Out of the sadness of her husband’s passing, Noni Pratt anxiously embarked on a new pastime of photography that was to become a passion the more she learned about it. Viewing the works of 2 well known photographers inspired her to travel, see and photograph similar brilliant scenes.
How long have you lived in the Manning Great Lakes?
In February 1975, my husband, Allan, and I moved from Avalon, Sydney to Forster – so that’s 36 years now. I remember the move very well!
What do you love about living here?
The coastal environment itself is lovely. There is so much open space, fresh sea breezes and gloriously clean waters. And with the young and modern town of Forster, where I live, it all makes for a healthy lifestyle, with that holiday atmosphere that’s so Australian.
You mentioned that you took up photography after your husband passed away. Did you find that photography helped you through this time?
Yes, I found I needed to become active in a hobby that I already enjoyed. I came across an article in The Great Lakes Advocate showing a photo of a lady holding a large photographic print for which an Award had been given.
The lady was a member of the Club Taree Photographic Club and, although it took me about 18 months to find the courage to phone and follow up that lead, I did so eventually – and that lady became my mentor. Knowing only a little about taking photos carefully, I nervously joined Club Taree Photography Club in 1997. Learning about photography then became a passionate pastime, and I became more keen to make worthwhile pictures.
It was one of the best things I have done in recent years, as I’ve carried my cameras on quite a few overseas trips, and travelling and photography have together complemented each other for me.
How did you go about learning the art of photography?
Initially, I learned a lot by taking note of advice from judges. Their first advice was: “Get to know your camera, Noni!” Acknowledging that I needed to ‘learn how to see’, by seeking out compositions that would make a good photograph, was the challenge. My mistakes and successes, how my club entries were judged and talking to friends in photo clubs, all helped me move along a little.
Attending lectures by professional photographers and taking reference notes to refer to later have been most helpful. Viewing prints at exhibitions has given inspiration, and studying books and magazines on photography, and the every day newspapers and magazines always give photographic opportunities to learn, observe and create one’s own ideas.
You went to Antarctica a little while ago. What was it like taking photos there, and were there any challenges in taking photos in that environment?
Yes, in 2007 I enjoyed a wonderful holiday in Argentina and Chile, with a cruise from the most remote city in the world, Ushuaia, at the southern tip of South America.
We sailed across the Drake Passage, an overnight journey in bad weather with waves as high as 35 – 45 feet … it was a very rough 20 hours. I was glad to reach the calm waters of the Antarctica Peninsula, where we spent the following five leisurely days on board, with a number of on shore excursions to walk among penguin colonies.
This activity was a highlight of the trip, and actually walking on that untouched continent and then returning by Zodiac to the luxury of a cruise ship was surreal and something I had never expected to do.
Photographing ice and snow is tricky at any time and not all of my images were successful, I’m afraid. Photographing the penguins on land was an absolute thrill. It was frustrating to have to change a lens in that icy cold and in a rush when we were close to the penguins’ pebble nests. The challenge there was to get as close to the penguins as possible, without in any way interfering with their nesting, or routes to and from the water’s edge.
You have travelled to many other interesting places, with you camera close by. What is one of your most memorable stories while taking photos?
On an outback photographic trip, the group was up at 5am for a long bus ride from Birdsville to Big Red, the famous sand dune miles away, for a morning sunrise photo shoot. We climbed to the top of Big Red in the dark, with cameras and tripods, awaiting the sunrise. In preparation, I accidentally leaned too hard on my lightweight tripod and broke it! Such a pity, as it was imperative for long exposure picture-taking in that low light!
That afternoon we camped at Merty Merty, but because a sandstorm came up, we had to take tents down and travel to Cameron’s Corner – hopefully to avoid the storm. However, the sand storm found us – it was a truly terrifying night. We survived, but only three tents remained standing next morning. Fortunately, my camera was OK. All this in one day, while in the search of those fabulous elusive photographs!
Is there a subject matter that you particularly enjoy photographing?
There is no special subject for me. I have a wide love of pictures depicting the beauty of our planet, whether a country scene, or a seascape, or people, or life as we know it here around us, or in faraway lands.
Whenever I can, I try to capture some emotion in my photos (I don’t always succeed!) even if it is just ‘delight’ and of course, the most important aspect is trying to obtain beautiful light across the image.
Are there any photographers whose work you admire or who inspire you?
When I saw the superb black and white photographic prints by Richard White, from Mansfield in Victoria, I was immediately inspired. His magnificent mountains scenes from around the world simply made me want to travel and see similar brilliant scenery.
As soon as I saw photographs at a Perth exhibition by Nick Meladonis, I was so impressed, that I decided there and then that I had to go to the Greek Islands to see and photograph scenes that Nick was exhibiting. That trip in 2002 was fantastic, and I took countless photos.
Is there a photograph that you one day hope to capture?
It is said that photographers continue to take pictures because they are looking for that ever-elusive magical photograph … the one that beats all … so I think I will just keep looking! If I should ever find it, I would be extremely fortunate!
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers out there?
Yes, certainly I do. There is a great deal of information freely available through the internet and from libraries – both avenues being ideal for personal study. College courses etc. are available and, although perhaps expensive, are very worthwhile for young adults wishing to become professional photographers.
Joining a club (either attending club nights or participating on line only), is a good way to learn personally from other photographers and find what your own special interests and abilities are. Now that digital cameras are readily available and affordable, playing with photos can become one of those endless and all consuming passions.
Thank you Noni.