Paul Malcolm’s job helps feed his passion. Of course his job is also a passion. Really, the Garner resident basically just does things he loves for most of his waking hours. And apparently he’s good at them.
Malcolm’s passion for photography -- the passion he’s not usually paid to pursue -- netted him first prize in the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s ninth annual “Wildlife in North Carolina” photo contest. The winning photo, a look up at live oak trees at Fort Fisher historic site near Wilmington, won him a $200 prize.
Malcolm said his day job – he’s been playing viola on the North Carolina Symphony for the last 37 years – gives him opportunities to practice his hobby, which he picked up almost nine years ago.
“We travel around North Carolina a lot, and I get to see a lot of the beauty of North Carolina and take pictures all over the state,” Malcolmn said.
In his winning photo, Malcolm shot essentially straight up at a tree canopy. Tree trunks twist their way toward the sky from all sides, and narrow rivers of blue sky segregate the leaf clusters of each individual tree. The focal point is the sun, partially obscured by a branch but showing through with a sparkle like that of a star or precious stone.
“I’ve taken that picture before, but never with the sunburst,” Malcolm said.
Malcolm entered several photos he liked in the contest, open to magazine subscribers and photographers younger than 18. He liked some as much as the winner; if he was told one of his pictures would win, he said he wouldn’t have been able to guess which.
“It’s all very subjective,” Malcolm said. “The judges are looking for something a little bit different. I think they’ve seen everything at least once.”
Aside from getting the branch to obscure the sun just right, he said the camera settings were also important to the shot, especially in determining how much the sun flared out.
Art imitates work
Malcolm is familiar with precision in art thanks to his career as a musician. The Kansas native didn’t miss a beat starting that career once he graduated from college in his hometown.
“I graduated from Wichita State and two weeks later I was playing in the North Carolina Symphony,” Malcolm said. “I feel fortunate to have had a job my whole life doing something I love. It’s a real blessing.”
In November of 1985 Malcolm and his wife moved from Raleigh and bought a house in Garner. Lisa, a violinist, shares his love of music and works as a private music teacher. They raised four daughters in that house, largely home-schooling them. Each daughter also spent time studying piano.
Now their daughters are grown. One teaches piano and shares a Raleigh apartment with her sister, who is working as a fourth-grade teacher. Another had Malcolm’s first grandchild three months ago and lives in Asheville. And the other daughter began teaching English in Daegu, South Korea in August.
As for Malcolm, he said he’s still feeling the music and loving his job, even though he’s been playing viola since he was nine years old. He doesn’t know when he’ll retire. “Thirteen more years will get me 50,” he quipped. He noted a colleague about a decade older than he is recently stepped down after 39 years, so he figures he yet has plenty of strings to massage and coax into a melody with his bow.
And he plans to continue his hobby as well. After getting that first digital camera in 2005, he said of photography he “just fell in love with it.” He would outgrow that camera and subsequent cameras as he developed his side-craft. And he had advice for other would-be photographers.
“If you enjoy it, take a lot of pictures,” Malcolm said, noting that he’ll take 100-200 pictures per week and just post a few on Flickr. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can learn, you can read about it. But the best way to learn is to get out there and do it.”