Life's a beach for Dunedin photographer

Photographer Derek Morrison at work in his office in the Imperial Building in Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Photographer Derek Morrison at work in his office in the Imperial Building in Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.

When it comes to a career, Derek Morrison has managed to combine his two great loves - photography and the surf.

He has developed Box of Light, a photo essay focusing on the beaches of Dunedin and now the mountains around Queenstown, which is sent to subscribers each week from his office in Dunedin's Imperial Building.

''It's nice to be able to do something you're passionate about,'' he said.

Originally from the Waikato, Mr Morrison came to Dunedin for a national surfing competition in 1998, while working for a surfing magazine, and met his future wife, Rachael, a jeweller.

The couple later spent eight years in Australia, where Mr Morrison worked in magazines, and when they decided to return home in 2008, Dunedin was the place they chose to live. He was captivated by the city and the lifestyle it afforded.

''I love the surf. It's a bit of a curse for me; it kind of rules/ruins my life because I'm always thinking about it,'' he said.

In 2009, he started Adventure Media Group and was still working for a lot of magazines. But he was doing a lot of travelling and he decided to try a project in his own back yard, while enjoying Dunedin's ''beautiful lifestyle''.

''I absolutely love it here. I think this place is just so amazing,'' he said.

He was inspired by Eugene Tan, the man behind Aquabumps - a website and daily email dedicated to beach life, mainly on Bondi Beach in Sydney, which has a subscriber base of about 50,000.

That site depicted images of waves, surfers, swimmers and sunrises and whatever else happened at the beach.

Mr Morrison began his project back in September 2011, coinciding with the Rugby World Cup. His aim was to photograph beaches around Dunedin, along with the people on and around them.

He has recently rebranded to Box of Light and plans to also capture the lifestyle of the mountains, along with the surf and beach culture.

While initially Mr Morrison thought he would be targeting surfers, he did not realise how much of a ''massive population'' loved the beaches.

There was also strong interest from tourists who had connected with either Dunedin or the New Zealand lifestyle, and every week they got a ''reminder of a great time''.

''These are places the rest of world dreams of and we've got it all the time,'' he said.

He took photographs throughout the week and the 10 best ones, along with a report, were sent to subscribers on Tuesday mornings, reaching about 5000 people every week.

Thousands of people were also reached through social media, where other photographs were posted each week. He hoped eventually to open galleries in both Dunedin and Queenstown.

He never tired of photographing beaches, saying photography was like surfing - ''you always think you can improve''.

The couple's three children, Taya (8), Rewa (6) and Keo (4), could ski and were all interested in the surf and beach, and enjoyed accompanying their father on photographic expeditions.

Taya was a keen photographer - ''she's right into it'' - and the trio were all developing their photography skills.

Mr Morrison was grateful for the support of Mr Tan, saying he had been very open about his work and that had been a ''huge motivator''.

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