Jack of all trades

The Photographer's Mail - - Column - Peter Bush

Peter Bush sits down for a trim and a chat with Lance Barnard, to dis­cuss Barnard’s var­i­ous ca­reers in the realms of bar­ber­ing, hunt­ing, and pho­tog­ra­phy

For the past 20 years or so, I have had my hair cut by Lance Barnard and, more re­cently, both my hair and my beard trimmed, such is the age­ing process. Along with the sheer plea­sure of stretch­ing out in the tra­di­tional and very com­fort­able over­sized bar­ber’s chair in the Welling­ton Courte­nay Place shop, the chats we share are also very en­joy­able.

Sixty-four-year-old Barnard is a tal­ented and ac­com­plished pho­tog­ra­pher, a wa­ter­colour artist, a skilled hunter of all New Zealand game, and much more. Af­ter ini­tially at­tend­ing schools in the Hutt Val­ley and then Wainuiomata Col­lege, he started work at age 15 in a Welling­ton City bar­ber­shop. Barnard said that, back in those days, your day be­gan with a “good morn­ing”, fol­lowed by the hang­ing up of the se­nior bar­ber’s jack­ets, and not too much backchat while you slowly learned the trade. At the same time, he went back to night school, stud­ied for his school-cer­tifi­cate exam, and also found that he had ta­lent in draw­ing and wa­ter­colour paint­ing.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing his bar­ber­shop ap­pren­tice­ship, he spent most of the next seven years work­ing as a govern­ment deer-culler, re­quir­ing long stretches of time liv­ing rough in rugged bush country. Be­sides hunt­ing the an­i­mals, Barnard was able to pho­to­graph many of the deer in their adopted habi­tat. That was back in the ’70s, and, along with be­com­ing a ca­pa­ble pro­fes­sional hunter, he had started on a par­al­lel pho­to­graphic ca­reer, be­gin­ning with a Prak­tica 1B 35mm film cam­era. He was then in­tro­duced to the Olym­pus range of cam­eras by John Johns — a highly tal­ented and skilled pho­tog­ra­pher who worked for the New Zealand Forestry De­part­ment. Barnard had fondly thought that his next cam­era would be a Mi­nolta, but Johns won the day and con­vinced him to buy an Olym­pus OM-1 cam­era with an f/1.8 lens. It was one of the first in New Zealand, and, be­cause of a few mi­nor body scratches, it cost him $200 in­stead of $250.

With his pho­tog­ra­phy ex­per­tise fast de­vel­op­ing (he had added a 300mm f/4.5 to his OM-1), he found that he was shoot­ing deer more of­ten with a cam­era than a ri­fle.

It came about that he had been able to track and pho­to­graph the elu­sive sam­bar deer in the swampy land of the lower Manawatu — a feat rarely achieved even by many of the skilled hunters who tried track­ing the se­cre­tive an­i­mals. This led to his tal­ents with the cam­era be­ing more widely rec­og­nized and also broke the jinx with some of his bosses, when, on see­ing his pic­tures of the deer in the swampy ter­rain, one of them com­mented, “If you can pho­to­graph sam­bar deer, you have to be some­thing very spe­cial.”

In a dra­matic change of life­style, he re­turned to Welling­ton, mar­ried his wife, Ur­sula, and went back to his orig­i­nal trade at the bar­ber­shop. His clients ranged right across the busi­ness world, in­clud­ing many of the diplo­matic corps, and they var­ied from con­fi­dent joke-shar­ing Amer­i­cans to the very for­mal and po­lite Ja­panese am­bas­sador. They were the best of times, with the ap­point­ment book al­ways full, and, even to­day, he still re­grets get­ting out of the busi­ness, but he did leave it in the hands of good mates John Man­gin and Ian Yar­lett.

His next move was to head to the back country once more, this time to Cen­tral Hawke’s Bay to take up a job with the rab­bit board — a com­mon move for many pro­fes­sional hunters af­ter mar­riage, as houses were pro­vided for mar­ried cou­ples.

Even­tu­ally, Barnard re­turned to Welling­ton and to his orig­i­nal bar­ber­shop trade.

Over time, he had been able to re­place his ri­fle with his cam­era, and, along with busy days in the bar­ber­shop, he con­tin­ues to pur­sue his twin loves of spend­ing time in the bush and pho­tog­ra­phy, which has re­sulted in an ex­pand­ing col­lec­tion of stun­ning pic­tures of New Zealand wildlife.

An­i­mals he has cap­tured through his lens range from im­pe­ri­ous stags roar­ing their de­fi­ance in the Tararua Range to a sleek frog re­lax­ing in his bush pool.

When ques­tioned about his long­est and tough­est day in the great out­doors, he replied, “Wak­ing up in the Rear­don Hut at the head of the South Is­land’s Dob­son Val­ley, I was greeted with over a foot of freshly fallen snow coat­ing the val­ley floor, so I set off to tramp the 35km to an­other forestry hut at Hux­ley Gorge.

“As well as my usual tram­per’s pack full of gear, that day I car­ried two Olym­pus cam­era bod­ies, a cou­ple of tele lenses, and [a] great mix of other cam­era gear, in­clud­ing my tri­pod. That was one of my long­est days, slog­ging all the way through the wet snow, and [I was] so thank­ful to reach the old base hut in the dark … spe­cial days to look back on.”

Barnard still uses Olym­pus gear, and has the E5 and E520 cam­eras. Nor­mally when in the bush, he has a 50–200mm lens at­tached, with a 2x tele­con­verter ready to use. He will some­times carry his 600mm f/6.5 su­per-tele­photo lens in his day­pack — the fact that this lens weighs 2.8kg he qual­i­fies by de­scrib­ing how very sharp and pos­i­tive it is with its rack-and-pin­ion fo­cus­ing.

Shortly af­ter our in­ter­view, Barnard and a friend were leav­ing for a week pho­tograph­ing and re­lax­ing in the Tararua Range. They were trav­el­ling by he­li­copter, so, this time, there would be plenty of room for those ex­tra lit­tle lux­u­ries that make camp life so much eas­ier as the years clock up. Mean­while, I will have to wait un­til the beard grows scruffy again be­fore I get to hear tales of his lat­est pho­to­graphic ex­ploits.

Lance Barnard

Lance Barnard at work in his shop

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