Monday, 18 August 2014

mumblings from someone who cannot sleep

People ask me all the time, "Why did you take up photography? What made you start?"

And I tell them a fun story about MySpace and vanity, being a teenager, going with the flow, luck and chances and here I am.

But in reality there is so much more, I'm an escape artist, you see.
The last few months have reignited that spark in me in different ways. It's always when I'm single that I feel most myself. I guess I have a tendency to bury myself in other people when I love them, and that doesn't feel so bad. But when you're out in the cold at 4am on the street where you used to live, it all flows back through me and I remember why I took up photography.

Ever since I can remember, I've loved writing, stories, poetry, words, art, paintings. Music is the ruler of my soul. I'm listening to this right now, after spending the last 30 minutes in silence, studying my current state.

I don't think it's a desire to avoid unhappiness, and I don't think I necessarily want to run away from anything or anyone. I just have this underlying thudding in my chest which forces my legs to run once in a while. My heart seems to connect to moments once in a while, usually in the wind, and I just get this feeling of magic and peace which floods and overtakes my entire mind, body, everything. And I know there's more, I've felt more before. I've gone to places in my mind which I didn't know existed, I've felt 10-second euphoria of feeling like I was standing in a strobe light, all the atoms and molecules of my hands becoming the surfaces they were touching, I've switched off the left hemisphere and all I can remember is feeling like I was running, out of breath, towards an edge of some sort. Swinging from rung to rung of an old ladder, out of the skies to that next place. That Next Place. It's like a recurring dream. And I'm stood there, breathless, just trying to scoop up all my favourite memories into my arms and not let any of them fall away. I know this place exists but it's in my mind, and there is a sweet, sweet sadness in that. 

So I take photos. I leap into these worlds which are in my head, which exist in songs and poetry and art. There's something else out there, there's a freedom which you can't grasp. I hope my soul goes there when I leave this world, I hope that death is the sweetest feeling, that familiar run, trying desperately to hold tightly to those precious memories and feeling them slip quietly through my arms, into some vast empty space. Who knows. 

I can't ever explain it properly, because I'm not you and you're not me and we'll never quite see things the same way. I don't believe in God, but C.S Lewis summed it up best when he said 

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

For now, all I can do is visit these places in the only way I know how. With my camera and my mumblings of a mind which cannot sleep.

Monday, 14 April 2014

A Cool Breeze in the Morning

I will never feel lonely again, because the wind will always run it's hands through my hair
I will never feel lost, because my feet have learned to wander
and my hands feel that everywhere is home
The cold wraps around me like a blanket now
and when the light blinds my eyes, I can see clearly again
The rain washed my skin back to soft, childlike
And the smoke cleared from my lungs as I welcomed the alcohol into my bloodstream
I like it this way
I will never feel lonely again

Monday, 7 April 2014

Learning To Be Free

What an eye-opening month it has been!

A month ago I felt very lost. In a 5* Hotel in an amazing country. 
I was sitting there, crying like I hadn't cried before. Like a teenager rejected by her crush. Like someone trapped. Like I had nothing to look forward to. I didn't feel like I had anything to look forward to.

I looked at my life and I didn't like it. But I had it all?

I have an amazing job. My Facebook posts get a ton of likes. I get to go to 5* hotels for FREE because an awesome celebrity took a liking to me and made me her friend. I had endless inquiries for work, endless people tugging at my sleeve, endless people telling me I was great. And I have never felt so empty, and never felt so ungrateful.

I'll tell you what, money ain't all that.
The high life ain't all that.

What I thought were my life-goals, dreams a few years ago have turned out to be very empty and shallow without the magic ingredient which is passion, which is happiness.

Since stopping taking on paid work, I have felt alive like never before. I fill my spare time with endless googling, endless searching for inspiration, endless planning and friends and life and enjoyment. It's raining so hard right now and I'm pretty sure that after I post this I'm gonna go for a run in it.

Instead of listening the song, I started to feel it.
I've let my imagination override my compulsion to work, 
I've let my desire to create override my desire to earn

And maaaan it feels good.

The thing that scares me in this life is making the wrong choice. I'm scared to have no money, scared to be alone, scared to be unhappy, scared to be a failure, scared to be a bad person. I've been so terrified of all these things, I haven't let myself enjoy life like I could. And that's okay, because I'll enjoy it so much deeper now. That rain is going to burn through my skin and fall straight into my eyes and I am going to really, really feel it.

I am a storm. I am a force. I don't care. I am going to get drunk, throw my head back and dance like I am an awesome dancer. I am going to love so fiercely and be so kind and sing so loudly to songs that I don't care if you don't like. I don't care, but I care about you. I care that you are happy, too. Like this. It's ace.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A Big Change

I am making a big change. 

I've decided to take a break from client photography for a while - lately I've been having a rough time of it. Back in January I gave a TED talk on Creativity and Happiness, and while writing it I realised quite a lot about myself.
I had fallen into The Hole without even realising.
The last three years, I've been on work-overdrive. Trying to pay my way in life, trying to be someone else's vision of successful, trying to bury myself a little here and there.
Photography is so much more to me than a way to earn money, photography has been my way of expressing myself, for the last six years and trying to figure happiness out has been my quest for quite a while longer.

When I was 16, I lost about 1/3 of my hair due to a bout of alopecia brought on by stress, unhappiness and general lack of life enjoyment. 
It grew back, along with the smile on my face. 
I have lost the sides of my hair twice more over the last six years following, and this October it started happening again.

I took this back in October, it's the size of about the palm of my hand on both sides of my head.

Losing your hair is a very interesting experience. I've learned not to be bothered by it physically, it's pretty normal to me now. But it is a symptom, for me, of something a lot deeper which is growing inside of me that I need to fix in myself. There's a blackness which comes when my hair starts falling out, and it's been present with me for the last 6 months now. 

When I look at my life right now, it isn't where I want it to be.
My photography is my life, and for the last three years I have felt a lot like a slave to my clients - some of which I was gladly a slave to, I should add :) But I haven't felt like I've been able to take time to appreciate doing nothing, I have felt like I have had to put a price on myself, my time, and I can't do it anymore.

The last four months have been pretty soul searching ones for me. I've cried a LOT, had a breakdown, tried to throw myself into other things, other people, no work, too much work. I haven't been able to settle, because without the mask that is routine and comfort, I've been questioning pretty much everything about myself.

Heartbreak is a bitch, I've had some cracks open up in my heart which are finally getting some air inside them. I haven't properly experienced emotion like this in quite a while. I feel very raw, very vulnerable and very open.

Here is my hair regrowth, as of today! :D

So I'm going to be changing some things up to ensure that this newly treasured sprouts of hair don't go disappearing again for a while. 

  • I won't be taking on anymore paid work until I feel lighter again
  • I will be shooting, for me. I am so excited to get out and create something of me, put some more of my soul into my photos!
  • I'm going to be upholding all the workshop dates/current bookings, because I made promises

I'm also going to be changing my daily life - instead of it being work, work, editing, emails, work, work, sleep

It will now include things like
Going for a walk
Going to the gym
Seeing friends
Putting music on and just enjoying it for a while
Looking out of the window without feeling guilty for not being productive
Being unproductive
Being productive
Shooting personal work which I enjoy
Stroking my new hair growth
Cuddling my cat

I can't wait to feel more excited about life, I can't wait to feel happy again, I can't wait to wake up every day and look forward to what's coming. I can't wait to be able to balance my time when I eventually get back into work, but I will be doing so with a new mindset and a new attitude!

Thanks for understanding :)

Signing off,

Monday, 17 February 2014

What I've Learned About Love

It seems so long ago that I wrote this blog post about love, life and being alone. Probably because it was years ago. I've had so many ups and so many downs since then in that arena, and so many emails of support and love from you guys online when my 3 year relationship came to an end at Christmas.

It's been about 2 months now, and I've done lots of thinking in that time, as most people do. Where did I go wrong, again? Why does every relationship fail with me? I've picked myself apart, reduced my food>mouth ratio and thought about love as a whole, my attitude towards it and what I will do differently next time.

One thing though, as I write this, stands out above the rest.

"There will come a time, you'll see. With no more tears. Where love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears."

Good old Mumford & Sons, what would I do without them? I think one of my big problems was (and probably still is) that I have a slight tendency to let love conquer all. Including logic and my better judgement. Love is a magic plaster that seals all wounds, no matter how deep. It's an excuse for bad behaviour that applies to every situation, no matter how painful and no matter how you both agreed that situation would not ever occur. Love is a glue which stops you from leaving even though you know you should.

Learning and realizing that my idea of love wasn't the best one for me really hurt. In a way, I wondered if the next love I had would really go as deep as I wanted it to, if it wasn't all-consuming, all-forgiving, all-purpose love. And then I heard those words. "Love will not break your heart."

That's what I'm aiming for. I want a love that loves. Being in love with someone shouldn't be a painful experience, and I will never let it be a painful one for me again. It can be challenging, with obstacles, but not obstacles which are the results of unkind actions.

I don't feel bitter, upset, angry or numb. I feel healed. I don't harbour any negative feelings about my situation. I feel happy that I have learned more about what I need from the next person I choose to love, and happy that I have given myself the chance to find them.

I guess I just wanted to write this down, for myself to read back at some point. I'm not sure.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Advice to the Bride & Groom: Getting the Best Wedding Photos

Advice to the Bride & Groom: Getting the Best Wedding Photos

As many of you know, I do a whole lot of wedding photography during the summer months. For many photographers, it's the bread and butter to their art, a lovely consistent income which helps them sleep at night. For many brides and grooms, it's the source of a lot of frustration when things don't come together, but also happiness when their wedding photography works out great!  

I wanted to write this post as 
1) an aid for photographers to send their clients 
2) a helpful post for the brides and grooms of this world, which explains what they can do to help their photographer get the best wedding photos possible.

I hear a lot of complaining from the photographers I meet about clients who don't "understand" photography or themselves, and a lot of grumbling from clients about incompetent photographers who don't deliver their vision. In some cases, both parties can be in the wrong, but a lot of these issues can be resolved with a simple explanation BEFORE the big day!! So, listen up, take note. These simple things will give any photographer a great advantage, and get YOU better pictures.

1) Lighting.

Lighting is always a factor, always! Photography is the "drawing of light" after all :) Here are a few key points to remember if you can't afford movie-style light set ups...

Small & dim light sources (especially fairy lights etc) are not particularly strong, and especially in darkness/at night when there are no other light sources available. Dark rooms = dark shots. 
To combat the darkness (as most photographers will assume you do not want a set of black photos) the photographer will have to use a low aperture, such as 1.4. This will make your pictures very creamy, blurry, with only one or maybe two people in focus given that they are "on the same level". Do not expect everyone in the room, or even on a table, to be sharp. Personally, I like using a low aperture! 
Another method of brightening a photo is using a high ISO. This will make the pictures grainy. If you do not like grainy pictures, it may be worth considering hiring a photographer who is skilled with flash. Again, some people don't mind/kind of like grain on photos. Always check with your photographer.
If you don't want flashed-out pictures but want to keep the cute, fairy light esque light set up, you can either grow to like creamy, grainy pictures, or ask for lights to be turned up at key points (e.g speeches, first dance). Alternatively, you can always rent some continuous lighting and aim it at the top table etc. 

This tent had other lighting as well as fairy lights! = happy rosie

Colour lighting - popular at discos. Purple/pink very popular. Looks awesome in person, terrible on pictures! For many photographers, this is a nightmare situation, especially if you do not like using flash. 
It turns your entire skin tone one colour, again blue/pink/purple seem to be very popular, which makes your face just blend into one big blob and very hard to rectify in post-processing. So unless you like the smurf look, it's best to have an alternative light set up to hand.
Again, bring the lights up for key moments or ask for them to be on a "natural" or "white" setting (if the can be changed). 

Pink lighting, this one was backlit so not as hard to combat. Entire rooms with this is a different story :P

Really bright sunshine, everywhere!
If there are no shaded "pretty locations" that the photographer can suggest moving you/guests to, or you are determined to have a photo in a certain location in said lighting, you can expect squinty eyes, hard shadows and not a very flattering picture. Unless of course the sun is setting, when it can look quite nice.
Many people cannot control this, but try to plan the times you are outside/in situations which may have bright sunshine to be later on in the day. Formal photos at 2pm are a recipe for disaster if you don't have shade. The photographer can position you with the sun behind you or slightly off to you, however if the backdrop then turns into the car park when you wanted it to be the church then it's not going to work! So chat to your photographer about possible locations you can use in this situation.

(the beauty of shade!!)

2) Space

Space is something I rarely hear ANYONE talk about! But it is very very important. I love shooting with my 50mm 1.4 lens, however during the speeches I often find the tables/chairs so close together that I cannot get far back enough to get both the bride and the groom in the shot. I then have to switch to a not-as-pretty lens to achieve this :(

Small room/no space for photographer to manoeuvre to either get different angles or limited amount of people in the frame. 
As I mentioned above, your photographer will have to use other lenses in order to get more than one person in the frame if there is very little room. A popular lens used by photographers for this is a 24-70mm lens, which will allow for more people but lacks the aperture to combat low light and subsequently your pictures will be more grainy. 
Make space if you can :D If you can't, consider asking the speaker of the speeches to stand somewhere else. This helps not only by allowing the photographer to move around the room more easily, but also stops them from blocking the guests view of the bride and groom, as the guests are now facing the speaker.

loads of space, yay!

Big old centrepieces 
During the speeches, a lot of photographers STAY LOW. We sit while we shoot, because if we were to stand in front of the top table and take our pictures the guests wouldn't be able to see you! We'd ruin the video and generally look pretty rude. So sometimes, big old centrepieces can obscure important things (like a bride) and prevent awesome shots. 
Move the centrepiece from the top table during speeches to somewhere on the table where it is less likely to obscure someone

A lovely, small centrepiece :D

First dance on a small dancefloor/guests who really want to get close to the action ;)
Again, due to low light situations (and fast movement) for the first dance, popular lens choices would be 85mm 1.2, 50mm 1.2/1.4, 35mm 1.4/2f
This means that if your guests are cramming the dance floor, your photographer is not going to be able to back up enough to get your whole body in the shot. 
Get the DJ to ask everyone to back up/ create a circle using a reference point/setting some chairs out for elderly folk as a barrier!

loads of room to use my 50mm 1.4... lovely

3) Surprises!

SITUATION Surprise! We broke out into a dance/song/important moment which the photographer had no idea about
The photographer to run round flailing his/her arms whilst trying to locate the correct lens for the situation, thus missing important surprise or capturing things like arms & feet because they had a 70-200mm lens on (aka paparazzi lens!) 
LET US KNOW :D We won't tell!!! promise!!!!!

These guys pre-warned me about their AMAZING SINGING WAITER/CHEF! This gave me good time to get my lens selection out and camera ready!

4) Running out of time

Something has happened at the wedding and the schedule is behind. We don't have as much time for portraits/formals etc. 
A stressed out couple, a grumpy time-keeper (dinner starting at 4 is more important than getting pictures, every single time :( sadly) and a panicked photographer trying to rush things. Cue Uncle Bob being in the toilet JUST when you need him!
As a photographer, I ALWAYS have a back-up way of doing formals when these situations arise. Lists are not provided or get lost, not enough time to do everyone... so, I do this. Very simple.

Bride & Groom : Bride's Immediate Family
Bride & Groom: Bride's Parents
Bride & Groom: Groom's Immediate Family
Bride & Groom: Groom's parents,

That's the important stuff. Next up, Bride on her own with parents ETC ETC. But as long as those main ones are done, the rest can be done later on, after dinner etc. 

Quick, simple portraits!

5) The unplugged wedding ceremony.

This is not necessarily a problem, but it is becoming a preference for photographers. Particularly as the bride walks in, and bride & groom exit, there always seems to be an "Uncle Bob" who steps out into the aisle and completely ruins the shot for the photographer. 
Uncle Bob. Everywhere.
Get your officiant to ask your guests to put their cameras away for the ceremony, or compromise and ask them to stay out of the aisle at the very least. Explain that the photographer wants to see happiness on people's faces during these important moments, not iPhones/cameras/dinner trays iPads covering their beautiful faces!

This is a good time to take shots :D

This is a great time to stand, clap and cheer :D Imagine if someone had stepped into this shot!

6) Post getting-your-picture blues.

You got your pictures back. You either 1) hate them 2) want more 3) have issues with the style 4) have any issues at all
A very upset photographer. Regardless of whether they are pro or beginner, we ALL want you to LOVE your pictures. Which is why I am writing this blog post. We ALL have worked HARD on your pictures. This does not mean you should not raise these issues, but please tread carefully.

Steps to raising an issue:
1) Re-read your contract first. If you signed a document stating that you are only to recieve 10 pictures, I wouldn't go in all-guns-blazing when you only get 10 pictures.
2) Be NICE. I once re-edited an entire wedding for a couple because the bride was SO lovely in her approach about some colours I had edited. I didn't have to, I could have just referred her to the contract and said it was "my style" which she booked. But she was so lovely, I wanted her to love them even more. Being nasty never made anyone go "here, let me throw my schedule out of the window to help you"
3) Be specific and offer a resolution. Remember - you booked your photographer, it was your responsibility to research their portfolio and ask questions beforehand/explain what you wanted. If there are minor tweaks/adjustments that you would like, be nice and ask if they would do them. Saying things like "they are so bad" "we had to get our friends to edit them" will NOT go down well if the contract has been upheld, and it is purely a difference of taste.

Be nice, be fair and be considerate. You are the customer, but they are also human beings. Wedding photography is such a personalised service, it isn't like ringing E.on to complain about your bill or buying something from e-bay and giving an invisible person an earful. This is someone who shared your wedding day, and was part of it. If you leave things on a bad note, you might feel like you can't look through your wedding photos without feeling angry. And no one wants that!

I hope this blog has explained some things that normal non-photo folk might not have understood properly before hand, and also given some good tips on what helps US during your day. We're on your side, and we're here to help YOU and get great photos for ourselves, too. The best thing you can do is communicate with your photographer. Send visuals, mood boards, explain concerns and worries with them. You aren't just hiring a wedding photographer, you are hiring a team mate and a friend. :)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Am I Good Enough?

Okay, so I have an urge to write about this.

Here's some music to accompany.

Am I good enough?

It's the eternal question we all ask ourselves, photographer or not, have we met the expectations needed to run a business? To charge people money? To give advice? To consider a change? 

I remember when I first started offering workshops, someone wrote online
"What makes you think you are qualified to teach workshops?"

When I first read it, my heart sank and I thought, they have a point. I'm not qualified. I don't have a degree, I don't know much except what I know, and maybe my work isn't that good after all. Maybe I'm not good enough?

I went on and taught the workshop. Looking back, it maybe wasn't the best workshop ever - but I learned SO much. I learned that if people want to come, they will come. The workshop was full. I also learned to cap how many people I have on a workshop, haha. I learned that people don't care for what I don't know - they wanted to know how I made the images I made. And because I made them, I could explain.

At the end, I asked for advice on how to improve. And everyone was kind and constructive. And I learned.

If you ask yourself, am I good enough? Let me answer for you. You Are Good Enough. As long as you are still willing to learn.

Today, I got a rather sad message to my Facebook photography group. 

(name has been blurred for her privacy)

And I felt so sad. 
It seems everyone I meet is trying SO hard to be good enough, they are working for cheap (this lady worked for less than £1 per image she delivered to her clients) and yet this doubt is creeping over all of us. In my opinion, it is the client's responsibility to check out your work - check it out as deeply as they would like. Ask to see 10 images, or ask to see an entire wedding, or 10. I don't mind. But don't complain if you don't look at any of my wedding photography and then say you are upset because I didn't photoshop butterflies in your hair and have you levitating down the aisle.

We are good enough.
"Every great photographer was once an amateur."

Ok so fair, I wouldn't recommend charging £2k for a wedding when you haven't shot one before. I wouldn't recommend promising photos in the style of Jonas Peterson when you are more traditionally minded and own a point and shoot, because that won't turn out well. But don't you dare stop aspiring to be as good as Jonas. 

So, I'm going to ask that everyone today who wonders if they are good enough, stop for a sec. 
You are great.
And there is nothing stopping you from being the best, except telling yourself that you aren't or can't be.

Here's where I started.

These are two sample of the awesome skill I had when I first started taking pictures. I can sense your awe and amazement across the computer waves, please stop, you're making me blush.

But really. 

If I had let every negative comment, or doubt, or insult, or hate campaign stop me (and there are days where I gave up, and days where I believed they were right, and days where I truly and utterly believed there was no place for me) then I wouldn't have made it to where I am now.

And I KNOW that I am only going to get better, I am only going to be exploring and learning and always improving. And I will probably look back, and think you know what, I was pretty rubbish, but I was good enough.