IT WAS a stirring sense of adventure that drew Elise Derwin away from her inner-city Sydney home to a remote Top End buffalo hunting camp.
Although the shift was a culture shock for the then-vegetarian, she almost instantly fell in love with the Northern Territory, its landscapes and its people.
It was the perfect spot for storytellers, which Elise is, so she later forged a career as a press photographer.
And just over a year ago, it was that same sense of adventure that took her away from her permanent job at the NT News to making the “plunge” to become a freelancer at Lismore in Northern NSW.
She hasn’t looked back and she has since secured a contract as PBR’s ring-side photographer.
If you have been to a PBR you might have caught a glimpse of Elise in action.
It’s her job to float behind the shoots and around the arena to capture the thrills, tri- umphs and moments of bullriding glory.
Her big city days are behind her, and now it’s all about buffaloes, bull riding and building a business from photography.
Looking back, Elise said it wasn’t a hard decision to move away from Sydney.
“I wanted to go somewhere warm,” she joked.
“So what better way to do that then move to the other end of the country?”
Elise moved north with a plan to drive from Broome to Cairns, and on the way a friend told her a buffalo-hunting camp was in need of a cook.
Her goal of a seeking a warmer climate was achieved ten-fold.
“This was during the Build Up season, the rains hadn’t come yet, and it was heat I had never felt before,” she said.
“And it was really isolated, I had gone from the middle of Sydney one day, then the next day I was in complete isolation.
“So it was 12 hours by car to get there from the nearest town.
“I was vegetarian at the time so working in a buffalo hunting camp was pretty confronting.
“I had to remain pretty open-minded, I had to accept it all for what it was — it was a completely different world.”
While a challenge, Elise said her stint in East Arnhem was exactly what she needed. “It felt like home,” she said. “I ended up loving it and ending up eating lots of game meat, lots of barramundi, kangaroo and buffalo.”
Elise always had her camera on her, and said her time in the north fuelled her passion for photography.
“Being up there ignited something in me to find a way to make a living from it,” she said.
“I think moving from Sydney to the Northern Territory just catapulted me into wanting to make a change in that respect.”
Elise moved to Darwin and secured a job as a photographer for the NT News, later working her way up to becom- ing the newspaper’s photo editor.
However, just over a year ago she made another bold choice and stepped away from the security of a full-time job.
“I took the plunge and left everything,” she said.
“I left my whole network in Darwin and my job, I moved to a new place and crossed my fingers.”
Shooting the bull ride in Darwin was always a fun job, so Elise jumped at the chance when PBR general manager Glen Young asked her to come on board with them.
Elise described her role as fast paced and job where you are “constantly looking over your shoulder”.
“You have to check there are no bulls coming,” she said.
“I have been doing it for 12 months for them and I am finding every time I go to an event I find something new.
“I never feel like it’s run of the mill.”
Elise’s work has shed a different light on bull riding, her pictures highlight the camaraderie between the competitors and often put a bigger focus on the bull’s athleticism.
She has learnt a lot about the sport, and now has favourite bulls to shoot.
“There is one called Bee Sting and he always jumps so high, and he always hits the rail,” she said.
“You can get some good shots with him.
“And Sweet Pro’s Hillbilly Deluxe, that’s a good one too.
“They are my two favourites and I always rush to get them. But I mean at the level of PBR they are all pretty good.”
As for the riders, Elise said most of the time they were “pretty shy” subjects.
“They tend to be quite re-