A photographer is not unlike a hunter. If they are to be successful, they must master their weapon. They must study their quarry. Vigilance, patience, and focus must be maintained.
A good photographer does not leave the hunt to chance.
“I go prepared,” says Elizabeth Moore of Montana.
A professional wildlife photographer, Moore has dedicated countless hours behind a camera and learned more about animal habitat and behavior than she ever anticipated. Her work is featured on the covers of numerous publications, and she is a regular contributor to Montana Outdoors. For Moore, the challenge of wildlife photography—the thrill of the hunt—makes it an intoxicating pursuit. Her passion is to capture the individuality of each subject.
“Anyone can take a picture of a bison, but if you can find that spark in his face, that’s what will make your photo amazing,” she says.
Moore has been a professional photographer since 2005, but she has spent a lifetime taking photos. As a child, she received a Kodak Instamatic at Christmas. Trips to the Photomat became frequent.
“I was happy when cameras went digital,” Moore laughs.
In 1988 she married her husband, David, a graduate from the New York Institute of Photography. In effect, he became Moore’s “technical advisor,” helping her grow as an artist. Through their shared love of photography, each has pushed their talents further.
“We make an amazing team,” Moore smiles. “The difference is he likes photographing people; I like wildlife.”
While animals do not take direction like human subjects, Moore says they most definitely pose.
“It’s like they know what I’m doing. Every animal has a personality,” she says.
In some instances, that personality is less than friendly.
“I’ve had a couple run-ins,” says Moore. “There was a moose at Glacier—a big bull in the middle of Fishercap Lake, grazing. I started taking photos. He heard the clicking, and he didn’t like it. He charged at us through the water; so I quit, and we found a tree to hide behind.”
The bull was within fifty yards when he calmed down and went on grazing.
“Animals are unpredictable,” says Moore. “You have to give them space. You have to anticipate anything.”
One of her best-selling photographs came from a similarly tense encounter.
“It was winter at Yellowstone. I was taking photos of the bison, and one started coming down the hill toward us,” she remembers. She and David were far enough away that they could avoid the danger with relative ease; however, that isn’t the story the photos tell. “The bison is charging through the snow directly at me with steam rolling out his nose. It’s a very powerful image.”
Naturally, Moore finds Montana to be a suitable playground for wildlife photography. Even within the limits of her hometown, Great Falls, she has captured remarkable photographs of Treasure State fauna. In 2019, she snapped an image of a pretty bird at Giant Springs State Park. As it happens, that “pretty bird” was a prairie warbler. Moore’s photo served as the second confirmed sighting of the species in the history of the state!
“By default, I’ve delved into ornithology, entomology, etcetera,” she explains. “You have to educate yourself; otherwise, you lose credibility.”
A bright-eyed shutterbug turned professional, Moore has made it one of her goals to mentor other burgeoning photographers. On occasion she’s asked if she’s concerned about her “students” duplicating her photos. In response she delivers this anecdote:
“When I was a child, my grandma taught painting classes. She’d put on a demonstration and ask everyone to paint the same subject. I would look around the room, and every single painting would be different.”
Each wildlife photographer experiences Montana through a unique set of eyes. Each artist finds something distinct that moves them. Moore isn’t worried about other photographers stealing her thunder, because Moore’s process is exclusive to her.
“It’s an obsession,” she laughs. “To be a professional photographer, you have to find what makes something special.”
The photography of Elizabeth Moore can be found for sale at EE Moore Photography on Facebook and in the gift shop of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. For more information, call (406) 781-5143.