Chasing the Dime

While chasing a profession of photography, I have photographed 250 species of birds including the beautiful elegant trogon. That alone has made the pursuit worthwhile.


A long winter’s project has been to reorganize my digital image files on the computer, adding descriptions and key words and finally consolidating files that have been heretofore stored by year then subject into massive subject only files. As I have sat at my desk night after night sorting image files, I was struck with a certain melancholy called discouragement. When I retired, I had the ambition to make a new career out of photography, a passion for almost 40 years. Despite five years of effort, this hasn’t happened.

As I am still just starting this massive task (about 90,000 images so far), I have been asking myself about the point of it all. It is a huge investment in time for something that isn’t yielding much of a financial benefit.

My wife has often questioned my desire to make money with photography. Why couldn’t I just enjoy it as a hobby? Camera equipment (and back in the day, film and developing) is expensive and I guess I needed a reason greater than a pastime to spend scarce family resources. It only made sense to me that the equipment had to pay for itself and for excursions and more.

Whether this lack of success is reflective of my skills as a photographer, businessman, naturalist, not having a mentor or all of the above, I don’t know. I suspect patience, or the lack thereof, plays a role somewhere. I also recognized long ago that a passion for photography and hard work doesn’t replace native talent—my possession of which is meager at best.

But as I look at each file, even though there may be north of half a million of them, I can almost always remember the day, the situation and often the emotion involved in the creation of that image. The images are like a visual journal in my mind. I could tell a story about almost each one of them. I have been surprised that a memory that can’t remember which day of the week it is half the time, can remember EXACTLY where I was standing and what the light was like for that image.

As I sorted images last night, I wondered how many times the camera and the hope of a winning photograph had taken me to places I would have never gone. For instance, we have been to Florida four times, never once visiting places like Disney World or the world-famous swim beaches. We have opted instead for places like the Everglades, Big Cypress Swamp and Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Without the camera and the intent to sell photographs, would I have justified these trips some other way or would I have stayed home and worked in the garden? Would I bother to get up for a sunrise or stay out late on a chance for a colorful sunset if not for photography?

Seeing nature through the lens of my camera has made me a much better naturalist. I am far from a perfectionist, usually leaving details to others. But with the camera to my eye, I was forced to look at details to ensure a competent composition. I had to learn new skills constantly just to stay reasonably behind the competition. Thus, I have gotten to see what the world looks like from above (drone), in time-lapse and long exposure—all ways we don’t normally see the world.

Sometimes the pursuit of the goal and not necessarily reaching it, is the real purpose. I would love to make more money with my very expensive equipment, but if I don’t, there are still excellent reasons for the pursuit.


Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho