Around Christmastime, I was contacted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology regarding the use of this photograph of a Pileated woodpecker for their local newsletter. As you may know, Cornell University is the preeminent research institution regarding the study of birds; so, of course, I was more than happy to let them use the photo. The publication arrived this week and it is such an honor to see my “work” in print—and in such a prestigious venue. Their cropping and color-correction looks fabulous and many birdlovers will see this photograph on the cover of this newsletter. It was quite a thrill to get this in the mail.
I put the scare-quotes around “work” because playing around with the camera is not “work” for me. It’s nothing but fun! Lizzy likes to point out that unlike all of my other various interests, I do not “beat myself up” about photography. And it’s true: unlike music—or writing—I do not take it all that seriously. Don’t get me wrong: I’m obviously interested in cameras—sometimes downright obsessed—and I try to learn about more and improve my technique, but mostly because that it is all part of the fun. When I take a “bad” picture (which is almost always), I don’t get bent out of shape about it (unlike just about every bit of music I’ve ever made or word I’ve ever written). Thanks to the ease and economy of the digital camera, I’m overjoyed if three out of a hundred exposures is half-way decent. I almost never print anything and put my photos up on Flickr just to have them all in one virtual place. It’s nice when people make compliments and all but, more than anything, there is just something enormously gratifying about taking pictures and looking at them. But I’m not sure it’s “art” in the same way that painting or music (or writing) is. That assertion is, of course, entirely debatable (and the subject of another blog post altogether)—but this attitude (as wrong-headed as it is surely is) is what allows photography to be pure fun for me.
Well, much to my surprise, my Flickr photostream has recently been getting a lot more attention lately—and I’m not really sure why. I’ve had over a thousand “views” in the last month or so and have been contacted regarding using a couple of my photos for online travel guides. That is amazing enough—but the National Geographic Society recently submitted a licensing request through Getty Images to use one of my bird photographs for the cover (the cover!) of a book project they are working on. At first, I thought it was scam, but apparently, it is for real. If they ultimately do use it (an admittedly big if), I would actually get paid—some nominal sum no doubt—but still…National Geographic?! Are you kidding me? That is the ne plus ultra of wildlife photography. What is going on here? Should I start taking my photography more seriously? Should I try to launch a new career? It’s tempting to get carried away with these thoughts—but I want photography to remain the realm of pure joy.
Whatever happens, it is, at the moment, enormously flattering to know that people are looking at my photographs and a tremendous honor to even be considered by National Geographic. This little ego-boost comes at a most welcome time as I ponder what to do with the rest of my life. Photography will always be a part of it since it is so much fun. But is it my purpose in life? I don’t know. Do I have a purpose? I’d like to think so—but I don’t know what it is. Can “work” and “play” be one and the same? That is the dream. What is the reality? Time will tell...