A cartoon Feathertail Glider sitting on a branch next to the words Feathertail Photography.
A cartoon Feathertail Glider sitting on a branch next to the words Feathertail Photography.

About us

I’ve always loved bushwalking and camping. As a kid growing up in north-west NSW, my family never stayed in hotels on holidays—we always camped.

I went off to uni to study journalism in the late 90s, where I took an elective in photography. I learned traditional black and white film and darkroom techniques, which was awesome, but it was an expensive hobby so I couldn’t do much with it!

An old photo of Shanna as a toddler looking into her Dad's camera as he watches.
Photographing animals at Dubbo Zoo with my Dad.
An old colour photo of a family on a rock shelf with bush and a waterway in the background.
Hiking with my family in 1987.
An old photo of Nathan as a child holding a shingleback lizard.
Meanwhile, in Brisbane…

I have my husband, Nathan, to thank for bringing my passions for the bush and photography together.

We met in 2005 when we were both living in Sydney. He shared my enthusiasm for hiking, camping, and native wildlife, and suddenly a whole new world opened up to me.

It turned out that Nathan was an absolute guru at spotting (and catching!) animals in the wild. When he was a kid growing up in Brisbane, he used to catch turtles, snakes and lizards from the creeks and bush around his house and keep them as pets.

While this sort of thing is (quite rightly) frowned on today, it had given him an excellent grounding in reptile identification, behaviour, and husbandry.

In 2006, he joined the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) and became a volunteer wildlife rescuer and carer specialising in reptiles. For the next four years, we had a house full of animals in various states of rehab.

Nathan and Shanna on top of a mountain on a clear day with a vast, flat landscape in the background.
On top of the world!
Nathan holding a clear plastic bowl with a pink and grey galah sitting in it. There is blue tape visible on the Galah's leg.
One of our first WIRES patients.
Shanna and Nathan stand facing each other with a diamond python wrapped around their necks. Shanna is grimacing good-naturedly as the snake sniffs her face.
With Lefty—the best diamond python EVER.

In 2010 we moved to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, where we continued to rescue and rehabilitate reptiles and frogs as volunteers with the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Nathan gave me a digital SLR camera for my birthday. I was playing with the camera in our backyard, and took an experimental action shot of a Blue Banded Bee collecting pollen from a colourful flower.

I posted it on Facebook and lots of people commented. Then I saw a Facebook ad for a citizen science site called Project Noah, and suddenly (and unexpectedly) found myself addicted to wildlife photography!

At the time, I had recently been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from my previous job with the NSW Police. I was seriously mentally unwell for around 12 months.

Along with the support of family and friends and regular intensive therapy with an excellent psychologist, I genuinely credit my newfound interest in nature photography and the support of the Project Noah community as critical to my survival during that period, as well as to my eventual recovery.

A bee with a blue and black striped abdomen and sacks of yellow pollen on its legs hovers in the air above a colourful flower.
The Blue Banded Bee that started it all!
Shanna crouched down in some low bushes taking a picture of a lizard on a dirt road.
Photographing a lizard at Gluepot Reserve, SA.
Nathan and Shanna hold up pictures in their market stall. In the background is a gallery of framed photos.
We had a market stall for a while.

Even after all the time I’d spent in the bush, this was the first time I’d truly started noticing the beauty in the details. There was so much to discover about nature once I really started looking.

Such a huge variety of birds, insects, flowers—and that was just in my backyard! I even started getting over some long-held and deep-seated fears of moths, spiders, and frogs!

No matter what personal struggles you’re going through, nature carries on regardless. I found a great deal of hope in that.

Of course, it also helped that Nathan was a wildlife wrangler. In 2013 he left his career in IT to follow his true passion and become a professional fauna spotter/catcher.

He now works on mine sites, construction projects and roadworks to find and relocate native animals that would otherwise be injured or killed by machinery. It’s hard for him to see habitat being destroyed and animals displaced, but we both hope that his work helps to mitigate the damage.

He has also had opportunities to contribute to scientific research, and to help raise awareness of the valuable ecosystems that are destroyed daily in the quest for relentless growth and development.

Nathan standing in a field wearing a helmet and hi-vis shirt. He is holding up a large black snake with a brown head.
Nathan on the job.
A tiny feathertail glider sits in a man's hand while looking into the camera. It is a mouse-like animal with big black eyes and a feathery tail. It is extremely cute!
A rescued Feathertail Glider.
A selfie of Nathan and Shanna on the beach. It is early morning, the sand is smooth, the sky is clear, and the early morning light is warm.
Walking on the beach in 2019.

In an ideal world, jobs like Nathan’s wouldn’t exist, because conservation would be at the forefront of all planning decisions. But for now, he’s out there every day rescuing and advocating for the animals (and taking great photos of them).

As for me, since first picking up my camera 2012, I’ve taken pictures of our native animals, plants and habitats wherever I go. (I’m still using the same camera—a Canon EOS 600D—but I’ve upgraded my lenses.)

These days I have a full-time gig in marketing with a software company, so I don’t have as much time to dedicate to my photography as I’d like. But spending time in nature and seeking out the details is one of the things that still helps me stay sane!

I love sharing my images and the stories behind them so that others can see how beautiful and valuable our fauna and flora is. I invite everyone to come on the journey with me, and hopefully you’ll be as inspired as I am to learn more about our environment and to protect it.

Shanna Bignell (April 2020)

Shanna stands next to a large print of her portrait of a baby green tree snake. She is smiling, giving a thumbs up and holding a glass of champagne.
Highly commended!
Nathan holding up a winner's certificate from the Spring in the Mary photo competition. He is standing in front of an environmental advertisement featuring a large sea turtle and coral.
Winner!
Shanna with Steve Parish in the Caloundra Art Gallery.
I met Steve Parish!

Shanna’s Achievements

  • Finalist – 2018 Sunshine Coast Environment Photography Awards
  • Finalist – 2017 Australasian Bird Fair Photography Competition (Bird Portrait category)
  • Finalist – 2016 Sunshine Coast Environment Photography Awards
  • Highly Commended – Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2015 inaugural Landscape and Wildlife Photography Prize
  • Runner up – 2015 WIRES Australia Day Photo Competition

Nathan’s Achievements

  • Winner – 2018 Spring in the Mary Photography Competition (Wildlife category)

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country where I live and work, the Gubbi Gubbi people.

I pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.