In 1971 as a student I started walking with friends from the Gordon
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 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.
Over the next 10 years I did around 700 different rockclimbs and over 50 first ascents and was treasurer of 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 was never quite 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 These were based on the very outdated notes that had been produced in the 1960's by the Hobart Walking Club.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 (the publisher did not pay me!).
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. So far I have provided more than 100 contributions to WILD and will continue to write as long as they want me to. A number of articles have also been published in Outdoor Australia and in overseas outdoor and photography magazines.
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 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 did not come back (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 covered 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.
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 competitions 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 more difficult International Exhibitions where there are thousands of entries. Winning over 150 medals in 38 countries with 1,800 acceptances in a nine year period, I became one the most successful exhibitors from Australia and have judged numerous national and international exhibitions. Exhibition success has also given me various photographic honours such as Fellow of the Australian Photographic Society (FAPS in 1985), the EFIAP (the FIAP is the international photographic society) and Honorary Membership and other honours from several 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.
My major outdoor photography interest is with landscapes, nature and
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 of about 20,000
different images. The exact number
is hard to determine as I often use panorama and HDR techniques where
multiple exposures are combined into one single output image.
Once I stopped climbing, ski-touring has become 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 over the last 42 years I have averaged 55 days every year (more than 2400 days in total). Tasmania is the favourite place accounting for around 35% of my walking but I also spend considerable amounts of time in the 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 ski-touring trips (when there is snow!)
and regular long bushwalks to a variety of
places. In 2009 we did some major walking trips
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
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
Sydney which went on on sale in January 2011. During 2011 we also
more long walks, 19 days on the Great Dividing Trail in Victoria, 14
daysoff-track in the MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia and a month
trip exploring the canyons in Utah and Arizona in the USA. In early
2012, we walked the Sabine-Travers circuit at Nelson Lakes then did the
high route along The Dragons Teeth (Douglas Range) in New Zealand.
Autumn was two
visits to Tasmania which included the Overland Track plus completing
checking the new edition of Day Walks Tasmania
and in October we spent
15 days walking near Mt Kawa Kharpo in Yunnan Province in China..Summer
of 2013 has seen us busy with multiple visits to Tasmania checking
walks for some new Tasmanian books plus in March we did Gillespie and
Rabbit Passes then the Five Passes walks in New Zealand.
On a professional level, I have worked briefly as a Civil Engineer
(found it boring),
shops selling gear for 9 years with periods away as a trekking guide, a
short stint in the software industry
then lectured in Computer Science
at RMIT for 17 years specialising in graphics and web and java
paid employment in 2004 and now spend more time walking and producing
walking guide books. Guide books dont pay very well but the benefits
from being able to go on walks anytime makes up for the reduced income
we now have.