August 1998. It was a nervous morning as my old mate Mark Hamblin and I sat in my kitchen drinking coffee, awaiting the arrival of our very first guests on our very first photo tour in our very first year of collaboration. We had no track record, no model on which to base the tour’s content and no idea how we would be received. It was all very wing-and-a-prayer. By late afternoon the guests had arrived and we nervously struck up conversations about anything that came into our heads. Seven days later, with a sigh of relief, it seemed like we had got away with it.
When I think back to those pioneering, nerve-wracking, long and energy-sapping days, I wonder what it would be like starting all over today. It was tough then but in many ways it’s much tougher now. At the turn of the millennium, when Mark and I got into full stride, you could count the number of specialist photo tour operators on half of one hand. Now, the industry – and it has become an industry – is populated by pretty much every working nature photographer I know.
The turning point, the key that locked one door and opened another, was undoubtedly the advent of digital capture and viewing platforms. Back then, there were very few full-time nature photographers and most could make a living from image licensing. That’s all but gone. Book, print and merchandise sales are all but gone. In fact, it is fair to say that any nature photographer able to scrape a living today by selling images alone is very rare, very talented or just very lucky. The demand for images hasn’t necessarily diminished but the supply has mushroomed. More and more photographers taking top class images with top class gear means that... [vision_notification style="tip" font_size="20px"]Read the whole article inside issue 71.[/vision_notification]