HOW I GOT HERE
1981 - My First Camera
After four years of odd jobs and entrepreneurial exertions, I finally saved enough cash for my first motorbike – a Honda XR 75. I loved that thing and must have repainted every nut and bolt on it at least five times! Soon, I began riding at the Frankston City Motorcycle Park, and wanted to capture some of the excitement on film. Cue my dad’s beloved Voigtländer – a simple West German non-metered rangefinder camera with a fixed lens and just three shutter speeds – the highest 1/125 sec.
It meant learning how to calculate my exposures and particularly, how to pan my targets smoothly. After a few rolls of film, I began yielding some wonderful shots of sharp riders with blurred wheels and scenery. Right there and then, I was hooked!
1982 - Early Adventures
For the next two years, I honed my craft, and thanks to a part-time job cleaning the local fitness club, I managed to pay cash for my next motorbike (a brand new Honda XR 200) and a new camera outfit.
The Ricoh XR-P was, for me at least, the duck’s guts. And the luxury of multiple lenses (wide, standard and 70-200 zoom) wasn’t lost on me.
My love of motorcycling and photography was cemented when I set off on a four-day motorbike safari in the Victorian desert with a questionable tour operator. The leader was severely injured on the trip, but my photos and subsequent story were published in Trail and Track magazine. This built my confidence and suggested that maybe, just maybe I could combine the two one day.
But like all of us, I’d been conditioned to believe that a ‘real’ job was the more sensible, and likely, path.
1984 - Escape from Senior School
The first time I learned you could be good at something and hate it was during the penultimate year of school. Halfway through class, I got out of my chair and headed for the door.
My teacher asked, “Where do you think you’re going?”
“I’m leaving”, I said, and with that, I headed for the hallway, emptied my locker and rushed for the gate. I never returned, and I learned a valuable lesson about making and owning your decisions.
1984 - In Charge of $1,000,000
I joined a national bank as a trainee Clerk, and right there, made the same mistake millions of kids do. I chose to earn a ‘safe and secure’ wage over pursuing something I loved. Within a year, I was a Trading Bank Examiner, and at 17, was nine years younger than the next youngest person doing that job in the country. The role held me accountable for my branch’s cash holding – usually around $1M on any given day.
As a kid, I’d loved the sight and smell of money. By my second week in the job, it represented misery and entrapment.
1986 - The Rescue
By now, I’d been shooting as an enthusiast for six years, moving up from the old Voigtländer to the wizz-bang Ricoh XR-P with multiple lenses and a motor-drive.
Trail & Track was sold to a large national publisher, but on my dad’s urging, I submitted another story – this time, about combining the hobbies of trail bike riding and photography. That’s when I received the call that changed my life.
An art director named Joe Richelieu was redesigning the magazine’s design and thought my photography showed promise. After failing to convince me to work for him, he arranged for me to meet the managing editor of Syme Magazines, who, after a demoralizing appraisal of my shooting skills, offered me a job!
Seven years of adventure ensued, where I shot ‘my’ first Lambo at 18, experienced the rush of 295 kph on a CBR1000, shot a desert race hanging out of a chopper just three feet off the deck, and tore around various circuits with F1, MotoGP and V8 Supercar royalty. It was a dream job.
I started out with my Ricoh gear but soon discovered it couldn’t withstand the rigours of professional work where rain, dust and heat were frequent companions. My boss agreed to fund the purchase of a Nikon outfit, including an FE-2, an F3 and a range of lenses. I felt like a kid in a candy store when he told me to go shopping!
Later, I augmented my kit with a Mamiya 645 and drive. It was tough trying to shoot action with such a slow camera, but when I got it right, those Velvia transparencies were gorgeous.
1993 - Going Solo & Failing
A red-letter day arrived in the form of a compliment. For seven years, I’d lived large – thanks to a steady procession of amazing trips, ground-breaking cars (NSX, R32 GTR, 300ZX, 911 C4, Diablo, Tarago, 80-Series Land Cruiser, LS400, MX5, 205 GTI, plus many more); and exposure to some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.
I was sitting at a set of traffic lights in a bright red Lotus Esprit Turbo when a kid leaned over the tram stop railing and said, “I love your car!”
“It’s not mine”, I said. “It’s a test car.”
I’d offered variations of this remark so many times over the years, but it suddenly dawned on me that as long as I stayed in this job, I’d never have a nice car of my own.
Within a few weeks, I left. I had to at least try to make it on my own. The managing editor barked, “You’ll be back!”, but that just emboldened me more.
After a year of flailing about, my bills turned red, the fridge ran dry and my car broke down. It took pouring water on my Corn Flakes to admit I’d failed. I called up a Honda dealership and convinced them to hire me – explaining that no one else had driven almost every car available over the last seven years, so I’d be a formidable salesman.
It turns out I was right, and I soon broke records and earned myself a tonne of bonuses, including $3,000 in one month plus a Tag Heuer watch.
1995 - The Ad Racket
I missed taking photographs, and would often photograph my own cars or, as the NSX Manager at the car dealership, whatever example I snaffled for the weekend. I was now married, and my ‘lifestyle’ required a certain level of income, so I decided that making more of it was job #1 – and going back to shooting for magazines just wasn’t an option.
So I joined the Yellow Pages and sold those ridiculous ads for companies called “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Ant Farms R Us”. The first year was great. Lots of money, a company car, and paid annual leave. Then came the second year, where each of us was tasked with convincing our advertisers to spend more. When I realised this was what I’d be doing every year, I raised my sights and sought a career in software.
1997 - Software, Disasters & Blogs
This is a huge chapter, so I’ll describe it in bullet points.
– Convinced a wonderful man (now my mentor and friend) to let me work for his software company. I’ve worked there, now, for 23 years.
– Divorced my first wife, married my second, had two gorgeous girls, divorced again, found my third, and had a son.
– Took very few photographs for the sheer pleasure of it – mostly just snapshots, only with the occasional burst of inspiration through a range of Nikons and a Fujifilm X100.
– Made the transition from film (Nikon F100) to digital (Nikon D90).
– Invested heavily in real estate renovations and redevelopments, only to lose all of it in the GFC and my second divorce.
– Had a midlife crisis, took up blogging, then podcasting.
– Made it to the other side, thanks to the blogging, some fabulous online friends, and my wonderful third wife (we’re still together and very happy).
– Upgraded to a Nikon D750 in the hope it would spark a desire to shoot again. It didn’t.
– I read and thought and wrote a lot about the things that matter, and how to live more deliberately. After two decades of tumult, I drew a lot of satisfaction from blogging and podcasting but was stretched very thin – especially with my freelance Web design and consulting work. I needed a circuit-breaker.
2020 - Back to the beginning.
In late 2020, I decided to stop blogging and podcasting for a while. Instead, I would pick up my camera (now a Canon M6 MK II), and get away from my computer screen. Inspiration to do this came first from of a colleague named Graham – a brilliant wildlife and aviation shooter – and later, British landscape photographer, Thomas Heaton. I will always be grateful to Graham, plus his amazing images and his enthusiasm. And Thomas’s whole approach to photography showed me that snaring a nice shot is simply a bonus. Getting outdoors, being present and enjoying the process are sufficient rewards on their own.
I upgraded my Canon M6 to a Canon R5 and complemented it with an RF 24-105, an RF 50 1.8, a Samyang RF 14 2.8 and an EF 100-400 II with an adapter and 2x extender.
The result? I’m feeling like I did when I roamed the Mt Martha region with my Ricoh XR-P – relaxed, curious and creative. I go to bed imagining where I’ll explore next, knowing that each time I venture out, the effects will be positive, restorative and immediate.
So, it turns out that doing what I loved as a kid is my cure for an otherwise hectic, stressful life. I am a photographer again.