Naturalist | Photographer | Artist | Teacher | Publisher | Author |
Steve has no formal education and left school to work, half way through his first year in high school. Steve chose to educate himself and has focused all his life on gaining an understanding of how nature works.
Over the years, he has worked with scientists in the field from all disciplines within the natural sciences. In this time, he has accumulated a vast knowledge of the nature of Australia.
His particular interests are the ecology of natural ecosystems, the behaviour of marine fish and Australia’s fifty remaining Macropods (kangaroos and wallabies) which fascinate him.
Recently, he spent three years working with Australia’s two leading, bat scientists on a major work on the natural history of bats.
Between 1965 and 1975, Steve pioneered underwater nature photography in Australia and published the first book on this subject in 1974. His work was recognised by senior curators at the Australian Museum and, under their guidance, he photographed and collected specimens for their collections. His specialised interest was the taxonomy of both marine fishes and invertebrates, both subjects were little-known at that time. This pioneer work was later published in the largest ranges of natural history educational, mass-market publications ever seen, anywhere in the world. Many of these titles, since revised and updated, are still in print.
See ‘Facts Books’ ‘Wild Australia Guides’ and ‘Nature Watch’ ranges on the Pascal Press website. Steve took a hands-on approach Publisher when he developed these titles as he did with many of his publications.
Steve developed and published hundreds of mass-market, nature, educational titles between 1995 and 2012, including this book from The Amazing Facts series. He loved the challenge of developing complex nature topics in an entertaining format with general public appeal.
Two of the many books Steve has published that were particularly close to his heart – Wild Habitats – A Natural History of Australian Ecosystems with Allan Fox, published by Steve Parish Publishing for ABC Publishing in 2007 (now out of print) and A Natural History of Australian Bats – Working The Night Shift for CSIRO Publishing.
Steve is an emotionally-sensitive and inspirational photographer of Australian wildlife and landscapes and a champion of the protection of wildlife and the natural environment. He has photographed extensively underwater, on land and in the air. At 69 years of age, he still maintains a heavy, field photography schedule working in all states, all habitats plus capital cities and major regional towns, on an ongoing basis. His work is published extensively in calendars, diaries, children’s books, corporate, gift books wall decor and a many other paper and digital products.
The Nature Connect Photographic Library
The Nature Connect Library houses over 500,000 images and is wide-ranging in its style and content. This staggering collection of images covers Australian animals, plants, landscapes, cityscapes, people and places. A small cross section of this work can be seen on this site and through Nature Connect images can be purchased under licence.
The early days
I am, like most photographers, a sucker for shiny new toys. During my navy days, 1963 to 1974, one could buy a brand new Hasselblad camera in Asia for a fraction of the price here in Australia. I recall being so proud of my Hasselblad cameras that I set it at the end of the bed and stared at it until I fell asleep. I usually always slept with them in the same room, much to the annoyance of my partner.
In those days we used Ektachrome 64 ASA in our medium-format cameras. During the sixties and seventies, the only time I squeezed a trigger was underwater, and of course the camera was hidden away in an underwater housing. My biggest burden was that I only had twelve frames on a roll of film, no 22o (24 exposure) film then! I never would have dreamed that I would one day have memory cards that could allow hundreds of shots on a single dive. I had twelve, and treated every frame as if it were the last! I am sure this discipline made me more careful with focus, composition and exposure. I remember getting very upset if I squeezed off a shot of a fish too soon or too late and consequently wasted a frame. Such sacrilege.
I also remember, on so many occasions, the dreadful wait for the processed film to be returned from the lab 200 km away. When the processed film strip finally arrived, I would dash to the light box and, with immense anticipation, flatten the uncut film down and reach for the magnifying glass. The fleeting seconds between rolling out the film, seeing the colour, and leaning forward to magnify the beauty (or the muck ups!) were the best. It was thrilling to say the least. After all, in 20 m or more of water, only muted colour is visible to the eye, and only for a split second when the flash erupts. On the light box the truth is revealed. These were the years, from the beginning of my career until around 1974. After that, my “viewing” experience changed.
A move to smaller format
By 1974, I was exclusively using 35 mm film on land and a mixture of 35 mm and 120 mm film underwater. In this smaller format, the rolls of film rose to 36 and the film came back from the lab in little yellow Kodak boxes. It took a while to get used to the smaller format. I am sure my back and neck have suffered damage over the years from me craning forward to run the glass over those tiny frames of celluloid. By 1992, I began to photograph landscapes in a larger format (6×7 cm) and then by the mid-nineties, 6×17. I was producing large format books and staging exhibitions so I wanted to return to the large format when photographing static, complex subjects. I continued to photograph wildlife and plants in 35 mm format simply because the cameras provided a wider range of lenses.
A change to digital photography
I could see change appearing over the horizon long before I made the change to digital photography. I knew that once manufacturers developed equipment at around 12 megapixels, there was a fair chance digital photography would match the quality of scanned transparencies, in smaller reproductions at least. By 2005, the labour costs of processing film, cutting it, bagging it, barcoding and then having to scan each frame so that it could be used digitally for publishing was costing my company several hundred thousand dollars. There had to be a better way to operate, not even considering the many benefits digital photography afforded to a photographer who shoots as many frames a year as I do. With digital photography, I could actually see the picture when I took it! What an advantage.
I took my first tentative steps towards digital photography in mid-2005, with Nikon D2x half-frame cameras, and soon found the comfort zone at around 320ISO before the noise, especially in solid, dark colours began to appear. I kept my film cameras, just in case. In fact, I still do, although mainly because these days they are worth very little to sell! With digital photography, workflow sped up and costs fell dramatically. The photographic process was revealed anew as a sheer joy for me.
In 2007, the Nikon D3 arrived on the scene with its twelve frames a second, full-frame 12.5 mg sensor and the ability to photograph with little noise at ISO as high as 4000 . Early 2010 I invested in the newer version the D3s with ISO increases at least double that of the D3 and with high definition video, will it ever end! This enables a whole new world of nature photography to reveal itself to me. Five heavy boxes of cameras became one small backpack. My ability to speedily examine images, add metadata and cull images in the field or studio if I needed too, simply gave me back my life. My library grew rapidly. At the same time I invested in Nikon D3s camera bodies, I also sold off a range of 6×7 cameras, replacing them with the Hasselblad HD4-50 digital camera system. The results with this system have been outstanding and I have found that even the production of multi frame panoramic images is also an easy process, especially when stitched together in photo shop. Of course the work flow for my publishing these days has been considerably improved as a result of digital capture.
In 2009, with a library containing 400,000 celluloid images and 100,000 digital images, we decided to create our own prepress facility in our publishing company, do our own colour management for CMYK reproduction and control the entire creative development process from photography, design, editorial, colour management and prepress. The only thing we do not do ourselves is print the product. Costs reduced enormously. Hand in hand with digital technology came something else that has made a drastic change to my life — the internet. Anyone with the will and a few hundred dollars can create magical pictures and share them with the entire world (as we do) via the internet. Now, as I look to the future I see so many great opportunities to diversify product and spread our nature connection message. Currently we are actively exploring the addition of electronic publishing to our expanding range of products. As a result, as I greet my mid sixties, I am still buzzing with the joy of teaching children to grab a camera and join me on a very exciting journey.
As a photographic artist, Steve feels deeply about, and has a great passion for, Australia’s nature.
He sees himself working in two creative spaces as a photographer. The first, is through the eye of a naturalist/educator. The second, as an artist. At times, these two spaces overlap. However, as a naturalist/educator he is more inclined to compose and produce his images with clear, story-telling features. When in the headspace of artist, he is more inclined to maximise the emotional pull of a composition through colour, form, texture or line. As time goes on, and especially in the digital world, he is more inclined to work in solitude and in a calm space, where his own emotions in the moment are skilfully incorporated in the production of the image.
While at the point of capture, he can apply a full gambit of techniques to realise these objectives, he can also apply additional emotional effect during the post-production process. As a photographer/publisher, he sees words as being essential and complementary to his story-telling processes.
Steve sees his role as a teacher in two ways.
Firstly, through his comprehensive and inspiring publications, especially those on natural history, photography and how to connect to nature for the betterment of body, mind and spirit. Environmental education lies at the very core of what has motivated him throughout his life. Secondly, through his seminar and workshop activities, both in ‘classroom’ settings and in the field, at a practical level. Over many years, Steve has developed his workshop-teaching methods away from ‘sharing how he performs his craft’, to ‘teaching others’ how to achieve their own creative and aspirational outcomes, whatever they may be. He is incredibly passionate about teaching others.
For many years, Steve has wanted to start his own school, teaching photography and connecting to nature. He now intends to do so via this website.
Steve has been working with school children teaching photography for over a decade. This work is usually done in association with one of Australia’s wildlife, fauna parks. He has found these activities to be richly rewarding, remembering full well that his own connection to photography, as a boy was the result of encouragement from his elders.
Steve is as comfortable teaching in corporate settings as he is communicating with children in outdoor settings.
In the process of teaching a workshop student how to drive a complex focus system on a digital single lens reflex camera,
From the late 60s to the mid 80s, Steve’s photographic articles on temperate marine diving and natural history were published in several magazines. In the late 70s and early 80s, he diversified into the production of books and promotional activities employed by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service. In 1981, Steve formed his own service-based company, Steve Parish and Associates, operating on a full time basis. The business provided photography and publishing services to a range of clients, from Rigby Publishers in Adelaide to most of Australia’s major zoos and fauna parks.
In 1985, he formed Steve Parish Publishing. The annual turnover of this business peaked in 1996 at $15 million, with a staff of 125, in-house prepress, a national sales force, a client base of 3,500 retailers and product sales of 2 million items per annum. Steve Parish Publishing specialised in four publishing categories – Natural history, Children’s, Australiana, Guide and Travel and General.
As a result of the 2011 floods in Queensland Steve Parish Publishing was sold to Pascal Press, Sydney in 2012. Steve continues to create new publications for the Steve Parish Range – Pascal Press on an ongoing basis.
Awards and Recognition
- 2014 Australian Marine Conservation Society Honorary Life Membership for lifetime commitment to conservation in Australia
- 2012 Australian Institute Of Photography Queensland Industry Lifetime Achievement Award Professional Photography
- 2008, author Raoul Slater wins Best Illustrated Whitley Award for Growing Up with Australian Birds, published by Steve Parish Publishing
- 2008 shortlisted for Children’s Book Council Awards, Eve Pownall Awards for Fact File: Australia’s Deadly & Dangerous Animals, by Michael Cermak, published by Steve Parish Publishing
- 2008 Steve Parish awarded Order of Australia Medal for services to the publishing industry through the publication of Australian nature.
- 2007 shortlisted for Children’s Book Council Awards, Eve Pownall Awards for Amazing Facts about Australian Dinosaurs, Steve Parish Publishing & Queensland Museum
- 2007 shortlisted for Galley Club Award for Innovative Design for Fan Palm Address Book
- 2003 Wilderness Society Environment Award for Outstanding Environmental Publishing
- 2003 shortlisted in the Children’s Book Council Eve Pownall Award for Information Books for ARK: Discover & Learn about Australian Forests and Woodlands
- 2001 Winner in the Whitley Awards in the Best Popular Zoology Book category for the Encyclopedia of Australian Wildlife
- 2000 shortlisted in the Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature for the Encyclopedia of Australian Wildlife
- 1999 Australian Photographic Society’s Award for Contribution to Nature Photography
- 1998 Certificate of Commendation in the Whitley Awards for the best book in the category Illustrated Works for the casebound book Australian Birds by Peter Slater
- 1998 Certificate of Commendation in the Whitley Awards for the best books in the category Junior Secondary Series for the Discover & Lea rn Amazing Facts Books
- 1996 Certificate of Merit in the Printing Industries of America Premier Print Awards
- 1996 Gold Medal for Casebound Books in the 13th National Print Awards
- 1995 Bronze Medal for Casebound Books in the 12th National Print Awards
- 1994 The Galley Club Award for Excellence in Book Production and Manufacture
- Pioneered Australiana Seasonal, Australiana Greetings, Australian Natural History concepts in the Australian publishing industry and today has the best known ranges in these genres
- In the early 90’s pioneered the marketing of ‘Australian Nature Relaxation Music’ for Tony O’Conner in Australia successfully maintaining the highest sales of a music genre (Relaxation music) over 7 years, receiving platinum and gold record sales figures on all releases over a seven year period.
- Pioneered retailing in Australia Post from their first store up until 2012.
- Created and launched Australia’s most successful trade range of Australian content family educational Australian social and natural history theme products in July 1997 – The Amazing Facts About Australia Range. The range went on to sell over 3 million units in the firs three years with most of the book components of the range remaining in the market now for 17 years. The range has recently been upgraded and is still in print under the Pascal Press brand and under Blake Education a Pascal Press subsidiary, these books, and other associated products, like the Wild Australia Guides, are being introduced into school libraries across Australia.
- Launched publishing for children inJuly 1995 with the wildly successful ‘Connect A Child To Nature’ Range. This was followed in 1976 with ‘Albert and Friends’, an Australian Wildlife character range created by renowned illustrator Simon McLean.
- Created and launched Australia’s first and still only wildlife children’s educational book range in February 2001 – the Nature Watch Range.
- Developed, and is continuing to develop, an extensive fiction and non fiction range for children books that is entirely devoted to Australian content.
Gallery of some of the Products and Merchandising – Steve Parish Publishing 1987 – 2011
Steve’s early, writing work was published in diving magazines. In 1974, he published his first book, ‘Australia’s Ocean of Life’ Later projects involved journalistic work for the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, zoo publications and, in 1986, ‘Photographing Australia’, his first major book. This book was one of the first national, Australiana, pictorial books on the market and sold over 100,000 copies over half via mail order. It focussed on his extensive travels from 1981 through til 1984.
In the early days of Steve Parish Publishing, 1987 – 1989, Steve wrote all the text for the Companies publications. However, as the company expanded, and with the employment of a full-time author and editor, Steve wrote mainly on subjects of a personal or specialist nature. In 2005 Steve wrote the popular ‘Photograph Australia a comprehensive and inspirational guide’ , and he is currently planing a new edition.
In 1984, he wrote his first major book on his travels around Australia. Since then, he has written several other titles on photography and personal experiences exploring nature, including a major book on his 50 years of photographing Australia.
He is currently developing a major work on nature photography containing writings on nature inspiration and creativity, subjects close to his heart. He is also writing extensively for this website.
Steve is currently increasing his writing for magazines and in digital publications. ‘Wildlife Conservation – A Journey Towards Empathy’, a recent article, covers his personal journey in wildlife conservation. It was also published as a cover feature in the popular magazine ‘Australian Wildlife’.
Steve’s books on photography are popular, having sold many thousands of copies.
At age nine, Steve Parish was introduced to nature through the underwater world. He soon became a keen spearfishing and hunting enthusiast. During the fifties and sixties, Australians’ attitude to the environment was vastly different to what it is today.
Introduction to Photography
Steve was only sixteen when he met his mentor, Igo Oak, Australia’s first underwater nature photographer. It was then, in the early 60’s, that his fascination with marine life was transferred from hunting with a spear gun to recording his discoveries on film. The idea of being able to share his discoveries with others was captivating, even though his earliest efforts were on the blurry side.
A Naturalist is Born
In 1963, he enrolled as a navy diver for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). While in Sydney undergoing training, he joined the New South Wales Underwater Research Group, a band of extremely enthusiastic underwater naturalists, who collected and photographed specimens for the Australian Museum. Encouraged by senior museum staff, Steve and his colleagues all felt a pioneering spirit, discovering and recording numerous marine species that were new to science.
In 1974, Steve resigned from the RAN and headed north, where he joined the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1975, as a wildlife photographer. For the next five years, he had the fantastic opportunity of working with the Service’s specialist scientists to photograph and document a range of animals from across Queensland’s diverse habitats. Steve resigned in 1981 to freelance for a range of publishers and clients, Australia-wide.
Birth of Steve Parish Publishing
Initially, Steve travelled the continent as a photojournalist, creating books on the Great Dividing Range, the River Murray, the Outback and Kakadu for a major, Australian publisher. Then, he started his own company, Steve Parish Publishing, on New Year’s Day 1985. For Steve, inspiring others and watching them become involved in promoting a personal connection to nature is his greatest reward.
Above left and clockwise: Filming for an ABC production on Raine Island, 1976. Photographing in the deep waters off Jervis Bay while working on his first book ‘Australia’s Ocean of Life’, 1966, and photographing waterbird behaviour for the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1977