IT’s a scenario that has been played out many times.
A farmer retires, gives up the only livelihood he has known and ponders what to do next.
Ben Crosthwaite didn’t have to think too long about his next move when he retired from farming at Southern Cross 10 years ago and moved to Geraldton.
His attention is now focused on photography and he has spent the past couple of years taking photographs and videos of farming operations in the northern Wheatbelt.
“The main reason I started taking photos is because when I left farming I had to get back in amongst all the diesel fumes, the dust and the flies,” Mr Crosthwaite said.
“I came here because one of our daughters was here and I got to know about three or four farmers out at Mullewa.
“Over the years I have taken photographs every year for them to keep a record.
“I tried to get these people to keep a record of all their photos as a part of history.
“I look back on my career as a farmer and we really didn’t take enough photos and keep enough of a record of how things changed.”
Mr Crosthwaite said the local farmers were kind enough to give him free access to their farm to develop new images.
At 75 years of age he said he was “up with it” when it came to photography and drone technology.
He even gave this journalist a few pointers when Farm Weekly recently sat down with him for a chat.
Mr Crosthwaite’s knowledge goes beyond that of a novice photographer after completing two TAFE courses in photography and social media, followed by a commercial photography course.
“It has taken me quite a while to get to a standard where my skill levels are starting to get somewhere,” he said.
But it is not always plain sailing, with Mr Crosthwaite admitting he had suffered from a few drone mishaps.
“I was over confident one night and I was photographing a machine filling up at seeding,” he said.
“I thought I would follow a different machine and I got too excited.
“I pushed the wrong lever and it did a dive in front of the cultivator and the cultivator went over it. “
Despite being damaged the drone was repairable.
Mr Crosthwaite said since then he has become reasonably skilled at mastering a drone, particularly in low-light conditions.
Through the coverage on Twitter he has communicated with people in France, America and England who are fascinated by the WA farming scenes.
“I have always wanted to encourage social media to shed a positive light on agriculture and to be able to swap information between the sector,” Mr Crosthwaite said.
“I don’t want things to be seen in a negative light and I try to do my bit for the country divide.
“I have quite a few friends who are city people and I am trying to put a positive light on what farmers do.”
As part of going that extra mile for the perfect shot, it is not unusual to see Mr Crosthwaite hook up his caravan and tow it to a farm.
“This way I can get up early morning and get the sunrise and also get some sunsets,” he said.
“I have been out there in the middle of the night to catch the photos, then I jump on the tractors and talk to the farmers.”
Mr Crosthwaite said he got a kick out of his self-funding exercise and said it “has been good fun”.
“I get to know people, I have a passion for farming and I want to be out there with it all,” he said.
“I am also taking photographs for machinery companies who want to present their machines and that’s another avenue that I am going down.”
Mr Crosthwaite said his farming knowledge meant he knew his away around machinery and didn’t jeopardise anyone’s safety.
“I sell images, calendars, collages, canvases, mounted photos, time-lapse videos and drone footage,” he said.
“I just stay in the Geraldton area but I am always looking for work around the less busy times.”
Mr Crosthwaite said photography was a way to capture what he missed from his past.
“I can see what the farmers are doing, I understand what they are doing, I understand what they are going through and I understand their achievements,” he said.
“I have never really got over leaving farming and it has always been the passion of my life.”