Wyman Meinzer interview
© Wyman Meinzer
Wyman Meinzer made the image above for the book "Texas Rivers." The following is his recollection about it.
I was working with John Graves on the Texas Rivers book. I was up on the Canadian River. That happened to be the very first river I selected for the shoot on this book. We selected a total of six rivers - one representing each region of the state. We had the Neches in your part of the country.
There had come a big storm and rained five inches. After about three days of overcast skies - now this was in November of that year - my purpose was to shoot aerials of the western edge of the Canadian as it enters Texas. I hired a helicopter. We flew up there and the clouds were still over. So, we waited, and I saw the clouds break to the west just at sunset. We jumped in the chopper and I told the pilot, "Let's go. The light is absolutely exceptional."
We came over one stretch of the river that created an "L" and an "S" in the distance with cottonwood trees that were just turning gold. That last ray of light shone to the east - we were facing east, and we had the reflection of the dark clouds. I had the pilot stop in mid air. I had the door off. I had a seat belt around my belt loop so I could lean out and stand on the skid.
I was shooting a Canon EOS 1N with a 17-35mm Canon lens and I still remember that shot. It cost me $1,800 (laughs). It was one of the most phenomenal aerial shots I've ever taken in my life.
I was shooting Fuji Velvia 50 at 125th at f/2.8. This ol' country was red and that water was a redish hue to it, and it was just awesome.
Wyman Meinzer is the only official State Photographer of Texas. After 28 years as a professional photographer, he has about 20 photography books to his credit and more than 250 magazine cover credits.
Please read more about Wyman Meinzer, see his five favorite images along with descriptions at The Beaumont Enterprise, then read the interview below.
What's the purpose of your work?
I have a life-long fascination with recording things that fascinate me about nature, about people, about weather, about landscapes. I've always had this fascination about offering a readership things that I have seen that I feel are significant. I have been fortunate to be in some incredible locations, at some prime times, very few people are going to see in person what I've had the opportunity to experience.Are you shooting assignments or self-assigning?
I enjoy putting on digital camera now - then on film - these scenes or activities and moments and saying, "Look what is out here that you had no idea existed."
Every photographer is probably going to word it differently. As a professional, I enjoy getting paid for it.
I do shoot a lot of assignments. Right now I have a Texas Highways magazine assignment that I have to shoot before May 7th. Most of my work now is book projects. I'm trying to finish up one project on "Working Dogs Of Texas" with Henry Chappell writing the text. We've been working on that for two or three years now.What's important about photography and why do you do it?
I'm fixing to go into a couple of other book projects. One's on inspiration that people derive from various scenes, whether it be weather, whether it be landscape, whether it be interaction with people.
I'm shooting on multiple projects all the time. I may be shooting on two or three books at one time. Then I'll get a call from Texas Highways. I need to go spend three or four days on the road shooting that.
Very seldom will I go out just to take a camera and poke around and look for an image. I used to, 20 years ago, I did that a lot. But now, I have so much going on that there's no need to go out. I get paid for what I do.
I have a lot of people say, "Don't you carry a camera with you all the time?" I don't. I carry a camera when I suspect there is potential for an image. If it's in the middle of the day when the light is at it's worst possible angle, I will not carry a camera out because I don't want to shoot. I don't enjoy carrying a camera with me just for kicks. Twenty-five years ago I did. The only time I carry a camera is when I suspect there is potential for an image that would be sellable or one that would go into my file for future sales.
It's the angle of the light. My images are all about light. Back in the early 80s/late 70s some of the national magazines I used to shoot for:   Sports Afield, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Smithsonian, some of those guys would mention they love my choice of the time of day that I would shoot. The light and color was always exceptional.
If I can't have good color, I really don't want to shoot pictures.
It's the same way with my writing. If I cannot be inspired to write, I don't want to write. I'm not what you would call a true professional journalist because I can't sit down and write about anything. I have to have inspiration. The same way with my photography.
Now if I'm assigned to shoot something in the middle of the day... For instance, two years ago I shot most of the stills for "Texas Ranch House," the mini-series. I was hired by the New York company to shoot all the stills down in Alpine, Texas. All the shooting was in the middle of the day.
Right at first, it really went against my grain to do it, but I realized after about a day of it that's when they wanted these images shot. That's when most of the activity was taking place that was going to be on the video. I resolved myself to shooting when I don't want to shoot because I was being paid to do it. So, I went ahead and shot in the middle of the day.
I would shoot, generally, when they weren't around. I would go out and talk with these guys and shoot them just doing things. They wanted to minimize the time spent with a still photographer. That film crew wanted the least amount of intrusion as possible by anybody other than themselves.
I was hired to go out there at this time of day. They would shoot in the middle of the day as well. They may have shot an hour before I got there. There were times I'd shoot late in the evening, but - for the most part - I would shoot those images in the middle of the day, which is not my time, but I was being paid to do it. So, I did it.
Photography is a means of communication. It's a universal language. You can get five different people who speak five different languages in the same room and no one can understand each other, but when you put a picture up there that speaks to everyone, they all understand.Do you make or take photos?
It is a means of communicating both the moment and the beauty. It communicates what that moment is about, but also the beauty of that moment - whether it be color, whether it be action that made me want to take the photograph.
It keeps me out in interesting places. I can take a camera. It's not a real intrusive thing - unless you're an intrusive person by nature, like a lot of these (paparazzi).
I'm not a "people photographer" per se, although I have done it a lot. I'm a landscape, sky shooter, wildlife photojournalist to some extent.
It allows me the opportunity to be at locations in moments that are very special. It's a non-consumptive form of activity. It generally doesn't intrude on people's privacy that much. In fact, most people find photography a very interesting type of work. They're all very interested in knowing how you do it.
If I wanted to go on a ranch to shoot, if I was a shooter with a rifle, they wouldn't let me on. Because I'm a photographer and it's not taking something away from their ranch other than capturing beauty, they welcome me with open arms.
I create photographs. You take the elements in a scene that make that scene special and then you compose a few of the essential elements onto the film plane that conveys the excitement or passion you felt at that moment. So, I create this image.What are the responsibilities of a photographer
I teach a senior-level class in Special Problems Photography at Texas Tech. One of the ways that I explain to them about being a successful photographer and communicating successfully is that your eyes take in a scene, and you can see - peripheral vision and all - almost 180 degrees. You may not be able to distinguish it clearly at the very edge of your vision, but when you go, "Wow! What a incredible scene this is or what an incredible moment I've stepped into."
I said, "You're job is to take a minimum number of these essential elements and compose them correctly so that in this photograph you will convey the magic of that moment to the viewers where they too will see that photograph and say 'Wow! What a moment in time.'"
Be responsible person and not be too intrusive. If you're a "people person," don't make yourself a nuisance where somebody wants to bust your nose. As a nature photographer, don't be intrusive on the scene in which you are engaged. Be there and then leave and leave it the way you saw it. Don't cave off a hill side trying to make something special of it that's not really there.You have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Wildlife Management from Texas Tech University. How did you transition to photography?
Be a responsible person as a professional and communicate effectively your intent.
That's something that a lot of people have asked me over the years.What general advice do you have for new photographers?
I was raised on a ranch, about a 27,000-acre ranch here in the rolling plains. My dad was the foreman for 30 years and ran this place. Even as a young boy, I was interested in two things. I was interested in wildlife - and the hunting of wildlife - and I was interested in photography.
When I was about 12 years old, my mother gave me a camera. I mixed them. I would photograph some of the hunting that I did. Then, I would just hunt and/or I would just photograph.
I didn't get into it heavily until I was a sophomore or junior at Texas Tech, when I became engaged in wildlife research as an undergraduate. A professor loaned me a 35mm camera. Then, I realized, "Wow!" The 35mm achieved what I had envisioned.
I (had been) shooting with a little ol' Kodalux twin-lens reflex. That's medium format.
(The 35mm made me) faster, more mobile, be more responsive to the immediate moment. To be able to grab a camera, jump up and shoot real quickly.
It also allowed me to focus real close to do macro work. And, to shoot strong. When I look back on my images I took when I was a young boy, even then I could see a style was developing. I would shoot strong. I always shot real close (and) tried to get close to the subject.
With that twin-lens, I could not get close - especially on macro stuff, you couldn't get close at all. Then, I became disillusioned, and I just put it away.
When I was loaned the 35mm and saw the versatility of that camera, that's when I started realizing there was more to photography then I first thought. I could actually communicate more effectively with a 35mm (camera).
After I had to hand the camera back, because it was a Texas Tech camera, I went to a camera store and purchased my own. I did not consciously make a decision to be a professional photographer. When I graduated from Texas Tech, I was a professional predator hunter for five years. I lived in a little ol' half-dugout with no running water and no electricity on a huge ranch.
I would go in once a week for gasoline and groceries and drop film off. I would come back, and I would trap and hunt for another week. It was when I was out there on this ranch that I was inspired by the incredible light that would play across those big, red canyons.
I shot a lot of film. I studied color while I was out there. I carried my camera with me every day. In 1976 - I graduated in 1974 - I suddenly - almost as an afterthought - thought, "Well, hey, shoot. I think I can shoot pictures for magazines. If I can get the technical aspects down then I think without a doubt I could shoot good wildlife images."
By '79 I was first published in National Wildlife and Texas Parks and Wildlife. (In) 1980, I sold my first image to Field & Stream. In 1981, I had three national covers in one year.
I started out shooting on spec - as almost all photographers do. I was initially shooting on spec. As I became more dependable, magazines could see that I could handle assignments. I was a very productive photographer. Then, I started getting calls to go shoot, but that took years.
I was working on my photography and selling to the magazines. On the side, I would do whatever I needed to do - whether I was hunting and trapping, a research associate. For two or three years I was a research associate in the early 80s - full time for Texas Tech University working on coyotes. On my time off, I worked on my photography.
I have a couple of suggestions for people coming in. If you're a pretty good photographer, believe only about one half or less about what people say about you.Is it important to have a degree in this field?
Always consider yourself in the learning mode. Do not, do not feel like you've got it all under hand. To be a successful photographer, you have to be a person with an inquisitive nature, you have to be a "people person" in order to work/interact with people, you cannot be a person with a negative personality or a negative approach to life because individuals just do not like to work with people like that. In other words, just be friendly. Be nice.
You have to be an extremely energetic person. Someone who likes to sleep till 10 o'clock in the morning, you can forget it. You have to be willing to get up at 3 a.m. in the morning to be 200 miles away to catch the very first ray of a rising sun.
I've done this for 28 years now. You have to be a very driven person. A very focused person. You have to know what you want and, as one old photographer told me, you have to have a fire in your gut.
I come across a lot of my students who aspire to be photographers, but it doesn't take long to realize only a very small percentage of them have the necessary points that I've mentioned. The personality traits to allow them to even begin to consistently be a producing photographer.
There's a lot of good photographers out there. There's a lot of very talented people, but there are only very few who have the traits I just described to make it. I mean full-time, full-blown professional photographer.
A degree has given me credibility because I write quite a bit. Of the 19 books that I have published, I have written and photographed two of them. Whereas the other 17, I was the photographer. My degree gives me credibility.Photographers are often classified by a genre. Are you a nature photographer?
For some reason, people put a lot of weight on your educational background. They don't even care what you have it in. As long as you have a degree.
I think what helped me was I had natural inclinations. I was a natural creative person. I find that a lot of people who are involved in creative hobbies or professions like music are generally pretty good photographers.
I know two individuals right now who are former students of mine, who are absolutely superlative photographers, and they have all the traits I just described.
I know a photographer in Jasper. When I first started visiting with this man, I thought he had a degree in engineering. He was that kind of a person. He spoke eloquently, a great communicator. I asked him, "What do you have your degree in?" He said, "I have no degree." I was absolutely blown away. This guy is a super photographer. He gets a lot of work. He's a full-blown professional.
However, I do think that if you have a degree, it does give you an edge. It speeds things along and people just have a tendency to believe you. If you're going to write on a particular subject, if you have some kind of educational background there, you're more believable.
I'm an outdoor photographer. I shoot nature. I shoot skies. I shoot wildlife. I guess you could say nature photographer. I'm not a wildlife photographer per se. I used to be. That's how I started out.In 1997, the Texas State Legislature proclaimed you as the Texas State Photographer. Please talk about the title.
I've had probably 50 covers on Field & Stream and Outdoor Life and Sports Afield. I've been published in most of the major European nature magazines back in the 80s.
But I found that wildlife exclusively was boring after a while. I wanted to open up a broader base for my work. I felt like I had more to offer than just wildlife. So I shoot a little bit of everything. I enjoy shooting people. I enjoy shooting sports. If the exciting light is there, the action is there, I like to shoot it.
Being proclaimed as the Texas State Photographer was a surprise to me. I had no idea that anyone was working on my behalf. It was all done in secrecy to surprise me. I've often wondered why. What is the criterion for state photographer?What are your thoughts on citizen journalism?
It's not necessarily how prolific you are. I think, as much as anything, I was proclaimed this because my work heralds or applauds all aspects of what Texas represents.
Most photographers, if you're around a lot of them, they're very focused on one thing. There's a lot of just landscape photographers. There are a lot of just sports photographers. There are a lot of just portrait photographers and a lot of just wildlife photographers. I love to photograph anything - especially if it personifies Texas.
These guys, these senators, these state representatives, the speaker of the house at the time Pete Laney, George W. Bush was the governor, he signed the proclamation. I think they saw in my work a person who loved Texas and whose work described what people expect of Texas.
I'm the only one that's ever been. I guess if they get another one, it'll be like past presidents. You are "Mr. State Photographer in 1997" (laughs).
They called me to the state capitol. I got this phone call one day from the state capitol. It was state representative David Counts. He said, "Can you be in Austin two days from now?" I said, "Yeah, I guess I can, but why?" He said, "Well, you've just proclaimed the State Photographer of Texas." I just nearly fainted (laughs).
I got nothing as far as payment or anything like that. It's just, to me because I love Texas so much, it is the most fantastic honor.
When I give presentations to various groups, (I say,) "If I can be a photographer, anybody can be one." Because of my rural background - totally rural background with a degree in wildlife management, far from Mass Comm. or anything like that or majoring in photography and never having gone to a class in photography - but just having a love for the creative part of your personality and a love for the subject. That subject is Texas.
If I can do it, anybody can do it.
That really undermines professionals. I'll have to admit digital photography has made a lot of mediocre photographers into good photographers. It's made good photographers great photographers.What do you see in the future for nature photographers?
Because the digital cameras today have such wonderful focusing capabilities, have great exposure meters... Hell, a 6-year-old can go out, point the camera and take a good picture if he happens to tilt it just right. That kind of makes it tough - especially when they sign over for free all rights to that - that really undermines the income for professional photographers.
I know they're happy to get that picture. Everybody likes to get recognized. Most people really like recognition - especially if it's from the creative part of their personality. They go, "Wow! Look what I did. So-and-so liked it and so-and-so is going to publish it." People love that. I applaud them for being at the right place at the right time when the action occurred. But, they need to understand that we professionals don't sign over all rights, and we don't do it for free.
Maybe they should keep in mind that they may be hurting some professionals down the line.
(We need to) educate these citizens on the fact that they need to be paid for their creative work.
There are books. There are pricing guides available. One in particular that I use frequently is called " Negotiating Stock Photo Prices " 5th edition by Jim Pickerell and Cheryl Pickerell Difrank. That is an absolute bible. It should be a bible for anyone aspiring to sell their work. It basically tells you when to fold and walk away.
It gives everything. It covers all these aspects of selling images. You have to understand it's probably at the top end of pricing. So usually you price it high and if they balk you go, "Well, I'll take this much for it. I will go down to here, but I won't go any lower." It gives you a good ballpark to shoot at.
They don't claim it to be right on the money, but it's real close. There are other pricing guides, this happens to be the one that I use. I'm totally happy with it.
It's probably good. This goes back in a review of history. This is one of the reasons that I urge every person to be a student of history. I'm 56. When I was a young boy, more young men and women were apt to readily go into the field and enjoy being out. Cars were not as available then as they are today. The mobility factor was not in play at that time.What special precautions and equipment do you take when you're going to the field?
So, you were very satisfied to spend time out in nature. I think we've gotten away from that to an extreme, but still appreciate nature. Because our society has become so fast paced that people are reluctant to go out and spend time in general. But, they still appreciate nature.
The nature photographer, who does spend time and go out and brings nature to these fast-paced people and lets them - in their armchair - experience those fantastic moments. I think there's going to be a need for them more and more.
Having been raised in snake country, you're always vigilant even though you may not be thinking snake, you're looking for venomous snakes. Up in this ol' rough country - the Bad Lands country - rattlesnakes are everywhere. If you're working storms, watch for lightning, watch for tornadoes, and just be careful.How do you feel about baiting for photographic purposes?
Take a first aid kit with you. Something that I run into a lot and face quite often is there's too many darn people that are absolutely scared to death of snakes, spiders and little things like that. My suggestion is don't be afraid of them. Just respect them.
I would rather face the biggest rattlesnake in the darkest barn in the state of Texas than have to walk down a backstreet in Houston or Dallas. I just feel comfortable being in nature.
I understand nature and in understanding nature, there is less fear. Educate yourself. Know what's out there and realize that it's not out to get you. Only those people that are uninformed and who are just blatantly negligent are the ones that are going to get hurt.
I used to be a total purist in that I would not photograph anything unless it was out in the wild. For instance my coyote book, there's no rented animals. Most of your bobcat and coyote and mountain lion and most grizzly bear pictures are rented animals.What about infrared trip beams?
If you see a bobcat chasing a rabbit - a picture of it - that's a rented bobcat. Back in the late 80s I first encountered rented grizzly bears. They call them Rent-A-Grizzly. So many of your black bear pictures are all rented. So many of your wolf pictures today are enclosed animals or rented animals.
Now that's something that irks me a little bit. There are a lot of photographers who try to portray these animals as being truly wild animals and that's wrong.
Baiting animals, I don't really have a problem with baiting animals. When you go into the field after a wild animal, first, you try to learn as much as you can about that species so you can capture that certain look that describes that species. All wild animals - whether you're hunting with a gun or with a camera - what you are looking for is a weakness in that animal so that you can get close enough to shoot it with a rifle or a bow or a camera.
All wild animals have two weaknesses. That's sex and food. Heck, a whole lot of the coyote pictures I have in my book they are around dead horses and dead cows because I needed coyotes interacting with each other. These ranchers would give me dead cows and horses that would draw the coyotes to a certain point where I was hiding in a blind made out of mesquite stumps.
I would lay in there and wait for hours for these coyotes to come up. If you get X number of coyotes together, they're going to interact with each other. Two males are going to fight. A male and a female will walk around and look at each other. Two pups will bow up and make facial gestures. That's what I wanted to get.
The best way to photograph wild turkey is to put a bunch of corn out. Or white-tail deer. That's not an issue with me. But, portraying a rented animal as a wild animal and saying that you spent days waiting on this animal to occur when - in fact - all you did was drove up and paid your 150 bucks and they turned the animal out. That irks me.
That is big. That's been going on for 25 years.
Well, that's not being very creative. It's OK for documenting what's out there. But for really creative photography, I don't think that's ever an issue because those pictures are generally awful - especially if it's at night. Daytime, that's something else. Like a blind hog gets an acorn every once in a while. You might get a great image.Do you believe everything that can be shot has been shot?
By and large, you're not going to get an image that makes much of a statement if you're just leaving a camera out there and letting an animal trip it whenever he decides to come down the trail.
Let me qualify that a little. If you are working, for instance, to get any kind of photograph of a near-extinct creature where otherwise you'd have to sit out there 24-hours each day, seven days a week, which is humanly impossible, I wouldn't have any problem with it because I like to sleep. If I knew the animal was out there, and I didn't know when he was going to come and it might mean me staying in the field doing nothing but staring at one spot for a 100 hours, I wouldn't have a problem with it.
Just to do it all the time, I think that's ridiculous.
I think that's pretty close. All we do is vary it a little bit. Occasionally, you're going to shoot something that's just "Wow! It's incredible." Other photographers and I have talked about this. Almost everything that can be shot - at one angle or another - has been shot. It really has. All we do is alter the light.6666 Ranch photos on Web site look like stock photos. Was it deliberate?
Maybe a minute - almost indiscernible - turn of the head or something that might make it a little bit different. But, when you get down to basics, it's been shot.
One of the reasons why I love shooting the sky so much is because you never, ever get the same two skies. They're always different.
If I go out and I'm getting some incredible cloud formations, I've got a weather phenomenon that's occurring that for a week every afternoon or every morning I'm getting these really neat colors or cloud structures. I know that I will never, ever shoot the same cloud twice. It's always going to be different.
You're never going to get two identical clouds or storms that look exactly alike. You could almost say it's a little bit both ways. There's going to always be a storm, and yeah, it's just another storm, but they're never, ever going to look exactly alike. A white-tail deer, it seems like there's been 10 million photographs published of white-tail deer and they get boring as Hell, but if he turns his head a certain way with some incredible light source, it makes it a little different than the last one. So, yes and no.
I hate to ride the fence on you, but if you get right down to it... Yeah, that's the way I'm going to have to ride that horse.
I'm sitting here looking out my window at a tree that in the fall of the year is usually covered in monarch butterflies. Heavens knows monarch butterflies have been shot every which way but Sunday. But, there's always a different angle that totally blows people away. So, I guess, really and truly not everything has been shot (laughs).
The fascination or the anticipation of thinking maybe I can get it in such a way that it's never been shot like this before.
So many photographers today approach the Western theme with the idea of portraying them as this romantic advertising-type deal. Marlboro Country kind of deal. That's not the intent of this book. The intent is to show these cowboys (and) what they do on the 6666 Ranch from day to day.The ranch commissioned you?
If it showed their faces, so be it. If it shows the back of their heads, that's the way it was. I didn't try to show faces all the time because you're not going to get in front of a herd of cattle while they're driving cows and shoot back just to get these guys' faces.
The manager isn't going to let you. He'll run you off. My purpose was to be as unobtrusive as I could be, yet get the image.
I would go early with them in the morning - these guys start to work way before daylight. I'd have to get silhouettes of them sitting and waiting for the light to come up so it would be light enough for them to see to ride.
I was barely getting enough shutter speed to get the image.
I shot some silhouette stuff. There's not near as much as it might seem like there is because my wife posted a lot of that particular image on the Web site while I took thousands of images. Mostly it's up in the daytime where you can see the back of their heads or faces.
There are only a few ranches in the state that have enough history or enough historical significance to really warrant a book. There's a lot of ranches. But there are few that would warrant a full-blown book project.Financing?
The 6666 is such a famous ranch - one of the most famous ranches in America. The owner decided she would like to have the day-to-day operations documented for a full year on this ranch.
We sat down and discussed time tables and what she expected out of it and when I could get started. We both agreed on all points and went from there.
I live only 30 miles from this ranch. I could get up at any time and go over there. I was raised on a ranch, so I understand the dynamics of the work that occurs throughout the year and the workload that they're under.
At various seasons I know they're going to be branding and other seasons they're going to be turning the bulls out. In other seasons they're going to be doing nothing but feeding cattle.
I would stay in close contact with the manager. He'd say, "Hey, we got some good stuff going on for this next week." I'd spend maybe a week over there.
In this case, the owner actually financed the book. Texas Tech University Press published it. But, she actually financed the book. After X number of copies, she would realize her money back. After that, there'd be a profit in it. On top of that, she would have a photographic accounting of that ranch during that period of time.Do you approach them?
My (fees are) on top of that. I usually have a set amount, depending on how in-depth the books are, how much travel I have to do. There's a set amount. Some of them aren't as much as others.
The Rivers book took three years and 36,000 miles of driving. After the Rivers book sells a certain number of copies, I get a royalty on top of my commission I received to shoot it.
On a big project, I might get $50,000.
You have to have someone that wants this book done - whether it's an individual or a group or corporation. Because almost all of my books have sold - have gone into the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, one's even on the 5th printing - I have a good track record. So you're very apt to run into someone who wants you specifically, if you have that kind of track record, to publish a book that they're interested in. They'll pay you to do it.
No. I was actually approached on this 6666 book by the manager. The owner asked him if he knew anyone who would shoot a book on this ranch. So, he knew me and he called me and said, "Hey!" and I said, "You bet."How do you turn the idea into work?
There are times when you just come up with the idea. Sometimes you don't come up with the idea and somebody else does that's not even in book publishing, and they suggest it to you. For instance, this "Working Dogs of Texas." This book is going to be incredible. So many people absolutely love dogs. There are very few people you run into that do not love a dog. Dogs are such beloved animals.
I was talking to a person that's a big dog efficienado - his name is David Daniels in Dallas. He and his wife Sue. They're big bloodhound efficienados. He said, "I've got a good idea for a book for you to do." I said, "What's that?" He said, "Working Dogs of Texas." I said, "Man, you have a winner. That book will be a winner."
Approach the publisher - and I have a publisher who was ecstatic about the book - so they would pay me X number of dollars up front - not commission me - but pay me up front to cover mileage and time. Then, once the book is published, then I would get like 10 percent royalties. Then, this up front money will go against my royalties till the up front money has been paid, then I'll start receiving royalty checks.How would someone new to the field approach this market?
You're going to have to have an incredibly interesting idea. You're going to need to research your idea and make sure there hasn't been another publication similar to that. Then, you're going to need to convince the editors that you do have a sellable idea.
A publisher does not want to publish anything unless it can make him or her a buck. If you have a good idea and this publisher knows it's a good idea, they'll go with you. As long as you produce a portfolio that shows that you can deliver.
I would suggest to someone is find a subject that fascinates you. That fascinates the writer and/or photographer. Because if it doesn't fascinate you, you're probably not going to do a good enough job on it to make other people fascinated as well.
Look at something that really rings your bell as far as interest. Then, look that up. Consider, is it going to be a regional interest? That's a big consideration because a lot of publishers don't want anything regional. They want statewide or nationwide or worldwide - more of a global scale.
Then, research into it and see if it's been tapped any at all. Go in with a good portfolio. Go in with a good, solid knowledge of your subject. Where you can argue your reason for it - intelligently.
If you can actually be present, that's even better. It's awful easy to dismiss a letter or phone call.
Enough for now,