The Full Time Hobby
July 7, 2017
Words & Photos: Talman Masden
Growing up in New Zealand, I’ve always had an appreciation for the outdoors. — camping, hiking, fishing, diving - the outdoors became my playground. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, however, when my dad, brothers and I took a road trip from Auckland down to Queenstown that it struck me just how beautiful New Zealand really was. Ever since that trip I’ve felt like the middle of nowhere is home. Be it up a mountain, beside a lake, deep in a forest or next to the roar of an ocean, I find comfort out in the wild.
I was encouraged by a friend to take a camera on this trip; he had seen some of my iPhone snaps and thought I had an eye for composition and would do well with a proper camera. While I initially doubted him, I obliged and very quickly found a level of creativity that I had obviously repressed during years of university and "business world". Photography quickly turned into a huge passion. I started spending my weekends flying to new locations with free rental car returns. I would sleep in the car so I could spend my time taking photos at the crack of dawn, as the sun was setting, and of the stars throughout the night. Often it ended with me pulling an all-nighter – driving from Christchurch to Auckland with just a couple of power naps – but I always felt alive and energised from those adventures.
I started sharing my adventures and photographs on Instagram and people began to take an interest in what I was getting up to. I quickly made friends all over the country through the online community, and while travelling we would plan to meet up and head out on photography missions. This was invaluable for me as I had no formal training in photography. I learnt everything I know in a way that worked for me – out in the field from the people around me.
“What started as a hobby for me very quickly became something infinitely bigger than I ever could have imagined, but only after I chose to embrace a state of doing, rather than wishing.”
In 2016 I was awarded the prestigious title of ‘New Zealand Geographic Young Photographer of the Year’. This was an unexpected accomplishment for me, especially as I had only been behind a camera lens for about a year and a half. It was around the same time that I decided to leave the office life for good and chase sunrises and sunsets full time. People always ask me how I managed to make the transition, and to be honest I can’t really tell you. I can only liken it to Tarzan swinging through the jungle. I’m constantly swinging my way forward, letting go of one vine, trusting there will be another waiting for me to grab a hold of before I lose momentum. It really is quite the rush.
It goes without saying that my favourite things to photograph are monster sized landscapes, mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, beaches and the like. Luckily we’ve got them all here in New Zealand and the chase has taken me to some pretty remote and wild places. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time following braided rivers up to the source — the mountains. It’s pretty special being in these places, especially when you’re up high amongst the elements, where you have to rely on yourself and your gear to get you through whatever Mother Nature throws at you.
Recently my friend Sam and I decided it was about time we got to the top of Mt Ruapehu for an over-nighter. Having spent many seasons snowboarding on these slopes I was excited to finally get to the top and really appreciate the view. It was a bit of a slog getting up the exposed scree sections, especially as we’d gotten our timing wrong and ended up having to start from the bottom without the usual chair lift ride up the first section. Right on sunset we were climbing the final big section of scree; clouds had rolled in obscuring the view below, and to the right Ngauruhoe was peeking through the rolling clouds. To the left we could see Mt Taranaki with the sun setting right next to it, and the wispy high clouds were turning pink. I couldn’t help but stop and soak it all in – as well as snap a few shots of this jaw dropping moment.
We got to the top after dark and despite being tired I barely slept, buzzing at the thought of the morning views. Around 4am Sam and I realised we were both still awake so we peeked outside and were greeted with clear skies and more stars than most people have ever seen in a single lifetime. We spent a few hours focusing on astrophotography before making our way towards the Crater Lake where we had planned to catch the sunrise.
Seeing the sun come up and the sky explode into technicolor was truly spectacular – it was as if the sky was on steroids! What made it that much better was knowing that no one else in the North Island was watching that sun rise higher up than us. At that moment we were above everyone and everything. After taking the time to be “present in the moment”, it was time to hit the road and get back down the mountain. I don’t know if you have ever run down a scree slope, but it’s million times more fun and faster than going up! In no time at all we were at the Whakapapa Knoll Ridge Café drinking coffee, eating pancakes, and toasting to an epic mission.
Being constantly dynamic and always on the go is what keeps me motivated. This year alone I’ve conquered mountains, rafted in remote rivers, watched every single sunrise and sunset from a new location for an entire month, been to every region in New Zealand, spent time in a high country sheep station, chased wildfires — the list goes on. Chasing your dreams - it’s a verb. What started as a hobby for me very quickly became something infinitely bigger than I ever could have imagined, but only after I chose to embrace a state of doing, rather than wishing. My encouragement to you is that whatever your passion is — action it. Become the verb you dream about.
Follow Talman on Instagram @talman.