Why I Still Love Photography – 30 Years Later

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do was to head out in the woods alone and sit quietly and look around. I would see and hear birds and squirrels going about their daily business. I would watch ants carry loads three times their body size. I would marvel at the architectural wonder of a spider web. The miniature world of the forest floor came alive when I lay down and looked at it at ground level. In short, everything around me was fascinating and magical. As a six-year-old it seemed the perfect job for me would be a forest ranger so I could watch and guard all the animals and plants I loved.

©Darwin Wiggett - Nothing beats the joy of amazement.

©Darwin Wiggett – Nothing beats the joy of amazement in a child!

I followed a path of learning about nature through school and university and got a Master’s degree in biology. But making a living as a biologist was more about people and politics than it was about being in the field with the animals. The dream of the six-year old was shattered. Why couldn’t I just hang out in the woods and watch critters and get paid for it?

The best part of being a biologist was working with the animals. Here i Am in the 80's doing a ground squirrel study.

The best part of being a biologist was working with the animals. Here I am in the 80’s doing a ground squirrel study.

In university, as part of my studies, I needed to take pictures to add visuals to my presentations on my studies to obtain grants. I soon discovered that photography allowed me to be that wonder-struck six-year-old once again. With photography I could photograph the birds and the squirrels and the ants and the lichen-covered forest floor and take home that amazement in the form of photos. I was hooked! This ability to record my amazement of the natural world remains at the heart of why I still love photography today. Photography is a way I connect with myself in the natural world. I don’t need photography to be amazed, but photography allows me to record my amazement and relive it every time I look at my photos.

©Darwin Wiggett - One of my early photos from the biology days.

©Darwin Wiggett – One of my early photos from the biology days.

The other thing I love about photography is that to do it well you need to learn how to see. You learn to remove labels from things and just see the way that light plays across a subject. You learn how to organize this interplay of light into an aesthetic display of design and composition. In short, learning to see helps you be an artist and being an artist gives you the depth to see the beauty in the everyday.

©Darwin Wiggett - The abstract beauty of empty bottles casting shadows and colours on the kitchen counter.

©Darwin Wiggett – The abstract beauty of empty bottles casting shadows and colours on the kitchen counter.

The longer I am in photography, the better I learn to see and the less I need novel or fresh experiences to feed my amazement. Indeed, I get more amazed now by being able to artistically render ‘something from nothing’. I love discovering the magic in the mundane, and seeing amazement in the overlooked. I am less interested in the obvious and the easy grab shot. I am keen to continue to explore seeing deeper and more personally. And so photography for me has not lost its challenge because photography is so much more than equipment or technical mastery. I think those who get bored with photography were in it for the wrong reasons (the gear, the cool factor, the technical challenge) and not for deeper ‘feeding the soul’ reasons.

©Darwin Wiggett - The world is full of beauty and interest every where if we are just open to seeing.

©Darwin Wiggett – The world is full of beauty and interest everywhere if we are just open to seeing.

I also like that photography with all the advancements in technology has made it easier to make photos that are about personal expression. If you shoot from your heart and are true to yourself then you can make images that truly represent your connection with the world. More and more the cameras are taking care of the technical stuff so we need less concentration on that aspect of the craft and we can have more concentration on the artistic side of photography. For many photographers, the love of gear and technique gets in the way of personal expression but once that geek adoration is outgrown, then we can move on to make images that reflect who we are and what we are interested in. I like that photography can become art if we allow ourselves to become artists. And I am enjoying becoming an artist as an adult just like I was when I was six-years old!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

What is it that keeps you in love with photography? Share your thoughts below in the comments!

©Darwin Wiggett - Nature constantly gives us gifts if we are receptive to receive them.

©Darwin Wiggett – Nature constantly gives us gifts if we are receptive to receive them.

About the Author

I am a Canadian landscape and outdoor photographer who loves long hikes in the woods, yummy food, hairy dogs, good company and a good guitar jam.

18 Comments

  1. Craig
    March 14, 2015

    Great article as always Darwin!

    I love photography for many reasons. But my biggest reasons centre around the joy of it, the feel of it, the incredible beauty that I now “see” just by looking past the obvious and way deeper into something. The feeling of being out there, of being one with nature or just being in awe of Mother Nature brings joy to me. I have been known to be out when a gorgeous sunset happens or a lightning storm or an amazing sky and start pumping my fist in the air yelling “oh yeah baby, come to papa!” 🙂

    One of the most amazing things I have learned in the last few years is to step back from the camera and take it all in. Enjoy the moment(s) without having my face pressed against the camera. That has brought even more joy to me.

    Reply
  2. Rudy Pohl
    March 14, 2015

    Wonderful blog post Darwin, you said it all perfectly for me! Your experience has been very similar to mine right down to the degree in biology! I have been doing photography since 1969, that’s a long time… but like you it’s the artistic element that keeps me exited and coming back year after year!

    Reply
  3. Shirley
    March 14, 2015

    I love photography because it saved my life! While in severe, crippling depression I once again picked up a camera. I don’t even remember what inspired me to do so. It was my first digital camera which allowed me to play with different settings and really learn what they did to the photo. I started with macro photography in my back yard and it showed me a whole new world! I soon realized that as long as I was photographing I wasn’t depressed. As a matter of fact I felt happy! Depression isn’t just mind over matter… it’s a chemical imbalance (for me anyway) that I fight with every day of my life. However, photography keeps me “in the moment” and shows me the beauty of this world. It helps me fight depression by taking my mind off all the stresses of the past and future, and keeps me grounded and present. It reminds me how wonderful this world and life is. I don’t know if I would have survived if I hadn’t re-discovered photography.

    Reply
  4. Connie Quinton
    March 14, 2015

    I love to see what’s new. Nature changes daily and it is exciting to see what shows up tomorrow. We have the privilege of experiencing the 4 seasons which are awesome changes. I don’t get out to take pics often enough so now I drag my gear with me to work or where ever so I can take pics when opportunity arises. Luv it!

    Reply
  5. Chuck Kling
    March 14, 2015

    Nice thought provoking article, Darwin:

    I’ve been a birder since the early seventies….and have done bird photography as a serious hobby, especially since I started with digital gear in 2003. Back home all year round and in Arizona, in April….I concentrate on birds. In September / October we usually visit the Canadian Rockies…where I’m into landscapes and many of the mammals to be found. We have our twelfth trip ( since 1988 ) coming up this year !

    I’ve picked up lots of tips over the years from you….and treasure my copies of your Rockies guide and Dances with Light…..as well as your articles in Outdoor Photography Canada.

    All the best to Samantha and yourself !

    Chuck Kling.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      March 15, 2015

      Thanks Chuck for following our work, we appreciate it!

  6. Denise Dykema
    March 14, 2015

    I loved this article Darwin.

    As a kid, I like you,was full of wonder. While most kids were down at the town pool or in the playground, I could be found down at the creek catching things in a jar so I could look at them more closely. I would sit for hours looking into that creek for something new and bringing it up to the house to show everyone. As an adult, life got crazy busy and it seemed in order to stay ahead I had to constantly move faster than life. With a career in social services, and being a Mom of three it was go, go and go faster. Photography became my escape, a chance to slow down, a chance to go back down to the creek and catch things. Only this time it was with a camera. It has become my meditation. During the week I find my self listening to a thousand stories and trying to solve the worlds problems in a day; on the weekend I carry my pack as far as I can into the woods, listen to the birds and the frogs and marvel at the way the bloodroot leaves unfurl from around the stem,revealing a pristine white flower. It always amazes me that some people have never seen the pink candy stripes on a spring beauty; you have to slow down to see them.

    Reply
  7. Paul Sinclair
    March 14, 2015

    Nicely put Darwin and I couldn’t agree more.

    I share the childhood dream of being a biologist; a dream cut short early due to my total lack of mathematical ability. Early in High School a teacher asked us to write down where we imagined ourselves to be in twenty years. I clearly remember writing down a description of me on a remote Island in Bass Strait ( south of mainland Australia ) living in a wind-battered hut doing bird surveys.
    It soon became clear it was the remote, wild locaton not the statistical studies that was the attraction. This was confirmed by my first walks near home with a Kodak Brownie then later on bushwalks with a backpack and a Pentax K1000 as the joys of light, colour, texture and wind futher revealed themselves.

    Photography will always be a means for me to hang on to and hopefully understand those mysterious first encounters with the natural world.

    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot

    Cheers, Paul

    Reply
  8. Gary Tozer
    March 15, 2015

    Darwin

    As a child, I also passed many hours and days observing Mother Nature in total wonder and amazement. Some summer days were a journey from dawn to dusk with family members worrying that I may be lost. Fifty years later and I find photography allows me to regain this childhood that I had to give up, so I could ‘grow up’. It is the much needed release from the vigor’s and pace of our everyday life. When I am out observing the world around me or maybe capturing some of these observations, time appears to stop and stress all but disappears. Apparently, I have left all that behind when I grabbed my camera to head out.

    Thanks again for all your posts, Gary

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      March 15, 2015

      Gary,

      We love photography for the same reasons; it gives us permission to have the wonder and awe of a child!

  9. Dave Benson
    March 15, 2015

    your blog pretty much sums it up for me… although through my photography I wished I had known more about biology…

    Reply
  10. Diane Varner
    March 15, 2015

    Beautiful thoughts and images, Darwin.

    Reply
  11. Russ
    March 15, 2015

    Well s aid by all. I just enjoy being creative. Photography being my passion.

    Reply
  12. Chris G
    March 15, 2015

    Whilst still relatively new to photography. For me it’s an outlet for the frustrated artist deep inside of me? I’m from a family of Artists and always enjoyed it, but it went by the wayside for 25 years. I guess photography allows me to indulge whilst not having to dedicate an exorbitant amount of time in order to produce what you want. Nevertheless, I’d still be out in nature, appreciating its beauty even without a camera in tow. I also like Shirley’s comments as its a great release from the mundane, and has helped with our (my wife and I) depression and anxiety illnesses. You can get lost in the scenery and process, enjoy the quiet (no cell reception in the mountains yay!) and forget about any troubles/stresses you may have 🙂

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      March 19, 2015

      Nature Photography has been great therapy for me during the ‘rough’ times in my life as well. It seems creative releases are some of the best therapy we can use!

  13. Kelly Pape
    March 16, 2015

    Darwin, I have been a big fan of yours since first viewing your images… many years ago. You have the gift of seeing something mundane and through your great eye for composition, make it into something artistic.
    I have been enjoying photography for over 30 years. Along with music, it is my creative outlet. It’s the ability to find something unique in a scene that makes it interesting. Most of the time I first see the image in my head which prompts taking the camera out. The time spent capturing the image is more compelling for me than the processing which is secondary. Like all passions, it comes from deep within.
    Thank you Darwin for being a mentor way back when. You and Samantha are doing great work and it’s exciting to watch her develop her own style. I wish you both all the best!
    Kelly Pape

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      March 19, 2015

      Hi Kelly, thanks for the nice comment. Sam and I really enjoy your creative vision and your company. Keep making your awesome work, you are an inspiration to us!

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