His brother Steve Dettmer had recently encouraged him to post photos on the England-based digital-photography Web site ePHOTOzine.com, where amateur photographers seek the praise and criticism of their peers. It won the editor's choice.
His mother and brother then suggested he send it to National Geographic's "Your Shot" feature.
Within days the magazine called with the news that his photo had not only been chosen for the feature, but was the only photo on the page.
A commentary on the National Geographic Web site by photo editor Susan Welchman said, "I think hands down this is one of the prettiest shots we've gotten in."
Now Dettmer is experimenting with his big Nikon camera -- a surprise from his wife, Leigh -- trying to figure out the business of being a photographer.
When the owner of an art gallery in Austin, Texas, tracked Dettmer down with a client interested in buying a copy of the photo, Dettmer did not know how much to charge.
He plans to sign the copy and make it a limited edition.
"Hers is going to be No. 2 because mine is going to be No. 1."