long exposure

Reflecting on 2017

As we come to the end of 2017, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on my photography and how it’s developed (hah!) over the course of the year. I feel that this year I have really pushed on and I felt it would be worth my while just contemplating what I feel I have achieved and what I feel I still need to focus on.

I guess one of the key developments for me this year has been the move away from Auto and towards full manual. For a long time I have relied on the auto function, and relied on my composition to deliver good photos. I guess therein has been the problem, good composition in auto mode has delivered good photos, but not very good (or dare I say, “great”) photos.

Taking a free online course (via Shaw Academy) at the start of the year made a big difference. I got to start thinking about apertures and shutter speeds and how playing around with these can help with the composition of the photos. Since doing the course I’ve felt more confident in using my camera and particularly experimenting with new techniques.

Some of the things that I’ve been trying out over the course of the year since completing the course:

  • Polarising filters: Using a polarising filter to deepen the colours in the sky and to diminish reflections in windows and in water.
  • Long exposures: Using a tripod to take some long exposure photos at night.
  • Sunrise and sunsets: Playing around with the white balance settings to enhance sunset/sunrise shots.
  • Neutral density filters: Learning how to use ND filters to take photos a step further, slowing down the shutter speeds, particularly during the day. First using a 6 stop filter to familiarise myself with how to use them, before going for a 10 stop to really slow down the shot.
  • Intentional Camera Movement: Either handheld or using the tripod to create more abstract, artistic images. I’ve particularly used trees as the subject matter in this area because they produce interesting shapes and patterns when you move the camera during the exposure. However, have also experiments with this technique on simpler scenes, for example seascapes.
  • Photo trips: I’ve tried to get into the habit of going out on my own with my camera so that I can focus on the scenery and the techniques I want to use without distraction. As a result, (and given I have a family to think about!) I’ve done a fair few early morning trips where I’ve got out of bed at 5:30am just so I can take some photos. I never thought I’d be doing that!
  • Taking it slow: I’ve tried to use each trip out to focus on particular elements of my photography. Rather than trying to do everything on each trip, I focus on a particular thing I want to improve and concentrate on that. I feel this has really helped my development enormously.

As well as developing my skills I’ve also had some quite positive results from sharing my photos online.

  • Photos selected on Instagram: I’ve now had two photos selected by the Kent Instagram account as their “photo of the day”. One of these photos went into the final six to be judged for that month’s entry in an upcoming Kent Instagram calendar. It didn’t win, but I was very pleased it made it that far.
  • Journal cover: I’ve had a request for one of my photos to be used on the cover of a journal. It’s not exactly one of my best images, being one of a poster outside the V&A, but nonetheless I was pleased to receive the request.
  • Website: I received a request from one major tourist attraction in Kent to use one of my photos on their website. It’s now going to be used in an article they are putting together for local tourism.
  • UN Women UKSome photos I took of the London Eye were used by the UK’s arm of UN Women to promote their #drawaline campaign against violence towards women. The photos were used on their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Pages. I was particularly pleased to have my images associated with such an important campaign.

In terms of taking my photography forwards there are a few things I’d like to work on over the coming year:

  • Post-processing: At present I use VSCO a lot for photo editing. The drawback with that? It’s designed for editing photos to be shared on social media. As a result, there’s a fair amount of file compression. The images look great on social media (and as my desktop background), but I couldn’t have them printed in any large format. I have Photoshop Elements 11, but it’s a little outdated now and doesn’t offer the kind of things I would like to be doing. Consequently, when I am in a position to do so, I intend to upgrade my post-processing options and try to improve this side of my photography.
  • Hosting: Obviously at present I post a selection of my photos right here on WordPress (hi!), but I keep mulling over switching over to a hosted platform to share my images. WordPress dot com is great for getting started with a quick and easy website, but if I want something more flexible then I’ll need to look at paid options. I’m not quite sure yet what direction I will go in, but it’s definitely something I need to consider in 2018.
  • Establishing a “style”: I’m conscious of the fact I’m very much at a stage where I don’t have a style. I’ve focused very much over the course of this year on learning the ropes and getting a handle on all the things I outlined above. I think I take good pictures, but I also think I take pictures that any other good photographer would take. I’m not much of an artist, and generally I envy those with an artistic eye, but I think considering my approach and reflect on going beyond simply taking good pictures that are well composed might help me go to another level.

I feel like I have come a long way over the course of this year, but I still have much more to learn and to improve on. More than anything else though, the one thing that I’ve really noticed is in terms of my well being.

People I know have pointed out to me that since I started focusing (lol) on my photography I’ve seemed much calmer and happier. I certainly have felt more balanced than I had done before. I still care passionately about all the things I have always cared about, and I’m still prepared to stand up for those beliefs, but I feel like I have something else that can act as an outlet. For many years it was football that kept me on an even keel. As my commitments at home have grown, the time I have to go and play football every week has diminished. Although in terms of time photography make take up more time, I can pick and choose my times. And, on occasion, these are times when I can go out for a walk, alone, and have some time to myself. This has made such a difference, and I feel so much better for it. It’s easy to forget about your own well being when events around you take over your life, but sometimes you just need to step back and reflect on the damage being done to yourself, and to others. I certainly feel it has helped me to do so.

Let’s see where 2018 takes us…

Best wishes for the festive season, catch you in the new year.