TOP SHOT: Hervey Bay photographer Michael Smith displays his AIPP Gold Award-winning image.
TOP SHOT: Hervey Bay photographer Michael Smith displays his AIPP Gold Award-winning image. Katrina Corcoran

Bay tradie swaps tools for camera

A TRADIE turned professional photographer has captured the eye of judges at a national competition, taking out one of his industry's highest accolades.

Hervey Bay's Michael Smith won a Gold Distinction Award at the Australian Professional Photography Awards for a picture of a whale and her calf taken underwater in Tahiti.

He also received a Silver Distinction Award for a close-up of a whale's eye, and two Silver Awards for a local osprey carrying two fish and another shot of a whale and calf taken in Tonga.

His success earned him a Master of Photography with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography.

One of his award-winning digital images has been selected for the Team Australia nature entry for the 2019 World Photographic Cup, which has its finals in Norway in April.

Michael said 2018 had been a year of success and consolidation for his career.

"It's really nice to be able to carve out a business doing something you are passionate about," he said.

"Before moving to Hervey Bay 10 years ago I was a boilermaker and draftsman in Brisbane, but photography has been my hobby since the age of six.

"I want to show people how incredible our environment is, and my photography is about our connection with nature and how it is important to protect it."

Since taking the plunge into his new career in 2008, Michael has been working towards achieving the elite Master of Photography, which is gained through consistency at the national competition level, year after year.

In 2016, Michael opened his Into the Wild Photography gallery at the Hervey Bay marina, then moved it to Charlton Esplanade, Scarness, last year.

The gallery has been a huge success, providing an outlet for his work.

Michael spends a lot of time there perfecting the print quality of his images.

Despite the fact he has captured many rare moments in nature, he doesn't spend weeks or months out in the wild or on the ocean.

"I take most of my photos on weekends and holidays, only sometimes during the week," he said.

"The underwater shots are taken while snorkelling with the whales in Tonga and Tahiti, and other whale images are taken in Hervey Bay."

Next week he and partner Jana Siedenhans are going to Lady Elliot Island to add to his collection of incredible reef images.

They also plan to run a series of photography tours next year.