My adventure with Joe McNally

On May 24, 2012 by Simon Fleming

“Um Hi, Joe, I’m Simon and I’ve flown across the country to meet you”.
(imagine me with a silly grin and then insert incoherent mumbling in between each of these words).

That’s about as intelligible as I could get the first time I met Joe McNally. And to make matters worse, this meeting was in the dimly lit lobby of a motel on the Gold Coast, late in the evening. I was having a quiet beer, on my own, and saw Joe and the Through The Lens Tour crew walk up to the reception desk …and over I walked – in some dream like trance. After the introductions were done, I made my way back over to my beer feeling as if I had come across like some slightly out of kilter stalker.

Gold Coast workshop

I was in the Gold Coast to see Joe present a seminar on small flash & Nikon CLS followed by a keynote that evening on the 30 plus years of his life as a (brilliant) photographer. Then to participate in an all day workshop the day after that. To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever get the chance to meet Joe in person, let alone do a workshop here in Australia. What an amazing time I had – first time I have ever been to anything thing like this. I learned a hell of a lot, not only about photography and the use of lighting – both natural & speed light/studio strobe – but also about professionalism and being a decent person. Yes I’m a big fan but I have met other people in this field who are very different when not in the ‘promo light’ – Joe is not only a great photographer but also a very decent human being, who has probably earned the right to be an ass if he really wanted to but he couldn’t be further from that.

Just when I thought things with Joe were done and dusted, along came THE DREAM trip. About a week before heading to the Gold Coast the Through The Lens Tour guys announced an opportunity to join Joe on a shoot in Tasmania that was commissioned by Tourism Australia. When I saw that I damn near stopped breathing. As you would expect there was a fairly hefty price tag to go with something like that, and so after I started breathing again I resigned myself to forget about it and enjoy the already fantastic opportunity I had coming on the Gold Coast.

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet NP

If it were not for my wife Emma and my business partner Ros convincing me to do it, and to figure out the hard bits afterwards, I wouldn’t have made the leap of faith. It was likely to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me, and they know how high up on a pedestal Joe is in my eyes, so they didn’t let up – and I think to be honest, they knew I would probably turn into a mopey grump for the next 6 months, kicking myself for not going.

Quad biking in Freycinet NP (Drew on the quad)

Well yes, it was expensive, and I will now be working my ass off even more to pay for it, but man what a ride! To say the 4 days was mind-blowingly awesome would be an understatement. The days began before the sun was up in order to be on location for sunrise, and then the nights were generally not early finishes but I was running on some sort of special internal vapour the whole time so it really didn’t matter. I caught six flights in as many days, saw the sun rise more than I have in the last two years (strange for a landscape shooter I know) and saw (and ate) many things I never thought I would.

Sunrise shoot on the docks in Hobart

I will save some more of the story for another blog but let me just finish with a big thank you to Joe McNally, his first assistant Drew Gurian (who is an amazing photographer in his own right, and a great guy to boot) as well as the Through The Lens Tour guys who made the opportunity possible. There were also three other guys who made the trip too – Ray, Tony and Dave – all were great travelling companions and photographers as well.


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