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August 6th, 2009

Always give the guy without an umbrella your cab — you never know where your next job will come from

Posted by Arthur Morris

Arthur Morris (Artie to friends) is well known as one of the top bird photographers in the country with a very popular website at BIRDS AS ART. His success has come from hard work and giving back, but also from making connections wherever and whenever possible — he’s been a social networker since long before Facebook.
A bald eagle over the mountains in Homer, Alaska. ©Art Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A bald eagle over the mountains in Homer, Alaska. ©Art Morris/BIRDS AS ART

I was to a friend recently why I am writing these posts for RESOLVE. She said, “You’re doing this for free?”  I replied that she was missing the point of social networking. Every bit of exposure has value. Every email, every crosslink, every mention of your name. In that vein, I recently started a blog to complement our hugely popular (and free) BIRDS AS ART Bulletins, which are emailed to more than 10,500 folks several times a month.

Several times while leading a tour at a popular spot like the Venice Rookery in Florida I’ve had a member of my group ask me at lunch, “Artie, that guy asked you a question about exposure. Why did you answer him? He didn’t pay for the tour.” I usually answer by saying, “I’m a nice guy” (and that is true). But folks need to understand that every tiny encounter like that counts.

When I think back to the first slideshow that I ever did (I got paid a whole $10), somebody who saw it said, “Hey, my nephew works for Natural History magazine, why don’t you send him some pictures?” Add up two decades of things like that, all those folks you’re nice to at a workshop, all of those e-mails, and the result is success.

Long-billed Curlews squabbling in Morro Bay, California. ©Art Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Long-billed Curlews squabbling in Morro Bay, California. ©Art Morris/BIRDS AS ART

When I was doing lots of articles for Bird Watcher’s Digest, I took a rare assignment to do an interview with John Kenneth Terres, the editor of the Audubon Encyclopedia of North American Birds. He told a story about how it was raining in New York and he had an umbrella and went out in front of this building to get a cab. A guy without an umbrella came running towards the cab, and John said, “Go ahead, you take it.” And the guy said, “Oh thanks,” and got in the cab.

A week later, John went in for an interview; he was hoping to get hired as editor of Audubon magazine. Who was sitting behind the desk? The guy that he gave the cab to. John Kenneth Terres was a very literary person and he eventually found an anonymous quote in Barlett’s Book of Quotations: “Be kind to strangers, you may be entertaining an angel unawares.” That quote has pretty much dictated one of them major philosophies my adult life: Why not be nice? The more love you put out, the more love is going to come back at you. One of the most rewarding things for me is that every day I get emails saying, “Oh, Artie, thanks; you helped me so much.” And e-mails like that are quite rejuvenating — they keep me going.

“If you’re open to chance encounters, they can turn out to be life changing.”

If you’re open to chance encounters, encounters that seem innocuous at best, they can turn out to be life changing. My friend John Shaw had done a great book for Amphoto, The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques. For years I dreamed of doing a similar book for Amphoto on bird photography. I called Robin Simmen and left a phone message: “I’d really love to do a bird photography book for you.” I never heard from her.

Then about six week later, at a North American Nature Photography Association summit, I was standing in line to make a phone call. I turned around and there’s a short woman standing there. Her name tag says “Robin Simmen, Amphoto.” I said, “Hi Robin, I left you a phone message in December and never heard from you.”  She came to my booth, looked at my work, and said, “OK, we’re going to do this.”

That led to the original publication of The Art of Bird Photography. It wound up selling more than 30,000 for Amphoto and becoming the linchpin of my career. When the book went out of print, it was still in huge demand, selling for as much as $500 on e-Bay, so we recently bought the rights from Amphoto and reprinted 5,000 copies in Hong Kong.

Roseate Spoonbill in Alafia Banks, Tampa Bay, Florida ©Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Roseate Spoonbill in Alafia Banks, Tampa Bay, Florida ©Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

I often give people who are interested in the business of photography a quiz: “Say I print 10,000 copies of a little booklet on bird photography that costs me $20,000. Does it make any sense for me to sell them for $2?” Everybody says, “No, you just broke even.” I respond, “Not exactly.”

If you sell all 10,000, that’s 10,000 people out there who think you know what you’re doing when it comes to bird photography. We actually went that route (although we sold the booklets for $10 not $2 — *smile*). That little book became a calling card and the pedestal of what’s turned out for me to be an amazing career. I could never have dreamed of the huge success that I’ve had, could never have envisioned being where I am today.  As I say often, “You gotta love it.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: When has a serendipitous connection or bit of kindness paid off for you?


  1. August 6th, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Steve Coleman

    Thanks Artie, a wonderful philosophy…. you can always have my cab…. cheers Steve

  2. August 6th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Paul Dymond

    One wonderful thing about the internet is it really does give people a chance to give back by sharing their knowledge with complete strangers from around the world. It’s a great philosophy and way of doing business as well as living life.

    Paul Dymond

  3. August 6th, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Ben Madden

    I just found the high point of my day. Thank you.

  4. August 7th, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Steve, Thanks for the cab; I never carry an umbrella!

    Paul, Agree.

    Ben, Thank you for your kind words sir.

  5. August 9th, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Off To Panama–Resolve/Live Books Blog Post « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    […] your cab — you never know where your next job will come from”  You can find it here:….  Miki Johnson chose some great images to go along with the […]

  6. August 9th, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Gordon Lindsay

    Great sentiments to live by “Why not be a nice guy”
    thanks for BAA and blogs Artie.

  7. August 10th, 2009 at 2:13 am

    Jay Gould

    Artie, from the first email I sent you, you have been giving me your cab. Thank you very much for all of the assistance and support you have given me directly through personal emails, or through the incredible

    You are the nicest guy!

  8. August 10th, 2009 at 5:08 am


    thank you! I really liked this post!

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