We all have photography lessons — sometimes we seek them out and other times, they are handed to us, whether we want them or not. My lesson of late has been what to do with your time and passion when you are unable to photograph the subjects you care most about in this world? As a few folks close to me have known, I was unable to shoot much of 2013, especially wildlife, because it required longer lenses, generally heavier gear, farther distances and varying weather conditions. To be blunt, I was unable to lift my gear or even take very many steps for many, many months. Trip after trip was cancelled; potential bids were cancelled, etc. It left me with the scary question, what do I do now? How can I consider myself a wildlife photographer, passionate about conservation, documenting our wild species and fading rural structures if I am not out there doing anything about it?
It’s something I struggle with and will continue to have to work out whilst I am dealing with this injury. What made me feel somewhat better about my situation was first of all, to appreciate I was able to be in the vicinity of wildlife to begin with, image or no image; camera or no camera. It’s extremely therapeutic and because I wasn’t able to do so very often, I would find myself turning to other resources I knew of to stir my soul, and while hard at times to watch or read, I was always left inspired, educated and waiting until I could be out in the wild again.
My top go-to wildlife resources were as follows (I link y’all up below under my favourites):
- My library of wildlife and nature books. I have 28 wildlife books alone (and counting), and while it’s not a lot to some folks, these pages are filled with information about the biology and behaviour of our wildlife species. Stories of conservation triumph and failures, challenges, frustrations and more left me counting the seconds until I can be more involved in the field. These books are so crucial to my research and education of our wild world and I never tire of reading them.
- YouTube. There are a number of ethical wildlife enthusiasts and wildlife photographers and organizations who post either behind the scenes footage or the end results of their wildlife pursuits. Even the older videos are excellent.
- Conservation organizations. There are a number of orgs I follow, especially those in Canada and specifically, Alberta. The amount of data and passion these orgs have available to us are worth their weight in gold many times over.
- Local telly. Shows like Alberta Primetime have started to tackle more topics regarding the crisis our Alberta wildlife often face. It’s so wonderful to see this show do so and I only hope we see a lot more of this in the future.
- Wildlife photographers and filmmakers. Ah, ethical wildlife photographers bring much more to the table than just interesting and beautiful photography. They bring experience, a true, heartfelt passion and loads of education acquired in the field for the animals they document. If we’re lucky, they will share their passion with us with more than just the images and footage they make.
- My own inventory, much of it never shared (boo, I know), and my own memories, research and experiences. I never forget a wildlife shoot. Ever. It’s always good while my memory is this sharp to go back and recall why I was out in the field to begin with, what I’ve learned, how I’ve both succeeded and failed. There’s much to be learned from this alone.
My favourites (links included):
- Books »» The Will of the Land – Peter A. Dettling; Captured – Moose Peterson; Mark of the Grizzly – Scott McMillion; Elk & Deer – Antlered Animals of the West – Kevin Van Tighem; Wildlife Heroes – Julie Scardina and Jeff Flocken; Where Elk Roam – Bruce L. Smith, PhD; Portraits of the Bison – Wes Olson.
- YouTube »» Michael Mauro – Mauromedia; Moose Peterson; Let’s Go Outdoors; Parks Canada
- Orgs »» Alberta Conservation; Alberta Fish and Wildlife | Species at Risk; COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada); Leave No Trace – Canada; National Elk Refuge – Jackson Hole, Wyoming and of course, the wonderful Elk Island National Park
- Local tv »» Alberta Primetime
- Wildlife & nature photographers / filmmakers »» Moose Peterson; Andrew Manske; Peter A. Dettling; Jake Peterson; Jerry Monkman
I’ve discovered I feel lost without being around wildlife and really, I cannot wait to be out there again. These life lessons, while so frustrating at times, have forced me to shift my focus back where it needs to be. There is a lot of work needing to be done and I’m going to do my share. It’s the least I can do since I have a strong voice, passion and a camera. If I am lucky, I can combine all 3. Our wildlife need a helping hand and a voice to speak for them.
A huge thank you to those wildlife heroes, organizations and mates who kept me inspired when I was left wondering what to do next. With so many resources around us, it’s critical to tap into them and keep yourself rolling along.
See you in the field!