It’s hard work being a wildlife photographer, but it’s worth it

Since I took a day job as a full-time wildlife photographer, I’ve had a bunch of people ask me if it’s as adventurous as they think it would be. The answer, unfortunately, is no. But it’s still a darn cool gig.

I’ve been explaining the ups and downs of wildlife photography this week. Sure, you’ll occasionally capture a spectacular image, and that picture will bring you pride, notoriety, and maybe even a good chunk of income. But most of the time, being a wildlife photographer means sitting for hours in the cold, or hiking miles and miles through stifling heat with a hundred pounds of gear on your back, and even after all of that hard work, you don’t have any guarantees that you’ll come back with a great image – or any photos at all.

And with the affordability of digital photography gear these days, when you do finally get an amazing photo, your chances of selling it for what it’s worth are slim, because there are hundreds of amateur photographers who are good enough to get really good shots, but they’re more interested in getting their photos published than making money from them. Because of that, magazine editors are less likely to pay top dollar for great photos, when good ones are thrust in front of them at every turn for free.

It’s a job that means freezing your fingers off in the winter; heat stroke in the summer; sunburns; frostbite; the occasional bout with borderline hypothermia; small paychecks; high equipment repair bills; and hardly ever being home with your family. But even with all of that, it’s an incredible job.

After weeks of being skunked and having nothing exciting appear in front of the lens, one day, you find yourself 20 yards from a magnificent bighorn sheep ram, who has no intention of bounding away. He stands and poses for you for 20 minutes, and you realize, yes, it’s all worth it.