You Really Never Forget Your First

Memory  /  Postcards
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This is the latest in our occasional series of Postcards — stories from the heart about photos that hold special significance. 

I find it while scrolling through my pictures; buried in my photo library without markers or clues, yet easy to find: The First One.

It’s a photo that by nearly all standards could be considered poor. The focus is soft. The frame is blurry. The angle is high. The subject is too far away to be considered a good portrait, and too close to be considered a good landscape. It’s stuck someplace in the mushy middle. But it is what it is: the first polar bear I ever saw in the wild.

My first polar bear photo, which led me into the conservation field

Scroll forward in time through my library, and you’d see that it’s by no means the last. Instead, it marks the first step in a journey that’s taken me far and wide— across three of the five polar bear nations, and to some of the most remote places on the planet. This photo marks the start of my time volunteering for a conservation organization, and the small seed of a career in wildlife conservation. It marks the birth of lifelong friendships, and of another first: meeting my future wife.

Most of all, it marks the moment I understood I had a chance to make a difference in the survival of this magnificent animal. All of that, humbly captured with one, slow, clumsy shutter click.