Eastern Wake News Sports Editor and reporter Aaron Moody was named the Hugh Morton Photographer of the Year for community newspapers during the North Carolina Press Association’s annual recognition ceremony Feb. 26.
Moody, 30, has been working with the Eastern Wake News for eight years, only picking up serious photography on his first assignment with the paper.
“I had no clue at all,” he said of his knowledge of cameras on his first assignment. “I had to get pictures at a construction site and I stood out there for 20 minutes and couldn’t get the camera to work.”
He credits much of his success to learning under “some of the best photographers around” – sports photographers Damon Thomas and Steven Worthy.
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“I sponged up as much as I could,” he said.
Moody has won four other awards from the NCPA in the past. Last year, he placed second for general news photography. In 2012, he took home two third-place awards for sports feature photography and general sports photography. In 2010 he picked up an award for an instructional video about converting to digital television.
“Aaron has worked hard on his photography ever since he joined the Eastern Wake News staff,” said Eastern Wake News Managing Editor Johnny Whitfield. “He’s learned through trial and error and lots of practice. I’m thrilled that other journalists have recognized the hard work he has put in to his photography.”
Whitfield pointed out that with hundreds of community newspapers across the state with photographers, the recognition is significant.
“It’s impressive that Aaron’s work was judged the best from among all the work done in a state that fosters great community journalism,” he said.
Moody said what sets him apart is the high premium he places on quality.
“Clearly it’s the most significant award I’ve ever won,” he said.
And he feels a connection to the late Hugh Morton, the photographer and nature conservationist who developed Grandfather Mountain, and whom the award is named after.
“Hugh Morton was a big conservationist and photographer in the mountains where I was born. We had ties to the same area,” Moody said. “We had a lot in common.”
The NCPA awards are presented at the organization’s Winter Institute in Chapel Hill, a networking and informational session for newspapers across the state.