Small Business lessons I learned while doing bird photography

Nashlah and I got cool photo cameras for Christmas with cool telephoto lenses. I haven’t touched a professional camera for over 20 years. I used to be a professional photographer when Nashlah was a baby. I used to work for a pet magazine but with my divorce I lost some of my equipment and never touched a professional camera until now.

We decided to do some bird photography and used the holidays for a photo expedition. The first thing I learned was how important it is to invest in self-improvement. Being from the “film age” dealing with a digital camera was not as easy as i thought, especially the automated focus part. I got some magazines to help me with that and this week I’m heading to a photo club to be able to update myself. Same applies to having a business, self-improvement is crucial and no, we don’t have all the answers and we have to adapt to new times.Also good is to create relationships with people that can help you get to the next level.

Right on the first day we saw a bald eagle. It was my first bald eagle in the wild. How thrilling that moment was!  The impressive bird was far and I messed up the focus again so the pictures were not too good, but the excitement was still there. We decided to come back the next day to try again. Persistence in life and in business is crucial. We can never forget that.

The next day the eagle was there and the pictures came out a lot nicer. I noticed a funny thing. Nashlah would take a picture, get excited about it and would keep looking for the pictures in the camera, while the bird was there, waiting for her. She got excited with the result and chose to pass the real moment in order to focus on her achievement. Well, it is a good thing to praise ourselves but you cannot let a shiny thing take you away from the real moment and the real work that needs to be done. That moment will never come back again. It is so precious and cannot be wasted with things that can be done later.

We then decided to focus on finding more eagles and big birds and that is what we did for the next 3 days.

We saw on the map that there were some bird refuges close by and some water fowl management areas so we headed there.

It was a holiday and when we got to the first water fowl area, the place was empty. We had no idea what a water fowl management area was and it looked a little scary riding our brand new car in a very small strip of land surrounded by water on both sides, plus the silence and the fact you could not see an end on the road.

My heart started racing and I was a bit scared. The situation was new to me, with a lot of unanswered questions and I a feeling that I could not control the outcome. Then I realized I had made the commitment to try something new everyday in order to face my own fear and limitations and to show myself there are new possibilities, opportunities and I don’t have to be in control of every outcome. At that moment I really started enjoying the experience. Yes, same thing should be done in our businesses.

We didn’t see many birds there, since it was a very cold day in winter, not the best time to start bird photography. We shot pictures of some birds we didn’t know and some flying hawks. That night before heading to the hotel we got some western bird’s books. We needed some self-improvement in that area as well. We also had a little talk about the fact that we started taking the pictures not in the best time of the year and with little planning and preparation. Isn’t this typical of entrepreneurs? It was good but it could have been better. The fact is, we would go on no matter what but next weekend, believe me we will be better prepared.

The next day was just fantastic! We spotted a bald eagle right at the beginning. Well, now we knew what to look for, we had learned to see and due to the books, we knew a little about their habits.

She was on a tree not too far. We stopped the car and started walking with the equipment. We were really close when she flew away. We learned a few things. Disappointment happens no matter how excited you are and some “thinking through the end” before acting helps. Why we though that the eagle would stand still seeing two voluptuous girls walking with big equipment, very colorful clothes and chatting at full lungs is beyond me. That lesson sank in really fast. This week we are out to buy some camouflaged clothes and we are training in keeping our mouth shut.

Entrepreneurs should live by the motto “fall seven times, stand up eight”, so we decided to go after that eagle and find her again. Using our best judgement we started going around until we finally saw her again. Standing on a tree on a farm ground.  There we went. Almost quiet this time. It was so exciting! We had to do a minor trespassing, but we could not loose that opportunity.

We got a lot closer this time. The lens could be a little longer, the light a little better I kept thinking but my finger could not stop taking the pictures. Then I noticed that I should take care of composition, different exposure times etc. Things I should take care in order to get a good picture. So I remember one thing my photography professor taught me many years ago. He would say every time we were shooting. “Cut your anxiety in half and go closer”. I finally took a deep breadth, corrected what needed to be corrected and took another step, and another one.

The eagle was looking at us the whole time and at some point decided to fly away, but this time it flew towards us. I kept shooting, it is so much easier to shoot several pictures now than before! It flew right above our heads, really close. I don’t know if eagles attack humans but I couldn’t care less. We were jumping up and down for at least half an hour.  I got a very good picture and Nash got several.

Now we went looking for more bald eagles, we felt unstoppable. Not a big deal that there are not that many bald eagles flying around, we knew we could do it. After a few hours we spotted another one. She flew, we chased and we got a few more pictures. We were able to fulfill our challenge and the feeling was great. That night we were exhausted but had a hard time falling asleep. That feeling was so exciting! Knowing that you are able to reach your goals and go after challenges is great. I made a side note to start doing some exercise. If I need to keep doing this, I need to be in good shape. Changes are necessary and good.

Next day we headed to some other bird refugees and water fowl management areas. Now we decided to get as many western birds documented as possible. We like challenges just like most entrepreneurs. Last year we took a geocaching challenge of finding one cache in each page of the Utah atlas and we did it. We covered the whole state of Utah. Could tell you a lot more about planning ahead before venturing into deserts with that story. (We thought deserts would have gas stations and restaurants).

I had to deal with another little problem in the water fowl management area. These places have a lot of hunters. I respect their right they have to kill but have a very hard time with this, especially with the sound of fire arms. My brother was killed some years ago and every shot would bring that memory back. I had to keep telling myself that this was another thing I needed to be able to face and force to think that instead of his death, each shot would remind me that he loved life and his hobbies too. Need to work more on this one.

We were reminded again that planning ahead of time would have been a good strategy, since we were freezing in the low temperatures. Funny thing is that when you are shooting the pictures, you don’t feel cold at all, but waiting for the birds can be painful. We got some interesting pictures of cool birds, a lot of birds butts flying away. There are many more bad pictures than good ones but the good ones make up for all others. Can’t refrain from saying that in business we all have more failures than successes but the few successes make up for all the work and frustration.

Besides all things we learned with this experience, one was clear: It is really necessary to take a break every now and then. Not only to release stress but also because with trying new things not related to business gives you the opportunity to find another side of yourself and see different ways to deal with different challenges and to challenge yourself is to find in you a strength you probably didn’t know you had.

Hawk Flying
Hawk Flying

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