Thinking back on it now, I was just doing what came naturally to humans since the beginning of time. Since humans first walked upright and uttered some kind of sound, we’ve always sat around the campfire and told stories. Before we ever had a written language, oral storytelling was our way of making sense of the world around us.
Storytelling was a very important part of my life as a young kid. My first camera was called the Kodak Instamatic Pocket Camera. In the 1970s, the pocket camera revolutionized photography just as an iPhone revolutionizes photography today. What I found was that so many people were not seeing the things I was seeing.
Into college, those outings outside became even more adventurous—venturing into mountains, and rainforests, and that kind of thing. The more time I spent doing those kind of things, the more I also started to see the threats. For me, that is where my photography—and my writing as well—took a different turn. Really wanting people to understand just how incredible this world is that we all share.
What I love most about photography is that it gets me outside, it gets me in these absolutely stunningly beautiful places, and it forces me to live in the present. To just live in that moment. The camera forces me to continue to be in that moment.
I think if I didn’t have the camera with me, I’d still enjoy the beauty and the incredible encounters with wildlife. That wouldn’t go away. But my mind might wander a little bit. There is no better way to feel alive than to just live in the present. It’s taken me a really long time to actually realize that that’s what I absolutely love about photography.
In Alaska, I feel like I'm going back in time. Ecologically. Because the ecosystem still functions there, in tact, on a very natural scale. Anywhere I can be in nature and be around these natural cycles of life, where every species is present. It just makes me feel really good.
It's how we lived for thousands and thousands of years. I still think it’s imbedded in us, and that’s how we were supposed to live. I think the crazy world that we’ve created for ourselves, where we’re on computers all day—in some ways it's wonderful—but it’s not really a healthy way to live.
In terms of advice to aspiring photographers, if you’re not really passionate about something that you’re photographing, all that you’re going to be doing is taking snapshots. What separates an amateur from a professional, is an amateur takes snapshots and professional makes “wow” shots. To make those “wow” shots you’ve got to spend a lot of time with your subject. If you’re passionate about your subject, you’re going to spend a lot of time.