When Annapolis photographer Dan Beigel talks about his work, he thinks of his late father, a diamond broker with an eye for jewels.
"The ability to isolate from the general chaos of the world, to isolate pieces of beauty -- it's like finding gems in what to many people might be just a mass of rock," said Beigel.
"If you have an appreciation for it, you're just compelled to mine it. I wonder if I got that appreciation from my father."
Now one of Beigel's gems stands before a national audience at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center near Orlando, Fla.
For the second time since 1983, Kodak has chosen to display Beigel's work at the corporation's Journey Into Imagination pavilion. This time, it's a photograph Beigel took at the opening ceremony of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, a color-saturated moment just before hundreds of people in red, blue, yellow, green and black costumes marched into a formation of the five-ring Olympic symbol.
"I did have the feeling this would appeal to Kodak," Beigel said. "It shows their film well and it has a lot of graphic strength."
In 1983, Kodak chose for the Epcot display Beigel's photograph of sunlight splashing stained-glass colored light on the inside walls of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, Kodak officials in Washington presented Beigel with a glass tetrahedron mounted on an inscribed base. Beigel is among 24 photographers whose work will be displayed at Epcot Center through February.
Their works were chosen from thousands of entrants. Beigel is pleased by his selection, but acknowledges that life as a free-lance photographer has been a struggle.
He's been published in Time, U.S. News & World Report, National Geographic World and National Geographic Traveler, and has produced multiscreen slide shows for the United Way of America. His corporate clients have included AT & T, IBM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and he's marketing his photographs for homes and offices. But he finds that the battle to establish himself as a name in the field is never-ending.
"It's a real roller coaster," said Beigel, a 42-year-old New York City native.
Some months ago it looked like Beigel was on the verge of an $80,000 deal with NBC News to produce a panorama photograph of Washington for the set of the news and the Today Show. But the project has been put on hold.
Beigel first worked as a photographer for the Miami Herald in 1972, two years after he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a combined degree in sociology and psychology. He left the Herald to pursue acting, first in Florida and North Carolina, then in New York City.
"I was always between two art forms," said Beigel. "I love the performing arts. . . . I was looking for a best way to express an aesthetic or an artistic sense. I was not sure I was that in love with the lifestyle of the theater."
Eighteen months of auditioning and acting in New York convinced Beigel he was not in love with the acting life. He moved to Annapolis in 1976 with his wife Tamara, who was born there, and began working as a free-lance photographer.
"You can express yourself artistically, but you don't have to bare yourself" as in acting, said Beigel, who has a studio at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.
He has shot news photographs and portraits but now leans toward Maryland landscape photography. October morning fog rising off Mill Creek, soaring geese silhouetted over a Rock Hall marsh, flaming clouds over the Severn River -- these are some of the images that get Beigel's shutter finger twitching.
Despite the career struggle, that zeal for capturing the image is as strong as ever.
"Whatever it is, it's pretty far instilled," he said. "It's deep-seated.
If you have that, it's very hard to put it on a back shelf."