From a young age, Cathy Finch has had an interest in writing and photography – sneaking from her Concordia dormitory on Winter evenings to write short stories sitting on the cold bathroom floor.

With diaries full of words and boxes full of photographs of her global escapades, Cathy honed her skills with a Diploma in Photojournalism and was soon published. She is now a Getty Images (formerly Lonely Planet) photographer and freelances for publications including Australian Geographic, Go Camping and The Courier-Mail. More recently, Cathy has joined forces with Blue Dog Photography and holds beginner photography classes in Toowoomba. “I get a kick out of seeing people become more confident with their cameras after just one day,” she enthuses.

A member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW), Cathy travels wherever the job calls – whether on a five-day ski trip to Austria, hiking to Everest Base Camp, whitewater rafting in Tasmania, running her first 42 kilometre marathon in the Simpson Desert, diving with manta rays off Lady Elliot Island or `doing it tough’ at a five-star Cook Islands resort where the greatest risk is running out of ice for your drinks.

Cathy’s flair has been recognised by her peers. She recently finished in the top three of the ASTW Photographer of the Year Awards (the industry’s Oscar equivalent) for the third year running, having won the award in 2010. You cannot help but admire Cathy’s obvious athleticism and joie de vivre. “I love the freedom of my job. I realise I am very privileged to be able to live my life pursuing my passions.” With two beautiful daughters, Bobbie and Hayley, who travel with her whenever possible, Cathy acknowledges the unwavering support of her sister and family. Never happier than when she is at one with nature, Cathy cites standing on the edge of King George Falls in Western Australia as something every Australian should do. “I am often asked what is my favourite destination, and I always reply it is the last place I have been,” she laughs. “After being in Nepal, I have realised there is more to travel than wanting to conquer a mountain or to tick off a list. It is more about being in the wide open spaces; to have a real connection with Mother Earth.”

Wanting to be more “edgy” with her writing, Cathy is currently undergoing altitude training and setting her sights on more difficult assignments like ice climbing in Bhutan. Cathy has never been afraid to chase her dreams. “I knew what I wanted to do and I made it happen,” she says with conviction. “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. You need to be persistent, believe in yourself and anything is possible.”

Words by Janine Waters