Story and Photography by Cathy & Gordon Illg
In our early days of nature photography, long before I had any right to be that way, I was very competitive. I wanted the awards and accolades. If someone took a good shot of something, I wanted a better photo of the same subject. Most of the time I didn’t succeed in capturing one, but I certainly tried. I have mellowed somewhat as I’ve gotten older— perhaps I can even say “matured” now. I no longer need to have the best photos of everything, which makes life much easier. Not that I ever truly had the best images of any subject, but that task would be virtually impossible now. Never mind the fact that no two photographers can even agree on which image is best, there are simply too many great photographers as well as quite a few lucky ones taking pictures of pretty much everything these days. It’s almost overwhelming. And the images that are being captured all I can do is look and stand amazed by what I see today.
Many of these photographers are going to lengths I just don’t feel up to anymore, so I almost humbly say, “Kudos and well done.” Some might say I’ve gotten old and lazy. I can’t argue with the old part, but I prefer to think I’ve adopted a zen attitude, where it’s enough to experience the wonders of the world without necessarily coming home with award-winning photos. Oh sure, I enjoy taking a great picture as much as the next guy, but my photos no longer have to be among the best. It’s enough to feel the wind, smell the air, hear the songs/cries/growls/roars/bugles, and simply bear witness to the miracle we are a part of.
Using terminology from the movie Kung Fu Panda, I have become the Dragon Photographer—able to see the grandeur of lions making a kill in a life and death struggle in my urban backyard, and able to subsist on granola bars alone…at least until meal time. I still maintain that while the Earth doesn’t need any more people, it certainly needs more nature photographers—not necessarily even good ones, just people who care enough about wild places and their residents to want to capture them in pixels.
Even though some of our favorite spots might become more crowded, we just might create a demand for more protected habitat. By sharing images of our experiences, we might even influence those who rarely come in contact with the natural world. At least that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it. So keep sticking your noses deeper and deeper into the mystery and majesty of the wild, recording it on whatever medium best suits you, and by all means, share it with the rest of us.
About Cathy & Gordon Illg
Cathy and Gordon Illg have been full-time nature photographers since 2000. Now their livelihood is dependent upon their ability to share the magic of wild things and wild places with other photographers. Their work is widely published and includes numerous covers of magazines like Backpacker, Defenders, National Geographic Young Explorer, Ranger Rick and National Wildlife. Several of their images decorate the tails of Frontier Airlines’ jets, and they’ve done well in photo contests, the highlight of which was being flown to London to accept awards in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest. Both of their first two books, Dynamic Wildlife Photography and Worshipping With A Camera, have been well received, and they lead nature photography tours under the name Adventure Photography. Gordon Illg is on the NANPA Board of Directors. Information on their photo tours and blogs can be found on their website, www.advenphoto.com.