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Five Years with a DSLR

Five years ago, almost to the day, I finally broke down to the idea of buying a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. A DSLR would give me better images, would get me closer to birds, and would ultimately give me more control, going back to the way I used to take images when I first used an SLR in high school photography classes.

Mentioning this to many friends, most of whom were owners of such gadgetry gave me dire warnings.

“You’ll spend lots of money on gear.”

Correct. I don’t even want to think about the amounts I’ve spent on my two bodies, two point and shoots, gopro, game camera, three tripods, two flashes, tangles of cables, piles of cards, and heaps of other miscellany. However I also know I have far less than a lot of professionals, despite occasionally thinking about selling it all and heading out with a simple camera to travel on all the proceeds.

“You can take great pictures with the camera I have.”

True. Case in point illustrated below. However, I wanted to do more. And I have.

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“You won’t be in National Geographic immediately. You might not even make any money at it.”

True. But I didn’t expect to leap into that status, I’m happy with having images in High Country News and a lot of other places on the web. And I’ve made money, not a full income, but enough to be encouraged.

So what I did was ignore their advice and went through with it. I’m happy I did, because if I didn’t have an SLR I wouldn’t have been to some of the places I’ve visited nor would I have some of the art I’ve captured over the past five years.

The images I’ve lined up are my favorites from the past five years. They’re maybe not what would win contests, nor possibly my most technically perfect images, but they’re my personal favorites, the images I have the most emotional attachment to, the images I subjectively enjoy more than others. I don’t give a shit about objectivity in the case of deciding which are my favorite images from the past half a decade.

Why five years? It’s arbirtary seemed like a good period of time to examine. I’m still figuring out my photography style, learning new ways to take better photos, and making investments to be a better photographer. I’ve learned to be more patient and it’s paid off. After going through all these images, I feel both vindicated in my gear choices and excited about future work.

Five years is a short time, because it could take another five at least to get anywhere. Sure I’ll probably never be an Art Wolfe or some other powerhouse, but if I can make part of my income with photography, I think I’ll be doing pretty good. I maybe eventually decide to put down the camera for work or move on to purely writing or actually become a full-time biologist, but for now I’m happy taking pictures and writing and having an excuse to spend extended periods of time out in the natural world.

I feel as if I should have something sage to say about taking pictures, about waiting for the perfect moment, or meditating on the changing lightscape. At the moment I don’t except that I’ve gone from rank amateur to quasi professional with no initial intention of doing so. I’m incredibly proud of the images below, regardless of how they stack up against anyone else, largely because of the moments they describe in my life and what they’ve captured of nature.

Initially I included a lot of descriptions of these images, but I decided I’ll leave it brief. I invite you to ask me questions  and let me know what you think.

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