You're a travel photographer at heart, tell us why this makes your heart sing and how you have been getting on with travel restrictions due to Covid?
Photography has always been an interest of mine from the time I was given a Box Brownie for my 9th birthday. I'm a gypsy at heart, and it's a passion of mine to share places I have been so lucky to visit along the road less travelled, documenting unique landscapes, people, cultures, and customs.
I have been to 60+ countries but the most amazing - memorable - off-the-beaten-path places I've travelled to include doing a 5-day trek to Machu Pichu in '96, staying with a Sharman and his family in the Amazon jungle, climbing Mount Fuji and walking 1026 km from France to the coast on the other side of Spain, staying with a Nomadic Horse Herder and his family in the Mongolian Steppes and being held up at gunpoint on the Palmir Highway in Tajikistan.
Since Covid has restricted travel overseas, I have started photographing the New Zealand landscape. At first, it was simply filling a need to be out with my camera, but I slowly became aware that I was loving the challenge of capturing the essence of what I was feeling and seeing simple, clean, and uncluttered.
I like to spend time at the scene before even taking a photo, looking around, seeing the final photo in my mind. I have walked away from a location without even taking a shot, simply because the scene doesn't 'speak' to me, it has no essence.
Tell us more about some of the countries you've visited...
The opportunity to travel through Libya in 2009 was made in a heartbeat - absolutely yes. To actually experience, see, feel, walk and photograph Leptis Magna, Temple of Zeus, Cyrene, Sabratha, and visit the cities along the Mediterranean Sea was and still is one of my top experiences. The food, customs, and markets were a feast for the eyes.
Yes, there were security issues, but I embraced every single moment. The history was out there, inhabited by Berbers, Carthaginians, Persians, Romans and Ottomans - all leaving their mark on this fascinating part of Africa. I felt that every day I was actually living inside the National Geographic Magazine. Absolutely an off-the-beaten path journey that simply fed my wanderlust heart.
Samarkand and the Silk Road had been an obsession of mine since I was a youngster. In 2016 I ventured to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan - every day an absolute 'pinch me' moment. To actually stand where Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Marco Polo had travelled was beyond amazing.
To simply place my hands on the tiles of the Madrasas and Mosques to feel the history blew me away, and how does it get any better than sleeping in a Madrasa that is over 400 years old - the stories and lives that would have passed through those doors. The food was divine, the photography incredible, and the friendliness of the locals all embracing.
In 2018, getting permission to travel into a conflict zone in the Shan Territory, was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time, and possibly the most memorable and emotional experience I've ever had. Myself, a fellow photographer, plus an interpreter were visiting a village that had not seen Westerners for over 3 years.
They had been attacked and harassed by the Burmese Army, their villages burnt to the ground, but the woman who I got to talk to, and who shared their stories with me were simply getting on with life day by day. It was tough. These amazing women were my age, late 60's - early 70's. The emotions I felt, and still feel today are very profound.
I took myself off to Kazakhstan, as part of my mission over the years, to follow the Silk Road travelling through as many countries as possible to complete the pilgrimage. I did a 20-hour train trip from Almaty to Turkestan ( that is a whole story in itself!!) to view the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi and other places of interest - this area was an important part of the Silk Road. But my highlight was quite unexpected. On return to Almaty, I trekked up to view the Almaty Lake. Here was my 'pinch me' moment.
A falconer was at the top, and I was able to dress in traditional costume and hold the most magnificent bird that I had only ever encountered before in Mongolia. That moment with the Falcon on my hand, standing at the top of the world overlooking the lake was quite overwhelming. It's the only photo I have ever had printed of myself of any of my travels.
This beautiful country, surrounded by Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey stole a bit of my heart and I would travel back in a heartbeat. The countryside and the people are captivating, the history fascinating. I spent some time in the village of Ushguli, in the Caucasus mountains - the highest continuously inhabited village in Europe. I was actually staying in a living museum - it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the many highlights, after reading about them years ago, was seeing the Georgian Towers and actually climbing up inside one. These were family living quarters, and fortresses dating from the 12th Century. Life is not easy living up there, but you are welcomed into their homes with generous hearts. I also spent many days trekking through, around, and up the snow capped Caucasus Mountains, with fields of colourful wildflowers, which was unbelievably serene.
Where will you travel to next, once the travel restrictions ease?
Last September I was due to fly out to Jordan, Iran, Pakistan, Oman, and Ethiopia for a 3-month journey. If any of these open up and are safe, I will be there, but I am also planning on going to Costa Rica - it's open now with Visas for a year.
What equipment do you use to achieve your landscape/travel photos?
I have a strong sturdy tripod and use filters to soften the water, the sky, the clouds, and to add atmosphere or mood to a photo. Post-processing is done in Lightroom, but usually, it's minimal, with a few tweaks, as I try to get it right in the camera.
How do you know what to photograph? Do you plan each photo location in advance or just take shots whenever an opportunity presents itself?
If I'm travelling to a new area, I'll definitely do some research on the locations to find points of interest, make a plan i.e check the tide times, the sunrise and sunset positions, and make the most of local knowledge. It doesn't always go to plan, and sometimes the result is better than what you had imagined/planned. The Burke Street Wharf photo is a case in point, the sunrise didn't happen, the mist rolled in but I was so happy with the moody capture, it was worth the 5am start and 2 hour drive! Of course, if an opportunity presents itself, I'll certainly make the most of it.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced to get the photo you want?
I've had some pretty cool experiences and challenges to get 'the shot'... rock climbing and crushing a finger, sliding down banks, being washed off rocks, wading chest high in water when the tide turned, and recently the wind literally picked me up with my camera and tripod and smashed me back down onto the rocks....a terrifying moment for sure. Lesson learned - keep the camera bag on my back as it got blown down the beach spilling out my gear!!!