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BCA News: Fall 2020

Member Profile: Peter Kinchington

What is, or was your primary line of work?

I am currently semi-retired however my primary line of work was as a biologist and educator. I have for the past 40 years also provided professional photographic services within my primary roles and also through my stock library of nature images. See Peter's photography on his website: peterkinchington.com

What got you inspired to be a photographer/illustrator?

Whilst undertaking postgraduate studies at Canberra University in 1980 I went on a scuba diving/camping holiday at Lady Musgrave Island on the Southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. I had my trusty Kodak instamatic camera that took a 127 film cartridge with me. I spotted a wonderful flower on the island that I thought would look good as a close up and I imagined taking an image just like the ones you see in National Geographic. So I pointed the camera at the flower at about 15 cm away and pushed the shutter. When I received my prints back I was taken aback by the blurry results. I realised that there was more to photography than just pushing the shutter button. I embarked on a self education journey into photography. I started with a book on photomacrography and purchased myself a Minolta XG1 35mm SLR camera to learn with. As I was a student at the time this was a purchase I could ill afford and I turned orange from eating too many carrots - they were a cheap source of food.

Tell us about your career path.

At Monash University I majored in Zoology and Immunology. I then did post graduate studies in natural resource management. Following on from my studies I obtained a research position at the Monash University Department of Psychological Medicine at Prince Henry's Hospital in Melbourne. I worked on dopamine and endorphin studies and used my photomacrography and photomicrography skills to provide scientific photography for journal articles.

Following on from medical research I undertook a Diploma of education at Monash University and concurrently did underwater, photomacrography and photomicrography work for the Victorian Marine Research Laboratories at Queenscliff. The underwater work was primarily photographing marine organisms found on and around the native blue mussel aquaculture farms in Port Phillip Bay. I used my Nikonos 3 (a robust viewfinder camera that did not require an underwater housing) with extension tubes and 35mm lens for this work. My first previsualised field image was taken at Popes eye in the middle of Port Phillip Bay using this camera. I envisaged a pair of old wives (a type of fish) swimming over kelp.

Old Wives, Port Phillips Bay © Peter Kinchington

The photomacrographic work included photographing live microcrustaceans such as 1mm long marine copepods for toxicology studies. I had to photograph these live as one of their identifying characteristics was the coloured pigmentation bands on their backs. I used Kodachrome 64 (my most used film) to take these images and the resulting slides/transparencies were sent to marine scientists in Northern Italy to see whether it was the same species that they were working on – it was. This was in the early 1980s before email was generally available.

I then joined the Victorian Institute of Marine Sciences as a marine education officer and undertook field trips with a wide variety of groups including primary to university students and adults. I produced a series of Victorian Marine Life Posters, information brochures and slide presentations using my photography for the institute.

Further education officer roles were undertaken at the Melbourne Zoo and with the Victorian National Parks Service in the latter I set up a field studies centre at Wilsons Promontory National Park (the southernmost tip of Mainland Australia). I received an outstanding contribution to education award from the Government for my program utilising videomicroscopy - the students made their own videos of aquatic organisms.

Additionally, I was commissioned to take underwater photographs for the Museum of Victoria and various government bodies. I also set up large local temperate marine aquaria (up to 8 tonnes of water) for museums and other exhibitors. I hand caught the marine animals for the aquaria and these displays contained "living rocks" and marine plants that would thrive over the course of the exhibition.  These exhibitions would be accompanied by my underwater photographs of Victorian marine creatures.

Describe your typical workday?

Waiting, waiting, waiting for the right moment and light to photograph birds, fish, mammals, insects, plants or landscapes.

What is most rewarding about your work?

Getting away from the rat race and into the natural environment. I particularly like being underwater with marine creatures from invertebrates to seals and dolphins.

Where do you find creative inspiration when work begins to feel routine?

Nature photography never feels routine. I can get bored with digital photography though and I go back to the fundamentals with analog photography. I just purchased an 8x10 inch view camera for black and white landscapes. This camera slows you down and truly makes you consider every exposure. I have been using this camera with orthochromatic film to give an old world look. The x-ray film I use is also about half the price of panchromatic sheet film.

Do you have any tips or special techniques for connecting with your subject?

Patience. I just sit down and let the wildlife come to me.

What technology/software/gear do you use?

Film and digital cameras of all formats and brands, tripods, optical microscopes, Photoshop, Lightroom and stacking hardware and software. Basically I use whatever equipment and software I need for a given project. For a more comprehensive list you can go here.

Do you have special interests outside of work? Do you do photography outside of work?

Nature and underwater photography is my life and my work!

Do you have any advice for photographers/illustrators interested in a career in biomedical/life sciences photography?

Aim at a career or role that is true to yourself and it will put "a smile on your dial".

Show us a couple of your favourite images and tell us a little bit about them.

Fluorescing Colonial Sea Anemones © Peter Kinchington

I took this with the intention of creating a spectacular image. The Colonial Sea Anemones (Zoanthids) emit fluorescent colours when excited by blue light. I believe this is why Yellow Zoanthids look yellow at depth when the ambient light is mostly blue.

Treeferns and Mountain Ash © Peter Kinchington

I used a 4x5 inch view camera to capture this image of my favourite forest type known as Wet Sclerophyll. These forests contain the ancient looking treeferns and the tallest flowering plant in the world the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) that can grow over 100 metres in height.

See more of Peters award winning images In the 2020 BioImages Salon.


  • Outstanding contribution to education award (Victorian Government)
  • Gold and Silver Awards - Australian Professional Print Awards
  • Highly Commended Nikon Small World and Olympus Bioscape Awards
  • Lifetime Member Award – Australian Institute of Professional Photography

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