If you'd asked Rachael Tagg 12 months ago what she'd be doing right now, she certainly wouldn't have answered putting a much-loved teaching career on hold to follow what was once just a side passion.
The Bomaderry woman first picked up a camera 18-months ago and started with a photography course to finally master the elusive manual mode.
She began shooting family sessions for friends and after six months her side hustle had turned into a business.
A mum of two little boys, Rachael soon found herself juggling teaching at Nowra Anglican College with a photography business that was growing more quickly than she could have imagined.
Enter COVID-19, a global shift in teaching, the pressures of raising a young family while also working two jobs, and Rachael realised 2021 had to have something different in store for her.
"At the end of 2020 I was just exhausted and realised something had to change so I'm taking 12 months off from teaching to focus on my children and photography business," she said.
Her COVID-19 photography project 'Driveways and Distancing' took on a life of its own last year and helped catapult Rachael into her new career path.
While she started by just taking family portraits for people in the Shoalhaven, free of charge, the passion project quickly grew.
It wasn't long before 100 families had their time in isolation documented, and Rachael had racked up 2000 kilometres in the car.
Although it's only in recent times that she's been photographing professionally, Rachael said she's always seen the world in little snapshots and pictures.
Road trips often see the family taking quick breaks so she can get the perfect shot and pursue her love of documentary style photography.
It's this interest in capturing things as they are that won her the People's Choice award in the Australian Photography Awards - APA in December.
The achievement came as a huge surprise to Rachael.
"I couldn't believe it - little old me from the Shoalhaven. I'm so honoured," she said.
A photograph of her young son innocently chalk drawing while last summer's bushfires raged nearby won her the award and third place in the documentary category.
"It was taken on the fourth of January - the day when North Nowra, West Cambewarra and Tapitallee were all evacuated," Rachael said.
"We were so used to the smoke by this point but that was the day it started getting much closer and I just stopped and saw what was going on through his eyes.
"It was a powerful moment."
And while 2021 is sure to open up new opportunities and adventures for Rachael, she said 2020 has grounded her.
"The pandemic really shifted things for me," she said.
"I'm still figuring out my next steps because I've found that when you make plans, the universe laughs."