Montana State University

Studentlivin'@msu: Cameras and auto racing fuel student

April 2, 2007 -- By Tracy Ellig, MSU News Service

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When he's not puzzling over the intricacies of computer hardware or the physics involved with space satellites and lasers, Justin Moore is squeezing in one of his favorite pastimes: photographing Formula One racing.

A double major at Montana State University in physics and computer engineering, Moore is also an accomplished race photographer. He had his first show last fall in the Exit Gallery of MSU's Student Union Building and plans to photograph some of the United State's largest racing events this spring.

"There was always a camera around when I was growing up," said Moore, who is from West Windsor, N.J. "My grandfather's basement is a darkroom with file cabinet upon file cabinet of photos."

The majority of those cabinets are filled with auto-racing photos. A union carpenter by trade, Charles Moore has taken auto-racing photos since the 1940s and infected his son, and then his grandson, with the twin passions.

Despite being exposed to photography and racing at an early age, Moore's first big venture into having his pictures published didn't come until high school when he volunteered to take photos for his high school year book. His father advised him to photograph people "how they really are," Moore said.

"I took that advice and tried to capture the moments you don't usually see, those moments where students had no idea I was there," he said. "I expected the yearbook to use one or two of my photos. But when it came out, more than 30 of my pictures were in the book, including the cover and inside cover shots. I got a chuckle out of it."

He started photographing his first auto races in college, again following his father's advice.

"He told me to 'Act like you own the place, so that people will think you belong," Moore said. With that attitude, he found himself in the infield of the Pikes Peak International Raceway in 2005, where only credentialed press were allowed. Pikes Peak International Raceway is south of Fort Collins, Colo., and has a 65,000-seat capacity.

That was followed by the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with its 225,000 spectators, where Moore didn't have such good luck getting close to the race.

"I ended up shooting through an eight-inch hole in a fence," he said.

That wasn't the only challenge. To photograph cars traveling at 180 mph, a photographer must pan his or her camera to get a clear picture. From where Moore was standing, a wall obscured the approach of the racecars. He had to synchronize the swing of his camera not with the sight of the cars, but with the sound of their approach. He ended up with a handful of good photos.

Compared to NASCAR vehicles, Formula One cars sit lower to the ground and their large wheels are completely uncovered. Remove the decals and advertising paint from both kinds of cars and a NASCAR vehicle resembles a regular street car, whereas a Formula One car looks more like a wingless jet.

Last November, he submitted a portfolio of his best racing shots for consideration by the Exit Gallery in MSU's Student Union Building and was accepted.

Seeing a whole room of his work up for people to enjoy got Moore excited to take more race photographs. He's planning a second trip to the Indianapolis 500 in May, followed by the Formula One Grand Prix in June, also at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Photography is still just a hobby for Moore, whose idea of a dream job would be laser or space space research (he formerly worked on one of MSU's satellite projects, Electra, and currently works on lasers in the university's Spectrum lab), or as an engineer with a Formula One team. He will graduate in the spring of 2008.

"These are $100 million cars and the teams employ physicists and engineers to determine the limits of the car," Moore said. "In Formula One racing, one-tenth of a second can determine who wins. The teams determine what a car is capable of. Then it's up to the driver to try and come as close as possible to that performance."

Q & A with Justin Moore

What is your favorite book?
Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land."

What is your favorite website?
My favorite website is because I get all the news in different areas of interest such as world and national news, science and art.

What's the best movie you've seen recently?
Pursuit of Happyness.

Would you like to be a Formula One driver?
No, I never really wanted to be a driver I thought it would be really wonderful just to be part of a team.

Who are your role models?
My parents have really influenced and shaped me into the individual I am.

Contact: Justin Moore, (406) 587-0129, or,