I live in the North of England and first became interested in photography in 2012. My elderly Dad, a keen fell walker all his life, was having mobility problems and could no longer get out so I thought it would be nice to share with him the wildlife I saw on walks with my little dog. Until then I didn’t even own a camera, let alone have any knowledge of photography, but I went on Ebay and bought a ‘proper’ camera (a 3rd-hand Olympus E-450 four thirds) in the hopes I’d take images like the fantastic wildlife shots I’d seen on Flickr and Instagram. Dream on 😉.
The manual, with its talk of apertures and shutter speeds, might as well have been written in Chinese and after a year of not getting anything in focus I decided to join a local Camera Club to see if I could learn how to take a decent picture. I haven’t looked back. The senior Club members were incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and skills and with the unwavering support of a couple of members in particular (for which I will always be grateful) an all consuming passion for photography was born.
I won’t be talking about the technical aspects of photography here on my blog. There are some superb ‘how to’ channels on YouTube which do that far better than I ever could. For me, photography is about art and creative expression. The technical aspects bore me rigid and I only know the minimum to get by – there will be no discussion here of lens choices or how to work out hyperfocal distances (I even had to Google that to make sure I was pronouncing it correctly 😉). Instead I want to share my passion and journey with you in the hopes it will encourage you to keep walking your own unique path, even if you meet opposition and sometimes feel you are trudging up a never-ending hill!
My first love was/is wildlife photography. The little world which goes on, unseen, all around us fascinates me and I lose all track of time watching insects in my garden or stalking birds on my local river. But I have to be honest – you need some seriously large and expensive kit, and a lot of time, to take award winning wildlife pictures and I have neither. I have a chronic pain condition which means I can’t carry anything heavy, have virtually no money to spend on photography gear, plus I lead an exhaustingly busy life and time is in very short supply. I will never have the resources to become serious about wildlife photography, but it’s still my favourite genre and whenever I have time to spare you will find me, camera in hand, amongst nature.
Residing on the edge of the Lake District I am surrounded by stunning scenery. There is nothing I would like more than to capture the views I am lucky to see every day, but try as I might I am a hopeless landscape artist. I don’t get any kind of buzz from photographing terrain, a realization which initially made me feel like a huge failure – how could I live in the Lake District and not take pictures of the fells or lakes for heavens sake?! However, as my confidence grew I was able to admit that while I can fully appreciate the beauty of the landscape and take pleasure from other people’s pictures of the area where I live, capturing it myself simply isn’t something I am excited about. And that’s OK.
After a couple of years, I decided to try my hand at portraiture. I dismantled the bed in my tiny spare bedroom and turned it into a makeshift “studio”, using sheets for backdrops. I then bought a cheap continuous light off Amazon and bribed friends and family members to sit for me so that I could practice my technique. I received lots of criticism for not taking smiley studio portraits but they held no interest for me. I would have to do those kinds of shots if I were a commercial photographer making a living from my pictures, but thankfully I’m not in that pressured position so have the freedom to take the portraits I choose and I choose to not have my models smile. That way, the viewer can make their own minds up about what the image is trying to convey. I liked portrait photography and found it challenging, and it’s still a genre I spend time on, but it’s not a passion – I was still searching for that.
My Camera Club had themed competitions, and in my second year there the subject was “a composite image”. I didn’t even know what a composite was, so went on Google to discover it was an image made up of two or more photographs stitched together in Photoshop. I’ll talk about software another day, but suffice to say I had very little knowledge of editing so spent 6 annoying, frustrating hours in Photoshop Elements trying to make a composite from three simple images………..and I loved it!
For me, composites perfectly marry the technical aspects of photography (lighting, perspective, composition, editing) with artistic expression. I had found my Holy Grail. Composites give me the ability to create an image which is truly unique to me and a platform through which to express my thoughts, feelings and experiences. They allow me to speak in a way in which a record shot never could, and while portraiture and street photography record other people’s experiences of the world, composites allow me to record my own.
It has not been an easy journey, however, and while I love composite photography some photographers and organiztions still apparently struggle with it as a genre, which I’ll cover in other posts. But you have to do what makes you happy and follow your passion.