Wildlife Photography in Russia

posted on 15th of january, 2011

A couple months ago, I promised to write about why I (an American) moved to Russia.

I started my wildlife photography business in 2005; I have been a full-time photographer now for five years; part time for a bit before that time. In 2007, I spent six months in Russia and in July of 2010; I moved to Russia.
I am an American; in my mid-fifties; speak, maybe 30 words of Russian and understand those 30 Russian words and no more. Why would I leave the comfort and convenience of good Ol' USA for extreme cold and forbidding Russia? A country full of hardships, regulations, paperwork, more regulations, restrictions, etc.
You know, the reason is plain and simple; it is not just one reason but many-but all are pretty simple. Before I started my wildlife photography business; I was a successful scientist making as much money as I could spend (doing well); living in a luxury condominium-you know the type, marble floors, shining brass elevators, concierge named James at the front desk greeting you as you arrive "Good Morning Mr. Henderson, would you like me to carry your photography baggage to your suite". Life was more than good, it was a total bore; it was a breeze and it was to easy! I want life to be a challenge.

So, I decided to trade in my luxury lifestyle for the life of a starving artist. Now, I do not mean a starving artist living on a big pension or a large saving account; I mean an artist that is excited when he gets a 0.46 cent Dreamstime sale because that will buy two packs of Chinese noodles and feed him for the day.

Okay, what are the reasons, or at least a few of them for trading in this luxury lifestyle and coming to Russia.
1. Life as a starving artist is a challenge; if you work hard you might eat!
2. Living in a country without knowledge of the language is also a challenge.
3. I wanted to do something unique. There are thousands of excellent photographers in America; heck, maybe millions of them. I felt like a mustard seed (that's a very very small seed for those that have not read the Bible) lost in the sea of bigger seeds. You read about these photographers from America, traveling to Africa, Anarctica, Falkland Islands, Amazon, Costa Rica, etc taking pictures of anything the moves or breathes. These same photographers are also circling around North America with stops at Yellowstone, Jasper, Churchhill, Ft. Desoto, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Pt. Pelee, etc. I did not want to follow the crowd; been there, done that and had a few t-shirts to prove it. Where can I go and do something new; a friend suggested Russia.

Russia; my mind tried to grasp the images of Iron Curtain, long lines waiting for bread, gulags, and all the other propaganda. Then I started to do some research; to my knowledge, no non-native wildlife photographer has ever come to Russia to photograph this country full-time. Sure, there have been a few that came for a short stay or came for an extended stay of a few months on assignment. What I said is full-time; not a weekend, a couple weeks or even a month or two; I mean living, eating, breathing, and walking in Russia as a wildlife photographer.

Remember a couple paragraphs earlier I mentioned starving artist. Well, I am not jetting around Russia staying in hotels and eating cavier. I am living at a nature park with the animals, using an outdoor toilet (you know, squat and leave it) and struggling with the extremes of weather and nature. No car, no McDonald's, no peanut butter or yellow mustard, etc-if I want to go somewhere, I walk.

I believe; someday, maybe long after I am gone from this world, Russia will be a popular destination for wildlife photographers. Sure, there are a few coming to Kamchatka and Lake Baikal but I am speaking of the country of Russia, not these two choice locations. I plan to write a book about Photography in Russia and hopefully my travels will help pave the way for others to follow, someday.

This is the life I have chosen and I love it. I am no longer a very small mustard seed; I feel I have made and will continue to make a significant contribution to the community in Russia. I have been on Russian national television about ten times, written up in countless newspapers, given shows at museums, camera clubs, shopping centers, etc. In my small way, maybe I am helping show others the beautiful world that is just outside their front door and maybe a couple of them will help conserve a bit of space for the animals. My meager income at Dreamstime is helping to pay for my lifestyle. Thank you Dreamstime.

Comments (16)

Posted by Joezachs on January 22, 2011
Great. An American staying in Russia, eating Chinese noodles and feels that he is more than a mustard seed :-)
Only one typo so far: it was a breeze and it was too easy!
Posted by Naturefl on January 19, 2011
Hi. I've just read your article. I like your chipmunk images! Being from Russia I understand your challenges in my country. It's difficult and expensive to get to some wild places here, also the nature photography is not enough profitable to make your living. So it has to be just a hobby for those who are fond of wildlife photography. Nevertheless one could just get out of his house in the country to see and photograph a lot of beauties there.
Posted by Mariaam on January 17, 2011
Amazing photos! I wish you good luck!
Posted by Sobek85 on January 17, 2011
Great pictures really well done
Posted by Visceralimage on January 17, 2011
Thanks Hugo (Fleyeing) and thanks for your contributions to the communities where you volunteer. Best to you; also.
Posted by Fleyeing on January 17, 2011
I read your story a couple of days ago and I was amazed we have so much in common. You won't get any advice from me, since we know what it takes to make a bungee jump ;-) No regrets too.
Posted by Heathse on January 17, 2011
Oh for your kind of courage! You prove the adage 'you get out of life what you put into it' . I hope your success continues to grow!
Posted by Visceralimage on January 15, 2011
Thanks Everyone.
Posted by Mani33 on January 15, 2011
Great shots! Best of luck on your life in Russia close to the environment you like! Let us know about your book when it's done! :)
Posted by Yuritz on January 15, 2011
yours is surely a big challenge and I even imagine it's so beautiful all of what you get to see,sometimes maybe even hard to do,but surely worth when you get to be present at something unique happening!
Best wishes on your journey!

Posted by Rigsby8131 on January 15, 2011
Fascinating blog. I wish you the best of luck for the future.

Best wishes
Posted by BCritchley on January 15, 2011
Good on ya, keep up the good work and I wish you many more sales.

Brett, UK.
Posted by Physi28 on January 15, 2011
very interesting and unusual blog, I read it from beginning to the end, I hope you will continue to make a follow-up of your experience. Depending on DT to survive must be for sure a big incentive for your adrenalin release!
Congrats and all the respect.
Posted by Visceralimage on January 15, 2011
Thanatonautii; you are welcome to visit anytime but I am a bit farther than it seems. I am in Far Eastern Russia. Nevertheless, thanks for the comments, great to get your feedback.

Thanks also Scottysally2
Posted by Thanatonautii on January 15, 2011
That`s a great story. I always loved to watch your portfolio, and now, after I read what you just wrote, it`s more interesting to watch your new life in pictures. You have a great courage to do what you are doing and I really appreciate that!
Good luck with your life in Russia, maybe I`ll come to visit sometime ( I live in the neighborhood - Romania :P) ... I always was fascinating by that country...Dostoevsky told me about it :)
Posted by Scottysally2 on January 15, 2011
Interesting blog. I wish you luck in your challenge, it's like starting from a blank canvas. Great photographs, have a safe journey, and good luck with your book. :)

Comments (16)

This article has been read 1538 times. 2 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Moose Henderson.

About me

Professional Wildlife Photographer working in Russia and North America.

Jackson, US

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