flash Bus Tour.

John Given says:

on November 25, 2011 at 6:52 am

I am thankful for the knowledge that Joe passes on so freely!

alexander says:

on November 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

Dear Joe,
Thanks to you for all the teaching. See you on Monday in Lausanne, Switzerland at the course. Alexander.
Ps take warm cloth, its really cold here.

Tom McKean says:

on November 26, 2011 at 6:50 am

I’m so thankful for knowing you for your wonderful sense of humor, and for your passion for photography. And I’m so glad Anne has not found the switch to turn you off. I like that very much.

Gary Martin says:

on November 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Beautiful thoughts and funny words Joe..I’ll say it again..You crack me up..Very Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family!!

joeT says:

on November 26, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Joe, I speak for myself and many others; We are thankful that you share your knowledge, experience, and wisdom with us!

Ingoman says:

on November 27, 2011 at 2:30 am

Joe, we all are thankful that you are a heathy man and you can continue sharing your thoughts and things with all of us! Thank you so munch!
All the best from Munich
C and I

Murrieta Wedding Photographer says:

on November 27, 2011 at 3:53 am

Truly inspirational words by an amazing photographer, photojournalist, storyteller, ARTIST

Michael says:

on November 27, 2011 at 4:03 am


we don’t have thanksgiving here in Germany but if we did, I would be thankful for your blogs, books and being an all round motivating person who like JoeT says “we are thankful that you share you knowledge with us”, who is not afraid to speak his mine and drop the f-bombe.

Hope you and your family and crew had a great thanksgiving.


f/8nate says:

on November 27, 2011 at 7:09 am

I’ll add my vote to the crowd for A Big Thank You sir, you the best Joe!

Diane from Michigan says:

on November 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I’m thankful for you, for the way you write, for you amazing sense of humor, for your decency and creativity and talent, for the way you share, for the way you treat us as your friend, for your incredible talent! Oh, and for that cartoon-decorated bus that made its way to Michigan. That was an wonderful day!

Blessings to you and your family!

Costas says:

on November 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I am thankful for Joe and his books, I learned so much about small flashes that I am much more confident now that I can handle any situation thrown at me.

I am thankful also for this very sincere and human blog post. The most moving point was this:
…and asked, “Is there an off switch?” Her response: “I’ve never looked for it.

Hannes Uys says:

on November 29, 2011 at 4:58 am

And we are thankful for you Joe.

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