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Book Review: Captured: Lessons from Behind the Lens of a Legendary Wildlife Photographer by Moose Peterson

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Captured is a book by wildlife photographer Moose Peterson that highlights 30 years of his life behind the camera and what it has taught him about himself, photography, and wildlife. It is meant to give you information, techniques, and inspiration to go out into the field and begin to take better images.

The goal of Captured is to provide you with insight in to what it really takes to be a successful wildlife photographer. It takes more than walking into a forest, or preserve and snapping shots. It takes preparation, education, and many times some help from others. This book is 312 pages in length and is divided into eight chapters with four appendixes.

Chapter One, “You Gotta Start Somewhere,” begins with some background about Moose Peterson and how he got started in wildlife photography. It looks at not only his love for camera gear, but also his love for his wife and constant companion through all of these journeys. This chapter takes you through many stories about various shoots, people that influenced him, and some of the early lessons that he learned.

Chapter Two, “No Illusions, I’m Not in Control,” means just that. When you are a wildlife photographer, you have the elements; you have your equipment; and you have the wildlife. In Peterson’s case, he also had his mom and several people who pushed him out of the nest. For his first job, a friend had volunteered him to work with the Forest Service. With access to a research library, a lot of determination, and the love of craft he became an advocate of wildlife preservation. This chapter looks at the challenges that he faced.

Chapter Three, “Hold on to Your Pants!,” begins with his first presentation of his work for the Forest Service. It describes how that success led to other work, and that, in turn, allowed him to find more interesting subjects to shoot. This sword cuts both ways in that it can be rewarding as well as frustrating and this chapter looks at both sides.

Chapter Four, “In All Honesty, This is Just a Starting Point,” points out that the journey of the first three chapters were told so that the remaining chapters are put into the perspective of where the rest of book is going. This chapter looks at equipment in general, and then focuses in on lenses, tripods, and camera bodies.

Chapter Five, “And That’s How You Do It,” focuses in on perfecting the craft of wildlife photography. There are many ways to learn and grow, but you have to remember that it takes time. The author explains that if you have been following the images in the book there is a progression, and if you look ten years down the road, that progression will continue. Here he talks about what it takes to be successful as a wildlife photographer.

Chapter Six, “It’s Just That Essential To Success,” is about the use of the light around you and how, when it is totally out of your hands, you have to resort to man-made light — the use of flash lighting. To do this you have to understand the ambient light around you. This chapter looks at working with flash in the wild.

Chapter Seven notes that “They Set the Stage,” and if you want to be a wildlife photographer you have to work with biologists if you want to challenge yourself. It is within the confines of data collection that you will improve your photographic skills. This chapter explores what it means to work with biologists and what it can do for you.

Chapter Eight, “It’s Not Over by Any Stretch of the Imagination,” asks the question, ‘Where would you like photography to take you in the next five years?’ It matters less about the equipment that you have then about where you want to go. It is about putting the right foot in front of the left foot and continuing on day after day — that includes good days as well as bad days. Here you will learn techniques that will further your quest within the realm of wildlife photography.

Appendix One, “My Camera Bag & Gear,” looks at the equipment that the author uses when he is out on his shoots. Appendix Two, “My Cleaning Kit,” breaks down the tools that the author uses to clean his cameras. Appendix Three, “My D3 Settings,” has screen shots of his D3 settings, and Appendix Four, “My Original Teddy Bear Exercise,” shows his exercise for exposure compensation comprehension.

Captured is not as much about f-stops and lenses as it is about time and the purposefulness of learning ones craft. It is just as much about learning about your subject so that you can be prepared to capture it correctly as is it about getting the correct exposure.

Moose Peterson is an old fashion story teller, and it comes through in the way he presents his life in photography. Each segment captures your interest and attention and sucks you in like it would on a cold fall night sitting around a campfire. When one segment is done, you are waiting for the next, and luckily it is right there for the taking.

What I also like about Captured is that throughout the book are various tidbits that provide additional knowledge, tips, techniques, and other information in a way that does not take away from the storytelling. Then there are all of the great images that have become associated with Moose Peterson’s wildlife work. Thirty years of photographs that span from the film age to the modern digital era.

It would be easy to say that this book is about capturing images, but that would be only half the truth. It is also about taking time and capturing the experience of your photography. It is about savoring the ride. If you want to learn from a master how to take your wildlife photography to new heights, and even if you are not a wildlife photographer, the information you will garner from Peterson’s experience will take anyone’s work to new levels. I very, very, highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.