Ornithologist and Photographer
This is My Story
Graeme Chapman spent most of his working life as Field Ornithologist and Photographer with the CSIRO Division of Wildlife Research, mainly in Canberra but also in Perth. He is now one of Australia’s most well-known and respected wildlife photographers, specialising mainly in birds and spends much of his time travelling with his wife Pam around the country, often in remote places, in search of rare and endangered species.
At age eleven I won a copy of Cayley’s “What Bird is That?” as a school prize and no doubt that was where it all started. Not until I was 18 when I took my first job with CSIRO in Sydney and became acquainted with the local birdwatching community did I become seriously interested in birds. Suddenly, with new found riches to spend and an urge to record what I was seeing, I bought my first camera. For a while the pictures were simply records, but I was satisfied. I had never heard of a loupe.
It was not until 1962 when I joined CSIRO’s Division of Wildlife Research in Canberra and met the renowned photographer Ederic Slater, that I was to learn something about real photography. Purchase of some Leica equipment was my first step forward. Fieldwork with CSIRO on a variety of birds meant lots of travel to far flung places and although photographic opportunities on field trips were few, the urge to return to those places was strong, resulting in many a long and hurried journey on annual holidays.
When my wife and I were transferred to Perth in 1969, we went in a battered old Landrover via Cape York and Darwin the long way around. Our 14 year stay in WA allowed us to explore that vast wilderness like few others have, or ever will. Wilderness in Australia is an increasingly rare commodity.
On our return to Canberra in 1984, a career change from Field Ornithologist to Divisional Photographer honed my skills in many other areas but birds were still my passion and I continued to pursue them at every opportunity.
In ‘retirement’ a seven year stint at Jervis Bay, on the south coast of New South Wales, took me back to my beloved coastal heathlands where I took my first photographs. Development eventually chased us away from there and now, near the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland, I am learning that what birds do in a tropical environment is very different from down south, and so is photography.
I was recently awarded the 2004 John Hobbs Medal for services to amateur ornithology, having been involved with amateur bird groups (mainly Birds Australia, formerly the RAOU) since I first joined in 1956. My pictures and articles have been published widely, particularly in Wingspan, the Birds Australia magazine and in the Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds plus a myriad of other books and publications both in Australia and overseas. My continuing passion will be the birds of Australia and their behaviour, especially those that are peculiar to this great continent, the real Australian birds.
In establishing this website, apart from making my pictures available for all to see, I hope to share a wealth of information gained during my lifetime of experience with Australian birds, both as an amateur and a professional. So please look, listen and learn!
There is so much to learn, so much to see.