Russ Burden has had two loves in his professional life: teaching and photography. When he can do both at once by offering workshops to small groups of aspiring photographers or leading photo tours to the scenic strongholds of the Rocky Mountains, he calls it “the perfect marriage of the two jobs that I love.” Russ was a public school teacher for almost three decades and has been a full-time photographer in Colorado for the past ten years. “But to this day,” he says, “I still feel that I’ve never really gone to work in my life because both of the jobs that I’ve held have been true passions for me. I don’t know many other people who honestly feel that way.”
Russ is ideally qualified as an instructor of photography not only because of his teaching and technical expertise but also because his professional focus is on areas that have special appeal to amateurs: nature, people, children, families, weddings and pets. His work as a nature photographer has been internationally published in magazines such as National Wildlife, Colorado Outdoors and Outdoor and Nature, in calendars by the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, and in books such as The Best of Nature, which highlights the world’s foremost outdoor photographers. When it comes to creating portraits of people and pets, he works either in his studio or outside in scenic locations, where his skill in outdoor lighting enables him to capture his subjects in environments where they feel free to express their individuality.
Burden’s technical mastery is on display in the many instructional articles he has contributed to magazines such Petersen’s PHOTOgraphic and Popular Photography. He is also the author of a respected how-to manual: Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography, how to improve your pictures with a film or digital camera. Russ’ work is represented by three major stock agencies, and he has created ads for high-profile clients including Kodak, Samsung and One Hour Photo.
The success Russ now enjoys in photography did not come easily or without a leap of faith (and geography). Born and raised in New York, Russ began his working life as an elementary school teacher on Long Island, a job he held happily for 17 years. During this period, he spent many summers photographing out west as “the Rockies were always in his blood.” After discovering Colorado, he know it was only a matter of time until he would live somewhere in the state. It took until late 1989 before his dream became a reality when he and his wife settled in an area just south of Denver.
He, his wife, and 15-year-old son now live in Highlands Ranch, a suburb of Denver. The move provided Russ with plenty of photographic inspiration but for the next ten years, he continued to earn most of his living as a public school teacher. During his last years of teaching, he was instrumental in creating a program that encouraged gifted students to discover and follow their bliss. That program changed a lot of lives, including his own.
“I kept telling the kids that what they needed to do, what mattered most, was pursuing their loves, their dreams, desires and hopes. It had been my lifelong dream to do photography full time, and finally I started to feel like a hypocrite. I realized that I needed to do myself what I was preaching to the kids. It was a real hard choice. For years, I was teaching, doing photography on the side, raising my family, working ridiculous hours and trying to keep everything in balance. I had to give something up. I didn’t want to die regretting the fact that I had never tried to live out my dream. So I gave it a whirl and things have worked out really well.”
It all comes together for Russ when he’s leading photo tours to natural wonderlands. “How perfect is it,” he asks rhetorically, “to be out in the field teaching people about photography in places like Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons or the California Redwoods.” A true people-person, he relishes the longer tours that really give him a chance to interact with people over a week or ten days.
Russ was recruited to teach Panasonic workshops by the series organizer, photo-marketing guru, Richard Rabinowitz. The two have a long association as Russ contributes regular how-to articles for TakeGreatPictures.com, which Rabinowitz serves as volunteer editor. Russ is excited about the Panasonic program and the opportunity to get his hands on their new SLRs. “With Leica lenses on Panasonic bodies, it sounds like a darn impressive system,” he says. “And there are so many things to talk about with the students that the only problem I anticipate is running out of time.”
Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number. It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering. If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at DPAbooking@digitalphotoacademy.com or Richard@digitalphotoacademy.com.