Kelley Smith’s dream of becoming a famous photographer documenting wild lions on the plains of Africa's Serengeti fell flat when he says National Geographic sent him a scathing rejection letter.
"I think it said something to the effect of, ‘normally we would give a critique, but your work doesn't even the meet the bare minimum standards that we look for,’ ” the California native said.
While he calls Berkeley his hometown, Smith was raised primarily in Cape Cod, Mass., and that is where he developed his love for the environment.
"You can't grow up in a place like Cape Cod and not care," he said. "We have algae blooms that affect the tourist industry. When you have these things, you can't not care about this stuff, even if you don't believe in climate change. You have to have clean water so people come and swim, or else your business tanks."
One thing Smith doesn't care about is getting a beverage-induced buzz. Through the countless hours of lost sleep when working on President Obama's campaign in New Hampshire, and rising in the ranks at the EPA, he’s never had a sip of coffee, caffeinated tea, or soda.
"I've probably had like three sodas in my entire life," Smith said, adding that it's his high energy and passion that keep him going.
That energy likely comes in handy at the gym, where he can be found a couple of days a week. And despite his flop as a professional nature photographer, Smith still occasionally snags some snapshots as a hobby. But rather than National Geographic, these days his pics are for the EPA.
— Laura Barron-Lopez