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Episode #137

Starting a Successful Nature Photography Career with Alyce Bender


UPDATED: June 5, 2023


How do you go from a passionate hobbyist to a full-time professional nature and wildlife photographer? Alyce Bender launched a growing photo business and walks us through the exact steps she took to do it PLUS how she infuses conservation values into her work.


Alyce (pronounced A-lease) Bender's love of photography started when she was a child, and she used photography as a way to explore nature. While a U.S. Air Force veteran, she also fell in love with travel… but time constraints with a full-time career meant photography took a backseat. 

She knew photography needed to play a bigger role in her life, and she decided to jump in with both feet and build a business around her creative passion. 

If you're curious about what it takes to go full-time in conservation photography, this episode is for you! 

You'll Learn:

  • How she formed solid foundations BEFORE going pro,
  • How she gets herself out there to ensure paychecks are coming in at a steady pace, ​and
  • How she uses nature photography to spark a passion for conservation in her readers, students, and the tour clients she works with.


Resources Mentioned

Episode 137: Starting a Successful Nature Photography Career with Alyce Bender

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/137

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)

Jaymi Heimbuch:
[00:00:00] Jaymi: All right. Welcome to this episode of Impact, the Conservation Photography podcast. I'm gonna start off with a quick apology for the way that I sound. I have a bit of a cold, so , I if I sound a little off, that's why. But don't worry, we have. The most amazing interview today, and I will not be doing most of the talking we have with us today.

[00:00:22] Jaymi: Alyce Bender, who is an amazing nature photographer, conservation photographer, she is just a, what I think is a rising star in our field, and I'm so excited to sit down and talk with you today.

[00:00:36] Alyce: Well, thank you so much, Jamie, for having me. I, when you reached out to me, it's just an honor to to be here talking with you today,

[00:00:46] Jaymi: Oh goodness. Well, for anyone who's not familiar with your work already Who is Elise in the world?

[00:00:54] Alyce: So I'm Aise Bender. I've had a camera in hand since I [00:01:00] was Wow. Knee high essentially. And I've always been a very avid outdoor explorer. So I, when I had that camera, my very first one was a little. green plastic, 35 millimeter Kodak, point and shoot. And I explored nature through that lens. I continued using photography as a just an enjoyment, a recreation, a hobby all growing up.

[00:01:36] Alyce: And then, You know, buying my first digital by taking a second summer job one summer as a teen. And then I went into the Air Force and I was still doing it, but not as much. My time constraints were a bit more with work than it was with play, so but I did, I did still continue to carry a [00:02:00] camera and use it where I could.

[00:02:01] Alyce: And when I got out of the Air Force I had met my husband, we got married, and I started picking it up more seriously in 2013 when I separated from the Air Force. Slowly, you know, I did about six months of trying to do people not so much . And so I went back to my roots with nature photography and I've always been a huge proponent of conservation, of, you know, ensuring the animals and nature around me continue to be around me.

[00:02:41] Alyce: And. I've just seen so much in my travels that made me really want to hone my skills with my photography to show people not only. , the beauty that's in this world, but also to sh use it as a way [00:03:00] to protect that beauty. And so in 2019, I ended up going full-time into nature photography and I.

[00:03:12] Alyce: Write for the Journal of Wildlife Photography. I lead tours through my own business, through Wild Side Nature Tours. I'm a Tamron USA ambassador. And I do guest appearances for interviews and try and get the word out. And I'm also one of the partner photographers for girls who click. So it. It's a lot that I do, but I'm hoping, you know, something will stick and it will end up that I'm able to make an impact with other photographers and grow the conservation network that we have in the photography community.

[00:03:52] Jaymi: Nice. That is an amazing introduction to, to you and everything you're doing. You [00:04:00] launched into a topic that I, I would love to start with, which is you're able to have transitioned from photography as a hobby and something that you really love and do passionately to a full-time career. And this is something that I'm asked about a lot by listeners who have the same aspirations.

[00:04:18] Jaymi: And the reality is it's a really tough field to make a full-time living in, and I think that you already started to touch on the idea of it takes a lot of irons in the fire. There's a lot of different things to have going on. So can you tell us a little bit more about what that moment was like? Kind of the building up to the point that you could go full-time in knowing when it was the right time to actually make that transit?

[00:04:44] Alyce: So I want to caveat this as I understand. I also have some. Vast support that I know many people don't have. [00:05:00] And that is my spouse. Basically, if I don't work, we still make ends meet, so I'm not under the constraints. That many find themselves when trying to make this a career where they actually need to be bringing in income to a point of sustaining their family or they don't make ends meet.

[00:05:24] Alyce: So I realized that is a big stepping block that I had to start out with. You know, I was already several rungs up the ladder with just having that, if you will. But that said, growing the business, I did start out part-time and doing it on the side and starting to grow my network.

[00:05:53] Alyce: people that would end up being clients also, that people that would end up being [00:06:00] supporters that would then further the reach. That I have which is also an important part, even if they don't contribute, you know, necessarily monetarily or go on tours. You know, finding those people who are your cheerleaders and being able to push your stuff out and grow that network.

[00:06:19] Alyce: So I started building that before ever considering full-time. And then kind of doing some small projects. Whether it was with my local camera club or local Audubon you know, entering contests, kind of just trying to grow my name and get my work out there. That was all done before I ever thought of going full-time.

[00:06:45] Alyce: And then in 2018, my husband and I were put in a position where he had to go overseas where I couldn't follow. I was living in Japan at the time when he got [00:07:00] Word. We were both over there and the military couldn't tell us where he would be going afterwards, but I wasn't allowed to stay in Japan, so I had to come back to the States with no home, with no knowledge of where we were going to get sent in 10 months.

[00:07:19] Alyce: And so I ended up with the help and support of family. Purchasing an RV and basically living out of an RV for 10 months to really boost my portfolio and boost my knowledge of the the Western us. And then, and the business. Doing a lot of studying in the evenings on how to run an actual business. And then in 2019, I actually made the leap and went as a legal business and made it full-time.

[00:07:52] Alyce: But once again, having that support and having that catch net where if this didn't [00:08:00] succeed, I wasn't going to be out on the streets, is a huge, it it, it was a huge leg up for making this a career.

[00:08:11] Jaymi: Yeah. Well, and I mean, honestly, that's a big part of any business venture that someone wants to jump into, right? Is whether you're going full-time as a photographer or an accountant or a whatever it may be, starting your own business is no small thing. And so that support from family is big. And I know that's how I started out too, in making that big leap.

[00:08:34] Jaymi: What do I do to minimize my expenses? So at the time, my partner and I were living in a van, and then we lived in like a tiny eight by 10 cabin in the woods. And for the first couple years, like we built a tiny house in a friend's backyard, like anything we could do to have like minimal living expenses so that I could dedicate that time to building.

[00:08:55] Jaymi: The business itself. That's a big, big part of it. And I think also one thing [00:09:00] that you said that I really wanna highlight is all of the time and energy that you put into building this really critical foundation before you went full-time, and it wasn't a financial or client base foundation, it was networking and building up like a community of peers and supporters around you.

[00:09:19] Jaymi: I think that that is so. Smart, so essential and something that I think can be easy to overlook when you start to think about like, oh, I wanna be a full-time nature photographer. That that foundational community,

[00:09:31] Alyce: Well, and even, even now you know, on only being in it for, you know, several years full-time, I still look. and will invest because that's essentially what you're doing is investing in opportunities to continue to network, to continue to branch out. And you know, I think that's another part of my lifestyle as [00:10:00] being a military spouse is that we move around every couple years.

[00:10:05] Alyce: So that gives me access to rebuilding and continuing to build out my network every several years that we move. So. . I'm not just sitting in one place for 20 years and trying to build an international network. I'm actually moving every couple years to build that network and, you know, spread the news, if you will

[00:10:28] Alyce: So that does make, I think, a difference and makes it easier on me in building those foundations. And, and, , those, those support systems kind of across the country and and globally.

[00:10:46] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. .What are some of the things that you do to build that network? Like you land in a new place and you wanna start to rebuild that network. What are some of the things that you actually do?

[00:10:57] Alyce: one of the first things I do, [00:11:00] and oftentimes I'll do this once we find out we're going to a location. , I will find out if there's a local camera club. I find that's like the easiest way to get into a photography community is just look to see if they have a camera club or a photo association or, you know photography group.

[00:11:23] Alyce: You know, they, they have so many different names, but essentially it's people who love photography and it may not. conservation photography. It may not be even nature photography. Here in San Antonio, Texas, the largest camera clubs are primarily based around portraiture and commercial work. And, and wedding special event type photography.

[00:11:48] Alyce: But they're still people who love photography. Their day jobs. You know, the, the full-time professionals may be doing, you know, quinceaneras and weddings and family [00:12:00] portraiture as their day job, but they like going out on their off time for nature photography. So you know, getting in and networking with the locals is my number.

[00:12:14] Alyce: Thing to do. And then I also start looking at conservation, you know, issues and subjects that I'm interested in, in that area. So when I found out we were moving here to Texas, my number one primary was working with the whooping cranes. And that overwinter here on the Texas coast. And so within two weeks of us moving, we moved in December of 2020.

[00:12:43] Alyce: And within two weeks I was down on the coast with whooping cranes in front of my lens. And it was the most magical thing. I'm actually gonna be down there in two days. So so in, in a couple days before they head north. And so. [00:13:00] finding that because then you can also find the people who've been working with that species.

[00:13:05] Alyce: You find those connectors and you build that network. You know, whether it was the boat captains that I went out with in order to access the cranes the people at the National Wildlife Refuge where the cranes, you know, just going in and talking and once you show that you have that passion that they share and you're looking to get more information on it, they open.

[00:13:28] Alyce: And they kind of invite you in. And so those are kind of my two first steps when I get to a location.

[00:13:38] Jaymi: Nice. Nice. Thank you so much for that. Cuz a lot of people look for what is my actual to-do item when I wanna get into this. And sometimes it's easy to talk about it in, in overarching terms, but to actually have some, some action items is really helpful. And so thank you so much for sharing what your, what yours are.

[00:13:55] Jaymi: I'm curious about, There's so many places that I would love to go with this [00:14:00] interview. So I'm curious about getting into your conservation projects, but before we dive into that, sticking with the business realm a little bit where cuz we mentioned that it takes a lot of irons in the fire. You are a writer with the Journal of Wildlife Photography.

[00:14:14] Jaymi: You have your own client projects that are going on. You, you've got a lot of irons in the fire. , what are some of the ways that you juggle all of this, both in terms of staying organized or just in terms of ensuring that you have enough revenue coming in during the month?

[00:14:31] Alyce: So juggling the, the organization really comes down to. my Google calendar and, and, and I have my Google calendar to keep me on track, but I also have a month by month, you know, what are my to-do lists? And it comes down to, you know, I have. Daily list. So I break things down to keep myself on track.

[00:14:57] Alyce: I'm very analytical in [00:15:00] that way. My creative side reigns free you know, out in the field. But in the office I really try and keep on track and make sure that I have. To-do lists and I'm getting things done because the last thing I wanna do is waste time in the office because that means I could have spent more time in the field So but to, and again, the revenue portion of it to make sure that I have revenue coming in that's a little bit more touch and go simply because.

[00:15:38] Alyce: have that cushion, if you will. So for me, it's making sure that I am saying yes and I'm being diligent about which projects that I do, making sure that I am bringing in income, that they are profit making and then trying to space them [00:16:00] appropriately. I do a lot of educational talks for. Covid was a double-edged sword.

[00:16:07] Alyce: It shut down travel, but it got a lot of people doing virtual education, and so there's been a lot more clubs that have embraced that as a way to bring in speakers that they otherwise wouldn't have because. They live so far away. And so I've found those to be quite a great resource, not only in building networks, but in offering educational experiences for those clubs.

[00:16:36] Alyce: But it's also a good way to have a stream of revenue on a pretty regular basis if you have several of those scheduled each month. So, you know, and sometimes, you know, at the beginning it was a lot. Essentially cold calling where you put out feelers to, to your network that you've already built, and you say, Hey, do you [00:17:00] know anybody that needs, that needs a speaker that's looking for a speaker?

[00:17:04] Alyce: Other times it can be literally you just message clubs that you come across and say, Hey, if you're looking for a speaker, you might consider me. Here's my information. This is what I can offer you. , ensuring that you have that set up. You know, where like I have an educational offerings page on my website that explains kind of.

[00:17:29] Alyce: the different webinars that I can offer to clubs and the timeline and, you know, whether it's a 60 or 90 minute presentation, whether it's for beginners or for all, you know, that sort of thing. So that they aren't having to hunt, they aren't having to think that much. They can just be like, yes, we would like you to come and present on this topic.

[00:17:47] Alyce: Great. It's really helpful.

[00:17:50] Jaymi: That is really, really smart to do. So speaking is a big part of what you do. Writing's a big part of what you do. What are some of the ways that you get your photography out into the world?[00:18:00]

[00:18:00] Alyce: So social media that's, that's a big one. You know, the, the speaking and writing gets my photography out there. And then from there, that funnels to my website, which also has extensive galleries on it. I also do a lot of. in person when I'm out in the field speaking with people. And, you know, getting to know them and then sharing information and sharing pictures and, you know, that sort of thing.

[00:18:33] Alyce: Or with like I have donated images to Audubon Kansas to help with the lesser prairie chicken fight that's going on. , ensuring that species is protected since it keeps coming on and off the endangered species list, while the population actually just continues to decline. And in that situation it was, I went to one of their events, you know, paid for [00:19:00] it, built that networking, and now they refer me for other Audubon projects. And so, and they're able to use those images that I created during that event for public publications. So that's another way, you know, finding these different ways, building that network, I think is probably the biggest one, is, you know, if you build a network of supporters, they will share your images.

[00:19:29] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Yeah, absolutely. I also definitely noticed the, the passions started to come up a little bit as soon as the lesser prairie chicken topic came up. So if you are game, let's transition a little bit to the, to the conservation photography work that you do. How do you select some of, I know that some of the projects are selected based on the fact that now we live in this place, so I'm going to find out.

[00:19:53] Jaymi: Issues are here or what, what it is that I wanna work on. But how do you select projects that you're working on? And I'm [00:20:00] also curious if you can speak to how you think about your projects. If you know that you are going to move after a handful of years.

[00:20:07] Alyce: So, I pick projects based on kind of what I'm interested in, which is not always, it's not the best way to do it because , sometimes there are species that have already been covered. The whooping cranes are a poster child for the Endangered Species Act.

[00:20:28] Alyce: there's more images out there than there ever will be of birds, regardless of conservation status. But I still love them. I'm, I'm a bit of a c crac. I love cranes um, . So, um, that's, that's just me. So of course I was going to, , go and work with them. The Lesser Prairie Chickens, that was a little bit different.

[00:20:53] Alyce: And it thoroughly got me engaged with a bird that [00:21:00] I hadn't even really heard of. And it, it came down to a Facebook ad Because I was writing for the Journal of Wildlife Photography and my specialty, especially when I'm, the first couple years I was working there was writing on species of special concern where I would choose a species, introduce readers to.

[00:21:24] Alyce: The background, the life history, the conservation history around the species, and then how they can photograph the species and use those photographs to further conservation efforts. Basically, my hope is I'm building a little conservation photography army. That's what I'm hoping from through that . And so I had lived in Monterey, California before, so I had gotten the, the southern sea otters, the western snowy plover humpbacks, you know, that sort of thing. Here in Texas it's a little bit harder because access to certain species is [00:22:00] much harder because there's not as much public land the species that are endangered in the area.

[00:22:05] Alyce: Very endangered. So the whooping cranes were kind of a number one thing, but then I was kind of looking around trying to figure out what I could do, and I came across. , the Atwater Prairie Chickens here in Texas, which are essentially extinct in the wild there. There is still a wild population, but they are mostly from hi, you know, raised chicks that are then released.

[00:22:31] Alyce: And once again, it's very hard to get access to that particular species, but that sent me down the rabbit hole. Prairie chickens and grouse species that are endangered and threatened. Quite a few of them unfortunately. And Facebook threw up this ad at me that was like Kansas Electric Festival, and I was like, what is this And [00:23:00] sure enough I looked into it and it was based around mostly the lesser prairie chickens, but also the gra Greater Prairie chickens. And I was like, well, I haven't been to Kansas before. . And so I called up my best friend, I said, Hey, do you wanna go to Kansas with me? And she's like, what's in Kansas?

[00:23:17] Alyce: And I said, Prairie chickens. And she's like, I have no idea what that is, but sure, let's go. And so I signed up and went up there and had an amazing time. Got to learn about this species, got to see them in person, see their morning, you know, these dances that they do at dawn on these Ls and. there's just, it was cold, it was windy, sitting in these pop-up blinds, but you're literally just a few feet from these chickens that are performing age old.

[00:23:52] Alyce: Ritual dances for courtship and making these amazing sounds where you have the wind and then these [00:24:00] pops and cackles, and it was, it was just such a phenomenal time. So it's things like that that I like being surprised when I do some conservation because not only is it helpful, Because I want to introduce other people to these because if I don't know about a species, I guarantee you the general public doesn't know about 'em, like

[00:24:23] Alyce: So being able to highlight something like that really brings me joy and, and so I try and find some of the lesser known species that are still in need of help. I mean, mammals are, , but they're, when it comes to actual biodiversity, they make up such a small percentage of the life here on earth that I'm really trying to look at other species and that's one of my [00:25:00] goals for the coming years is to be looking more at the insects and the reptiles and the amphibians and fish species in order to bring more.

[00:25:12] Alyce: Diversity to wildlife photography and wildlife photography, conservation.

[00:25:19] Jaymi: are there any species that you've already started to pinpoint in that you haven't photographed before that you're excited about? Or is that kind of in the, you're still in the research phase.

[00:25:29] Alyce: I'm still in the research phase. I have, you know, I have a list that I made, you know, over the last couple years, but it really did focus a lot on more of the larger species, the birds and things. So I need to go back and kind of retweak that for a more biodiverse listing, if you will, and target species.

[00:25:52] Alyce: But, , I mean, one that I'm looking at currently that I'm gonna try in within the next [00:26:00] few months to, to increase the number of images I have is wood storks. They're considering delisting them. So just, you know, things like that, just having to do a bit more research, but, . I love photography. I love being able to introduce people to the conservation side of it.

[00:26:19] Alyce: Unfortunately, it's also job security at this point,

[00:26:23] Jaymi: Yeah,

[00:26:24] Alyce: and that's the sad part.

[00:26:26] Jaymi: Yeah. When you're thinking about photographing. A species, you're heading out into the field and you wanna capture these images and your end goal is to bring more attention and understanding and awareness to a certain species among other folks. So what are you thinking about in terms of the imagery that you wanna bring home and your shot list and the the shots that you think are gonna make that most impact?

[00:26:51] Jaymi: What is your strategy when it comes to.

[00:26:55] Alyce: So one of the things, and I feel like I, [00:27:00] cuz like I know what the, the shot list that you've, you put out there and, and kind of those quintessential conservation shot lists. And I take a slightly different approach and that is I do try and still capture. Really beautiful to, to the point of maybe fine art images of these species.

[00:27:23] Alyce: Because even if I can't get people to care about it, if they buy the print, then I can give money in their name basically and, and support that way. But because photography so frequently draws people to it because of the beauty, because they wanna share with their friends and take beautiful pictures.

[00:27:44] Alyce: And the way that I approach conservation is by teaching other photographers to take photographs and share information about these species and about the environments that they encounter. I want to have really beautiful shots that [00:28:00] draw them in that I. then am able to take them out into the field because they've now wanted to go on the tour to see this species and capture their own beautiful images.

[00:28:11] Alyce: And then that way they get to talk about it the same way I had the experience, say, like with the lesser prairie chicken you know, where you can really, I, you know, put your personal spin. because the more personal you can make it, the more your friends and family and their pe their network is going to care about it because they know that there's a personal connection. So,

[00:28:35] Jaymi: That makes a lot of sense though, because you're basically approaching, like if your audience is fellow photographers, then a lot of their personal why and why they do what they do is they wanna create beautiful images. And so you're creating these gorgeous images and then saying, here's. What is so spectacular about this species.

[00:28:54] Jaymi: And then they're drawn in to say, oh, well that's, that's why I do what I do too, is to [00:29:00] create these gorgeous images. I wanna get out there and feel connected. And then you build that personal connection for them to the species, to the conservation issue. So I think it's a really smart, interesting approach.

[00:29:11] Jaymi: And I'm curious what. are, do you have any stories like, oh, success stories, I guess, from photographers that you've introduced to a species or, or even introduced to conservation? Cuz you mentioned that some camera clubs that you've joined are not necessarily around nature photography. And so do you have any stories of, of just changing people's minds?

[00:29:33] Alyce: I've had in a couple different ways. You know, here in Texas. I've had a bunch of people that just didn't realize that what we do here in like San Antonio, Austin and this growing metropolis type area here in central Texas impacts the whooping cranes down on the coast. They never made the connection that the more water we use here in central [00:30:00] Texas, the less gets down to the bay.

[00:30:02] Alyce: Salinity levels rise, and then the crab populations suffer. , the whooping crane's, 80% of their winter diet is blue crabs. So if the crab populations don't do well over the summer, then they suffer. Had no idea. Had no. , you know, so being able to introduce people to this idea of second and third order effects within the environment that they're living in has been a big one for me.

[00:30:31] Alyce: Another one is like, when I'm working out in Monterey, you know, people will see me out there photographing, you know, whether it's by myself or, or with a group. And we'll be on this beach with, you know, western snowy plovers. and they'll just be walking along and I'm like, please, you know, please, you know, move one way or the other because you're disturbing this endangered species.

[00:30:56] Alyce: And I'll get into conversations with people. Goes one of two [00:31:00] ways. Many people are receptive to the conversation. Others not so much. But you know the ones that are receptive often go, I had no. . They, they didn't even hardly see the birds. I mean, probably the, the little western snowy plovers are tiny.

[00:31:15] Alyce: I mean, they're like ping pong balls with legs. But you know, they would have no idea. And then they go and like, I'll pass them in the parking lot and they're telling friends about it right there in the parking lot. Oh, did you know I saw this? It's an endangered species. And like, you know, so to see that in progress, even non photographers, just bypassers because I'm there doing what I'm doing.

[00:31:39] Alyce: Has that reach as well. And then I've had clients who come out with me because they're, they're like, I learned about this species when I was like in fourth grade, but I never thought I'd actually be able to see them in the wild. And so to be able to make that connection for them and be able to put them in a spot, because that means they've [00:32:00] carried that with.

[00:32:01] Alyce: for so long in their life. So to be able to put them on a species like that because conservation efforts have worked and that species is still alive, really kind of brings them extra into the fold.

[00:32:15] Jaymi: Yeah. Oh, I love that so much that it really is, there's something really, really special about seeing the kind of aha moment and excitement on. A client's face when you point something out to them. It was when I was running my Oregon coast photo tours, that was one of my favorite, favorite things about taking people out and just being like, oh, did you know that this species does that?

[00:32:37] Jaymi: And here's how it's connected. And then they get, you just see this excitement, this joy and there's, I don't know, a warmth that comes from that, that no matter how tired I am from the day I'm, I'm energized. , I got to see that connection made in someone's excitement. Rev up. So I can only imagine how you must feel on basically a daily basis with what you're doing with people.

[00:32:58] Alyce: it, it is [00:33:00] always very rewarding when, you know, the, the end of workshop surveys go out and they come back and it's like, thank you so much. You know, I, you know, I never thought I would see that species, or I never thought I'd be able to get that close, or I learned so much. Like that to me means I have done my job.

[00:33:19] Alyce: I can sleep easy and, and be fully satisfied just on that, because that's going to live with them. And they aren't gonna just let that kind of go by the wayside. They are going to tell that story to other people, and that's what we really need is more people knowing about these species, knowing about the environment, and understanding the impacts that we.

[00:33:44] Alyce: On the environments these species are living in. So,

[00:33:46] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Well, speaking of workshops and guiding people into nature photography, you are a partner photographer with the nonprofit girls who click. Can you tell us a little bit about that role that [00:34:00] you play in and how you got looped into that community?

[00:34:03] Alyce: Yeah. So I, once again, that was another Suzy Eser Herrs, founder of Girls Who Click reached out to me and We spoke after I had acted as the host for a panel discussion on women in nature photography for npa for the North American Nature Photographers Association a couple years ago.

[00:34:27] Alyce: And she reached out to me after that and we got to talking and then she put my name up as a potential for a partner photographer for girls who click. And I was accepted

[00:34:42] Jaymi: Yay

[00:34:42] Alyce: It's been amazing to work with them not only being able to help To bring, conservation and help bring up young people into the field of conservation and nature photography, but also, [00:35:00] Specifically help women come up into it? Frequently I say I wish I had had a program like this when I was younger, , like and so to be able to help, and it's globally, like I've worked, the, the two mentees that I've worked with, one was from the uk, the other one's in the far north of the,

[00:35:20] Alyce: the Baltic area. And it's, it's just amazing to see what these young women are able to accomplish through this program and to have a bit of impact there on them personally, enable to help them craft their business and their photography to bring them up. Realize their vision and how they're going to be able to tell their stories really is very rewarding.

[00:35:49] Jaymi: Right, right. Yeah. So for anyone listening who's not familiar with Girls Who Click, it's a nonprofit organization that puts on photography workshops, both [00:36:00] virtually and in person for teen girls and women identifying people. And also they have an ambassador program.

[00:36:09] Jaymi: For women and women identifying photographers from, I think it's the age of, I think 16 to 26 and so the partner photographers, you guys do so much to help excite and inspire, teach guide and just mentor women who are really interested in entering this field. So what has that been like for you as someone who.

[00:36:34] Jaymi: Has spent so much time really teaching herself how to be a photographer and be in business, and now to actually be relaying that to someone else. What's that like for you?

[00:36:43] Alyce: to be completely honest, it's, it's partly scary. I'm not gonna lie because the last thing I wanna do is guide somebody wrong. But it's also really rewarding because I'm able to give them options and show them how they [00:37:00] can grow in their decision making in order to further their business based on what their goals.

[00:37:09] Alyce: And you know, it's between what I've gone through both the good and the bad and helping them learn from the mistakes that I made so they don't have to make them themselves I think is definitely helpful for them, . And and yet it does show that you don't necessarily have to have formal training.

[00:37:34] Alyce: Oftentimes I come across those who have a bit of confidence issues because they're like, well, I didn't go to school for this. Well, I didn't either. It doesn't mean that you can't have an impact, that you can't be successful. This is definitely. career that does not require being papered.

[00:37:57] Alyce: It helps, but it's not required.

[00:37:59] Jaymi: [00:38:00] Mm-hmm.

[00:38:00] Alyce: So really, I feel oftentimes it's being there to be both helpful in kind of guiding them, in making the decisions. To further their, their careers, but also being there just as a support system and giving them the confidence to actually go through and follow through with what they are wanting to do.

[00:38:22] Jaymi: Yeah, that's incredibly helpful. I mean, I work with students of all ages in. Photography 1 0 1 and through the Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy. And so there's everyone from, you know, early twenties all the way into, you know, seventies. And the thing that everyone has in common, no matter where in the world they live or their background, their age how they identify, whatever it is, it's imposter syndrome, and am I doing this right?

[00:38:53] Jaymi: Am I gonna be taken seriously? Do I know enough to be able to put myself forward as, you know, someone [00:39:00] who can create this assignment or this story or this, whatever it is. There's always that amount of self-doubt. So to be able to mentor someone and help them, and like you said, the decision making process, because it's one thing to be like, well, should I do this or that?

[00:39:15] Jaymi: And have someone give an opinion and it's another thing to say, well, what information do you have? I. Give you the confidence for you to make your own decisions about that and feel confident that even if you're nervous about it, you're gonna move forward with that decision anyway. That's a big part of a successful career.

[00:39:31] Alyce: Yes. Yeah. Well, and it's because these ambassadors, they may be in this program for, you know, one, maybe two years will, if we're always making the decision for them, then to me, I'm like, okay, but we need to have the courage and the strength and the knowledge to make decisions after that if you don't have somebody there directly, you know, you know, on a monthly basis that you can ask questions for.

[00:39:59] Alyce: And I [00:40:00] mean, I'm always open to, to my mentees that you know, hey, and not just my mentees, but any clients who come with me, anybody. I'm like, once my student, always my student, my inbox is always here. At the same time at a certain level, you know, making your own decisions and being able to kind of branch out and stand on your own.

[00:40:21] Alyce: There's empowerment in that, and so I want them to get to that point where they feel that empowerment to make those decisions and really be strong in their career and in their thought process of why they're doing certain things.

[00:40:37] Jaymi: Absolutely. Do you have a mentor?

[00:40:41] Alyce: I have a lot of people that I look up to and I have those who helped me when I was very young. I wouldn't say there's not a one particular person I like go to and I can bounce ideas off of and talk to on a regular basis. So [00:41:00] no, I don't really have that type of hand in hand mentorship. But there are.

[00:41:07] Alyce: I think of my mentors as a community. You know, there's always somebody I can reach out to if I do have a question, whether it's, you know, somebody local, somebody across the world, you know, because I've built up that network, so I have a network of support rather than a single mentor.

[00:41:23] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Okay. I really am so happy that you framed it like that because I know that having a mentor can be this really. Incredible thing, but it's also not necessarily something that one has to have. I think it's something that a lot of people crave having because it is so comforting and helpful. But if you put the work in to build that community and to be as much of a provider to that community as someone who leans on it I think that you get all of the mentorship that you really need inside of that, and so for you to frame that, the answer to your question that way [00:42:00] makes you really, really happy because it just emphasizes how much What we do is dependent on relationships and on community.

[00:42:11] Alyce: it. It really is, and I will tell you the more and more I do this, the smaller and smaller the world gets. It's been absolutely amazing when I make a connection in say, Texas, after I've had a connection in Alabama or California or Oregon. And then I find out that my connection in Texas knows the connection in Alabama, knows the connection in Oregon, and it's like, , wait, but we've actually never met, like there hasn't been that one last link that brought us all together.

[00:42:44] Alyce: And so it just ends up being like a really small world. And that's not just here in the us but I've had it happen where people recognize me or I recognize them. Like when I'm in Japan or when I'm in Scotland, like, [00:43:00] It's a small world. When you do start making those connections, so the larger net you can throw and you can build the better support system you will have regardless of where you are.

[00:43:13] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. , one last question for you regarding that support system. Have you leaned on that? in terms of conservation photography, and by this question, I mean like trying to figure out, okay, well there's a species or there's a project that is meaningful to me, but how do I really make an impact with this?

[00:43:34] Jaymi: And then going to that community for strategies for getting the word out or coming up with ideas or has that factored into the conservation photography specific work that you've.

[00:43:46] Alyce: it has to a smaller point. it's not something I feel I've taken full advantage of because that is certainly an aspect of the network. and the [00:44:00] sports system I have that could easily be tapped into, and I haven't tapped it fully. But in certain situations, like with the whooping cranes being able to tap into the support system.

[00:44:20] Alyce: the operators I work with down there who are also with, you know, who also work hand in hand with the International Crane Foundation and their research and you know, being able to have those connections so that if I have a question or there's this unique behavior that I capture, they're like, Hey, you need to send that picture too.

[00:44:38] Alyce: So and so, you know, they should really know about that. Or, you know, if we see something like this year we, it's been a really weird year for the cranes down here and we had like an orphan. and then we were wondering, okay, so how is this gonna play out? So being able to watch that and you know, get hearing what the experts have to say about the situation, you know, alleviates that.

[00:44:59] Alyce: [00:45:00] And then I'm able to explain that to clients when they come down and we're in the field and we see this oddball family, if you will, and it's like, oh, it's because those are actually three sub-adults who have adopted. Orphan to allow that orphan to tag along with them, even though they're considered sub-adults and really shouldn't be doing.

[00:45:23] Alyce: It's been really odd, but being able to tap into that network of knowledge and of connections has been really useful in situations like that. But like I said, that's still kind of untapped for me. I haven't utilized it to the extent that I possibly.

[00:45:41] Jaymi: Oh, you will. I have no doubt.

[00:45:44] Alyce: I'm getting there, . It's on my list.

[00:45:49] Jaymi: Well I am curious if you have any advice out there for listeners who are photographers with a passion for nature and wildlife and are [00:46:00] purpose-driven photographers and those who wanna figure out how is it that I wanna make a difference? What is my role in conservation?

[00:46:08] Jaymi: I'm still kind of hunting around for that, or I think I know what it is, but I'm not sure how to dig in. Do you have any words of wisdom for.

[00:46:17] Alyce: I would say start small baby steps. Build up steam. You know, it's fine to throw feelers out there if you have several things that you're like, I'm not sure which one I wanna take on. Dabble in all of them. See which one really starts pulling at you. and then go in that direction. If you're still not sure about the particular, even, you know, if you don't have necessarily specific story options, you know, or specific species picked out, but you want to do something in conservation and you know that's a passion of yours, consider.

[00:46:56] Alyce: looking at what's local to you, something that you can [00:47:00] start once again, kind of just dabble in, see what draws your attention. I, I think frequently we think of these stories as taking place, you know, far away. Oh, the polar bears or the elephants or the whooping cranes here in Texas that go up to Canada.

[00:47:20] Alyce: but there are so many local stories that still need to be told, and that's where you can really start building yourself up because you probably already have those local contacts or they're only one contact away from you. So if you build that, that story locally, you can get into the local papers or the regional newsletter.

[00:47:44] Alyce: Or even statewide news and build from there. And it, I think it alleviates the pressure when you think of it that way. It alleviates the pressure of thinking, oh, I need to do something at a national or international level. [00:48:00] That's not necessarily true. Like there's so many local grassroot. Projects that have been instrumental in protecting large swaths of, of habitat and species because somebody local cared about what was going on in their backyard,

[00:48:20] Jaymi: Absolutely. I love the way that you put that baby steps build up steam. that's a, a big deal cuz a lot of us can feel like, oh, I'm not doing enough. Or it's not fast enough, or it's not big enough, or it's not enough enough, whatever it may be. But it's like, man, when you take small steps and change one, one person's mind here or one local law there, whatever it may be, it really, really adds up.

[00:48:45] Jaymi: So thank you so much for those great words of wisdom.

[00:48:48] Alyce: I'll just leave you. And it's been kind of like a little lifelong sing song in my head. And I don't know where it came from. I just remember picking it up when I was like [00:49:00] preteen type thing. And it was, I was looking at an inch worm and it was inch by inch. Life's a inch yard by yard. Life is hard.

[00:49:09] Jaymi: Excellent.

[00:49:13] Alyce: So That's what I go by

[00:49:14] Jaymi: I love it. For anyone who is really excited to learn more from you, where do they go to follow your work to find out more about your tours or your speaking engagements?

[00:49:26] Alyce: Yeah, so my website is the primary hub for that, and that's going to be a bender photography.com and it will have on their upcoming educational experiences, my tours, my work. I also do monthly articles so you can subscribe for my newsletter and get all of that information delivered straight to your inbox.

[00:49:47] Alyce: And then it also has extensive image galleries for anybody who just needs a stress break and to look at pretty pictures.

[00:49:55] Jaymi: Wonderful. Thank you so, so much for everything for all of your [00:50:00] insights, your experiences today. It's been an absolute joy to talk with you.

[00:50:04] Alyce: Thank you so very much for having me. It's, it's been such a pleasure and um, I look forward to, to doing more for the community.

[00:50:13] Jaymi: Awesome. All right. And everyone will talk to you again next week,


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