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By James McCue, Jr.
Friday, December 14, 2012

James McCue captures the experiences of Adam Moran, snowboarder/photographer who was our "on location" go to guy during sessions of our recent photography class.



A young, eager, cherub faced adrenaline-junkie child – over-bundled in one too many layers like Ralphie Parker’s brother Randy from A Christmas Story – watches in awe as a royal blue and coal black “North Face” figure blazes across the frigid blue air and steep snowy hills hitting the ground hard with an emphatic landing, leaving a temporary impression in the snow bank but an enduring stamp on both the child’s mind and the cameraman who captures this inspirational moment for the athlete; the child, still taking the time to process what he just saw, shatters his temporary silent spell with but a single feverish shout “Awesome!”

Adam Moran’s job is literally that awesome, for he is both the cameraman, the responsible adult in the situation, and the excited child, capturing and reliving that moment every day at work. Adam’s decision to photograph snowboarders didn’t come easily, for at one point he was at a crossroads and wanted to be a bigger part of the snowboarding culture, “The funny thing is at one point I was the snowboarder in the photos, and I think that experience of being on the other side of the camera really helped me out to be where I wanted to be today…After I finished college and realized I didn’t have what it took to make a living snowboarding, I figured why not give it a shot to take my two favorite things and make it my new job?”.

Adam was drawn to this extreme sport but naturally one always wonders about the what ifs of life, and when asked what if he wasn’t shooting snowboarding, Adam’s answer remained in the sports culture and in the world of photography, “I think if I wasn’t shooting snowboarding I have loved the idea of shooting skateboarding. I’ve always skated my whole life and that would be another way of turning a passion into work…I would definitely still want to be a photographer. A lot of times I get just as much excitement out of a great lifestyle or portrait or scenic photo as I do in an action shot”.

Adam honed his craft by loading up on as many photography classes as he could in college, but gaining his most valuable practice behind the lens with some growing pains, “Well, I took all the photo classes that I could in college, and ended up with a degree in Studio Art but I swear I have learned the most by trial and error. I made a ton of mistakes along the way, but for each of those I made it helped me a lot when I went shooting the next time”.

Adam, being the second photographer to partake in our photography class, revealed the same approach for educating himself on how to perfect the elusive “picture-perfect” shot as did the previous guest, Michael Kamber, “I also spent a lot of time just looking at photos and trying to figure out how they are done, its sort of like studying for me, and also gives me a ton of inspiration to try new things”.  

Adam’s website,, explains his unique approach with the phrase “access underscores my evolving vision”, a statement describing  how he showcases his inspirations, “What it means is that my photos aren’t just what they are because I have access to certain situations, like private shoots, but my access to those shoots is just a vehicle for me to shoot things in the way I want to showcase them.”

He further explains how this awareness is applied to his photography, “In a world like the one I work in, snowboarding, it’s more of a lifestyle and culture to the riders, than just a sport. So I need to be able to be immersed in that, and have the trust of them to showcase them in the best possible way.”

Adam also went on to explain how the photographs one takes should capture an aspect of the photographer when he cites another of his favorite photographer, “I have always been a huge fan of this guy Glen Friedman, he shot skateboarding in the late 70’s when it was becoming super popular, then started shooting music and was the guy that shot bands like Run DMC, and the Beastie Boys, and Black Flag all before they were super famous, and on the rise. I always loved his work since he didn’t shoot things to be ‘perfect’ or for a commercial reason only, he shot what he was into, and documented it as if he was just one of the guys of the band, but on the other side of the camera, that’s just what I’ve always strived for in my shots.”

Adam continued with a verbal understanding of his vision, “So I guess if I had a vision to portray, it would be to shoot photos that when people see, it makes them feel like they were there, and the emotions from the photo are real.”

But how did Adam become so good at capturing those “larger than life”, in some cases literally, moments? “I think that part of things I just fell into to be honest. I’m fortunate that I can make a living shooting something I love and has been a part of my life as a kid. So the within part is just who I am, a snowboarder who is a photographer.”

This understanding of capturing the photo that comes from within the photographer is something Adam believes applies to every kind of photo as well, “When shooting other sports like say baseball, football, you don’t have to be a player to get a great shot, you are more just documenting the action. In my world, if you don’t understand what’s going on and the riders see that, they won’t trust you to get a good photo on shoots so you won’t be able to come…it’s a trust thing I think with professional athletes.”

Capturing a nation’s heroic athlete at their most human moment is one of the most satisfying moments for a sports photographer and a moment when that trust between the two is necessary, “There is this guy Walter Loss that I’ve always looked up to. He shot a lot of Michael Jordan’s career…shots of Jordan icing his ankles in bed in his hotel room after a game \, or the behind the scenes stuff . Those photos showed what it was like to be really within Jordan’s world, and conveyed a mood and emotion that only someone like Jordan trusted could get.”

Earning the subject’s trust wasn’t something given freely as Adam revealed. The trust was formed, molded, and understood overtime, once the obstacles and initial concerns lifted, the trust could then create something life-altering , something moving, and something memorable like the touching story behind the acclaimed picture on the homepage of his website which was used as the cover for an issue of PDN magazine, “The guy in that photo is named Kevin Pearce, he was one of the best snowboarders in the world…I shot his whole career from the time he was an amateur to professional and then one day while training for the Olympics he crashed really bad and actually almost died. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that kept him in the hospital for 5 months, and when he came out he had to learn how to walk again. He literally went from being the one of the best athletes in the world in his sport to barely being able to stand on his own.”

Adam would chronicle the tough journey that Kevin would endure and how the trust between them would teach both of them what’s most important, life, “I watched him over 2 years work tirelessly at getting back everything he could from before the accident and I’d shoot him at times during it, but it was more about hanging out than any sort of shoots…it was amazing to see him ride again, and be there to shoot it and document it, definitely one of the most emotional days with a camera I’ve ever had since I shot his whole career.”

Adam’s subject Kevin would remain steadfast and with the trust of Adam, he would defy the stuff that life gives a person every day, “But I think for a lot of us that know him well seeing his outlook on things these days is pretty inspirational. He’ll never be the snowboarder he was before the accident, and he knows that, but he takes the simple things out of it like just being able to go to the mountain with friends and do some turns, and it makes the best thing. I guess its crazy cause what he loved the most, almost killed him, but now he’s just learned to find enjoyment in all the simpler things he might have overlooked when he was about to go to the Olympics.”

Most of Adam’s work, so he has been told by friends, is notable for his black and white lifestyle shots but within the field of advice one needs to seek out their own Kevin Pearce experience, “I would say the best piece of advice I ever received was not to be afraid to take risks, and if I thought I could make it work, then go for it. It’s really simple advice but fits for so many situations in photography or life.”

Adam included a recent article to help elaborate on his point, “I recently read an article that talked about how every major success story we all hear about in the news or from people is never about the person that took the ‘normal’ path in life. Its about the people that put it all out there…don’t ever expect it to be given to you, and most importantly, be nice to everyone you meet. People skills will almost always win out, and help you get further.”

With Kevin’s story to inspire Adam, every day presents another lens to look out of, another journey to focus in on and he sheds light on what the final product of his photography will develop into, “I think I hope that people just look at my photos and it provides a little escape from reality…real life is hectic and crazy at times and everyone needs an escape, if my photos can cause someone to pause for a few seconds or more, than I accomplished something.”

Naturally, there was no way for Adam to escape the question of if his pictures were worth one thousand words what story would they share and this was how he responded, “That the world is a beautiful place, with amazing people and personalities in it, so why not have fun with it all.” The world will always continue to surprise us as long as we are willing to open our eyes to the surprises the world shares. 

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