Well, it only took 16,300 attempts, but... I'VE FINALLY DONE IT!.
Not only has someone seen, liked, and bought one of my pictures, but that someone is no less than the mighty National Geographic!!
I was rather skeptical at first when I woke up one morning last week, and blearily checked my email while making a cup of tea to wake me up, only to see an email saying something along the lines of "Nat Geo would love to pay you for one of your pictures - just fill in this form that gives us all your bank details..." Well, I have lost count of the number of times I have won the Eurolottery - if I just send $100 admin fee to claim my prize, or the opportunities to assist with all manner of good causes who need money moved out of politically stifled locations, if only they could use my bank account as a conduit... so my immediate reaction was "Yeah, right- SCAM!!!"
But my ego was sufficiently piqued, that I decided to follow it up, by contacting Nat Geo via independent means, and asking if this was fair dinkum. I was pleasantly surprised to get confirmation not only that the offer was genuine, but that they want my picture to go in a children's book about Meerkats (yes - it was one of my many Meerkat pictures).
I was worried about the fact the photo was taken in a zoo, but even after declaring that to them, Nat Geo have confirmed they do not need any kind of release form (phew). This may be because there is nothing in the picture to identify the zoo (or even that it is IN a zoo) and there are no identifiable people in it - though I don't know how easy it is to uniquely identify a Meerkat... (but Meerkats don't count as people - apart from the one in the "Compare the Meerkats" adverts, maybe). However, I think it is more likely to be because the photo will be used 'editorially' rather than 'commercially' (in broad terms - 'commercial use' basically means some form of advertising, whereas 'editorial use' means to illustrate - such as in a news story, magazine, or book. So a picture IN a book is editorial, but a picture on the front cover (arguably) or a poster advertising the book, is commercial - at least, that is how I understand it).
So, that's it. I've achieved my goal. Time to hang up my camera and find a new hobby..?
It just means I need a new challenge to aim for - like actually being commissioned to produce something, rather than just having something seen online - or maybe framing and displaying some of my work somewhere beyond my house. Don't know at the moment...
Though I still love to photograph nature, I want to start experimenting more with controlled lighting, for portrait and product photography - so maybe my new challenge will lead me along that route.