There's only one positive to come out of crippling drought

Louise Stonehouse wearing a leather belt made and carved by her 10yo daughter Tiani, she is posing with World Champion Paint Stallion, First Down imported and owned by Burke Stud.
Louise Stonehouse wearing a leather belt made and carved by her 10yo daughter Tiani, she is posing with World Champion Paint Stallion, First Down imported and owned by Burke Stud. Contributed

LOUISE Stonehouse is a camera repairman's nightmare.

Despite wrapping her photography equipment in clean cloth and tucking it into a bag, the bulldust from her family's central Queensland cattle property, Carmichael Station, always seems to get into the sensors.

"The lady at the camera shop told me I had the most used camera she had ever seen," Louise said.

"I took that as a nice compliment."

Having a positive attitude is one of Louise's striking characteristics.

Take dust, for example.

While dust is a clear sign the 24,281ha (60,000-acre) property has endured dry years, and it's often seen as a hindrance when working with cattle, Louise embraces the grit.

To her, dust adds contrast and colour to her images - she thinks it's just as good as any fancy editing filter.   

"There is beauty in everything," Louise said.   

"Even the dry grass. I love taking photos of the dead grass because it's just different.   

"A lot of people can take photos of green grass, but brown grass just adds a bit of character."  

The mother-of-three showcases her photos on her Facebook page, Bullocks And Bulldust Photography by Louise Stonehouse.  

While she embraced the dry as much as she could for her art, she admitted the drought did take a toll on her family and business.   

Stock numbers on the family's  breeding and fatting block - in the centre of Clermont, Longreach and Charters Towers - were reduced in preparation for the dry, she said.  

Fortunately, Carmichael was one of the properties that welcomed good rain at the start of this year.   

"That was pretty much our first rain, well decent fall, that we have had in the last three years," she said.   

"(The year) 2011 would have been the last time we had a proper wet season.  

"And it just got drier and drier and finally climaxed last year when we had only nine-and-a-half inches (241.3mm), and we average 23-inch rainfall (584.2mm) here."  

A heifer having a feed of hay in the yards.
A heifer having a feed of hay in the yards. Louise Stonehouse

Growing up on the land, Louise and her husband Shane knew to be proactive and prepare for the dry years.   

"We started feeding early and taking calves off when they were younger," she said.   

"We made sure we had everything set for when it did get drier.   

"And when it did get drier, we didn't do too badly.   

"You just have to go with it; you have to roll with the weather."  

During that time, photography was a lifeline to Louise: a beautiful, distracting stress-reliever.   

"Just focussing on something else is a good thing," she said.   

"You can get very consumed with working morning until night every day.   

"Really, you are saving lives for your cattle. You know, running water and feeding… it becomes very stressful because you are so connected to the property.  

"It becomes consuming.   

"If you focus on only that, you can get very negative."  

Photography has always played a role in her life.  

Her dad Harel was always interested in photography and used to carry a Pentax camera on family trips.   

Louise is now a published photographer, and even scored a contract with NT Tourism taking photos of daily life on the land for its postcards.   

Something that makes Louise's images stand out is how close she is to the action.   

One of her popular Facebook photos  is of a weaner eating hay ... the picture captures the heifer mid-chew with a wide opened mouth.  

By the look of the image it seems as though Louise would have been almost underneath the animal to get the shot.  

The mare keeping an eye on the mob.
The mare keeping an eye on the mob. Louise Stonehouse

But she says taking pictures is not as technical as it looks. 

Her yarding-up photos also show a different perspective, as she will capture the lead cow's first steps through the gateway into the yards.   

"I always run the lead of the mob, so I am up the front blocking them up and leading the way," she said.   

"So that makes it pretty easy for me to get those front shots, which a lot of people don't get from the back.   

"I just jumped off my horse and squatted down in the middle of the cattle yard as they were coming through."  

The other thing that keeps Louise so positive is her three kids - Tiani, Kade and Kia.

All three are being home-schooled by her through distance education.  

Interestingly enough, Louise was taught all her schooling up to Year 12 through distance education alongside her two siblings by her mum, Wendy.   

She described teaching kids in the outback as "not easy" but very rewarding.  

To her, teaching came naturally.   

"Well, every mum is a teacher. You are teaching them all sorts of things. So picking up a book and teaching maths, English, science and geography is just an extension of that," she said.   

Louise has a deep pride for where she lives.

Her family have run cattle properties in that part of the world since the 1870s.   

"People think that we are stuck out in the bush when you live out here," she said.   

"But there is a lot of things we get to do that others don't.   

"That's why I enjoy sharing on Facebook.   

"I am able to share with the people who may never get to experience what it's like here."  

Louise describes herself as being animal-orientated, so the rural lifestyle suits her well.   

"I also hate the ocean," she said.   

"So I am a long way from that."  

Grey calf leads the way into the yards.
Grey calf leads the way into the yards. Louise Stonehouse

Topics:  cattle station outback photographer rural woman

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