There is nothing as comforting and inspiring as seeing a person so dedicated and devoted to his work, that their passion overflows into you. It does not matter whether you’re a professional carpenter or a weekend-engineer, if you love what you’re doing, it is going to lead to something. Since I am woefully working in technology, an area which I find rife with both amazingly comitted people, and the exact-opposite, I can vouch for that fact here too. Some of the best things I have seen, have come from non-academics. This gives me hope.
By no means am I trying to erode the importance of anything or anyone professionally, this is not the point here. I am merely trying to spread the hope… prospects of making a positive change to something you love and believe in. Whether or not you change your career to that, is another story. But since I write here based on my personal opinions and perspectives, I will stick to what I think. Changing career right now, is not quite an option, unless I am willing to take a major setback in achieving my actual goals. But let’s not digress.
Photography is one of [many] those things that bring you closer to something else. Some landscape photographers travel far and wide, to get their goals accomplished. Others will explore their local vicinity into infinity, finding places they would not have found otherwise. I can imagine it is the same for street photographers and other wildlife ‘togs. Birders were the first to see the darters in distress (trapped in ropes, yes… what the fudge) at a local birding spot.
It is no different for me, as someone with a long-time interest in entomology and plants. I have been taking (Arguably, capital A) macro photos of plants and bugs since I had my first digital camera, and it gave me a view into a world of life, both fauna and flora, that I could not even have imagined would exist.
The non-academic part of this, is two-fold. On the positive side, I am not told where to focus my ‘research and exploration’ – but on the flipside, I am also not being paid to go out and explore. In fact, exploration costs money, accommodation, gear… Then of course, the academics in natural sciences (the folks I envy) are paid to do something amazing, and they know what they are talking about. I do not.
My knowledge is a limiting factor when searching for species. Where I find them, what time of the day, in which season… these are mysteries to me. My time is spent searching for things, then going to my computer, processing an image carefully and ending that with some hours of research on it. I find it impossible to identify some species, let alone families. When I do, it’s extremely hard to remember the taxonomy of something I saw 2 years ago. It’s an uphill battle, but it is worth it. The fact that my best friend and loved-one travels with me, makes it an extremely amazing experience. She drives the hikes and routes, while getting flat on the ground the get the ultimate shots of the jumping spiders. Hours in the sun, and sometimes cold rainy days. We see new places often, and look more critically at the environment. It’s very satisfying, as amateurs.
It doesn’t mean that I am content with being an arachnid/insecta pleb, but it is all I have for now. Would I be able to pursue studies into these fields? Probably, and only limited by time and money, but most likely yes. It’s a dream, and it might not mean a lot to the world, and I may never achieve a proper degree in any of it, but I am going to try. Whether it is conservation, insect or plant based, time will tell, but it will be done – to some level. I envy (and deeply appreciate) what Ansie Dippenaar and Simon Van Noort are doing, but I don’t think I can get there right now.
We do what we can, we help their projects. By knowledge we have power to prevent, repair and save things, people and places. Amateurs and hobbyists are important, and play vital roles in supporting, and it definitely gives back more than what we put in.
Therefore we do what we do.
Please comment if you have any feelings or feedback on it, any inspiration to me or other readers. More importantly, if your research/project needs assistance from plebs like me, let me know.