Backlit Eagle Photograph by Scott Bourne

#1. There will never be enough cameras – or lenses

There’s an old saying:

“One thing leads to another…”

That goes down in spades for photography. One great camera or lens will lead you down the path to another and another. There is no perfect camera or lens for that matter, but you will spend your life (and your money) looking for it just the same. The best camera and lens for you will change over time as your tastes in photography and the subjects that you photograph change. It’s always a moving target so budget accordingly, and either get very good at lying to your spouse, or making excuses – your call.

#2. Photography can make you and/or break you

I love making photographs. I try to make a picture (at least one) every day and for the most part, except for some instances when I was in the hospital or otherwise just unable, I have made a photograph every day since 1973. And no matter how good I become at photography, I have realized I cannot and will not ever really master it. And that is the truth. So I am very fulfilled by photography, but it also kicks my ass sometimes. That’s just the way it goes.

Falcon photo by Scott Bourne

#3. That the Internet would both help and hurt my career

When I first took my photos online, it really helped to grow my business. Exponentially so. But then the Internet turned photography into a commodity and now, my work is severely devalued by the very same Internet that made me. And then there’s the trolls, but that’s another story for another time.

#4. That to be any good at photography you have to MAKE pictures

When I first heard the old Ansel Adams quote:

“You don’t take a picture, you make one…”

I didn’t quite get it. And now that I do, purposefully, deliberately, seeking out the next great image takes up most of my time. It’s a blessing and a curse, like most things in photography.

Egret Image by Scott Bourne

#5. That it’s hard to answer most photography questions

Almost (as in 99.99%) of all photography questions can be answered with the same two words: “It depends.” There are so many variables that there is often more than one correct (and incorrect) answer. Unfortunately, these days, everyone who owns a camera is an “expert” so the multiple wrong answers seem to rule the day, depending on who shouts the loudest.

#6. That in order to become seriously good at photography, you have to want it more than anything else

To get to this stage of my career as a photographer, I have had to give up a great deal. I am not complaining. It’s what was necessary. I cannot and will not complain about my life. I have had an amazing run. But I have given up more than almost any of you could possibly imagine to get here. If you really want to be a seriously, successful, well-known, well-respected, well-compensated, photographer. . . then you have to let photography consume you. I only advise this path for those who have no other choice. I always knew there was no plan “B.” If that’s you, then welcome to the suck. Be prepared to spend the first decade of your career giving up lots of things “normal” people have. If there is a plan “B” for you, trust me, it’s the path you should take. It’s gonna be 10 times easier. There is a cost to being the kind of photographer that I am. And I am not just talking dollars.

Woodpecker Photo by Scott Bourne

#7. That photography would send me around the world, meeting amazing people and going to amazing places

I was born in Indiana. As a kid, I assumed I would never leave the state, never amount to anything, never go anywhere or be anyone of import. My family reinforced that thinking and I had no reason to doubt them. I was unremarkable as a kid, in almost every way. But then someone put a camera in my hand. Wow. That changed everything. I’ve been around the world, more than once. Met rock stars, race car drivers, politicians, movie stars, scientists, entrepreneurs, religious scholars and philanthropists. My work has appeared on TV, in movies, books, calendars, magazines, and more. I have made a good living and then some, and had the chance to pretty much fulfill my bucket list by the time I was 50. I cannot complain. But I can be surprised. And the ending of my story surprises me because I would have bet against myself when I first started out. Just goes to show you that if you follow your passion, you can go places.

#8. That chasing dollars is a waste of time – chasing passion rules the day

I never met my grandfather. He died before I was born, but he knew I was coming so he wrote me a letter which I was allowed to open and read on my 14th birthday. I had no idea what to expect and when I first read the letter, I didn’t understand it.

In it he simply said:

“Scotty, do not chase women or money because if you do, you will find neither. Instead, chase your passion – your dreams – your heart. If you do that, the women and money will find you.”

As I grew older I grasped the truth of his statement and realized he was giving me great advice. I wish I had caught on to it sooner.

#9. There’s a lot of crap to carry

Should have taken up stamp collecting.