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Moose Peterson: “Captured” | Talks at Google

Moose Peterson: “Captured” | Talks at Google


>>Male Presenter: So good afternoon, everyone.
Welcome to another outstanding Photography at Google talk. It’s
our deep honor today to host Moose Peterson. He’s a
nighttime legend to host behind the lens. And he’s our
elite photographer. But he’s mostly known and remembered
for his iconic images. He was one of the first
wildlife photographers to use the digital medium. And his pictures
are some of the most celebrated wildlife shots to this
day. And so, he’ll be speaking to us about his new book,
Captured, and just in general observations from his life
as a photographer and an equipment designer and
just adventurer around the world. And so, you can also follow
Moose on Google plus, where all cool photographers
are. And without further ado, please join me in welcoming
Moose to Google. Thanks.
[Moose chuckles] [Applause]>>Moose: Thank you sir. Google plus where
all the cool photographers are. [laughter] Wow. Hi. I’m
Moose. Thanks for having me here. It’s a pleasure to be here
again. I love coming to the land of innovation. It’s
a good place to — if you’re a photographer — to go and
try to push beyond the norm. Now, I’m not really going
to talk about my book, Captured, because to be honest, if
you don’t know about the book, Captured, at this point or
the 400 page paper weight that I created, my hour talk isn’t going to get you
there. In fact, more importantly what I want to do today
is get you involved in not just photography, but
sharing those images. That’s the bottom line. Not putting them on
some cloud or some hard drive. Bet getting them in front
of people to do what? Change our world. Now, before I get
going, I just want to make sure you understand,I really
don’t take myself that seriously, okay? It’s important
that photographers don’t lose perspective on the
fact that, you know, if we don’t make the picture today?
Guess what? The sun will still shine tomorrow. It’s
amazing, you screw up today and you can still screw
up tomorrow. [laughter]
[techno music begins]>>Moose: Alright, beautiful, beautiful, okay?
Little closer, okay? That’s it. Work a little bit to the side.
There we go. That’s it. Hold it. Time for a closeup. Brad, I need
a tuner up on 2. Can I get that hair adjusted, please. All right. Hair’s looking
good. Looking good. Work the hair. Work the hair.
Come on. That’s it. Give it to me. Beautiful, beautiful. Work
the hair. Look at the eye. You have no idea how many
people ask us how hard it was to get a bison into the studio.
And I said I work for the guys at photoshop world,
okay? Figure it out. It’s not a real bison in the
studio. But that’s the idea to take what you might think
is about impossible. What might be totally outside
the realm and go after it. That’s really what it’s all about.
That’s why photography should be, a constant push
of what you know technically. More importantly what you
feel passionately and then put it out there for
people to enjoy what we’re really very fortunate and
lucky to go out and see. Now, I do tend to push that technology
thing. I don’t sit still very often. I’m always looking
for ideas. I’m always looking for, well, what can I do.
How can I take people into the next realm and make them look and
see things. Here’s an example. I’ve gone into aviation
photography for the last few years for a number of
reasons. The main one was, the incredible generation of people who flew
these planes and fought the wars that give us the
freedoms we have today. They’re perishing at 1200 a day right
now. A year ago it was 1500 vets were passing away
a day. And with them was a lot of stories. And some
of them are really quite grim. Some of them have just
hilarious. The biggest thing most of these men we see
today who are 91, 93. They’re 18, 19, 20, flying these hot
rods. So how does this generation understand that?
That’s one of the things I wanted to do. Cockpits of
airplanes. Usually you know, this is a four million
dollar Corsair aircraft. They just don’t want the public to walk
into the plane and play with the buttons and dials. You
know once it’s rocket launched. I’d love to see what
that does. Be that’s not possible. So how does that
experience get in. Well, first of all, you have basic
photography. You get the shot. You look at it first of
all you notice in very bottom right corner, there’s a
very hard shadow from the stick. If you’re a
photographer, you should look at that and go okay, there’s a hard shadow.
That means we’ve got a hard light source. How do the word
hard come about in photography first of all? You look at
that shadow line. See how it’s a very hard, sharp line?
That’s how the word hard light came. Because if it’s a soft light
source, that shadow is what? Very soft. There’s no hard
line on it. Okay, so if you see that there in the
corner, then you look and you see underneath the dash,
you can see the word VAT on those pedals way back in the
shade you go, wait, if there’s hard light, how can I see back in the shade? If you know
anything about light, it knows what? It can hold five stops with
a single click. Obviously something’s going on there.
In this case, we’ve got some flash fill going on,
all right? But if that’s the case, then where is the flash?
There’s the sun. There’s the flash. There’s no flash over
there. So my whole quest was to bring the cockpit experience
to person who had never seen it before, okay?
Getting into the fine detail of the shot or not into the
shot. So I’m constantly pushing. What you see here is 150
images. It’s HDR flash filled combined to create that
what we call bubble. That full experience of that cockpit.
So I’m constantly pushing photography. I’m never
settling. I’m always going further and further beyond that.
Now, you’re probably saying, “I came to hear about
wildlife photography.” People come to hear about wildlife
photography? It’s the same as portrait photography or still life photography or any other kind
of photography, because you’re dealing with one
very common important element. That’s light . Once you
understand light, no matter what you put in front of
that lens, it’s the same. The only variable between that light
and that subject is what? It’s really you. That’s what
most photographers tend not to focus in on. It’s
that it’s you that makes the big difference, not the technology,
not the subject matter. It’s what you you’re bringing
to that. Because as photographers, we are story
tellers. And that’s the really cool thing about photography.
And every time you go click, most photographers
don’t understand is that one important thing is
that click is the summation of everything you’ve done to that
point in time. For example, if we were to sit there
and say a bald eagle. Everybody picture a bald eagle
in your mind? And how many people have actually seen a bald
eagle in the wild. So even though not everybody has
seen one in the wild, they can picture a bald eagle. Those
experiences totally, totally determine every time you go
click what that picture is going to be. Now, here’s the
whole trick in the thing. You don’t get to learn that
right away. I’ve been doing this 31 years. When I
started out, I didn’t have all these insights. I didn’t
know all this stuff. Like a lot of photographers, I did
that really bad thing. I read too much. You read those
magazine articles that tell you you shouldn’t do this,
you shouldn’t do that. When really you should just go
out and have fun. And when you have fun, the rest of it
falls into place. So with that in mind, I happen to have
a very lucky situation four years ago and I got into
aviation photography strictly by chance. It was not by
design. Most of my photography has been by chance.
Somehow I get nudged in the right direction and I have
enough sense to follow it till it doesn’t work anymore
and then I follow in another direction. In aviation, I
have had quite a bit of success in a very short period of time
looking at one single thing and that’s light. [silence] [Applause]>>Moose: So I’ve never done anything conventionally.
Everything I’ve done has been definitely on the
unorthodox side. That included my delving into the
digital back in the day. It’s real simple to do a search
and find some very disparaging remarks about me back in
1992 or 1999 and 2000. I was gonna be the death of photography because I
was bringing in this thing called digital. Oops. So I
never had done things normally. So right off the bat,
I’m going to continue that tradition. Who’s got a
question? Who’s got a question. Anyone got questions?
This is when participants in the audience stand up and
go to the mic and — not a one. There we go. Break the
ice.>>Male #1: All right. So I’m curious. What’s
the next crazy thing you’re thinking about doing photography
wise.>>Moose: Next crazy thing photography wise?
Well, if you follow me on Google plus, I’m putting up a video
clip of me hanging out of a plane photographing another
plane. People think that’s pretty nuts. But most
of the things I do photographically right now — I’m not
exploring anything radical other than I’m still working
with the VR panels — with the cockpit panels are called.
If you go to the U.S. Air Force website, they have an
amazing virtual walk through. And what’s always getting
us is the fact that complete panels you can walk
around. But somehow they managed to tag it so you can
walk through and look at panels in spots. The mathematical headache
of the HTML is only by all the photographic panels you
have to build and then lace in to make that happen. So we’re
actually working on that. I might not live to see it,
but we’re working on it. Somebody’s done it. Sir.>>Male #2: Assuming you’ve come to this point,
when and how did you decide that digital had completely supplanted
film?>>Moose: Well, when it comes to deciding
between digital and film, one of the criterias was the fact that
back in the day with film, you would send your precious
slide into the photo buyer and photo buyer looked at
it and said I’m going to use it. This is all old stuff so
I’m dating myself. You have that [inaudible] sleeve on
there. They take their grease pencil and they figure
out how big they want it for the magazine. And they go to their
art department. They sit there and go okay, and they
figure it out. Then they send it to the gorillas in the
lab. The gorillas are the big guys down there with the exacto knife
and here’s your cardboard. And they go to slice open the
cardboard mount and they pop open your slide hoping your
slide didn’t go hit the floor. [makes mouth noise] They put it in this little drum and
fill it full of oil and SSSSSSSSSST they make separations. And
then, they send that slide back to you. It’s like it was a picture,
you know, so that was the first thing about digital
is that you can make infinite amount of copies and it’s still
original. That was one of the first things. Next was,
I didn’t have to go out with grocery bags of film to sit
there and shoot a project. All of those things were part of
it as well as the fact that, when it comes to sharing an
image. Especially as we know today and it’s only
been a decade, sharing an image on a camera can be
instantaneous. So I can take people to places they
aren’t as fortunate to go to as I am and I can instantly
share it. I’m well-known for the office series that I
put out there. It’s just quick iPhone pictures of places I
happen to be at that I call the office. So all of that
for whatever reason when I first saw digital and it got put into my
hands, it was meant to be. And people ask what is the
first digital picture I took? It was my big toe. [laughter] I
wanted to see the thing work and it was handy, so that’s
what I did. Any other questions? Oh, Lord, it’s going
to be loaded.>>Male #3: Oh no, I think it’s interesting.
I’m curious. How did you get to aviation photography coming
from the wildlife and landscape background.>>Moose: That’s a good question and actually
how I got into aviation or get into wildlife or any of that
stuff all had the same kind of general past. The first has
to be, you gotta have the desire to do it. It’s got to be
something you have a passion for. That’s the first
thing. Once you start following your heart, you’d be
surprised the places you can go. And once you get past
that basic barrier, there is, of course, the photographic
barrier — making the shot. That’s kind of important.
And then, once that happens, all you have to do is share.
It’s biologists and pilots and plane owners all cut from
the same cloth. And it just blows me away how many
photographers out there do not share their images with
these people. And that’s what I’ve done since day one.
I used to have, back in the day, my own duping machine and
I’d be working on a project and I’d these critters. I’d
get slides back and send those off to the biologist.
Today, it’s a lot easier. The Epson 4900 is kicking out
prints and I’m sending those to the plane people. And
that’s it. That sharing of that world that we can do as
photographers opens all the doors. It opens all the
doors to people you want to work with, the people you
want to influence.>>Male #4: Copyright issues tend to be a big
issue for artists especially photographers I had a photographer,
you know, finding a wedding photographer who will give
you copyright to the pictures of your own wedding
is apparently a hassle. You want to share pictures. How do
you reconcile that.>>Moose: Well, I’m probably not the best
person to ask because I’m kind of flippant about the whole thing.
To be serious with you, when you buy my print, I’ll
sign it because people want me to, but I don’t think my name
is that important. It’s the image that’s important.
So copyright. Yeah, it’s a very legal thing that
we have in this country. Protects our intellectual properties.
And that’s okay. And if you’re going to take my
photograph and use it for a commercial purpose in which
you’re going to sell a product and you do it without asking
me, we’re going to have issues. The rest of the time,
personally, I think life is too short to worry about it.
Yeah, everything is copyrighted. And that’s just
to avoid the hassle if it ever does get stolen, having
to deal with courts. Because as soon as I’m not spending
time behind my camera, I’m not only not happy, I’m not
making money. So I don’t worry about it. A lot of people
seem to worry about copyright. And I think there’s more
important issues we need to worry about than copyrighting
our images and enforcing it. That’s my two cents
worth. It’s kind of flippant, but it’s just I don’t
care. For lack of better terms. I mean, you got to understand
— I’ve seen it all. In our 31 years, Sharon
and I have seen it all. It happens at least once a quarter. Somebody
will take one of my images. You got to realize it’s
a 90K file on that website. And they print it out 8 x 10
and they mail it to me and say, “can you sign it and send
it back to me?” I’m like all I see these big squares
on a piece of paper. I can’t even tell what the hell the
thing is. Do you realize not only is it this look horrible,
you like stole my image. [laughter] So you just can’t
worry about those things. Life is too short. They mean well
and bless the fans. But what they’re doing is simply illegal.
Life goes on. All right. Let’s talk a little bit
about critters. That’s what everybody wants to hear
about. No matter what you see me doing, I’m still a
wildlife photographer. I always will be. Most of my
work is with threatened and endangered critters. What does
that mean? These are critters that are about to be extinct.
Most of the time that status of threatened and endangered
is a political one, not biological. If it was biological, we’d
have a whole lot more on that list and be more concerned
about them probably. I have 7 species in my files that
are extinct. As in you can’t see them no more. They’re
gone. And to me, that is absolutely criminal; that in my
own lifetime, in the state of California, where I’m native
that they are gone. You cannot go out and find them and
see them. Because it’s not really ours. It was handed
down to us and I think it’s our responsibility to hand
it to the next generation. And I have no doubt that
I’m kind of preaching to the choir here. I understand
that. But you have the ability, three different mechanisms,
to put the word out there in very many different ways
that we should care about this wild heritage. [silence] [Applause]>>Moose: So a real common question is how
do you get those pictures? It’s a great question. Very valid
when it comes to wildlife photography. That’s why
I wrote a 400 page book to try to answer that question how
do you take these pictures. It’s not like there’s a recipe
that I can provide you that can just instantly make things
happen. What I can do is try to give you insight, hope and the possibility that you can do it
as well. Anybody can do this. This is not a special person kind of
pursuit. It just takes a big heart. So the way I try to answer
that question how do you do it is just tell you
some stories about how I was fortunate enough to be able
to do it. I actually started off with this little bird here called
Least Bell’s Vireo. When I started working with them back in ’80 and ’81, there
was about 130 on the planet. That was entire world population.
This particular — I’ve always had this sixth sense.
I can find bird nests. I’ve always been able to.
It’s not like a challenge. I can, like a heat seeking missile, just
find them. Foresters hired me to go out and find these guys. I
they needed me to survey them. So the deal was they provided
me a vehicle and access the place in the morning. I
found the nest. The afternoon was mine to photograph them.
This photograph was here kind of start the whole thing.
In that in April of ’83, California, Outdoor California,
a local magazine put out by our DFG here, ran this article and these
photographs. This is truly kind of an artsy fartsy
photograph not what most scientists are looking for. In
the article, I talked about this bird and where it was. There
were two gentlemen down in southern California, in Oceanside.
They walk together every morning. And they saw
these — you can really especially hear them in the early spring
when the males come back from South America and they
always wondered what they were. Gentleman had my
magazine, came to his friend’s house knocked the door and said “hey I
know what those birds are”. They go, “really”. He showed
him the article. And he goes “Wow, you know what? That place we see them
down, that piece of riparian forest right there, they are actually bulldozing it today.”
So they got on the phone, called Fish and Wildlife Service
and actually told them the story. And there’s a little clause in our
Endangered Species Act, kind of a big loophole about destroying stuff when things first get
listed. Still hasn’t been closed. Anyway, they did stop
it. And I’ve been credited from saving the species
from extinction. That’s how I started my career.
Kind of a tease of what’s possible with just a photograph.
Now, I do have my favorite critters. There’s no doubt to
it. Kind of obvious why. My brothers in the north and
I, we spend a lot of time together. They’re very unique. They’re very
curious. For example, that big rack. That’s a big giant
radar dish. And they use those big ears and they
move them around inside that. They’re listening for
one thing and that’ females moaning in fall for rut. That’s
all that big rack is for is to hear those moans from a long
distance. So that kind of trivia has always driven me to
go out and find out more answers. You know, the polar
bear. It’s an iconic animal which it’s kind of sad to see
what’s in the press because most of it’s not accurate about
this information. The time we were up there photographing,
this is off of Alaska. I refuse to go do them in Hudson bay. This is off the Beaufort
Sea in Alaska. And there was a female that drowned
because her ice pack which a couple of years before. So
this was taken in 2003, so in 2001, the ice pack was
about 150 yards offshore. But at this point, at this year, it was two miles
offshore. She drowned trying to get back in. So they
are getting hit by the thing called climate change. And
that is really kind of — really changed a lot of things
that Sharon and I do for the simple reason that a lot of
the places we have tried to preserve over our three
decades of work in California. A These little islands of habitat
people don’t think about much but as the climate changes, but
these little islands of habitat the endangered species called home now it won’t be there
anymore. Climate change will completely change it and
they’ll blink out. Blink out is kind of a hopeful term for extinction. So
like Fresno Kangaroo Rat. You’re not going to see them anywhere else but
there. It’s gone. Hasn’t been seen since the photograph
was taken in 87. So extinct. Can’t find it. They’ve
been trying hard. So that’s one thing that we’re trying to do
with our mission is to not only, I get these phone calls.
Not only really more phone calls, it’s usually text. It’s amazing how it
evolved. It used to be phone calls. Then, it got faxes.
Then it got to be e-mails and now it’s text. I get this
message. “Can you show up. We found this. We need you to
photograph it”. And I do that quite a bit. And that’s
where the photographic expertise comes in. You have to
bring in the camera and tell the story not only
biologically and historically correct but technically and
communicatively very effective. So I just want to tell
you about this one story and how things kind of evolved.
It’s how wildlife photography in my book it should work and how it’s always worked for
us. I work with biologists extensively. I have since
day one. They are the keepers to the keys of the
kingdom. They are the ones that — in seriousness, I
don’t have time to go out and sit somewhere and wait for
the things to happen. It’s just — in a business sense,
that’s not a good business plan. So I’ve been very
fortunate. Biologists are saying, “hey, we’re seeing it
here now. Can you photograph it here now?” And that’s what
I’ve been doing for 30 years. So in this case, UAF —
University of Alaska, Fairbanks, doing a lot of work as
you might imagine on this thing called climate change. But they don’t do
it in a conventional way. They do it very old-fashioned
way. Because of the the head prof there. He’s kind of
old-fashioned. So we had a Ph. D. Candidate, Hayley, and she went
around. 53 years ago, this biologist went around and
sampled all the Collared Pika which you see on the screen
now. He sampled the entire world population which is down
in Canada all the way up into Alaska and sample means [makes shotgun noises]
okay? Take a skin, do the skulls, basic sampling which is
what science has been doing for eons. Science is as
science should be — it’s a very regimented, formula
oriented, this is my hypothesis, can I prove it scenario.
So she went back with this incredible sample from 53 years ago
went back and did it all again. And what she found
out, was two things. In the entire population of Collared Pikas, one thing is a little bone
in the skull had changed. The entire population. They don’t have fax. They don’t
have e-mail. They don’t have a way of saying ‘okay
everybody, change this bone in your skull to be this long’. They
evolved within 50 years this one thing. At the same time, they
live at a very special altitude and that’s because, they’re active
365. So right now in their world, it’s 24/7 darkness and it’s about minus 30
degrees plus or minus 5. And so, they need this density of
snow to keep them going. Well, that density of snow isn’t
the same at that same altitude. So the entire population,
they all moved up the slope. They all moved up the
slope. This is direct because of the change in the climate.
They don’t have, in the summer time, where they were,
the warmth they need to grow the forearms they have to grab.
And what they do. This is Number 6 and he was a character. Now,
a Collared Pika is about the size of tennis ball. They’re
little guys, all right? And they live on talus slopes . Talus
slopes are what you see a lot in the Sierra. It’s where you have all that
border of boulders borders and all those rocks and
rubble on the side of a slope. That’s a talus slope and
they live in that. And they bounce around like a tennis
ball on these rocks. They’re just these dynamos going every which way, in part so they don’t
get preyed upon. They have no defenses. They can’t like scare anything.
They’re commonly called rock rabbits. They’re cute.
They’re fuzzy. They go oink, oink. That’s the noise
they make. They’re just one of a kind, kind of critters.
We have the American Pika down here. It should be listed. It’s
now in such a peril, they’re thinking about listing it as
threatened. And this is the thing called Collared Pika, which
is the far reaches of North America. Well, Number 6 — what
he’s doing here is what they normally do in the summer
time. They’re constantly going out to get greeneries and bringing through these rocks.
They’re constantly creating hay pails, hay piles just like you might think
a farmer might do. And this is what it looks like Number 6
jumping the Grand Canyon. Probably, maybe 18, 20 inches and this
photograph in print form is in everything from Harvard and
Smithsonian and Yale. It’s actually around the globe, these prints
have gone out because it’s kind of like what they use as
a mascot to talk about climate warming. Because what’s
happening with that change in altitude — they only have
so much mountain they go to and then there ain’t no more.
That’s the issue. On this particular mountain where Number
6 lived — it was a small colony up in the Alaska range
and there’s probably I’m going to say 33, 36 Collared Pika
on this entire slope. They only had about another 40 feet, vertical
feet to go up and then there was just sky. And there’s
no more place for them to go. So we worked on this project. This was one of the projects
Like most of my projects, they’re all self-funded. There’s no funding for these projects. The
biologists need this documentation. Their hands are full.
They’re busy doing what they do in their research. So
it’s up to me to get not only the photographs but
anecdotal evidence. As a photographer, I’m not seeing
things over and over again and I’m not recording that so
it’s a one time thing so it’s called anecdotal even
though it’s a photograph that’s part of the process. So
I’m out there not only to make the picture record all
this information, but then it’s my goal to bring that
story back. That’s the whole goal. Because how many
people here have heard of a Collared Pika before? That’s my
point. It’s just not known, not seen. Well, this
project we worked on for about ten days. We is my youngest son
Jake and myself. So Link — the head prof said, “hey,
we’re going to go after a critter that is in worse shape
than the Collared Pika up there.” And I said, “really?” He goes,
“yeah.” So two years ago, we started planning this three week trip up the Haul Road
Many people have seen the Haul Road trucker thing on Discovery. It’s
horrible. Anyway, this is the Haul Road, okay? It’s an
amazing transportation corridor up through the arctic up
to the Beaufort Arctic Ocean and people know it basically because of the
trucks that go back and forth. It’s just, you know, it’s
very inviting kind of place. That’s a joke folks. It’s
okay. [laughter] So we landed in Fairbanks. And at Fairbanks we
sat there and basically after a year of planning our
three week trip, because of political reasons more than
anything else, got down to three days. So all we had to
do was three days of work. So we got on the truck. And
we drove. We went north of the Yukon river. And that’s
important because what we’re going to go find is only
found north of the Yukon river now. And we kept on going
up to a place called Slope Mountain. It’s about a
12-hour drive up the Haul Road which in itself is a crazy
amazing experience. What you see up there is just
unbelievable. It’s not barren by any stretch of
imagination. It’s full of life. Full of activity and
it’s strategy for the critters and plants to survive in
this environment is really just a little bit more than
the mind can comprehend that they do survive in such
incredible, spectacular way. So we kept on going up. And we are going
to the place that literally has just been named on
the USGS the week after we came back. And it’s called Slope Mountain. You ever been
to Alaska? There’s got to be 1,000 Slope Mountains. I
don’t know why they can’t get past that name. I can tell
you Slope Mountain. You can Google it, ha Google it, and you’ll find
all these spots and you’ll never know where I was.
That’s kind of the cool thing. Maybe that’s why I do it.
All the hunters I know say, “I went to Slope Mountain.” “Uh, which
one?” And so, we got up there. And this is what we
found when we got up to Slope Mountain. Slope Mountain
is there in the fog and the rain. This is late July.
Looking through that fog is the arctic plain. It’s an
amazing location. You know, you’re talking about
everything from wolves and grizzly bears and caribou to
Siberian birds that are over summering in Alaska. Now, one of
the first things that I was told about this critter in
when I Link first sent it to me, he said, “it’s never been
photographed before”. I said, “Say, what?” He said, “Well, there’s one picture”.
I said “okay”. He said, “it’s a Sarah Palin story.
OK? There you go.” You all start laughing right off the bat. Anyway,
they decided they need to have a official ground hog for
Alaska Groundhog Day and there’s four ground hog
species in Alaska so off they went on a goose chase to see which
one was the most charismatic, photographic looking
marmot, ground hog, for Groundhog Day. It only gets worse from there so I’m going to
stop. But this one guy went up there and he went with
the biologist I’m working with. He put his Coolpix onto
a spotting scope, and shot through the fog and got this picture. So prior to us, that
was the only photograph of the Alaskan marmot before we
went up there. So that was part of the challenge. And then,
there really wasn’t much known about the Alaska marmot.
Still isn’t. A lot of the basics just aren’t there. So
that truck was clean. That is the Alaska pipeline behind
us as we head up and over. The Alaskan pipeline is an amazing corridor.
Engineering wise, biological wise; the misinformation about
that whole thing still boggles my mind. But that Slope
Mountain once the fog and clouds disappear. And we’re
going to climb that thing. And we have to climb it when
it’s sunny, because that’s the only time these guys
are out. Well, that evening and that evening being about
12 p.m., 1 a.m., you can still see the sun on the slope.
We were good. All is fine. We checked out the creek
because that creek there we had to get our stuff across.
We actually put a rubber raft on that creek with a rope
that we could pull ourselves across to get from this side
to the other side to get up the slope. We had permission by Alaska to camp right there
by the pipeline. There’s our rubber rope. That’s where we’re
camping. It’s not one of those warm, cozy Alaska lodges
that you would think of. It is the basic kind of biological
camp. The biggest tent is the food/animal prep tent.
And from there we just went across. As you can see
it’s raining again. It was pouring. Didn’t stop. We had
three days to get out and do this. And I had to have
sun for these guys to show up. It was just horrible. Get
out of the tent that morning, have our cold pancakes
with bacon. And we three days — off you go. Now, this
is one of those — people asked me if I have done stupid
things in wildlife photography. This has to be right up at the
top five. This slope wasn’t just some little walk up a foothill.
And the biologist I’m working with, he had tried out for Survivor, the TV show,
and he actually had won and gotten on there and he was on
that show. But when they started taping, it said it was going
to take him into the season, he bailed out from the show.
This is the guy I’m going to follow up the slope, okay? Not smart, okay?
So I’ve got the 600 millimeter body on my shoulder.
We’re going up this slope that’s about a 38 percent grade. It’s
loose shale. We’re going up this thing. Mr. Jackrabbit
he’s on top in a heartbeat. I’m like “Holy–”. And I’m
at the bottom. Take a step , slide back two. Take a step, slide back two.
600 on the back. It’s raining my son’s going up.
And so, the old man is the back. Should never have been up this
hill. We go up there and this is what we see. I mean,
this is all we’re seeing. There’s no sun. Means there
ain’t going to be any critters. But we sat there for
five hours in the rain hunched over anyway because you
have three days. That’s it. Well, they went to the very
top and they’re kind of shooting was a little bit
different than ours and they did manage to get one
sample. Now, you might be saying and asking yourself is
it possible it could be going extinct, if it’s in trouble why would you be shooting
and sampling these? Well, it’s like anything in
biological field. If you don’t have answers, it’s hard
to figure out solutions. And without knowing much about
the critters, simple basic thing is what do they
eat? Things like that. It’s hard to make calls about what
needs to be done on their behalf. And that’s part of
the project. And that’s one of them. It’s not alive any
longer. How many have they shot in the entire breadth
of this project. I think it’s like number 13. It’s
not like they’re shooting out millions of them. They take very select
samples from select areas. And then, the biology starts.
And the guy on the right — he’s the the Survivor champion.
And he is also the curator of the biggest DNA depository
for critters on the planet up at UAF. So his pedigree
for knowing this stuff is amazing. And it’s a
lot they learn from these guys. But it’s only so much. They
need to be able to sit there and find out what I do best
— that anecdotal evidence. So the next day we went
out and it was obviously going up that slope wasn’t going
to work. I can’t believe I’m hear to talk about it
anyway. Had to find another slope that was easy to egress.
We had only three days and now we had only two. We had
to find critters who would come out. So we went to
another spot. Weather still didn’t cooperate. This is all
the Alaska range which is an absolutely spectacular part
of this planet. It’s hard to describe the life that
goes on here. And the critters aren’t what you might
think. The caribous, they come in. They do their thing.
They love to follow that pipeline because the heat that’s generated from it.
Oil is going through that the at 10,000 PSI and it’s getting
shot down that tube. The heat that’s generated from that is amazing.
And the life that comes around that in the form of
forbs and stuff feeds a lot of critters. But they’ll
come right up and just say hello. They have absolutely no
inhibition to us like you might think. And I saw everything
I could imagine up there from peregrine falcons and
wolves and grizzly bears and caribou but I still hadn’t gotten the main critter I was
after. And that was the Alaska marmot. And then finally
about an hour or, so we got to see our first one. Now,
Alaska Marmot — it’s not like the Yellow-bellied
Marmot you might see here in the Sierras or up Denali National
Park even. They’re big hogs, okay? They have been harvested for
food. You’ll see pictures of them underneath the
wing of a Cessna. And they’re longer than the wing of
the Cessna is wide. They’re big things. They’re massive. At the
same time, they are the longest true hibernators of any
mammal on the planet. Their period of time above ground
is just nothing. And in that period of time like a
lot of critters they come up, get fat, make babies
and they go back to sleep. You know that’s it. Well, so
we got a couple clicks of them, but that’s it. I’m
sitting on the ridge looking. That’s what I did for the whole
day. Couple pictures. So okay, first one to photograph
the marmot. Not enough. So it rained again the
next night. And remember I got to have that sunshine.
Sunshine is everything. So we had to find another spot.
The next day, we thought, okay it’s starting off with
a good omen. So off we went, went up the hill. Went up a different
hill this time and this time we had no threat of rain. It rained, it was gone
and we were out. And we’re in a part of the world even
these satellite phones don’t want to work. We’re
up there at the top curve where there’s no communication.
There’s no way of looking at radar pictures to see what
storm fronts are coming in. It’s the last day; we go for the gusto. So up the hill we
went and Jake and I went up to the top of the hill.
This is our view. And for three hours, we watch the view.
And just watched the view. And watched the view. And
the clock is ticking. And the day before four marmots
had been seen at this burrow. And we’re like okay,
they got to come out. So three hours are gone into it.
We watched everything. Helicopters going back and forth
watching looking at the pipeline, doing its survey
work. We watch a brand new Camaro go up the Haul Road. This
is a brand new, bright yellow, Transformer kind of Camaro,
the probably some military guy just bought in Fairbanks and decided
to go for a ride. It had to be destroyed. The Haul Road
is these big pebbles and we’ve lost as many as 9 tires on one
trip up this road. So that Camaro was like the highlight of
entertainment after sitting on a rock for three hours.
And then finally, one came out. And had the opportunity
of starting to actually do what it is I do and that is to
photograph the biology of a critter. That’s my
specialty. Asking questions in my mind and trying to
find it in the view finder to bring back answers to
biologists is what I’ve done for 30 years. Now for
critter that sits there and basically hibernates most of it’s life,
activity is not really what it’s striving for, okay?
They’re like — it’s a simple thing with critters. Calories in, calories out. I want to get fat.
Means I don’t do anything. Well photographically,
can get boring real fast, okay? You’re sitting there been
sitting on a rock. We haven’t moved. Haven’t moved an inch.
We’re stuck because you don’t know if your movement is going to keep
them from coming out for another five minutes. So we’re just stuck. No
matter what biological thing is calling on us to go find
another rock or anything else, you’re stuck. And then,
they come out and this is what they do. Now, as I
typically do, I take a lot of notes. I have a GPS in the
camera so it’s tagging all my images. That information
goes right to the biologists. They can sit there and figure out where I was
and with our software digital probing sit there and
actually — because I’m using the auto focus– know how far
I am physically from that critter. So they have that information.
It’s carved in stone from EXIF data. But I still take a
lot of paper notes. I take a micro-cassette recorder. Taking
verbal notes and I’m watching and shooting that whole
time. Now, for a critter that has nothing known about
it, anything that we saw or we photographed was new. It was
like innovative. It was like unbelievable. So how they
moved across the slope. How the four of them interacted was all
important. But really what got to them was, I’m shooting this
D3X. It’s a 2X on the 600. I’m sitting there shooting. That’s the burrow.
And after awhile, I simply said, “okay, I think I’ve got
this shot”. So I watch the clouds and I watch them. Then I
put the D 3 S on a camera and I shot a video. I shot a
total of about four hours of video and the big thing was
everything in that video had never been seen before.
They had not seen any of this part of it. Because
biologists don’t have the luxury of time to just sit and stare at
something. It’s long gone from our biology and our
system. It’s just time and money. It’s that real simple. I
got here just a simple nine minute clip of all that video
I shot. That’s because I know at about minute 30, you going are
all going to start wiggling and going, “Okay, time to change the
slide. Time to move”. And this is only nine minutes of
my 14 hours on that rock that afternoon. That’s what I
do. I sit on my ass on a rock and I stare through a lens
at critters. Not real glamorous sounding, but this video
clip became a feature in Nature magazine. The whole clip
went around and has gone from Russia all the way through
as people try to understand what it is these guys need
and what is driving them to the point where they might go
extinct. That Slope Mountain where we were going the
first day we camped — that’s the last mountain going up
the globe. The marmots have no further north they can go
to get away from climate change. That’s it. They’re
going to be possibly their last stronghold. Who knows?
That’s their biggest problem. I can put out more questions
than I have answers for as well as the biologists about
the marmot. Now, their biggest predator perhaps the
Golden Eagle. Perhaps they’re not like numerous. They
don’t have a lot of enemies. They’re big. They’re not
something like a Golden Eagle can really easily deal
with. They have these burrows they can go down into real quick. They’re on these semi-rocky
slopes, not talus slopes. They have some places to hide. But they do seem to like to
stare out looking out to the direction he’s staring
right now, it’s the NSF station that’s up there in the arctic
that’s doing a lot of work on climate change and arctic critters. It’s that big lake back
there that right now is frozen solid and aircraft are actually are landing
on it. And what happens is this is basically who knows why
but they go up and down like periscopes and all of a sudden
you’ll see the second one come up and more importantly
you’ll see him start eating grass and that was the biggest
thing we recorded the whole day that got everybody
excited was seeing them eating those forbs because it
was not known what they were eating. And that is a very important
part of any critter’s biology. So we’re into maybe about
four minutes of this video and many of you are
tired of it already. 14 hours on a rock. 14 hours. Click, click, click.
14 hours. So how do you get that picture?Well,
you know, I wrote 400 words in a book called Captured
to try and explain it but the only way I can really be
really honest about it is to have passion for it. That’s the only
thing that’s going to keep you on a rock for 14 hours.
A lot of people go you must have a lot of patience.
I said you haven’t talked to my sons. Patience isn’t part of this
deal, okay? I get very impatient. I want things to
happen. I want to see things go on, but that doesn’t
always happen. But when you have a passion for it, you can sit
there for a lifetime and watch it. Now, the thing that’s
intrigues me about a lot of wildlife photographers starting out is the thing is you think you
have to have a big lens. You really don’t have to have a
600mm with a 2X to do that. Why do I use that in this example here? Because
it was totally unknown. We knew nothing about the
marmots. There was no research. Google Alaskan marmot. You’ll see line drawings.
You’ll see very spattered little “I saw it” here kind of things, anecdotes and that’s
it. It’s just not known. So when you don’t have a known
entity that you can, like, refer to and say, “okay,
we kind of got an idea; we’ll do this, we’ll do that” so I
can use this lens; I can go this close; it’ll react like this, react
that to me. We don’t have the information, you got to go completely
on the side of safety, of error, of worst case scenarios
and start from there. Because what happens if I sit there
my third day and got no pictures. No pictures
wasn’t a problem. It was no data. I had no data for
those biologists who were trying to work on these
guys. These video clips. They’ve gone over them and they
found all sorts of things that I’d love to repeat to
you, but they’re all in Latin. I don’t do Latin, you know?
But they found these little bugs and little things
and little behaviors and funny tooth growths and all
this kind of stuff in this video; they’ve gone through
it in a million different ways. And that’s the whole point of photograph.
At the same time, a lot of wildlife photographers, for whatever reason,
don’t share or give back. And that’s another thing that just,
it just seems to drive me nuts. Because seriously,
what are you going to do with that picture on your hard
drive. It sits there and then what? You back it up,
you do checks on it every month. It’s still there. Right? You give someone
that photograph, and right off the bat what happens? A
lot of times, the first thing you’re gonna get is a smile.
That’s pretty damn cool, right? And then they put it on their wall. They put your art on
their wall, they’ll never forget you. And whatever it is that
story about the picture you told them, they’ll share it to the next person.
That’s cool. The next person. That’s even better. So this
whole thing that I’ve done since day one is something
that I think — if we’re fortunate enough as photographers
to go out and witness this kind of stuff that we
should have the responsibility to go back and share it. So
we’re coming up on minute 8 and some of you just got the
wiggles like crazy. All I can say is 14 hours. 14 hours.
We’re supposed to go back this summer and go back
and work with these guys again. It was shut down. Political
reasons. Supposed to be going back again 2013. And so far, the
politics are pushing hard, but I think we can go back
doing it again. It’s — there’s a lot of things in our
lives that are forefront issues. Our wild heritage does
not seem to still get on the radar scope except for a few
enlightened ones. So to try and change that is another
reason I wrote the book, Captured. You know what I do,
anybody can do. You just got to go out and do it. Right
here in the San Francisco Bay area, how many people saw
that mouse that was on a bus? Anybody see that’s going
around Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse photograph it was on a bus. It was a picture of ours,
taken in Palo Alto Baylands, just up the road from here. And all summer it was
on a bus going through San Francisco. Again, just trying to get people involved in what’s
in your own backyard. Palo Alto Baylands, how
many people go visit that? Shame on you folks. You
don’t have to be a photographer to go there. Clapper Rail.
Anybody ever heard of California Clapper Rail? It’s an endangered
critter lives in the Baylands. Unbelievable clown .
Hilarious to watch. And you don’t have to take a picture. You’d be surprised, you go
there how you get sucked into that, the black rail, the shore birds, the terns, the gulls
and sooner or later then you get into birding and
then you get to see it and you go seeing it’s not enough.
A picture. And then, the bug hits. That’s what I’m here
to do. I’m here to get that bug to bite you. Bite you
hard — get you into any form of photography. Wildlife
photography, of course, is still my greatest passion. But
any kind of photography. Get you out there. We’re the
fortunate ones. We get to see this – we get to go out and witness that . So
I think it’s upon us to share that with those who are not
as fortunate. Yeah, the video clip is coming to an end
here. I know you’re dying, but 14 hours on a rock. And
I’m crazy enough to go back and sit on that rock some
more, okay? To get back and bring back the story of the
Alaskan marmots. [silence]>>Moose: It’s kind of weird to see my picture
20 times around the room. It’s kind of like giving me a little
bit of [funny sound] On the technical side, I still
use my Nikon shooter; have been since the very beginning. I shoot the D3x the vast
majority of the time. That’s the big ass camera that shoots
big ass files. That’s about as fast as a crayon when it
comes to writing those files. It’s kind of like the old
sharp shooter mentality, one shot; they’re gone.
That’s kind of where I’ve gone to with my photography. I do
love the sound of the D3S, [mouth noise] 9 frames a second. That’s sexy. I
can deal with that. But I’m working more at and have been for
more years to get that one solid click to tell the story. That means that if it’s wildlife
or landscape or it’s a plane or a person, the
whole thing is to tell a story. And you sit there and
you have to think about a lot of things. Everything from the minds eye. In
this case, that brightness — that lake behind the marmot
makes it pop out. That green above it gives it a place of space as
well as visual depth. Gives it a, for you, visually a place to
anchor and see. All of those elements of the way our eye
works are all basically the same. So you have to think about
what’s light and bright and what’s sharp. The two main
things the mind’s eyes goes to and then use those to either bring the eye to the subject
or make sure they’re not in the frame so the eye is not pulled away from the subject. Shooting
video or stills, that basic premise is in there. Next
I think all the exposure, okay? Exposure to me equals
emotion. It doesn’t equal histogram. Doesn’t equal blinkies.
Doesn’t equal anything except the emotion you want to
express the moment you go click. In my way of looking at exposure and looking at light
is vastly different from other photographers. I don’t look at those
mathematical things. I look at those things that are
important. How do I grab your heart strings and make
things happen. Because not many of you are going to get
up there. You’re not going to sit 14 hours on a rock on
a hillside looking for something. And more than likely you
won’t have the opportunity to see these guys. They’re
saying by 2050, they’ll blink out. They’ll be gone. It’s
my son three days of walking up those hills. We did
survive. It was kind of an amazing time up there. And
that’s what’s waiting for anybody who wants to venture
with their heart and a camera into any part of our globe
and bring it back and share it. That’s the important
part. Anybody have any questions? Yes, sir. Got to go
to the mic.>>Male #5: I was just wondering how you feel
about HDR photography or also kind of doctoring a photo
in photo shop whether that ruins authenticity.>>Moose: Photographers love controversy. I
guess that’s the human nature thing right. Well, first of all,
comes the photoshop when it comes to my critters, they
never see photoshop. What you see is what I shot, period.
And I don’t crop no matter what it is. What you
see is what I saw in my view finder. This is my own personal
standard. Has nothing to do with anything that is right
or wrong or written down in stone. But when you’re dealing with critters
or history or biology, as far as I’m concerned, that
click has to be valid. And since it’s going to science, that’s
what I have since day one. My landscape, my aviation
work — yeah, it sees photoshop. Kind of know it pretty
well can do whatever I can to bring in the elements
to grab your eye and attention. HDR. HDR is HDR. Anybody
here know when HDR was invented? 1898, all right? We
didn’t invent it. We just made it simpler for the
masses. People didn’t realize back in the day they
had glass plates. They had a glass plate, one with the
clouds on it. And they take that glass plate and they put it in their camera
and they take the picture of the person and the person was
under clouds. Well, glass plates have even smaller
exposure range than digital. So HDR in many ways has
been around since the dawn of photography. And today,
if somebody wants to do what I call “Elvis on Velvet”
and it makes them happy, rock on. Okay? Because this is photography. We’re not curing
cancer. We’re not creating world peace. It’s photography,
okay? And why people have such dividing lines about
that. But you probably — you’re all too young to remember
things like aperture priority. You remember when
aperture priority came out? That was going to be the
death of photography. Everybody remember when auto-focus
came out? That was going to be the death of photography,
okay? Digital came out — death of photography.
HDR — seriously, it’s just photography. So I don’t
care. As far as my own — I’ve been part of the digital
HDR since 1998. But the way Kelby likes to explain mine
it’s realistic HDR. Camera can do 5 stops. But
5.1 you’re going to see blinkies, okay? Instantly you
got to say that information I need it or I don’t need
it. If I do need it, what tools do I have to bring that information
back. You have underexposure. You have split grad filter
And if you get up to the 7 and 9 ranges, you got HDR. The
only way you’re going to be able to bring back into
that photograph the magic that our brain and eye
can communicate. And it’s the tool we’re all measuring against
is this thing. And cameras are the stone cold, computer
bastard that doesn’t want to get there because it has no
heart. So HDR is a great way to get there. Yes, sir.>>Male #6: You’ve always only used available
light in your wildlife photography or do you have a lamp.>>Moose: Love the complement. He wants to
know if I do available light or something else. There’s
a lot of flash fill going on in the pictures you saw.
And I’ve been using flash since the beginning. And
it’s a very important part again of compressing that exposure
so the camera can see all that information. It’s
part of it. And then, birds by their very nature. The
color in their feathers. It’s the angle reflection, okay?
So their whole feathers — the way they all different
species are is to show themselves off with all that color.
And if you want to show that color off with the photograph
and you only have one light source — the sun
— or no light source, the flash is the way to do it. Yeah.
Yes, ma’am.>>Female #1: I realize this is more of a
question for the biologist you work with, but the marmots — not knowing
how many existed, anything about them — what was learned
from the samples taken that couldn’t have been learned
from a live capture with the radio collar and a blood
sample and fecal sample.>>Moose: That’s a good question. What could
be learned from the — well first and foremost it’s called
money. So a live capture. You’re talking about minimum
one day 800 to 2000 dollars one person live capture, okay?
I don’t know if you know, but money is like tight and no one
gives a squat about Alaska marmots. So getting funding
just to go out for our three days of survey work to
do was impossible to do. That’s the first real world
answer to that question. And then, the next — having
a marked population works when you have a population
you can actually deal with. And you’re talking about
critters who for basically two and a half months out
of the year, other than that you can’t get to them. So
that marked population isn’t going to work. Lastly is
technology. When you’re working with a critter that’s living
in minus 30, minus 40, batteries in a portable device that
fits around the neck or implanted in the abdomen, we don’t have that kind of
viable technology. So it’s a lot of technical issues
as well as anything else. John James Adam Audubon. Anybody
know about the artist. John James Audubon. Anybody
know who he is? You know he shot everything he painted? Okay? It’s a lineage
in science — there’s a recipe that, if you’re
a scientist and you have to prove your point, you go,
“I went and follow rowed this regimen and this regimen;
this protocol, this protocol” and so, if you did all those things and you made
this conclusion, then the logic and the facts can’t
be argued so that must be accurate. So that’s part of the science regime as well.
Like I said, the number of specimens they have shot
is nothing compared to the world population. And in this
day and time, it’s the only way we’re going to get answers
especially probably in the period of time we have allotted to
us. Yeah. [female in audience comments off mic] I
know. It’s a cute little thing that got shot. You’d be
surprised how many deer in the eastern Sierras who are run over
every year because of our cars and that’s not even in the
name of science. So it does seem cruel, but that’s the
process. And to be honest with you, if a scientist 53
years ago had not sampled all those Collared Pica, if he
hadn’t done that and those bone collections weren’t in
the Smithsonian, Harvard, Yale, Berkeley. If those
specimens weren’t here for us to look at, there’s no way that Hayley could have gone
now and said that bone changed. Everybody goes, “and there’s proof”. So,
there’s the flip side too. Without that proof, that whole thing
would not have opened up and a whole another study of
science as far as climate change would have progressed.
So it’s the hard facts and then, yeah, I know it’s cute
and it’s dead, but there’s a reason.>>Male #7: All right. I have two questions.
First one is you talk about knowing what the story you want
to tell when you take your pictures. How often does your
story develop while you’re taking the picture while
you’re looking at the critter and how much is it
before you start climbing the mountain you know what
you want to shoot.>>Moose: That’s a a great question. I, first
of all, do all the homework I can on anything I’m about to work
on. So I have a basic idea about what I want to photograph
and how I want to say it. Now, do the photo gods always
provide it and does mother nature always cooperate? No.
You know going out and getting skunked is a big part
of it. That’s why I went out and sat on a rock 14
hours. That’s part of the process. When everything does
fall into place like you hope it will, then most of the time
my preconceived ideas of how I’m going to tell
a story will fall into place. That’s what allows me to go up
a mountain with just the minimal camera gear I need to
get the job done for example because I don’t walk
up the hill with a backpack full of gear. Not only does
it beat your down, but by the time you get up there, it’s
so clumsy that you’re probably going to scare something off.
So it’s very much part of the process. At the same
time, solving problems is very much a part of photography.
You got to be able to do it.>>Male #7: The other question is which organization
have you found to be effective in helping us preserve
the wild heritage we have.>>Moose: Can we turn off the camera for a
second? I’m kidding. Be serious, very few. They all have a good
heart. But the word compromise is not in the system.
It’s just not out there. And it’s very disheartening. A
lot of times the information — I work a lot behind the
scenes anymore. And it’s very disheartening, because
no one can compromise. It’s like I want to grab them
and go, do you realize things are
disappearing while you argue over this?” Seriously. We
can compromise. You don’t have to lock everything up
behind walls. We don’t have to bulldoze it all either.
There’s a lot of avenues proven, you know, in the data
that would work. And compromise is difficult. Well, I
know it’s getting around the time. I’ll just leave you
with one last thing. I showed you some of my aviation
work, showed you some critters. I also do that thing called landscape
photography, which when you’re out photographing critters, you can’t help but see some of the
most amazing spots on this planet. And often we sit on a rock for
14 hours. Something good tends to happen out there.
And that’s kind of what generates my landscape photography.
I just want to leave you one last note that you can
make a difference. [silence]>[Applause]>>Moose: I want to thank Cliff and Mike for
having me here and I’ll be around if you have any questions.
Have a great weekend folks.

6 thoughts on “Moose Peterson: “Captured” | Talks at Google”

  1. Afternoon! Have you ever tried photo sfxart tricks (search on google)? My friend Francheska made some very amazing photos with their video lessons.

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