On the road with Jake Donlen

I recently completed my masters in Hypnotherapy and NLP, and while that probably doesn't sound relevant to my love of outdoors, something was learnt during the course that sat with me. Women want adventure and men want freedom. 

At 42, I have been fortunate to see a lot of this beautiful planet. With life in general, I move fast, sometimes I miss a lot of what goes down, other times I'm zoomed right in or zoomed right out and am deeply linked in with the present moment. That's when I am in my power. You may remember moments, like a stack on your push bike or skateboard, and whilst you are moving at a fast rate, everything slows down, right down. There's a lot to harness about the way I'm wired and I'm still very much learning, daily. I find beauty in the simplest of things, capturing them for others to take in, is my gift. 

I've worked with and alongside some amazing people and brands: Metallica, John Butler, Billabong, Quiksilver, Nikon & Red Bull... But outside of a life spent documenting people and places, brands and businesses, I've recently found more power in the awe of nature, and not always the need to capture it on film. To just sit and observe, and with my kids now becoming more aware as they grow older, I'm looking forward to zooming in and out of moments in real time with them. Teaching them how to interact with nature and learn about the big picture. The mission behind Stratus aligns with where I want to take my life, I'm yet to work with a brand and team with so much purpose toward the true good of the planet, and that brings with it a strange contrast of calm and excitement.


Stratus Outdoors Q&A with Jake Donlen


Q: It can be addictive, this life led by creativity - how did it all start for you?

A: In a creative sense, I'd always drawn, but I kinda stumbled my way into filmmaking. I kicked off my adult life as a plumber, but soon in, my wrists didn't want a part of it, and I found myself pretty useless to my boss. At that point, most of my mates surfed or skated pretty well, but due to my wrists, I decided I was better suited to get a handy cam and start shooting the things we all did in our late teens, early twenties. As I got my skills up, so did the crew in front of the lens. That's when I realised there was something in this for me, and I started my label - Runamuk Visuals.

Q: You've shot some of the most amazing surfers to walk the planet? Do you ever get itchy and ditch “ol big red” and paddle out there to join in the stoke?

A: I've always loved the ocean, but in most cases the deal is, you shoot when the waves are good, and when the conditions (swell, wind, tide) swing you get your chance to get wet. In saying that, yes, I've lucked and shared some good sessions with the boys. 

I went many years not even carrying a board on bigger projects, and just pinching a board. The joy of travelling light, without boards, started to make more sense.

Q: Funniest camping fail?

A: It wasn't funny at the time, but many moons ago, as in during the 90's…. we were camping at Maleny Folk Festival. I remember fanging around playing tiggy, and I clipped my little toe on a tent peg, like, literally felt like I snapped it off. I was laughing delusionally from the pain and all my cousins were all in fits of laughter. Next day, I did the same thing to my other little toe. Silly boy.


Q: Spill the beans, what is currently in the pipeline for Jake Donlen?

A: I have a little mountain cottage that I'm slowly chipping away at. It's a special place. It brings me joy and helps ground me. It will become a place for others to enjoy, take a break, reset, create, learn. But, yes, it's still very much in the pipeline. Time will tell.

Q: Your intrepid life has taken you to some of the most spiritual and remote parts of Australia & the world - has there been a standout moment (or two) that has taken your breath away? 

A: I have been lucky to see a lot of Australia, but often it's 'In and Out', and not always getting to sink into a place. Funny thing, it was locally and only just recently that I fed a lacey monitor by hand. It's all fun and games seeing them do their thing, but to have something so primal, and I guess, with the ability to do some damage to you, it was quite beautiful how little fear there was between the two of us.

Q: How do you tame the impulses of creation?

I need to get ideas out of my head and into action. If my 'to do' list gets too long I walk in circles. The key for me is that actions precedes motivation. I just need to get started.

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