Life, Legacy and The Shadow of Death

Inspiration | Iceland

“Leukemia,” my doctor answered when I asked him to clarify specifically what he meant by eliminating anything ‘really scary’ from the possible cause of my symptoms. His words were followed by stunned silence as my wife Elizabeth and I tried to process the weight of that word. Leukemia is perhaps the most dreaded of all cancers. For those who have been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia the survival rate after five years is a mere 26%. Earlier in March of 2018 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a non-contagious, auto immune disease that attacks the digestive system. I’d also lost over 35 pounds in the past year without really trying. During the following weeks my blood labs showed my hemoglobin was below normal and that my blood platelet counts were dangerously low, and dropping steadily. Healthy platelet levels range between 150,000 – 400,000 per microliter, mine were at 32,000. Platelets are responsible for clotting your blood, so low levels make even a small cut a serious situation as significant blood loss can occur. In mid-May my hematologist recommended I take a high dose of steroids over four days in hopes of boosting my platelets into a normal range. The following week we met to discuss the results. They were far from what we’d hoped, my platelet levels had only increased to 48,000. It was on this day that my hematologist indicated the urgent need to eliminate Leukemia as the cause of my symptoms. I was scheduled for an emergency bone marrow biopsy two days later on May 24th.

For Whom The Bell Tolls | Iceland


From the day my doctor uttered the word ‘Leukemia’ my life was forever changed. Despite the absence of a confirmed diagnosis both Elizabeth and I were certain of the results long before we received them. It all made sense now, my platelets were low because with Leukemia I’d no longer be producing them. I went through a variety of emotions; disbelief, loneliness, anger, sadness and a host of others. At the same time all the typical, daily frustrations suddenly seemed so insignificant. The priorities of life rearranged themselves incredibly fast as my family and I struggled to grasp and accept this new reality. So often we take life for granted, there is an unwritten expectation of living well into our eighties. I wasn’t afraid of dying, however, the pain of knowing I’d not be able to be there for my wife and children crushed me. When I looked at the faces of my three sons I struggled not to weep. I’ve usually been very observant of my surroundings, but now when I went outdoors I took even greater notice of the trees and flowers, the warmth of the sun, the sounds of a bird singing and tried to soak up every single moment of my existence here. Over the following days Elizabeth and I had some very real conversations, the kind you never expect to have in your early forties. We discussed what a positive diagnosis would mean as far as where we lived for the next five years. All of my family lives in New England. Elizabeth and I decided it would be best to move back to Maine so that our four year old son Dimitri could develop a strong support network and be surrounded by my family members once I was gone. We’d been seriously considering a move back to the East Coast within the next five to ten years anyway, but my health was now accelerating this decision. We insulated our youngest from what we were discussing, however our two older sons (ages 15 and 13) knew all my symptoms were pointing towards some form of cancer. As a result we had to discuss all the possibilities of life and death with them as well. This was certainly the most difficult conversation we’d ever had and lots of tears were shed. Most of the time Elizabeth and I were stohic in front of our children in the face of this situation, but that conversation was the exception. Over the following week sleepless nights became almost common. Elizabeth and I frequently awoke in the middle of the night and cried in each others arms when the pain became too much to bear. We would sit up together for hours discussing everything from our favorite memories, to planning how to best position our family for a life without me.

The Solar Effect | New Zealand


During one of our late night conversations Elizabeth asked me what I wanted to do with whatever time I had left on this earth. I’d had many hours to ponder that question over the past few days, so my answer was easily articulated. I said my primary focus would be on making wonderful memories with her and our three boys. Secondly, I already had four major photography workshops sold out for this year to Iceland, Alaska, Sedona and Africa, and if my health would allow I wanted to complete those trips with my clients. After that I’d see how effective the chemo treatments were before deciding whether I could continue my photography business in 2019. My third and final wish was to dedicate a concentrated effort into making the world a better place as long as I had the strength to do so. My plan is to donate any spare time I have teaching nature photography and sharing presentations of my images with the infirm and those suffering from terminal illness in hopes of brightening their days. I’ve been immensely fortunate in my life to travel the world and photograph some of the most beautiful places on our planet. I want to share these blessings from my life with others in attempts to ease the sufferings of my fellow man in some small way. Elizabeth said that would be a noble way to spend the remainder of my life and that me using my last days seeking to comfort others who were suffering would be a profound example for our sons.

Photographers speak about using nature photography to bring about awareness and affect change for the benefit of the natural world. While I believe this is important or perhaps even critical, it has never seemed like it accomplishes enough. There’s more that could and should be done. People all over the world live every day with chronic diseases like Leukemia while no sign of a cure exists. Nature photography can be used as a tool to bring peace and comfort to them in their pain and suffering. Just knowing someone else cares enough to visit them and share their work could brighten the day in ways we can’t even imagine. Though much of the devastation in the natural world has been caused by man, I don’t believe we can discount the fact that humans are also the key to protecting it. People protect what they love. The famous Russian author Dostoevsky wrote, “Beauty will save the world”. Through my images I’ve always strived to foster a real love and respect for the natural world by touching the heart of the viewer with its beauty. As Dr. Jane Goodall said, “We can never win an argument by appealing to people’s heads, its got to be in the heart”.

Dawn Of Time | Africa


The results of my bone marrow biopsy surprisingly came back negative for Leukemia, Lymphoma or any other forms of cancer. I was instead diagnosed with ITP, an auto immune disease where the body destroys your platelets. I’ve begun infusion treatments for this disease at the cost of $40,000 per treatment and I’m expected to do four of them in the first month alone. While I am immensely grateful for this news and thankful that my journey on this earth continues, I’ve been forever changed from this experience. I see life through a completely different prism now. Once you’ve experienced life as a defined timeline, your perspective is permanently altered. For an extended period I truly believed that my time here was over, instead I now have a new lease on life and a fresh outlook. I’m delighted at the prospect of spending it with my beloved family and eager to continue sharing my love of photography through teaching my workshops. All of these recent experiences caused me to ponder the idea of building a legacy with ones photography. Due to the sheer number of photographers today, leaving a legacy behind after your death is more implausible than ever. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I stopped uploading files to my website or posting on social media, just how many people would notice? We are so inundated with an endless stream of content that it would be easy to overlook the absence of our favorite photographers if they faded from view. The realization that my weakened health led me to see was that I must create a legacy with my photography now. Perhaps this was the reason I had to go through such a terrifying experience, the clarity that it brought me is invaluable. This seed of inspiration, to teach nature photography and share my images in order to brighten the lives of those around me that are suffering, was planted in my heart for a reason. The results of these efforts will produce a far greater legacy than being remembered for ones work after your death. My commitment to this is even more important now that I have the time to fulfill the task. I’m deeply grateful to have this opportunity. It is my hope that by teaching nature photography and sharing my images with those that are terminally ill, perhaps I can enrich their lives and help to ease their suffering. I pray that these recent life experiences I’ve shared here inspire others to do the same and bring happiness to those who need it most. This is how photography will change the world.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.



Nearly two years after this terrifying experience I am happy to report that my Crohn’s disease is in full remission and my blood platelet levels are continuing to climb back to normal levels. Thank you all for your love, prayers and concern during this incredibly difficult period of my life.

Through The Tempest | Iceland

78 thoughts on “Life, Legacy and The Shadow of Death

  1. Wow, you definitely conveyed the suspense there! So glad to hear you got good news – I have three good friends battling nasty cancers right now, two of whom are almost certainly in their final year with us. You and I have never really connected that I recall, but I’ve admired your work for years now and would certainly miss it. I’ll be curious to see where you go with your plans. I think many of us photographers are struggling with how we might make our images into something more than, at best, a fleeting moment of brightness in someone’s busy day.

    • Thank you for the compliments on my works and so sorry to hear about your friends Jackson. I’m certainly planning to write a follow up post to this article as my efforts develop. I’ve already made contact with the events coordinator for the local cancer center here in Phoenix that my hematologist works with. I’ll be sure to update you in the future. ~ Nathaniel

  2. Nathaniel, I stopped breathing half way through reading this.. but was very grateful at that point that I felt that I could give myself permission to take another breath eventually. I am hugely relieved that you do not have an additional fight to fight besides your Crohn’s. I do believe that that is more than enough. Selfishly, I was thinking, “This cannot be happening! I have so much to learn from Nathanial!” I hope that we have a long relationship and are able to teach each other many things over many, many years. I look forward to seeing how you decide to share your world more than you already do!

    • Thank you so much for your concern Catherine and I apologize for the scare that I caused! Unfortunately the only way to properly set the stage was to lead the reader down the same path that I went through. Thank you for your support and encouragement, it means more than you know.

  3. Oh, Nathaniel ! I was choking back my tears as I read your newsletter. My first reaction to your comments about how you were going to reorient your goals was this: The reason for canceling my Costa Rica trip was basically because I realized that I was ignoring my own priorities. The older you get, the more you recognize that one’s mortality is inevitable. The hands on the clock seem to spin faster and faster. Costa Rica would be an exciting but brief thrill. Working on making my backyard a place to pay homage to Mother Nature is what I need to keep my focus on. My dream is still to have art workshops or at least meet-ups in my backyard shop/studio. While this hope lingers on, it remains time to slow down and listen to the birds, listen to the wind in the trees, watch the lizards chase each other, occasionally spot the rock squirrel sneak back into its wood pile refuge or grab a cool drink. I also spend some time getting closer to my inner self by playing my native American flutes, sometimes out on the patio. ….. You would be doing some of us a great service if you could hold a couple of “Life/Legacy” meet-ups. Hope you are around for a long time to come.

    • Those are very wise words Aurora, and I am thankful that you are making the time to smell the roses. Once I buy my next house I plan to create a sanctuary very similar to the one you are perfecting. I look forward to visiting and marveling at your masterpiece over the coming years. Thank you for your kind words and all your support, it means the world.

      • Creating a sanctuary at your future home back on the east coast will be so much easier than here in the desert. Mother Nature will do a lot of the work for you because back there you will have rain. There will be lots of birds, butterflies, salamanders, squirrels (mostly hated back there), and perhaps even bears.
        And vegetation is a no-brainer. The aroma of greenery permeates the air spring through autumn and morning mists envelop the landscape in a cloak of tranquility. The parts of the east coast that have not been overtaken by commercial development have a deep soul that is different from here. Such places are a wonderland for raising a child. My childhood for many years was very wrapped up in exploring nature back there and were the best times of my life.

  4. I have tears in my eyes as I write this…
    I am so sorry you and your family had to go through all that time wondering if you were going to live or die. I am so happy and thankful that you don’t have any cancer. I never thought about leaving a legacy through photography, but your brave words are an inspiration to make a mark in this world, and to share it’s beauty. Thank you Nathaniel. I can’t wait to experience your workshop in 2019!

    • Honestly it wasn’t something that I’d ever really pondered prior to these events Rene, but now it has been brought to the forefront of my awareness. I look forward to welcoming you to Costa Rica next year!

  5. Nathaniel,
    Thank you so, so much for sharing this…I think you help ME in becoming a “better” person, more open and expressive of life itself. Courageous and honest but even more, “true”. In a way, you seem to have “bridged the gap” of why/how landscape photography touches me and us. The feelings and fears you express through words (so honestly) are so profoundly touching to me in a way I wish I could express in images…if I knew how. Your sharing this “false alarm” reaffirms life and all that it is. Wonderful, actually.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response Phil. I feel so fortunate to be on the other side of this experience and have the opportunity to fulfill the important task in front of me. I hope that I’m able to do justice to the lesson I’ve learned and delighted that my ramblings have inspired you in some way as well.

  6. Nathaniel,

    Oh my… I think I was holding my breath, saying silent prayers and tearing up all at the same time reading this. I am so thankful that the test came back negative. A world without your kindness and heartfelt spirit would definitely be a smaller world indeed. I’ve followed your work ever since the first class in Sedona I took from you. You are an amazing teacher and your work creates a language of its own. I look forward to following you as you continue to inspire! All the best- Esther

    • Thank you very much for your kind comments Esther! I sincerely appreciate all your support over the years. I hope our paths cross again someday.

  7. Nathaniel, your experience was truly orchestrated by God. While living with Crohn’s is not a picnic, I am so thankful that you do not have to battle cancer. I LOVE your idea to leave a legacy by sharing your photos with the terminally ill. I often wonder if MY photographic experiences will be tossed once I am dead. At 72, I have suddenly been faced with the inevitability of my mortality. I would love to follow in your inspiration by brightening the lives of the terminally ill here in Indy. God bless you.

    • I agree with you that there was definitely a divine hand at work in all of these events Shelley. Now my hope is that I can honor the opportunity that I’ve been given and make it count in the time I’ve been given. I hope that you also find a way to do the same close to your home as well. Be well my friend!

  8. You are an incredible strong person, Nathaniel. I’m going through some pretty significant problems as well, and I’m trying to learn how to be positive and strong. You certainly give me that boost I need to stay that way. I’m so relieved that you got some good news through all this. A woman I work out with said that I was given a gift going through this. I thought she was crazy for saying this, but if I ever get out of this, maybe I will understand her words…Stay well; praying for you and your family!

    • I’m so sorry to hear that you are also suffering through challenges with your health at this time Marjie. I hope that you find some answers and solutions, I know how hard it can be, keep your chin up!

  9. Hi Nathathiel. I am truly happy for you and your family that the tests came back negative. It must be the hardest thing ever for anyone to do , to plan a future for you loved ones without you and thinking of everything you will miss out. Now you don’t have to and surely you as a family are closer and stronger. The reason for getting up in the morning is changed. Leaving a legacy is probably something we all think about and your view on brightening the day for those that need it the most is really inspiring. Thank you for sharing and making us all think about our own lives and what we mean to others.

  10. I am 62. In my late teens and early 20’s I often thought if I made it to 25 everything beyond that would be a bonus because most I worked with and hung out with never had those chances.

    You are an amazing person my friend. You inspire so many with your gift that goes far beyond photography. Keep always in the fight and remember…every sunrise is a gift for which the number is unknown to us.

    I read once in my youth that every day should always be lived as if it is our last. It has been what I have tried to do. Last year with the 5 bypass surgery, it was one more moment to reflect on that. Fight forward always.

  11. Oh Nathaniel,
    What an emotional rollercoaster that was as just reading about it, let alone you and your family living through it! I’m so glad to hear there’s no cancer diagnosis and that your near death experience has enlivened your outlook and priorities. What a gift!
    Will you still be moving soon to Maine or will you stay in Phoenix a while longer?
    I attended an event this week in which a man who uses to suggest from Crohn’s talked about (nearly?) complete recovery from his symptoms by using a highly bioavailable water-soluble form of CBD oil supplement. Anyway, I hope you find relief somehow and that your photography mission does indeed change the world. I know it inspires and amazes me!

  12. Wow, just wow. So glad the results were negative and I hope you’re right its just about a reaction to the meds. The legacy you are working on (not leaving) is not only about the photographs but about the friendships that you’re creating through your photography. While you may not reach out to as many people as your photographs might, the people you have connected with will have much stronger bonds than anything else. You have been lucky to connect with more photographers than most and in my opinion, that’s where the strongest part of your legacy will always be. I only spent 10 days on a workshop with you and some bantering back and forth on facebook which I always look forward to but I feel like I’ve know you for a long time and absolutely I am concerned for you and can hardly wait for our paths to cross again!

  13. I’m very sorry for what you and your family have been going through. Thank you so much for sharing your story which could not be easy. Like everyone else, I am so relieved that you will be ok. I’m also thrilled that you will be continuing your workshops – like someone else mentioned, I too have so much to learn. I also love looking at your work- every time I see one of your photos (like the ones above), I want to go to those places with you. Good luck with finding a medication that works for your Crohn’s and have a wonderful summer.

  14. Nathaniel, nothing is more humbling than when facing our own mortality. Words can never be expressed to subdue the emotions and heightened fears one feels when faced with such challenges. It is my sincere hope through thoughts and prayers that your health is taken care of and that your beautiful and inspiring photography continue for many, many years to come!

  15. Thanks for taking us on your journey with you. Very glad we are not losing you, just yet! There are many medications to try for Crohn’s, keep trying til you find the best for you!

  16. Blessings to you Nathaniel and your family! I believe God uses events to give us a nudge or reminder that perhaps we should be taking more ‘time’ to smell the roses. I’m heartened to hear that you are ‘listening’ and not dismissing. Your beautiful art and your words will bring enormous comfort to many many sufferers of diseases, accidents and circumstances that most of us can’t even imagine. However you structure that, I’m positive it will be thoughtful, caring, beautiful and positive. God’s speed and we will keep you in your prayers. Thank you for sharing this very personal information; I needed it this AM ad I’m off for a care update for my son in law regarding his traumatic injuries, so thank you. It’s helped with perspective. Nancy

  17. Dear Nathaniel
    Thank you so much for sharing this experience. I had a heart attack at he age of 42, in 2008. The hardest was to see how my wife and our two children were suffering, were full of sorrow and fear. It was the same feeling you discribe in your post, I think, but with a difference: The doctors told us: Be glad it is the heart, and not cancer … Since then I live another life, changed my job and try to live with awareness of every day with my beloved. So I wish you and your family all the best, looking forward to more of your phantastic pictures and writing!
    Greetings from Switzerland

  18. My Dearest son Nathaniel…
    You do me honor and I am so impressed by your response to your illness! We began this journey together you and I, and I am awed by what has become of our hours bird watching back in the mid-eighties. I always knew as a child how gifted you were in your abilities to see beauty, and your deep love for God’s creation. Your incredible talent to communicate to others what you see, not only with your camera, but also with how you express yourself through your written or spoken words, will bring joy and comfort to those who hear you speak.
    I am so thankful that you have more time here with us…..all of us, and hope we can spend time together while we are still here.
    You have been anointed and commissioned to share your gifts, and the world so desperately needs what you have to offer. It is your heart and soul that will touch and comfort the suffering and dying. I am so very proud to call you my son! I always knew there was greatness in you. Miss Rumphius would be proud of you too….
    God bless you to shine!

  19. I had mixed emotions as I was reading your letter. I was filled with regrets because while I was following you and your works in facebook, I never made it to any of your workshops. I felt sad that I had forfeited my chance to learn photography from somebody as brilliant as you are.
    However, I am happy upon learning that you and your family do not have to suffer much agony brought by cancer,the illness that everyone dreads to face.
    I will pray for your fast healing and at the same time,pray for your wife and children, that they will have enough strength to go through this taxing but fulfilling journey with you.

  20. Dear Nathaniel, first, I am so happy to know that your prognosis is a good one and that you will carry on creating your beautiful images for a, hopefully, very long time. I too have been thinking lately of how I could share my images in a more meaningful way. Photographing horses and the natural beauty of our lands is so close to my heart. I feel a real connection to the plight of the wild ones living on our public lands today and would love to extend their legacy along with my own as a photographic artist far beyond when I am gone. So thinking about what to do with all the thousands of images that I have is on my mind. Your harrowing experience and your writings are a true inspiration to me and are encouraging me to realize how important the sharing of our talents and creations with those that would benefit by them are a true blessing. Thank you so much and I would still love to meet you in person one day!

  21. I was holding my breath! So grateful that it was only a scare. When I was diagnosed with melanoma years ago, my minister’s sermon 3 days later was on the gift of adversity. He said there is always a gift as you have already discovered. I pray your days are many and that the gifts continue for you and your precious family.
    See you soon!

  22. Nathaniel,

    I want to tell you about an old friend who has had this isease for over a decade…over a decade. I applaud both of you for the decisions you’re made and urge you to continue to make decisions together.

    You weren’t even a photographer when I met you and look how far you’ve come. It’s that same ‘distance’ I wish for you with this disease.

  23. Such beautiful images and powerfully honest words, Nathaniel. Each and every day is a gift and our mantra should always be “gratitude”. I’m so glad to hear your good news, and wish you all the best in the years ahead.

  24. What a scare! So happy to hear it’s not leukemia! When I first got sick and started all the testing to figure out what was wrong they were convinced I had lupus. Thankfully all the test came back negative to Lupus.

    I have chronic fatigue and had four years where I was too sick to work. And then I had a couple years where I was well enough to work a very unstructured, flexibable part time job. It was working for our small town paper that got me into photography. I’ve been taking landscapes photos now around our small mining town for two years and I can’t believe how much I love it! I’m self taught and I keep working away on my photography as I go, always trying to get better.

    This year I’ve had a bit of a relapse. I am limited again in how much energy I have and how much physical activity I can do. But I can still go out and take photos. And those moments are magical! I am so happy I stumbled into photography! It has brought so much joy to my life!

  25. Wow I really don’t know what to say about you sharing your life with us. I was really afraid for you but am so relieved to know that your going to be around for a long time and helping others. I was only to one of your workshops but it had a big impression on my work. Wishing you and your family the best. God bless, Diane

  26. Hi Nathaniel. So happy for your and your family that the test came back negative. As stressful and heart wrenching as it was, you may look back upon the entire experience with gratefulness and appreciation as it opened both your eyes and your heart even wider. You are so fortunate that you had such a strong support system with your family and friends (both actual and virtual). I feel so sorry for those individuals who hear bad news with no support system at all. I love your idea of sharing your images and stories with those who otherwise might have nothing to cheer up their day and their lives. I’m sure that act will inspire others to do the same. I’m pretty sure of that because it has inspires me to do it as well. What a great way to give back. I am also the Chairman of the Board for Pensacola Artists, Inc., and we have been discussing ways to become more active in the community, and I will be sharing your story and your idea with them tonight via email. We have over 100 artists in our gallery (Quayside Art Gallery) so an idea like yours can make a truly significant impact in our community.

    I will keep you and your family in my prayers as the Docs continue to search for the cause of your low platelet count. I will also have my Docs check mine as I’m getting infusions for my Crohn’s Disease. I wish you luck on your treatment for that as well. Take care.

  27. Your words and the emotions they provoked gave me chills- definitely a big eye opener… thank you for sharing such a private matter, and as glad and relieved we’ll get to continue and see the world through your lens. You’re truly blessed to have such amazing family- good for you!

  28. Nathaniel, you are, very talented and gifted photographer. Your goal to help the terminal ill will be more rewarding then you will ever know. A friends sister was in her last days of life, asked me for a landscape photo to be placed by her bedside. She told me later after she passed away that her sister looked and held that picture every day to comfort her. So your work will always be in the hearts and minds of everyone that you meet. So glad to hear you will be around for quite away. Prayers for you and your family on your journey.

  29. Nathaniel, if ever you need any medical opinions or treatment options, Houston has MD Anderson,which I utilized and continue to visit as a result of my breast cancer diagnosis. I agree, that all of a sudden you start to notice everything in life, which propelled me in to photography and giving back. MD Anderson is building a new facility in The Woodlands Texas and they are looking for art work to showcase in their facility. I can see if I can find a contact person. I am sure they would be interested in your talents with images as well as teaching. I am so relieved about your last paragraphs in your story.

  30. Mom said it the best…prayers will continue to surround you all today and always and that our Lord will give wisdom and insite to help find the cure the Crohns issue and comfort for you during these trials…

  31. I read with such dread and heavy heart about the possibility of your Leukemia diagnosis. My niece had it as a small child and wasn’t supposed to make it even with a few bone marrow transplants. She did survive with her constant faith and prayers from all of us and her family. She is now married with kids and healthy. God always has a plan for us and you have more work to do here with your beautiful photography and to continue to bring so much inspiration into our lives. Your photos always bring me joy and pause to see the wonder of our beautiful world and take me to places I have not experienced. It is your gift to us! I am so happy you will be able to continue in your passionate work and look forward to more of your outstanding photography and posts. Wishing you and your family much happiness and love.

  32. I too just stopped breathing as I read this and had to stop for a few minutes. All I could think was how much you would be missed by so many.

    It’s not just your photography you can leave as a legacy; it’s also your writing! I was not aware of how well you write until now.

    It’s also your teaching-not just photography, at which you are superb, but also the way you convey your intimate knowledge of and respect for animals and nature

    Looking forward to more of all, and saying prayers of thanks for the good news at the end of your story.

  33. Nathaniel, My heart goes out to you and your family.In 2012, I was diagnosed with Lung Cancer,my family was devastated , but I knew in the back of my mind , GOD had a plan for me, I took up photography,I am far from the best , but my mind and eyes took a whole new meaning of life,I look at things different now and I am 6 years Cancer free, I lost a lung,but so be it,I smoked for 45 years and stopped in 2010,I feel that probably helped me.Never Be Afraid and Keep The Faith,and keep sharing the Nature Pictures alot of us do not see.Prayers for you …

  34. Bro, I hope you recover soon from this illness and we can somehow spend some time together when in Dubai if you decide to do a workshop. I shall pray for you and wish you a speedy recovery my friend! <3

  35. So, that was hard to read. I’m glad the bone marrow biopsy came back negative for leukemia. As a doctor, I look from a slightly different perspective & try not to immediately think the worst until there’s evidence of such, but it’s a horrible thing to have to wait on biopsy results & always be thinking the worst while the wait for the results seems interminable. Obviously, the perspective this has given you & your family is invaluable. And, I’m glad you’re not leaving us anytime soon.

  36. Dearest Nathaniel,
    I can’t even describe how devastating I felt.. It was almost more then I could comprehend..
    How your emotions can go from such a low place, to being ufouric.. It is a strange journey, however one I would gladly do all over again, if the end results were the same.
    I am so happy for you and your family.
    I once told you, I thought you were a remarkable man.. I wasn’t wrong then, and I’m positive it’s absolutely true..
    You, your magnificent photography, and sharing your family have been a gift I treasure..
    My loyal support, and forever friendship will always belong to you and your family.
    Your a very lucky man, as well as being exstrodinary, and a gift to our world.. ❤️

  37. Thank you Nathaniel for sharing a heartfelt story with us. Facing our own mortality (often times, like you did, at a moment in life you least expect it) can create all kinds of emotions. Dread, fear, sadness, and confusion being the most common of course. But taking some time of introspection of our mortality can bring incredible peace and help us develop laser focus on the real meanings in our lives. I was a busy 55 year old Internal Medicine physician 14 years ago when I learned in one day that I had metastatic head and neck cancer. You talk about life changing! I went from “the” care giver to a shell of myself thanks to a very toxic combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy that at best would provide me a 50% chance of surviving 2 years. But I did. And I am completely at peace with myself and my mortality. And this is where the photography comes in: a chance to record some small pieces of how I see the world. I share them with family and friends not caring one bit if they like the photo or not. That’s not the point. I get to share my perspective. So thank you Nathaniel for sharing your perspective through your story and your photographs. We are all better for it.
    …and so it goes…

  38. I was so moved by your post. I was choking back the tears. I was so happy to read you do not have Leukemia and hope you are going to be OK with Crohn’s disease. It is admirable you want to give back in such a meaningful way. As for if people will question if you just disappear from social media, they certainly will. I left my blogs unexpectedly and got many emails after asking if I was OK knowing I have heath issues. You have a much larger web presence and your fans and clients would notice you missing immediately. Take care, Nathaniel.

  39. Nathaniel thanks for sharing 💗 You are an Amazing Human being 💗 You are an Inspiration to me and Everyone who Knows You. Your Soul Lights up the World 😇😇😇 💞

  40. So wonderful that your life has not been cut short, and for the positive lessons you have been able to learn from this intense episode.
    As a community palliative care nurse, I spend my working days with people and their families who are living and dying with cancer and other palliative illnesses.
    And as a human who has experienced repeated extreme trauma, I have walked to the edge of the cliff more than once.
    While I applaud the altruism of your direction, I have found myself far more drawn to protect nature and the earth. And landscape photography is a double edged sword in that regard ~ due to the destructive impact of landscape photographers who care more about shooting icons and gaining popularity than they do about the fragile earth. While compassion for humans is laudable, the many beings, feathered, furred and scaled, and their habitats, need both our protection and respect ~ as nature photographers we take from them, and as humans in an ecosystem we have a responsibility to give back.

  41. Thank goodness that we are not going to lose you! My heart was breaking for your children, your wife, and you. I am turning 69 next month and thoughts of death do creep in. However, you are far too young to even think about it. In some ways when we start thinking of it, there is a shift in your view of the world and better focus on what is important as you so eloquently wrote. Thank you for sharing. By the way, I will truly miss the images that you post because it is so beautiful and recharges my soul battery.

  42. God is good! I am a surgeon who was touched by you at your Zoo photo class – Captive Emotions. My practice deals with breast cancer and I understand how your life is turned upside down in a split second. YourTempest photo — definitely getting this for the office. Many blessings to you!!!

  43. WOW Nathaniel I wish Incould say I don’t relate BUT I do
    Looking forward to connecting with you again

  44. Nathaniel –

    Heart-touching story, beautifully written. But more than that of course because Sølvi and I got to know you on the trip you led last fall to northern Norway. We are relieved and cheered by the news that you don’t have leukemia and it’s “only” Crohn’s you and your family are having to deal with (that is plenty in and of itself, I am sure). We applaud your beautiful work and the choices you are making. We look forward to joining you on another photo trip, perhaps Best of the West next year, and many other trips and occasions for years and years to come.

    Keep shooting, keep teaching, and be well . . .

    – Pete & Sølvi –

    “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

  45. I very rarely read a blog post that I am so moved by … thank you so much for writing about your experience. What a blessing it is to be given this opportunity to connect so deeply with your family and bring your life’s work into such clear focus. May you have many healthy, happy days ahead!

  46. Nathaniel,

    Please allow me to join the legions of others who have already responded to your heartfelt blog. My heart was breaking for you and your family as I read your initial diagnosis of Leukemia. I understand from first hand experience what a definitive Life Timeline does to one’s view of the world. I am so grateful for you that the initial diagnosis was incorrect! And, what a blessing, that you now have a renewed appreciation for how precious Love and Life are. I hope that you have a full and speedy recovery from the symptoms that have caused your platelets to drop. Sincerely, Vicki

  47. My heart skipped several beats while reading this touching revelation of sorts. As a person who does bone marrow biopsies, I can see the “scare” in patients’ eyes and the thousands of “what-ifs”. Having had my own near death experiences I truly understand my patients better, but it is never easy on a daily basis. I hope and pray that you will leave a legacy for your family and maybe to the photography world. If teaching the Love of Nature through the lens is your passion and goal, then you are well on your way to leaving a legacy for the World!

  48. Oh wow Nathaniel! What a scare you gave us all. As I read your story I was brought back into those discussions I had with my late husband during his illness. Not easy discussions but valued to this day and something I feel is very necessary to those left behind. I can’t tell you how thankful I am you won’t be leaving this earth as soon as you were preparing for. I would definitely miss your posts and by the comments here many others would too. I’m looking forward to more of your adventures. Take care

  49. As I was reading, I kept saying to myself, OH NO THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. My heart sunk, thinking of what you, your wife & kids are going through. I kept thinking how could this happen to a person, who brings happiness through his eyes to so many people. I am so happy for you and your family that’s things turned out better. I wish you ALL the best life offers. And thank you for sharing your story.

  50. Nathaniel,

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. I’m so grateful for your diagnosis and hope you have many more happy years with your family and friends. And that we get lots more of your images, wisdom, and patience with photography questions. I’ll never forget your kindness and helpfulness with the great gray owls in Grand Teton NP. All of us are blessed with your life, health, and friendship. Gratitude and blessings, Stan

  51. We have never met and I just know you through your photography which I enjoy on social media platforms. Yet, what you have written touched me. Your write up is really very well articulated.

    As a surgical oncologist, I see a lot of what you have experienced. The way diagnosis of cancer changes a patient’s life is incomparable to any other event. This is especially true when the person is young as you are. Suddenly the chance that one’s dreams will remain unfulfilled, responsibilities towards family and profession will never be be followed through, becomes a reality. Once you see a 22 year old boy diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, a 40 year old father of 2 children passing away due to advanced pancreatic cancer, you become acutely aware of your own mortality. When a 28 year old mother of a 10 month old baby diagnosed with breast cancer asks you “will I see my baby grow up?’, you struggle to give a truthful answer, just try to give hope and support in addition to the treatment.
    It’s fantastic to see the way you have approached the threat to your life. Fortunately, it did not turn out to be a real one. Great to see that it has changed your perspective towards life. Crohn’s disease is no walk in the park anyway. I hope you do not have to suffer from Crohn’s symptoms and always remains under control.
    Nature and appreciating things in Nature helps me keep my sanity while dealing constantly with mortality. There is no better healer of mind and body than Nature.
    All the best for your endeavours in leaving behind a legacy. All that matters in the end is the number of lives you helped in your lifetime and things you did in making this world a better place.
    Our life is a like prepaid currency card, we never know when it’s going to run out. Let’s make the best of what’s left.

  52. Wow Nathanial I could almost not finish reading your blog! How incredible to sit and realise you have a definite timeline – but we all forget that we have a definite timeline and that can be any day. For that reason one should always live every day as if it is the last. Do what you want to do but more important do to others if it is your last day. Secondly we must never preempt a “problem” and live the negative thoughts – we must find solutions keep positive and just be so grateful that we are alive. Thanks for sharing your story my friend!

  53. Thank you for sharing.
    You have touched our hearts in so many ways over the years. Your photography is wonderful. So are your words.
    Pam Conn

  54. Really inspiring and thought provoking story. Thanks for sharing. Hope you have all energy to fulfill your new found purpose.

  55. Dear Nathaniel,
    Thanks for sharing us your experience. You had such a deep experience… I am happy that your diagnostic is ok and I wish you a long and healthfy life! I enjoy all your photos (especially the photos with landscapes, the owls and the last one with the foxes :))), so keep posting and sharing this beautiful nature seen through your eyes.
    The theme of the legacy and how to use your gifts better (is like in the parable with the talants, in the Bible) is one I can relate to. For that, I took a pause from my job (in administration) to dedicate more time to my passion – the art of mosaic.
    My faith is that everyone has a mission to make the world better. And I think you founded yours: to show us our home, this wonderful world. Thank you, Nathaniel!
    And keep going forward! With all the best and positives thinks, Fabiola.

  56. Nathaniel, I’ve always admired your photography because your images seemed to have something extra – difficult to describe, but I always got the sense that you were sharing a deep and tangible appreciation of nature, beauty and light with your images. Thank you for sharing this deep emotional journey through this piece. You are a talented writer and your post is very moving. I’m so glad your diagnosis was negative for “the scariest stuff.” This story really helps put the daily grind, with all of its annoyances and disappointments, in perspective. Well done.

  57. Dearest Nathaniel
    I am very grateful how far you have come my dear Godson

    Perhaps we will find the time for a good long phone visit if not face to face at some point

    God bless your beautiful wife and children as they continue to grow with you

    You are always in my heart

    David Sergius

  58. hi, i hope they find the cause of your illness soon and i’m happy you’ll still be around. i’d miss your photos, i get some inspiration from them, feel a certain way about them (usually that lucky so and so, lol), and wonder how can i do something with something that gives me joy and great pleasure and share it. i look to you, and a few others, to follow your paths. btw, your mom’s comments, must’ve been some floating dust in the room, eyes got teary all of a sudden…

  59. Beautifully written and so real. I thank you for sharing your life with us. I share your worldview. My father did have leukemia and it was life changing for me. Let’s just say I grew up. Suddenly I was donating white blood cells and my strong father looked so small and the talks we had were so painful. You are right, life changing and your post move me so much I cannot say what is in my heart. Maine is our home as well.

  60. Just had my morning cup of coffee and read over your blog. WOW. Thank you for opening up your heart and soul to us. I’m glad your results came back negative for Leukemia and Lymphoma. I understand the insignificance of daily annoyances when health and family are on the line. Everything else will work out great, I do know this.
    All my best to you and thank you for making a difference in this world. Your photography is always gorgeous.

  61. So poignant Nathaniel. I’m so glad to hear the news was better than you had originally thought. Sometimes events like you’ve experienced do cause us to have to pause and look at what is most significant to us in life, to narrow the focus of what we truly want to achieve with our life and how we would like to try to do it. At 31 years old I had a significant injury to my spine. I spent months in the hospital and it has been an ongoing factor throughout my life. I feel fortunate that I walk, that I am able to pursue at some level the passions I feel for capturing nature and helping others to enjoy more the wonderful creations that surround us. It literally fills my soul. But my experience has caused me to look at life differently and more deeply. I pray that with the Crohns they can find a medication that won’t have the serious side effects that you are apparently getting from the one you are on. That if it is the cause of your reduced platelets, they can come up with alternate methods to treat you with. I pray for a full and rich life for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your feelings, and I love the images posted, they are wonderful and your gift not just with the camera but how you see the wonders of nature is appreciated. Here’s to more adventures and healing!

  62. Nathaniel, I am so glad to hear that your Leukemia test came back negative. The world needs more people like you. God gave you talent and you share it with the world. I hope you are able to get your Crohn’s disease under control. Live every day like it’s the last. Cherish and love your family. They mean everything to you. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  63. Wow what an terrifying moments. Fortunately no leukemia but still a difficult period in the past and ahead. I wish you and the family all the best.
    Never had the pleasure of meeting you but (yet) 🙂
    I always enjoy your postings and photos. Living nature at its best.
    Best regards, Erik. Netherlands.

  64. Your story brought me from great sorrow to a better understanding of what each of our lives are about. Thank you for the message, I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  65. What a relief to read the outcome of your biopsy. It was hard to read until that point. I hope you find out the cause of it soon.
    Speedy recovery!

  66. Thank you for sharing.

    I am glad that you don’t have leukemia, but surely, Crohn’s is bad enough.

    It may well be that your decreased platelet counts are due to the Crohn’s and/or your spleen, but you likely know that already.

    I’ll keep an eye out for a workshop that might fit my schedule, budget, and finances.
    I have experienced significant illness myself and I understand what you are saying on a highly personal level. The good thing is that these experiences bring into sharp focus what is important, and what is not worth wasting a single heartbeat on. Overall, if you can survive it, not a bad trade-off.

    Best to you and your family.


  67. Dear Nathaniel,
    I have to admit I jumped ahead of your heart stopping story to know your diagnosis! (You my friend are a talented author, too.) THANKFUL you don’t have cancer! Life is a roller coaster, & the last few months have been especially life altering for you and your wonderful family. I have had that ride, too. My husband, just a few months ago, had to have further testing for abnormal blood tests, to rule out cancer. Eventual diagnosis after three agonizing weeks was lab error! So I have a good idea what this journey has been for you. Thinking you are at the end of your life, euphoria that it’s not! So Nathaniel of you to think of others, to enrich their lives through your beautiful art! Healing prayers still for you and your battle with Crohn’s Disease.

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