At one point or another, many of us have been personally inspired by another photographer. I’m not talking about the “I became a photographer because of Ansel Adams” kind of inspiration. I mean a friend, perhaps a co-worker, whose passion for photography inspired you to get serious about improving your skill with a camera. Or, maybe you knew a professional photographer whose sage advice helped you to build a successful business. Me, I’m fortunate to have several of these people in my life. I owe much of my success as an artist and as a businessman to them. I’d like to take a moment to thank them for their continued friendship and inspiration.
Todd Caudle – I first became serious about nature photography in 1999. In 2000, I took a sabbatical from work and embarked on a whirlwind five week road trip throughout the American West. Toward the end of the trip I stopped at a viewpoint in Rocky Mountain National Park. I exited my truck and saw a dude with a large format camera mounted to a tripod standing at the other side of the small parking lot. Like a moth to flame, I made my way over to him. Surely this guy was a professional photographer and wouldn’t mind chatting with some dorky noob for a moment or two. As it turns out, he was a pro and had been for quite a long time. He was also a super nice guy despite the fact that, in retrospect, I was that damn pesky moth. Todd and I have been friends ever since. We’ve photographed together, gone backpacking together, led workshops together and now he even publishes my calendars. Once, while photographing wildflowers in Arizona, Todd said “You’ve got a cute girlfriend. You should really start putting her in some of your photos as magazines usually want photos of someone doing something in the outdoors.” As it turns out, that was some of the best advice anyone has ever given me. Thanks, Todd!
Scott Bacon – A little over a decade ago I joined the Nature Photographer’s Network (NPN), an online nature photography forum. I made several friends, many of whom have provided endless inspiration over the years. One of the first people I met there was Scott Bacon. Scott and I teamed up to start the Colorado Nature Photographer’s Network, which we co-moderated for several years and when we handed over leadership duties to others, miraculously we were still friends. He helped me to build my first real website, which I promptly screwed up with bad code as soon as he handed the reins to me. Scott never said a word – he just went about fixing my stupid mistakes. More importantly, his photography is thoughtful and contemplative, and I’ve long been inspired by his imagery. We’ve had some great talks about photography from both the artistic and business perspective, and I’ve appreciated his insight on both.
Guy Tal – You would be hard pressed to find a better contemporary photographer of the Southwest than Guy Tal. He’s also one of the nicest, most genuine, humble people you’ll ever meet. I first met Guy on NPN, where he was one of the original moderators of the “Earth, Sea and Sky” critique forum where I regularly posted my photos for feedback. His critiques were always honest and forthright, yet gentle and encouraging. I met him in person in 2004, when I and several other photographers met up with Guy and Michael Gordon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. To this day I am awed and inspired by Guy’s work and his writing on photography, wilderness conservation and life in general.
Andy Biggs – Andy and I first got acquainted when I assisted him at a workshop in Moab back in 2006. Even then Andy was already an uber-successful nature photographer whose high-end African photo safaris filled to capacity within weeks of being announced. He is a talented and gracious workshop instructor and one of the very best photographers of the African landscape, culture and wildlife. My own workshops are strongly modeled after Andy’s and much of what I know about leading workshops and tours comes from the knowledge I’ve gained working with Andy. He’s a savvy businessman and though his time is short, he’s always made time to answer my questions when I call. On top of that, Andy is a hell of a nice guy and a good friend.
Nat Coalson – Not surprisingly, Nat and I met on NPN. He is a fine art photographer, book author, workshop/tour leader and all-around nice guy. Nat and I led several workshops together and over the years we’ve bounced many business ideas off one another. Working with Nat at our workshops taught me a great deal about how to manage different personalities within a group to create a cohesive dynamic. He’s driven and focused, but also easy-going and approachable. Nat has always been happy to advise me on various business projects, most recently taking the time to help with a large project proposal.
Erik Stensland – Yep, another friend from NPN. No one has photographed Rocky Mountain National Park more completely than Erik. His gallery in Estes Park, “Images of RMNP”, is wildly successful due in large part to his stunning landscape photography, but also because he is an incredibly talented businessman. When we opened The Edge Gallery last year, I knew absolutely nothing about running a gallery. Erik spent several hours on the phone, via email and even in person answering endless questions, throwing out ideas and offering countless encouraging words – all without expecting anything in return. His photography, his work ethic and importantly, his commitment to his lovely family despite work weeks that would kill a lesser man, inspire me to be the best I can be as an artist and as a human being.
Melissa Edge – Last, but certainly not least, is my amazing wife. She works long hours at the gallery, often going in on her days off to mat photos, meet with clients, deliver product to local businesses and still manages to be the best Mom on the planet to our son Jackson. Without her unwavering love and support I’d just be a dude with a camera.
I’d like to take a moment to say THANK YOU to each and every one of you. Your friendship and guidance has meant so much to me over the years. I am honored to know you and I hope that I may one day repay your generosity and kindness. The world needs more people like you.
Who has inspired you?