Esther Beaton

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More About Esther Beaton

Assignments

Taking on assignments is a “sure thing”. You know you’re going to get paid and for the rate younegotiated. I suppose I could have earned more inthose heady rich days in Sydney, shooting for bigbanks and investment companies. But I spent allmy spare cash on outback travel. I tagged alongon lots of scientific excursions where I would haveaccess to wildlife. I called them my “selfassignments”, and sales only happened if I cameback with superb shots. I pretended I was onassignment for big magazines and took myself offto remote places at my own cost, like the GordonDam protests and the muttonbirders in Tasmania.

Stock Library

I’ve sold 1000’s of licenses to my stock images over the decades, from

funnelwebs to woylies, from the ugly and dangerous to the dainty and sweet.

I did what all nature photographers did at that time: shoot and sell stock photos.

That’s when you shoot on spec (no assignments, just sheer cross your fingers

and hope) and submit your photos to picture libraries. Sales were OK, but thank

God I had my day job as a commercial photographer. I was coming back with

amazing shots of wildlife — but leaving behind many amazing stories. Stories

that simply had to be told.

Esther Beaton, artist, signing and numbering the Natives prints at framing shop

Features

That’s when I had a brilliant idea – to produce aready-made story to sell as a package of picturesplus words. My career really fell into a groove whenI started specialising in this type of nature andwildlife photojournalism. I would head out to thenever-never to do the photography and then find awriter for collaboration, either during or after thetrip. I couldn’t always find one so I eventuallyrealised I had to give in and write the words myself.

To my surprise, these stories were picked up bymagazines around the world. Most of the time theywere the result of my own “self-assignments” donein the field, but other times I would pull togetherphotos I already had as stock. Because I write thestory as well as do the photography, I call thisservice of mine “nature photojournalism. Magazinescalled them “features” or “packages” and theyloved them, because everything was there in oneeasy package: words, pics, even the title, ready topublish pronto.

Storytelling with Still Photos for Blogs and Social Media

Books

Sometimes too I got the lucky assignment to illustrate an entire book with my photography, sometimes even to collaborate as a co-author. Eventually this all went to my head and I thought “I can write a book too”. So I did.

Esther Beaton, artist, signing and numbering the Natives prints at framing shop

Speaking & Presentations

Kodak had engaged me on an “international” (as in Australia plus New
Zealand) speaking tour. I felt it necessary to have my own book, so I wrote “The Nature Photography Cookbook”. It was rather well received – once people figured out it contained recipes for photography, not for cooking.

Esther Beaton speaking at Kodak Seminar Series September 2008 Sydney, New South Wales

Teaching, Judging, Media coverage

Wildlife photographers were not common in Australia – actually not anywhere- and female ones even more rare. (This was prior to 2005 when it was alldone on film.) I got plenty of media coverage, something my shy self had tolearn to cope with. And overcoming the fear of speaking in public. That tooktwo years of Toastmasters!I got on a roll eventually. I spoke a lot for camera clubs and did a lot of judgingfor them. I spoke at larger venues and organisations. I was interviewed forradio stations, and had magazine features published not by me, but about me!It was weird having the tables turned.

Esther Beaton photos used for Australia Post stamp products

Art

Juts like stock sales alone did not shine enough of a spotlighton Australia’s wildlife, there was something also missing fromthe classic animal portrait shot with a camera. The SelfRealization Fellowship puts out the Inner Reflections diaryevery year. And every year nature photographers around theworld would hang out to see who got to appear in thisprestigious publication.

One year I had 2 – two! – of my photos published in the diary.One was the classic wildlife portrait. But the other one broke allthe rules, particularly for this timeless publication. Allphotography had to be “straight”. But digital processing hadarrived and I revelled in the new creative tool. The Fellowship published a photo that had been digitallymodified. Never done before. And it was mine. Yay. To be published there was a bigger win for me than anyofficial prize.

So I pursued this new opportunity and started creating more fine art. It was hard breaking into the artscene. Like I said before, galleries said “we don’t take photography” even though my work looked nothinglike it. Years later, viewers of my artworks would say “I’ve never seen anything like it” and be fascinatedenough to ask how I did them. And when they were told “digital painting” they still bought them.

Flannel flowers (Actinotus helianthus) Fam: Apiaceae/Umbelliferae, Sydney region, New South Wales
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