I regard myself as a keeper of the visual flame. But it took a while to light it.
From a young age my mind was centred on outdoor activities. I enjoyed cycling, fishing and many active sports. I liked school yards but hated school rooms. At the age of 12 I became interested in photography while on a holiday with my parents. Mum and Dad where hopeless with a camera so I took charge of capturing our memories. From then on I tried my hand at many varied pursuits but photography was always there.
At the age of 15 I began processing black and white films in our bathroom, until Dad helped me build a tiny darkroom in the corner of our garage. I had no enlarger so I could only make contact proofs on photographic paper. I’d place glass over my negatives and switch the garage light on for a few seconds.
In 1975 I purchased a Pentax KX camera and an LPL B&W enlarger. I explored the Great Western Tiers walking tracks during my annual leave, and at weekends, drove around in the country with my friends, looking for things to photograph.
My life changed after I read the book .... The World Of Olegas Truchanas. I found it moving. It wasn’t only the photographs but his whole attitude to the landscape and life. I’d started shooting weddings on the side so I purchased a Mamiya 6x6 camera for that task. By 1978 I’d given up playing football and joined the Deloraine Bushwalking Club. I walked every weekend. From my first bush-walks I became hooked on recording images that showed people where I’d ventured and the beauty I’d seen. By 1983 I became passionate about wilderness photography and purchased my first Pentax 6x7 camera, along with four lenses and 2kg tripod.
Back then I was inspired by the amazing images Peter Dombrovskis was making with his large format camera, and realised even then that few photographers were able to shoot to his standard. After three years of lugging around my Pentax medium format camera I decided to move up to a folding, large format 4x5-inch camera. Spur -of-the-moment shots are impossible with this device so I learned to pre-visualise the image before setting up. It took five years to shoot the images for my first book Tasmania, A Wild Beauty. I was disappointed with the print quality and felt let down by the production process. It gave me a lot of anxiety that I had trouble dealing with.
My next three books and seven calendars where handled by another publisher, but the returns where poor. Thankfully, I was making a decent living out of shooting weddings, portraits and other commercial work. I had my own darkroom setup and printed all of my own photographs, at least until the toxic chemicals began to take their toll on my health. In 1997 my wife Barbara and I opened our own publishing company, Hardings Productions, and in the following years have sold thousands of books, pictorials and calendars for the tourism market. Tasmania's best selling pictorial book Australias Isalnd State, Tasmania won the Galley award for excellence in book production and manufacture.
In 2006 I changed to digital capture, giving me total control of the entire process, from shooting raw files, processing them and converting the images to cmyk ready for printing.
Still, every time I see my old 4x5 Linhof camera I’m reminded of the passion that made me venture alone into the wilderness.
And the flame? It sputters occasionally, but still burns bright.