The man behind the lens, an award winning photographer
February 16, 2012
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Determination and passion for taking pictures are fundamental ingredients to creating award winning photographs that capture the imagination. Using these qualities, professional photographer, Jimmy McSalters, continues to develop unforgettable pictures for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield as part of the Multi-Media Visual Information Service Center.
The Sandusky, Ohio native recalls his emotions after winning the 2007 Army Magazine Photo contest with a picture of an unidentified Soldier kneeling at the base of a Fallen comrade's tombstone that he traded places with during combat.
"It's not just point and shoot," McSalters explained. "Anybody can take a picture, but to be able to tell the story in one photo … without a caption, it takes a little more than that. You have to get the right angle and get the right lighting to display the person and catch them in that moment. The photo can just speak for itself."
Fortitude is another word that would best portray McSalters as he described his many attempts to join his high school year book staff as a promising photographer in the mid-70's.
"I was denied the opportunity to work with the staff until my senior year and by then I had lost interest and was making money selling my own pictures," McSalters added. "I was making $30 to $40 dollars a week and the yearbook staff was then asking me for photographs of events and people that I declined to give them."
The budding photographer was given a Kodak Brownie camera by his father at age eight which originally sparked his interest in capturing memories.
"My dad worked for Ford Motor company and he always had a passion for taking pictures." McSalters said.
Some of his early photographs included Family pictures taken after church, their pet and a cemetery located next door to their home.
Following high school, McSalters studied photography at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale where he began working towards a full-time career as a photographer. He completed school in 1981 with more than an associates of science degree; he was presented the Marble Award from the institute for best overall portfolio. He shared that having his parents at the ceremony was even more special to him.
McSalters joined the Army after college and he proudly served 12 years as a communications chief with tours in Korea, Germany and Fort Stewart. The talented photographer said that 'being in the right place at the right time' goes hand-in-hand with capturing the right picture.
Fast forward to March 2010, "I jumped at the opportunity to go to Hunter Army Airfield and photograph President Obama," McSalters explained. "I was using my 400 millimeter lens and as he returned to Air Force One he turned around and I captured the shot. That is one of the advantages of the job."
In addition to photographing the president, McSalters had the opportunity to meet and photograph retired Vietnam Veteran Lt. Gen. Harold Gregory "Hal" Moore whom, actor Mel Gibson portrayed in the movie We Were Soldiers. The chance to photograph him was an honor that he will always treasure.
"I'm lucky to do something I love … I lucked up and got this job," McSalters said. "I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to do this and see the people I've met."
The owner of Freelance Fotographics, his photography company, and adjunct instructor shared his secret for taking great pictures.
"Look at your surroundings," McSalters said. "Don't be afraid to get into the photo. Get off the curb and move up to check out another angle. Make the best of it and learn everything you can about the equipment you have. It's not the equipment that makes the photo."
Thirteen years ago his wife Dewanna captured his attention, explained McSalters. "She started out as a model for me when I first moved back to Ohio. While shooting her in the cold and snow I got the nerve to ask her out for dinner and things went from there."
Today Dewanna plays a vital role in his photography business and was instrumental in encouraging McSalters to share his photojournalism knowledge by teaching. Together the couple has three children whose pictures adorn his office wall.
When not taking photographs or teaching, McSalters continues to improve upon his skills. He said, "I'm not at the level I want to be" and he follows the work of photographers like Pete Souza, who is an official White House photographer.
McSalters compared taking a good picture with cooking, his second passion.
"I love to cook and watching food television network," McSalters said. "I love to cook crown roast. Taking a great photo and cooking a crown roast is all about presentation … your mouth should start to water by looking at it [dish or picture] … no words are needed."