Liam Hardy is a serial microadventurer — so he fits in perfectly with our crew of Explorers. With his rowdy photography and love of sharing golden (if not always sun-drenched) moments in northern NSW and southern Queensland, he’s been a solid contributor and stalwart part of the WAE community for the last few years. So we think it’s about time he became Explorer Of The Month.
What’s your day job?
For the past 4 months I’ve been running a small drive-through coffee shop in Brisbane’s north, and I’m also employed as a supervisor at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour over summer holidays. I take on photography jobs now and then, but lately most of my photography work has been personal. I’m considering going back to uni/studying next year so who knows where I might end up!
What got you involved/ inspired in the outdoors in the first place?
My father took me and my brothers on a lot of fishing and camping trips when we were younger, which I’m incredibly grateful for. I lived in the small rural town of Inverell in northern NSW until I was thirteen, so country roads, bushland, rivers and isolation weren’t hard to find. I’d say my upbringing has had a lot to do with it. Photography has also been a key motivator to get outside and explore unfamiliar places, especially around Coffs Harbour and the Mid North Coast.
What continues to get you out the door to explore?
I feel very much at ease when I’m out in nature, and there’s so much out there that I’ve yet to see. I’ve witnessed a lot of breathtaking scenes, some being once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that I could have easily missed if I hit the snooze button or decided “I’ll go next weekend instead”. A weekend away camping or hiking makes life seem a lot simpler, too. Also, spending time in national parks and wild places makes you realise just how much is at stake. Places like the Tarkine in Tasmania and delicate koala habitat around the mid north coast are at serious risk right now.
What’s an essential piece of outdoor gear you never adventure without (and why?)
A decent pair of shoes and a first aid kit. I’m lucky that I haven’t had to treat an injury in the outdoors, although I’ve heard some horror stories. Personal safety should be a priority in wild places. I’m all for taking some risks and having a good time, but if you get bitten by a snake or break an ankle in the middle of nowhere, some decent bandages can make a world of difference. In addition, I always carry a PLB if I’m going on long walks alone, even in familiar territory.
Where’s your favourite place to microadventure in Australia or NZ?
New England National Park and Dorrigo National Park. Living in Coffs Harbour meant I didn’t have to drive too far to explore these beauties, so I’ve spent a lot of time out along Waterfall Way. Across the ditch, Milford Sound in New Zealand blew me away. It’s a must see if you ever go on a roadtrip over there!
What’s your funniest adventure story to date?
You’ve got me stumped with this question! One experience that comes to mind was the time I drove down to Hat Head National Park in the X-Trail I’d just bought. I was really looking forward to having a vehicle that I could sleep comfortably in, so I didn’t pack a tent, removed the rear seats and only took one large mattress with me. When I arrived and started to set up my car to sleep in, I lifted the pin that releases the back seat rests and it snapped right off, leaving the seat rests locked firmly in place, with a mattress that was too large to unroll anywhere. It’s funny because the main reason I drove down there was to test out how comfortable it would be sleeping in my car…
And what’s your favourite activity to sink your teeth into outdoors?
Aside from photography, I love kayaking and fishing, even if I don’t catch a fish (which is most of the time!)
What camera gear do you use?
My kit has hardly changed in four years. I use a Canon 6D body, and in the lens department I have a 17-40mm f/4, 24-70mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4, 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8. I often shoot with a circular polarising filter, and now and then I’ll throw on a 9-stop ND filter for long exposures. I recently bought a bargain second hand 5D Mark III because my 6D is starting to lose pixels and I don’t have a backup body. I’ve had my Manfrotto tripod for almost five years now and it’s taken a beating!
Have you had any disasters on any of your trips? What happened?
A couple of nightmares come to mind. The first was a close call when I was backpacking in Europe in 2015. I was staying in Lagos, Portugal at the time and decided I’d head to one of the stunning beaches to photograph the cliffs and grottos at sunrise. It was still dark and desolate when I was walking and a suspicious looking guy emerged from some shadows and started following me down a dead-end track to a beach below some cliffs. He knew my bag probably had some expensive gear in it because I was also carrying my tripod. It ended in a desperate sprint and me hiding in a cave for an hour.
The other time was when my car blew its head-gasket on a fishing trip to the Severn River, five hours away from Brisbane. It made a good excuse to have a whiskey or two.
Why did you get involved in the Explorer Project?
I’d always wanted to share more of my experiences with others, and writing microadventure articles for We Are Explorers was the perfect outlet for me to do it. I was stoked to see how many other people shared the same interests as me and I’ve met some great people since I first got involved. I’ve also escaped my comfort zone a bunch of times, like when I hiked and camped on Mount Barney last year with an awesome crew of adventure-lovers.
What are you most digging about the Explorer Project?
More people are being inspired to get out there and explore the natural environment, and there’s a solid online community developing through We Are Explorers. It’s great seeing articles emphasising the need to be responsible and protect these special places, not just visit them for our own enjoyment. It’s also great how We Are Explorers offer a variety of opportunities for writers, photographers and videographers to collaborate with brands and travel.
What advice do you have for others living (or looking to live) an outdoor lifestyle?
Stop telling yourself that you’ll do it next week, or next month, or next year. There have been plenty of times where I almost cancelled my plans, or slept in because I wasn’t feeling quite up to it, but I’ve never regretted going in the end. Challenge yourself to go and explore alone at times, invest in some good quality gear and do your best to leave no trace.
Where are you off to next?
Right now, I’m about to head to the climbing gym! I haven’t planned any trips in the near future but I’m eager to complete the Yuraygir Coastal Walk and Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage Walk by the end of year.
Check out some of Liam’s past adventures…