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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

A Pro’s Pro

Dec 3

In Friends, history at 1:02am

 

When I was growing up photographically, which was a long time ago now, achieving the distinction of being a professional photographer was just that, a distinction. It had the aura, just a bit, of a degree, hard won after years of training and tribulations. It was attained by a relative few, and I have to imagine many folks, given the daunting aspects of forging a career and sustenance via the alchemy of acetate, wisely chose not to pursue it at all. I have always likened the career path of the photog of that era as a country road traveled by a hardy few, which the digital revolution has now replaced with a multi-lane superhighway, traveled by many, at a high frame rate. The dawn of shooting ones and zeros threw the door open, I believe in welcome fashion, to many, many folks, and image making now takes place at a feverish rate.

But, being of a certain age, I guess I remain somewhat rooted in tradition, and thus continue to celebrate the value and worth of the truly professional photographer. It’s a tough thing to do, and it tests the durability, patience, skills and fiber of those who choose to engage it in full blown fashion. When I was coming up, if someone was referred to in reverential tones, as a “pro’s pro,” it was high praise indeed. It meant the individual in question could do anything with a camera. Ken Regan was one of these. Read the rest of this entry »

Much to be Thankful for…..

Nov 22

In Friends, Fun, Thanks at 5:21am

This picture, despite the somewhat disastrous consequences for me, and my camera, when all 330 pounds of Nate Newton hit the water of the pool that I was actually in, floating sort of underneath the diving board, always brings a somewhat reflective, rueful, and at the same time thankful smile to my face. After all these years, and tons of really ridiculous sagas in the field, stemming from the alternately frustrating, fruitless, heartbreaking, satisfying, thrilling roller coaster of seeking to make a picture, I still have a camera to my eye. The adventure continues.

To all who occasionally stop by the blog, many many thanks. There is so much to be thankful for in this amazing world. And while the above is not exactly a “Thanksgiving Day” photo, to be sure, perhaps it will have a bit of resonance for all those who might be gathered around a table for a while today, and then gathered around a TV, engaged in the popular American mix of food, family, and football.

All the best to all….here’s to more leaping, bounding, splashing adventures still tk….

Talking Down Under

May 28

In Friends, Fun at 12:54am

Winding down now, after a month in Australia. Heading home this week. It’s been a wonderful trip, and I’ve learned a lot. Such as…

G’day is actually one word. And when an Aussie says it, even to a total stranger, they generally really mean it.

I would be hard put, I think, to use the word “uptight” in the same sentence as the word, “Aussie.” Folks down here are pretty relaxed and easy going about most stuff, which is probably quite healthy.

They do talk a little strangely, though. Being here has been a wonderful adventure and education in language.

For instance, I went to the State of Origin Rugby match the other night, which is a huge event in the Aussie sports world. (This is referred to as “going to the footy.”) It was fun, and quite an amiable affair, with folks cheering for the home side and all. There was only one “incident” where an inebriated Queensland fan sort of danced along in front of the New South Wales fan section, his gestures suggesting to that section of the stadium that they engage him in a level of physical intimacy that would have been anatomically impossible for that many people to achieve, at least simultaneously. He was forcibly exited by security, to much cheering and a beer shower.

All my mates were cheering for New South Wales, so I sat in the blue section, and got with the program. They scored first, but ultimately lost. The Blues did, however, have a terrific cheer. “Queensland are wankers!” Pause a beat. “Queensland are wankers!”

I asked what the specifics of being a wanker entailed, and was told it meant that you know, you’re just a tosser. Okay! That explains that!

The Foster’s beer campaign in America has convinced, I’m sure, lots of Yanks that it is the brew of choice down under. Definitely not, I am assured. Most self-respecting, beer drinking Aussies (and that would be the entire country) would rather be caught dead than drinking a can of Foster’s, which is routinely referred to as “cat piss.”  Which is not, perhaps, as negative as it might sound. Beer down here is generally referred to as piss, and if you’re “sinking the piss,” you’re drinking bunches of beers.

In the beer department, the way to go (and this is an admittedly limited research sample) is Crown Lager, aka, “Crownies.” It’s a limited sample as I’ve never been able to drink lots of beer. In college they referred to me as a “two can commando.” Down here I’m a “two pot screamer.”

And, if you drink a lot of beer, you’ll have to “take the kids to the pool.” (Go to the lavatory.)

If you really, really drink too much beer, you might end up having a “liquid laugh.” Back home, we might refer to upchucking as having a Technicolor yawn, or a long talk on the big white telephone.

Went to the movies in Sydney and bought a Gold Class ticket. What a treat! You go to smallish theater and are shown to a incredibly comfortable recliner of a chair, and waiters will bring you snacks, beers, wine etc. Awesome! It was $40 for the ticket, though, which is pricey. They do offer half off on Gold Class tickets on Tuesdays, though, and their marketing slogan for same is “Tight Ass Tuesdays!” Somehow, I don’t think that slogan would fly back home. There would be somebody offended, somehow, and the results could involve placards, protests, lawsuits, and the like.

We trekked overland from Sydney to the Gold Coast and to Melbourne, so I’ve seen a bit of the country now, which of course I didn’t when I was here shooting the Olympics. When working an Olympiad, you basically see the inside of the sports venues, and the inside of your hotel room, briefly, before you pass out from exhaustion every night.

So, I’ve seen the Big Banana, and the Big Merino. (I missed out on the Big Prawn.) And, in keeping with the Aussie philosophy of everything being big, I have to say the Big Merino’s testicles are, as they might say in Aussie speak, “absolutely bangin!”

If you’re a bit loopy, or behave foolishly, you might be referred to as having “kangaroos loose in the top paddock.” Back home, I’m proud to say we have equally innovative phrases for dimwitted behavior, such as, “one or two fries short of a happy meal,” and “one sandwich short of a picnic.” You could also say someone didn’t drink from the fountain of knowledge, they only gargled.

I kept hearing that people were “absolutely wrapped,” which means they enjoyed themselves. At first I thought this condition was “rapt,” as in rapt attention, or maybe even tending towards rapture. But, then, the only time I’ve seen Aussies approach rapture has been when we’ve offered some of our subjects a case of VB beer in return for signing a photo release. I mean, they stopped short of speaking in tongues, but their eyes definitely glazed over. I later learned I was indeed wrong and the word for pleased or entertained actually is “wrapped.” Cool.

I would guess the opposite of being wrapped would be to engage in a whinge. “Whinge” is akin to whining or complaining. When I’ve gotten together down here with some fellow photogs, and we’ve imbibed a fair bit of alcohol, we’ve come quite close to having ourselves a right good whinge.

If I’m surprised by something at home, I might say, “My Goodness!” Down here, some folks express surprise by the phrase, “Holy Dooley!”

If you’re a Bogan, you apparently don’t dress particularly well.

A pash is evidently a long, passionate kiss. Caution. This could lead to rooting.

Giving it a good try, or perhaps keeping too much for yourself, is referred to as a “fair squeeze on the sauce bottle.” And if you think a lot of yourself, it might be said that “you’ve got tickets on yourself, mate!” This type of individual might also bear the nickname “Figjam.” (F**k I’m good, just ask me!)

If you play hooky from work without being sick, you are “chucking a sickie.” Men’s swimming trunks are “budgie smugglers.” (My Aussie mates did seem to enjoy the phrase “banana hammock,” which I offered in return.) A “bush oyster” is what you produce when you blow your nose. A “journo” is a journalist, an “ambo” is an ambulance driver, and a “garbo” is a garbage collector.

If you’re really, really busy, you could be “flat out like a lizard drinking,” or a “cat burying shit.”

Anyway, gotta shove off here. Going to go into Melbourne to have a Captain Cook and a walkabout. Day off today, actually, so I’m being a bit of a bludger and not doing any yakka whatsoever. Had my brekkie, and it’s London to a brick I’m not doing much today. Going to put on my trackie daks and my sunnies, and see a little of the city, and just spend some quiet time, ‘cause since I came to Oz I’ve definitely been yabbering a fair bunch.

I’ve met some really nice people here, and made some wonderful friends.  It’s going to be tough to say “hooroo.” (Goodbye.) And that’s the fair dinkum truth.

More tk…

Travels, and, Calling Dr. Brown

Mar 26

In Friends, Travels at 10:22pm

Russell Brown is one of the geniuses and driving forces behind all the innovation over at Adobe. To say he speaks a different language than I do is really putting it mildly. When I’m amongst people speaking in a foreign tongue, I can usually pick up a few words here and there. But Russell uses terminology quite regularly that is from a dialect of tech speak that I can’t even begin to get a handle on.

But, the wonderful thing about Russell is, no matter how manic and formidable his intellect, he is always up for a prank, a laugh or a photo session. He came by my lighting class at this past weekend’s Washington DC PhotoShop World seminars dressed as “Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.” For any explanation of this costume, you’ll simply have to ask Russell. But it was cool and the class was up for it as we tried to go about making Honest Abe look like he was auditioning for True Blood. Many thanks to all at my classes over the last few days, and of course to the Kelby Clan for pulling off a terrific PSW for the first time in our nation’s capitol city.

Then I spied Philip and Alexandra in the audience, and I could tell from a distance they had something special going between the two of them, so I called them up on stage. Turns out, Philip asked Alexandra to marry him the day previous, and and he had worked out a making a snap of his proposal while they were out making pictures with remote flashes. Awesome! I was able to use the new Elinchrom indirect soft box, which has an unbelievably forgiving quality of light, to make an impromptu engagement snap.

My path since PSW has been interesting. Left after my Sunday class, and jumped to Dulles Airport. Flew to NY. Then flew to Prague. And then to Tallinn, Estonia. Landed in Tallinn at 3:10 in the afternoon, of course without my luggage. Had to abandon even doing the lost bag paperwork and get into a car, and by 3:45 I was lecturing with Bill Frakes at Nikon’s week long D4 tour of Scandinavia. (His blog yesterday was titled, basically, “Waiting for Joe McNally.”)

Did not stay in Tallinn. Went back to the airport. Flew to Helsinki. Had a wonderful dinner last night with Peter Brodin and the whole Nikon group, went back to the hotel and passed out. Woke up this morning in Finland.

It’s always an honor to do stuff with Bill. We’ve known each other for 30 years, roughly, and to say we’re no strangers to the road is, well, accurate. He leaves here after this tour, flies back to the States, and walks off the plane to shoot the Final Four. I go back and pick up shooting this Nat Geo story that has been routinely kicking my ass for the last two months. Lots of miles, lots of pictures, laughs and friendship.

More tk….

Lynn’s Blog

Mar 19

In Friends, history, Jobs at 6:59am

This blog has been a long time coming, as Lynn tends generally prefers to stay in the background of things. All of us at the studio had a hand in prodding her just a touch to write this. Which is a wonderful turn of events. Lynn and I have worked together for nearly 20 years. She is one of the treasures of my life, and the dearest of friends. She has been a confidante, fortune teller, business manager, representative, finance magician (occasionally conjuring something out of nothing), producer (which is her tale below), rights and rates adviser, font of wisdom, voice of reason, and organizer of all things. And, as I mentioned, the most unflappable, unshakable, and understanding of friends. Without Lynn’s guidance, we would have run aground long ago. Like a compass with a heart and a voice, she continues to steer our tiny studio through thick and thin, through rough and calm seas.

She’s also an amazing cook. Every year at her house, we have Abbundanza! Which is Italian, for roughly, too much food. All the friends of the studio gather at her house for a feast. And the two of us stand and toast each other from the deepest part of our hearts. Another year. We made it another year.

Hi all, Lynn DelMastro here, Joe’s long time studio manager / producer. Ah, yes, a voice from behind the scenes of a Joe McNally shoot. What really goes on? How does all that stuff actually get dialed into the scene? Well, I’m here to tell you, in part, about some of the “magic” (even though most of the magic actually doesn’t happen, as we know, until Joe gets behind the camera.)

:-) .
(Joe here. And let me be the first one to step forward here and be completely candid about the fact the sometimes the magic happen, and sometimes it don’t. But that’s on me. The beauty of a Lynn production is that when I step up to the camera, all I have to worry about is what I see through the lens, and connecting with it. All the other stuff has been taken care of, done deal, lock solid.)

Sometimes photographers have asked, “does everything Joe shoots require a producer?” No, certainly not. For some less complex shoots, Joe puts together everything himself. It’s all very circumstantial, when a shoot is either extremely complex, or when Joe’s schedule simply won’t allow for him to oversee every step himself, the production falls on my desk. Over the years, I’ve produced everything from the McNally Workshops in Dobbs Ferry, to Joe’s Language of Light DVD, to small magazine shoots, to full blown commercial assignments for him. Some of the more memorable ones have been for Nikon. The most recent production for them was for the launch of the D4.
When we were first awarded the project, our studio team sat down for a pre-production meeting. Joe proceeded to explain what his wishes and desires were for the visuals (aka his imagination on steroids). My mouth dropped, my heart raced, my body overheated, and my head throbbed. So, for about 30 long seconds, I think I actually blacked out, without really losing consciousness. You know what I mean? Like when you hear news that makes your whole being go into a virtual freeze frame mode? Hmm, why did I have this reaction? Well, he used words like… circus, animals, swamp, Delta blues artist, multi-city locations, studios, body painters, models, performers, helicopters, and the list went on and on. Oh sure, just sounds like a long “to do” list, right? Yeah, well you go out and try to find a custom-made circus, a swamp that won’t swallow up the crew, and an authentic Delta blues artist, etc… all the while keeping within the confines of a budget and a looming deadline. He may as well have told me that he wanted to shoot a full- blown production on the moon with Gisele and Bono. No worries.

So, once I stopped hyperventilating, I dipped into my brain’s, “who do I know” file, to kick start the action. Assuming that the circus scenario would be the most challenging to orchestrate, I contacted my good friend, Chiara Adorno, a very talented filmmaker in Hollywood.  Never know who she might know, etc. I explained what I was looking for, “Joe wants to shoot an old- school looking circus, a family type deal”. However, the kicker was that we needed it not for a day or two, but for a week, and it had to be all for ourselves. We needed a closed set, no public allowed (hey, we had to keep the D4 a TOP secret, after all!). I also mentioned that Joe had been visually inspired when he saw the film Water for Elephants, with Reese Witherspoon. Chiara gave me the contact info for a friend of hers, who is in the circus business, explaining that he would be a fantastic starting point. So I contacted VW Scheich, and well the rest of the conversation was simply music to my aching ears. He replied, “my cousin was the animal trainer for Reese in the movie”, “let me put you in touch with her, I’m sure she can help”. Oh.My.God. I then contacted his cousin, Darlene Williams, and so it began. I can’t even explain how incredibly wonderful this woman was. She put me in touch with her mother, Eva Williams.

Eva is a circus agent, and literally became my one-stop-shopping circus guru. Darlene, who could have bowed out at that point, stayed with it, periodically emailing and calling me, just because she cared. Wow, like mother, like daughter, these women were amazing. Okay, so with the circus planning underway, I turned my attention to the swamp production. Holy mackerel, or rather, holy gator… seriously? Again, Joe had a vision in his head (shocking), of how he wanted the swamp to look. So many things to consider… plus we needed a willing hair-M/U artist, wardrobe stylist, and model, all able to deal with the most unappealing environment ever (think major humidity, mosquitoes, gators, poisonous snakes, and other unknown creatures), a location vehicle, a medic, and a park ranger. There were major permissions to deal with, as well as scheduling issues. Okay, so I’ve been doing this long enough to know that, although I pride myself in my ability to multi-task and tackle large productions, sometimes I just have to hand off a piece of the pie. So I called my colleague and friend, Lyn Wik, a very experienced producer, to see if she’d be willing to pitch in and help. Lyn, being the incredible person she is, replied, “for you and Joe? Just say the word and I shall be yours!”. So I put her in touch with a former assistant of ours, photographer Scott Holstein.

Scott is a swamp LOVER, who lives in Florida. Scott was so psyched about the notion of working with Joe in a swamp that he offered to assist and help out in any way he could. At that point, with Lyn and Scott being on board, I KNEW that I had nothing to worry about. Naturally Lyn and I still talked and emailed 24/7, for about 3 weeks.


Okay, so amidst the tons of emails and phone calls with Lyn on the swamp, I was simultaneously dealing with the other shoots. Communication with Eva, for the circus shoot, was constant. We had to review options for tents, locations, talent, elephants, permits, dogs, horses, contracts, and the list went on and on. Then there was the selection of the model, which took days, just to find the right girl. I also had to find a wardrobe stylist, and due to budget, needed to find someone in the vicinity close to the shoot. I totally scored with the stylist, Deana Anais, represented by a wonderful agent, Sarah Hamilton-Bailey. Deana had an incredible sense of style and was totally intuitive about the look and feel of what we wanted. I also contacted Deborah Engelsman, an extremely talented hair-M/U artist, whom I’ve worked with many times over the years. Together, this team caused a fashion sensation at the shoot…

There still remained the [not so small] matter of finding a Delta blues artist. Once again, I tapped into my personal resources… a wonderful and special friend, Jody Wenig, of Wenig–LaMonica, a source for amazing talent. I knew that Jody could point me in the right direction, and man did he ever! Two emails later, and I was in direct contact with Wacko Wade, the manager of Delta blues artist, Little Freddie King.  Wacko and I created an instant bond (with a name like that, how could we not?), and he helped me to iron out all the details of how and when to work with LFK. Joe requested a run down, patina ladened, character driven house that evoked the flavor and style of old New Orleans.

Location scout, Michael Dittmar to the rescue! Michael did an amazing job and sent us lightboxes of properties to consider, all over the city. Joe settled on the one that suited his purposes the best, which turned out to be absolutely beyond perfect for the shoot and the video that we shot of LFK. Our local assistant, photographer Donald Page, brought us to the dual bridge location, where Joe shot an incredibly cool image of LFK.


For a separate photo situation in New Orleans, Joe had his heart set on shooting at Preservation Hall, a musical landmark institution there. As with any landmark, it’s subject to policies, procedures, and long wait lists. My motto, “be pleasantly persistent”, was what had to be put in place. Five emails and three voice messages later, I finally heard back from them. I just needed that voice contact to make a new friend of the business manager there and we were in. Good to go. Right down to the wire.

But wait, there’s more. Let’s not forget about, “Snake Beauty”. Although not as many moving parts as the circus, the swamp, or even the New Orleans shoots, the snake shoot presented its own set of complexities. After an extensive search, I found the brilliantly talented, NYC based body-painting and make-up artist, Anastasia Durasova. Understanding that not every model is willing to sit perfectly still for eight hours to be painted, but also not every model is willing to wear an 8 ft python, as an accessory. Anastasia highly recommended Marina, the model, and she was an absolute dream to work with. Sexy, beautiful, pleasant, and had zero qualms about “wearing” the snake. Along with the supremely talented hair stylist, Sasha Nesterchuk, “Snake Beauty” came to fruition and was shot at NEO Studios on an extremely memorable day.


Also, as with any production, I had to work out all the travel arrangements – hotels, flights, ground transfers, truck rentals, catering options, etc. In the end, it was 10 jam- packed weeks of pre-production, for 18 days of travel, scout, pre-light and shoot. Phew. Of course, the key to any successful production is to surround yourself with an awesome crew. In each location, I was blessed to have the best, most experienced helping hands. Back at our Ridgefield studio, supremely organized Lynda Peckham, thankfully held the fort down in my absence. My primary boys (Drew, Grippi, and Cali), provided unstoppable comic relief (with the help of Nikon’s own inimitable Mike Corrado), and the joy of working with two of the nicest, most talented, and incredibly wonderful clients, made it all so rewarding.

And then there’s Joe. He’s in a genre all by himself. Aside from being one of the most decent human beings on the planet, his beautiful mind (although a tad twisted) is captivating and his sense of humor is infectious. As long as I have a brown paper bag nearby, I’ll hyperventilate for him anytime .

All pix of Lynn shot by Lynda Peckham.

More tk….