Today, I'm a full-time rabid nature photographer whose major focus is conservation. I reside in the southern Columbia Valley of British Columbia, wedged between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcells to the west, with my longtime partner Patti and our two almost human Portuguese Water Dogs - Jose and Poncho. The area in which I live has been called the "Serengeti of North America." It's not a bad place for a nature photographer to live, I say with my tongue firmly in place in my cheek!
I currently concentrate my photographic efforts in North America and, in particular, western Canada. I use the term "nature photographer" to describe myself, rather than the more limiting terms of "wildlife photographer" or "bird photographer" or even "bear photographer" (though I suspect some of the locals in the community in which I live probably think I'm a bit of a "bear nut"). I'm keen to aim my camera at anything "natural", though I rarely shoot landscapes, mainly because I don't feel my preferred camera format - the SLR camera - is the right tool for quality landscape work.
My photographic goal is to extract and expose the "natural art" that is all around us. My workflow is driven totally by image quality, not speed. The approach that works best for me is to concentrate on locations that are "close to home" where I can become intimately familiar with the local flora and fauna, their annual cycles, and the area's lighting characteristics. I normally take one or two annual trips to slightly more exotic locations, such as BC's Great Bear Rainforest or Churchill, MB (also known as "Polar Bear Central").
A few of my personality characteristics directly impact on my photography: I'm incredibly determined and persistent (some would say stubborn), somewhat anal (although I prefer the term "perfectionist"), observant and analytical (which comes from spending a lot of time studying birds in the field), and very comfortable with technology. And, more important than anything else, a natural early riser.
What pathway led me to where I am today? A somewhat indirect one, but it all makes sense to me: Biologist, Lecturer, Entrepreneur and Small Business Owner, Communications Consultant, Hi Tech Worker, and finally, Nature Photographer.
My original training - far too many decades ago - was in biology. I completed a B.Sc. is in Environmental Biology and a M.Sc. in Behavioural Ecology (the study of animal behaviour from an evolutionary perspective). My own research was in animal communication and territoriality and I used songbirds as my study subjects, in particular White-crowned Sparrows and both Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees (none of those macho-enhancing carnivores for me - I wanted good data!). While conducting my own studies I assisted in other projects on Snowy Owls, Red-tailed and Swainson's Hawks, Cougars, Black Bears, and Grizzly Bears in my spare time.
Following completion of my master's degree I spent a few years lecturing at the University of Calgary and a local college while I published the results of my research work. I have the perception (or possibly misconception) that I was an excellent lecturer for the keen and enthusiastic students, but I suspect the other students might describe me otherwise...
An odd transition (even for me!) left me as an entrepreneur and a small business owner. OK, I'll admit it - I was a partner in a high-end bicycle shop. For 10 years. During a local economic downturn. Hey...I learned a LOT and it was a great cover for an over-the-hill bicycle road racer!
Somewhere along the line I purchased myself a Macintosh computer (a truly life-changing event!) and taught myself a little about print layout and web design. And, before long I was busy designing and producing print ads and catalogs, websites, and writing for a few magazines. In a strange way it was good training enroute to becoming a nature photographer.
Next came a multi-year stint in the Hi-Tech sector. Caffeine-charged stuff. Good fun and heady times. I worked with Adobe Systems in San Jose (as Project Manager of the Plug-in Project and Manager of Worldwide Merchandising for Adobe.com) and Getty Images in Seattle (as Site Manager of all their royalty-free websites and Vice President of the Online Strategy and Design Department). Perfect training for a soon-to-be full-time nature photographer. Really.
In 2005 I closed the loop and decided to return to work with nature on a full-time basis. But now, instead of studying it, I'm photographing it. It's hard work, tough to make a living in, and decidely less glamourous than the life that many imagine it to be. And I love it.