You’ve Got To Have A Plan

Wild Bison in Colorado Snow
Bison in January Snow

The weekend of the new year. Four days of nothing much going on. Probably my least favorite time of year. Here I sit, days into a new year, looking over my photography aspirations for 2021 and reflecting on what did and did not happen in 2020. We’ve all experienced the year from hell, so lets think about the future and move on. I’m still alive and plan to stay that way for another year, so what do I need to do?

My estimate for the new year is that the pandemic isn’t going to fully resolve itself this coming year, so I’ll take the lessons learned from 2020 and use that as a foundation.

I did make some headway in 2020. My stock portfolios are fairly well stocked. I spent a lot of time in the office going through my catalogs and I presently have 4,318 photos online earning something. The original goal for 2020 was to end the year with at least 4,000 images, so I’ll call that a success and set a new goal for 2021 of increasing the catalog to at least 5,000 images on the market.

I tried an experiment early last year, signing on to more stock photography websites with the hope it would improve my sales numbers. It didn’t. The pandemic put a big damper on sales, which I estimate to be about 20% lower than the previous year, 2019. Part of the decrease was me leaving Shutterstock due to the changes they implemented in payment structures in June of 2020. Shutterstock had for several years, been my top sales site. Their payment structure change pulled the rug out from under me and many other photographer who rely on that income. I’ve always had the mindset that my photography is a business venture as well as a personal enjoyment activity. With that in mind, I take photographs with the intent to make money off of them. If what I’m thinking of doing isn’t going to make money, I stop doing it. Since Shutterstock is wanting me to sell my photos for nothing, I won’t be doing Shutterstock. Fairly simple concept. I made up a little bit of ground by broadening my horizons with the stock agencies, but not enough to make up for the money grab by Shutterstock. That situation was probably the most disappointing thing about last year, but it is what it is and I have to find things that work for me.

For 2020, my subject matter was limited, mostly to wildlife photography. I love wildlife photography but to be honest, it’s not the best paying gig in town. Landscapes sell much better, at least for me. If I’m not adding landscapes to my workflow, I’m going to be losing sales. There are still areas of Colorado that I haven’t covered, I need to get on the ball and rectify that.

Another area I want to wade a little deeper into in 2021, photography equipment wheeling and dealing. If one looks hard enough, there is money to be made in buying used camera gear and flipping it. I’ve always dabbled with gear flipping, but mostly to benefit my own needs.

A high priority for me in 2021 is to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Lets face it, having a vaccine is better than not having a vaccine. I’m not too interested in the chowder-heads who want to believe the pandemic isn’t real or that they are somehow going to magically avoid catching it or spreading it. It’s not a political issue to me. It’s a reality check. I’ll keep to myself, I won’t be eating in restaurants, I won’t be going to mass gatherings of people in any form, I won’t be staying in hotels and I’ll continue to wear my mask. Stupid is as stupid does. I’m not stupid.

If all goes well, sometime in the first quarter of 2021, I’ll be upgrading my transportation. I sold off two of my vehicles in 2020 and my main form of transportation for photography this year will be my 2010 Ford Explorer. It’s been a good vehicle but with close to 130,000 miles on the SUV, I need to beef it up a little bit. Right now, it’s running well and in good operating condition, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I’m going to have to sink money into it to keep it going down the dusty roads. I’m thinking I’ll update the suspension and tires for better off road performance, put a brush guard and add a winch. I’ll also situate it internally for camping. I don’t like the idea of pulling a trailer around, and there is plenty of room in the vehicle to make a comfortable sleeping area, so that’s what I’ll do. I see photography trips where I’ll be camping in my vehicle and returning to my more youthful roots in the great outdoors of Colorado.

I am also working on building a second photography kit. Call it a spare or loaner kit, it will be quite capable but I need another lens or maybe two to fill it out. I’ve been watching eBay for suitable super-telephoto zooms that would work well on a Nikon D750 and D500. Maybe a Sigma or Tamron 100-400mm, both rated about the same on the review sites. Might pick up another Nikkor 200-500mm VR, which has proved to be a very good wildlife lens. Not too worried about the 24-200mm focal range though, that’s covered. Perhaps another external flash, those can be found fairly cheap. More money on stuff I probably don’t need, but one never knows and the stock photography will pay for it.

As for the digital darkroom side of things, I’m in pretty good shape. The software is up to date, the hardware, though a bit dated is still getting the job done. I may add some additional storage, but that is fairly inexpensive.

Lastly, for 2021 I need to focus on improving my health. The pandemic has resulted in a lot of down time and I’ve not been getting a lot of exercise. I’ve kept the weight in check but my eating habits have reverted to too much comfort food. As I get older, the body parts remind me of my negligent ways. Fewer cheeseburgers and more healthy alternatives. Self discipline, plain and simple.

That’s the plan. And I’m sticking to it.