Featured photo by Michael Barnes, click here to see more of his work. And yes, that is me in the photo.
I thought in this post I would talk about something a bit different. Specifically, I want to discuss my own personal journey through the world of photography. The reason I want to talk about this is because I am finding myself at a fairly low ebb with many aspects of photography. That’s not to say I don’t still get a lot of enjoyment from it, it’s just that the enthusiasm I once had for it has certainly waned. I have decided to write it in chronological order as it seems like the most obvious way to lead up to my current viewpoint.
I really don’t know if anyone is remotely interested in what I am about to write as it is very self-centered but from hearing from others, my views are not unique so hopefully some of this stuff will resonate with anyone who does read it.
From a very early age I certainly had an interest in photography but not as an art form. More rightly, I should say I had an interest in cameras. I think many kids are fascinated with gadgets and cameras were always a fascinating gadget to me. I first came across camera’s long before digital photography ever existed, so I guess that makes me a certified old fart. To me, here was this little plastic box that you shoved a cartridge into, looked through the little hole and then clicked a button. You then took the cartridge to a somewhere that developed photos (usually Boots in the town where I lived) and then a few days later you picked up an envelope with these glossy photographs you had taken. It was like magic to a kid like me. So needless to say if a camera was going about I always wanted to be the one snapping away, not because I was really that interested in the end result, more just because I liked playing with gadgets.
The Years Roll On
And that is really how it stayed until I was in my early twenties. I would happily use a camera, but I didn’t really understand how it worked and never really took much of an interest in the final photographs. When I was at uni, digital cameras were just becoming widely available. The department I was in had a few of them that they let you use to take photographs to put into project work. Being the lover of gadgets, I was really fascinated by them as I am sure many were. Now you could take photos and instantly see them on screen. You didn’t need costly film and didn’t have the hassle of developing the photos. Again however, I just saw it as a fun gadget to play with and to make my life easier rather than a vessel to amazing pieces of art.
I went out and bought myself a digital camera to help me with my uni work and occasionally used it for taking snaps on holiday and suchlike. Because of this I had to learn the basics of image processing such as cropping and rotating but did very little else. Even then, I hadn’t really caught the photographic bug or anything like it. To be fair, the camera was absolutely rubbish compared to modern standards. It was 2MP and you had hardly any control over how it took the photos. However, it was modern and fascinating for its time.
Due to the usual mundane stuff i.e. work, the years went by and I only ever used cameras for work related stuff , holiday snaps, birthdays and such. It wasn’t until I was about 30 and utterly sick spending all my life working, eating and sleeping that I decided to take some time out. During this time, I seemed to develop a strong artistic craving. If it is possible, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a few years out from work. It completely changes your perspective on the world and makes you totally reprioritize everything. Remember, from the age of about 5 everyone gets locked into this work cycle through the school system and many never get free of it until they are old and can retire and by that point you are probably too set in your ways and lack enthusiasm to fully take advantage of it. Many never get free of it before they die.
I feel privileged at being able to have the this time and although it wasn’t easy getting by sometimes, it was certainly one of the best decisions I made because having this relatively brief period of freedom not only changed my whole outlook on life but it also seemed to awaken this latent artistic desire within me.
I started out trying my hand at painting but I was never that great at it. I didn’t have the patience for it. However, it was a good way for me to build up some artistic knowledge.
Fairly jaded with the whole painting thing I focused more on photography. When I was trying to paint, I was doing it from photographs I had taken and I realised that I actually enjoyed the photographic part more than the painting part, probably because it gave good, quick results. I even went out and bought a new digital compact for this reason.
Below is one of my better efforts with the paintbrush, and the photo which I took it from.
I then went out and started taking more photos with my compact. I was now seeing what could potentially be achieved through photography. I was looking at other peoples photographs often drooling over how they could make them so good. I started reading more on how to achieve better results and I also started dabbling into post-processing using G.I.M.P. which is a fantastic open source package. I was really starting to get interested in photography now but I was also finding I was starting to hit barriers.
Below is a selection of some the better photos I took on my old compact
The main barrier I was hitting was actually an artistic one but I believed it was a technical one. I couldn’t get my photos to look awesome like so many that I saw on flickr and suchlike. I believed it was because I was using a compact and that I needed an upgraded DSLR camera. In some ways this was true, but the main barrier was that I didn’t have the artistic skill to realise these images.
However, I didn’t understand this until later and I went out and bought myself a DSLR thinking that it would make all my photos look amazing. It didn’t. They actually looked much the same as those on the compact. So, I then started buying gadgets such as filters and new lenses in the hope it would help. In some ways it did but I still couldn’t get the effects I wanted. I think many go through this DSLR disappointment phase but it did have some positive effects. It made me realise that the barrier was mostly an artistic one. So with my new sparkly DSLR I endeavored to learn to learn and practise as much as I could to try to take my photos to another level.
Below is a selection of some of my earliest DSLR photos
So I did just that and as I learned and progressed my images got better. It wasn’t just the actual photographic technique but the post processing techniques too. I also started to unlock and realise the full potential of a DSLR camera and any initial disappointment at buying one soon abated.
It was at this stage that my enthusiasm for photography was at its highest. I couldn’t wait to get time to get out and get snapping. Trying out new filters, new processing techniques and watching the results improve all the time.
It was also at this time, that my photographs were getting a bit more attention on Flickr. I started posting on Flickr not long after I bought a DSLR however I never got much attention probably because the photos weren’t that good. However, as the photos got better I got more interest in them and this spurned me on further.
Below is a selection of my more improved images
The Cracks Beginning to Show
This enthusiasm continued for a few years helped in no small part by some of my friends sharing a similar interest in photography. However, the enthusiasm was starting to show cracks.
All the places I visited started looking the same. Every waterfall looked much like the other, all the hills looked the same, and the towns were just the same old collections of similar buildings. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved and still do love going out and visiting these places but it is because I enjoy the exploration, the freedom and the feeling of being there. It was my interest in photographing them that was waning as it was starting to feel so samey.
In a similar vein, my post processing was becoming narrower in scope. Applying mostly the same techniques over and over, and learning new ones more slowly.
However, I was still progressing and still very enthusiastic, albeit at what seemed like a reduced level.
Below is a selection of images taken a year or so ago
Where am I now
Honestly, in the last year, these cracks have just deepened.
From a photographic point of view, everything just really looks the same. I almost just see things as blocks of colour, and light and shade. I don’t really care much about their context or meaning when photographing them. When going out to take photos most of my enjoyment comes from the exploration of new areas and enjoying that in the company of the people I am with. I am almost photographing like a robot just seeing those patched of light and dark and snapping systematically away.
As for post-processing, it is still progressing slowly which helps maintain my enthusiasm, My current technique is banging stormy skies onto sunny shots which I am getting quite a bit of mileage out of but I know that it wont last forever.
Below is a selection of some of my most recent images
As for social media and photo sharing, I am fairly sick of it. There are a few people whose work and feedback I enjoy immensely so for that I will continue to use it. Also, people do publish and use my photographs which is an immense honour (and a big enthusiasm booster) so I will still continue posting them for that reason.
However, I am utterly fed up of the I follow you so you follow me, I like your photo so you like mine shit. I am not very good at or very interested in self publicity and abhor the tireless stream of advertising I am subjected to constantly whether that be at a corporate or personal level. I can understand why people do it, I just don’t really like it. The falseness of their claims and adulation is transparent and tiresome, and their selfish nature is boring and trite. This is something I will write about in depth later so will rant no further about it here.
As for other peoples photos, again there is a small selection of people whose work I really enjoy and I will continue to view them. However, most of it is just noise to me now. I absolutely appreciate why they are doing it as I was doing the same earlier in photographic journey, but once you see so many photos, most of them just look all the same.
I don’t ever want to give up on photography and I don’t think I ever will. Maybe I just constantly need new avenues to explore and I am getting this less and less from photography. Most of these new avenues now come from the post-processing aspects which is probably why I so heavily use and advocate these techniques. I honestly probably would have given up on photography if it wasn’t for the myriad of possibilities available through post-processing.
In addition, my friends are similarly enthusiastic, and probably similarly jaded, but this still helps maintain an interest.
As for social media, I will continue to use it as there are still many genuine people out there who enjoy viewing my photos and entering discourse over them, and many people who actually want to use my photographs for a constructive purpose. And, there are many people’s photos I really enjoy viewing. As for the phoney, self-obsessed attention seekers who only like the stuff so they can get likes or adulation reciprocated, they can simply get lost. It’s probably time I stripped down the list of people I follow on these sites. It might help focus my interest on the stuff I do like without all the noise. And no, I don’t really care how many likes or faves my photos get on these sites. I think me as a person and my confidence in my photography has reached a stage where it doesn’t matter much to me anymore. The genuine people will come forward regardless.
Just My Journey?
This is a brief and honest insight into the journey I have taken through photography. I really don’t know if people go through similar stages or not. I know it seems a bit doom and gloom but I still have a real enthusiasm for photography and it still brings me a lot of enjoyment, I just wish I had the same level of enthusiasm I had a few years ago. I will most certainly continue taking and presenting photographs and I don’t ever see a time where I will stop. Maybe I just need a slight change of direction to relight that fire, I’m not really sure.
However, there is one aspect of my photography I have not mentioned….
What do you do when you start getting jaded taking photographs? You start writing a photographic blog, it helps keep the interest levels up.
Thanks for Reading,
Having read some similar stories from other photographers, i think your feelings are quite common. Reflecting on my own journey i remember my own dissapointments in my photos and the considerations of giving up, I’m a good few years behind you so looking at your progression inspires me because i can see theres still avenues to explore. I think it was a year ago when i said you had “leveled up” and seriously think you have done it again. So i can understand if you feel you have plateau’d. Theres certainly more challenges out there.
you need to re-ignite that spark. perhaps go into the modeling business, im sure snapping a few leggy blondes will get you back in the game!
thanks for the photo credit BTW!
Thanks. I really appreciate it. Maybe I do need a bit of a change of direction. Since twatting my back, our trips to some different locations other than just big hills has certainly provided a bit of variety to the photography. I dunno if I could change the type of photography I do as I enjoy going out and exploring too much. Much more interesting than doing macro shots of bugs. Thankfully, the variety that can be achieved through post-processing still keeps things interesting. Your right though, there are still plenty of challenges out there, it’s just a case of getting my teeth into them.