7 Years and Counting!

Ron Niebrugge Alaska, Chugach, Photos, Travel 26 Comments

A Least Sandpiper resting near Seward, Alaska.

A Least Sandpiper resting near Seward, Alaska.

Seven years ago I walked away from a great job with full benefits, a wonderful boss and awesome co-workers to pursue my dream of being a photographer.  Janine had left her job a couple of years before to begin building the business and it was time to take the plunge.  It was the scariest, but one of the best, decisions I have ever made.

I find it interesting, at the time I was consumed with “making it”.  I really wanted to succeed, and would work as hard as possible to achieve that success.  If you had told me then that 7 years later we would be traveling, taking photos and making a comfortable living, I would have breathed a big sigh of relief and would have been thrilled at the thought of actually “making it”.  But now that I’m here, I still worry about the future, and continue to have those thoughts that I hope we can “make it”.  As someone told be recently, it is probably a good thing to feel that way.  I know one thing – it sure has been a wonderful journey!

Comments 26

  1. Congratulations, nothing like the reward of being self-employed. I took a similar leap of faith decades ago and never looked back. Our business, a small independent coffee roasting company (www.villageroaster.com) provided us and now our successors (brother and sister in law) with a comfortable living. Just remember to max out your IRA, SEP, and 401K no matter how painful it may seem at the time. Twenty or thirty years from now you’ll look back and think you were a very wise person for putting that money away.
    Best of luck to you and thanks for your wonderful and educational blog.

  2. Congratulations Ron-
    It’s inspirational to see what you’ve done, I look forward to the next 7 years. I’m working towards my 3 year plan right now for full self-employment. Keep up the great work, another great shot by the way!

  3. Congraulations Ron, This is another great picture and it looks like some of your friends have some good advice too. Now that I am at that age (retirement age) I am glade I have a good state retirement plan, good additional income from annuities and investments, and starting my social secuirty. What this means is that I have the same standard of living retired that I did when working & own all my stuff. Some people can’t say that.

  4. I can’t believe it’s been seven years already….. Seems like just yesterday you were doing the Alaska Maritime Calendar. : )


  5. That is a great milestone Ron. I agree that it is probably a good thing that you don’t feel “too comfortable” that way you can keep your edge. I learned that from watching the Lakers…

  6. That’s awesome! I’ll personally take that as a sign that I’m well on my way 😉

    Congratulations on all your success! As always, looking forward to new posts.

  7. Post

    @ Gary Great advice thanks. We do have a pretty good retirement – just not as good as it was a year ago, but we have time for it to recover.

    @ Dave. Having a plan like that is the key in my opinion. Thanks.

    @ Jeni Girl 🙂 I couldn’t believe it either! In fact I went back and double checked because I didn’t think it could have been that long.

    @ Richard. Yeah looks like the Lakers woke up just in time, at least for this series!

    Thanks Mike!

  8. Stunning photo to commemorate your accomplishment. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  9. Hi Ron,
    I’ve been following you’re blog/website for a couple of years now and have thoroughly enjoyed the photos and your insights and have been thrilled with your success in a field many said was dead a few years ago due to all the micro-stock and RF sites. It’s inspired me to keep going. I too took the plunge about five years ago. Stock and assignments have always been my goal. I have a wife and two kids so I still do a lot of commercial type work and whatever odd things come up to keep the income coming but I’ve been building my stock up, sell some through Accent Alaska etc.
    Any words of wisdom on the best way to get photos to more clients? I know you sell through your site and through Ken. Do you have several stock agencies and do you actively solicit potential buyers?
    Don’t feel you have to reply if this is too much! I would just love some insight from a guy who has “made it” recently!

    PS- I recognized you and said hello out in Denali last summer! Cheers!

  10. Hello Ron and Janine –

    Thanks for all the inspiration of the years ! I am glad that things worked out so well for you guys. Everything in England is going well, and I very much enjoy keeping an eyeball on your blog and photos to remind me of the homeland.

    Thanks !

  11. I have always believed in you and your talent, and with Janine by your side you are a terrific combination. Cheers to success for the rest of your lives.

    Love, Mom

  12. Post

    @ Mom – Thanks a lot!

    @ Mark – Hey great to hear from you! I’m glad to hear that things are going well in England. We do miss the familiar voice at Accent Alaska.

    @ Wayde – Thanks! I remember visiting with you on the Igloo Bridge.

    That is a tough one to answer. I do think it is easier without kids as we have fewer time and financial commitments. We are represented by a number of smaller agencies, but really do most of our business directly. It has taken a long time to build up a client base, basically a little bit at a time. At times, it seemed like we grew at a glacier pace, but given enough time, it began to add up.

    We subscribe to just about every service a major stock agency would, things like Stock Index Online, Stock Photo Request, AGPix etc. Hope that helps.


  13. Hey Ron,

    Congratulations man, well-deserved.

    I’m curious about the retirement thing. Seems all I hear about is you guys tooling around in the desert, playing poker in Vegas, going mountain biking, playing tennis, running around sea lions in Seward, lying on your deck catching some sun, and watching sunrise in Denali. How exactly does that change when you “retire”? 🙂



  14. Post

    Thanks a lot Phil!

    LOL – thanks Carl. Well, if we were retired, we won’t have to work all night because we played all day! We may slow down, but I don’t know if we would ever really “retire”.


  15. Having cracked the code of becoming a successful photography business, you need never retire. I wonder if you’ll only get busier as you get older. You’ll have stock and assignment photography to do, plus workshops, books, magazine articles, speaking engagements, and so on. So you better eat right and get plenty exercise. You’re going to need your strength!

  16. Post
  17. Seems like only yesterday that I ran into you and Janine for the first time on the Teklanika River. You had a dream you were working toward, and working hard at it.
    Most people who see your beautiful photography have no idea how hard you work to get the shots and then present them to the world. You and Janine have been blessed with a lot of talent, and you make a great team.
    Congratulations on your well deserved success!

  18. Post

    Thanks a lot Calvin, I appreciate the kind words very much and all the support you have shown us over the years. Your encouragement has meant the world to me – especially coming from such a gifted photographer as yourself – thanks again.

    It does just seem like yesterday that we were hanging out on the Tek bridge – gosh that was probably over 10 years ago!

  19. Way to go Ron! I must say, I know the feeling. Your business savvy and determination serves as quite the roll model. Looking forward to hoisting a brew or three with you before too long as a belated celebration.



  20. Post
  21. Congrats Ron. Well deserved success! I certainly wish you continued years of “making it”, it’s frankly reassuring that hardwork and talent can still do so.


  22. Post
  23. I wish you continued success Ron. I can’t tell you how many times I have imagined defining going to work in the morning as waiting on a quiet lake for twilight or even crawling in mud after shorebirds. Of course, I know there is so much more than that – marketing, office hours,etc, etc… but hey – its my fantasy – I don’t even mind some of the office work at times if I can feel good about what I am doing.

  24. Post

    Hi Mark,

    Yeah, I don’t mind the office work – at least you are working at home, for yourself on your own business. Keep the dream Mark, I have a feeling you will be there one day!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.