I had little idea what the trip was about at the time of the call.
I didn't know exactly where we were going, what were we doing and why.
The assignment, I was told, was to tell the story of the people who live along the Darling River in outback NSW - to capture their struggle in a hostile environment.
A week later I'd be sent out with new partners on the Forgotten River project, writer John Hanscombe and podcaster Tom Melville, to capture images for this four-part podcast series.
As someone who had travelled only as far west as Wagga Wagga, a journey into the far-west of NSW promised a new and challenging experience for me as a photographer.
I didn't have many expectations. I just knew the distances we planned to cover were enormous.
Banjo Paterson's Waltzing Matilda, a song learnt in childhood, kept playing in my head. It was the only cultural reference I had.
As for photography, I didn't really know what to expect, so I packed enough gear to cover all bases.
I knew I'd be photographing people, something I do routinely in my role at The Canberra Times. But I'd be doing it in a totally unfamiliar environment. And I'd be trying to capture that environment as well.
The landscape changes became apparent on the Hay Plain, a vast, flat, featureless landscape in all directions. It was surreal.
The polar opposite to the rolling foothills of Canberra, and the tall seemingly alpine mountains of the Brindabella ranges.
Photography out this way turns abstract. An endless horizon, of either sky, or flat red dirt, speckled with small shrubs and the occasional tree to break up the monotony.
The uninitiated might be tempted to dismiss it as uninteresting. It lacks the power of an epic mountain range, the allure of a rainforest, or the colourful blue hues of the ocean.
Its visual power is expressed differently - in its scale, colour and rawness.
So how do you capture it? First, you have to adjust your mind's lens. The outback challenges you to look deeply at the environment.
You have to find the shot, rarely will it ever come find you. The outback is full of quirks, and there are countless interesting Easter eggs hidden in the most unlikely of places. The eye is in the detail.
Listen to the full story on the Forgotten River podcast.
More from the Forgotten River team:
- Listen to Forgotten River above or find it on your favourite podcast player.
- Meet the team behind the Forgotten River.
- Learn about Wilcannia. Before it was a COVID hotspot.
- Find out what happened after the historic Menindee Lake fish kills
- Hear the stories of those challenging water policy to save Australia's outback river
You'll find many surprises out there. There's an abundance of life. Sheep, cattle, kangaroos, emus, wild goats, feral pigs, echidnas and wonderful birdlife.
The first sighting of an emu, or a wedgetail eagle lumbering into the sky triggers childlike excitement.
The outback teems with life, something any budding nature photographer would cherish.
It's like a drug, an addiction, and once you leave you feel the need to dive right back in.
I'm sure it will surprise you, just as it surprised me.