Posts By Brad Moore

[Editorial Note: This post contains images and stories pertaining to child slavery. If you do not wish to view these, do not click through to the full article]

I became a photographer to change the world. It’s just been a little bit harder than I thought it would be.

I grew up in Iran, and by the time I was twelve I had been around the world twice with my family, and had visited twenty countries along the way. I wanted to find a career that would keep me out in that world, and journalism—especially photography—seemed perfect. I saw the role that photography had played in ending the war in Vietnam and wanted to join that cadre of crusading photographers.

But when I joined the staff of National Geographic, my ambitions became somewhat more modest—or realistic: I could illuminate worlds most people would never see. As a journalist, I loved telling stories, and especially loved being behind closed doors in intimate situations that revealed something about the human condition. I tried to get that kind of photograph into every story, no matter how complicated the assignment or vast the terrain.

And they were big: cities (Jerusalem, Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Nashville, Shanghai and Venice) and countries (China, Jordan, Thailand and Taiwan). But my later stories on the women of Saudi Arabia, the geisha of Japan, and the science of beauty and love let me make the kinds of photographs I liked best. I was able to enter some very private places indeed—some never photographed before—and share them the world.

But then a newspaper article about Congress passing the Anti-Trafficking Act caught my eye and I knew that contemporary slavery was an issue I had to try to make sense of. It would be the culmination of all my passions and experience.

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Hey gang, Brad Moore here with this week’s Pimpy Thursday. Let’s kick things of with some seminar tour dates!

Scott will be heading to Houston, TX and Lansing, MI next week with his Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. Live! Tour, plus Ben Willmore and Matt Kloskowski will be taking their seminars on the road too!

Kelby Training Live
Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. Live! with Scott Kelby
– October 5: Houston, TX
– October 7: Lansing, MI

Photography & Photoshop CS5, From Focus to Finished with Ben Willmore
– October 3: Boston, MA
– October 17: St. Louis, MO
– October 19: Kansas City, MO

Lightroom 3 Live with Matt Kloskowski
– October 26: Phoenix, AZ
– October 28: Indianapolis, IN

Just a couple more days to save ten bucks on select books at KelbyTraining.com
Some of our most popular titles on CS5, Layers, Lightroom and the iPod. Oh, and now that there are only a couple days left, we can tell you that there is actually one book included in the sale that’s only $5.99 and $1.99 for NAPP members!  So head over to KelbyTraining and check it out.

Our Senior Portrait Photography DVD Set is on sale – $30 off the regular AND NAPP member price.
This DVD is perfect for anyone who shoots senior portraits or plans to oversee a shoot … it’s full of unique ideas, lighting tips, and how to make the subject look their best.  $30 Off the 3-DISC set, but only for a limited time.

KelbyTraining.com
Close-Up: An Introduction to Macro Photography with Bill Fortney (check out this trailer for the class if you haven’t seen it yet)
DIY Commerce: Selling Your Work Online with Janine Warner

Rick Sammon’s iHDR Mac App
Kelby Training instructor Rick Sammon and app developer Dave Wilson have turned Rick’s iPad iHDR app into a true Mac App! Rick talks about it over on his blog, so head on over to get all the details.

Worldwide Photo Walk T-Shirts
If you haven’t already signed up to take part in the Worldwide Photo Walk, it’s not too late! We’re just a couple of days away, but you can look for a walk and sign up right here. Don’t forget to order your official Worldwide Photo Walk shirt, with all profits going to the Springs Of Hope Kenya Orphanage.

That’s it for today. Have a great Thursday :)

ROAD TRIP: NIGHT SKIES AND LONG DAYS

On the road. On assignment. Sounds romantic, right? Well I’m here to tell you — it is, actually! But probably not the way you think.

And probably only if you are a photographic nutcase like me. And since this is Scott Kelby’s blog I’m pretty sure that you are, in fact, a nutcase like me too! So it will be a pleasure to do a little bit of preaching to the choir, and I’m honored to get the chance to do it here.

I thought long and hard about what might be of interest, and went back over recent stories I’ve shot for National Geographic (I’ve been working for the magazine for more than 25 years now.) Somehow I kept coming back to one moment which seemed to boil down the whole experience of shooting a recent story. And I thought I’d take you along on the journey.


Gateway Arch, St. Louis

That moment came as I was driving down I-70, somewhere west of Kansas City. Already I had driven over 3,000 miles on this mega-jaunt in pursuit of a story. I was looking out the windshield for clear skies, but the weather app on my iPhone was giving me bad news. Chicago, my destination tonight, was socked in. No way that I was going to shoot the nighttime aerial of the city I had planned for that night. But maybe the cloud cover over the whole midwest would make something interesting in St. Louis. So I diverted. I made the decision: I’d drive to St. Louis instead of Chicago and take my chances.

That moment of decision has come to symbolize for me what I love about shooting stories. One way or another, I have the freedom to go wherever the pictures were. That’s my job, chasing great pictures.

In many ways taking chances to get great pictures was exactly what this story on light pollution was all about. It was an obscure story about an obscure subject. Most people I told about it had no idea what I was talking about. But then I’d remind them how they used to be able to see the Milky Way before all the city lights got so bright, and they’d nod and tell me some tale about how they remembered seeing the stars on grandpa’s farm when they were kids. Exactly! They didn’t know it, but they were experts on the subject of light pollution. It was my job to make that all graphically real.

And which was why I was taking my chances driving to St. Louis that night. I was looking for places where I could see and photograph the effects of our ever-growing, world-wide hunger to light up the night. I had taken a chance telling National Geographic I could make interesting pictures out of this story. I’d convinced them it was an important story in my initial proposal but I’m not sure everyone really believed the pictures would really sing. And actually, neither was I. But it’s a lot like performing in the circus: if you don’t go out on the tightrope, nobody cheers.

I did have a secret weapon, however: I’d decided that I would drive everywhere for the shoot. The logistics had been driving me crazy. How could I arrange flights to all these locations, never being sure what the weather would do, how to adjust when I screwed up the first night of a shoot and had to go back? Finally, it came to me that I’d be shooting at night (no duh!) and so I’d have all day to drive. I could shoot a few hours from sundown until midnight. Get six hours of sleep and then drive for a good 10-12 hours the next day if I had to in order to get to the next location. Every night I’d be in one of two kinds of places: in a city which had light pollution and I’d photograph that, or in the countryside where I had dark skies, and I’d photograph that. Brilliant. In thirty days I could cover the whole United States, from coast to coast. And I did.

So that night, I got lucky. Pulling in to St. Louis by 5:00 pm I got a couple hours nap before heading out to the nearby Gateway Arch. Wonder of wonders, the heavy overcast that had quashed my shoot in Chicago that night put a layer of clouds just above the top of the arch. Sodium vapor lighting from the city streets turned the clouds a weird salmon color, and incredibly, the spotlights on the arch cast arch-shaped shadows on the the clouds, something like the Batman spotlight calling the caped crusader, straight out of the comic books. I shot it every way I could think of, and most of it looked pretty good. The wide angle shots created a sinister face look and the telephoto shots (like this one that we used in the magazine) were just abstract and intriguing. With five second exposures on my Nikon D3 the sky just glowed. And I went to sleep that night thinking I’d done something I never expected to do.

But that was halfway through the shoot.

Back to the beginning, driving west to Las Vegas:


The Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas

I had planned to start the whole shoot with something I was pretty sure would work: the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

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As a National Geographic photographer, I often focus on animals that are out of the spotlight. It could be a rare stream fish, a tiny plant or even an insect. I choose things that are in trouble, often at the hand of man, in order to help them out; my photos are often the only national attention these things will ever get. So, I’m really on a mission to let the world know about “the least among us” before it’s too late.

A couple years ago, I did a story for NGM on the Endangered Species Act. From that came a book called Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species. While all the images in the book have a story behind them, two stand out in particular.

The first concerns our only federally endangered fly. What good is a fly, you ask? If you eat fruits and vegetables, and have heard that bees are in steep decline these days, you would know the answer already: flies are very important pollinators. Besides, if we’re pushing even flies to extinction, what does that say about the health of everything else we share the planet with? When we save endangered species, we’re actually saving ourselves.

Logistically, this fly picture was quite hard to get. The animal is quite rare. In fact, it took 4 1/2 months just to get a federal permit for a biologist to catch one so I could photograph it. Once we got our permit, I waited for the call that some had been spotted on one of the last vacant lots where they live in southern California and then drove a mobile studio from my home in Nebraska all the way out to Los Angeles. We were allowed to catch only one, by the way, so if it got away during the shoot, too bad. Neither the biologist nor I slept a wink the night before. Despite our nervousness, we got our fly pictures.

The second image that stands out for me is of an animal that’d I’d known of and wanted to meet since I was a little boy; the California condor.

I’d read about the condor back in the 1970’s while in grade school. The largest flying bird in North America, it hovered close to extinction for decades. At its lowest, it numbered fewer that 20 individuals. It was the ultimate endangered species.

Through captive breeding, biologists have now pulled this bird back from the brink. Though still quite rare, today it numbers more than 300 individuals, with many flying free again in California and the Desert Southwest. Talk about life and death, this was high drama indeed.

Getting access to such a high-profile species wasn’t easy though. I’d been doing studio portraits at dozens of zoos around the country for many years when I got a call from a friend at the Phoenix Zoo. Seems a condor had flown into the Navajo Bridge and had broken its wrist, meaning it would be unable to fly again and would either be kept as a breeder or an educational bird. It was being kept in a recovery pen there for a few weeks with its broken wing wrapped, so if I could get there, the zoo folks said I could photograph it. I went right away.

I set up a couple of softboxes and a piece of black velvet in the back of its pen and spent about 20 minutes with him. The bird was enormous and ancient looking. During the shoot, the condor looked this way and that, confident, not scared, and not really that interested in me or the camera in my hands. But he did give me one moment, a few seconds where he looked into the camera lens and stared intensely. Perhaps he simply saw his reflection, but that look, and the fact the bird had a beautifully-colored head that’s really unusual, made this one of the most popular photos in Rare.

For me, the opportunity to photograph the bird was both a thrill and a great life experience — I’d finally gotten an audience with the most famous of all endangered species, the bird that I’d been thinking about literally since childhood. It doesn’t get any better than that.

You can see more of Joel’s work at JoelSartore.com, follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook, and keep up with him on his blog. Signed copies of Joel’s book, Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species, are available here or by calling 402-474-1006.

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