Nikole Ramsay found herself in foreign territory early last year as she stared at a blank diary once filled with a carefully planned schedule of bookings.
The onset of the pandemic and lock-down was at first unsettling for the in-demand photographer whose freelance career takes her all over Australia and beyond with both editorial and commercial work.
But, as with many creatives, the dramatic change in circumstance gave Nikole a rare opportunity to reset and refocus.
She returned to taking photographs for pure enjoyment – relishing the chance to escape any daily chaos and reconnect with herself and the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula she calls home.
“It gave me time to reflect on what is important to me and what lights me up,” she recalls.
“I awoke before the sun most days, started ocean swimming daily and began to move a little more in sync with the seasons and the environment.
“I started to take photographs again for me, of this beautiful place I live, just for the love of it.”
The change of pace also resulted in the realisation of two long-held goals.
The first of those was to complete the Rip Swim – an iconic 3.2km swim across the notorious shipping channel between Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean. It was a feat she proudly conquered last week.
The second goal will be ticked off today with the launch of a new print shop on her website.
‘Above and Below’, her first print shop collection, is a stunning selection of 30 photographs featuring a mix of seascapes, aerial photographs and ocean images.
Misty coastal mornings on the Bellarine, the rocky shores of the Surf Coast and wildly textural riverbeds are among the standout images in the debut collection.
“I have chosen images that evoke a feeling in me, that represent a moment in time that was special, and I am hoping some of those moments will resonate with others,” she says.
“My best photos are taken when I am really feeling something strongly as I press the shutter, so I have chosen those photos to be the heroes of the collection.”
Many images were captured while flying with local pilot Jeff Brooks where she was able to capture sublime colours and intriguing details of the landscape below.
One of those, ‘Flock on The Lake’, is Nikole’s favourite from the collection.
“I shot this photo, hand-held from the plane about 1000 foot above a lake north of Geelong,” she explains.
“At first sight, I couldn’t quite make out what the pattern on the surface of the water was but, as we flew closer, I realised it was a magnificent flock of birds, sitting in the sunlight on the surface of the water.
“Jeff steered the plane into position, wing almost pointed to the water, so I could shoot from the perfect angle to capture the best light on the lake.
“The whole experience was so powerful, so completely awe inspiring and breathtakingly beautiful.
“The perspective of thousands of birds from above, in such a unique configuration, instantly transported me out of my small life and into a space of appreciation for the absolute beauty of nature and the world we live in.”
She is excited to share her new work and will add to the collection twice a year.
Nikole, who first took up photography as a teenager, says not a day goes by where she doesn’t take a photo.
As a child she would spend hours flipping through the pages of the National Geographic magazines which lined the bookshelves of her parents’ beach house.
The local creative says she has always seen the world “in pictures”.
“Sometimes in conversations with people, I see an image I would like to capture, an expression on their face or the way the light falls on something in a perfect way,” she says.
“I frame it in my mind, like a visual diary.
“It happens all the time … I am teaching myself to not always jump for my camera when it happens, especially when spending time with my kids.
“It’s important to just be and appreciate the beauty of the moment.”
Nikole is married to fellow professional photographer, Jason Furnari, and the couple has two children aged 11 and seven.
She says her children inspire her in their own unique ways.
“My son inspires me with his curiosity and love of learning,” she says.
“My daughter inspires me with her ability to adapt and her openness to change.
“I guess both of them are my biggest teachers in life, I am learning something every day from each of them … I do my best to lead by example and live my life with energy and passion.”
This year has got off to a busy start for Nikole with her exhibition ‘UNFOLD’ held at Lon Retreat during February.
Her focus for 2021 is to continue achieving a balance between generating personal work and collaborating with her long-standing clients, as well as adding a few new ones too.
Nikole says she will be forever grateful for the opportunities her camera has blessed her with, including seeing her work printed in high-profile coffee table books and national magazines.
“My photography has given me the opportunity to meet and connect with so many people over the years that I just would not have come into contact with if it wasn’t for my camera,” she says.
“I still get a buzz from seeing my work in print … it reminds me of how far I’ve come from that teenager dreaming about being a photographer, to now living it.”
Discover Nikole’s new print collection by heading to nikoleramsay.com/shop. Prints start at $280 (postage included), with four sizes available. Custom framing is available for Geelong, Bellarine and Surf Coast clients.
Follow Nikole’s photography journey @nikoleramsay on Instagram.