For me, bird photography as art is about two connecting themes: extraordinary craftsmanship in terms of technical mastery of photography and a fundamental understanding of the dynamics of the nature behind the image.
At a deeper level, however, I pursue this art form because of its almost religious qualities.
One day, I can have a vision in my mind that represents a photograph I want to make. This vision exists only in my head and my heart – it’s a silent vision which has the power to bring me out into the field, month after month, and year after year, for a chance to turn that vision into something tangible that I can meaningfully share with others.
The other religious aspect of my work is focus and devotion to an idea over which I have absolutely no control. None.
I learn all that I can about the natural factors behind each photographic opportunity, but I never know how they will play out. My artistry focuses on the beauty of things which are random. Avian subjects operate within their own free will, on their own time and according to millions of years of genetic imprinting. In short – the bird flies its own path and it’s highly unlikely that I can have any real influence over that path.
This is different than working in a photography studio where I have control over the set, the model and the lights. As a photographer who makes avian art, my gift is to know how to “show up prepared” to interact with beauty that I do not control. I must learn to be at peace with my subject on their terms, not on mine. In other words, the only way to be successful is for me to give up all control. The feeling of peace I get when I find that perfect space is worth more to me than gold.
I am just human and heavily flawed, and I struggle with finding the patience and the path. But when that struggle becomes the hardest, I remember my calling. I speak for the creatures which have no voice. Perhaps this is why the experience is so emotional for me. It matters.
Each time I get to a perfect moment and capture that moment with my camera, I experience joy as well as sadness. I am joyful because the finished work provides me (and others) with a lifelong memory of a successful vision. But I also feel sadness that the pursuit is over.
After that moment, the cycle begins again, and I launch the pursuit of the next creative vision. I hope to share that vision well enough that others may someday wish to help speak for the birds too.