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Earl Nottingham:
25 Years in 25 Photos


Twenty-five years can seem like either a lifetime or a blink of the eye, depending on your perspective. For me, after a quarter-century as Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine’s photographer, it’s a time span measured by the number of miles driven, sets of truck tires replaced, sunrises and sunsets witnessed, and faces and landscapes captured for posterity.

It’s not an easy task, poring through thousands of photographs to select roughly 200 images for my book, Wild Focus: Twenty-Five Years of Texas Parks & Wildlife Photography (Texas A&M University Press). Whether analog or digital, each image is like revisiting an old friend, and the exact moment of its creation is recalled with crystal clarity. I am instantly transported back to desert sunrises and moonlit rivers, fragrances of wildflowers and aromas of campfire breakfasts. Each image takes me on a ride back down the lonely highways, dusty roads and trails followed in pursuit of the perfect photograph.

It is with good reason that one of the first pages of the book contains the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s mission statement: “To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” It is this one concise sentence that defines and drives the goals of one of the state’s largest agencies, which is made up of more than 3,500 permanent employees in 13 divisions devoting their work to conservation efforts. The mission statement is also the roadmap that has dictated the subject matter I put in front of my camera, enabling the public to experience the Texas outdoors vicariously through engaging photography. It is my job to use camera, lens and light as tools to manifest the many facets of the mission statement that could be illustrated with a photograph — a West Texas vista, a hunter in East Texas, a tropical bird in South Texas or a historic site in the Panhandle, just to scratch the surface.

I’m often asked what is my favorite subject to photograph. Considering the size of Texas and its diverse natural regions and all that inhabit it, picking one subject is like picking a favorite child — it is impossible to do. How do I choose between a fog-shrouded Caddo Lake, the Lighthouse formation at Palo Duro Canyon, sunrise at Padre Island or a magnificent sunset in the Chihuahuan Desert of the Big Bend? It is, and will always be, the memories of those scenes, along with thousands of images of other places, people and things of Texas that will be preserved indelibly in my mind, each one instantly recalling the emotions and senses felt the moment the shutter clicked for that fraction of a second.

They allow me to recall and reflect that for one magnificent moment, somewhere in the grand state of Texas, I was there.

— From "Wild Focus" by Earl Nottingham

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