A rare shot of Ian Gow at work, snapped by his wife Joanne.
A rare shot of Ian Gow at work, snapped by his wife Joanne.

Ian's eyes are wide open

IAN Gow likes to live on the wild side.

A regular on the sidelines at The Great Western Hotel's Nissan Navara Rodeo Arena in Rockhampton, Ian can be found with his face firmly planted behind a camera, capturing the action of competitors in rodeo events around the region.

"The rodeo is just an interest," Ian said, admitting the closest he had ever been to the action himself was riding poddies as a kid.

"I just like the sport, and I like the people."

But his love of watching wild action doesn't stop there.

For a number of years, Ian has travelled to remote locations all over the globe capturing nature in all its wild glory.

Ian's thirst for adventure started at a young age.

On his last day of school in Victoria, Ian purchased a backpack and the next day, aged 17, headed off around Australia, doing station work and odd jobs.

He did have plans to make his fortune in mining at Hamersley Iron, in Western Australia, but turned up in week one of a 13-week strike.

"So, that didn't work," he laughed.

He continued his travels and along the way he met his wife, Joanne.

They ended up in Central Queensland and for years had one of the biggest milk runs in Rockhampton.

After owning a number of other businesses in the region, including the Richardson Road Foodworks for 24 years, they now own the Biloela Newsagency, travelling back and forth from their Bouldercombe home.

It was while reading about safari tours in photography magazines in the newsagency that Ian discovered his wild photography interest.

He took the plunge and responded to an advertisement offering photo tours in Patagonia with World Photo Adventures, which not only planned tours all over the world, but organised the travel and accommodation, too.

"We've been going on these trips ever since."

Ian has joined more than 15 of the tours and his travels include Alaska, Namibia, Zambia, Kruger National Park, Antarctica, Botswana, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Rwanda and Madagascar.

Joanne, who had limited mobility, has been able to join him on most of them.

This cheeky pair was snapped by Ian Gow at Chobe National Park in Botswana, Africa.
This cheeky pair was snapped by Ian Gow at Chobe National Park in Botswana, Africa. Ian Gow

Ian said he particularly enjoyed Africa, where he had been four times, but he had plans for two more trips next year.

Photography, Ian said, was something he had always been interested in, but the tours got him serious about improving his skills.

And he admitted, while packing for a tour, clothing was at a minimum, so he could take all his camera gear.

Despite the range of stunning images he has collected over the years, Ian never tried to market them commercially.

"I do them just for fun," he said.

Gorilla treks were his favourite, because "they are fun to go and watch, and you get amazingly close to all the action," he said.

"The silverbacks: we have to stand back to let them past!"

While the treks were an adventure in themself, Ian explained there were different levels of difficulty to choose from.

He described a trek of hours of solid walking to reach a photographic destination, led by local guides and a man with a machete clearing the way.

"You get one hour with (the gorillas), but it might take you three hours to get to them."

It was worth the walk, he said, describing watching a group of gorillas - 38 of them in the extended family, with newborn babies, little ones wrestling just like little (human) boys, through to the alpha male.

Yet on other adventures, like in Africa, Ian said you didn't get out of vehicles, mostly for safety reasons.

One experience he had was following a pack of wild dogs as they went hunting and watching a den of pups in action.

"It is really incredible."

And despite his experience in the field, Ian said it was essential to go with local guides, not only because of their local knowledge, but because they were a lot more observant, when spotting animals.

"Leopards are there, they are just hard to spot. They blend in to the tree and you just don't notice them."

As well as the wildlife, Ian said the lifestyle in the countries could be somewhat of a culture shock, with bad roads, even worse drivers, minimal electricity and machinery, and major clearing of the countryside.

He said he had seen one of the most unusual of the large predators, the rare Fossa, in Madagascar in the wild. And he had witnessed the lifestyle of people using ox carts and digging rice paddies by hand.

"Madagascar is very poor... 90% of the population lives on less than $2 a day."

Ian described how the cabins at the King's Pool camp in Botswana were situated right on the water's edge and the wildlife roamed free around the facility.

There had been hyenas and lions fighting in the driveway, hippos running between the rooms into the water and leopards sitting outside the door.

He said this also meant escorts were needed when moving about, especially after dark.

A silverback gorilla in Rwanda might look menacing, but in this case it was just a big yawn.
A silverback gorilla in Rwanda might look menacing, but in this case it was just a big yawn.

Not all of Ian's encounters have been of the animal kind.

While in Namibia in 2008, they happened to come across Australia's Getaway television show filming, and Joanne ended up speaking on camera, which was later televised on our screens.

"Only one person I know recognised us," Ian joked.

And despite all the travels, and the stunning photographs he has already captured, Ian said he was still searching for some elusive images to add to his collection.

Explaining that killer whales were hard to get good pictures of, Ian said it would be one thing he will be aiming to snap on a return to Antarctica next year.

"I have seen them, followed them, but I'm still looking for a good shot."

Not all of his adventures have been overseas.

In 2009, he took part in a 300km walk across the Simpson Desert, with a small group of people and 18 camels to carry their gear.

He recalled phoning a mate and saying "I'm going to do a walk across the Simpson Desert, want to come?".

His mate said 'yes' and off they went, for more than three weeks of walking.

"It was a complete escape from the rest of the world. We didn't have a wash for three weeks!"

Another Aussie adventure he's planning to do next year is to ride a bicycle from Carnarvon in Western Australia to Yeppoon.

"It is just for something to do."

He is not letting the fact he hasn't ridden a bike in more than 35 years get in the way of his plans for the epic event he estimates will take about a month.

"I am picking up my bike next week," Ian chuckled.

"I've got to get in shape a bit first."

Ian is a firm believer you need new experiences to help you grow as a person.

"You've got to open your eyes to the rest of the world," said the 54-year-old father of two grown children.

"I have got a bucket list a mile long."


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