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2TM Regional News

Capturing Spirit of the Bush

Two women from Manilla and Barraba have been named alongside ten others as winners of Rural Aid’s 2023 Spirit of the Bush photography competition.

Their winning photos will go on to be featured in the 2024 Rural Aid charity calendar – something both women still cannot believe.

Growing up around the shearing industry and later working in the industry for more than 20 years, Manilla’s Shannon Swanton feels a pull toward snapping ‘in the moment’ shots of life on the land.

“At any chance I get, I go out and take a picture in the shearing sheds because I just enjoy the atmosphere out there,” Shannon shared.

Shannon Swanton's husband and son captured on smoko.

It is no surprise then, her black and white shot featuring her husband and son on smoko was a winning entry.

But this entry was actually a last minute one.

“I put in four photos and when it came to this one, I thought hard after the submission and felt that I really shouldn’t have put it in because I didn’t feel it was good enough,” she admitted.

Entering the Rural Aid competition was Shannon’s first leap beyond local entries into the Manilla Show and others and said she is excited to see where else her photography journey takes her.

“My husband believes the universe is trying to tell me something now that I’ve won a local competition and the Rural Aid competition in the last couple of months, so maybe I will buy a proper camera and see where that takes me.”

But for Barraba’s Paula McIver, entering the Rural Aid competition is all part of her current photography journey.

It’s her second entry into the Rural Aid competition, and following her unsuccessful entries last year, she has won this year with not only one photo but two.

The historic buildings of Grenfell NSW at sunset (by Paula McIver).

The all too Australian life captured by Paula McIver.

Her photos represent two aspects of rural NSW, one showcases the history of the little towns that scatter across the landscape while the other shows working the land in action.

“When visiting Grenfell, I couldn’t resist getting out my camera and snapping a shot of the sun setting behind the historic buildings and I was very happy with the result,” Paula explained.

“And the sheep were the same. My husband and I were driving home from Loomberah one day and we passed this farmer herding a mob of sheep with his Kelpies and I just told my husband to stop the car so I could lean out and snap the photo.

“It was just so Australian I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.”

For Paula, entering the Rural Aid competition is her way of giving back to the charity for everything they did to help her and her community during the drought.

The annual competition attracts hundreds of entries each year and Rural Aid CEO John Walters said the powerful love of livestock and the land really shined through this year’s pictures.

“Each photo tells a compelling story, whether it be a successful crop, sunset silhouette or tender moment between working dog and owner,” he said.

All profits from the calendar sales will be directed back into Rural Aid’s range of award-winning programs.

“Rural Aid is proud to stand with our mates in the bush when they need it, whether that’s through a hay delivery, pre-paid visa card, or free counselling,” Mr Walters said.

The calendars are available for pre-order now through the website:


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