Paula, how did you become a photographer?

My journey into photography started as a young girl. My father and grandfather both had an interest in photography and I started with their old Pentax film cameras before being given a Kodak camera for my 10th birthday. I used film with many, many failures but as a Mum taking lots of photos of the children, was very excited when I could process the photos onto a CD. Oh, the joy!! Then along came digital and that was a game-changer as it literally became a more affordable option which may seem odd but it meant I wasn't wasting a ton of film processing then sending most of the prints to the bin. I wasn't very good at all.

Once the children left home I started in earnest to work on composition and ended up using my iPhone an awful lot. It was convenient and lightweight, however, it wasn't delivering what I was wanting with my photos. Soon after I purchased my first DSLR, a Canon EOS500, and I took some photography courses. I began to see what I had envisioned, even if the quality (looking back) wasn't high. I have since tried a couple DSLR brands. First was Fuji, which was a good system but I couldn't make it work for me so moved on to Sony which I am very happy using.

This all took place over the past 20 years and during that time I have done quite a lot of online and classroom learning. I still feel as if I am only scratching the surface though! I joined the Whaktane camera club last year and have already found it a place rich in knowledge and resources. I also joined PSNZ which I am excited about. The quality of work displayed in their annual hardcover book 'Camera' is incredible and inspirational, the same can be said for their Facebook page.

What do you enjoy photographing most?

Without a doubt, nature photography is my passion. It has surpassed a hobby and become somewhat of an obsession. A good obsession I think!

I am inspired by the incredible intricacies of nature. From the vast landscapes and how geology has shaped the earth, right down to the formation of the tiny things. I love to capture things that people don't know about, thus encouraging conservation and awareness of what we are in the process of destroying as humans.

Nidula niveotomentosa

Have you sold your photographs through an image library before? Why did you decide to go with Excio?

I have tried a couple of image libraries but quickly became despondent. I was hearing stories where images were purchased for very little money and being used by others to create much larger incomes. I didn't want my images used in that way.

I was skeptical at first about the Excio FairShare Photography platform but Ana, the founder, was able to allay those concerns with her explanation of how Excio planned to distribute images, and in turn reward photographers - I knew she was onto something great. It might not be a get-rich-quick scheme but it is a workable one and an ethical one at the same time with some pretty fantastic potential. From what I've seen so far, I'm a big fan! Excio has been able to turn the tables on the standard stock image libraries with their delivery and intentions of doing good for the world of photography and photographers.

Your beautiful fungi photography is something we don't get to see every day, can you tell us more about it?

I got into fungi photography totally by accident. I walked in the bush a lot but rarely did I notice any fungi. In fact, aside from those big red plates with the white dots (Aminita muscaria or fly agaric) I don't believe I had noticed a mushroom apart from the field type we eat.

Then, after our first lockdown, I took my granddaughter for a bush walk and we happened upon two rather gorgeous looking mushrooms with blueish tops and I took a quick shot of them. I was pretty confident there would be a Facebook group that may be able to identify them and I soon found one with an admin who I actually knew (Shirley Kerr, and was aware of her fungi knowledge. I had seen a few photos and articles about her finds in our local paper from time to time so I knew I was on the right trail.

Once I had joined the page I started to see many posts of beautiful fungi and decided to go and see what else might be lurking in the same area. Lo and behold I found a few, including one which sparked Shirley’s interest. I met her and fellow fungi enthusiast Lee Ormsby at the Puketoki bush reserve and from there I was hooked. I started out using my zoom 100-400mm lens and my Godox flash which was cumbersome and awkward. I progressed 18 months ago to a macro 90mm lens and off-camera LED lights. During the second lockdown in New Zealand, I happened to comment on an Instagram post from an account called myceliummagic. The account belongs to a fungi photographer from Australia called Paul Vallier. He was incredibly generous with his knowledge and walked me through a 3 hour tuition of on how to focus stack. I am eternally grateful as this was the game changer I craved! It takes a lot of patience and has taken many, many trials and errors but I feel I am now in control of how I want my images to appear. I am learning something almost every time I head out to look for fungi.

I am constantly amazed by colour, texture, shape, and diversity within the fungi world. I have since learned so much more about how important they are to our entire ecosystem and now I want to help to bring awareness to fungi and their crucial part in how the earth has evolved and how they can help us save it. If you haven't watched the movie on Netflix, Fantastic Fungi, I encourage you to do so!

Gliophorus lilacipes

Where have your photographs been displayed so far, and where or how would you like them to be included in the future?

I would love to see my photography used and displayed in such a way that awareness of nature's importance is heightened.

The general population is attracted to colour, to the unusual, and to nature so perhaps photo books would be a great start. I did produce calendars of birds and fungi this year which were well received but I am yet to get them out there on a public platform past Facebook.

I have had a few photos published here and there, thank you Excio for choosing one of my images for your debut magazine. I have had a couple published in the NZPhotographer magazine also which is a massive thrill. It gives me encouragement to keep honing my craft.

Do you plan to make selling photographs your main source of income?

If I am able to produce the quality of photography that is required in order to be able to make a living of it, I would be living my dream. I am considering working with some studio options this year and I have my heart set on building a website. This will happen and I will incorporate my passions with my bread and butter.

Where can we find you online?

Excio Image Library

Any final words to leave us with?

2022 will be a year of growth and learning for me and I am very excited about Excio and where it might take my hobby and possibly turn it into an income source! Thank you to everyone involved, it has taken a huge amount of work and dedication to provide this opportunity to us photographers.

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