In 1971 as a young student I started walking with friends from
of Technology in Geelong. We were soon hooked and formed the Gordon
Bushwalking Club which evolved over the years into the Deakin
Outdoors Club (Gordon Institute became Deakin University in the
1980's). After 3 years I left Geelong to study at Melbourne University and joined the Melbourne
University Mountaineering Club (MUMC) where I was able to take
up rockclimbing which was
the activity I really wanted to do most. In many ways it was good
that I first found bushwalking. While a member of MUMC, I was
Climbing Convenor then later Treasurer. Later on, I was
made a life member of MUMC.
Over the next 10 years I did around 700 different rockclimbs with more than 50 first ascents and was treasurer of both MUMC and the Victorian Climbing Club (at the same time!). On many new climbs I was often the photographer and swarmed up after the route had been led, it was fun and at times quite challenging. I climbed with the best (Law, Friend, Lindorff, Tempest, Carrigan, Mathieson (HB)) but while close to the top (only a grade or two below), was never quite ranked in the top few. Looking back, it can be seen that this was probably the greatest period of growth in free climbing standards with grades rising from 19 to 30 in 10 years! In the mid 80's I faded away from the climbing scene after the death of many climbing friends in the Himalayas and left the cliffs to the new generation of young guns. My climbing period was busy as I still regularly went bushwalking and even tried canoeing for two years.
In 1976, after some encouragement by other bushwalkers, I printed a set of track notes on South West Tasmania. These were based on very outdated notes that had been produced in the 1960's by the Hobart Walking Club. Interest in the notes was higher than I first thought and this encouraged me to do another 9 week trip in the south-west to update all the notes. In 1978 the guide book 'South West Tasmania' was self-published. A publisher (Algona Guides) then asked me to join with John Siseman to research and write the guide to 'Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park' which was published in 1979. In 1980 I produced a large format all colour book to Cradle Mountain. The two guides now have multiple editions but the colour book has become a collectors item as there was only one edition (nmainly because the publisher did not pay me!). At that stage I also did a lot of work writing articles and providing photos for the Melbourne University Mountaneering Club yearly magazine, 'Mountain'. It was sold commercially in the bushwalking shops for 4 years from 1978 to 1981. The magazine ceased when WILD started.
When WILD magazine started in 1981, I wrote one of the feature articles in the first issue (for free) and have continued a close relationship since with that excellent publication. Just to dispel the rumours, I have never owned any share or part of WILD, I just write for and get paid the same casual rates like every other writer. I contributed more than 100 articles and photographs to WILD. A number of articles have also been published in Outdoor Australia and in overseas outdoor and photography magazines in USA, Spain and the UK. In 1989, along with my wife, Monica and good friend, John Siseman, we took over the Age weekly newspaper column on bushwalking when Sandra Bardwell retired on her 200th column. Due to financial cut-backs, the column ceased in 1995 and was revived breifly in 2003, in all we wrote 290 columns plus a dozen feature articles for other sections of the newspaper. Its funny how many people remember Sandras column and not us even though we wrote more columns than she did over a longer period, I guess she was first though.
In the 1980's, I worked as a professional walking guide in South West Tasmania (6 walks) and then as a trekking guide in Nepal and India with Peregrine Expeditions (led 12 treks) and, while the pay was poor, it was an interesting activity to do for a while as you learnt how to handle and tolerate all types of people. I tried mountaineering on some minor Himalayan peaks (known as trekking peaks) but regular deaths of friends in those ranges discouraged me to take it further. Many of my friends have climbed Mt Everest and other 8000m peaks but many also died (more than 20). Instead, I decided to see more of Australia at my own pace; this really is an interesting diverse country. This led to another book in 1986, 'Bushwalking In Australia' which was a joint effort with my wife, Monica. The first three editions were published by Lonely Planet. It covers overnight and longer walks in every state around the country. The fourth edition is an all colour book and was self published in June 2003. In 2009, I was presented with a 'Special Recognition Award' by Bushwalking Victoria, the peak body for bushwalkers and clubs in Victoria.
My interest in photography started
as a means of showing others the unusual places I visited. Early
on I enjoyed moderate success by winning some photo magazine
so this spurred me to learn more and I tried the open exhibitions.
These competitions are completely anonymous and are a great way
to see what others are doing and having your work compared. While
initially confusing, you soon work out how its judged and what
the judges look for. After a brief spell in National Exhibitions
I tried the larger International Exhibitions where there
are thousands of entries. Winning over 150 awards in 38 countries
with 1,800 acceptances in a nine year period starting in mid-1980s, I
became one the most
from Australia and have judged numerous national and international
exhibitions. Exhibition success has also given me various photographic
honours such as Grand Master of the Australian
Photographic Society (GMAPS), Grand Master of the Photographic Society
America (GMPSA) and the EFIAP/p (platinum level - FIAP is the
international photographic federation) and Honorary Membership
and other honours from
overseas camera clubs and societies. If you want to be able to
apply photography across a wide variety of subject matter, the
exhibitions are full of new ideas and worth persevering with. Recently
(2013) I started exhibiting again and the standard is similar
what it once except there are more exhibitions and also more
photographers entering. In 5 years I have gained over 6000
acceptances with more than 140 different images
obtaining awards, have new ideas for photography and also
become proficient with new techniques for processing them (very
important for processing images for books).
My major outdoor photography interest is with landscapes,
wilderness photography, which
generally do not do well in competitions - the problem is they
are normally not spectacular enough - they get accepted but rarely
win. So while I was taking climbing and sport photographs for
competitions I was still taking landscapes for myself when bushwalking
in both colour transparencies and black and white. I have more
than 35,000 transparencies and 12,000 black and white negatives
- mainly of bushwalking places. I converted to a digital
camera in 2004 and now have a large digital library. The exact number
is more than 100,000 images but is impossible to determine as I often use panorama and HDR
multiple exposures are combined into a single output image plus I
delete any trash thats not worth keeping. As I do a review every now
and then and delete old images, the total goes both up and down.
Once I stopped climbing, ski-touring became a more major winter activity (before that I often did snow walks) and week long ski trips on XCD skis to Mt Kosciusko and Mt Jagungal became regular events. However bushwalking is my main activity and I spend several months each year walking. Tasmania is the favourite place with more than 930 days walking in that state which is around 35% of all my overnight walking (more than 2750 days). I also spend considerable amounts of time in other states and sometimes other countries as well (I would call 65% considerable). While some of these areas do appear in my writing, there are also places I have visited but don't advertise, thus allowing others to explore some places for themselves. Many walkers think I write up all my walks but I try to juggle the fine line between the demands of other walkers (who want notes to everything) and the land managers (who often want minimal publicity). This issue was debated in more detail in a letter I wrote that was published many years ago in WILD issue 42.
I am still very active with both day walks and regular long bushwalks to a variety of places which have included a few 50 day trips!. In 2009 we did some major walking trips in the mountains in Morocco, Spain and the USA - it was probably about time as its been more than 20 years since visiting the northern hemisphere. Also in 2009 we printed Australian Alps Walking Track and South Coast Track plus research for future walking books. In 2010 there were multiple visits to Tasmania (Southern Ranges, Overland Track in winter plus many shorter walks) plus we did lots of repeating walks for a new edition of Day Walks Victoria. We also completed Day Walks Sydney which went on on sale in January 2011. During 2011 we also did more long trips, 19 days on the Great Dividing Trail in Victoria, 14 days off-track in the MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia and a month long trip exploring the canyons in Utah and Arizona in the USA. In early 2012, we walked the Sabine-Travers circuit at Nelson Lakes (7 days) then did the more difficult high route along The Dragons Teeth (Douglas Range-9 days) in New Zealand. Autumn was several visits to Tasmania which included the Overland Track plus completing checking for the new edition of Day Walks Tasmania and in October we spent 15 days walking near Mt Kawa Kharpo on the eastern end of the Himalayan Range in Yunnan Province in China.
Summer of 2013 has seen us busy with multiple visits to Tasmania checking our guide books plus in March we did Gillespie and Rabbit Passes (14 days) then the Five Passes walks (9 days) in New Zealand. Winter saw us climb Mt Zeil (5 days return from Redbank Gorge) then the next 17 days was a repeat of the Larapinta Trail researching the next edition. In Spring it was several weeks walking in Tasmania. 2014 was another varied year with 18 days in Tasmania in February, 16 days in the Gammon Ranges in South Australia then a long driving trip to the Northern Territory for 11 weeks walking in Katherine (5 days), Kakadu (22 day circuit), Litchfield (4 days), Uluru, Kings Canyon etc. 2015 has started with another visit to New Zealand doing the Tongariro Circuit (very unusual landscape) then an 11 day walk from Lewis Pass to Nelson lakes via the Matakitaki Valley crossing multiple high passes. An easy trip followed with a pleasant week of walking on Lord Howe Island. We then skipped winter with a week long circuit of Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland, a 41day walk following most of the Sierra High Route in California (supposedly the USA's hardest walk) then a month on the Snowman Trek in Bhutan. In 2015 we printed new editions of Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair & Walls of Jerusalem and Larapinta Trail plus published the 4th edition of Walking The Otways as a joint effort with Geelong Bushwalking Club.
2016 saw us back in Tasmania
repeating the Western Arthurs, numerous day walks to update the next
edition of Day Walks Melbourne
then a 3 month trip in Europe following
the Pyrenees High Route followed by the GR20 in Corsica. On our return
home one week then headed off to Western Australia for 6 weeks checking
walks over there. In December 2016 we were in the Eastern Arthurs doing
the next edition of South West
which was printed later in
2017. In early 2017, we spent 7 weeks in Africa seeing the wildlife,
peaks and cultural history of Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. For the
first time for a decade we stayed home during winter and repeated many
walks for a new edition of Day Walks Mellbourne. In November and
December we headed to Patagonia (Chile and Argentina) for a few weeks
of spectacular and unusual walks. 2018 started with a 6 week trip
walking in New Zealand and for winter a long trip to Morocco (Mt Toubkal),
Germany and the AV1 in the Dolomites in Italy. We stayed home for a few months in late 2018 to complete two new books, Short Walks Southern Tasmania and Short Walks Northern Tasmania.
In 2019 its been Mt Kilamanjaro in Tanzania, the Drakensbergs in
South Africa and Madagascar. There was then a month long trip in
The Kimberley with Willis Walkabouts then two weeks after that we headed off
for three months walking in the Sierras in
California for 45 days then three weeks in autumn in the New England states in north-east USA.
On a professional level, I have worked briefly as a Civil
(found it boring),
shops selling gear for 9 years with periods away as a trekking guide.
During that period, as a hobby, I built and programmed several 4 and 8 bit computers
(this was the start of PCs). That led to a job for a
short period in the software industry
then I changed jobs to RMIT where I lectured in Computer Science for 18 years specialising in graphics, web and java
paid employment in 2004 and now spend more time walking and producing
walking guide books. Guide books dont pay very well (read about online publishing!)
but the benefit is being able to go away more often on extended walks
time of the year.