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Many years ago I had experienced a premature midlife crisis and acted on it. I dropped everything I was doing and packed up my Swiss cheese business plan for shooting and selling landscape, lifestyle, and wildlife photography, and moved to Jackson Hole Wyoming. Five years later I was questioning my decision. The stock photography market had changed, and I wasn’t making any money and was trying to figure out whether it was prudent to stay in Jackson Hole or not.
I loved Jackson Hole, and the Greater Yellowstone region and I didn’t want to leave, but as I would argue with myself: “Daryl, you are a better earner than this; you are getting older, you should go somewhere and make some money. When pondering dilemmas I sometimes put the pros and cons on paper. My pros and cons essay to myself morphed into the article below.
Since purchasing my first camera, I have been living a visual feast that has cost me a real estate career in a lucrative Southern California market. My scenery seemed to always be just over the next hill somewhere; cityscapes just were not my kind of inspiration. I soon tired of local beach sunsets and disturbingly enough; the sun bathing beauties scattered about.
It wasn’t long before I was traveling farther a field, weekend trips to Big Sur, Lake Arrowhead, Yosemite, and yes, a three-day driving marathon to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. I decided that my weekends just were not long enough. I would just have to take more time off work, and then I could make it to Tahoe, the coastal redwoods, and the Oregon coast.
All that driving wore out my car; it must be time to move to a prettier place. Then the moving began. First to the local mountains, Big Bear Lake that was pretty nice for a while, and then Lake Tahoe sounded like a good idea. While living there I read about Fred Joy, a photographer in Jackson Hole, Wyoming who was making a real good living from a photo gallery he had there, so I decided to go see it. The gallery was excellent, but Jackson Hole was awesome! Not only did it have outstanding mountains and lakes, it had wildlife everywhere, and I’m not talking about The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Eight thousand elk on the National Elk Refuge outside of town, bighorn sheep on the mountain tops, moose up the side canyons, deer on the buttes, antelope on the flats, bears hiding in the trees, buffalo wandering from here to there, and more nature photographers than you could shake a stick at. But I moved there anyway.
Being a wander lusting, vagabond photographer wasn’t conducive to a real estate career so, out of hunger, I turned to the service industry of the tourist resorts I frequented. During the tourist season, it worked out ok; in the off-season it didn’t. Any time of year it was considered poverty with a view.
Photography has delivered me through a metamorphosis of a life based on financial achievement to a simpler life based on aesthetic fulfillment. Wherever I travel, I am always on the lookout for beauty and the ever-changing light, nuances I never noticed before my photo education made me aware of them. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful day; it can be an ugly day as long as there is a beautiful rectangle that you can isolate out of the chaos of life. Photographers can find that window on an ugly day because we have been trained to see.
Often I find myself up before daylight and gone during dinner hoping for the perfect light on the mountains, or a moose having dinner in a pond with the Tetons in the background. Before I learned to see photographically, I believed that the desert was a barren wasteland, and I was right; however, I learned to recognize the beauty in it; I was learning to see. A rainy day used to be a good time to curl up at home with a good book. Now I drive around in the rain and hope for a hole in the clouds so beams of light can disrupt the murkiness and illuminate something to photograph; or in the evening for the sun to sneak in under the cloud cover and light everything up.
The purchase of my first camera was the beginning of an inadvertent money abatement program, but I believe that I am ahead of the game in the tradeoff. When I visit the city and my old associates, their incessant drive for upward mobility, the mental strain of living and competing with millions of people makes me realize that wealth isn’t necessarily measured in dollars.
Time and perseverance have resulted in the rewards that come to the persistent; however, it has been a long and winding road. During the ensuing twenty-eight years I have had to reinvent my Swiss cheese business plan repeatedly, as the freelance photo business is a moving target. Today photographers must be willing to reinvent themselves as technology evolves. Today’s incarnation I am primarily a juggler of multiple revenue streams as an author, publisher, photography tour leader as well as freelance photographer. Life is good, my essay reaped fruit that was tough to harvest, but easy to swallow. I still have the view, but without the poverty.
Daryl L. Hunter leads photography tours
Posted on Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 9:44 pm. Filed under: Blog, Photography Tags: freelance photography, living, measure of wealth, metamorphosis, perseverance, persistent, photography, rich, richer life, value, values, wealth RSS 2.0 feed.
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