Monthly Archives May 2012

Humble Beginnings

Most started as bird watchers, I always loved that fact. The birds had the secret they all wanted, sought and required!

We’d driven past the brown and white sign along the highway a couple of times, but Huffman Prairie Field meant nothing to us. Then at the Monday night briefing for the next day’s B-25 flight to Wright-Patterson for the Doolittle reunion celebration, it was mentioned we’d be flying over the field the next morning. So now I was curious. Four days later we decided to explore where the signs were directing us. We drove through the gate, which at first seemed would stop our quest. Negotiating it we went down a country road that turned into a one way lane. We came up to one of those big signs indicating ‘You Are Here’ telling us we were at a dead end road with a gate. In fact, we didn’t see a thing nearby resembling a field or prairie. We had no choice but to continue down the one way road.

We made a turn in the road, which took us out of the trees to a big open field that looked like any other field. It was a gorgeous day with an armada of giant puffy clouds, sailing across the crystal blue sky. The green carpet of spring grasses raced to the horizon to greet the clouds. We just had to stop to make a click. We got out and then saw another sign stating ‘You Are Here.’ But this time the sign said more, telling us we were on the edge of Huffman Prairie Field, the world’s first aerodrome! But it’s more than that.

Off in the distance we saw a small tower and shed, so we headed there to check them out. It was important to me to reach this place, in the middle of nowhere Ohio that 99% of the world has never heard of. It is from this point over 100 years ago all of our lives would be changed. Huffman Prairie Field is where the Wright Bros made their first powered and sustained flights, proving the flight was not only possible, but also our future!

Flying over this field in the nose of the B-25J “Maid in the Shade” to honor the Doolittle Raiders was quite something, especially when the Wright Brothers thought flight would stop wars because it would connect societies by bringing them closer together. Touring the Wright-Patterson USAF Museum and then writing this on my commercial flight home I am blown away how flight continues in magical, marvelous ways and to think it all started with simple bird watching.

A common beginning

How did your photography begin? Mine started as a bird watcher at age 9 (but I never invented a means of flight!). Do you ever take time to reflect on that first moment, experience, magic, love or click? I sure do. I grew up in a family of shutter buggers who were always taking pictures. We would have big family parties that would culminate at the end of day by sitting in front of a large screen either inside or outside in the summer viewing images, reliving past memories and telling new stories. Not much of a stretch understanding where I got it from.

Well wanting to participate in the fun and of course the attention that comes from having your photo on the screen, I needed a camera. I collected and saved Blue Chip stamps until finally I could redeem them to get a Kodak Brownie Instamatic. I was 9. By the time I was a freshman in high school, I was using my dad’s Argus he’d carried through the wars, which evolved to using his Minolta SRT 101. That lasted me about a year until I’d saved up my money to buy the latest and greatest Minolta SRT 202 (since my dad and brother had lenses, seemed like the thing to do). The first pages of my book Captured pick up the story from there when one evening on a beach in So California I had found my two loves of my life, Sharon and photography.

I doubt many of us have really too different of a beginning in photography. Bird watching or people watching, car watching or sports, like the Wright brothers something sparks in all photographers the power of observation and then the desire to share what we see with others. But unlike the Wright brothers, we are fortunate enough to hopefully learn from others who came before us. I personally can’t imagine that first time zipping down a rickety wooden rail in a wood and cloth contraption about to be launched into the air and feeling, “Is this a smart thing to be doing?” Photography in the beginning can be just as scary, especially when you share your photography for the first time! Wait until the first time you start to teach!

I have a desire

I’ve had a couple of great teachers in my life who have greatly influenced me. My dad loved to teach and had a style of making folks think about the answer. He devoted a lot of his life to helping other teachers be better teachers though that wasn’t his occupation. The other was my high school photo teacher. Mr. Traub made his students go out with a camera and find answers for themselves, not handing us easy answers or those that would work for just the moment. Not until I was much older would I understand why he started the first weeks of the class studying the images of old masters (McNally & Maisel were part of our lessons, ha!), looking at light and thinking about composition before he ever put a twin eye monster in our hands.

I started in my sophomore year and by the end of that year, Mr. Traub had me helping the new students. That’s when I started to teach photography and yet, I wasn’t even a photographer myself. And I’ve never stopped.

What is it about photography that gets us up early, takes us out in the rain, at times traveling what seems like the end of the earth just to make a click? I wonder if it’s really any different than what those cave dwellers in Germany felt when they made crude paintings on the wall we can still see today. Did they pass on their knowledge of mixing paint and painting? I wonder.

One of the greatest attributes of NAPP and especially Photoshop World is this huge community that comes together to celebrate creativity in all its visual forms! Even better is the amazing group of people, on stage and off with the desire to share what they have learned so others can learn from their life experiences. I love watching “fans” when they see in person one of their heroes at PSW for the first time. Even though we are all just people, we are very fortunate that fans think so highly of us when at some point, we all had the same simple beginnings.

Unlike the Wright brothers, those on stage are not sharing a new invention but more often just a different way of thinking, approaching and communicating visually. At the same time entertaining and inspiring you to not only try this or that new technique or tool, but also to share your vision. Share through your photographs and share through your teaching others what you’ve learned.

I’ve never heard of any photographer being born with a silver camera. Each and every one of us has had to move ourselves down the path and at times, with the help of others a little further down that path. That’s how I see myself, just a little bit further down that path than some and because of the passion my teachers passed along to me, a responsibility to pass that on to others. And now that you’ve had your beginnings, it’s up to you to pass along what you’ve learned as well! Just think how we can change the world if everyone shared that same desire to help others?

What’s this ramble all about? For quite a while now, I’ve encouraged photographers to share their images, knowing that photography can change the world. Now I want to challenge you to share what you’ve learned with other photographers! And it doesn’t matter what your skill level is, you have something to teach everyone and that includes me. I always come away with at least one great lesson from someone at Photoshop World, someone willing to share an experience they have had that I have not. You don’t have to do a workshop to teach, it can be as simple as a five minute conversation with someone at a camera store counter (of course finding one of those these days is a challenge).

Photographers, every single one as far as I’m concerned are the luckiest folks on the planet! The experiences life has afforded us and that we can share are life-changing. And all you have to do is look at some of the great “projects” already in place like Help-Portrait and you can see the change we can affect on the world. The Wright Brothers while protecting some of their concepts of flight because of business nonetheless opened the doors to a world we enjoy over 100 years later. They taught by doing, leading and inspiring. I think we as a photographic community can do the same thing. Wouldn’t it simply be cool in 100 years society could look back and see the tremendous changes photographers made with the simple act of sharing and teaching? And no matter where you’re at, take comfort in knowing that every single one of us started with humble beginnings.

You can see more of Moose’s work at and, check out the new BT Journal for iPad, and find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

I needed some shots for an upcoming project, and when my friends (and fellow photographers) Kathy Porupski and Jim Sykes heard that I needed a cool location for the shoot, they told me about a local advertising agency that had remodeled a 1950’s gas station for their new offices.  They make a few calls and the next day I was there shooting. Here’s one of the shots from the shoot (above), my first with three lights for an automotive shoot.

Not only did I follow the tips from Tim Wallace’s Kelby Training online classes on car photography, I actually pulled out my laptop during the middle of the shoot to make sure I had the lights set up correctly (see below). I never would have tried this without having seen Tim’s class. In fact, it was Tim’s class that made me want to do it in the first place.

This is taken from the shooting position (photo by Brad Moore), and you can see the three lights and their position. Rob, our brave 2nd assistant on the shoot, had to dodge traffic like you can’t believe (you can’t tell what a busy road this was). Not having that third light (lighting the front wheel), on a light stand made this a lot more challenging because after every shot, the wheel light was in a different position, but because of all the traffic, we didn’t have a choice. Lucky he’s young, and can run fast. ;-)

Gear and Lighting Info
This was my first shoot with the Nikon D800 (more on this in a minute), and I used my go-to lens for my outdoor shots was my 70-200 f/2.8 VR II lens. I shot in Manual mode (since I was using strobes), and I used three lights: 2 Elinchrom Ranger Packs, and 1 Ranger Quadra (so three flashes total). One the light in the back of the car, I used a large Stripbank soft box (like 18″x50″ or something close to that). On the front of the car, I used a small Stripbank (like 12″ x 36″), and the third light was a bare strobe with a 20° metal grid.

For my close-up detail shots (shown further down this post), I used an old 70.0-180.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 Macro lens I bought from Moose Peterson a few years ago. Great lens by the way (thanks Moose).

(Above: Here’s a reverse view of the lighting set-up. Look how nervous Rob looks out there in the street). 

The Nikon D800 — be careful what you wish for!
I was really looking forward to seeing all the extra detail I heard the D800 would bring (I had actually seen samples my buddy Matt Kloskowski had taken on a trip to Oregon with my D800, and it was just incredible), but this was my first shoot, and I couldn’t wait to see how it pulled detail. Well, you know that saying, “Be careful what you wish you?” Well, it smacked me in the head, because with all that added detail (and there is plenty), comes all that extra retouching to remove some unwanted detail my other cameras didn’t bring out (everything from fingerprints, to tiny spots, specs, reflections and other stuff that was usually soft enough it wasn’t worth messing with).

It reminded of when HTDV took off and all the TV news anchors had to use way more make-up because the HD brought out every little detail and flaw that nobody notice before. Same kinda thing here. Take a look at the sample’s below and you’ll see what I mean.

(Above: When you’re zoomed out, it pretty much looks like my old camera captured images. This is the out-of-camera shot as is). 

(Above: But when you zoom-in to 100% full size, you realize your retouching work has just begun. However, I’m not complaining — I’ll take the amazing detail any time — it worth the extra retouching!) 

(Above: Here’s a version that’s cleaned up a bit).

(Above: Here’s a production shot of the detail shot. Yes, we shot with all that ambient light and still got a solid black background. I learned that in Tim’s class, too!).

(Above: Here’s a detail shot of the owner’s blue ’32 Ford Roadster. I loved the wheels — classic!)

(Above: Here’s me, lying on the ground, to get the lighting and perspective I wanted for the shot you just saw of the tire and wheel. How did I know that was where the shot was? I didn’t. I just kept trying different angles — they all looks pretty lame, until one finally found this one that looked good. Tip: it’s usually the one with the most uncomfortable shooting position). 

(Above: Here’s a close-up detail shot of the M6 taken right after we did the full body shots from across the street).

(Above: Just one light — a strip bank, and again, the previous shot was taken in daylight). 

(Above: Another detail shot, this one taken from the back). 

(Above: Here’s a production shot of the shot you just saw above). 

(Above: I couldn’t resist shooting at least one HDR of the gas station once the shoot was over and the place was closed up). 

While we had a great time, and wrapped the whole thing up in right around three hours, of course there are things I would do much differently next time (like watch Tim’s class again, and pay even closer attention, because I missed a couple of things that I could do a lot better lighting wise), but I sure learned a lot from Tim’s class.

He really makes everything so clear, and I just really enjoy his wonderful, laid-back, yet straight to the point teaching style. He doesn’t hold anything back, and that’s not only just the kind of guy I want training for me, apparently it’s just the kind of guy I want training me, too!