I have been reflecting back on 2008 today, as well as making some plans for 2009. As I look back on 2008, some amazing things happened for me both personally and professionally. Here are some of the high points:
- At the top of the list, the birth of our second son, Will, in June. We are now blessed to have two beautiful young boys (both still in diapers. Oh joy).
- I spent a little less time in Africa in 2008, but I still managed to spend quality safari time in Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. I spent 8 weeks out on safari in 2008, and 2009 will be around 11 weeks.
- I finally launched Gura Gear, a camera bag company for those who want a fully functional and lightweight camera bag. The launch of Gura Gear was a big relief for me, as we started working on our first bag design back in late 2005. After many many prototypes, I think we nailed it. We have a bag that can carry a ton of camera gear, but is a feather-light 4 pounds.
- Banana Republic used 13 of my photographs as store decor in all of their clothing stores worldwide. The images were used on billboards, in their annual report and on just about any other communication you can think of. Working with them and their PR firm was about as fun as it can get in the photo licensing world. They flew me to San Francisco for their LUXE shopping event when the summer season kicked off, and we gave away signed posters for those who made a purchase that evening. Click here for the event photos on my blog. And click here for photos of the Banana Republic flagship store.
- One of my images won the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Wild Places category. Out of more than 34,000 entries this year, only about 10 were selected as category winners. Leslie and I flew to London to be a part of the awards dinner, and met some amazing people along the way. Leslie and I also celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary on the trip.
- I moved my office out of my house and into a 'real' office building. What makes the move nice is I no longer have to apologize for a screaming child in the background when I am on the phone. And the office is only 2 minutes away from the house. I went from a 13x13 foot spare bedroom to 500 square feet, split between two rooms. I was able to increase my printing capabilities with a Canon iPF 8100 44" wide format printer, as well as I am now able to mat my own prints. My having the ability to mat my own prints really makes me happy, because I can ship prints that are flat and not curled in shipping tubes. The unboxing experience is much better, and I think the presentation of the prints is also much better. I suspect I will be looking for more office space in 2009, as 500 square feet is turning out to be a little on the small side.
- I hired an awesome assistant, Chris Bailey, and he has helped my business tremendously. Chris helps me with all of my printing needs, mat cutting, copyright submissions, scanning of film and just about anything else I need help with. I need to learn how to delegate more, though, and this is something I need to do a better job of in 2009.
- I spent more time learning Sony and Nikon digital equipment, in an effort to better understand my customers' needs. It has been an eye opening experience, to say the least. I purchased some Nikon gear, as I was most interested in using their 200-400mm f/4 VR lens. I am definitely becoming a more agnostic photographer when it comes to camera equipment. I don't care which label is on it, as long as the equipment meets my needs and allows me to capture the images I need.
- I photographed polar bears for the first time, and I did it with one of the best groups of travelers one could ever hope for. The group was mostly made up of past safari travelers, and we laughed the entire time. Sony loaned my group a pair of their new 24mp A900 cameras, along with some of their best lenses. Thanks, Sony!
- Three other photographers started helping me lead photographic safaris in Africa, Bruce Dorn, Chris Gamel and Dana Allen. With their support I am now able to offer more photographic safaris each year in Africa. My limit has been around 6 safaris each year, as I don't want to be away from home any more than that. By adding Bruce, Chris and Dana to my safari schedule, I am able to offer more safaris each year. You can see our crazy schedules on my Safaris and Workshops page.
So what is up for 2009? Here are a few bullet points:
- More safaris! I will spend 3 weeks in Tanzania in January, 3 weeks in Namibia in May, 2.5 weeks in Botswana in July and 2 weeks in Tanzania in October. These are all going to be wonderful safaris and for different reasons. Tanzania in January for the wildebeest calving season, Namibia in May for the best landscapes on the planet, July in Botswana for a more private safari experience and October in Tanzania for hiking with wild chimpanzees.
- I need to get organized, and I need to hire somebody to help me stay organized. Gura Gear is going to take a ton of my time, and I need somebody to help me with accounting, phone support, email support and perhaps a few trade shows.
- More office space!! I need more space so I can take product photos for Gura Gear in-house.
- More Gura Gear products. More info to come........
- I need a personal project. All photographers need a personal project, and that project needs to be something with a definite goal at the end. My brain works in weird ways, and I am a very analytical person (accounting background) and also a very creative person. Some extreme left brain / right brain action going on, and I have a burning desire to create. When I say create I mean really create something that is unique, fulfilling, no expectation of monetary reward and lets me learn new things about myself and my craft.
- I want to continue creating more black and white images. When I started working in black and white I found that I am more proud of my images, and I have to keep that ball rolling.
- Be the absolute best father and husband that I can be. My sons are going to really need me more and more as they get older, and my travel schedule makes that even more difficult. When I am home, I need to remind myself that work will always be there, and to make sure that I have quality time with my family every single day of the week.
So what are your goals for 2009?