With the start of a new year comes the time to look back on 2022.
This was the fourth year of my full-time venture as a wildlife photographer, trying to make a living of this. 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 2023!
The year got off to a great start: winter in Mexico!
In search of birding shots at Mexico's Sea of Cortez, I spent winter in two spots nearby birding estuaries: the coastal towns of Bahia de Kino and San Carlos. Both are about a day's drive south of the Arizona border so super convenient destinations in my RV. While searching out wildlife photography destinations, I typically look for places that not only allow for great photography but also a good story and article to write about, to hopefully get it published.
Birding at the San Carlos estuary
As I had already gotten 'stuck' in Mexico's Baja de California for 6 months when Covid broke out in late 2019 - early 2020, I had already gotten an article published about birding around the Sea of Cortez (find it here) ... so, long story short, while in Mexico this year, I wrote an article about - in my opinion - the travesty of the wolf hunt in the U.S. Hearing so many opinions coming from hunting and outfitter organizations, I looked at both sides of the story; the side in favor of wolf hunting and predator control, and the side opposed to the wolf slaughter. I have a hard time calling it a wolf 'hunt' since most wolves are killed by placing traps and snares. It was published this spring by Destination:Wildlife: find it here.
April 1st, I arrived in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park for the spring season of bears awakening from hibernation and spring babies. It was cold, bitter cold.
Camping at Colter Bay in the national park
The temperature got down to -2 F in April. The things we do and endure to get the shot! :-)
I was out daily looking for wildlife, sometimes in blizzard conditions. I found several foxes but other than that, it was slow going. Until 399 woke up that is! She appeared on schedule with her four cubs.
One of my favorite fox images this spring won an award in the Wyoming Outdoor Council photo contest (click here)
399 and her four cubs in front of Mount Moran: five grizzlies and a whole lot of people wanting to get a picture
While I was in the Tetons, I wrote an article about photographing Javelinas at New Mexico's Bosque del Apache NWR. It was published by Destination:Wildlife: find it there.
And, before I left the Tetons for Alaska this past summer, it was time to write an update on how the celebrity grizzly bears in the Tetons were doing: 399, 610, Blondie, Felicia ... The article was published by Destination:Wildlife in June: find it here. Wyoming's Cowboy State Daily published several images of 399 and her boyfriend Bruno across a few articles.
Late June, and two and a half months into my 'spring Teton stay', it was time to head for another one of my favorite destinations: I spent the summer months in Alaska (late June through late September). I volunteered for the National Forest Service on the bear viewing platform in Hyder, Alaska and wrote an article about my experiences that is currently awaiting publication: stay tuned.
A grizzly tried to climb the bear viewing platform on two separate occasions, and another grizzly was so frustrated by me standing my ground and telling him to stay off the visitor platform, that he bit a chunk of wood out of the platform right in front of me!
He then ran back into the creek and continued fishing for salmon.
While I was in Hyder, news broke out about the killing of one of 399's cubs. I wrote an article about it which was published by Destination:Wildlife (find it here) and was asked to give my thoughts by publications such as Wyoming's Cowboy State Daily (find it here). This led to several more of my articles and images published by Cowboy State Daily as well as an interview with them about my wildlife photography career so far, after some of my images won awards in one of the largest international competitions for the 3rd year in a row: find the interview here.
In late September, I reluctantly left Alaska to head back to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to photograph the moose rut during the fall season. While I was there, I received word that one of my images made it into the finals of the Comedy Wildlife Awards, which created a lot of publicity and my image getting published by some of the dream publications including BBC Wildlife, CNN, ABC, and many others.
- $1,200 donated to wild horse rescue non-profit thanks to your "save our wild horses" sticker and lip balm purchases, and another $734 (and counting) to be donated soon: THANK YOU for supporting our wild horse populations! (see details here)
- 7 of my articles got published (see them here)
- 90 fine art prints sold (in my Etsy shop and in gallery Amaran on the Jackson, WY Town Square).
Most prints were sold to customers in the U.S. but a surprising number went overseas to Australia, the U.K. and Western European countries.
- 45 images sold commercially to magazines/publishers
- strong book sales on Amazon in the U.S., the U.K., Japan and European countries (see the book here)
- my monthly newsletter grew to 1,665 subscribers: if you want to receive my latest images and wildlife stories in your mailbox, sign up here
- and, last but not least, I won several wildlife photography awards again in 2022! (see them here)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Facebook is still number one when it comes to getting my images seen. My images reached an audience on Facebook alone of over 1,5 million people this year, thanks to the power of sharing and re-sharing by Facebook users. My most popular post was one of grizzly 399 with reached 133K people across Facebook groups. I have a love/hate relationship with social media, so I still haven't spent 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 to 19K+ this year, Instagram stands just over 12K+.
(see my Facebook page here) (see my Instagram page here)
It seems that most social media platforms nowadays are heavily pushing video over still photography and I realize that I should be way more active regarding posting videos, so that my work will be seen by more people. Since I personally prefer images over video, that's a work in progress so it's unlikely you'll find me in the very near future on popular platforms like YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram Reels, ...
What's in store for 2023?
- After 4.5 years of living in an RV on the road, traveling between wildlife areas, we have decided to get a homebase again. It makes life much easier if you don't have to lug around most of what you own in an RV, and, in between wildlife photography seasons and locations, you have a comfortable place to call home with great internet and unlimited solar electricity. Few things are more frustrating than having to upload all of your new work by using unreliable cell phone tethering while camping in the wilderness! To that end, we have recently purchased land in New Mexico and will hopefully start developing it soon. The new homebase is located just outside of popular wildlife destinations Bosque del Apache NWR, Sevilleta NWR and Bernardo State Management Area so let me know if you're in the area!
- I'm committed to write new articles on various wildlife in 2023 for Destination:Wildlife. Keep an eye out for them throughout the year.
- If all goes well, 2023 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 summer of 2023!
- Hopefully offering photography workshops will become a reality in 2023 (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 Grand Teton National Park for the spring and fall wildlife action and Bosque del Apache NWR 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, when you're in town (Jackson, WY that is, just outside of Grand Teton National Park), swing by gallery Amaran on the town square.
And now, here are your six favorite images of 2022!
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)
If you want to stay updated on my new images and wildlife stories, sign up below.
In the meantime, happy shooting!