Well 2012 was one helluva year. On the personal front I got married, which was the undoubted highlight and we both look back on that amazing day with great memories. Who also can forget the Queen’s Jubilee, West Ham beating Chelsea, the Olympics, West Ham getting promoted…..all those great things that happened and more.
On the business side well the highlights for me must have been receiving the Cherry Kearton award from the Royal Geographical Society, making a difference to tiger conservation by finally selling out my fundraising book and feeling part of something special with 2020 Vision. On the downside perhaps the worst experience of the year was to see my creative ideas so awfully and willfully plagiarized in a major wildlife competition, it has made me rethink a lot of things that I do. But life goes on and it’s a lesson everyday! Inspiration is one thing and I love it but sub standard copying is quite another. Uhh oh yes I am ranting, sorry, happens with age and hair loss.
Business wise, well it has been tough for everyone I think and I’ve seen lots of big names really struggling with the way that the business has changed over the years. When I first began it was relatively easy to make a decent living from stock photography, if you were a good enough photographer of course. Over the years we have seen the stock photography market decline, due to market pressures, increased competition and very silly people giving away their work for nothing but an ego boost. The result is that professional photographers have had to adapt and none more so than in the genre of wildlife photography. I am quite lucky in many respects as my stock photography sales have actually increased, partly because my style seems to just suit it but also because I have invested in a searchable image library and other marketing tools. I work damn hard at it too. But it’s still a tough world with a heap of talented, great pros in it, all competing for a shrinking bunch of price conscious clients.
To be honest I would not call myself a professional photographer if I did not make a sizable part of my income from selling my pictures, after all, why would you trust anything I say or respect my photography if I didn’t. If I made my money from leading tours then I couldn’t really call myself a professional wildlife photographer, I’d be a tour guide and to me that’s an important distinction. Nothing wrong with tour guides, I know some brilliant ones that are a lot better at it than I will ever be, but I want to be known and respected as a professional wildlife photographer. Of course leading tours is great fun and I really love the connection with other photographers and getting them great shots. But I put so much into them that I can only run a few every year, that’s the only reason I do not run more.
On the 2012 tour front I led two safaris to Africa and one to Madagascar. The year started with a double header to the Maasai Mara, followed immediately by an incredible gorilla safari that took me up to 49 emotional treks. Here are a few memories from those first safaris of the year:
After a long break, mainly due to the wedding / extended honeymoon, I returned to tours in September, this time taking two of my Explorers Club on a private safari to photograph the migration for two weeks. It was a great time, again with my no1 driver Dickson, and for the most part we worked with leopards and cheetah. The migration can be a confusing time for some as there is seemingly so much to do, we concentrate on the cats that we have known for several years as I feel I have a relationship and a connection with them. I love working with animals that I have known for years, it’s special and it’s so much more than just photography. This year though we encountered something that I had never seen before in the Mara, jealousy from other photographers leading tours. I consistently put my people in the right place at the right time, that is my passion after all, and unfortunately certain southern hemisphere tour guides didn’t like it and started spreading some untruths about me on the web. Of course their clients believed it, one even wrote to me and I had to explain the difference to her between a leopard walking and one hunting. Anyway we ignored the jealous comments and simply answered them by continuing to do our own thing and get great images and experiences everyday. That seemed to make them quiet, I wonder why. It just annoys me that people are so petty and show no respect for experience. One wonderful bonus on this trip was my working relationship with fellow photographers Aditya Singh and Paul Goldstein, proof that just because you are all leading tours you can’t work together to get your clients the best sightings. Anyway here’s some images from that special time in the Mara:
Finally in October I led a grueling month’s trip to Madagascar. It’s a tough country to lead tours in, particularly if you want to get great pictures, and everyday we had to make decisions and adapt to the conditions on the ground. Again that is my job to do it and I thrive on it, although it totally exhausted me by the end of the trip and I needed a holiday! But it was a very special experience and we had some amazing wildlife encounters, thanks to all for sharing them. I will never forget the moment when an Indri reached out it’s hand to me, truly incredible. Here are some images from Madagascar…..
Over the past few years tours have taken over and now I’ve decided to reduce them a little so that I can concentrate on my photography, as well as helping others with theirs. It also means I can spend more time at home with the wife and my friends. For me photography is not an obsession, it’s a pleasure, and I don’t want to constantly travel, be away and be a stranger. I enjoy having a home life, going out, and if the sacrifice to keep it is to run fewer tours and pay less tax then so be it. Like I said earlier I do not want to become dependent on tours for my lifestyle, I want to strive to continue evolve as a publishing wildlife photographer. Sometimes I do not pick up a camera for weeks, I don’t feel the need to produce images all the time, I produce them when the time is right and I am in the mood. I actually started to do this last year, taking the Summer off to work on my Hare project a few days a week, and not worrying whether I post images on a daily or a weekly basis. I just ensured that when I did post an image, it was inspiring, well exposed, composed and had something to say. This change of attitude has really changed and improved my photography no end. So for the rest of this BLOG you’ll see some of my latest images.....
So, in light of all this, in 2013 I am only running three foreign trips, two to Svalbard and one migration safari to Kenya in our own exclusive camp in the bush. Details for the latter will be announced in the coming weeks. We do however have space on our lovely 7 day Svalbard cruise in June, an exclusive charter of a very comfortable 50 berth expedition ship, with the services of myself and Eddie Ephraums as photo mentors it will be a memorable adventure into this amazing wilderness and a completely different pace from my usual Svalbard adventures. We have a few places left so click here
to see the online brochure.
At the heart of 2013 for me will be a return to what I do best, creative photography. I want to spend more time in the field working with the animals that I love, working on personal creative projects. When I first started I remember there were so many amazing pros that I looked up to in this country - Mike Wilkes, Mike Reid, Mike Lane (no you don’t have to be called Mike to be a pro but it clearly helps), Colin Varndell, George McCarthy to name but a few. Over the years I have seen their names fade a little from the hurly burly world of photography, does this mean that they have given up? Nope, they are still producing world class work, but they just cannot be bothered with all the razz, bravado and "mine is bigger than yours" that surrounds wildlife photography today. I can see their point, it’s about going back to basics and what I do best, taking pictures and inspiring people about the natural world.
2013 for me is also a year of collaboration. I have always been a lone wolf, trusting only a few people to help me in this business and preferring to very much go my own way and do my own thing. Of course I have paid the price in some ways, as certain magazines won’t have anything to do with me, but I’ve retained my integrity and style which is much more important to me than anything else. But in 2012 I worked on the 2020Vision conservation project, alongside 20 of the country’s best pro’s and under the steerage of Pete Cairns. I’d never really worked with Pete before and it was quite a change from me to do so, but you know what, I loved it. I felt inspired to be part of something so good. Together with underwater guru Alex Mustard I dressed up for the launch of the 2020Vision exhibition in Edinburgh; I don’t think that many people in Edinburgh will forget the sight of a ghillie suit walking arm in arm with a dry suit that evening! I felt so proud to be part of the whole thing and it kind of changed the way I look at working with people. This year I will be hosting the 2020Vision multimedia show called The Vision, introducing several awesome photographers and generally trying to get the core message of 2020Vision to the general public. It’s an honour for me to do it and damn scary I can tell you. So far we have three shows scheduled so click here
to see them and get tickets, it will be a great evening.
Taken under controlled conditions
Sticking to the talks theme, I have now passed over the reigns of organising my shows to the lovely Denise, who is currently dealing with several theatres to host the next Andy Rouse experience. More details on this as we get them, but she’s doing a great job and you’ll see me out and about towards the end of the year. Working with others is definitely the way forward for me this year.
Of course I am working on many more things in 2013 that are exciting and will come to fruition throughout the year. This BLOG is already long enough so I won’t bore you with them. Suffice it to say that you can expect several books, Apps and other cool stuff from the Ephraums / Rouse design collective! It will all come together I hope and I will try to continue to inspire you with ethical, honest and downright inspirational photography.
Oh I almost forgot one thing, in this year I changed camera system too, from Nikon to Canon. The reasons, well they were compelling but they will stay with me for now as it would be unprofessional to do otherwise. Suffice it to say that shooting with the 1DX has allowed to work without barriers and I have not regretted the change for 1 nanosecond.
2013 is going to be a fun year, watch this space......