Wildlife photography isn’t as glamorous as you’d think

With my new day job as a full-time wildlife photographer, I’ve had a lot of questions about how a person gets a job like that. My question to those who ask is if they’re sure they really want it.

Ah, the glory of a wildlife photographer. Maybe you’ve seen the images in National Geographic of a snow leopard basking in the Afghanistan sun, or a Kodiak grizzly snatching a leaping salmon out of a waterfall. You dream of being the person behind the camera, clicking the shutter at the perfect moment to record a photo that will be seen around the world.

Unfortunately, it’s not all glamour and glory. In fact, there’s really no glamour or glory at all. Even if you do capture a spectacular shot, and it earns international acclaim, the fanfare dies quickly and it’s back to trying to get the next great image.

And getting those images is hard work. Here’s an example of a typical day:

The temperature is four degrees below zero when the alarm rings at 3:45 a.m. The blind I set up yesterday is a two-hour drive from the flea-bag motel I stayed in last night, and sunrise is at 7:15. That means I need to hustle to get ready, because I want to be in the blind before it gets light.

Once in the blind, the animals I’m out here looking for might show up shortly after the sun comes up, or they might not arrive for hours. Or they may never come past at all. No matter what, I can expect to be sitting here in below-zero temperatures for several hours.

This day, I’m in luck. I put my blind in just the right spot, and a small bull moose, as well as a cow and a calf, saunter past about three hours after sunrise. I get a bunch of shots before they disappear into the trees. However, I’m really after a big bull that’s been seen in the area, so tomorrow, I’ll try again. And it’s supposed to be colder tomorrow.