The Catalysts – Australia’s bushfires of 2019 and early 2020 had unspeakable impact on people, communities, wildlife and the environment, let alone the economy. The Covid-19 pandemic intensified dramatically in early 2020. Everyone was enduring the adverse consequences of lockdowns, travel restrictions and economic shock – anxiety, isolation and boredom. Like many other people, my own business activities slowed substantially. I started to look locally for sources of inspiration that would lift my spirits, create some joy and make me smile… and hopefully other people too. As a keen photographer, I set myself a challenge.
The Challenge – I turned my camera to the natural environment around our home in Lane Cove, Sydney, in nearby bushland and in local national parks – on foot.
As travel restraints were eased, I was able to visit family on the coast south of Sydney, where different photographic opportunities are accessible – by bicycle and on foot.
Motivators – Getting involved in two important national citizen science research initiatives further motivated me and were great fun: (i) FrogID – managed by the Australian Museum Research Institute & Centre for Ecosystem Science (www.frogid.net.au) and (ii) Aussie Backyard Bird Count – managed by Birdlife Australia (www.birdlife.org.au). Both initiatives have excellent interactive apps, rich in content for identifying as well as reporting on frog and bird species. I had already become involved with our local community’s Backyard Habitat Programme (www.lanecove.nsw.gov.au).
Whilst under threat environmentally, our natural world is seemingly unaffected by the raging pandemic. We must protect it for future generations.
Results – Through exploring with purpose, I am astonished at what I have been able to photograph so close to home. This website – www.smileatnature.com – displays some of the outputs of my 2020 and 2021 journey. All photographs were taken outdoors. Not all my early images are super high quality, limited by my skills (which have definitely improved), camera equipment and budget. Latterly, I have upgraded my gear with one of the latest Canon mirrorless cameras – EOS R6 and Canon telephoto lens. Image quality has noticeably improved. Some of the images capture striking animal behaviours, resulting from observation over hours to many weeks in some cases. Some images have been collated as amusing or quirky “outtakes”.
As well as photographs, the website also contains some of my own nature-related art and poetry. The poems here are written for children primarily and are related to some of the photographs.
I will continue to develop the website into 2021. I hope you enjoy it. If you wish, you can also follow my social media posts on Instagram at #smile.at.nature.by.rob.a
I have had a strong interest in photography from the day I was given my first camera and single-use flash cubes as a birthday present by my parents around 1968. I bought my first SLR in 1976 – a Canon AE1. Wherever I have travelled, a camera has come with me.
I was born near Leeds, Yorkshire, UK and grew up in Sheffield, on the edge of the Peak District National Park. From my early teens I had a keen interest in science and completed an Honours Degree in Chemistry at Bristol University, UK and then a PhD in a field of environmental chemistry at Imperial College, London University, UK.
As a side-note, whilst at uni, I spent many, many hours in dark rooms developing and printing B&W photos. Those were the days, along with waiting two weeks for Kodachrome slides to be posted back to me by Kodak. Thank goodness for instant gratification provided by digital technology.
I have had a diverse corporate career spanning science-based industries in the UK/Europe and professional services after migrating to Australia 30+ years ago. For the past 20 years I have run my own business deploying training programmes to corporates locally, regionally and globally, involving extensive travel.
Over the last few years, as the finale to my fulfilling corporate career approaches, as well as keeping fit and healthy, I have focused increasingly on: nature photography; art – painting and drawing; and writing – children’s rhyming picture books and poetry. I continue to learn each day.