My first photographer job was at age 20, for a school photo company based in Geelong.
While the actual photography itself - setting up class photos and running the kids through a studio - was sometimes tedious, the travel lifestyle made up for it. We stayed in nice motels and ate at nice restaurants.
The constant work of often thousands of photos a day, and thousands of kilometres a week, meant we always had new gear and new cars.
The Nikon F3 was the latest 35mm camera used for portraits, and ours had a magazine holding 250 exposure rolls of film.
My first "overseas" trip was to Tasmania to cover several schools with a senior photographer, also named Phil.
At Hobart airport we retrieved our 17 pieces of luggage, mostly aluminium cases, to find the rental Commodore station wagon we ordered was unavailable until morning.
The upgrade to a then current model VL Calais would have been lovely, but our gear was designed to fit safely in the back of a wagon. It was an uncomfortable drive with cases stacked on top of cases on the back seat as we headed towards Hobart on Cambridge Road.
My first impression of Hobart was chimney smoke drifting over the suburbs as we passed the pylons of a bridge for the Tasman Highway under construction near Mornington.
Corpus Christie Primary School, with only 200 students, and again at John Paul 2nd Primary School, made for an easy Monday morning. Then, with the Calais swapped for a VL Commodore wagon, we aimed for Burnie.
The Bass Highway then was what is now Meander Valley Road between Hadspen and Deloraine, and it was tedious going. Why were Tasmanians content to do 80 along this road, we wondered. Phil made the most of the power button on the transmission as we roared past car after car, arriving at the Voyager Motel on nightfall.
Tuesday morning's job at Burnie was Stella Maris Primary School, followed by St Patrick's Primary School at Latrobe in the afternoon. On the trip back to Hobart, a floodlit church at Pontville caught our attention and we paused for a moment to to get a few night photos, while the Commodore ticked away on the roadside, cooling down after the exertion of overtaking every single car on the highway.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday passed by with only small schools to be photographed: Howrah and Waimea Heights primary schools, and St Cuthbert's, Lindisfarne. This left us with plenty of time to explore some of the sights of Hobart.
While having breakfast in the cafe on the ground floor at Hatchers Motor Inn, a rep from a rival car rental company offered us a much better deal than we were getting with the Commodore, and we transferred the gear into a white XF Falcon wagon. With a bench seat and column shift, it was a boring step down after the excitement of the fuel-injected VL.
With the weekend ahead and no schools, we left Hobart early for Port Arthur, looking forward to the opportunity to exercise our cameras for relaxation instead of work. By Victorian standards, 100 kilometres wasn't a long drive, but we discovered first hand that in Tasmania, the narrow winding roads were a different story.
The weather wasn't on our side for photography. The most interesting moment was at dusk on the way home. The first exposure was for seven minutes while I walked through the Port Arthur ruins, light painting the walls by firing the Metz flash, but the aperture was too small for the 64 ISO film. Of course I didn't find this out for two weeks when the roll of Kodachrome was developed. But other images were successful, the mix of Metz flash, dusk and film reciprocity failure providing an unusual light.
Monday morning at Geilston Bay High School, Hobart, was a lot of hard work. For some reason I didn't seem to be able to direct the students with the usual ease. I wondered, tongue in cheek, if in counting to three to take the photo, I was counting too high. I was pleased to see the gates of the school in the rear-view mirror as we began the drive to Launceston.
Tuesday was a day off for me, a good day to walk through the gorge and ride the chairlift while Phil did sales calls. By lunchtime, Phil was ready for a day off too and we went for a lovely drive to Mole Creek and King Solomons Caves, and after photographing Norwood Primary School, we spent the rest of our Wednesday on a trip to Liffey Falls.
Thursday was our last day in Tasmania. We photographed Launceston Christian School in the morning, packed the gear for the flight, drove back to Hobart to return the hire car and flew off into the sunset.