A man who lost his perfect job thanks to a double whammy of swine flu and injury is now in the frame for a new dream career.
And Richard Hardwick is getting off to a snappy start after having won a string of awards for his photography.
Richard, 47, who grew up in Fleetwood, is to open his studio on May 1 in Red Bank Road, Bispham.
It comes just a year since he had to give up his beloved role as a countryside warden for the National Trust.
He said he was living a heavenly existence in a thatched cottage in Devon when he was suddenly struck down by swine flu.
But after recovering, and then being struck by injury, he today told how he has battled back to a new start.
He said: “It was 2010. I got swine flu and collapsed. I was taken into hospital on Christmas Day.
“It affects different people in different ways and it hit me pretty badly.
“It was awful and when I finally got back to work I had lost my fitness.
“Then I suffered an Achilles tendon injury.
“It just never got better and eventually I had to give it up.”
He said he had always been a photographer and decided that after having one career he absolutely loved , he had to find another equally worthwhile, such as being a professional photographer.
He said: “My hobby was wildlife photography, obviously, so I had to work a little on my photography of people.
“Capturing emotions and character is very important.”
He quickly qualified with professional bodies, the Guild of Photographers and the Society of Portrait Photographers, and began entering competitions in October last year.
“I get a lot out of the process, but the real reward is when you see people’s faces and emotional reaction when you show them their photographs. It’s a great feeling.
“I firmly believe that photography is an art form and photographs should be displayed on walls.”
He has won two gold awards for March from the Society of Portrait Photographers which gets entries from top lens men from around the world.
“I’m delighted to have achieved these awards.
“It’s such a great feeling to have the quality of my work recognised within the industry. Now I’m so excited to be opening my studio on May 1, I absolutely love capturing emotions and memories for people.”
Swine flu: Virus that sparked a pandemic
Swine flu was first identified in Mexico in April 2009. It spread rapidly from country to country, causing a pandemic, because it was a new type of flu virus that few people had full resistance to.
It is sometimes known as H1N1 influenza because it is the H1N1 strain of virus.
Common symptoms include a fever or high temperature (over 38C or 100.4F) and aching muscles, a sore throat or a dry cough.
In some people the effects are more severe, especially people who have asthma or lung disease, those with heart issues, pregnant women and over 65s.
Swine flu was one of the main viruses circulating this winter.