Food For Thought II
If you think you can make a fortune with wildlife photography, you´re kidding yourself. If you want to make a fortune, you have to be a fashion or publicity photographer.
To be a good wildlife photographer, you have to invest at least as much time as you need to become a good doctor or lawyer, but most probably it even takes longer. It is also a lot more arduous.
The beginning of wildlife photography is when you use a tripod. Everything before that are snapshots. The tripod leaves your thoughts free for the lay-out.
If you own a mirror lens, throw it into the next river and forget about it real quick. No respectable wildlife photographer in the whole world uses a mirror lens.
What does wildlife photography have in store for us in the new millennium ? At medium range probably the authentic wildlife photography with authentic documents of nature. People will be fed up sooner or later with the pictures of tame wolves or tigers they keep getting confronted with, or manipulated pictures of frogs, snakes, mushrooms and chameleons that have a grasshopper placed before them at the exact distance for them to eat, or similar things they have to look at.
Another question I keep asking myself, is how much longer will our hunting magazines keep presenting their readers almost exclusively pictures of wild boar, red deer, rabbits and other forest animals and not make note of the domesticated style they live in but instead proclaim them as wildlife documents, especially since "pasture shooting" is so much frowned on in hunting circles. Hunters, in my opinion, are certain that they are presented with genuine wildlife photos of genuine wild animals and not of domesticated animals who hang around their pasture all fat and lazy waiting for their next feeding or with a deer that eats the bouquet of flowers from the hand of its keeper so that he can get the next front page photo for "field and stream".
Well, and then I am sure that the next millennium will make us switch in the coming 5 10 years to digital photography. There are so many advantages: If I presently fly to Africa or America, I have to take 300 rolls of film with me. That is very heavy and takes up a lot of room and do to well known reasons, I have to take them in my carry-on which is not really very funny. On my return, I have to have these 300 rolls of film developed and framed, then I screen 10.000 slides, throw away 8.000 of them and sort out, name and label the remaining 2.000. That takes up a tremendous amount of time...
When working with a digital camera like i.e. the new Nikon D1, I don´t have to take any rolls of film with me, can check the pictures every evening and erase the unsuitable ones immediately. I can record the data right then and there. I can choose the 10 or 20 best shots of the day (if there is a day when you have so many good shots) and send them on the same evening from the Masai Mara, the Antarctica, from Churchill or Mongolia by satellite cellular (which in two or three years will be available at a reasonable price) directly to the home office and the photos can be marketed before the photographer has returned from his trip. And what a pleasure it will be to work with the duplicates. Presently there is only one real good original action photo and any copies made are noticeably worse in quality. But if the picture is digitized, every copy is as good as the original.
You also save an incredible amount of money. A professional needs about 1.500 2.000 rolls of film for slides a year. With the developing and the framing at 10,- to 15,- DM a piece, you have an amount of 20.000 to 30.000 DM you can save annually if you photograph without film. We will all switch in a few years, the advantages are just to great.
The common way of photographing just turned 150 years old the other day. Wildlife photography, in our sense, is in existence since 1880/1890. At the time the brothers Kearton made their first pictures and Otmar Anschütz published his famous series of white storks in a magazine in Leipzig. It was a long hard journey since we left the world of premonitions and entered the age of reflective consciousness about 25.000 years ago. Nobody can say just how long we existed as an active part in the animal world or how much time we spent being in the world of premonitions, in which, I believe, the Chimpanzees are today. Anyone who has ever been in closer contact with these relatives of ours, as I was fortunate to have in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania, will agree that they are not on the level of primitive evolutionary species any more, but on the threshold of awareness.
The Chimpanzee could, next to us, be the second species on our planet to be able to ponder over their existence.
It was the great wildlife cameraman Hugo van Larwick who discovered that todays Chimpanzees are in the process of developing a first, primitive religion by performing beseeching rain dances.
This "religion" is far from the primitive religions as for instance that of the Incas who worshipped the sun as their god, ...... but not really that far from away from it. Well, so there has been wildlife photography for a good 100 years already, but, more interesting is the question: How much longer will we have it?
Wildlife photography will certainly disappear together with our current evolutionary level. Nobody (yet) will just say exactly at what point we left the animal level; if 100.000 years ago or only 25.000 years ago. In any case, it is certain, that this evolutionary level will not be the last.
If we take a look at the million and billion year long process from cell to fish via reptile to ape to anthropoid via primate to human, we can only imagine the next step and have to consider that we may leave our to 99.9% animalistic body and take our reflective consciousness out of its present "container" brain and copy it into/onto a chip, video tape or motherboard. There is no imagining our continued existence in this way. The course of the human by way of Homo sapiens to Homo compute...? Us presently and our deeds or atrocities will be thought of with leniency ..... we did´nt know any better, and will be put in our place along the line of prehistoric evolutionary stages via ape, anthropoid, primate, human.....and the real human (Homo computi), who will finally leave the realm of animals. Only, that there wont be any more wildlife photographers, because....... for what reason would our computerized ego need to buy a 4.0/300 mm lens......?????
Whereas most people of our time are Im sorry to say - are consumers of worthless junk, and are tranquilized with seventh reruns of some stupid sitcom on some stupid channel, we wildlife photographers are lucky to enjoy one of the most important, meaningful and interesting activities, either as a job, as part time or as a hobby.
How do you define "successful wildlife photography"? From my own present experiences, I would define it as "calculated luck". Meaning by "luck" to be at the right place at the right time, like when a python devours an impala. "Calculated" meaning, to just always be prepared by having the right tripod, the right camera, the right film, the right lens with you and to have acquired the ability throughout the long years of study and experiences to recognize the quality of a moment when you see it.
If your picture is not good enough, you were not close enough (emotionally).
The "right moment" can not be determined with a camera, not with a Nikon, Minolta or Canon, but only from a wildlife photographer who recognizes the motif with his head, eye and heart and intuitively knows what he has to do with what equipment in order to turn this right moment adequately into photographic reality which is not the same as normal reality.
Everybody is motivated for about 4 weeks at one time or another. A secret of successful wildlife photographers could be, that maybe they can feed on their happiness and motivation of one experienced success for a long period of time, can conserve this and use it to float from one success to another like a glider from cloud to cloud.
If one wants to make really good wildlife pictures, one has to try to become a "complete" wildlife photographer. Like for instance a super tennis player: he may have a good forehand, his serve is first rate, the legwork is excellent, the tactic and preparation is perfect but if his backhand is weak, he will never reach the absolute top because of this one lack of perfection. He has to concentrate on this one weakness and work it out in order to be on the same level of perfection in all aspects. It is the same in wildlife photography. Continue developing your abilities and train your weaknesses until they are gone. You need perfect technique, creative skills, exact and clean work, a strategy, biological knowledge and determination. Besides that, you should be open, be able to make contact easily, cultivate relationships and make sure that the important positions (like photo editors) are aware of your work. What is the use of unique photos if they are buried in your drawer. A colleague from Munich ( Frieder Sauer) once wrote: A professional wildlife photographer should work for 6 hours a day and walk through a city 6 hours a day, ringing a bell and shouting : "I am the best wildlife photographer of all times......" or : let your work speak for itself, no pain no gain, marketing will let you live.....well.
Wildlife photography is like a drug. It has an unbelievable power and it gives immense fulfillment to work and live with. A wildlife photographer is not free of doubting himself of course, but that can be a positive aspect, because you can further your development with it. I would not have wanted to live without wildlife photography not for a moment.