One Monday morning, about 15 years ago, I awoke with the realization that I really didn’t want to go into work – a thought I’m sure many of you are familiar with.
At the time, I was working in IT sales and, as I lay there contemplating whether to get out of bed, a saying from one of my favourite books, Illusions by the author Richard Bach, floated in front of me: “Every now and then you should ask yourself the question, ‘Am I doing right now what it is I most want to do in the world?’ If the answer is no, you should stop doing what you’re doing and go do something else.”
As those words played ping-pong with the neurons in my mind, I got up and had a shower. I then put on my suit and tie, I went to the office … and I resigned. The next day, I started my new job – as a self-employed wildlife photographer.
Giving up a well-paid job and the security of employment is inherently risky, especially when you still have a mortgage to pay, a car to run and bills that need settling. How do you stop fear paralyzing you from making that decision? Rather than argue for your limitations you open your mind to infinite potential and focus on success.
Looking back, I have no doubt that the underlying energy that drove me forward was the reason for my future accomplishments. I’m also sure that attitude and honesty have been important attributes in my relationship with wildlife when I’ve been in the field photographing.
It certainly played a significant part in creating one of my most recent successful images – of the white horses of the Camargue. For centuries, the Camargue horses have lived untamed in the harsh environment of the marshes and wetlands of the Rhone delta, where they developed the stamina, hardiness and agility for which they are known today and that can be witnessed in the spectacular and romantic wild gallops seen only in this striking region of southern France.
You see, I am nervous around horses. I know that sounds strange, coming from a professional wildlife photographer, but the truth is, while I’m happy and content right next to a wolf, a grizzly bear or a big cat, around horses I’m a quivering wreck. I’ve tried being confident around them, putting on a show, but horses, like all animals can see right through that veneer and become nervous themselves about the honesty of your intent.
My partner, Monique, who has grown up with horses (I occasionally catch her whispering to them) gave me some advice: be honest. Tell them you’re nervous and that, while you want to befriend them, you’re a little afraid of their size and power. The instant I changed my energy, I felt an immediate shift in the energy of the horses. Rather than stand off, they came to me, relaxed and inquisitive.
“Why don’t you get a photo of the horses galloping head on?” Monique asked.
“Because I don’t want to die!” I replied.
“You won’t die, silly”, she said. “Horses by nature always avoid an obstacle. You’ll be fine so long as you stand dead still.”
Did she just say “dead” I wondered, to myself?
The thing is, Monique knows more about horses than me and I believed her. And that is how I found myself standing in the path of a herd of galloping wild horses. Through the eyepiece of the camera, I could see only the barreling chests and pounding hooves of the horses getting closer and closer, bigger and bigger, faster and faster, until they filled the viewfinder completely. In the air around me I could smell them, I felt their breath on my skin, the sound of thunder filled my ears and icy-cold water crashed onto my hands and face.
All the time, I kept telling myself: “Stand still, stand still”. They say the best course of action if approached by a lion is to stand tall and step towards it. Your confidence will cause the lion to think twice and back away. It’s a great theory and I’m sure it works but I’ve never tried it. Monique had told me the best way to avoid being hurt by a galloping horse is to stay motionless but, as far as I knew, it was just a theory. Any second now, I’d know whether she was right.
The truth is, I knew all along – because I trust her and, in that moment, I trusted the horses. In place of fear was calm. In place of blind panic there was surety. In place of failure there was success.
If you allow fear to dominate you, it will stop you from taking that leap of faith or doing something you’ve always wanted to do in life. If you want something, go and get it and don’t let fear stand in your way.