Limited License

All photos ©1998-2024 by Thomas O'Neil. A limited license is granted for personal use, such as using an image as wallpaper. Click here for information on licensing through stock agencies. Send inquiries to the below address. (Sorry, you have to type it yourself. Death to spammers.)

What's This?

The quick answer is, it's my photo web site.

Yellowstone Elk

Sometimes people compliment me by saying I should be a pro. My response has always been that I couldn't afford it. As a professional photographer, my income stream would have been much less reliable and probably a lot smaller than in the job I actually had. Of course going around photographing critters is more fun than sitting at a desk all day, but I had plenty of vacation time while working and now I'm on vacation all the time (retired). Also, as an avid amateur rather than a struggling pro, I can choose what to go after rather than being forced to find something to sell. I would guess that most people who are so-called professionals are shooting weddings, portraits, and kids' soccer games. More power to them, but I would seriously harm myself within days if I was forced to make a living by shooting weddings.

Most photographers see themselves as a potential Ansel Adams or Annie Liebowitz, but few make it to such heights. There are very few jobs available at National Geographic or Sports Illustrated, and building up a freelance business takes time. I have made money with my images – maybe $2,000 in 20+ years. Do the math.

So, roaming around taking pictures of interesting things is what I do for fun. With no assignment editor, I get to define "interesting," which usually involves something flying through the air or hopping around. This web site and the associated blog is a way for me to organize everything, so it's more for me than other people. It's my diary. If no one else finds it interesting, I'm doing it anyway. I think most of the photos are professional quality, but I know some are not. I posted them here because they mean something to me, not to win a prize or make a sale.

Even though I don't want to be or claim to be a pro, I do claim some level of pro knowledge and experience. I have been interested in photography on and off since the 70's. My journalism major in college included a photography course, and during six years of newspaper work I accumulated experience and some SLR equipment. I acquired valuable experience doing sports and people lined up for award and check presentations. Being forced to do "grip and grins" was not a highlight. In the mid-80's I figured out that NOT being a reporter/photographer was a lot more lucrative than being one, or at least being one at small Midwestern weeklies. I returned to graduate school to get a business degree and managed to have a decent career after that.

The cameras sat in the closet from 1985 to 1998. As the web became popular, I began thinking about acquiring some web development skills by doing a personal web site. It seemed like a good thing to do for career enhancement. (It was. That was a big part of my career.) However, I didn't have any idea what sort of web site to do. It seemed as though the typical personal site in the mid-90s consisted of, "Here is a picture of my cat," but I didn't own a cat and wasn't willing to get one just to learn how to code HTML. When I was researching a trip to baseball spring training in Arizona, aka the Cactus League, it was impossible to find a comprehensive source of basic Cactus League information on the web, so I started my own site. That site started as and became, which still exists as a ghostly remnant.

Yellowstone Bison

I figured some photos on the web site would be nice, so I dug the cameras out of the closet and in November 1998 headed off to get shots of some of the spring training stadiums. Of course there is no spring training in November, but there are games involving minor league prospects, the Arizona Fall League. Empty stadium shots are boring, so I got a few photos of the minor leaguers in action.

After struggling with the old manual focus Contax/Yashicas for a while, they went on eBay and I started accumulating stuff in the autofocus Canon EOS line. Eventually I had a good selection of equipment but wasn't shooting much baseball outside of my fall and spring trips to Arizona. I figured out that the long lenses used for sports also can capture flying things such as birds and airplanes. That was fun, so in the recent past and (I expect) in the future my focus has been and will be wildlife with a few air shows thrown in.

Digital SLR

The Flying Legends Air Show in Duxford, England in July 2002 confirmed that that shooting up lots of film meant a lot of scanning has to follow, so a month later I took the plunge on a Canon 1D digital SLR. It was a great camera but was only 4mp. (I want to go back in time and throttle everyone who said no one needs more than 4mp.) After two years, the 1D was retired in favor of Canon's newest wonder, the 1D Mark II, 8.2mp. In 2012, I went with the full-frame 5D Mark III, 22.3mp, which is lighter and smaller than the 1D line. My most recent acquisition is a 6D Mark II, which I would call an incremental upgrade to the 5D Mark III. Canon (and I suppose other manufacturers) are going away from DSLRs now in favor of mirrorless. My spouse has an entry-level Canon mirrorless, and eventually I will plunk down the bucks for a higher-end model.

Most of the photos here were taken with one of those DSLRs, but I often travel with just a point-and-shoot Canon S95. It gives so much more control than the camera built into a phone without the bulk of a DSLR. I purchased a mirrorless Canon M100 a few years ago, which is not an SLR replacement for action shots but it takes EOS lenses with an adapter. It fills the middle ground. I enjoy using the big guns, but I don't feel obliged to take them everywhere.

Web Coding

I do my own web coding in html, php, SQL and Javascript. During my career I was exposed to some web packages such as the awful Frontpage, but I decided the only way to have absolute control over the product was to code by hand. I spent the 10 years leading up to my first retirement in 2007 and again 2011-13 doing a lot of web development at work, and developed this web site at the same time. I do everything in the most basic Notepad editor, although I am not opposed to using an editor that does syntax checking. I do the same with my finances. Rather than using something like Quicken, I track my finances in multiple linked Excel spreadsheets with embedded Visual Basic for Applications coding. I believe that, whether in tracking my images or my finances, doing my own coding gives me a degree of familiarity with my data that would be difficult otherwise. My coding skills are probably state-of-the-art circa 2010, but I'm not looking for a job so it doesn't matter if I'm not on the cutting edge.

Maybe this is interesting, maybe not. It's what I do.

Publication credits

Little Brothers

  • Nothin' But Puffins: And Other Silly Observations, a humor book by John McDonald to which I contributed the cover image "Little Brothers" and 20 other images.
  • Witchcraft B-24 Liberator, by Kenny Kemp, my image of the waist guns appears on page 97.
  • College Physics, Sixth Edition, Pearson/Prentice Hall, I sold them an image which appears on page 590 of a hawk sitting on a power line, which demonstrates that a bird can sit on a live wire without being zapped due to electricity following the path of least resistance, which is through the wire.
  • In Maine Woods and Waters by George Lambert, another puffin image on page 19. This book is out of print but there is a description of it on Amazon.
  • Geboren Om Te Vliegen, geestelijke lessen uit het leven van de arend, which translates from Dutch as "Born to Fly, spiritual lessons from the life of the eagle." They used five of my bald eagle images in black-and-white. This book came out in 2009 and was reissued in 2016 (available on Amazon) but I don't know if they used my images in that one.
  • Birder's List brochure for Agua Caliente Park in Tuscon. They used an image of a Vermilion Flycatcher for the cover and a different image inside. Don't tell anyone but the images were actually taken in the Galapagos, not Arizona.
  • Here's a real spellbinder. My eagle image was on the cover of the National Research Council's "Water Resouces Planning for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway." It came out in 2005 and is still available as a free PDF or for purchase.

These credits are all from quite a few years ago. Recently I have had my images on the three major stock photo sites and have made a few hundred dollars over the years, but they don't tell you who is paying to use the images. Anyone can sell to the stock agencies, so there's competition now from everyone who has a phone, in other words, everyone. As I said, I couldn't afford to be a pro.

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All photos ©1998 - 2023 by Thomas O'Neil