With most things you do in life, I believe to truly excel you must have a strong motivating factor behind it – a purpose. That purpose can be completely logical and altruistic in nature, like trying to cure cancer, or it can be trivial like my personal goal of reading at least 25 pages a day. Regardless of the gravity of it, I find that having a purpose or goal is a major motivating force for me.
You may have noticed that I didn’t share as many photos in 2018 as I have in years past. Life caught up with me (as it does all of us at some point) and I simply didn’t make photography as much of a priority as I should have. There’s no harm in that, no major consequences, but it’s been eating away at me for several months now. So much so that I needed to do something about it.
So, this year I have decided to challenge myself.
I needed a challenge that would force me to get outside with my camera more often and provide that jolt of energy to reinvigorate my passion. I needed a challenge that would push my abilities as a photographer, but also feed my curiosity as a biologist and outdoorsman. I needed a challenge that would force me to learn and to express my creativity. And I think I found the perfect challenge for all of that: a species challenge.
So, what exactly is a species challenge? Glad you asked! But first, a little backstory. Towards the end of 2018, I was sitting with my laptop going through old photos and started making a list of all the species I had photographed the last several years since I had started my business. I thought it would be a fun exercise to see how many cool species I had seen and taken photos of, but once I started the process, I became more and more shocked. Reality was, I had photographed very few species (from a biologist’s point of view, anyway). To be honest, I was pretty disappointed in myself for the lack of diversity in my collection. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to make a plan. And that was when the challenge was born.
My species challenge is this: photograph as many species as I can in 2019.
Sounds simple enough, right? However, there is a caveat I put on myself to make it more meaningful and challenging. A photo only counts if I think it is good enough to share with you all. In other words, if I get a picture of a blurry/pixelated bigfoot, that doesn’t count (although that would certainly open a whole other can of worms!). I like this challenge because it checks all the boxes for me:
It's challenging because they have to be high quality photos
I have to learn about species I know little about in order to know where to find them
I have to learn new photography techniques for birding with a long lens
It satisfies my curiosity because I'm exploring new places and learning about new species that are unfamiliar to me
Perhaps the best part of this challenge is that I can repeat it every year for the rest of my life. I can continually challenge myself to beat my previous year’s count, which will push me to continue learning and exploring the outdoors for years to come.
So be on the lookout for a whole slew of new species from me this year – I’ve already surpassed my species total for any year previously and it’s only March! I’ll still be getting photos of those big charismatic species you all love, but I’m excited to introduce you to a whole new suite of species you didn’t know you needed in your life. Here’s to a record year in the making!