Shooting Moe Norman book successful but unglamourous

Todd on site studio 2


Lucky me. I spent last week on a golf course in Orlando. The weather was mostly fantastic—high 70s in American, mid 20s in Canadian. I wore shorts all week, which is great for any northerner deep into October.

Apart from about eight balls on the range at Eagle Creek GC, I didn’t hit a single ball on the course. Instead, I watched professional Todd Graves make what seemed like a million swings.

I was on a photo shoot to capture images for an upcoming book by Todd and me. Along with photographer/designer Jon Vopni and two of the Graves Golf Academy coaches, Scott Renfrow and Clay Farnsworth, we spent Monday to Friday taking pictures for the book which is part instruction, a celebration of Moe and his legacy, and a story how Todd’s frustration with golf led him to discover Moe and the unique swing that he has taught to thousands of golfers through the Graves Golf Academy.

Todd’s dedication to Moe led him to track me down about eight years ago after he read my biography of Moe, The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story which came out in 1995. I’ll write more about our book, Todd and Moe later, as well as details about when it will be available as we work them out.

Telling folks I was going on a photo shoot sounded really cool, as if I’d be wearing mirror aviator shades hanging out on a tropical beach with bodacious models. Nope. My main role was keeper of the “shot list”—a 18-page document that detailed all of the pictures that were to illustrate the text. Cool? It took me two days to create the list by reviewing all 14 chapters. It was incredibly boring until I started to visualize shots for certain situations.

Jon Vopni, our book designer/photographer, arrived in Orlando on Saturday to start building our temporary studio in a meeting room at Eagle Creek for our shoot which was scheduled to start on Monday, October 21. Using telescoping tripods, Jon created a structure to hang two rolls of white “seamless” paper from the ceiling. Shortly after 7 a.m. Monday, Jon and I pulled the sheets, which hang like massive rolls of toilet paper, down and then along the floor. The sheets are each 10 feet wide each, so we created a stark white backdrop about 20 feet wide. The whiteness makes easy to close crop the images—particularly sequences—on white pages.

We began shooting about 730 a.m. when Todd moved into position on the giant white landscape and the four flash units started flashing. After each sequence of pictures, we reviewed the shots on Jon’s laptop—tethered to the camera–made adjustments and kept going until we thought we’d nailed the shot.

Shooting positions in a dynamic motion such as a golf swing is painstakingly detailed. Todd moved through and momentarily held key positions–about 15-20 per swing—while Jon snapped each position. Todd must have moved “slo-mo” through about 50 swings on Monday.  It was a testament to Todd’s fitness and how he owns his swing 100%.

We moved out on to the course Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Fortunately, the weather was mostly cooperative. However, shooting pictures on a busy residential golf course is complicated. Finding the right location requires that the sun is at the right angle, the background and foreground are uncluttered (free of houses mainly), and there are no golfers on the hole.

We roared around the course with three carts logging equipment that included tripods, light reflectors and a 15-foot ladder for overhead shots. My roles were mainly to match the shots we needed—including down-the-line and face-on perspectives—to locations on the course and to generally help out, such as ensuring the camera angles and Todd’s positioning matched.

Most of the time, it was fascinating with plenty of golf and sports talk and joking around. Some times, things got testy when we disagreed, or a shot wasn’t working as we had conceptualized it. As each day wore on, everyone tended to get a little grumpy.

On Thursday night, Jon presented us with a draft cover design using a photo that we’d captured in glorious early evening sunshine that reflected off a pond Wednesday. Everyone was ecstatic.

By Friday about 1 p.m., we had captured our last image. We were excited that we had great weather and had knocked off all the pictures on our shot list, as well as a lot more that we created on the spot.

In all, we captured 4,888 pictures. Now, the selection process begins. Yipes!


About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!


  1. Great column, Tim. I look forward to seeing the book, the photos, and reading the text. Congratulations.