John Jefferson: Flip the Pages of Wild Focus | advertising


As I neared the end, carefully turning the pages, staring at the pictures for minutes, reading each caption, a subtle feeling of regret overcame me. I didn’t want it to end. You may also feel it when you receive your copy.

I scanned Wild Focus: Twenty-Five Years of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Photography. It is a newly published compilation of the work of Earl Nottingham, the recently retired chief photographer of TPWD – a friend and colleague for the past 30 years.

Earl and I were members of the Southwest District of Professional Photographers of America (PPA). We both worked as portrait, wedding, and commercial photographers at the time, but dared to photograph the natural beauty of Texas as often as possible. The common bond was the passion to depict nature.

Earl had already earned a Master Photographer degree from the PPA. He was the youngest “master” I had ever met.

In some hands and in some eyes photography is art. In others it’s just taking pictures. Earl Nottingham is an artist in the true sense of the word. If you don’t already know, you’ll understand when you see the book.

I worked for Parks and Wildlife for a while, and Earl applied to be TPWD’s chief photographer. I saw him in the hall when he came for the interview. I told him that I would support or oppose him, whichever served him best. He got the job without my help.

Earl graduated from East Texas with a degree in photography, where he was named the best student film editor in the country. But before that everything started well. The dedication of the book to his mother says it best: “For my mother, who amazed me not only about the colors of a sunset, but also about what lies behind it.”

Somebody once asked my wife what my main interest in life was. She replied: “He just always wants to see what’s behind the next bend in the river.” Earl’s mother must have planted that seed in him too.

And it’s good that she did. After completing his papers for new employees, Earl was directed to the TPWD fleet to collect the vehicle on his first assignment. In an old pickup truck with bare tires and peeling paint, he drove south to photograph the great oil spill near Galveston. All other TPWD vehicles were already in use there.

But his duties weren’t as disaster-oriented. Despite covering forest fires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, he has been blessed by being sent to some of the most unique and inspiring places in America – all in Texas. He has photographed an abundance of scenes, including, in his words, “… a view of West Texas, a hunter in East Texas, a tropical bird in South Texas, or a historic site in the panhandle.” He captured these and more – all great.

Two hundred pictures are shown in this anthology of photographic art. It is available from Texas A&M Press at .

John Jefferson, Woods, Waters and Wildlife columnist, can be reached at 512-219-1199 or on his website.


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