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Every picture tells a story

Each year the Probus National Photographic Competition attracts entries from across Australia. But there’s more to this contest than just great photos – there’s also all of the Fun, Friendship and Fellowship that goes on behind the lens.

As the finalists for the annual Trade Travel-sponsored Probus National Photographic Competition for 2018-19 assembled in Sydney, spirits were high – and not just because they were 47 storeys above the city at revolving restaurant O Bar and Dining.

The six hopefuls were there with assembled guests, including Probus Chairman Douglas Geekie, who acted as MC for the night. “I love the photo competition because it gives you a lot of freedom,” says past-winner and current finalist Berys McEvoy from Ringwood Clocktower Probus. “And it’s a great excuse to get everyone together.”

The Photographic Competition is about more than photos. It’s about getting together with friends. It’s about meeting Club members from around the country. And it’s about the stories behind the photos.

We talked to each of the finalists about their photos and all the behind-the-scenes action and drama.

The winner: Peter Muhlbock, Oyster Bay Probus

As a first-time entrant to the competition, Peter was surprised when he took out the top prize for his photo of Probians mucking around in a kids’ park.

“It was just a silly carry-on for no specific reason. There was no intention of entering the Photographic Competition,” Peter says. “I take the photos at most of our outings. We have regular picnics and this was just a spur-of-the-moment thing. I thought it was on message as ‘Probus in Action’.”

Peter and his wife, Margaret, have been in Probus for eight years. It was at his wife’s suggestion that he entered his now-winning photo.

“We’re a fairly youngish club, so the guys are lively and everyone is happy to ham it up,” Peter says. “After the event, I was worried the slippery-dip mightn’t have been heavy-duty enough – I could see eight Probians landing on the ground with a broken slippery-dip. But it all ended well.”

The pair joined Probus to make new friends. They have a son with an intellectual disability and have been involved with Special Olympics for many years, but had not met a lot of local friends.

“Once I retired, our friends were all within Special Olympics, so my wife thought that Probus would be a great outlet for us to meet new people, like-minded people, local people,” Peter says. “We’ve been members for eight years. Margaret is about to become incoming Vice-President, and I’m the incoming bulletin editor.

“The things we enjoy are the camaraderie and being active. I play golf with the Club and go on most of the dinner outings. We can’t go on trips away because of our son, but we do most other things.”

The runner-up: John Kaye, Bella vista Probus Club

A Probus trip away to the northern Chinese town of Harbin was the inspiration for the photo taken by John Kaye, an avid traveller who was away overseas on the awards night.

Luckily, fellow Probian Jim Wilkinson was happy to step in as a proxy. “You think excellent photos are taken by Canon ‘ultrasonic XP 7000’ or something, but this entry from John was just done on his wife’s iPhone,” Jim says.

“It just goes to show that you don’t need to have special gear to take a good photo. You just need good composition, good perspective and a subject matter that is of interest to others.

“The theme that John was trying to fit in with was ‘Probus in Action’, and that’s exactly what his entry is. It shows his wife and a good friend of ours within an ice sculpture in northern China. We were all travelling there as a Probus group.”

Jim says that Bella Vista Probus Club is a group that likes to travel, with “half the members away on cruises and the like at the moment,” and that Harbin, the location of the northern China visit, was very special.

“It was a great trip,” he says. “I thoroughly recommend Harbin. It was originally a Russian town and they have these amazing snow sculptures, and that (in John’s photo) was one of them. That’s why the background is all white and very striking.”

Jim says it isn’t just the travel that he loves about Probus – it’s also the Fun, Friendship and Fellowship.

“Probus is fabulous,” he says. “I couldn’t help remarking to my wife as we headed to a Probus meeting that you can just feel the warmth emanating from the place as you walk in. It’s a real conscious feeling. People come up, they introduce themselves and they talk to you. In fact, we’re taking our neighbours to their first Probus meeting next month.

John Vickery, Leumeah Probus Club

It was a chance Probus walk that led to John’s winning entry. The Probus walking group was taking a spin around Sydney’s Olympic Park when the chance for a dramatic background came up after a government worker turned on the water works.

“I thought, ‘Can I get the group under one of these before he shuts it off?’ So I said, ‘Quick, get under there!’” John says.

“When I take a photograph of a group or an individual, I like to do more than just point and shoot. I try to get something that’s a little bit unique or different – to frame it differently, or try to get light in a different direction. But this was one of those that I consider was in the right place at the right time.

“I was also a bit concerned that if those blokes don’t see what I’m doing and they shut the water off, our walking group gets very wet.”

John is a four-time entrant and previous finalist, and a big fan of Probus. “The organisation of Probus is very good. You meet a lot of interesting people, and you do a lot of things that my wife Jan and I would never have done,” he says.

Don Woolley, Bobbin Head Probus Club

Don’s photo was taken on the side of Mt Kosciuszko when his Probus walking group had hiked up well above the cloud cover.

“The club has a week at Thredbo every year – they’re up there right now, and that’s where I would be if I wasn’t here right now,” Don said at the awards night. “I was walking in the mountains, and there’s a core of walkers that are interested in alpine walking, and this week at Thredbo has been part of the program since the Club started. So we go there and we go on great walks in the mountains, and that’s where I took the photo.”

Don is a first-time entrant, but he thought he may as well have a go as “you don’t win it if you’re not in it.” This pretty much sums up his attitude to Probus too, and it’s only recently that Don has stepped back from a role on the committee for a quieter life.

“Probus is quite an important part of my life,” he says. “It’s an active Club that does some interesting things. Next, we’re going to the State Library. There’s something on every week.”

Berys McEvoy, Ringwood Clocktower Probus

Berys is a previous winner of the Probus National Photographic Competition and has been an avid snapper ever since she first worked for Kodak at the age of 13. After a hiatus raising her family, she’s back behind the lens every chance she can get, including producing an annual calendar for her Club.

Her photo entry came from one of the photo shoots with her friends joking around dressed as clowns in a kids’ park.

“We are all still kids at heart and fun is a timeless thing regardless of our age,” Berys says. “We have a calendar every year and I try to do a few shoots that are a bit different. I did three photo shoots three Mondays running at three different locations. They were in a kids’ playground and they were dressed up in clown costumes.”

Berys has entered the competition a number of times and says she loves that it gives her a reason to be creative. “Probus means a lot to me because I have friends in all walks of life now and we would never have come together without Probus,” she says. “And that’s important to me.”

Sid Whiting, Bridgetown Blackwood Valley Combined Probus Club

There was a lot of time, effort and planning that went into Sid’s entry: a group of Probians all standing in the shape of the letters “SW” to represent the south-west region from which they all come.

“There was a lot in the planning because I had it in my mind that I would get them standing in the shape of an SW,” Sid says. “Then I thought I’d have get a high angle on them, so I thought I’ll talk to the local shire and get them to provide a cherry picker. But as the day grew near, the shire started saying things like ‘workplace safety’ and ‘public liability’ and it all fell through.

“Fortunately, five minutes away from the rec centre where the main event was there was a little park with an amphitheatre where I could get up top with the camera.”

Sid came down the night before and laid out the SW with rope so everyone would know where to go. “I ran up and down the hill about a dozen times and lost about five kilos, but I got it all set out,” he says.

The son of a professional photographer and a keen amateur himself, Sid says he has taken photos all his life, but this is his first time entering a photo competition.

He and his wife, Sandy, have been members of Bridgewater Probus since it formed around four years ago, and they like the camaraderie of being in the Club.

“It’s a bunch of like-minded old farts is the best way to describe it,” he says. “The sort of people that join a group like Probus are easy-going people who like to have a bit of fun, have a bit of a natter and go on an outing or two. And that suits us.”

The full list of winners 

Sixth prize valued at $1,000

A getaway at Tamar Valley Resort

Sid Whiting from Combined Probus Club of Bridgetown Blackwood Valley

Fifth prize valued at $1,000

A NSW Country escape at Angourie Resort

Don Woolley from Probus Club of Bobbin Head 

Fourth prize valued at $3,000

A five-night holiday at Netanya Noosa Resort

Berys McEvoy from Probus Club of Ringwood Clocktower

Third prize valued at $3,400

A four-night escape at Norfolk Island

John Vickery from Probus Club of Leumeah Combined

Second prize valued at $4,000

An outback experience at Longreach

John Kaye from Probus Club of Bella Vista

First prize valued at $11,000

Mauritius escape for two, including airfares

Peter Muhlbock from Probus Club of Oyster Bay 

Visit the Probus website to find out more about the 2019-20 Photographic National Competition.