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Gidday from New Zealand


Hello fellow Nikon users from New Zealand:

I started my career in photography in 1980, with Nikon F3 cameras and a selection of lenses. At the time, photographic gear in NZ was both heavily taxed and dutied, so I could not afford the gear I wanted to buy. With some borrowed equipment I spent a year devouring books on photography, absorbing both the technical and artistic aspects. When I finally started by big OE (Overseas Experience, a sort of right of passage for young Kiwis to travel around the world, usually ending up in the UK) I got my gear duty free and began practising in earnest. The plan was to work in my profession - engineering - in the outback of Australia for a year, earn serious money that would fund my travels through Asia for a further year. At an interview, having secured a suitable position, I was asked what I liked to do for enjoyment: considering I would be in an isolated community, that was not a silly question. When I said photography, they asked if I would like to be the site photographer, and earn even more? Of course, I said "yes!"

Once on site, and settling in, I was conducted to a small hut that had a sign announcing "Photo Darkroom". I was apparent that they wanted me to not only shoot, but to process and print as well. In my enthusiasm and naivety, I had not thought to ask what media I was supposed to use or produce. Unfortunately, I had not studied processing or printing to any depth as my expectation was that I would be shooting transparencies, the normal format for selling commercially. Luckily, I still had my book and after some feverish study and a fair number of ruined prints, I was producing satisfactory B+W prints for publication and site reports. After leaving, I never had to develop or print again, but it was a good experience.

After my year of work, I was very well-heeled, and decided to tour both NZ and Australia - I had taken note of an advertisement themed: "Don't leave town until you've seen the country" - persuading folks like me to learn about their homeland first. So, having struck a deal with a tour company I spent about a month in NZ and four months in Australia, travelling and shooting travel and wildlife images, including trading some for my spot on the tours. On the last leg of the Oz one, I met and became the souvenir of a rather fetching Canadian girl: she was tall (just under 6'), blond, smart and athletic. She was on a one-year working visa and so had to return to Canada before applying to come to NZ to get married. I returned to NZ in what was by then a recession. Not good for employment of any kind. Still, with what was left of my funds and some trading of photos, I managed to fund a good part of the wedding and setting up a home with my bride. Just after getting wed (actually two days after) I started an engineering job and she found work quickly too. Working and saving hard funded us to make an overland trip to Canada, where she had left her rather large family.

We travelled overland through Asia: a sort of delayed honeymoon, with me shooting a lot. However, things turned to custard in Bali, where we both get quite sick from polluted water, despite being very careful. After a stint in hospital in Singapore, we travelled to Hong Kong, but were advised to give Malaysia and China a miss. The former for the food risk as we were still quite fragile, the latter for the political situation. So, we went by air to the UK, via the Middle East.

From there, getting a resident visa for Canada was a glacial process, and to avoid the cost we spent a couple of months in Spain before finally making to Hamilton, Ontario - her home- just as winter kicked in. It was hard finding work, and that took me about 3 months, so I fell back on my engineering again but as things stabilized, I continued my photography on a part-time basis: doing corporate, portrait, industrial, and my favourites of wildlife and scenic. The problem was Hamilton was then known for its two steel mills, miserable climate and pollution (a lot coming from the US up the Mississippi value to park over Hamilton as it hit the lakeshore). Definitely not my happy place...

I moved to a much more beautiful spot, on the West Coast - Victoria, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, now working in IT as a training specialist, supporting IBM and MS software and operating systems. Some 80% of Canada's biodiversity lies west of the Rockies and Victoria was definitely not polluted - its main industries being government (as the capital of BC) and tourism. So, I had a lot of opportunities to shoot wildlife on land, air and sea. I really enjoyed photographing macro mammals: deer, moose, bears, wolves and mountain lions. However, I eventually returned to NZ for family reasons and have now retired, but still enjoying photography.

I learnt something special when I was about 17. One of my best friends' father was a really dynamic guy: super smart and very focused on his work, which was his total life. Sadly, at the age of 59, he was made redundant and he began a slide into depression from which he never recovered and died only a few years later. His family said he never got over losing his focus in life and had nothing else to go to. I learnt that one must have something to occupy mind, body and spirit outside work. I was lucky to find that in my photography career, so now I shoot for me and for free, and share my knowledge and experience freely with anyone who wants to learn. To me, photography is the perfect retirement activity. It uses left and right brain to engage with the technical and artistic aspects, makes one actively aware of the world, and keeps me active - you can't get photos sitting on the couch all day.

I shoot a fairly wide variety of gear: Canon (predominantly), Fuji, Nikon, Olympus and Sony. I have a bit of a museum of gear I never disposed of, but that's OK. I still have one of my F3's but don't shoot film any more - I moved to digital near the start of the century, thankful for the opportunity to make multiple back-ups after my car, containing the vast majority of my portfolio, was stolen and the photos were burnt. I was in tears for the loss of not only work of commercial value, but decades of memories.

Right now, I have a couple of Nikon Df bodies with four lenses, and a Nikon 1AW1 for when I go hiking in inclement weather. I love my Df cameras and will write of them in a separate post at some stage.

So, thanks for wading through this, if you did, and I look forward to enjoying the company of fellow photographers and Nikon users!
Hi Dirk:
Sorry for the delayed response. Health issues have been somewhat distracting.
Well, it's part of getting old. My life shooting in the sun with no protection is coming back to haunt me now, so I am fighting some skin cancer, plus a lump in my abdomen. Between the ills and the cures I am not quite so active right now, but determined to get back into things when those are resolved. At the moment I am volunteering my services to the University of Auckland to photograph some of their research projects, and that is really, really fascinating.