With the start of a new year comes the time to look back on 2021.
This was the third year of my full-time venture as a wildlife photographer. I hope you enjoyed watching some of my new images this year and reading some of my articles that were published this year, and I hope you'll follow me into 2022!
As I get more familiar with the politics surrounding our wildlife, I still find myself looking for the next great photo opportunity but I also find myself more and more drawn to the conservation side of the story. After all, figuring out why I am drawn to wildlife photography is important: is it just to get the next pretty picture to put on my Facebook or Instagram, or, can I help in spreading the word to defend what I love: wildlife and nature?
The ongoing Covid pandemic kept throwing wrenches again in my planning. As opposed to going abroad during the winter months, I found myself 'stuck' in the U.S. This wasn't all bad of course as I got to spend the first three months of the year visiting and photographing Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. An amazing place with lots of great photo opportunities with sandhill cranes, snow geese, coyotes, javelinas, bobcats and elk, just to name a few!
In April, I slowly made my way to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. I took me about a month to get there and along the way I spent time in southern Colorado at Great Sand Dunes National Park and at various places in Utah like the Valley of the Gods, Moab, Green River and the Onaqui wild horses.
May and June was spent in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park, mostly focusing on the grizzlies (and writing a few articles on them this year).
Towards the middle of June, the border between the U.S. and Canada hadn't opened yet, so that meant I couldn't go to Alaska as planned to photograph the salmon runs during the summer months. I ended up staying near Yellowstone until late August and focusing on the bison rut in Yellowstone National Park.
In late August, I made my way back to the Tetons where I stayed until late October to photograph the moose rut. November and December were spent writing articles and making my way south: as I'm writing this I find myself near the border with Mexico with plans to spend January 2022 through March 2022 photographing the ocean life along the east coast of the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California).
- $1,200 donated to wild horse rescue non-profit thanks to your "save our wild horses" sticker purchases (see details here)
- 7 of my articles got published (see them here)
- 37 images sold commercially to magazines/publishers
- after finally opening my Etsy shop in late 2020 (see it here), I sold 73 wildlife fine art prints in 2021 (not including puzzles, greeting cards and stickers) which was a very nice surprise: Thank You!
- and, last but not least, I won several wildlife photography awards again in 2021! (see them here)
Facebook: astonishingly, my images reached an audience on Facebook alone of over 3,000,000 people this year on the social network (up from 1,000,000 in 2020), thanks to the power of sharing and re-sharing by Facebook users. So far, I haven't spend a penny on social media ads, likes or followers so all growth and audience reach has been strictly organic. The number of followers on my Vango Photos business page on Facebook grew 108% in 2021: it just crossed 16,130 followers! (see my Facebook page here)
Instagram: after getting a late start to Instagram in 2019, my audience has been steadily growing. Also here no money spent on sponsored posts, ads or buying followers, and although I've been neglecting Instagram in 2021, I'm excited that the number of followers on my Instagram account has grown 49% this year: it just crossed 12,700 followers! (see my Instagram page here)
What's in store for 2022?
As Covid is still making future planning - especially international travel - difficult, I hope to spend January through March along Mexico's Sea of Cortez, followed by Wyoming's Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem April through May. Then, if Canada stays open, Alaska during the summer months, followed by the Yellowstone area once again in the fall and early winter.
I'm committed to write at least 6 articles on various wildlife in 2022 for Destination:Wildlife. Keep an eye out for them throughout the year.
- If all goes well, 2022 will bring my new book. I can't disclose yet what the topic is but depending on how it goes, it could hit stores (and online retailers like Amazon) by late spring of 2022!
- Hopefully offering photography workshops will become a reality in 2022 (sign up on my mailing list if you're interested and when you do, you'll also automatically receive my free book: click here). Current locations on the short-list include Hyder (Alaska) for the salmon run, bears, wolves, eagles, etc.; Grand Teton National Park for the spring and fall wildlife action and Bosque del Apache for the winter birds.
- I'll keep adding images to my Etsy shop to sell as fine art prints. Keep an eye on my Etsy store here and add my store to your Etsy favorites so you'll be notified by Etsy when new images are available!
And now, here are your favorite images of 2021.
I deliberately didn't choose my favorites for this review but relied on my Facebook and Instagram feeds to tell me which images you liked the most. Some of these images are available as fine art prints in my Etsy shop (see it here), or will be added to the store shortly. (let me know if you're interested in ordering one of these as a print and you don't find it yet in my Etsy shop)
Until next time, happy shooting!