Story By Therese Hall
When pilot Scott Bridle musters cattle on the vast pastoral stations of Australia’s north, his mind is firmly focused on the cattle below. He loves stock work and feels a great rapport for the graceful beasts that he herds from aloft.
But he sees other things as well. He sees decorative patterns in river tributaries, artistic compositions among mustering yards and wonderful formations in the undulations of the landscape and the elongated shadows cast by horse and rider at twilight.
Scott is a stockman, a pilot, a photographer and an artist. One career path has morphed into the next – and all have fertilised each other – in his 20-year working life. “I was one of the young ringers who used to get into trouble for watching the helicopter instead of the mob,” he laughs.
After a dozen years of stock work on cattle stations in the Northern Territory’s Barkly Tableland and Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria and Channel Country, Scott was expected to step up to a managerial position. “But I got my helicopter licence instead,” he says. “It was about being hands-on – I wanted to continue managing cattle, not books and men.”
In the eight years he has been flying choppers for a living, he has transformed a childhood interest in photography into a passion for aerial imagery. “Photography is a way of seeing things,” he says.
Whenever Scott “sees things” from his airborne perspective – in the cockpit of an R22 – he photographs them. Over the years he has gathered an impressive collection of aerial images unlike anyone else’s. Although Western Australia’s well-respected aerial photographer Richard Woldendorp is an inspiration for him, Scott’s work is unique. When Scott looks down on the earth, he embraces the pastoral life he knows and loves.
This story excerpt is from Issue #74
Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2011