I know I am in a similar boat to many other photographers who have endured a year and a half of barely any events to photograph! However, I am happy to say that work is beginning to trickle back. And what better way to reintroduce myself to the wedding scene than to share this beautiful occasion. Liz and Bayly are a wonderfully thoughtful, kind couple who went out of their way to hire local contractors and make their intimate wedding an opportunity to support local business, as well as celebrate their vows with close family and friends. Thank you to both of them for sharing their day with me and allowing me to share it with you. Below are a handful of moments from the event, some of which I’ll definitely be adding to my website.
In the meantime, do enjoy these pictures of this lovely family having a wonderful wedding in Wandsworth!
We love a winter walk and are fortunate enough to live close to several open spaces in or very near to South London. Just before sunset this afternoon, we traipsed about Richmond Park and almost ended up being locked in! Worth it though for these images. Incidentally, the yellow gloves were for magnet fishing – it’s a thing, apparently! (c)SJField2019 (click on individual images)
It’s been a busy year and I’ve had lots of super successful moments. My work has been chosen and published in more places than ever before. I was offered a bursary to complete the part-time art degree which I’ve been doing with The Open College of Arts, and I received a 90% grade for the last module I completed. (I hope to complete the degree this year if I can.) I also took part in several exhibitions and met lots of new people. And I finally got around to publishing a new website.
Here are a handful of images that will sum-up 2019 for me. I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings. To celebrate the New Year, I’m currently offering 5% off all shoots completed by the end of January 2020 (T&Cs apply). Get in touch on 07581 694934 or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
A few weeks ago I went with a family to a local park for a shoot. I tend to recommend families take their time when choosing which images they would like to enlarge and frame. Sometimes we need a little bit of a gap to see what’s going on in photographs, perhaps even more so when young children who are growing and changing all the time are concerned.
I aim to capture photographs which are full of life and was very pleased when a photographer friend described one of my images precisely in that way. Perhaps working nowadays on digital means we have greater opportunity to take risks, which we might not have been inclined to do back in the day when photographers worked with film. Some photographers see this as a problem – I see it as a brilliant plus. I don’t mean you should simply press the shutter down for ages and rapidly shoot as many frames as possible under all circumstances – apart from being an unhelpful strategy, there would be way too many frames to look back over when editing (in a world where we bombarded by images as it is!) Rather, you can try things out and experiment because the cost of a digital frame is not prohibitive. And so it’s not a problem to allow the kids to get involved in the creativity. Of course, you also need to pay attention to their energy levels and patience – but ultimately I want to take pictures that are teeming with life rather than stilted and posed, and that is my aim when working with families.
Here are a handful of images from a morning with a lovely family and two beautiful, very sweet children. This shoot was given as a Christmas present last year. Check out the link for more details, and find a discount available too for anyone who books before the 1st December.
It’s taking me a little while to get my head back into every day life. Sitting in the spring sunshine reading books while the kids went completely feral was much needed and I made the most of it, but I think I might have fried some cells just beneath my skull. Ever since we returned my brain has felt like sludge which is not ideal when you’re trying to do things where you actually need a fully functioning head.
It wasn’t all play and no work. I had taken more camera equipment than I usually do when I visit my mother in Italy especially so I could experiment with how I photograph my family. I guess I also needed to work out if wandering round with heavier gear in my bag or over my shoulder felt acceptable. I’ve always used a relatively small albeit very decent camera on holiday, most likely because I was carrying quite enough to be getting on with when the boys were very young, such as extra nappies and the rest of it. Plus I remember having an SLR over my shoulder, bending down to help a child and whacking him in the bonce with it, which wasn’t ideal, obviously. It was my child I hasten to add, not a client’s. But lately I’ve sort of gone off my little camera. I must state now, this is not a product review. I don’t do those and if I did I’d have to give the camera I’m referring to an excellent review. It’s takes terrific pictures. And ultimately you have the equipment you have – the whole constant sell, sell, sell we live with is trying, so I’m not on about specific brands here.
Nevertheless, I’ve begun to feel limited by the camera I have used for a while when I’m with the boys as I wasn’t always getting the images I was after. Frustrating! So a couple of months ago I started using the camera I use for work, a full frame SLR, more and more when I was out with the family. I immediately felt happier with it and have since been taking that camera out fairly frequently for personal images. But one of the good thing with my smaller camera is that it has a fixed prime lens. Which may sound annoying, but actually it stops you from needing or wanting to take out extra lenses, and if you have to get closer or move further away, then you’re forced to do exactly that… shift your position. Which I like. In fact, whenever I work for myself on long term projects rather than for a client with the main ‘work’ camera, I prefer a lens that doesn’t zoom. That way, you get to know your frame which can be a really beneficial, especially when you’re working on a series of images and you’re after a cohesive feel for the whole set. I do, of course, have a choice of lenses to choose from when working commercially, and so I took a choice with me on holiday this time. Yup, definitely due to the fact there are no longer nappies and buggies to think about, extra camera equipment seems more doable and less like an intolerable and terrible nuisance. So with all my clobber, I experimented each day and tried to work out which scenario I prefer when with the boys going forward. I can’t say I have any definitive answers and, despite what I just said, I did really like using the ridiculously long zoom lens that is heavy as Hades, even though there is absolutely no way you can be shy about the fact you’re taking photographs in public when you’re pointing it at someone.
Before I went away I was convinced I’d get rid of my small camera soon and put the funds towards a new lens which I’ve wanted for years. But looking through my pictures I’m not sure now. I probably should and probably will but I’m terrible at making decisions. I know I will stick with using the SLR more and more when I’m out and about though. And aren’t I lucky to have a choice at all!
I have said a little about each camera I used for the images below. It is not a cohesive set. In fact it’s not a set at all but each has elements worth comparing. (c)SJField 2017
PS- You can check out an earlier blog where I shared some images from Italy at Easter in 2015 here. The weather was very different that time as you can see. These are taken with the little camera and it makes me think, oh no, I’ll need a wider prime lens to replace it if I sold … best keep hold of it, heh?
1) The first couple were with the camera I have used for a few years when out and about with my family. It’s small and light with a fixed lens so hangs over my shoulders without getting in the way. It takes good pictures but is slower than it might be to find focus in low light. I’ve always really enjoyed the fact I can just grab it and go.
2) Taken with my SLR on a 50mm lens which is probably my favourite to use. I suspect I get overexcited by the very low apertures but it’s great for me because it’s light and easy to carry round. I am also pleased to have used this in Calais and Dunkirk as it is less of a huge in-your-face object.
3. Finally, taken with a zoom which means you can be quite far away when taking the images if necessary. This lens is actually really great with kids. I love using it but it’s heavy and not always practical if you don’t really feel like standing out. Also the size and weight make a tripod worth considering which isn’t always desirable when chasing children round and trying to capture moments rather than setting up posed images – and so means you have to develop a very steady hand.
I spend so much time studying photography, practising as I go about my day and also working for other people as a photographer that I have not made time to create any personal family photo-albums for a few years, which is something I always did in the past. I decided to rectify this and am now eagerly awaiting a book I ordered this morning with just a few pictures covering the months since last December up to this one. It’s a great way to look back and take stock of all the things we’ve done together.
One of the things I feel really strongly about is the way in which we approach photographing families. These are our memories and we have this fantastically wonderful ability to record moments, so when we make the time to print images, our children will be able to look back at objects they can hold and feel in years to come. They might look at these pictures in times of sadness or big changes in their future lives. But so often when I work with young children I spend a good deal of time trying to overcome their desire to say “cheese!” because we are all so conditioned into thinking that’s the appropriate thing to do and the conditioning starts really, really young. I know it’s great to have smiley pictures to remember the happy times, and I love capturing genuine moments of joy, but life is about so much more than “cheese!” And there are much more interesting emotions to capture rather than forced smiles. We want our children to look at these pictures and see that we loved every part of them; the quite moments, the pensive ones, the cross times too. We want them to know we accepted them for who they really were and didn’t make them feel they were only acceptable when wearing weird smiles on their faces. I am also quite careful about what I Photoshop out of photographs. Cleaning up a dirty face might be the thing to do, but equally it may be that keeping in all the grubbiness makes the picture.
The other big problem we have nowadays is choosing which images to include. I take so many pictures it’s impossible to get right but one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since studying is ‘less is more’. While editing my photo-album I was pretty ruthless, and not only because I’d have ended up spending a fortune if not, but also because we stop looking when there are too many images together, or too many of the same thing. It’s hard to edit when the pictures are of your children but try to avoid printing everything you’ve captured!
Here is a very small handful of the sort of images I would include in my own album. If any potential clients think this is something I could help you and your family with, do get in touch.
This is the first time I’ve written here for a month. That may be the longest gap between posts since setting up this site, which I originally did to increase my SEO. For anyone lucky enough not to have to devote time spreading news about services they offer, in my case photography, across the internet, that means Search Engine Optimisation. I had no idea what it stood for to begin with. I know now it’s about making sure as many people as possible notice you. For someone who occasionally feels she might prefer to walk round with a pillow-slip over her head to hide the sense of embarrassment she quite often experiences, this hasn’t always been easy. But before I started posting a couple of years ago people insisted, YOU MUST HAVE A BLOG. So that’s what I did. I got a myself a blog. Then I couldn’t work out what to write about. I didn’t feel able to talk about photography with any authority as I was and am still learning. But I do know about my own life, and I know about the feeling of inadequacy parents often have, and since I was trying to appeal to families (as a sort of vague marketing goal) I thought I’d write about kiddie related subjects which, of course, I do have experience of, like feeling really crap, or being judged, or wondering if everything I’m doing or failing to do is in some way damaging to my precious brood. So what you see here is a digital record of an experiment as I tried to discover, a) how to get over myself and b) who I might be talking to. If you’ve followed me you will know I began to witter on about my boys, mixed in along the way with stories of learning about images. (It has turned out, for now, most of my work is corporate although I am employed by families occasionally as well.) I have really enjoyed writing about life and my boys. And I’ve really loved it when people have come up to me to say they found something I wrote funny, or that I made them feel better about their own parenting, or just that they look forward to my ramblings. But for the last few months I have found it very difficult to know what to write about at all. And not because I haven’t got anything to say. As anyone who knows me will agree, I could probably talk the hind leg of someone or something, as the saying sort of goes… And I certainly have plenty of opinions. But the world is so fucking confusing at the moment that blathering on about how the boys were splashing too much water on the floor as we battled for space with imaginary Greek gods in the bath just doesn’t seem right (although reading that sentence back, it does sound kind of worthwhile in that particular case).
So what do I talk about? I just can’t bring myself to ignore what’s going on in the world and I feel wittering on about family life regardless would be a failure of some sort. I will mention something about my oldest here: that recently I was accused of taking too much notice of his political views. In fact, I was told I rely on my son for political opinions. Whatever unconscious motivating factor prompted the accusation is perhaps as irrelevant as it is absurd. What is important is that I am immensely proud of my son for being politically engaged even though we don’t share opinions on many things. You might say I’m more left-wing than he currently is, just as my father had more right-wing views than I held when I was growing up. Perhaps those distincitions matter less nowadays. But back in the 80s my dad used to moan,”Oh, I can’t believe what a Trotskyite you are!” I’m not by the way but I didn’t think Thatcher was up to much good and he felt deeply betrayed by my view. Although my dad was always a Conservative voter, and felt pained by the fact I wasn’t, I know he would have been appalled by much of what is happening in the UK today. He told us the reason for not trusting socialism or anything that sounded vaguely related was because Hitler had headed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. Whatever the merits or lack thereof in his understanding, the point is we were able to discuss it. I was encouraged to explore ideas and think about the way the world worked. And by choosing to engage in discussions with my 12 year old son about politics, even when his views appear to be unsound or uninformed (they’re often very well-informed actually) I hope to give him room to think, question, explore and form well founded opinions of his own, which I’d say is pretty important nowadays. Talking and valuing our discussions is a really good way of doing this. And avoiding the sort of ludicrous, not to mention abusive, name calling we see on social media is absolutely imperative.
Words themselves are also crucial right now as are the ever-changing meanings they might contain, especially since much of what is being said in the press has led to extraordinary outcomes in recent months. I believe some of the press are currently bandying words around in ways that are dangerous in the extreme. And my socialist-adverse father would have been truly horrified and frightened by what is going on. As such as I am not sure how I will continue this blog for now. I feel I need to choose my words very carefully. These are political times and to ignore that seems wrong. What I do know is that I don’t really care about SEO anymore. I have a blog because I have something to say. Often saying it makes me want to hide my face, but too late for that probably. I also know we should encourage and allow our children to have political views if they’re interested, and the best way of doing that is to take their thoughts and opinions seriously. They, after all, are the ones who will be left to sort out the mess our world is currently in. It behoves us to listen to what they are telling us. I’m not sure how often I will write. Perhaps only when I’m prompted to ask questions. Or when I’m truly shocked by events. Whatever else is true, we in the UK really need to think about how we’ve found ourselves here in this place where societal empathy has been turned down to very low indeed, or in some cases simply switched off altogether.
“So, we need to make a list of words and phrases that we mustn’t use,” announced my oldest son a couple of weeks ago. We were eating supper round the table at the time and as far as I can remember no one had just been rude or insulting, but then perhaps I’m just inured to the open aggression that flies about the place and which three young boys seem to accept as humour. And in any case, are the harsh words they sometimes use towards each-other any worse or more difficult to be near than the physical aggression they accept as ‘play’? “OK,” I said with encouragement. I’m always very pleased when he appears to want to implement some structure in his life, no matter how small, even something as simple as a list. It’s so alien to him usually.
Immediately he leapt up from the table and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, despite not having finished his meal. He’s not the only one who does this. For some reason these boys simply can’t stay seated for an entire dinner, and spend most of the time finding reasons to spring from their bottoms constantly. And as for the middle one – he’s got jumping beans in his pants and is genuinely unaware, I’m sure, that a seat is for sitting on, despite my constant pleading, commanding and finally demanding that he ‘sit down!’ each and every evening. I feel myself wanting to erupt and am on the point of yelling, a litany of aggressive language desperate to explode out of my mouth, when fortunately and just in time I remember my son’s desire to do away with harsh language.
The boys make a list of phrases and words they can’t say and all, especially the youngest one, enjoy very much the business of saying the words in order to put them on the list of words that can’t be said.
“So mum, what can’t you say?” I’m reluctant to give up any language. But it’s right we don’t insult each other constantly even though there are moments when the impulse to is overwhelming. Eventually I say, “Obviously, all the words you’ve already listed”, and then I also stupidly offer the word ‘twit’. Straight way I retract my offer. How on earth will I get through life if I can’t transform the genuinely dreadful words that are in my mind into a relatively benign and ineffectual word, used by Roald Dahl never forget, when I want to express my rage because they won’t put their shoes on, refuse to get dressed, or forget to throw away sweet wrappers and leave them on the floor instead? “Nope!” says the oldest one, “you’ve given it up. It’s on the list”.
“Mum needs to say, twit!” says the youngest with force.
“N0!” replied his brother.
“You take twit off the list now or I’ll hit you really hard with my fists!” Oh, I think to myself, this moment hasn’t unfolded so well.
The words bounce of the big one, and he says calmly, “Well, if she’s allowed to call us twits, then we can call her one.”
At which point the littlest walks up to his bother and punches him in the stomach. “Mum can say twit,” he yells, “and you can’t!!!” For a moment, I’m so proud of him and his desire to protect and fight for me with such passion. It’s too adorable. Although I do see it’s not so great that it comes with such a hefty blow to his sibling. Thankfully, rather than prompting my first-born into a full-on fist fight with his four-year old brother, which has been known, Mr. Sensible laughs and tells us he’s happy to remove twit from the list, leaving me at least one word to insult them all with when I feel like it. By now the middle child is laughing hysterically because seeing a four-year old take such command over everthing is simply the funniest thing he can imagine.
I don’t know what eventually happened to that list. It lay on the kitchen counter for a couple of days and hasn’t been seen since. I thought about it afterwards and felt, as much as I agree with choosing to be kind to each-other over meanness, removing words from our language entirely actually presents us with different problems. There is always a cost. Making words illicit risks giving them greater power, and probation tends to force things underground. When we’re angry, instead of expressing it we risk suppressing how we feel if there is no medium for communicating it. And suppressed anger leads to bad feelings building up inside and transforming into trapped emotional wind. And we all know what that results in. It’s painful and uncomfortable and stinks when it escapes. Passive-aggressive language is far worse is my mind than outright verbal insults, even though those aren’t great either. At least you know where you are with open and honest words. But in the end you can’t have small children wondering about the place calling each-other by unmentionable names and shouting out swearwords really loudly down the street now, can you? So, we currently have no contraband list in the house, but we know we’re all OK with twit and flippin’ or frikkin’. Personnally, I tried friggin’ for a while until I thought about it and resolved that friggin’ was no less ‘rude’ than fucking when you get down to it, although it’s often used as a replacement. I’m not sure you can wonder round saying you ‘friggin’ anything at all to your kids. But I am sure there are times when you and they have just got to say something!
I remember much of what I have written about in this post because of the photo albums which I avidly used to keep up to date, meticulously recording and documenting our lives. Two children and one early pregnancy later, everything got far too busy and crazy. My photo albums stop at that point and it’s harder to piece things together without the visual reminders. I’m pretty sure the last time I went to Brighton I was heavily pregnant with No 3. Hang on a minute, I can’t have been heavily pregnant because he was born in March and we went in the summer. Oh yes, I remember, I looked heavily pregnant from about day 2 of that pregnancy, so that by the time I was just 3 months gone, I looked like I was about to pop. I do know for sure I ate a family pack of Wotsits and felt sick in the car going down – aaah, you might think, therein lies a possible reason for having been so incredibly big. In fact, it’s impossible to forget just how very sick I felt for most of those 9 months, and I suspect the salt in the Wotsits probably helped keep the nausea at bay. I also recall flooding my bag with a broken bottle of water and destroying my phone on the way home. But I wouldn’t have taken any photographs during that visit because just holding my phone, or a camera, significantly and palpably added to the feeling of nausea. Most people reminisce about how they couldn’t drink tea, alcohol or orange juice when pregnant. I remember I simply couldn’t take a photograph. It just made me want to hurl. Which, as you might image, is a truly depressing way to spend your time when you once loved taking pictures of your kids.
It was a weird aversion and I never experienced it during my other pregnancies. But thanks to the albums, I know for certain that we had a lovely day out in Brighton during my pregnancy with No 2 too. I like looking at those pictures. No 1 is still very young. I have a short gamine hair style, which suits me and my large belly well, and we all look really happy sitting in a fish restaurant, and then later on the beach, throwing stones into the sea. (Here’s an image from that visit. I photographed a picture from the album, using my phone, and uploaded it to Instagram a while ago – so a great combination of old and new technology.)
Thankfully, the pregnancy hormones have long gone, No 3 is running around outside my belly causing chaos, and the aversion to technology has dissipated. I started thinking about lenses again when No 3 was roughly 4 months old, so I knew then that me and my photography would be OK. When we recently visited Brighton again (sans any pregnancy) during half term to see old friends whom we’d not seen in years and years, I was able to really enjoy my love of photography and record our day out with my usual enthusiasm. No 1 was very keen to recreate the image I’d posted to Instagram, which I’d taken when he was 3 years old. We had a play and eventually he told me he’d rather wait until he was 18 to do that but he did very patiently let me continue trying out new scenarios.
Here’s a selection from our day. I used my Fuji X100s which is the camera I tend to carry around because it’s light and easy. I really must get back to albums of one sort or another because they’re great for holding and looking through when you have a spare moment, and terrific for future generations to have.
Get in touch for family photography sessions, mentioning this post and I’ll include 5 A4 prints to your booking for free*. That way you can also think about creating old fashioned albums for you and your children to look at in years to come.
Incidentally, I was recently introduced to Light, a camera company that is aiming to change the way photographs are taken with a new compact camera that has DSLR quality in a lighter and more convenient form! One of my photos will be submitted as part of their Vantage Point project.
Back to school tomorrow. And onwards with work in a slightly less disruptive manner (and breath….)! SJ x
Images (c)SJField 2016, *T&C apply – see website for details