PILOT Scott Bridle's latest role as a landscape photographer is winning him accolades.
The Australian outback is one of the perennial favourites in the photographer’s portfolio: it has been shot from every conceivable angle, reflected in primary colour blues and ochres and reproduced on dozens of tourist postcards and T-shirts.
So when helicopter pilot Scott Bridle takes to his chopper to shoot the ground beneath him, he is aware he is joining a long line of photographers who have had their turn at capturing the heart of the Australian landscape.
"The outback has been shot a lot and I am aware of the need to do something different," he says.
"So the things I try and capture are the things that mean a lot to me.
"Scott takes pictures in the most remote parts of northern and central Australia – large cattle stations in the Barkly Tableland, starkly coloured areas around the Gulf of Carpentaria and the evocative Victoria River country in the heart of the Northern Territory.
On the ground he photographs the ringers and stockmen who work the large stations, in the air he reduces the cattle pads coming in to water to speck-like ants swarming across a page.
So tiny are their figures they are rendered almost abstract, more similar to Aboriginal dot paintings than photographs. "I love working with people on the land, and I am proud of where I come from," Scott says.
"Even as a child, I was a real bush kid, it’s in my blood.
"When I go away from it I actually get homesick."
Scott can barely remember a time when he wasn’t angling for a good vantage point on his parent’s farm from which to take a decent picture.
He grew up on a large sheep and cattle property south of Roma, in western Queensland, which provided him with ample opportunities to record the things he loved: the station workers, his horses and bikes.
He has never taken a photography class in his life, but inherited the artist’s eye from both of his parents who have an abiding appreciation for painting and photography.
"I have always taken photos," he says.
"And because I always admired the bush, I always took photos of it. To this day, I have a lot of respect for the stockmen and women who know how to manage a property properly."
When Scott left home at 18 he headed to some of the most remote parts of northern and central Australia to get experience as a stockhand, where he spent many years working for Stanbroke station.
He eventually got a job mustering in a chopper, but it took him a good 12 months before he started taking aerial photos.
"I didn’t jump in to it, I knew I had to prove myself and be very careful flying at the same time," Scott says.
"I certainly didn’t want it getting back to the boss that I was spending my time taking photos while mustering."
The pivotal moment came when Scott was ferrying another photographer around in the chopper, and he found himself becoming increasingly frustrated.
"I was lining up these shots for him in the chopper, but it was like he couldn’t see them,’’ he says. “He was taking pictures of pelicans when there was these amazing images beneath us."
Scott promptly contacted his mother and asked her to drive in to town and buy him a high-quality digital camera and post it to him. "I got up in the chopper and started to take photos straight away," he says.
Scott has since moved to Waverley, in south-western Queensland, and says despite its relative remoteness, it pales in comparison to the northern parts of Australia.
"To get some of those aerial images you really need to go to the farthest parts of the country," he says.
He has also set up his own mustering business, which allows him to earn a crust while doing what he loves.
"I have never had any interest in moving up the ladder because that takes you away from the land," he says.
"Some guys want to go from mustering in the chopper to flying the bigger choppers. I am happy to be staying in the little bush mustering machine, that way I can stay close to the land and close to the cattle."