Discovering drone photography and then documentary-making gave quadriplegic travel lover Jaimen Hudson a new view of adventure.
My earliest memories are days out on the ocean in Esperance, on the south coast of Western Australia. My parents taught people how to dive and being a tourism industry you don’t really get weekends off so I would go along with them to their work. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a bad office to be in.
When I was 10 years old, I got my open-water dive certification so I was just basically diving as well as skateboarding and motocross. After graduating high school I started full-time work in the family business, doing deckhand work, but then, at 17, I had the motorbike accident that rendered me a quadriplegic. The doctors said I was never going to walk again.
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Travel has always inspired my life. Growing up, we went on many holidays. My parents took me to England, Thailand and Bali. I was very lucky, and I loved experiencing other cultures. After my accident – I’ll be honest – I didn’t really think I’d get to travel any more because my independence was gone. I had to rely on other people to help with my showers and everything like that. My mum took me to Bali for the first time a year after my accident. I remember looking out the window and thinking, “I shouldn’t have come.” I only let her book a week, but by the end of the week I was like, “Damn it, I don’t want to go home.”
Since then, I’ve been to Canada, the US, Dubai, England – loads of places. I’ve been very lucky to travel, particularly for someone with my level of disability. And then, obviously, operating a tourism business with holiday accommodation and boat tours with Esperance Cruises I get to share our town with people coming here on holidays. Travel is all my life.
What made me pick up a done for the first time? I’d organised a tour of Lake Hillier, the Pink Lake, for a client who took drone footage before it became so popular and as soon as I saw it, I started researching on YouTube. I didn’t know whether I would be able to operate one with the limited dexterity I have in my hands, but eventually my dad and Jess, who is now my wife, asked why I didn’t just get one. I was hooked right away.
I just started trying to capture wildlife scenarios around Esperance and eventually ended up filming a video of paddle-boarding with whales, which really helped put my name out there, and another dolphin-surfing video. It just snowballed from there, really.
People say I’m so lucky to get all this footage and while there is definitely luck involved, I’m very dedicated – it just engulfs me. On a sunny day I would always be out searching the coastline and 99 per cent of the time you don’t really see much, but that one per cent you see something so special it makes it all worth it and invigorates you to want to do it again. I didn’t get into it to grow a social media following; I wanted a hobby that I could access from my wheelchair, and I thoroughly enjoy it. We went up to Exmouth in 2020 to film the final component of our documentary From Sky to Sea. Getting back in the water and diving with the humpback whales and whale sharks was just amazing. By that stage it had been more than 12 years since I’d been in the water. We did a bit of practice in the pool. I was loving just floating – it was just peaceful.
The first time back in the ocean the adrenaline was high and I was surrounded by massive marine animals, but as soon as I hit the water and salt hit my lips I honestly remember feeling at ease again. I was so overwhelmingly excited that I had this opportunity, I didn’t want the day to end.
I feel lucky to have a son (two-year-old Van). I never thought I would have a child after my accident. I’m relishing that, plus working in the tourism business, and I’m always out searching for filming. It’s been a good year this year to film the dolphins.
I would love to have another project like the Sky to Sea doco. The plan is to have a series come out called Islands of Western Australia where we start down here in Esperance looking at some of the islands and work our way up the coast. Of course, Jess and Van would come along. too. Travel will always continue to inspire me – it’s a never-ending search for experiences and new places. You’ve got to make the most of our short amount of time on Earth.
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