Friday, August 19, 2011

Earning a living as a wildlife photographer

I have been reading a photography book by Jussi Murtosaari, titled A wildlife photographer's year, a personal account (Finnish title Luontokuvaajan vuosi, tarinoita ja tunnelmia; Docendo, 2010). The book is written in Finnish, but figure captions are also in English, and chapter texts have concise summaries in English.

Murtosaari knows a great deal about his subjects, such as birds, and thus the book is great reading both for those interest in nature and for those interested in nature photography.

The book not only contains great wildlife photographs but also tells how the photographs were taken, including the difficulties and mistakes. And best of all, this book is not so "plastic" as some other recent wildlife photography books, where photographs are so saturated that it hurts they eye. This book is realistic, and I like it.

But what this book also makes one think about is nature photography as a profession. It may be one of the hardest ones for earning a living, as there is intense competition, not only from professionals but also from hobbyists. And running a photography business is fraught with risks: you make a plan to make a series of photographs (or even a book) on a particular subject, and then nature provides a surprise so that there is nothing to take photographs of.

In fact, reading Murtosaari's book I felt an intense sense of not wanting to go into this kind of activity, with all the things needed: scouting places, baiting (feeding) the subjects, building shelters, traveling long distances to get the shot, and so on.

Mike Moats had recently a nice posting on the topic of selling a particular photograph: "This image did great in contests, won image of the year at in the flora category, and was published in magazines but never sold well for people to hang on their walls. [...] One of the problems is the color of green. [...] It’s a green that doesn’t work in many home decors, so it is a hard sell. This happens with all of my images that have the natural greens in nature."

For me, photography is personal, not an industry. I guess the only reason I take photographs is that I take photographs. The meaning is in the doing. I'm taking photographs to see what things look like in a photograph.

Some writer or philosopher said when asked what it is to be human: "I want to become what I am." Maybe this idea can be applied to photographers as well.

Today I once again listened to the radio, and there was a marathon runner being interviewed. (Tomorrow is Helsinki City Marathon.) She was telling about her preparation, and one of the questions was on what to think about when running. She said: "When I'm running I don't think anything. I just run."

This is also something that every once in a while happens when taking photographs - I stop thinking and just take photographs. Those are great moments. (And I doesn't matter when the results turn out to be nothing worth saving; the reward was in the doing.)

And by the way, today is World Photography Day.


Amish Stories said...

Greetings from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,Pa. Have a very nice weekend everyone. Richard from Amish Stories.

The Tinman said...

A thoughtful post on not thinking :-)

But seriously, I agree. As I get older, I at times look back on circumstances when I was told to think too much into something when I should have just let the path run its course. I guess this is one advantage of life: it's an ongoing learning process.

On a side note: Are you happy or saddened by the appearance of autumn? We have another month or so of summer here in the eastern US, but I already know I'll be sad to see summer go.

Cedric said...

Nice post. AS I get older I find myself living life by simply letting it happen. It's simpler that way and much quieter in my head ;)

Juha Haataja said...

@Tinman and Cedric: Well, it isn't always so easy to let things find their natural order.

About autumn: it is a favorite season, at least when we have bright leaf colors and sunny days. But autumn can be rather dark as well, one never knows. But I like seasons - it would be intolerable to just have one season going on forever.

School Resources said...

Lovely pictures and awesome photography.