Home > News > Archive > 1st November 2005

Farmer to photographer

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier
Phil Brown
AT WORK: Photographer Phil Brown with the tools of his trade at work at Lake Ngaroto. 305051AD

Phil Brown has been a keen photographer all his life. Next week marks the first exhibition of his work.

‘Up Close and Personal’ features a collection of works taken over the past couple of years and is the opening event of Scream Rosetown Festival 2005.

Mr Brown’s collection of works is mainly of the natural history of this district, and strongly features Maungatautari and Lake Ngaroto. The show will hang in Waipa District Council Te Awamutu Chamber and is open to the public at various times from Friday, November 4 until Friday, November 11. Opening hours are published in the festival programme distributed in the Courier last Thursday [see also the online programme].

Mr Brown farmed on the family property until he was 40. He had owned his first camera at age 10. After a couple of years as a logging contractor and five years as a greenkeeper for Te Awamutu Bowling Club he opened his business, Phil’s Photo Magic.

Mr Brown became known for his attention to detail and grip of new photography technology, but found the business relied too heavily on his input. He says he was working too long, and too hard, and not having time to do things he enjoyed, such as being part of the outdoors and taking photos. When he sold the business last year, he was able to get back to his favourite hobbies, and in the past two years estimates he has taken 25,000 photos.

His interest in wildlife and the outdoors is probably older than his interest in photography. Mr Brown says as a child growing up on a farm, he and his siblings were able to roam free from dusk until dawn, time used to explore their surroundings. Now he does the same in the name of that perfect shot.

Mr Brown spends the bulk of his time on Maungatautari and says he is finding more and more about this mountain is unknown and not mapped. He follows streams not marked on the map and recently found an old work campsite.

As well as photographing the introduced species, he is finding lots of other birds and animals that are enjoying the habitat. These include New Zealand’s rare Hochstetter frog, plus he says tui and the bellbird are thriving. He is also looking forward to the release of more Kiwi, Takahe and Tuatara, all hopefully before Christmas.

While he says he is his own worst critic, Mr Brown says he is generally pleased with the images he is getting. Others are also appreciating his work.

The secret he says is to always be looking through the camera. He says if you aren’t seeing the shot through the lens, it is too late. Part of being successful at capturing a top shot is patience and anticipation. Mr Brown says he will walk for 10 hours some days without taking a shot, but that is part of the game.

He says he is also becoming somewhat of an animal behaviourist, learning where to be and when to find subjects, and how to read the signs that he is getting too close.

His work has already attracted a lot of attention and opened new doors. In March next year the cream of his collection of images from Maungatautari will be exhibited at the Waikato University Performance Centre Art Gallery where they will be available for sale as a fundraiser for the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust.

Mr Brown has also been invited to photograph wildlife in other remote habitats. He is looking forward to spending a couple of weeks on Little Barrier, locating and identifying Cooks petrel and raiding chicks to hopefully establish a breeding colony on Maungatautari.

Although he has only been involved with the Trust for 14 months, he is also becoming more in demand as a speaker. Mr Brown says he is happy to spread the word about the project and the effect it is having. He says it is a fascinating concept and believes the potential for the district is enormous.

Mr Brown is sharing some of his images via the internet from his www.philsnzbirdsandflora.co.nz website, which is also linked from the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust website (www.maungatrust.org).

Works in the ‘Up Close and Personal’ exhibition will also be for sale in three sizes.