The Creative Tradie – Rick Smithson

Meet 45-year-old Rick Smithson who works as a Heavy Equipment Operator in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. He spends his working hours in the cab operating machinery but every other chance he gets he is on the outside pointing his Nikon lens up at the equipment and transforming a typical work site into a masterpiece.   

Read more about how Rick’s regular 9-to-5 has inspired his passion for photography…

Sum up what you do on a typical work day?
I work a 12.5 hour shift operating various machines in a production mining environment. It could be a dozer, excavator, grader, loader or a watercart, depending on what is required on the day.



How did you end up doing this for a job?
Originally, I come from a farming background. I then ended up laying underground high voltage cables in which we used mini excavators for the trenching. I always wanted to have a go on bigger gear so I got into earthmoving, where I worked at various companies operating a number of machines including 20-70 tonne diggers, loaders,  bobcats, Cat D8 and D9 dozers, mobile crushers etc.
I’ve always been interested in mining and the big machines so I applied for a number of positions and finally got a job after 18 months of trying and here I am today.


What is the best part of your job?
Operating multi-million dollar machines and always meeting new people.


What is the worst part of your job?
I’m FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) which means I have to work away from my family. But it’s a good roster – one week on and one week off.





How did you get into photography? And why, mining machinery and landscapes as the subjects?
I’ve always liked photography. As a kid I used to take a lot photos of sunsets as they always seemed to turn out pretty good.
I shoot mining machinery because I’m surrounded by them all day when I’m at work, plus they are huge and impressive and the landscape in the Pilbara region where I work is quite spectacular, especially in the morning and afternoon light, so those two elements combined, make for some great pictures!


What is your plan in the next few years with your photography?
I’m saving for a drone and I would also like to start printing some of my images on canvas.


If you could shoot anything or anyone in the world what/who would it be? Why?
I would love to go to the Pro Tahiti at Teahupo’o and shoot the surfing one day.





What’s your funniest photo shoot story?
I got down to the beach for one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, only to realise there was no SD card in my camera!


What’s your approach for capturing the “money shot”?
At the time of the shoot it is really hard to tell. Sometimes when I get home to edit, I take another look at the latest photos I’ve taken and none really stand out. Then I look at them maybe a couple of months later and find a really good one and it ends up being really popular on Instagram.


What are 3 words to describe your job?
Rewarding, hot and dusty.


What is your fav job tool?
D11t Cat Dozer!


What do you do for fun and recreation when you’re not at work?
Fishing, going to the beach with the kids, photography and catching up with friends and family.


What is your fav CAT workwear product and why?
I really like the look and style of the T-shirts and the truckers caps. Also the work boots are very comfortable.


If someone wanted a job like yours what advice would you give them to get into the industry?
It helps to have a bit of machine experience.


What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into photography?
Just pick up a camera and go for it! It helps if the subject is something you’re genuinely interested in.



To see more of Rick’s photography, follow him on Instagram: @smithsononianinstitute