I am privileged to have the opportunity to follow my interests in what most would call a ‘full-time’ capacity. While many have the drive and the focus to follow their passion from the earliest age and then turn it into a career, due to a variety of circumstances I came late in life pursuing what I love. Since 2008, when I shook off the last ties to a steady income, I have worked at making macro a business. In an era when even established photographers have had to re-think and rebuild their business due to the digital onslaught, what made me think I could survive as a new entrant into a niche market? And within that market, with (as far as I know of) only one person that actually makes his living as a photographer of insects, and one other who survives as a general macro photographer (there are probably more out there, I would like to hear about them!) …what made me think I could pull this off? With a home base in frigid Alberta and its short bug season, with a (relatively) scant bug population that seems to desperately want to stay in hiding…what sort of madman would think that a career in macro photography is even conceivable?
Well, I did. Frankly, it may not be possible to make a reasonable income through macro photography in Alberta. Regardless of the final outcome, I know I would only live with deep regret if I did not at least make the attempt. For this opportunity I am thankful for the community of support around me. First and foremost has been my wife, Yuet Ching Chan. I simply could not have begun pursuing this idea without her financial support and forbearance. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride (my reciprocal role as chief cook and bottle washer has not always met her strict guidelines…), but she has been there at my side, with good ideas, professional support (she is a graphic designer and photographer herself), a lot of nudging and a general acceptance that my meandering efforts might actually lead to something! Thank you Yuet, for letting me have this opportunity.
And behind the scenes, quietly supportive and at the very root of my quest, is Arwen Thysse, my daughter. Back in the days when I was a ‘working’ man, I consoled myself with the Walter Mitty dreams of being a nature photographer whose work would be appreciated by artists and scientists alike. I have dozens of notebooks outlining those plans, written on breaks and in stolen moments. I was going to be Oxford Scientific Films, Freeman Patterson, Stephen Dalton and Heather Angel all rolled into one superpower of nature photography…I was always better at dreaming than acting, until Arwen came along. I became a Dad. Admittedly I had a lot to learn and things did not always go smoothly, but we raised Arwen with all the supports and boundaries that we could so that she would be able to be the type of person who had the tools to pursue her dreams. And, by Gad! it worked! We have a lovely, talented daughter with a heart of gold¹, boldly yet calmly pursuing her interests at university… You can’t raise someone like that without soon realizing you are a fraud. How could I have so much expectations from Arwen when I my own were constantly suppressed? Thanks, Arwen, for helping me grow up.
I hardly know where to continue, but perhaps a looking back to early days would be best.
Sorry, this is going waaay back!
1960’s — Thanks to Jacque Cousteau, Daktari, Willard Price, National Geographic, Gerald Durrell, David Attenborough, David Hosking, South Africa and the myriad of other influences that inspired me toward a love of nature and imagery.
1970’s — Thanks to my Dad, who introduced me to photography and who gave me my first good manual reflex camera, a hand-held light meter and then left me to figure it out for myself. Everyone should start that way.
1980’s — Thanks to all the nature photographers and writers who shared their talents through books prior to the age of WWW. They inspired me to dream on.
1990’s — Thanks to all the excellent photographers who began to share their photographs and there skills freely through blogs, forums and galleries on the internet. They helped me grow.
- Thanks to Heather Proctor and Richard Palmer at the U of A for inspiring me in my open studies courses.
- Thanks to David Walter and Heather Proctor for taking me seriously when I couldn’t do so myself, and for prodding me to go outside my box. I will always appreciate that.
- Thanks to all the contributors at AltaBugs and AltaLeps who have helped and continue to help identify subjects in my photographs: John Acorn, Gary Anweiler, Charles Bird, Matthias Buck, James Glasier, John Hancock, Gerald Hilchie, Robert Holmberg, Greg Pohl, Janet Scott, Felix Sperling and all the many others who have contributed to bug ID’s and in being generally helpful with information over the years.
- Thanks to the bug and macro photography bloggers and enthusiasts who have helped when I contacted them directly: Ted MacRae, Sean McCann, Piotr Naskrecki, Alex Wild, Lord V., Kurt Orion, and others…thanks for that and for the regular inspiration you still provide.
- Thanks to the Entomological Society of Alberta, Greg Pohl and the 2012 JAM committee for taking the risk in allowing an ‘outsider’ to contribute. I hope I wasn’t too embarrassing or aggravating…
- Thanks to Chris Buddle, Morgan Jackson and
TintinCrystal Ernst for inviting me on board the ESC-Blog. I have failed totally to take advantage of this opportunity in 2013, however I hope to correct this in the forthcoming year.
- Thanks to Shelley Barkley and Scott Meers for inviting me to Brooks to lead a workshop there, it was a fun day that I think we all benefitted from. Shelley…thanks for kicking-off the workshop idea to begin with!
- Thanks to Charles Bird for inviting me on my first butterfly count, taking me into his home and introducing me to Myrna Pearman at the Ellis Bird Farm. You are an inspiration.
- Thanks to Myrna and the Ellis Bird Farm for inviting me to the Bug Jamboree and the following macro workshop. It was great being able to talk to bug enthusiasts, meet the other participants and show and sell prints. I hope we do this again!
- Thanks to David Lawrie, Gary Anweiler and Shelley Ryan-Hovind for hosting the Devonian Botanic Garden Moth Night. It didn’t convert me into being a moth fanatic, but your combined knowledge and enthusiasm was inspiring none the less. Thanks for that magical night.
- Of course, thanks to all the other non-buggy friends and family–you know who you are, and I can’t list you all–your support is much appreciated
- And last but not least…thanks to Dan Johnson: ecologist, Alberta’s go-to guy for Orthoptera info and general all-round polymath. Your willingness to stand-up for reason , science and the environment when so many others prefer to stay safe in the background is inspirational. Your broad interests and your devotion to your kids never cease to amaze me. Proud to know you.
When you stop to think of it, a great community of support exists out there, and I am glad to be part of that community. Apologies to those I have missed.
¹And if anyone thinks this is merely the a proud father speaking, I would gladly send you the evidence from those who have taught her and worked with her… some are even on Video! 🙂
PS. Why am I doing this? No, I am not dying (at least not immanently, as far as I know), and I am not giving up! I just want to be able to do this while I have the chance. Have a great New Year everyone!