I didn’t mention it at the time, largely as I was unbelievably nervous, but a couple of weeks ago I did a talk for the Lancaster Photographic Society. Christian, the programme co-ordinator is an old friend of mine. In fact, I met him when he first started dating my friend Kerstin eight years ago. In turn, I met Kerstin through the old Bowlie forum back in the day – an online indie pop hangout extraordinaire it was. Sadly no trace remains of the forum, though there’s still a flickr group containing some very embarrassing meet-up pics! But that’s another story. Well…sort of. More on that in a mo. Anyway, Christian asked me to talk about something that I was passionate about, so I essentially talked about my job. I encouraged people to ask questions and chat with me so that it was more of a natter with fellow photographers as I prefer things to be informal and friendly and the thought of an actual all attention on me presentation filled me with fear. I covered how important I think it is to feel a connection with my clients, to understand them as a couple and know how to get the best from them and give them back what they want to see. It was actually really good fun, even though I was shaking with nerves throughout. They’re a really lovely group of photographers and, much to my surprise, there was a particularly lovely couple there called Charlotte and Tom. Charlotte and Tom are getting married next year and booked me quite a while ago, actually. It was so lovely to meet them in real life and have a lovely natter. I can already tell we’re going to have a lot of fun when the time comes!
Back to the talk itself though… When I started preparing for it, I decided to mention my origins as a wedding photographer. How I came to shoot weddings and the time spent building up my experience and indeed portfolio with other pro photographers. I took a look back through my archives and thought about the progression from hobby to business. I thought about those really early days snapping away constantly whenever I was at a gig or a party. I always had a camera on me and have albums full of drunken pictures to remind me. And thanks to another friend made on Bowlie, the lovely Kristin of Struve Photography, I decided to buy my first DSLR. We’d just come back from a wee holiday in France with her parents and I had been rather enamored with her kit, so I treated myself. And I haven’t looked back since. Before long I was getting the hang of things and taking pics at gigs for a local fanzine (getting to go to gigs free – winner). It was ace. But I wanted to learn more. MORE!
Another Bowlie had started a project on flickr and I watched her skills develop and thought, I’m gonna try that. The project was called “365 days” and involved taking a self-portrait every day for a year. I figured the challenge would be to make an interesting picture every day when the subject is essentially the same. In reality, the challenge was taking any photos at all on days when I felt or looked like crap. But, I did it. In fact…I did it several times. Two full years and one inbetween where I stopped just short because I needed a break for a month or so. And you know what – I met some AMAZING people through it and I learnt absolutely LOADS. I started a fourth set in 2011 whilst I was traveling but lost my way with it once I got back to the UK and started to focus on making my business work. There are images from my first and that final set below. One of my favourite things about the project, aside from learning how to take pictures, was learning to accept what I look like. For years I had hated photos of myself. For no real reason, I just hated them. But when you’ve seen THAT MANY shots of yourself (and I’m talking rather a lot of bad ones for every good one) you just kinda accept yourself. You learn about lighting and holding yourself better (for self-portraits and other people’s photos) and most importantly you get the hang of acknowledging what is a good picture and what is a bad picture without taking it personally. I stopped worrying about looking good as a model (am I not pretty enough?) and started caring as a photographer (I can make my tummy look flatter/nose look less crooked/eyes look prettier if I do this) which was way more positive. I also found myself trying to tell more of a story with my images. Not sure how well that worked out…
In addition to taking self-portraits (I wasn’t completely vain, honest) I joined a few other groups on flickr offering daily and weekly challenges that I thought would help to stimulate my photographic learning. And looking back through those old pics, I was pleasantly surprised to see some very familiar composition and style. No matter what I learn, I hope I’ll always shoot this way. It seems to be very true to who I am and how I see the world. I experimented with through the viewfinder, film and various toy cameras. I even got sent a Blackbird Fly and five rolls of film by the toy camera’s developers – they used the images I took in their early marketing campaigns. I think that was when the first flickr of hope ignited. When I first thought that pursuing photography as more than just a hobby maybe was a possibility.
I was too scared to attempt to pursue my dreams for a long time though. Instead, I sold my flat and quit my old career to go traveling. And that’s where the magic happened. I fell so deeply in love with photography (and the new kit that I treated myself to) and I knew I no longer had anything to lose. Instead of trying to find a job straight away, I’d see if there was any possibility of building myself a wedding photography career. If it failed, I’d look for a normal job after all. But there was no harm in trying. And I spent my months in Asia not only soaking up the amazing sights, sounds, smells and tastes (I miss it so badly sometimes) but also working towards a goal. Starting in Feb 2011, I designed my branding, built my website, read as much as I could and networked like crazy so that when I returned to the UK I was able to hit the ground running. It was exciting and I had never felt more alive. Two years on…I still feel that excitement about LifeLine Photography. When I think about how far I’ve come, the wonderful people I’ve met, the incredible weddings I get to photography…and the fact that I now have a job that I am 100% passionate about and would not change for the world.
Of course, I also get bloody excited when I think back to that time spent in Asia too. The Himalayan trekking, the bustling Asian cities, the wildlife, the food, the beaches…oh the beaches. My next goal is to go back and do some of that again! I deserve it, right?
This post was brought to you by Kasey Chambers – Not Pretty Enough
How time flies. Life in Cherating was slow and dreamy, but already my stay there has come to an end. I found myself on the beach just after sunrise on my final morning with bittersweet memories washing over me. It had been my home for several months. For the first time, I saw the coastline shrouded in mist. The entire beach seemed desolate and far from tropical. My heart felt heavy. Goodbye sandbar. Goodbye waves. Goodbye hornbills. Goodbye friendly crabs. Goodbye sand dollars. Goodbye kitties. Goodbye Freddy the gecko. Goodbye monkey.
Tonight there is a full moon. Hundreds of visitors to the beautiful Thai island of Koh Pha-Ngan have descended upon Hat Rin beach to party through the night. There will be booming music, beer, flourescent paint and some rather dubious items of “Full Moon Party” clothing. I’m sure they will have lots of fun. But that’s just not my cup of tea. Nuh-uh.
Instead, this full moon has been all about puppies for me. I’m staying on a stunning beach called Haad Salad and it is home to a large number of incredibly cute dogs and puppies. Really small ones, slightly bigger more boisterous ones, and full adult ones that have simply refused to grow up. They are everywhere. And incredibly friendly. I cannot resist them. Every day I traipse to the far end of the beach to hang out with the pups with huge ears, calling in at the cafe off the main road for lunch and a bit of a play with the 6 week old pups, and returning via the beachfront massage place that is home to a three months old fluff ball. Puppies puppies puppies.
And, coincidentally, my mum e-mailed me today with photographs of a litter of tiny week old puppies. By the time I return to Blighty, one of them will be part of the Webster clan. How exciting!
I decided to take a 2 week trip up to Thailand as a nice little visa run. The overnight journey up to the border was fine – 8 hours on an air conditioned bus is a doddle for me these days. After that we crossed the border on foot. It was just before 7am. Between the two immigration posts we had to cross a river bridge. It was still dark. There were hardly any other people about, certainly nobody else on foot. Such a dramatic moment. A cinematic sort of border crossing. And once we reached Thai soil, as we walked the kilometer to the train station, the sun came up. It was really rather exhilarating. The warm rays, the golden colours, the smell of the early morning fruit market filling the air. What an incredible start to the day. And we arrived at the station just in time to buy our tickets for and board the local train to Surat Thani. A thirteen hour far from luxurious trip through southern Thailand. But the views were pretty and the overall experience interesting, so I wont complain. It’s funny how acceptable some unpleasant things are when you know that they will lead you to a happy place. And the Thai islands certainly offer that.
I decided to head to Koh Pha-Ngan, home of the legendary Full Moon Party.That is not the attraction though, by any means. This month, the party falls on the 18th so I could go, but my intention is to avoid it. To avoid that area of the island completely, in fact. To find a quiet, secluded bay where I can relax, soak up the sun and eat fabulous food until it is time to return to Malaysia. I’m treating it as a bit of a holiday in effect. And if my first day on this bi-polar island is anything to go by, a blissful holiday it will be…
I mentioned in my last post that it rains a fair bit here in Cherating. Well, there have been 2 days of heavy rain now. Storms in fact. Intense, powerful, fabulous storms. Downside…we were stuck indoors pretty much. Upside…our chalet has a huge verandah where we could sit watching the raindrops, listening to them pounding on the roof, giggling as the thunder shook the ground beneath us. It was fantastic. For me anyway. I’ve always found storms exhilarating and terribly romantic. Something about sheltering somewhere safe and warm with a loved one, maybe. The cliche of the wet hair on the furry rug in front of an open fire perhaps. Whatever it is about storms that makes me love them, long may it continue.
My favourite storms are actually when I am camping. I am fortunate to be the proud mummy of a 1970 VW camper van called TicToc. When we go off on our adventures together, I look forward to the occasional summer storm. The rain falling heavily against the metal roof makes such a fabulous sound. The windows steam up, but inside we are warm and dry. A plastic beaker of red wine and a stove cooked feast…you can’t beat it, I promise you. And worst case, if you are caught out in a downpour, just embrace it. What could be more romantic than kissing in the rain? That’s what waterproof mascara was made for…
As an aside, Happy Mother’s Day to all the fabulous mummies out there, and especially mine. She’s a dead good one and I love her to bits.
I have a new happy place. It is called Cherating. A small, sleepy village about half way down the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia. The area is know for its surfing, but it’s off season now. I gather the waves are more impressive during the monsoon, November through February time. But I’m not really one for surfing anyway. I struggle to stay upright on solid ground so asking me to balance on a floating plank is just, well, daft. I like the little waves just the way they are now. They look and sound just perfect to me. But not everyone agrees. Right now there’s a slightly unloved, forgotten feeling to the place. Something that appeals to me very much.
Aside from surfing, what is there to love about Cherating? Well… The beach stretches on for miles with its wide swathe of golden sand. The water is clear and crisp and refreshing. The jungle is lush, with the scent of frangipani heavy in the air and the roadsides rich with mangoes and coconuts. The people are so warm and friendly, it feels like you’ve come home. And there are cute kitties everywhere you look. And a little monkey I feed bananas to. And a baby musang (they’re adorable – I’d never seen one before). And a baby red squirrel. And cute kids. It is Hannah heaven! Of course there are some down sides, too, but in my world every cloud really does have a silver lining. (1) It rains quite a lot, but I love how the thunderstorms sound as I curl up in a comfy chair out on the verandah of my wooden chalet. (2) There are snakes, frogs, monitor lizards and some huge tropical bugs, but they add an element of excitement to an otherwise quiet life. Besides, I get so excited when I see them that it drowns out any real sense of fear. (3) There’s really not a lot to do, but that gives me the perfect excuse to take long relaxed walks, spending quality time with my camera. This lovely laid back little place has won my heart. In the same way that rundown seaside towns do back in the UK. It feels isolated and a bit unloved, but at the same time remarkably romantic.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the romance of beaches, actually. There’s something so perfect about taking a stroll along a beach with the one you love. Following the shore line, listening to the waves, finding pretty pebbles or shells, leaving pairs of complimentary footprints in the sand everywhere you go. I just love it. I get all dreamy on the beach. I can never resist writing messages for the waves to wash away. Or doing handstands. Not sure why. And beaches make such a great location for portrait sessions, be it engagements or fearless brides or family shoots, what kid doesn’t love the beach after all?
I’m going to be happy here…
I simply cannot resist petting every single kitty cat that I meet. Seriously. It’s quite amusing. Especially when certain kitties decide that they would really rather not be petted and run a mile leaving me pouting in the street. Tee hee. Thankfully, I have met some wonderful felines on my travels to date and have been able to pet and photograph quite a few of my favourites.
If you’re a cat owner and are considering hiring me for family portraits…please be assured that I will not attempt to steal your furry friend. But I will insist on some kitty cuddles. Them’s the rules…
Woo. Yay. I’m back in SE Asia. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday evening and couldn’t have been happier to be faced with the humid heat and the smell of fabulous stall food. I’m spending a few days in KL then heading to the east coast of the peninsular for some beach action. And by action, I mean laziness. Ahem. Well…I’ve got a lot of admin to take care of and a website to develop so I’ll be flexing my mental muscles. But mostly I’ll be doing it in a comfortable position. Hopefully. For now though, I’m just enjoying soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful city…
Thailand was interesting. I went to Bangkok first. I liked certain elements (the awesome cheap stall food, the grape soda big gulps, the abundance of fresh fruit, the pretty temples glinting in the sunlight) but found other aspects rather depressing (the countless drunk travellers parading through the Kao San Road area booze in hand being lary and obnoxious, the stifling heat and busy traffic, the immense urban sprawl). I was much happier when I reached Chiang Mai in the north, on the edge of the Golden Triangle. Again there were beautiful temples, but the evenings were cooler and less oppressive, there was a laid back feel about the place, an obvious arty vein, and the food may not have been as cheap as in Bangkok, but boy was it tasty. From Chiang Mai we hired a motorbike and rode the Mae Hong Son Loop, a famous windy mountain road that took us through lots of lovely towns and villages, some just a stones throw from the border with Burma/Myanmar. The air was full on cold at night, the views from the bike glorious, the people I met fantastically welcoming and the whole experience an utter pleasure. Well, except the bit where we dropped the bike on a super steep bend and I ended up with a huge graze on my hand. But these things happen. I healed. We returned the bike to Chiang Mai, enjoyed an incredible night market on the King of Thailand’s birthday, and then commenced my journey south. I went on a mini adventure that took in the elephant sanctuary at Lampang, the incredible World Heritage site of the ancient temples complex of Sukothai, and the monkey city of Lopburi. Genuinely some of the most beautiful days of my life and without doubt the most spiritual. Sukothai pretty much blew me away, I don’t mind telling you. Riding through the ruins on a bicycle in the sunshine I had a clear mind and a happy heart.
After another short stop in Bangkok, I headed to the west coast for a bit of island time. Koh Lanta was my home for a month, and a happy home it was too. Christmas and New year were passed blissfully and 2011 got off to a fabulous start. Sadly, there was another bike incident. This time I was learning to ride a shonky old scooter myself and managed to wipe out on on some loose dirt. Daily trips to the clinic to have multiple dressings changed put an end to some of my exploring plans, but there are certainly worse places to recuperate after an accident. And again, I healed. Life goes on. My scars will forever remind me of this adventure and the need to wear more than just beach short and a vest top when out on a motorbike! My memories of Koh Lanta (and Thailand generally) are still overwhelmingly happy ones. Plus…I got another cheeky tattoo while I was there. Score!
Having shared Nepal with you, it’s now time to move further east (and indeed south). I flew into Kuala Lumpur at the start of November 2010 and spent almost a month traveling up the eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia toward the Thai border. The journey introduced me to the tiny fishing island of Pangkor, the cave temples of Ipoh, the tea and strawberries colonialism of the Cameron Highlands (where it rained non-stop), the Nonya heritage of Penang and the laid back loveliness of Langkawi. The food was great (especially in Georgetown), the hospitality impeccable and the weather mostly just to my liking. I rather like Malaysia.