At high school I’d dabbled with tech pens, entered the odd design competition and won a few, but it was nothing serious.
Earning real money from graphic design was so far from my mind that I enrolled in engineering and my first job, in 1987, was to redraw mine designs that were in imperial measurements into a metric format. I’d been toying with CAD for a couple of years by then but in 1985 just designing a printed circuit board was a big deal. Well, it was for a fifteen year old. When the board went into production and the mine maps were pressed into service the thrill of designing something practical set in.
Despite having Fortran shoved down my throat I knew that the way to create exciting graphics was through writing code. I taught myself Lisp on an Indigo and found a lab on campus that had Quark.
It was learning how to use Quark that really started to make a difference. Suddenly I no longer had to work out the maths in order to draw something. So engrossed was I in Quark that I started skipping lectures.
The slide continued as I changed courses so I could spend more time with crystallography. The studies in geology also required a trained imagination to join the dots in the available data. Back in the 80s geos used Derwents, with each Derwent colour having a specific geological meaning.
Before I completed my science studies I insisted that I be allowed to enrol in photography. The Discipline Head resisted but I kept pushing. The pushing was making waves but I did not care. Things were coming to a head. When the Head relented it was as though a floodgate had been breached. I spent night after night developing film, catching, photographing and releasing animals.
Then my photography lecturer told me that my work was “boring”. I met the challenge by going all out – doubling my efforts and really pushing some boundaries. I would not say that I got arrested because no charges were laid, but let’s just say the local police took a keen interest in a perceived threat to local koalas. Sadly the photographs from that session were confiscated as evidence.
But I did not back down. I got hold of a big lizard, chilled it in the fridge, starched some jeans and underwear and did a new shoot with a rather angry animal coming out of the clothing. When the photo was used nationally by a clothing brand the Head of Geology declared in the local rag that I was an example to other students who wanted to pursue their passions and become well-rounded scientists.
That image was the key to a career in commercial photography, illustration and web design.
From time to time I also picked up rocks for money. Sometimes I photographed them, but I was always grateful for the opportunity to “go bush” at someone else’s expense, with a 4WD, a camera, a fridge and a sometimes foolish desire to catch, chill, shoot and release the wild animals around me.