2016 has been 'Challenging' to say the least (and I'm not talking about Brexit and Trump!). Running a small business is tough.. there's the constant worry about the strength of the business, about marketing, accounts, admin etc... And that's before you even get to the fun bit of taking photographs! It can really get on top of you if you are not careful. But, when you add a healthy dose of personal issues into the mix, it can be very difficult to see the wood from the trees. Before I sat down at my desk to put this review of my year together, I had wondered what on earth I would be able to write about. Afterall, most of this year has been taken very much on a day to day basis. However, when I looked at my diary of the year, we actually crammed a lot in.
Wedding and Portrait Photographers International, Las Vegas...
Back in February, I took a trip over to the states for WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International). This was the second time I have been to the conference and it was as good (if not a little better) than my first trip. Classes with some of the the very best photographers in the world (inc. Justin and Mary Marantz, Chuck Arlund, Brianna and Ewan Phelan to name just a few), meeting some of my heroes (yes Joe, I'm talking about you again) and making new friends.... it was a fantastic few days. Sadly I won't be going in 2017 as I am shooting Hannah and Oli's wedding at the same time (which I am very much looking forward to), but maybe 2018 will see a return visit (fingers crossed). Oh, and of course.... it takes place in Vegas!
Fun with Film Photography.
I have also been shooting a fair bit of film this year... both 35mm and Medium Format. Here are a few film images from our trip to the states, using either my Canon AE-1 or my Bronica SQ. I wish I could shoot more film but unfortunately it can be a little cost prohibitive. However, I have also added a Bronica ETRS, an Agfa Isola and a Zeiss/Ikon Nettar 517/16 to my Medium Format camera collection this year and intend to use them more and more over the coming months. Film truly kicks digitals ass in terms of aesthetic. It would be wonderful if it were just that little more affordable!
Lots of Wonderful Weddings to Photograph.
Of course, the majority of my time this year has been taking up with the business of photographing weddings. It has been a very interesting year. I have worked for so many wonderful people, been to loads of amazing venues (both new and old) and experienced some wonderfully interesting celebrations. Of course I can't thank every Bride and Groom, Parent, Bridesmaid and Groomsman individually. But I can say a massive thank you to everyone who has asked me to be a part of their wedding day, to everyone that has recommended me to others, to everyone that has written kind words of thanks to me, to those that have liked, tweeted, shared and commented on my work. You have all kept me going and put a smile on my face.
Thank you all so much.
What spare time I have had has often been spent taking little walks in the nature reserve that backs onto our home. It's a beautiful place, changing from season to season and, with the Severn Valley Railway running through it (and a wonderful herd of resident Shetland Cattle) it is a great place to clear my mind after a long days work.
The Lake District.
At the start of the year, my Uncle was awarded an MBE for services to Music and Craftsmanship. He is a genius (check out Fylde Guitars) and this wonderful award is so very deserved. In order to celebrate, in October we travelled up to the Lake District for a surprise party. The party was great (and the surprise was very well kept), but as with anyone that has ever spent any time in this part of the world, just being in the Lake district is enough. It is difficult not to fall in love with what is the most perfect part of the British Isles.
A few photographs of Iceland (sadly not the Northern Lights though).
In December, we took a 'little' trip to Iceland for a break. The weather was awful, we didn't see the northern lights and the food and drink was ridiculously expensive. However, we had a wonderful time. Iceland is like nowhere I have ever been before. It is completely otherwordly (if that is a word!)
New Camera Gear.
This year I have been getting to grips with a new camera system. After working with mirrorless cameras for most of 2015, I decided to move back to DSLR for weddings at the start of the year. The reasons for this are many, and I would be more than happy to discuss them with anyone that might be stupid enough to ask, but I am very happy to have made the switch back. I now shoot with Nikon cameras and Sigma ART lenses.
The importance of Photography for me.
And finally, I come to the serious side of this post. Early in the spring we suddenly lost my father in law. It came as a massive shock to all of us.... my wife was and still is shattered by it. On a personal note I had become closer and closer to him over the nearly 20 years my wife and I have been together. Only a few weeks before he passed we attended the Autosport International exhibition together as part of a book project we were working on and we had a great time. We met a stack of people and he shared lots of stories from his time in motor racing. His personality really was larger than life and he has left a massive whole in our lives. His death, coupled with significant changes in the circumstances of other people very close to us has meant that this year really has passed by in a blur.
However, it does reinforce something that I have written about in the past with regard to Photography and the way I approach my work.
Family is hugely important to me.... some of my most treasured photographs are those of my Grandparents. The images themselves are nothing special from a technical point of view. They are candid moments taken on a cheap camera with little thought to lighting and composition. But they perfectly capture the personalities of people I loved dearly. The same goes for this shot of Jim taken at the Autosport show. We managed to find the stand that the company he started his engineering apprenticeship with were exhibiting on, and I grabbed this shot of him looking at a new gearbox with great interest. We now have this shot on our wall and I am so glad I took it. It is a lovely reminder of a great day and a very special person.
This experience has only served to reinforce my view that I want my wedding photography to be about family and friends and about the celebration of a wedding day. I'm even less inclined to use what I would consider fashionable editing skills or gimmicky / cheesy / overly posed shots than I have ever been. I want to create images that mean something and will continue to strive to do so. I just want my work to be simple and elegant and bring back wonderful memories for my clients for years to come.
So what about 2017...
I'm not the biggest fan of new years resolutions. You start with the best of intentions and then life gets in the way... only leading to disappointment. So I am not setting any.
However, I do have a few goals for the coming year. In terms of Wedding Photography, I have a lot of amazing weddings to be a part of this year. I will be working for lots of great people with some really lovely venues on the schedule, including an amazing destination wedding that I am very excited about.
I do want to diversify things a little and I hope one or two plans might come to fruition early in the new year to enable me to do so. We shall see.
There might be a little less travelling. I have a list on my office wall of places to visit that might need to wait for a while. Who knows.
I've got back into going to the Gym over the last couple of months and am loving it. I want to push my current deadlift pb of 275lbs to over 300 by the summer.
I want to learn a lot more about lighting. Specifically I want to get to grips with how Annie Leibowitz lights her portraits (who doesn't right?!)
I want to stop worrying so much, but I fear that will never happen.
And, most importantly... if 2016 has taught me anything, it's that I need to spend more time with family. So I will.
Anyway, I'm off for my tea. Happy New Year!!