What’s it like to be a nature photographer?

I wish I could remember the answer to that question sometimes. Like many others (I know because I’ve heard the complaints) I seem to spend more and more time behind a computer screen. OK, mine is a warm office with great views and a regular supply of milky coffee (a throwback to my childhood) courtesy of my lovely wife Amanda. But it’s NOT what I signed up to!

Last weekend I spent a few days with colleagues Mark Hamblin, Niall Benvie and videographer Raymond Besant. Were were working on a 2020VISION assignment in north-west Scotland. OK the weather wasn’t great but do you know what, I could feel the blood pumping through my veins again; the creative urge that brought me to this business in the first place surged back to the surface. But most of all, I was getting a wildness fix.

Standing alone at Achnahaird Bay as a hazy dusk descended, I got a call from Amanda with some very sad news – a friend of ours had died very suddenly. Shocking though the news was, I could not have chosen to receive it anywhere more comforting. Wildness is not just somewhere that serves up spectacular imagery, it’s where we came from; it’s our home. I know our friend would have empathised with such a view.

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1 thought on “What’s it like to be a nature photographer?

  1. It’s perhaps easy for us in the ‘private sector’ to express the sentiment that you just did, and in the way you have, and I think we sometimes take that for granted.

    I gave a presentation of images as the opener to a big conference in Lancaster University some time back, to an audience of conservation professionals. My (silent) piece was subtle in places, and very hard-hitting in others. The silence of the presentation was deliberate as it left ‘space’ for the audience to bring their own experiences and emotions to bear on the visual narrative. And I think it was obvious to all that it was a presentation created out of passion and a belief that nature can affect people, and that strong feelings about nature can be used to effect change.

    Feedback was interesting throughout the event, and particularly as the thought processes coalesced in the closing session. The one overarching feeling being expressed was that all these professional ‘ologists’ employed by various agencies, had enjoyed the simple luxury the conference had afforded them of being able to talk openly and passionately about the nature/ landscape/ environment that inspired them and that was the focus of their job roles.

    A recently published piece ‘The Nature of Conservationists’ bears this out – see it here on the VINE website: http://www.vineproject.org.uk/project_documents.html

    Here’s a key quote from it:

    A key finding of the study was that conservation staff felt inhibited in how they expressed
    their feelings about nature. They generally wanted to talk in more passionate and
    philosophical terms about the value of nature, but were concerned that would be seen as lacking credibility. “So in the end we just talk about nature as in we talk ecosystem
    services and bringing home to politicians that nature is money, seems to be the only way
    to do it. It works, it’s maybe a little bit dangerous but you know that’s what is important
    to people”. This danger comes from the feeling that not everything can or should be
    valued in economic or scientific terms. (end quote)

    Talking passionately is seen as lacking credibility? Now theres a concept to wrestle with.

    And risking my credibility for a moment, I’d like to ask – can being in a lonely windswept bay at a time of grief bring some comfort and consolation?

    And answer, of course.

    Can an image of such a place, viewed in silence away from the echo of surf and rush of sea wind, impart some sense of those feelings of loss and sadness?

    You risk your credibility dear readers, and decide for yourselves.

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