John Jefferson: Leafing through the pages of Wild Focus | Advosports

As I neared the end, carefully flipping the pages, gazing at the pictures for minutes and reading each caption, a subtle sense of regret crossed me. I didn’t want it to end. Maybe you will feel it when you receive your copy as well.

I was scanning “Wild Focus: Twenty-Five Years of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Photography.” This is a recently published collection of the work of Earl Nottingham, a recently retired Chief Photographer for TPWD – a friend and colleague for over 30 years.

Earl and I were from the Southwest District of Professional Photographers of America (PPA). We have both worked as portrait, wedding and business photographers, but have ventured to photograph the natural beauty of Texas as often as possible. The passion for the image of the outdoors was the common bond.

Earl had previously obtained the professional degree of Master Photographer, awarded by the PPA. He was the youngest “Master” I have ever met.

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

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

Earl was educated at the East Texas State School of Photography, where he was honored as the nation’s top student film editor. But it all started long before. The book’s dedication to his mother says it best: “To my mother, who inspired me with wonder not only for the colors of a sunset but also for what lies beyond.

Someone once asked my wife what my main interest in life was. She replied, “He just always wants to see what’s going on around the next bend in the river.” Earl’s mother must have planted the same seed as well.

And it’s good that she did. After completing his new employee’s papers, Earl was directed to the TPWD Fleet to collect the vehicle from his first assignment. In an old pickup truck with bald tires and peeling paint, he headed south to photograph the great oil spill near Galveston. All other TPWD vehicles were already in service there.

But his missions weren’t so focused on calamities. Although he has covered wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, he’s been fortunate enough to be sent to some of America’s most unique and inspiring places, all in Texas. He photographed a cornucopia 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 them and more – all beautifully.

Two hundred images are represented 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 at his website,

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