A day in Wells

These photos are getting old now, they were taken not long after my Grandad died and I've been hesitant to share them... because hes not in them, because it was so close to his funeral, because time is flying by so quickly.  These photos are getting old now.


The hardest parts of the grief are the unexpected parts, the anger at the passing of time, the jolt of remembering death when you've been so busy (moving house etc), the guilt of forgetting for just that brief moment. The reluctance to throw away a gift card because it has his name on it, even if he didn't write it. Discovering all the notes he sent me (we had a deal, he wrote me, I text him - he liked his phone, I always loved his handwriting), making sure his photo is the first thing that has pride of place on the bookcase, before remembering, again, that he won't see our new house. Wishing he was here to identify the plants I don't know... I didn't even know I wanted him to do that, but he would have and I would have asked him.

I've struggled to take photos recently, my phojo (photography mojo) has always been connected to my emotions, and that part of me is so deep in grief right now - it doesn't want distractions or to notice the details around us right now - which is so unusual, as my blog name indicates. But that part of me needs space, and time to get used to this new normal, and I'm ok with waiting and giving it all the time it needs, trying to give myself all the time I need. My cameras are always waiting, they are reassuring like that.

Another part of me is diving into knowledge - podcasts mainly but  I've read two books since he died too, I'm about to start another. I've read 3 now, I'll definitely reach 4 books this year, I'll read more. It isn't as rewarding as I hoped, reaching that goal, yet I'm craving the words of others, the sound of other peoples experience and the description of others emotions, secrets and stories. Making that connection seems so much more important than documenting it. I'm hoping that I can combine the two again soon.

This isn't the post I thought I would write, but thank you if you read it all, it felt good to write it. And can we take a moment to appreciate Harry's amazing old dog eyebrows and adorable face? I'm seeing him this weekend and I can't wait to squish him and stroke his soft fur.  

Camera: Canon EOS 750
Film: Lomo CN400
Location: Wells, Norfolk

A few things I've learnt from a year (or so) of scanning my own negatives

I don't talk as much about my photography on my blog anymore - of how I feel and my process - I've said it before here - and its always a similar vain - I'm constantly searching for something.   My film photography process is a completely emotional and intuitive process - I love it and my results are as authentically me as I ever feel but I don't really think I can say it any better than in those previous posts. 

If you're not in the mood for rereading my old posts (I totally would if I was you but then I think I read them more than anyone else anyway ha) here is a highlight of how I feel about taking photos. I'm a sap I know...

To me, each photo I take is like falling in love - you're constantly search for it - everywhere you go - even if you aren't aware that you are... sometimes you can't see it, sometimes you find it in one step, sometimes you have to work a bit harder, perhaps challenge your preconceptions and break some of your own rules... but just like love - no one can tell you when you've found that perfect photo, you just know it... through and through!

Although this is still so very true for me, scanning my films has changed things and my perspective quite a bit... Not the process, not completely how I take photos but the process after that - its all completely different from before.

In 2011 I wrote that editing my photos riled me up - and it still does ha, don't get me wrong - but now its for a completely different reason.

In 2011 the company that developed my negatives scanned my photos - the final result was completely out of my hands and I was totally OK with that - it was quick, easy and I was getting results I loved. 

Now - 5 years later - I'm scanning my own photos... the control is completely mine and here's a few things I've learnt.

  • All my photos before I got my scanner were more than likely auto corrected and auto colour balanced. I have no idea how I feel about a lot of them now - or even about lot of the films I used. It feels like I'm starting everything all over again. This partly makes me want to cry and partly excites me.
  • Scanning colour film takes forever. Not just the physical scanner process - but setting the colours correctly once the preview has run and then trying to balance the colours once more once you've scanned the image. It doesn't help that I am turning into a perfectionist about it all either. If I don't feel like they look right - they don't look right and I can spend ages trying to find the photo I took within the image the scanner gives me.
  • Generally my exposure is pretty good (thank goodness for that). Having 6 years of film photography experience before scanning my own negatives has definitely been an advantage for my current photo results. Most of my editing is about the final look of colours - not brightness/contrast/exposure etc.
  • Dust is the devil. And so is my own laziness at wiping my negatives and scanner between each scan. I'm getting better at this definitely... wipe your scanner and negatives people!
  • In some ways - the type of film I'm using means less to me now - scanning my own colour films is helping me develop my own style of colour palette in more ways than I ever imagined it would. I had a vague idea before but now I'm getting a feel for what I like and don't like in a much more sensitive and aware way.
  • I DO NOT like green colour shifts (also why I'm not a huge fan of Lomo Xpro film). And a lot of my films from the last year I want to rescan because its honestly killing me that my photos aren't quite perfect.  I can see that I'm so close to the final image being how I want it - but I just can't get it right. Its infuriating. I'm starting to figure out curve editing which is resolving the green shift but still, argh!
  • Instagram is a surprisingly good colour editor - a slight tweak in warmth on their editing and boom, green shift gone - the results on my Instagram are much closer to how I want them to look than on here - and luckily thats where most people seem to see my photos ha. 
  • If I won the lottery theres a huge risk I would spend most of my days rescanning all my photos. Which would take a long time. But be totally worth it... (I'd also buy more cameras and film and take even more photos... man it would be amazing.)
  • Scanning my own photos has made me appreciate every single image so much more and also made me consider the final shot more before I take the photo. Knowing that each photo I take is going to take up a lot of my time after I've taken it in the scanning/editing process means that each one has to be a photo I really like and want to spend that time on. That has admittedly been a bit more challenging with my 366 project (some of them I've definitely phoned in) but over all, I take less photos now than I did a few years ago. I'm OK with that.
  • Despite colour film being so difficult to scan - I think that colour film is my favourite. I love black and white and use it more in the winter months, but gosh, I do love colours. My colour photos when scanned how I really want them to look provoke a feeling in me almost like a gut punch in the stomach - I feel a little like I can't quite catch my breath and I totally forget about everything other than how I'm feeling in that moment looking at my photo. 
  • Comparison is indeed the thief of joy. Whilst I was part of the Film Shooters Collective (sadly I'm not anymore due to time constraints - hopefully this isn't a long term situation - but I still highly recommend you check it out if you love film) it was an amazing resource for constant inspiration - however it was also quite intimidating to see other peoples photos they'd scanned themselves look SO perfect and well balanced.  Remembering that everyone, including me, is on their own journey was sometimes quite difficult.
  • I always knew that any creative process was just that - a process - but trying something new and a different way of doing things has totally cemented the idea that I am always going to be learning with my photography and I'm always going to be evolving and perfecting.

This post has ended up being huge - so I'll conclude on this final point which I think is the most important lesson. Photography is photograpy. Whatever you use - film or digital, your phone or a toy camera - it takes time, knowledge and understanding to create a photo you love. The level of commitment to any of those things is your choice and the tools you use is your choice as well. Maybe one day I'll try digital and find it represents me just as well as film, I'll definitely know how I want to edit my photos if I do ha. But right now, this is where I am - using film and scanning my own negatives - and I'm happy with that - green colour shifts and all.


Starting over...

"What is of greatest important is to hold a moment, to record something so completely that those who see it will relive an equivalent of what has been expressed."  Alfred Stieglitz

My year started with 12 weeks of Cognitive behavioural therapy in Janurary. To say this has changed my life is an understatement - though I'm sure if I tried to explain it to you I couldn't and you probably wouldn't notice any obvious changes unless you looked inside my brain and thought processes (which you really don't want to do haha). But my approach to everything has changed - and slowly but surely I've been changing everything around me to reflect that. Physically I stopped dying my hair, I started an irregular (ha) yoga practice, I bought a Fitbit to try to walk more every day, I go to bed a bit earlier and try to sleep longer...

And although these things have definitely helped me - some things I still struggle to let go of - I still try to keep my old approach and then get confused when I can't make it work. Old habits - old approaches that used to work so well for me but now don't - they're so hard to let go of, they're so intertwined with 'me' that often I don't even realise until very late on that I have them.

Last week Sas Patrick shared a link to her Definitive List of Awesome (so awesome!) and on that list was a link to 200 free documentaries (see awesome!!). Immediately I started watching documentaries and the very first one - a documentary on Alfred Stieglitz - who I admittedly didn't know about before - inspired me in a way that many things haven't recently... and honestly I could have cried. I have missed inspiration, I have missed feeling excited and passionate about art. I've missed enjoying holding my camera. 

I heard the quote below and it struck me like I'd been hit on the head with a hammer.

"Devoid of flim-flam; devoid of trickery and any 'ism'; devoid of any attempt to mystify an ignorant public, including the photographers themselves. These photographs are the direct expression of today..." Alfred Stieglitz

In hearing this, I realised my photographs (and perhaps even my blog too) weren't these things - that I've been trying to take photos like I used to - I was trying old methods to express myself. It made sense for me to do so, that approach worked -  I loved taking photos, I took photos that I loved, I felt my photos at the time were my direct expression and people (as in you amazing group of people) liked the results as much as I did and I was so excited about that.

But lately, I've been trying to share how I used to feel, how I used to express myself, rather than how I am now - and I've been hitting a brick wall. A huge brick wall. In fact for a while I thought it was impenetrable and that my photography drive was dwindling. But now I know what it is and it has a tiny chip in it - or perhaps a seed instead  - and I can already feel it growing, spreading. 

I have no idea what this means for my photos, I don't even know which camera I want to pick up right now but I want to pick up at least one, I know that. And now I know that everything I've learnt in the last 5 years doesn't apply to me anymore and that I'm going to have to start over. And that is so very exciting... and just a little bit scary. Eep, wish me luck!