He started shooting photographs when he was in first grade, well before the days of one-hour photos. Morgan Countryman always shot on 110 mm film, then he mailed the reel away to be developed. “As a kid, I had high anticipation for getting those photos back,” says Countryman, now a longtime owner operator based in Texas. “Getting those photos back was like getting Christmas in the mail, because you never really knew what you shot.”
By now, Countryman has had a CDL trucking job for 27 years and has mentored several truck drivers in photography. Here’s what the self-taught sharpshooter had to say about his own favorite shots and his beloved pastime.
Tell us about this umbrella shot.
It was taken at Niagara Falls. I didn’t even know the person was there. I stumbled across this shot. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would make for a good one. I’ve got it hanging on my wall at home. I like it because it’s marrying the old with the new.
You shoot black-and-whites almost exclusively. Why?
I am a big fan of Ansel Adams. I have been since I was a kid. He’s my inspiration. His photos blow me away. Color shots are gorgeous, but black-and-white tells the story.
This is my friend’s kid.
I love the way the shadows play with her skin and create a dramatic image. It was a total accident. I did a studio-style setup for a friend and she was my test subject.
Speaking of friends, you’ve mentored up to 20 truck driving photographers.
I find people who have the eye but don’t know enough of the basic rules to pull the shot off. There are a few basic rules that could help anybody. If it doesn’t add to the photograph, get rid of it. That alone can take somebody a long way.
This is Bolivar Point, Texas, across the bay from Galveston.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time. A filter was left on the camera by accident, but I liked it so well, I kept it. I like the solitude of it, like it’s the last boat to sail off into the sunset.
What do you strive for when you’re shooting?
To make the camera see what I see. Because what you see is not always what’s there. It’s like a carpenter who looks at a house and sees what could be.
The cross was on a back Texas road.
I turned the car around and went back to take this shot. The grain of the wood caught my attention. I like how it interacts with the textures around it, how the clouds are below the cross. Most black-and-whites wind up being pretty dramatic. A good photo will tell a different story to different people.
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