Jen: How did you begin photographing animals and nature?
Greg: Ever since I was a little boy I've been interested in animals. I was always bringing wild creatures home as pets, much to the dismay of my mother! Fast forward almost 30 years to a day I was taking a hike in a park near my home where I saw some people standing on the trail with 35mm cameras and telephoto lenses attached to their tripods, photographing little birds like chickadees and nuthatches. I thought that was pretty cool and struck up a conversation with them. It turns out they belonged to a local camera club and invited me to attend a meeting. I joined the club and in a few weeks I was also standing on that trail photographing little birds!
Looking back on it I wish I had "married" my fascination with animals to photography much earlier in my life but it's been a passion of mine now for over 20 years and as they say...better late than never!
Jen: Is photography your "day" job or something you do on the side? How long did it take to make your dream a reality?
Greg: I'm very fortunate that photography is my "day" job. I exhibit my photos at between 25 and 30 art fairs/shows each year, sometimes putting 40,000 miles a year on my van traveling to and from the fairs in many different states. I started doing shows part time about 20 years ago while I still held a full time job and after about three years left my "real" job and went full time into the art show business.
Although selling my photography is my full time occupation the business end of preparing for shows, traveling to and from them, the paperwork, etc. is extremely time consuming. I thought that when I went into the business full time I'd have much more time to photograph. After all I was going to be a "full time" photographer. But this just hasn't been the case. My photo business is just that...a business and it's just as, if not more, time consuming as having a full time job. Although many people will tell me they love my "work" I don't consider the actual photography to be work. Doing shows is my work/job. I still look at the actual photography as my hobby.
Jen: What has been your favorite animal or subject to photograph?
Greg: This sounds cliché but I've loved all the animals I've photographed and the travel I've experienced to photograph them. If I had to pick a favorite though I guess it would be songbirds. These were my first subjects and I still enjoy sitting in my blind in my backyard or standing along the trail in that local park and waiting for the birds to come to have their photo taken. This might sound crazy, I know my wife thinks it is, but I love to sit in my blind in our backyard on a sunny 20 degree winter day and photograph little birds. All of my neighbors are at work and all I can hear is the calls of chickadees, cardinals and the other birds. There's nothing more serene or peaceful in my opinion. That's why I have a tough time considering it work. :-)
Jen: How did you discover Etsy?
Greg: I was doing a show in Pittsburgh, PA last summer and the artist set up next to me had an Etsy shop and told me about it. (He has since closed his shop.) I made a note to look into it but I'm extremely busy during the summer and fall doing shows so I didn't really get to check Etsy out until after my shows were done for the year in December. I opened my shop on December 14, 2007 and so far it's been a fun and profitable supplement to my art fair income.
Jen: If you could only bring one lens along with you in your camera bag, which would it be?
Greg: When you buy a camera you're often sold a 50mm "normal" lens to go with it. Well, my normal lens is my 400mm telephoto. That's the lens that's attached to my camera most of the time. When photographing wildlife you often need as much reach as you can get. I often wish I had a 500mm or 600mm lens!
Jen: Do you have any advice for other photographers or Etsians?
Greg: I found that joining a camera club was one of the best things I could have done to improve my photography, although I don't belong to the club any longer. Ours was a competition club so if you wanted to compete successfully you had to develop your skills. Find a club that stresses education. Even though we competed against each other at our competitions one of the more experienced photographers was appointed commentator. They always found something positive to say about a photo but then would say something like "but, if the photographer wanted to improve this photo they could try doing ...". I tried to absorb as much as I could from those with more experience than I and before too long I was winning my share of competitions. If there isn't a club near you there are forums on the internet which can serve the same purpose. Just be sure the participants offer constructive criticisms of your photos.
I'm always reading about the craft of photography and trying to learn new techniques. I also spend a lot of time reading about my subjects and their behaviors since that will help me get the best photographs of them but given my natural interest in my subject matter I'd probably do that even if I wasn't photographing them. And, for me at least, I think it's been important to stick with what I love. Wildlife photography isn't the most marketable type of photography on Etsy, or at art fairs for that matter, but I think my passion for it shows in my photos. I've tried to photograph in other styles or other subjects that "sell" better but since I'm not passionate about those styles or subjects that also shows so I've learned to stick with what I like the best.
Check out more of Greg's work here:
Nature is Art