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 MoosePeterson.com and WarbirdImages.com, check out the new BT Journal for iPad, and find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+

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19 Comments

  1. Moose, I love to read your words as much as I admire your photos.  You always seem to get to the heart of the matter with whatever you say or write.  I loved your aviation photography class at PSW Orlando last year, and I’ve read Captured twice now.  Great stuff!

    You’re right….the teaching part of photography is very rewarding.  I’ve helped my son on a number of occasions, whether it’s with a camera setting, or tweaking a photo in Lightroom or Photoshop.  I always get a kick out of his expression when he sees something click (so to speak) in his mind.

    Thanks for sharing today!  Hope to see you in Vegas this September.

    –John

  2. Moose, awesome blog post. I can truly appreciate your love of flight and the AF. I was an Air Force brat for 20years and I loved it. We were staioned at Patterson but spent 1/2 the time (10 years) in Eiilson AFB in Fairbanks Alaska. My dad was EOD and that’s where I fell in love with photography, I was 10 and it was ’65! I have shot the Thunderbirds in early ’70’s but don’t know where my film negatives are. I hope to make Vegas in Sept and shoot with you and Joe!

  3. Humble beginnings indeed. For me it was a tiny camera in the 110 film format. The subjects were The Strasburg Railroad and a pretty girl in our elementary school class that everyone, especially my best friend, had eyes on! That special field trip lived on in infamy mostly due to our fond memories and a few photographs captured with a tiny camera. What a start! I could never have imagined where it would all lead. Even during my basic college photo class at Temple University I could never have guessed where it all might lead. Now, when I am behind the viewfinder of my camera all is right with the world. I often think about my mentors, teachers, and colleagues. The legacy left behind won’t amount to much of anything if we don’t share it with others! Thank you, Moose, for your willingness to share, teach, and inspire us. The photography circles and the lessons go on, just as they should. Let us never let it stop!

  4. I was an avid golfer and it got to the point that I need another hobby that didn’t take all day so I bought an SLR. Was always interested in photography as a kid-had one of those Kodak cameras with a film cartridge that took those square print.  Today with all the technology, I love it even more.  Allows the creative side and the geek to come out!

    Moose, also need to thank you for all the info you put out on your blog. After purchasing my first DSLR I was really clueless and your videos were very helpful, little things and boring topics like cleaning the camera that no one else talks about.

  5. Moose, you’re an inspiration to us all! Thanks for the blog. By the way, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Marine Corps aviation.

  6. Moose, I think you are able to capture the essence of this quote with each of your clicks.  I certainly enjoy your visual form of storytelling through your photographs and in your written word.    Excellent post!

    “A good photograph
    is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the
    viewer a changed person for having seen it.”

  7. Wow, Moose!  Thanks my man for this inspirational message!  I’ve learned a lot from you through your NAPP training videos and your blog … they are fantastic!  I must say, that I have passed along many of the things I’ve learned from you, and to see the look on peoples faces when the light turns on is a blessing!  Thank you so much for your inspiration and giving of yourself to all of us!  Scott, Brad, Thanks for having Moose on the Blog today … What a shot in the arm!

    Dennis

  8. Thanks Moose, I agree sharing and giving back can change the world.  I am so grateful to my mentors, Alan Lowy, C.J. Alfont (I could name more) and all my photog friends.  I keep trying to pass it along.  

  9. Thank you Moose and everyone should have the pleasure of seeing you talk in person.  Your work and words are and have been inspiring.  I had the pleasure to be involved with HELP-PORTRAIT last year and can’t wait to do it again!  Last years Photo Walk was also inspiring to be with other photographers and share.  Stay well, keep inspiring us!!!

  10. Hi Moose,
    What a way to start the day but reading wisdom you share!  I can’t say I really remember the first time I wanted to “take pictures” but I’ve had the desire for a long time.  I only got serious about it maybe 7 years ago.  I really appreciate the one-on-one time you have afforded me during the few times we have been on a learning adventure together.  I have, indeed, paid for Photoshop World in Vegas along with the Safari with you & Joe and I can’t wait till I find out what you have in store.
    Thanks for a great post, see ya in September,
    Mike

  11. Very well said. I sure appreciate all the help, tips and tricks I have gotten from folks like you through blogs, books, videos etc…I know very little, but what I know I share with anyone who wants to listen…

    well…if you asked my wife, she’d probably say that I share more about photography than she cares to hear ;)

    Cheers
    Michael

  12. Hi Moose,

    Very well said. I always enjoy your “ramblings“ and you give great and generous advice.
    I can’t agree more, if the world was more centered on sharing, we would all be better off
    and maybe wouldn’t have to fight so hard to preserve our precious world from those who 
    see only money when looking at a forest, mountain, lake, etc.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Moose,

    Seeing a photographer’s work conveys their talent and
    skill.  Hearing how that
    photographer started out provides a deeper understanding of their vision.   I always appreciate the images more when I know something
    personal about the photographer. 
    Thanks for sharing.
     

  14. Moose,

    Glad to see that you made it to Dayton, Ohio  for the Doolittle Raiders. It was an honor to be in the same room as the gentlemen who flew the mission to send Tokyo a message from the United States.

  15.  I like your teaching suggestion.  I always try to stress that cameras are all light tight boxes.  My midrange equipment sometimes makes me work a little harder to achieve what I want.  I started out with a Canon Tlb and I quickly discovered how useful a neutral density filter could be. 

    I love shooting aviation photos nowadays and that love began when I would accompany my father to work on Saturdays at various Air Force bases.  I would stay busy looking at the fighter and bomber images with every conceivable piece of armament the plane could carry laid out beneath the wings. 

    Thanks for sharing with us.

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