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    • “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” – Ansel Adams

      I have a friend. I call him Neil, but many call him Shambu. He’s a talented musician and marketer. He’s also an ex-monk. He is not only someone I have relied on as a friend, but someone who’s advice I have always sought and taken seriously.

      A while back, we got together and had a conversation about our gifts – his music – and mine – photography.

      Neil helped me to put into words what I’ve felt for a very long time but was unable to utter.

      I asked him why he was so devoted to his music. He said simply and quickly, “To honor the talent I’ve been given.”

      That was pretty deep. And it’s right on. I think those of us with creative gifts, whatever they may be, have an outright obligation to honor those talents. We need to create and share. We need to communicate what we’ve been allowed to do as a way to pay homage to the gifts.

      For me, especially during the years I've spent photographing in nature, I found this to be particularly true. People ask me how I capture some of the images I do. After showing him my work, Neil says, “It’s almost as if Nature trusts you and you capture it.” I think he’s right. Some of the things that have happened right in front of me have surprised me. Here’s one quick example.

      When in Alaska this year, I decided to try something crazy. I decided to photograph eagles with a 17mm lens on my Get Olympus OMD EM1 MK II, M43 camera. This is NOT the lens most bird photographers think of grabbing when making eagle pictures. But I have been able to get close to eagles all my life and in being patient and hopeful, I have had great success. In this case, a bald eagle landed right in front of me. I couldn't believe it. As Neil says: “The souls of these animals and birds...so much heart in them. Nature poses in intimate ways for you Scott. It offers its stunning raw beauty to you. You must be very humble before Nature. So it unfolds. Like a gift. In a spiritual sense.”

      I don’t take Neil’s words as a compliment so much as instruction. I have always tried to speak for the birds. I have always tried to make photographs that move people to think about the animals I photograph. I hoped people would see these creatures differently after looking at my photos. Whether or not I succeeded, time will tell. But this mindset is important. I know this is probably a bit too “Zen” for some of you. But it’s not just ethereal. There’s a down-to-earth message here.

      The right motivation for creating art – in any form, yields better- quality work. A recognition that as creatives, we have a debt to the talent, is for me, an epiphany. I hope it is for you too.

    • Chris MacAskill

      That’s amazing, Scott. What do you think it is? Is it that you spend so many hours among them that they decide you’re not a threat? I often think that must be the reason the lions in Africa ignore us on Safari as if we’re not even there.

      Or are there specific postures you assume that are non-threatening? Lying on your stomach? No fast moves?

      I sometimes wonder if it could be like Jane Goodall and her primates. They seem to know that she adores and understands them. Farmers say their chickens and geese recognize them and want hugs, but not from most people

      My lab ignores people in our neighborhood as if they’re not there except for a handful of people he can see from a block away. He adores them and they adore him. They get down to his level. He licks their faces, rubs against them, makes moaning sounds. They don’t even feed him.

      Is it possible these eagles can tell how much you like to be around them?

    • Hi Chris I think it's just that Neil is right. The birds know how I feel about them. That's part of it anyway. Sure - my knowledge of ornithology helps and yes - you have to be patient - you have to move VERY slowly - you have to stay low to the ground. I can't narrow it down to one thing. I am just lucky enough to experience it.

    You've been invited!