Retiring, learning nature photography, and reprioritizing, with a lesson from my mom
by Rob Tiller
Last Friday was the one-week anniversary of my retirement, and the start of the next phase of my education in nature and photography. I drove down to Charleston, SC for a workshop sponsored by the Carolina Nature Photographers Association. The workshop included two one-day courses, with one led by Jamie Konarski Davidson on garden and macro photography, and the other led by Eric Horan on bird photography. With Jamie’s group at Magnolia Plantation I battled heat and mosquitos, and with Eric’s I hand held a big lens on a rocking boat in Charleston Bay. It was challenging. I took many not-very-good pictures along with a few that I liked, including the ones here.
My plan for the next several months is to learn a lot about nature photography and see if I can make better pictures. I’ll be traveling both in and out of state and getting coaching from some master photographers. I’ll also be reading and watching videos on post-processing techniques, and doing a lot of trial-and-error experimenting. We’ll see how it goes.
Anyhow, I enjoyed the Charleston trip and got some good tips. I traveled with Barry Wheeler, a fellow retiree with a long resume and the same camera as me (the extraordinary Nikon D850). He posts some of his nature photography on his blog, Travels of an Old Guy, which I find well worth following. During the drive, we had some great conversation on camera equipment and life in general.
As I told Barry, as I’ve started my post wage-earning life, I’ve been reflecting on some important things I learned from my mother, Zola Tiller. She had a major hand in directing me toward the life of an intellectual, though of course I didn’t perceive that at the time, and also for a long time afterwards. She often spoke admiringly about Albert Schweitzer, a French theologian, philosopher, humanitarian, musician, and physician. She must have read his biography. I assumed from her account he was extremely famous, though I doubt I’ve even heard his name for at least 40 years.
Anyhow, according to mom, he was a good role model. From these and other examples I absorbed a value system that placed great weight on high intelligence and professional achievement. For most of my career, I did business where smartness was the coin of the realm, with other human qualities valued much less. And my mom was never an intellectual. It’s embarrassing to admit, but when I was a young man this bothered me.
It wasn’t until near the end of her life that I realized she was exceptionally gifted in another way, which was relating to people with kindness, compassion, generosity, and love. I used to think that those qualities were common, but I’ve come to see them as relatively rare, and worth noting and extolling. I suppose it would be good to be a Schweitzer, a formerly famous humanitarian. But it would also be good to be a Zola Tiller — a person who gave warmth and caring to those in her circle and others fortunate enough to cross paths with her.
On Wednesday, Sally and I celebrated our anniversary — the 37th! She has made me the happiest of men! She gave me a very sweet card, and we had a good dinner at Bloomsbury Bistro.