Author: Moose Peterson

Publisher: Peachpit

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

With no insult meant to the author, Moose Peterson’s name says it all. Like the animal (and perhaps like the author), Captured: Lessons from Behind the Lens of a Legendary Wildlife Photographer (Voices That Matter) is large, sprawling, inelegant and ultimately endearing.

The book is like almost no other about wildlife photography. The chapters, with titles like “No Illusions, I’m Not in Control” and “Hold onto Your Pants” are certainly not organized in any concise fashion to develop the principles of wildlife photography. Instead they start out as autobiography and end up with random advice on photographing certain species of animals. Sprinkled throughout are tips on wildlife photography, some of which are old hat and some of which even many veterans will not have heard. The language is rough and ready, wanders off from the topic and is frequently repetitive. The pictures are often related to what the author discusses in the text but occasionally seem very far afield (pun intended). They run from magnificent shots of bears to family photos of the Peterson family. Many seemed a trifle dark to me but not so much as to offend me.

Moose (you get such a feeling for the man from the writing that you have to call him by his first name) talks about his favorite subjects: the importance of understanding the biology of the subject; treating the light as a subject; capturing the image correctly in the camera rather than leaving it for post processing; and the need to protect the environment. You’d better understand the elements of exposure, because he doesn’t cover those fundamentals, but will tell you how to play with exposure to get a better image. Canon and other brand users may feel a little left out because his equipment discussions are all geared to Nikon (but non-Nikon users shouldn’t be discouraged; the ideas are relevant to all brands). Also don’t look for anything about post processing. And although some of the images rise to the level of art, Moose is most concerned with telling us about the subject.

Throughout it all, you feel like you are sitting around with the larger-than-life character of the author. When he tells about trying to get his boots on over an infected foot while photographing grizzlies at McNeil Falls, you feel his pain, while at the same time feeling his exhilaration at being cheek-to-cheek with the bruins. When you read about his journeys through the dark with biologists to photograph prairie chickens, you feel like you are tiptoeing besides them.

This is clearly not the best introduction to the technical or artistic side of wildlife photography. But it is so much fun to read that I suspect even non-wildlife photographers may enjoy it. And now (hoping this isn’t an insider’s joke) what I would love to see is a joint presentation by Moose Peterson and Joe McNally!

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Sponsored by PMA – It’s not too early to mark your calendar because this is big. For the first time in the USA, the PMA tradeshow and conference will be open to the general public – September 6-11, 2011 in Las Vegas. See you there – http://bit.ly/9yaL2I