Gilad Guy is living his passion. Although he never studied programming, he worked in the high-tech sector for 15 years. Then he decided he didn’t want to spend his life in front of a computer screen. So, he moved to the Golan Heights and focused on what he loved – photographing wolves. He is now working on raising money to produce a film about the most densely populated wolf population in the world.
He describes himself as “an independent wildlife photographer.” Besides his project to produce a wildlife documentary about the wolf packs in the Golan Heights, he has plenty to keep him busy. “I lecture about wolves,” he told Haaretz. “I also monitor predators in the Golan. I capture wolves and jackals for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and equip them with transmitters, which help us monitor and locate packs of predators in the Golan. I also liaise with the local ranchers.”
'I remember during a particularly busy period, when I was working for a large company. Thursday came around and I remember thinking that I hadn’t experienced or felt anything new that entire week'
Guy says his work isn’t as dangerous as it sounds, outside the risk of catching a disease. “The reason I moved up here, after living in the center of the country, is to photograph wolves,” he said.
He said the appeal of photograhing wolves is that it is more challenging than most nature photography in Israel, which involves birds and other species. “There is far less footage and documentation of wolves,” he said. “It interested me, and the Golan is the place for this. Wolves live in packs and are very social creatures. It is an animal with highly developed cognitive capacities, including several human-like behaviors, which intrigues me.”
The Golan is one of the most densely populated areas in the world for wolves, according to Guy. “Most wildlife documenties about wolves were filmed in very specific locations. They all follow the same packs in Yellowstone or Canada,” said. “There is something missing in the broader picture – the Golan wolves.”
Guy is concerned about the Golan’s future. “Development is going on everywhere, wind turbines and utility poles,” he bemoaned. “The Golan was doing fine, and recent attempts are being made to ruin it. The Golan as we have known it will soon disappear.”
He said it’s to soon to tell how development, which he says is destroying the environment, will affect the wolves. “It is as if the government has deliberately decided to destroy Israel’s last remaining natural wilderness,” he said. “These are the last few years we have to enjoy the natural environment up here, unfortunately.”
Guy didn’t start out as a phtographer. He started out programming as a child. “I taught myself,” he recalled. “By the time I got to high-school I was in a highly advanced computer programming track, but I didn’t really learn much because I am dyslexic. But even though I failed my exams, I was the only one who knew programming – I just didn’t know how to apply it in writing. After high-school, I didn’t go near programming for years. I picked it up again when I was 25. I took on some projects and learned on the fly. I ended up being a high-tech programmer for 15 years.”
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He noted he didn’t need certification or a degree. “All that stuff is bullshit,” he said. “I took the tests again and passed.”
He said he worked for several companies, switching every year to get paid more, to learn about new technologies, and to avoid getting bored, “because it is generally very boring work.” He picked up photography as a hobby a few years into his programming career.
“At some point, I realized that earning big and burying myself in the office was not my ambition,” he recalled. “I opened a photography studio and continued working in high-tech as a freelancer.”
He said people around him understood his career change because high-tech is no way to live a life, where one ends up sitting in front of a computer inside an office.
“I remember during a particularly busy period, when I was working for a large company,” he said. “Thursday came around and I remember thinking that I hadn’t experienced or felt anything new that entire week, nothing at all. I had already started to take pictures and realized I had no inspiration. So I realized that high-tech is a very boring and pathetic way to live your life, and that when I’d have kids they’d get an emotionally distant and aloof father.”
Still, he didn’t give up high-tech completely. “I freelanced at first and told myself it was only to earm enough to leave myself time for living and photographing,” he said. “I did that until recently. I freelanced 50-100 hours a month, and the rest of the time I was outdoors photographing and doing whatever else I love.”
Guy said he finally quit programming after the birth of his daughter Tan three years ago, as part of a co-parenting arrangement.
“I realized that parenting pushes you back into the rat race,” he recalled. “At some point, I could see myself heading towards a bad place, thinking about money, returning to the same endless race. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up with money, but with a boring, unhappy father. So, I quit high-tech and fully dove into photography. Now, I am raising funds to make a film.”
He said wildlife documentaries are expensive, and can cost 1-4 million shekels ($310,000-$1.2 million), depending on the production costs. So far, he says he’s been trying to figure out the fundraising game by “shooting in all directions.”
'I would rather be poor or have less money than live my life that way. Still, I may have to do it part-time or for certain periods'
Some interest has been shown, he said, and a few things are moving along. “There isn’t a very big market for a film like this in Israel, because such films aren’t made here,” he points out. “So, it is a little bit on an issue. But there are plenty of people abroad who are ready to pour money into a project like this. The local market is small and isn’t geared up to fund nature documentaries.”
Guy acknowledged the shift from high-tech to wildlife photography has added to his finanical worries. “You think twice before you buy things,” he explained, “but on the other hand it frees you from the awful life in front of the computer.”
He also considered the life-work balance issue. “When you work in high-tech, you can buy anything you want, fly wherever you want. All that is gone now,” he said. “The question is who is enslaved to what? Are we slaves to a lifestyle or is our lifestyle there to serve us? I try not to be a slave to my lifestyle. In the end, your student days are your best period. When you become an independent, you have other concerns. I try not to be addicted to convenience. When you earn much more than what you spend and have plenty leftover – you buy things without thinking. It is very convenient, but does it fulfill you? Not really. I don’t think so.”
While he expressed concerned he won’t raise enough for his film, Guy stressed: “I am not ruled by fear. You can always do something else. I also lecture about wolves all over the country, and teach children and adults about this fascinating animal. I do whatever it takes to make ends meet. I trust myself that I will find a way if I have to.”
He couldn’t say if he might go back to programming some day.
“It is always an option. It is a way to make money fast, which is a positive, but I won’t spend my life doing that,” he said. “I would rather be poor or have less money than live my life that way. Still, I may have to do it part-time or for certain periods.”
One thing is for certain: he feels more fulfilled.
“I can feel it in my sense of satisfaction, my patience for my daughter and in my ability to speak to more people in more emotional and interesting ways,” he said.