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on Mar 5, 2010 in Friday Thoughts


There I am sitting in the back of a darkened room, the light on my face comes from the gorgeous images being projected on the screen. I have my yellow ruled pad of paper in front of me with my pen in hand as I watched intently. I see a few look at me with their faces asking that question, “He’s Moose Peterson, he is so accomplished, why is he in class?” I might have 30 years of photography under my belt, but that really doesn’t count for that much when starting out in a new venture. I’m there in the back of the room watching presentations that are not only full of beautiful images and mind blowing photographs, but the technicalities of the presentations themselves, the money spent to bring them to us had my attention. I madly scribbled notes that will hopefully provide me and Stephanie ideas in which to move our own message forward. More importantly I cram down on the pad ideas for this and that photograph, locations to shoots, tactics to use. The presentations are just great! It’s then a video clip appears on the screen and begins to plays and the light bulb smacks me right in the face, the speaker says, “…in college I learned how to move the pieces, at work I learned how to play chess!”

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Holy cow! Does that not sum it all up so clearly, so succinctly but it gives hope and direction! I’ve been shooting for years which while it has helped me learn all the pieces, when it comes to aviation photography, I didn’t know how to play the game. I’m here at the ISAP convention and while I’m a speaker, I’m here more as a student wanting to play the game. Can an old dog learn new tricks? If anyone is a shining example of this it has to be me. I have the kindest, friendliest mentor Richard (he doesn’t yell at his students), who since our very first meeting, has shared his vast knowledge with me about aviation photography. It’s been the most magnificent flight of photography and growth that I’ve treasured so much. And while I had the rules, I’m just now learning how to play that game.

You might be a regular reader of this blog, you hopefully have dug deeper and read material found here on the sight and in the perfect world, you own a Moose book or two and have read them. So if you have all of that at hand, you probably are just getting a handle on the pieces. You might be just starting out and this revelation might be really discouraging. Put yourself in my shoes with thirty years of experience and being in the same boat, just getting to know the pieces. It’s at this point that the boys are separated from the men (or girls from the ladies is that’s even a saying?). It’s at this point, you realize to give yourself a break, learning is part of the process. I guess you could sum it all up with, you never, ever have all the answers.

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This is not something new I’ve written about but seems to be something I’ve not stressed enough, highlight bright enough or simply, not made truly clear. Photography, no matter where you are in your photographic career, you are truly just starting out. You might feel that you are accomplished, you might have a ton of rewards and accolades, have tons of published credits, with all of that under your belt, you wake up only to find that you don’t have all the answers. To make the point relevant and personal, I’ve been shooting stills for nearly thirty years and wham…here’s video built into your DSLR. Now what do you do big shot?!

Photography is an amazing grand pursuit that literally every day, you realize just how little you know and how much you have to learn. I’m not sure why others look at me in a darkened room with notepad in hand in shock. The learning process is a constant and ever evolving one if, if you are doing to not only survive but to grow.

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While not some Rhode scholar, I’m pretty darn good at describing not only bird species by unique characteristics but also by habitat and biology. But put an A-10 in the viewfinder flying over about to break right to land on strip left after flaps down and wheels locked with flight F coming in and breaking left and making a pass, and I’m just hoping I know which end of the camera to look through. Then add this piece of gear you’re not to photograph with this tail marking you are which makes it a special plane and this pairing making it a special flight, and you feel like it’s time to break out the trucks and play in the dirt at your feet.

This is the evolution of all photographers in any facet with every passion to go click. There is no finish line, there should be no wall, no barrier, just a continuing game board, begging you to make the next move. Buy this new piece of gear, following this growing fad, worshiping this photographer or that, and of course, swearing allegiance to this brand or that all in the pursuit of the holy grail. And after doing so, you still, most of the time, don’t win the game. But then there are those moments, those clicks where you simply say, under your breath so no one can hear your cockiness, SCORE!

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Photographers, at least speaking for myself, seem to be constantly collecting the pieces and only until pushed, do we commit to playing the game. And it’s only when we commit to the game and accept the possibility that we might lose, that we actually win. What determines a win? That’s the funny part, a win might actually be, a loss. In trying something new we might fail, and that failure opens the doors to countless wins. It’s such a funny thing, it’s such a life thing, it’s such a thing that often only getting old smacks you in the face and says, “Hey you, look, you won!” I truly relish being a student, I love learning and even more, taking what I’ve learned and applying it to my own particular version of a game. I’m in pig heaven this week with the amazing and generous folks who make up ISAP. My mind is spinning, I have probably driven Stephanie & Brent nuts with all the ideas that are exploding from just the first day of presentations. Damn, I won’t be able to sleep tonight. To share what I’ve learned with those coming up behind me, to learn from those ahead of me, life gets no better. I’ve been presented a whole bunch of new pieces, it’s time to continue a new game of chess!!!!