There are a lot of local photographers I like following on Instagram. One of them is Rich Moore. When it comes to image quality, his landscape pictures have a National Geographic-level slickness, and when it comes to subject matter, they reveal a deep love for the land, a subtle wink of humor, and an alertness to the environment that you’ll probably pick up on if you’ve been following the region’s lake levels and winter storms over the last several months. And Moore has a way of shooting scenes you’ve seen a thousand times—Yosemite’s Half Dome, a dock near Tahoe City—with a fresh eye.
“A lot of it’s searching,” said Moore. “Trying to find a perspective that nobody else has seen before. I go to locations that people have gone, but I look for something that hasn’t been shot before. I’ll usually spend most of the first portion of the day looking around. I’ll find a good piece of foreground. Composition’s the most important thing to me, composition and light.”
He doesn’t let the grandeur of a scene suffice as an excuse for not being meticulous with technique. In fact, sometimes he foregoes the grandeur altogether and lets his compositions, lighting and exposures do all the heavy lifting. One example is a shot of a long-dead tree trunk peering out from a rippled field of snow. The lighting is expertly calculated to reveal how visually busy a serene, flat expanse in Lassen National Park can be.
Moore grew up in Pittsburgh, studied environmental science and took a few classes in film photography. He moved to Reno in 2009.
“I definitely grew up in a city atmosphere, so I was kind of blown away when I first moved out here,” he said. All of those factors contributed to a conservationist bent and a love for national parks.
At first, Moore made paintings and drawings, which he said helped hone his composition skills. About three years ago, he transitioned into digital photography.
“It started out as a total hobbyist thing,” he said. “I started doing it as a means to get myself outside more.” Mission accomplished. Nowadays, he said, photography is a “full-blown obsession. [I’m] spending all my paychecks on gear and gas and stuff like that.” He’s largely structured his life around being able to dart out to Lassen or Zion or Yosemite at a moment’s notice when the conditions look right for a shoot.
Moore is a bar manger at The Loving Cup, where, he said, “almost everybody there is a hobbyist or musician of some sort,” and the company culture and schedule allow for frequent three- or four-day excursions.
“I’ve turned my car into a mobile home, essentially,” he added. “Everything’s packed up and ready to go.” He’s also become an amateur meteorologist, keeping a close eye on forecasts.
“If I see a storm rolling in, I’m ready to go,” Moore said. That’s yielded some pretty dramatic cloud shots.
He also watches the moon’s phases, so he can shoot long-exposures of deep, starry skies on moonless nights. He ends up with pink and purple nebulae and dense fields of stars—the kind you can see with your eye on a dark, desert night far from the city but that can be tricky to capture in a photo. Among the secrets to getting those shots, he said, are a sturdy tripod, good foreground lighting and the right exposure time—often around 20 seconds. Any longer and the stars aren’t holding still for a picture anymore and you start seeing trails. But there’s one thing that’s even more important, said the guy who’s been known to camp out waiting for the glow of sunrise—in photography, “patience is your best friend.”