Hangin with Joe McNally
A few weeks ago my buddy Syl from Pixsylated.com asked if I’d like to come up to the beautiful wine country of Paso Robles and help shoot a little behind the scenes documentary of a Joe McNally photo shoot. Um. Yeah.
I arrived just as Joe was finishing up the last hour of the last day of his workshop. I’ve got to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier bunch of photographers at the end of workshop. I don’t know what kind of magic pixie dust Joe and his top assistant Drew were sprinkling around over that week, but it was great to see its effect.
The other thing that caught my eye? One of Joe’s gear bags had like 40 Nikon flashes in it. Yeah. That’s what he travels with, that and six or seven other gear bags – any of which were large enough for me to crawl into and stow away on their next adventure. But did I crawl in? Yes.
Joe, Drew, Syl, and I headed out on the town and had an incredibly delicious dinner at a swanky, upscale I-talian joint. We were by far the most under dressed people in the room. I’d say I don’t know how we got in, but Syl knows how to pull strings in this town. Over creamy concoctions and bottles and bottles of fine wine we talked about the photography business, film making, pushing the creative envelope, and staying current with our work. As good as the food was, the conversation far exceeded it.
I’m not going to say what happened after the last bottle of wine magically disappeared, but I will quote from the comment Joe put up on Twitter that night: “JoeMcNallyPhoto @zeke_kamm and @syl_arena –Friday night heading for tattoo parlor w/ $249 among us — we are all getting OCF tattoos”
The next morning we had breakfast at a diner surrounded by Shriners with miniature cars, folks with restored historic tractors, and biscuits the size of a basketball. Then it was off to the secret location, an abandoned laundromat, for Joe’s shoot and the behind the scenes doc.
I was impressed to see how just a short discussion between Joe and Drew resulted in a lighting setup that pretty much stayed the same the entire shoot. A few small adjustments at the beginning to lock down the power settings was it.
The best part, though, was watching the way Joe works with his models. This shoot was a mixed bag in that department: one professional model, and then a few pierced, tattooed tough guys with no modeling experience. That didn’t slow Joe down. He talked to everyone like you would talk to a good friend, constantly engaging them, encouraging them into the positions and expressions he was after.
I wish I could be more detailed, but words cannot do Joe’s style justice. If only someone had been recording the whole thing on video. Hang on! We were! I was crawling around with my 5DmII filling up cards faster than elf at Santa’s workshop. The footage is currently embargoed, but I will definitely let you know when it is up.
It was a long day. A hard working day in a filthy, run down, abandoned laundromat on the bad side of town. Yet, when we wrapped I looked around and everyone had that same expression that the folks from Joe’s workshop had on their faces. It was spotting that detail that lead to this revelation: Joe McNally is not only a master of photography, but also a master hypnotist. Fortunately he uses his powers for good.