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Archive for April, 2012

In Transit….and Many Thanks…

Apr 30

In Fun, Thanks at 7:33am

Flew home yesterday from Dusseldorf. 18 hours here, and then another plane (hope it’s really big and has lots of engines cuz it’s going over lots of water) to Sydney, and magical land of Aus. I had a blast down there during the Olympics and this is a return visit I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Here’s a tour link for our itinerary down there.

But, before anything, I just have to thank the incredibly wonderful folks who came to Essen for this past weekend’s Nikon Solutions. The whole Nikon team did amazing stuff, but I really have to single out Yasuo Baba, of Nikon Germany. Where he gets the energy to do so much of the creative and logistical planning a huge event like this requires, I’ll never know.

Mostly, though, I have to thank the folks who came out to the expo. They were amazing and gracious, and made Annie and me feel so much at home. Throw in great beer, good coffee and lots of laughs, not to mention an elephant, Marco the amazing body builder, a ballerina, and a couple of wonderful models from the Czech Republic, and well, you’ve got a fun weekend, that’s for sure. Once again it was my honor to teach with all the shooters there, and of course my long time bud, sports shooting legend Bill Frakes. He had basketball players, rhythmic gymnasts, heavy weight lifters, you name it.

When you’re shooting live and stumbling around, essentially doing a location shoot in front of 400 plus people, you really feed off the participation and energy of the folks in the crowd. Once again, thanks to all who hung in there during some fun shoots…..all best, and Annie and I already can’t wait to return!

More tk….

Going to a Ball…..Down Under

Apr 24

In Tours, Upcoming Events at 8:04am

I don’t know. They usually don’t let me into these fancy affairs. But, as socially awkward as I am, I am happy to go, ’cause these folks do really great work.

They work trying to save preemies and sick babies, and they just have an amazing organization. They organize fund raisers, run marathons, you name it, all in the name of raising some dough for programs to help these kids. Here’s the link for the “about us” page on their website.

Now, as to my presence at their soiree on May 4th. I’m donating some prints for auction, and the invite says “evening wear.” Hmmm. For advice on this, I think I’m gonna call Hobby.

It’s the first event we’ve got going in the Australia tour, and it should kick us off really well. Sydney here we come. Here’s the link for the tour, and they’ve got all the info on remaining spots available, etc.

More tk…

A Cover Story

Apr 17

In history, Rambling at 6:15am

A couple months ago I had the cover of Newsweek. It was a stock shot of the Navy Seals, running the beach at Coronado, their West Coast training base. I’ve worked with the Seals a bunch, and many of those frames are in the stock library at Getty Images, who made the contact and the sale. It was cool to see the image used in this way, and it gave me a quick snapshot of the biz as it stands. Getty billed Newsweek about $1700 for the usage, which then was split with me. (I have no input or influence over what Getty chooses to charge for the use of an image.) I was, honestly, happy to hear that figure, given the dire and prevalent news of covers being sold for $50 bucks and the like.

While rates haven’t advanced, in this instance, neither have they retreated drastically. I’ve shot a bunch of assigned covers for Newsweek over the years, and it was always heady to corral that coveted piece of real estate. When I was shooting a lot for Newsweek, editorial rates were hovering around $350 per day, and if you could pull in a cover for a couple grand or more, shazam, you just copped the price of a couple more weeks of day rates. (The formula we all worked for at that time was day rate against space. In other words, if you worked 10 days and they ran nothing, you got those ten day rates, plus the expenses. If you worked one day, and the force was with you and you produced a cover and three double trucks, you got all that space payment, even though you worked only a few hours.) Those days were the stuff of the fevered imaginations of every mag shooter out there.

TIME of course paid more. They always had more budget than Newsweek. As my friend Jimmy Colton, then an editor at NW and now at SI, was fond of saying, “TIME is a hospital. Newsweek’s a MASH unit.” Below is the first cover I shot for TIME, and if I recall, they paid about 3 grand. Other shooters, the real premier cover guys, got more dough, for sure. I was definitely not in that group. If I got a cover, it was either an accident or a last ditch phone call by a desperate editor.

But TIME was the big boy on the block. As a shooter or an agent you could always expect more days, or bigger stock checks from TIME. The two mags were neighbors actually, with Newsweek being on the east side of St. Pat’s, facing Madison Ave., and TIME of course sitting astride 6th Ave. on the west end of Rock Center, just a couple blocks away off 50th St. Picture agents, attempting to sell their plastic sheeted, pre-digital wares, would often be at both mags on a Friday as they closed, trying to push their agency’s stories. They used to call this newsweekly Friday night tour the “50th St. shuffle.” There were certain agents who operated in totally blase fashion, selling packages of pictures labeled “Exclusif! Mondial!” (Worldwide exclusive!) simultaneously to as many editors as possible.

Selling pictures had a certain charm to it back then. You could liken it to loading up a buckboard with a bunch of pictorial clutter, harnessing Old Blue and clip clopping through the neighborhood, intoning “Rags, clothes, pictures, bottles, shiny objects….” Digital delivery is vastly preferable in terms of economy and speed, though the personal touch is a bit lacking. As a shooter, I could lumber up to Newsweek on closing night, hover at the light table, beer in hand (supplied by the picture editor, Jim Kenney) and look and listen in amazement as experienced chrome editors flew through stacks of slides, clapping a Schneider loupe to each successive transparency with the insistence and speed of a well handled set of castanets.

I shot a lot more for Newsweek, the poorer cousin of the newsweeklies, and got used to doing more with less. When I got sent to Poland for the first visit of Pope John Paul II to his native land, we had 7-8 shooters, and predictably, TIME had about 12. But, we had an ace up the sleeve, in that Kenney had wisely gathered in the services of  Sygma, the Parisian based agency, to shoot for him. They were a wonderfully eccentric, experienced group of international news photogs, led by the incomparable JP Laffont. Shrewdly, they showed up in Warsaw in a Winnebago, driven in from France. In the initial days of the papal visit, while we were all in Warsaw, that meant that JP and company would routinely show up at your hotel door, and in gentlemanly fashion inquire, “May I please have a shower?” All of us fancy pants shooters with hotel rooms would make good-natured sport of our mobile home compatriots, down there in the parking lot with none of the amenities of the Warsaw Intercontinental.

Ah, but they were smarter than we were! When Il Papa got out there in the hinterlands of then severely Communist Poland, the press corps was relegated to cold water dorm flats and rickety, swayback cots set into ancient bed frames. Memories of the comparative luxury of the Intercontinental faded fast. The restaurants would routinely have a giant “X” through the entree list. They would often have only a bit of ham and some bread. And no booze! Everywhere the Pope went was dry. It was trying, I tell ya.

One night, having spent the day being harassed by the Polish militia, and fighting through thousands of people stacked against each other to hear the Pontiff say mass,  I was stumbling back to my prison cell of a room. I believe I had just dined on water and stale bread, and was tragically without the anesthesia of several beers. My desperate nose went up in the air. The smell of truly wonderful French cooking was wafting about! Fragrant and beautiful, the scent led me right to–you guessed it–the Sygma Winnebago. I stood at the door of this four star restaurant on wheels, and I must have looked for all the world like a refugee child at the screen. So much so that JP had mercy, opened the door and handed me a glass (not plastic) of wine. “Drink, McNally. Enjoy. It’s good French Bordeaux!”

At that moment, and it wasn’t just because we were on a papal trip, it was like receiving communion.

Lessons learned along the way….more tk….

Milestones

Apr 10

In history, Rambling at 8:15am

You know you’ve been in the picture making business for a while when certain milestones rise up and pass you by like a sign on the highway. Trust me, as you get older, those signs loom faster and whisk by quicker. Your pictures then, become a marker, an “I was there” notation, surely as the “Cracker Barrel, One Mile, Exit 14A” billboards on the interstate. That’s the inherent beauty of being a photog. You had to be there to make that picture. I have used this logic with pup reporters on stories at various times when they have lamented to me on the homeward bound airplane, “Well, you’re sure lucky, your job’s over, my work is just starting!”

“That might be true, but here’s something I bet you haven’t thought of, dingbat. I better have it in the can right now, ’cause I can’t make a picture over the phone.”

I’m sure digital technology will evolve to the point where we can make an interesting picture while on the phone. (Not with a phone, on a phone, of someplace or of someone we’re calling to.) I’m sure that day is in our future. I hope I’m dead.

The tenth anniversary of the death of Ken Kesey passed not too long ago, without too much fanfare. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of his book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The quintessential Merry Prankster, author, and provocateur, who, along with some mates,  boarded a bus called Furthur and set off on a cross country, drug fueled jaunt.  The group became the stuff of legend, largely due to the mythologizing capacities of Tom Wolfe, who penned a chronicle of the bus trip called The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. (Both of the above are required reading, by the way.)

I visited Kesey at his place in Oregon quite a number of years ago, courtesy of the London Observer, which was a terrific magazine to shoot for. (For them, I also shot Angie Bowie, the subject of Mick Jagger’s “Angie” and, as she put it, graduate of the real first class of rock and roll. Shooting Angie undraped will be the subject of another blog, sometime or other.)

But Kesey was not an easy mark. Smart and media savvy, he put up a bit of a tussle, which I’ve written about. That was okay. Most folks worth photographing often put up something of a fight, or at the very least, are not the most predictable of sorts. (You would not expect predictability from the mind that spawned Randle McMurphy.) I spent two days at his place, on and off, picking off a picture or two, as he made time. It was okay by me, as being around Kesey, even briefly, was like buying a ticket to the Tilt-a-Whirl at the county fair. You came out a little unsteady, and your compass no longer spun right to true north. Seeing as I’ve always enjoyed being off by a few degrees, it was an enjoyable visit. Plus, it was cool to shoot the bus.

It’s also, roughly, the 50th anniversary of when Tony Bennett first sang his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Tony is still belting them out, thankfully, and those little cable cars are still climbing to the stars. I’ve worked with Tony a number of times, and can report that there is no classier person in all of show biz. Decent, and gentlemanly come to mind, immediately. When I was with him in out at the city by the bay, he graciously agreed to go out to the worldwide symbol of SF, the Golden Gate Bridge. There, up on the headlands, I made a quiet picture of him sketching the bridge.

That night, onstage, he stopped his show, which normally was as scripted as a Swiss watch, looking down at his ordinarily immaculate shoes. He shook his head and chuckled a bit. “I was out at the Golden Gate Bridge earlier today with the photographer from LIFE magazine, you know, taking some pictures,” he told the audience. “And I just noticed, I’m up onstage here, and I got mud on my shoes!”

“I’ve never done this before onstage,” he continued. And, stopping everything, he reached down to both his shoes and did a little quick maintenance. Looking up and smiling, he went back on script. I was shooting him from the back of the house, and I had to return the smile in the darkness. Photography, once again, proved to be the break in the day, the unexpected turn in the road, and the mud on someone’s shoes.

Tony’s wonderful to spend time with, being easygoing, gregarious, and of course, supremely talented. Everyone knows about his legendary pipes, but what is sometimes overlooked is his skill as an artist. I made these pix in his NY apartment as he sketched his view.

I didn’t have the nerve to ask him for the sketch. It would have been inappropriate, even though he made it, quite quickly, so I could shoot him while he drew. It was beautiful, and done in a matter of minutes. Another great thing about being a shooter? You get, occasionally, to meet people who are supremely talented at what they do. It’s enriching, and humbling.

Tony being a kid from Queens, I shot him with another bridge, by the way.

And, news came this week that Italian soccer star Giorgio Chinaglia passed away. Flamboyant, outspoken and stylish, both on the field and off, Giorgio was in the vanguard of international soccer stars that propelled the early days of the North American Soccer League. He played for the NY based Cosmos, alongside the legendary Pele, and German star Franz Beckenbauer. This trio ensured that the Meadowlands, home of the NY Giants, rocked and rumbled to capacity crowds cheering a different sort of football.

I covered Soccer Bowl ’78, and it was a wild time. I ended up in the shower with Pele. Hmmmm….life as a shooter has always been weird, and wonderful.

More tk….

Announcing The Australian/New Zealand Tour 2012!

Apr 4

In Tours, Travels at 5:13pm

Come May, we are taking a huge leap through the looking glass and going to the magical land of Oz and New Zealand. Many thanks to the great folks at Mentem and Nikon Australia who have been laboring tirelessly to pull this together. Only been down under once before, to shoot the 2000 Olympiad for Time magazine, and it was wonderful, but the whole country was seized by Olympic fever. Visiting now, to multiple cities, during “normal” times, will be vastly different but equally wonderful, I suspect. And, of course, this time, we’ll be teaching and demonstrating all manner of lighting techniques and approaches, doing workshops and seminars. Drew’s coming along from our studio, and we’ll be lugging lots of gear to work and demonstrate with. All told, looking to be an amazing month.

The Olympiad was terrific. Didn’t hear a bad word for the entire games, except from my editors. It was an Olympics of great grandeur and scale….

Of surprising and beautiful runners…

And equally surprising victors…

And elated medal winners.

So, now we go back to this amazing continent. I personally can’t wait. Oz has magic, right? It’s so often the reply you get when you ask someone, “Where in the world would you most like to go?” And New Zealand! Holy smoke, never been, always wanted to go. I’m hoping to meet Gandalf.

We’ll be doing stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Auckland. In between, doing some shooting for the Tourism Australia and, very importantly, auctioning prints and attending a ball to raise money for the non-profit Miracle Babies Foundation.

Can’t wait for May. Hit this link for all tour info, location and dates! More tk…