A real entrepreneur – or anyone who has ever watched The apprentice – knows that to be successful in business, your product needs a unique selling point.
Nigel Wallace has certainly found his. The 54-year-old photographer not only specializes in dog photography, but in flying dogs sailing through the air as they made their way towards the camera.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that the sport shooting champion – who won Commonwealth Games gold and competed in the Olympics in the 1990s – has found his footing in something that demands precision and features dynamism.
Read more: Dogs in the news around Cambridgeshire
Or that the man who was recently given the green light after battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a rare form of cancer that attacks the immune system – should quit his steady job at BT and pursue his passion.
The pictures of flying dogs seem to be on the cover of greeting cards, even albums in some cases, and are the result of Nigel striving for perfection.
Meeting me at the Black Cat Cafe on Mill Road (I couldn’t find one with a dog-themed name), Nigel says: “I find my athletic competitiveness comes through in what I do.
“I always try to improve myself. I always try to look at my photos, analyze them and ask myself – could I have done something slightly different there?”
Nigel practices taking photos with his own dog, Darcy – a Border Collie who joined the family following a friendly competition between him and his wife, Kathy, over who could find a suitable dog fastest in his favorite breed (Kathy won – he wanted a lab).
But while there’s clearly a precision needed for the shots, there’s also an element of luck because you never know what adorable, hilarious, or downright weird face a dog is going to pull.
Although he also takes portraits and other types of photos, the flying dog photos are the most popular with clients, says Nigel, who sometimes “cry tears of joy” at the end result.
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And Cambridgeshire is a particularly good place for them because of the abundance of woodland as well as flat, open space, he explains: “We’ve done filming in Bottisham, Bury, even on Jesus Green in Cambridge “.
It may seem like a laid-back life, but Nigel has worked seven days a week since launching his business – Nigel Wallace Photography – in 2019, when coronavirus restrictions permitted.
And before that, he spent 35 years working at BT, taking weeks off at a time to compete in shooting between joining the company after finishing school and retiring from the sport in his mid-30s.
It was only recently that he left BT and was able to rediscover his childhood passion for photography.
“When I was in school many years ago, I did a bit of photography before sports took over my life at 14,” he says. “Then I had to balance that with getting married and having a family.”
“I wish I had a camera when I was competing because people ask me if I have pictures of myself and I can’t get my hands on them.”
He continues: “In 2015 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma which started in my tonsils and it was very aggressive which was a real shock. I had to endure six months of chemotherapy which was quite horrible.
“I turned five in June 2020. Just before that, in March 2019, I started my business. That’s when I started looking at life differently, to what was important.
“And what was important, I found, was staying healthy and doing some dog photography.”
His passion for her is now palpable. In addition to working with clients, Nigel attends fairs and dog shows with his photographs enlarged into works of art and raises money for charity through the sale.
It strikes me that he has so far led a life that proves it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.
“When you were doing sports shooting competitions, did you ever imagine that you would become a professional photographer?” I ask.
“No,” he said, with finality. “The answer is no.”
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