Do you take your family on assignment with you?
Most of the time, no.
My wife and children have come with me in the past on short trips, but they don’t generally like to come along because I’m working from sunup to sundown (and often later) every day. I’m constantly making phone calls and moving to the next location. I’m also in Type-A mode where the job is the most important concern at the moment, so I’m keyed up and have time for little else.
Many of the places I go have little in the way of amenities and so my family wouldn’t have a whole lot of fun. Specifically I remember leaving my wife and infant son in a sad, shabby motel room in rural Oklahoma for three days in a row. “Never again,” she said.
A lot of people think that working as a photographer is a pretty leisurely job where you see beautiful parts of the world, meet interesting people and snap a picture when something strikes you. I do see beautiful things and meet interesting people, but often I’m so focused on getting good photos that I don’t have a chance to really enjoy it.
Conservation photography is work. It involves hauling 70 to 100 pounds of gear into and out of the field every day, convincing complete strangers to be photographed, or sitting still for hours on end in all sorts of weather, waiting for the light to get good or for your subjects to do their thing. It’s often very frustrating, especially when you’re working for National Geographic. There are no excuses for failure, and you can’t clock out early.