Pushing the Envelope

I have a phrase for it, the Darwin Theory of Photography - Evolve or Perish. While it's very true that I'm a gear head and one of my greatest pleasures in life is to get a new piece of gear and just sit and inhale the new gear smell, there is most definitely a method behind my madness. I love telling stories and since I can't draw, dancing is out of the question and my family won't even let me sing in the shower that leaves me with photography to tell my stories. In 1998 when I first started to shoot digital, I knew then that the means in which I delivered my photographic stories was going to have to change.

It gets complicated for Sharon & me in the fact that we make our livelihood by telling stories with my photographs. The editorial marketplace is where we have worked and grown for the last three decades in part of our own mission to get the word out about our wild heritage. Realizing from the get-go that we couldn't do it on our own, we needed to enlist every possible photographer in shooting and sharing their stories, so then our editorial requirement grew from our own stories to helping photographers tell theirs as well. This created an even greater need for the editorial marketplace to be healthy and strong.

Over the years digital photography has as you know become more and more powerful as a medium. Its ability to instantly tell a story and the web's ability to deliver it has in some ways crippled our traditional method of telling stories. Many a magazine and newspaper has succumbed to this new pressure due in part to not following what they don't know about, my Darwin Theory of Photography. In a nutshell, if you're a storyteller, you gotta have a way and place to tell your story. And if you're a storyteller who tells stories with photographs and depends upon magazines for a vehicle and they are disappearing, your ability to tell stories is going to disappear too. And if you have a mission to help others, the pressure is even greater. You gotta push the envelope!

One of the greatest perks of working with all the great folks at NAPP is the constant flow of creativity. I am very fortunate to be able to sit down and talk with Scott or Matt or RC or Moser and discuss the creative and business side of photography and outreach. It was from a conversation with Scott years ago when the iPad was first made known to us though it was not on the market yet that got my wheels turning. It was then that I saw at least in my own mind, a way to push the envelope of photography and the editorial marketplace and deliver content in a very new and exciting way.

Shortly after the iPad's release, a plug-in became available for InDesign that permits you to take your InDesign document to the iPad. I'm not talking eBook, which is just a glorified PDF. I'm talking a whole new method to deliver content in an exciting and visually more stimulating way, taking advantage of all the unique qualities of the iPad to improve learning. This was the way we could push the envelope and take advantage of our digital photography and the way more and more want to receive their content, how they want to learn. One major, big, giant problemâ¦it was way over my head!

I was sitting at my desk working and our son Brent was down for the weekend from college. Brent has this unbelievable ability to make computers sing with just a glance. He was looking over my shoulder while we were talking and I was doing battle with the program when he asked, "Dad, what are you trying to do?" I explained it to him, kinda and he just said, "I've got a minute why don't you let me try it?" The rest is history now. He had it working within a heartbeat and my blood pressure went back to normal.

Our first goal was to take our 15yr old BT Journal to the iPad. The main thing was to just not "take" it to the iPad but take advantage of the iPad technology. The first thing that came to light is the ability to deliver more photographs and more of their stories. Brent loves the "push dad button" as he started asking for more and more photos for the digital version of the BTJ. This is because he was able to do slideshows, adding 400-500% more images to the content. With the traditional editorial model, you have only so much real estate where you can place images. Such is not the case with the iPad, which not only vastly increases useable real estate but also presents the layout designed both in landscape and portrait format. (And when magazines can use more and more photos and you're in the business of selling images, this is a good formula!)

http://youtu.be/pj4SS2u8VUg

But our abilities to present content in more untraditional ways doesn't stop there.  When you go to iPubs, you have the ability to incorporate video content right along with the written and visual. This is very powerful stuff when it comes to teaching and inspiring! One of the first cool videos Brent incorporated was of Upper Yosemite Falls. When you flip the page in the BTJ, folks see the waterfall shot and at first think it's a still image until after a moment they notice the water is flowing, falling and crashing. The look on folks' faces when they see their digital magazine "come to life" is great! Being able to include video got Brent to thinking and that's how the Pg28 Videos came to be. Where on the hard copy Pg28 are just photo captions (which are greatly expanded and attached to the photos in the digital version), in the digital version Pg28 are video Photoshop lessons about photos in the issue. It wasn't long before we realized there are no limitations! Our latest BTJ issue with an interactive map is an example of this, but wait, there is so much more.

You might have noticed I like to take pictures of planes. For awhile now, I've been trying to get you excited about playing with planes. Just like with wildlife photography, I've been putting out information on how to improve your aviation photography and wanted to put it all in one place for folks, what we traditionally call a book. Well, no one wanted to publish a book on aviation photography, "no market" was the response. Publishing a book is expensive, distribution is tricky and marketing is everything and this all takes time. Brent & I put our heads together and decided we were going to push the envelope again and produced the world's first iBook, Taking Flight.

http://youtu.be/Sl4ffNZtYe4

Taking Flight took one month to write, lay out, assemble and put on the market. Taking Flight is an iBook that has hundreds of photographs, web links, videos and the best thing, is updatable! That's right! Our iBook (only $14.99) includes free updates, which we have already done in the form of additional photos and more videos since its release. If you want a new edition of a traditional book, what do you have to do, buy a new book right? This is not the case with an iBook. The worldwide response has been so amazing that we're working on our next iBook, and it will be FREE!! We don't stop pushing the envelope around here.

But what does this all have to do with you? I know one of the first comments below will be, "I don't have an iPad or will it be coming out on Android?" which to me is no different than, "I don't have $29.95 to buy a book." And I'm sure each producer of a new means of communication since the printing press has heard the same basic comment for their day at the introduction of their product. That brings us back to the Darwin Theory of Photography. And this is not for those books you want to curl up with next to a fire on a snowy afternoon. What we're talking about here is increasing the marketplace, the means to tell our visual stories in a changing editorial world, which we need to support if we want it to support us!

Our traditional model of delivering content is fading with newspapers, magazines, and books slowly disappearing from our visual landscape. If you are like me and tell your stories visually through the editorial medium, this means you're going to lose if nothing else, income. If you not only need that income but also have a burning desire to share your photographs (which you all should have!), then you need to push the envelope and be part of how we develop the next generation of magazines and books. You can do that by subscribing to all the magazines now available on the iPad and buying those iBooks that might interest you. At the same time, think creatively how you can add content to these mediums and get more involved in sharing your photographs.

Evolve or perishâ¦be it a new body, lens, technique or passion, it is at the heart of my photography. And I hope now I've planted the seed that becomes the heart of yours. When Brad pinged me to write about how Brent & I went to the iPad with content, I scratched my head how the story might be of service to you. And in a long winded way, I came back to really basics illustrated with a high ended story. Pushing ourselves and more importantly our photography is what all great photographers have done since the dawning of the medium, which is how we got where we are today. It is now up to us to push past camera brands and megapixels and focus on telling the story of our days by using the mediums now available to us. Don't settle, share your photographs and change the world, knowing that in part you do it by pushing the envelope!

You can see more of Moose’s work at MoosePeterson.com, follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, and circle him on Google+

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27 Comments

  1. Man has the world changed in the last 40 years! When I was in college the PC had yet to be invented. There is so much to learn, so many paths to take, it’s really fun!!

  2. Great article, Moose! Not only informative, but, a much needed call to action. I’m trying to move in this direction too. What is the plug-in you mentioned that became available for InDesign? Thanks for your help! Dennis

    • I believe it’s spelled Aquafatus

      • Moose, I had to search some but found it, it’s Aquafadas. Thanks for the tip and congrats again on your digital publishing initiative. It’s been said we all stand on somebody else’s shoulders and you are helping a lot of people to see a lot more possibilities for getting their work out there. Best regards, Dennis

  3. Beautiful portrait of you Moose! Who took it?

    And thanks for the great article on how o keep pushing the envelope.

  4. Great read Moose! I know so many wonderful photographers that refuse to embrace the new technologies. They are also the ones complaining about their sales plummeting!

  5. I know your so right about this Moose but the learning curve can be a rough road. Do I see a possible new Kelby training course? How to create your own iBook. :)

  6. YAY! MOOSE! I heart Moose. Great read. Thanks for the kick in the butt I needed this morning.

  7. Moose your iBook is spectacular! I’ve already read it all the through 3 times! Congrats my friend!!!

  8. One of the main reasons I got an Ipad was to access content like this, and the BT Journal. Thanks Moose. Love the vintage planes. My Dad flew a Curtiss Helldiver, an SB2C4. I still have his leather flight jacket in great shape and it fits!

  9. Great article, Moose, timely and practical.

    By the way, can I borrow your son for a month or so??

  10. “But what does this all have to do with you? I know one of the first
    comments below will be, “I don’t have an iPad or will it be coming out
    on Android?” which to me is no different than, “I don’t have $29.95 to
    buy a book.””

    Except that it IS different. A $14.99 (or $29.95) (physical) book is an order of magnitude cheaper than an iPad, and doesn’t come with (depending on the person) the same ethical/moral issues. I can buy a book without needing anything other than a sufficient education to read it and the relatively small amount it costs. To buy your book, I need both the education and the cost of the book, as well as enough spare money to buy an iPad. I’d also have to be willing to buy from/support Apple just to get a product that has no good reason to be so tightly tied to that company*.

    Beyond that, from the customer’s point of view this is like selling a book only in New York, telling everyone else that they have to come over to New York to read it. For the people already in New York, that’s not a problem. Same goes for people already moving there. But for everyone else, it’s a problem and a stupid restriction. It seems to only be worth the lost audience if it’s a marketing move for the Big Apple, or you think the expanded audience wouldn’t cover the cost of shipping.

    So again, not the same, and to say so is unfairly belittling the positions of people who don’t happen to have or be able to afford the same things as you do, or may even have ethical/moral objections to doing so that have nothing to do with the book itself.

    *I’m mostly fine with buying from Apple, but many people aren’t and have good reasons for that.

    • That is all 100% true, couldn’t have said it better! And it won’t slow me down from pushing the envelope further. I’m just really thankful for the thousands who don’t feel this way and are enjoying the iPubs and iBook we’ve already put out. For them and the industry, we’ll keep moving the ball forward.

      • Hey, don’t get me wrong: I’m all for ebooks and tablets. I much prefer having it all on my phone than in bookcases. My point was that the criticisms are not so simple as complaining about a normal cost, but that you’re restricting your market in what may be an odd way, even within the completely digital realm. You are, in effect, creating a very specific cost-of-entry (Apple iPad) to read your book, rather than a more general one (tablet/smartphone). This restriction may be worth it in terms of lost revenue, or it may not, but the complaints about it are not as basic as having to pay for something instead of getting it for (almost) nothing.

        Personally, my only issue is simply that I can’t currently afford an iPad and would’ve loved to have bought it on/for my android phone (or kindle/nook app) for the air show this past weekend. Alas.

      • Hey,
        don’t get me wrong: I’m all for ebooks and tablets. I much prefer
        having it all on my phone than in bookcases. My point was that the
        criticisms are not so simple as complaining about a normal cost, but
        that you’re restricting your market in what may be an odd way, even
        within the completely digital realm. You are, in effect, creating a
        very specific cost-of-entry (Apple iPad) to read your book, rather than a
        more general one (tablet/smartphone). This restriction may be worth it
        in terms of lost revenue, or it may not, but the complaints about it
        are not as basic as having to pay for something instead of getting it
        for (almost) nothing.

        Personally, my only issue is simply that I can’t currently afford an
        iPad and would’ve loved to have bought it on/for my android phone (or
        kindle/nook app) for the air show this past weekend. Alas. I did however get to watch your Kelby Training video and it was very helpful, so thanks for that :)

        (Part of this post may be duplicated, I tried to delete/edit it, but it only changed the credit to “Guest” from my view.)

  11. That’s funny. Moose’s bag has only Nikon lenses – check it up at his website – and in the photo above the lens he’s using seems to be Sigma (maybe 10-20) !

  12. The changing face of publishing that you describe is fact. I remember the thrill of seeing one of my books on the shelves at Borders. A few days ago I found the pictures I took of the closing of Borders. I remember walking through aisles of empty shelves with For Sale signs on them – not for books but for the furniture. A tangible view of the change. It’s a bend in the road. I think of the quote, “The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless we fail to take the turn.” We have to take the turn. Thanks for the Aquafadas recommendation – I love Adobe InDesign and I’m interested to know what the pricing model is like for publishing.

    And on another note – Moose I have to thank you for your instruction at Kelby Training. I’ve watched everything you’ve taught there and I have you to thank for some great shots of deer at Bryce Canyon during Bill Fortney’s His Light Workshop. I took your instruction to heart and stood completely still – the deer literally walked up to me – amazing. You’re a real inspiration for me and my photography! Thanks for this great article!

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