Wildlife and nature photographer Beth Wold was raised in South Africa and spent almost every vacation since she was five visiting Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in the country. Beth's exposure to cheetahs, elephants, leopards, zebras, and the breathtaking landscapes around her - in addition to her father's interest in photography - inspired her to pick up a camera to capture creatures most people never get to see in their lifetime.
Beth moved to the United States and years later started working full-time at the University of North Dakota where she explored her interest in photography by taking classes offered at the school. With some key skills now under her belt, she was excited by what she could do with a camera and made a pact with her husband that they would travel across Africa taking photos along the way. And so far, they've kept this promise and have traveled to different parts of the continent every other year. Recently through Beth's travels, she's photographed the great sand dunes of Namibia and Botswana's Chobe River.
When Beth sets off to Africa, she funds her own travel expenses and creates her own itineraries. "I rarely join a tour group when I travel because most people don't want to spend an hour or more looking at a single species," Beth says. Instead, she'll spend days in national parks, getting around on small speed boats or land rovers to capture elephants, hippos, lions, and more. Beth has a great knowledge of African animals including their body language, sounds, and mannerisms - a knowledge which makes her feel comfortable and prepared when photographing them in their natural habitat.
And thankfully, she rarely finds herself in a sticky situation. "I remember once when I was in Botswana, I got a little too close to a hippo. These guys have a reputation for being very territorial animals. When he saw me, he got angry and snapped his jaw shut. It was fairly frightening, but I got a great close-up shot of the action," Beth says.
When she travels, Beth is not on assignment for specific clients, but instead is guided by her own inspiration and says, "In some way, I don't like the idea of creating that exact shot that someone else wants. When I visit a place, I want to show people through my lens how beautiful it is from my own perspective. I believe the artistic process is better when its driven from you, not the client."
Visiting Africa more times than she can count, Beth's collection of nature and wildlife photographs has expanded considerably. With a growing archive, it was clear that she needed a platform that could hold, organize, and nicely present her work. That's when she found PhotoShelter. "I originally tried building my own website and galleries from scratch but that was too time-consuming and work intensive," says Beth who was a webmaster in the 1990s. "PhotoShelter was a bit of an investment for me because I wasn't sure that I could actually make money taking photographs. But ever since purchasing an account, my photography workflow is so much easier. The investment was absolutely worth it."
Beth was also attracted to PhotoShelter after seeing that well-known nature photographer Art Wolfe uses the service. "I thought to myself, if PhotoShelter is good enough for Art Wolfe, it's definitely good enough for me."
Now a PhotoShelter member since 2008, the platform continues to give Beth everything she needs. "I love that I can license my rights-managed photos and instantly put an image up on my site and have it available for sales. Also with the self-fulfill option, I can print, mat, and sign my work, which is important especially now as I switch gears from marketing my work through stock photography channels to marketing to potential fine art clients."
To date, Beth's customers include art buyers, as well as folks in the magazine and textbook industries. To spread the word to potential customers about her work, Beth keeps her followers updated by blogging as often as she can - although she admits that most parts of Africa she visits don't have great Internet connection, so she has to wait until she gets home to write about her trip and post photos. Beth also creates self-made photo books using Blurb and showcases her photos of Cheetahs or the deserts of Namibia. She also uses Facebook and Google+ to share her photos and blog posts. "I've grown a fast following on Google+," Beth says. "I have over 6,000 followers now!"
Moving forward, Beth plans to expand her marketing efforts by experimenting with Google Adwords and also proactively directing her work to the fine art industry. "My goal now is to create beautiful pieces of art that people want to invest in and hand down to their children," Beth says. In the near future, she has plans to reach out to galleries in Minnesota (near her home in North Dakota) that attract hundreds of tourists. "There's no need to go all the way to New York City to find art galleries that attract crowds and bring in customers," Beth says. "I think photographers may be surprised at how much of a fine art market there is outside of big cities."
So what's next? Beth is planning another trip to South Africa in the Spring and is hoping to get down to Cape Town to photograph along the coast, which she calls one of the most beautiful places in the world. Before that trip, Beth will also take advantage of the landscapes and wildlife around her in North Dakota and Minnesota. "Lately, I've also gotten into winter photography," Beth says. "I'm actually looking forward to taking my camera out when it's 20 below. Believe it or not, I can't wait for winter."
Nature & Wildlife
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