The Sambar Hunt. Somewhere near Corryong, Vic

I found myself unexpectedly in Albury 3 weeks ago, at the same time as my brother (which is, looking at the odds, some kind of miracle). Even more unlikely, his partner and daughter were out of town for a couple of days. Somehow, Torren and I had just found the freedom to get into the hills together for the first time in a long time. 

It had been more than a few months since I last shot anything related to my personal project around hunting, so I was very keen on the idea of an overnight hunt in the hills with Toz, his Vizsla puppy, Lulu, and his cousin-in-law (is that a thing?), Heath. Especially as I'd never had the opportunity to document bow hunting.

I didn't even flinch at the 5am call time. While I would try and pass that off as eagerness, combined with a newfound maturity, it's definitely just a bi-product of a growing frequency of very early mornings. But I have to say that 5am is much nicer outside of the cities.

My next realisations came when we started the hunt. When you're stalking through the forest, in search of a deer species that is allegedly one of the smartest and hardest to hunt in the world, it pays to be silent. My camera shutters are not silent in the slightest. Then again, neither was Lulu. But she's only 6 months old, she can't be expected to not crash through the bush for 9 hours straight.

Now, rather than get too in depth with the details of the hunt, I think it will suffice to say that, although 24 deer were spotted, including 8 stags, 24 deer lived healthily past that trip, thanks to a combination of being out of distance for a bow, or a rifle jamming. That said, Heath and I both learnt some new tricks about tracking Sambar deer, and I got a good dose of bush before my return to the city.

 


Leah & Michael's Wedding, Dunbar House

This wedding was too much fun.

There’s a distinct change of pace that comes with being hired to photograph a job for a friend. Whether it’s photographing their business, their fashion range, or a wedding.

In this case, the bride and groom, Leah and Michael, were exposed to my photography by Leah’s sister, one of my closest friends. During my years overseas, she was showing them the travel portraits I was creating, and they were apparently loving it. Conveniently, they became engaged shortly after I moved back to Australia, and they locked me in for their big day.

Fast forward to the morning of the wedding, and I’m walking into Leah’s house, greeted by her mum Wendy, with a coffee and a hug (because friends). Some laughs, preparation photos, and a brunch sandwich later, and I’m en route to Michael’s borrowed penthouse to see how the men are going. To avoid going into too much detail, there’s more laughs and banter where the boys are, followed by delicious Japanese whisky, and a classy uber ride to the beautiful Dunbar House, in Watson’s Bay.

Now, Dunbar House is a pretty awesome venue, right on the water of Watsons Bay. The ceremony was held under the big tree on the front lawn (good weather, thankfully), and the reception was held on the second floor, with more killer views. Following on from some of the best wedding speeches I’ve ever heard (Bonus points to the maid of honour, Renee, for talking more about herself than Leah or Michael), and the dance floor came alive. As the evening progressed, I caught myself dancing more and more, having far too much fun for someone at work. But in my defence, the best man, Andy, took it upon himself to get everyone partying, and was dragging the waiters, barstaff, and venue manager onto the dancefloor as well.

So, yes, this wedding was too much fun.

Leonie & Steve's Blue Mountain Wedding

I don't often shoot weddings. As a result of my previously unpredictable travel patterns, it was always difficult to accept a job if I wasn't certain I would be in the required country. However, since recently establishing Sydney as a home base, my schedule magically opened up for bookings in advance! This wedding, however, was very last minute. The booking reflected the casual nature of the entirely untraditional wedding, and I loved it.

Located at Megalong Valley, deep in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, the wedding was held in the bushland outside the Town Hall. The bride, Leonie, wore an amazingly colourful dress, complete with reversible cape and tiara of native shrubbery. The days events commenced with a mini colouring festival, where guests had the chance to attack Steve with coloured powder, to bring his level of decoration in line with Leonie.

The bride and groom MC'd their own day, loosely directing the days events from start to finish. There was a piñata, handball, and my personal favourite, a scavenger hunt through the bush for the wedding rings. The ceremony was simply Leonie and Steve making their own vows (There was no celebrant. They wanted the wedding to be for their family and friend's recognition, and they went to the registry a couple of days later to make it "official"). The wedding's final touch, for me, was forgoing a single wedding cake, and replacing it with a tray of cakes and slices baked by their parents and grandparents. They were delicious.

There was only one element of the day I wished to be different, and it was born of entirely selfish reasons. Leonie & Steve didn't want preparation photos, and didn't factor in, or prioritise any time for bridal portraits. They were both happy with their decisions, preferring to party with their friends. I just wanted to take more beautiful photos!

While admittedly not even close to the traditional definition of a wedding, the day was undeniably full of love, family and friends. Everyone had fun, and from all accounts the casual, mildly disorganised, frequently hilarious, and honest wedding was a perfect representation of the couple.

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2015 National Photographic Portrait Prize

Late last year, I entered a photographic prize on a whim, with a day before it closed. Before that point, I hadn't entered many competitions, and this was a big one, considered the most prestigious of it's kind in Australia. So, when I received a phone call that I was a finalist, I was understandably chuffed, a bit surprised, and also reassured about the quality of my work. Out of 2500 entrants, my image was one of 44 finalists. I organised the printing before I left Sydney for the summer, and the framing happened while I was in Europe (side note, Graphic Art Mount, in Sydney, now comes with my highest recommendation). My framed print ended up on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery before I had seen the final product. Cut to last Friday, 20th March. I'd organised to fly back from London on the 18th, landing in Sydney on the morning of the 20th, via Delhi, flying on two of the most heavily baby-populated flights I had ever encountered. Seriously, multiple crying babies within 10 rows, for 24 hours. But I digress. Arriving in Sydney, with little sleep, I then got a lift down Canberra for the 5pm opening and announcement of the winner. I also stopped in Canberra Target to pick up a shirt, because jetlag brain left my shirt hanging on a door handle.

Long story short, I was joined by a couple of my closest family and friends, who relieved the gallery of a respectable proportion of it's donated drinks. I didn't take home the win, didn't really expect to. I consider being a finalist in the 'most prestigious photographic portrait prize in Australia' as a big win, considering portraiture is something I take great pride in. I certainly can't begrudge the woman who won, Hoda Afshar, because her image was pretty marvelous (And I would do many things for photographic access to Northern Iran).

This is probably the point where I should post my image. It looks beautiful framed, and will be hanging on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery until June 8, before the exhibition travels to rural centres. Check it out, if you have the chance.

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Seljavallaug, Iceland

I left Australia again. Only for 6 weeks this time, and only to the UK, Iceland, and a brief visit to Prague. As I write this, I'm in Vik, Iceland. Rather than go into detail, I'll keep this brief... Saving my energy for late nights chasing the Aurora Borealis.

For now, here's the current highlight of the trip. Seljavallalaug pool, nestled at the foothills south of Eyjafjallajokull (That volcano that erupted in 2010). I nearly fell in a semi-frozen creek on the 20 minute walk to find it. It's still the tail-end of winter, and the roads are icy. Even for a geothermal pool, it's not the warmest at this time of year..

But look at the view. Mountains on one side, and a valley leading toward the ocean on the other. 25 metres of serene bliss, followed by a near-freezing towel off and redress.

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