Through His Lens: A Chesapeake Bay Photographer's Journey

What does it take for a photographer to excel at capturing great photos on the Bay and beyond?

We’ve been asking Chesapeake photographers about their journeys and influences. This month Ted Morgan shares his story in his own words.

Photographer looking through his camera
Photographer Ted Morgan in action. Photo by Paul Cronin

I was a simple point and shoot camera guy for a long time. I shot JPEGs and rarely moved past the automatic settings of my camera. Everything changed for me 10 years ago when I bought a Nikon DSLR and took a one-day Kevin Fleming (Jay Fleming’s father) photography workshop in Lewes, DE. The course was a birthday present from (my wife) Kim that took my photography to another level. The course covered the basics: lens settings, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, exposure, depth of field, etc. At the end of that day, I became a sponge, studying everything I could to move from simply taking a picture, to creating a photograph.

Through social media I was able to establish some connections with a few really good photographers, many of whom were wildlife-oriented, with the goal of trying to understand what it took to produce a fantastic photo. I’ve been a huge fan of sailing photographer Matias Capizzano, going all the way back to 2012 when I met him while I was competing in the Laser Masters’ World Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Watching him in action gave me the first glimpse of what it takes to get a great shot. 

Photographer Ted Morgan's July 2014 SpinSheet cover shot.
Photographer Ted Morgan captured this shot, which landed on the cover of the July 2014 issue of SpinSheet.

I found myself looking at photos with a much more critical eye, figuring out what I liked, why I liked it, and what settings I would need to accomplish something similar. I also knew that if I wanted to get better, I needed to take a lot more photos, so I started bringing my camera with me while volunteering for race committee duty at Severn Sailing Association. I had always admired the sailing photos John Potter (aka Alden Bugly) had taken. I did a lot of race committee work with Bugly, and I’ll always remember how he would quietly pull out his camera when the light was “just right” and snap a timeless classic. While he didn’t know it, he had passed along a great tip.   

My wife, brother, and mother have always been my fans, but slowly other people started to offer encouragement and support, especially if I took pictures of them sailing! I volunteered to do race committee for TESOD, Laser frostbite, and some national-level regattas. Local Snipe sailor Alex Pline got me my first paid gig, shooting a local bicycle race. That was a huge confidence-booster. Molly (SpinSheet editor), you’ve been the other big source of encouragement, going all the way back to that first cover shot you picked up way back in 2013. 

While I don’t have any great stories about folks actively sharing tips with me, I have gleaned a lot of information from looking at all of the fantastic photos they’ve taken (Dan Phelps, Willie Keyworth, and Lexi Pline in particular), and from getting tons of feedback from local sailors about the shots they really like. Their feedback has been invaluable. 

I certainly wish that I’d had a photography mentor. Perhaps that might have happened had I picked this up a bit earlier in life. Let me know if you run across some up-and-coming photographers. I’d love to share some tips and tricks with them!

Editor’s note: As noted in our letters section of the December 2023 SpinSheet (page 12), we’d like to hear from women photographers on the Chesapeake! Email [email protected]