A Grateful Lament

Oxymoron, you say? Read on. Contradiction in terms? Hear me out.

I am deeply grateful for this time of my life in which I am able to focus on what I love doing–not totally, as I still have obligations I mostly enjoy–but more than ever before. And what I love doing most is my photography.

I am deeply grateful that at 75, I can still hike and kayak where the wild things are. I am grateful that I am able to walk the streets of cities for hours taking it all in, engaging the people, the architecture, the happenings, and can afford to travel in moderation to do so. I’m grateful.

But I just spent 8 hours over two day at an arts market with my photographic wares. And it was fun. And I had several lovely conversations with interesting people about my work. But…. I went home at the end of that time having sold just enough to cover the price of my booth ($30) and buy myself dinner on the way home (~$30).

Meanwhile, the lady in the booth on my left took in cash hand over fist for massively over-scented (IMHO) candles and oils (giving me a headache the entire time) and the lady across the aisle from me doing same by calliagraphing names on glass balls to hang on the Christmas tree.

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

The attention-getter in my booth at this arts market was this… well, what can I say? …perfect image of a remarkable (worthy of a post in itself) bird.

So here’s a little bit of what it took to make this photo. And please note, I did not “take” this photo. I made it.

  • Time:
    • About two hours standing quietly next to the tree waiting for it to come into range, sit for a moment and turn its head juuuuust so.
    • Another hour or two in editing software figuring out the best crop, taking out a few distracting elements (because birds NEVER perch in picture-perfect places), adjusting contrast a bit, sharpening focus a tiny bit, working with the dodging tool a bit to bring out the eye.
    • Printing–a challenging process. You don’t want to know.
    • Then, when the first couple of attempts to print were unsuccessful going back to de-saturate the incredibly blue sky just enough that it didn’t overwhelm the grays.
    • Finding the right frame; putting it all together.
  • Equipment & Suppliies:
    • $1500 camera body
    • $2000 300mm lens
    • $1000 photo printer
    • Assorted framing tools (because paying others to frame for you is waaaaaaaay too expensive)
    • Top quality photo paper (~$1 per sheet), printer ink (~$50 per cartridge), frame (~$20 if bought on sale), archival mat and back (~$20 for this 10×10 piece).
  • Knowledge & skills:
    • Naturalist: Knowing what you’re photographing helps a lot, where to go, where to stand, and more.
    • Technical: How to use camera, lens, editing software, printer and printing software, and how to frame.
    • Other: Patience, a heart for creation.

I could go on and list all the things one does to get into an arts market, get your stuff there, have an ample inventory of stuff to sell, set up a nice display, etc., etc. You get the picture.

*$100* That’s what I’m asking for this piece. I still have it. After all the oohs and aahs, I still have it. And some of the same people who oohed and aahed, walked next door and handed over cash for massively over-scented (IMHO) candles and/or calliagraphed glass balls.

I do not begrudge the lovely ladies the money they made. I truly don’t. And I am clear that what they do also takes knowledge and skill, supplies, equipment, etc. But I don’t get it. That’s my lament. I don’t understand how and why people pass up timeless beauty and spend hard-earned money on ephemeral baubles.

And at the end of the day, it kind of hurts, because…. I can’t keep doing this forever.

And I am still deeply grateful that, for now, I can.


  1. Perfectly said Bette. Finding the right audience and customers is a difficult endeavor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Holden Harris

    They didn’t buy candles and ornaments. They bought affordable Christmas gifts, scented home experiences, and timeless holiday decorations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sure, Holden, but all of those things are also available with/through art purchases (including “affordable”), although the home experience is likely to be visual rather than scented. And the art won’t burn the house down if accidentally left unattended, doesn’t burn out and need to be replaced, probably can’t be wiped out with one unfortunate swipe of a puppy dog tail or a cat jumping onto a Christmas tree or a child handling it. There’s still a difference. Again, I don’t begrudge, even as I don’t understand the priorities. But I do have to make a decision. It’s a hard decision to make and it makes me sad because I have a passion for showing people the glories of creation through my photography, but… as I have reviewed and considered more fully what I invested in the event… well, I simply can’t afford to lose money like that.


  4. Rowena White

    I had no idea there was so much involved in your photography! Do you still have the picture of the Shrike? And what size is it? I assume it is ready to be framed? Also just looked at the Wild Things at culture center: loved those pics also, and will FW to my granddaughter who will enjoy, especially as she is in quarantine. Hope you are well; glad you are enjoying your health and appreciation of Nature; seems you and Fr Francis are kindred spirits! Blessings, Rowena

    Sent from my iPad



  5. Rowena: I truly think a special issue photographer artists face is that photography looks so easy, unlike painting, which looks so hard! (And is!) I have wondered if I should have lamented out loud as I did in this post, but… thank you so much for reading and understanding! Yes, the piece is still available and is already framed. I found a nice gray wood frame at a reasonable price that brings out the grays in the bird and the tree. I’ll take a picture of it in the frame and text it to you.


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