Tour the natural world with lawyer-turned-photographer Sean Fitzgerald.
It's a long way to go from cramming for bar exams to chasing wild game on a South Texas ranch. For environmental photographer Sean Fitzgerald, that journey took just six years, opening a new world of artistic expression he couldn't find in legal journals. Fitzgerald described how he chose his unlikely career path in a recent phone interview while hiking through a pasture on the Fennessey Ranch, near Corpus Christi, Texas. "I practiced law at a Dallas law firm for several years, but it just sucked the life right out of me," he says, with cows audibly mooing in the distance. "I wanted something to trigger the right side of my brain. I was interested in creating something tangible."
Growing up in the Dallas area, Fitzgerald had no camera as a youth and took few art classes. "It really wasn't until after law school that I got into (photography)," he says. "People would tell me they liked what they saw, so I guess I had somewhat of an eye for it."
He started out taking snapshots as a hobby while hiking in the Texas backcountry. In 1997 he decided to get more serious about his avocation, taking a couple of photography courses, including a seminar by wildlife photographer Art Wolfe. By 2000, after much experimentation, he took the leap and decided to quit the legal rat race for good.
Today, Fitzgerald specializes in environmental and wildlife photography, with a particular interest in documenting the diverse natural habitat of his beloved South Texas coast. He augments his income with stock, commercial, travel and indigenous cultures photography, including a healthy fine-art business, selling images to interior designers and hotel chains.
Although he says the market for environmental photography is near the saturation point, Fitzgerald continues to feel drawn to the natural world. "I had more money while I was practicing law than I do now," he laments, "but I try to do as much wildlife shooting as I can afford these days. I still have a bad case of wanderlust."
Fitzgerald has been published in several magazines, such as Outdoor Photographer, Texas Monthly and Science World, and has won many accolades, including first place in the 2001 Coastal Bend Wildlife Photography Contest.
Most recently, two of Fitzgerald's images — "Cape Buffalo Running" (direction???) and "Namib Desert Shadows, Namibia" — won for Best in Category, Wildlife, and Best in Show, respectively, in PhotoMedia's World in Focus Photo Contest (see page 10 for more details).
For future projects, Fitzgerald is working on a possible book deal to promote ecotourism at the Fennessey Ranch and other private wildlife sanctuaries on the Texas coast. Since 98 percent of Texas is privately owned, he says, encouraging the landowners to protect their habitats is a good way to get the "green" message across to an often development-friendly state. For more information on Sean Fitzgerald and his images, visit his web site at seanfitzgerald.com.