Professional photographers can easily spend many thousands of dollars on photographic equipment, invest heavily in workshops, squander a fortune on travel expenses, and practically go broke making prints. But according to Eric Albright, a Mebane native and world-class photographer, perhaps the greatest asset a photographer can have is patience and foresight.
“Not every site works,” he said. “Not every animal does what you hope it will. But then I see where I am. I mean you look at these places and let’s just say the light isn’t going to be pretty. Look where I’m hanging out right now. I won’t break a sweat if it doesn’t work because I’ll come back the next day if it’s nice enough.”
He will also tell you that his favorite places to photograph tend to be less popular and off the beaten track. And you probably won’t find him in a crowded room.
“I pack my camping gear in the back of what I drive and just look for the places with the fewest people and the nicest sights,” Albright said. “It’s kind of cool, whenever you go to these places, people kind of walk away. There are two types of good light: there is morning light and there is late afternoon light. Anything in the middle is not good. And the cool thing about even visiting tourist spots is that most of the tourists want to come in for dinner. So when the good light comes on around 8, 8:30, 9, everyone is waiting to go to bed. And then comes my favorite time of the day.”
As a freelance photographer, Albright has photographed some of the most beautiful and least visited places on earth. He has also taken pictures in places that are visited and seen more often.
“Once I know the place I want to photograph, I look for the best compositions. And when it all comes together, I’m capturing a moment, a moment in time,” Albright writes about himself in his new book, Capturing Moments. The book is a vast, beautiful collection of his experiences behind the camera, captured by the desert of the American Southwest to the Olare Montorogi Conservancy in Kenya, and demonstrates in vivid detail Albright’s mastery of patience.
The depth of detail in his photos of mountain ranges is enhanced by the shadows and highlights; the awe of catching a lion mid-roar; or the anticipation of a pair of antelopes just before their horns snap into place; and wait for the last waves to flatten out to capture the perfect reflection of Cypress Swamp in Georgia’s George L. Smith State Park. Everything can be attributed in small part to luck, but these moments are primarily nourished by a willingness to wait and/or come back another time.
Before becoming a freelance photographer, Albright was a television cameraman for about 25 years. He worked for local news station WFMY from 1986 to 1989 and got his first big break with North Carolina broadcast legend Lee Kinard.
“I worked on his Good Morning Show,” Albright recalled. “He was already a legend back then. I started out as a cameraman and then he made me floor director for his show. One day I came up to him and said I had an idea for a story. And I had never really filmed or written anything by myself or written anything myself, at least that was professionally. I told him what the story was and Kinard said, ‘Do it.’
The story was about the Covington Dairy Farm. Albright wrote the story, directed the video and edited it. Kinard did the voiceover. He was impressed with Albright’s work and continued to trust his instinct for storytelling. His opportunities at WFMY expanded and came faster, but Albright was less interested in covering local news. He started looking for bigger markets, eventually ending up in Atlanta, where he’s spent much of his time since his time at WFMY.
Albright worked with Bryant Gumbel at Real Sports for 10 years, which he says was the best 10 years of his professional career. In one year, Albright shot four of the five stories nominated for journalism’s best of the year. One of them won top honors.
“Brian was the best interviewer I’ve ever seen in my life, without exception,” Albright said. “News, sports, whatever. He’s a fantastic interviewer. Its producers have always been among the best in the business. I also love the journalistic part of it. I’m just a shooter but they brought me in and my opinion counted.”
For his book, his first, Albright selected his favorites from a collection of works dating back to the 1990s, some even before he transitioned exclusively to digital format. He said the hardest part was choosing which photos to use. In his career, Albright has photographed very famous celebrities, US Presidents and other global dignitaries. But his book focuses almost entirely on nature, including just three photos with people.
“None of these shots are portraits. It’s not about portraits. They help make the shot work,” he said.
Also of note is that none of the photos are labeled as to their location. Although there is an index of the images on the back cover of the book, Albright said the arrangement was intentional.
“I wanted each page to just revolve around the image. I didn’t want it to be about where it was or what it was,” he said. “I wanted the reader to just enjoy the image while flipping through the book. But some people said, ‘Well, you know, I want to know where that is. I want to know what it is.’ So my design compromise was to put an index on the back.”
Albright said he was pleased with the book. But what makes him happiest is the joy it brought his mother, Jackie.
“She kept saying, ‘I’d like to see a book. I’d like to see a book,'” Albright said. “So I took it more seriously a few years ago.”
Now that the book is out and available, Jackie – who turns 94 in December – has been enjoying her new side job as her son’s unofficial marketing and sales manager, letting everyone she knows know about the book and buying it. She can’t believe her excitement and pride.
“Are you kidding?” Jackie laughed, “I teased him about it because I wanted him to do it. When he started talking about it, I teased him because I keep telling my daughter I’ll be 100 years old. I will do that. I said to Eric, ‘You better hurry up and write it before I die. You don’t have many years left, so you better get on with it.” Anyway, I’m thrilled to death about it because I just felt like God had given him such a blessing to be a wonderful photographer. So many people have commented on it.”
Jackie has three children and Eric is the youngest. She said she’s enjoyed watching his photography skills grow over the years. The publication of his book has also given her a chance to meet friends and family that she has not seen as often.
“It was so nice to be able to talk to people when I asked them if they would like to buy one of these books,” she said. “So many people have said, ‘Oh yeah, I saw his photos on Facebook.’ It was fun talking to them.”
For his part, Eric Albright will return to his home in Atlanta to begin planning his next photographic adventure. He’s contemplating whether to return to Kenya or go to Alaska to photograph grizzlies, an animal he’s never captured on camera. No matter where he goes, he knows that patience and appreciation for what he gets to experience will get him what he wants.
“Camera guys are just the guys behind everyone, and we’re fine with that,” Albright said. “We agree with that. I’ve lived a great life. I’ve met some great people, incredible people who have seen things that no one else has seen or even imagined. We’re always in the background and we see all that stuff.”