It’s been some time since I wrote my initial blog post on the journey to become a professional wildlife photographer (see the original blog post here), and given what I have learnt since then I feel now is the time to write a follow up to that article.
Looking back, it does seem like a very long time ago (just over a year), and I have learnt and experienced a great deal since then. I am well and truly ‘on the journey’ and have a sense of how much further there is to go.
I have to say that this journey is one of joy, reward, frustration and annoyance. Let me start with frustration and annoyance … The one thing any budding photographer needs is time to pursue their craft. Over the past few months I have learnt that this is a very precious commodity, especially when committed to a full time job that pays the bills and pays for the excursions out and the expanding range of camera gear.
It can become troublesome trying to get enough spare time to get out with a camera when at the end of a working day you are left exhausted and want nothing more than to rest up and recharge.
The guilt sets in as you sink into a comfy sofa, and see the ideal weather conditions outside calling your name, with visions of getting ‘that’ shot if you were only to grab your camera gear and head to that location you love so much, but the rumblings of a headache behind your eyes brought on by the stresses of the day convinces you otherwise.
And then there’s the time that you actually get to that precious location, only to see no signs of your chosen quarry, or to find that the world and his wife are already there, and any prime opportunities for getting some great shots are blown away by families letting their dogs and children run around, scaring away any chances of capturing some wildlife in its natural surroundings.
Plans of leaving work early in order to get some camerawork in thwarted as ‘something comes up’ outside of your control and you are honour bound to stay and help fix it, or members of your team are happy to stay on ‘until whenever’ as you look out of the window and see the ideal light conditions fading, or you get that out of hours call while in the car driving to a photo shoot, asking you to go into work and help with today’s issue that only you have the knowledge to fix.
But, moving onto joy, these events pale into insignificance as you finally reach your destination of choice and manage to nail the shot you have been dreaming about for months. That bird or mammal finally doing that thing you wanted to capture with the light just perfect.
A good friend of mine calls it the ‘mermaid riding on the back of a unicorn moment’, because it’s so rare that when you do get ‘that’ shot nothing else matters. And then there’s the modicum of recognition that manages to come your way every now and again, boosting your confidence and encouraging you to go the extra mile.
After months of little recognition despite my best efforts and online presence, I had the wonderful opportunity to let a very talented artist called Danielle Fisher use one of my shots in her artwork.
No money changed hands for this, instead a simple exchange of my photo for her one of her earlier art pieces. At the end of it she has made a wonderful job of converting my image to some wonderful art, and I have one of her magnificent pieces hanging in our living room. See images on this page.
The feeling you get when someone really wants to use your work and recognises the effort you out into the shot in the first place is a real moral booster. It confirms that the way you see and frame shots is not wrong and that you are doing the right thing with your photography.
It goes without saying that when other wildlife photographers who you look up to comment favourably about your work, again you feel justified in taking the time to get that shot, and feel confident that the time and effort you are putting in is well worth it, and that you may indeed be on the right track.
Let’s not forget about kit and skills. I have upgraded my camera kit quite significantly since my initial blog post, and I can safely say that I have made the right choice each time, based on valued advice from peers and magazine articles, not to mention other blog posts from photographers I admire and look up to.
I’ve learnt how to use that kit, and how not to use it. I know where the best settings for the camera bodies and lenses are given different light conditions. I know how to post process photos so they stand up on their own merit, and I know how not to post process so photos look like a right dogs dinner.
I am happy with my work and the path I have taken. I still have a lot to learn, it given the journey so far I’m quite looking forward to it. It just might make me ignore that headache and get off the sofa and go out, searching for ‘that’ shot.