Not too long ago, somebody asked me how photography impacted my life. As the wheels in my head began to spin, the person added a guideline and limited my response to one sentence. Impossible, and it lead to many hours of dialogue. There’s no way I could narrow down all the ways I could say, “Thank You, Nature Photography,” into a single sentence. It was a great conversation, and it made the five-and-a-half hour car ride go by in a flash. In thinking about what to write for this week’s OP Tip Of The Week, a brain cell fired, and I was brought back to that exchange. My focus on photography is nature, people and travel, but just about any subject matter can be substituted for what’s to follow. So I pose the same question that appears in the opening to you—give it some thought as you read on.
Photography brought me to places where I otherwise wouldn’t have traveled. Was it the act of acquiring pictures that drove me to the location or was it the lure of the location? It doesn’t matter—the point is I got to enjoy the place and capture its memories. It taught me to appreciate the beauty of gorgeous light and revel in it even if I didn’t have my camera. I have many files locked in my head that can never be transferred to the computer. The key is I have the gift of owning those files, and I can recall them when I want. It’s made me appreciate the beauty of a gorgeous sunrise, magnificent building, rolling hillside, native person of the country I visit, and so much more. I always view the world as if I have a camera to my eyes, and I’m constantly pressing the shutter. Whether it’s at 50mph watching the scenery pass by or sitting at home watching the light through my window, my camera eyes show me beauty in everything.
Photography has given me long-lasting friendships, and I look forward to establishing new ones with other photographers I’ve yet to meet. The camaraderie among photographers is unrivaled, and it’s proven by the relationships I’ve formed. It has provided me the opportunity to capture a millisecond in time and freeze it forever to share. My camera is the vehicle I use to share these precious moments. Once I make a photo, that moment can never be taken away. I own it, and it’s preserved forever—that’s powerful! What else is out there that allows this? Nothing.
My camera is an extension of my hand, and my lens is an extension of my eyes. They both provide therapy in the form of stress relief every time I’m out in the field. When I lead one of my week or 10-day nature photo tours or safaris, and by the second day I’ve already forgotten the date or the day of the week, it’s a testament to its validity. Every sunset helps calm the nerves. Every sunrise eases the tension. Every click of the shutter loosens another muscle. It’s stress relief that’s essential to reduce the stress to meet an editor’s deadline, worry over selling enough photos to pay bills and doing the mandatory office stuff that’s part of the job. Photography isn’t a job for me, it’s a passion.
With regards to a job, photography has provided me with a life where I don’t feel as if I work. There are those times of stress as stated above, but knowing it allows me to do what I want, do something I feel passionate about, and get out in the field and relax; I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s given me an education about the geology and wildlife I photograph. The knowledge I’ve acquired about animals allows me to understand them and be able to predict their behavior. Staying one step ahead of them to capture that perfect moment is powerful. Have you ever had an encounter with a wild animal where they allow you to enter their world and accept you as a non-threat so that you come back with great images as a result? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a connection unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
Photography is an avenue to make connections. The connections may be with other photographers, events, a gorgeous scene, people in general, a city, etc. It provides a path that opens doors to the unknown future. Will the light be gorgeous tomorrow? Will the animals be there when I drive the road? Will the city be teeming with life? Will any subject that I want to photograph be washed with beautiful light? It’s also an avenue to document history. For the first year of my son’s life, I made at least a single photo of him every day and wrote down what motivated me to do so. At the end of his first year, I put together an album with one photo from each day along with a caption. It’s an album I’ll treasure forever.
Photography is a form of hope. I hope that my enthusiasm stimulates others to feel the same as I do. I hope it’s contagious and others catch my photo fever so they, too, can see the world through the same eyes I do and appreciate its magnificence. I hope my nature photos have changed at least one person’s mind to realize how important it is to protect land and wildlife habitats. I hope that more people take the time to appreciate the wonder of nature to relieve stress in their own lives— even if it’s only for the duration of time they’re out in the field.
In the beginning of this week’s tip, I asked you to think about what photography has meant to you. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to know how photography has impacted your life. I will check back to this Tip periodically to see what you add. I look forward to reading your thoughts - don’t be shy!
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.