I haven’t connected with my writing for a while and with the past month’s excitement still fresh, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on things. If you haven’t been following my social media, I had a photo published in Canadian Geographic Best Wildlife Photography 2019 special issue. I can pretty much guarantee that for any Canadian wildlife photographer, this is a huge honour. It’s also my first national photo publication.
I’ve never really labeled myself as any ‘type’ of photographer. I’ve photographed people, events, products, nature, wildlife… you name it. I’ve studied landscape and macro photography. I was a newspaper reporter/photographer in my early years. I grew up with film cameras, have spent many hours in darkrooms, now shoot with a professional DSLR camera, but still have a waterproof point-and-shoot and GoPro when I’m out paddleboarding. I’m not a huge gadget person, but will get excited over a new lens, or tripod, or printer. I have soooo much more to learn and will sometimes still forget to set my white balance or ISO or have a bad focusing (on the camera) day.
I love putting life in my viewfinder, capturing a moment, and sharing it with whoever is looking. And it’s this combination that somehow got me published. I’m blessed to live in the woods, more or less. I’m not a weekend warrior who has to escape the city to look for wildlife. I don’t go on elaborate treks to photograph grizzlies, or wolves, or penguins. Not saying I wouldn’t want to, but I’m immersed in my own wild adventure daily and that’s what I spend a lot of time photographing. My photos are my life and surroundings. I know how lucky I am. This summer I watched my spotted fawn learn to navigate the world, with its mama always close by. I took photos. I shared. And one was noticed on my Instagram by Canadian Geographic. For those who have asked, that’s it, that’s how it happened. I will be honest in saying that I was relieved this was not a cell phone shot and was properly focused. I was able to provide the photo they saw in the quality they needed. If I’m to give any advice through my own experience, it’s to represent yourself truthfully. And while social media has made it all about ‘likes,’ it isn’t about that at all. It’s about what you love. And that’s what gets you noticed and shows through in your work, regardless of what you do.
It was October 2017 that I had my first photography show. I was Featured Artist at Arts on 3 Gallery in Christina Lake, my hometown. This was a step outside my comfort zone at the time, as I’m not a huge fan of being in the spotlight. But again, I love to share my work, so it was a wonderful opportunity. It also may have been the moment I finally felt comfortable with the label of ‘photographer.’ I’ve not felt comfortable with labels, but I’m learning that it’s okay to stand behind who you are. The saying, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” is so very true. The steps I took with my show, forcing me to step into who I am, were part of the path of getting me to where I am now. And it’s important that I continue to remember this.
So, in the past year I’ve felt the growth as a photographer happen. I half wonder what next October will bring. I love being a work in progress because there is always something to aspire to and to learn. The community and support I’ve found has also been amazing and I wanted to share a bit of my experience with anyone who may question their own dreams and passions. You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to prove yourself. You just have to do what feels right and be happy doing it. And don’t hesitate to stand behind your own label. Yeah, I’m a wildlife photographer. But I’m still a portrait photographer, a nature photographer, a stand-up paddleboard photographer, and if truth be told, dogs are my favourite clients. Labels are okay, just don’t box yourself into that comfort zone.
I’ve said this before, but thanks for sharing in all this with me. This is who I am, so this is what you get - photos that tell my stories and hopefully inspire an appreciation for the world around us. Nature is in a fragile state at this point in our lives. We can’t take any of it for granted anymore. I hope we can all learn to be kind, respectful, and infuse it with as much love as possible. xo