UPAA Blog 2022-23 #8 - 12/8/22 (text and photos by Ryan Riley)

Ryan Riley is the photographer and video producer for the College of Engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Ryan was born and raised in Ames and graduated from Iowa State with a journalism degree. He did video internships with the Iowa State and UCLA athletic departments before returning to Iowa State to work. He's been at Iowa State a total of seven years and a UPAA member for three years. Ryan's Campus Environment category photo "Fire Moon" was voted Best in Show in the November 2022 Monthly Image Competition (MIC). The MIC Q&A is a monthly feature on the UPAA blog to learn more about the thought and craft behind the UPAA's contest-winning images. -Ed.


1. Quick tech stuff--camera model, focal length, exposure data, lighting used (if any)

•Canon EOS R5

•RF 100-500mm f4.5-7.1 @ 500mm

•1/8 sec, f7.1 ISO640 on a tripod

2. How did this shoot land on your calendar? Did you have a plan/vision prior to the shoot?

I had never taken a decent moonrise photo so I thought this fall would be a great time to give it a try. Like probably everyone reading this, I am always looking for scenic campus photo opportunities that will do well on social. I looked at moon phase calendars and decided on a weekend well in advance to try it and rented a telephoto lens for that date.

3. Any unique logistics in making the photo? What sort of post processing (or not)?

Our facilities department instructed me to take a roof safety course prior to asking for roof access, so I enrolled and took it. Next came some scouting. It was helpful to put my drone up “on” some roofs during blue hour the evening before and see where the moon was rising in relation to the buildings I wanted in the foreground.

The night of the shoot, I expected the moon to rise in a slightly different place than it did. I guess I don’t know how to use any of the moon tracking apps I downloaded for this occasion.

I almost immediately knew I wasn’t going to get the shot I came for, but the moon was moving toward our campus power plant stacks. As it got close I could see the steam altering the appearance of the moon and started snapping. It was thrilling.

Ryan's sequence in Lightroom and his develop settings

4. Did your vision before you made the photo come through in the final product? What (if anything) would you do differently if you could re-shoot this today?

It didn’t turn out as expected. I clearly need to work on calculating the moon’s path! I believe any connection made on campus is valuable and the connection I made with our facilities department should make it easier for me to get on the roof next time I want to try something.

5. What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

My communications colleagues in the College of Engineering are always eager for me to try new photography techniques and applications. I’m lucky to work with a group that is committed to continually improving the things we produce. 

I can’t emphasize enough how much UPAA and the monthly image competition has motivated me to keep trying new things. Even if the photos don’t turn out, I know that the time put into experimentation will pay off in some form down the road.


Hey! No 'dad joke' because there's an important announcement: The MIC Q&A will be changing  slightly, starting with the January MIC. More details to come, stay tuned! Thanks for reading the blog, your suggestions and submissions are always welcome, email editor Matt Cashore, mcashore@nd.edu. And follow UPAA on Instagram!