I was sitting in my flat after cleaning my lens and camera for a wedding I'm shooting tomorrow and the relative quiet of a Friday afternoon in Southsea's Albert road was shattered by the sound of the Red Arrows flying overhead. I'm assuming they're there for the Americas Cup racing and didn't just fancy a day at the seaside. This got me thinking about the path my life has followed to date to get me to the point where I'm preparing for a wedding shoot (along with other things such as my first solo exhibition).
I started off my career as an engineer in the Royal Air Force (hence the thought process) and my first posting was working on the same engines (near enough anyway) as those in the Red Arrows. My photography back in those days was taking snaps with a old 35mm point and shoot and I had no real idea of what I was doing.
I eventually left the RAF and pursued a career in the civilian world as an engineer but after around 5 years of pretty hard graft life took a pretty serious downward turn in the form of a stress-related breakdown. You'll hear a lot of stories about people who have just shook something like this off and many twee quotes on social media about yelling "Plot twist!" And moving on with things. But the reality of the situation for me was very, very different. I'm not going to go into to much detail on that side of things but suffice to say I lost everything. My career I'd been working hard on, my house I'd just bought and more importantly my marriage broke down irrevocably and I became a divorcee.
Try yelling "Plot twist" and moving on after that.
What followed was a few years of depression, failed attempts to re-start my career, rubbish jobs and loneliness.
Fast forward a few years and I got my first digital SLR camera – a Canon 1200D if you're interested. I took this out a few times – still with no real idea of what I was doing – and discovered something quite important about myself. I really enjoyed the act of going out to take photographs, not as side thing to whatever I was doing at the time, but simply being out with the camera. Further to this, it felt right. It felt like this is what I should have been doing all along. You could say that it was my "Light bulb" moment.
I thought my photo's were good back then. I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread and my photos should have been hanging on gallery walls the world over. I'm now a little embarrassed by some of those shots I crowed about.
I started scouring the internet for landscape photographs. I wondered how the water in those shots always looked silky and beautiful when mine looked messy and unappealing.
I researched, I shot, I read, I watched Youtube videos. I shot and shot and shot.
I had found my passion and my passion found me. In my "old life" I would moan about having to get up early for a shift, now it doesn't bother me if my alarm wakes me up at 2:30 so I can on location for the blue hour and sunrise. I'm more than willing to make sacrifices in my personal life in order to get the best photographs I can.
It's Friday today and there are many really nice pubs and things to do within walking distance of my flat. Am I going to go out tonight? No, because I'm going to try and take the best photographs of my life at the wedding tomorrow. That's my attitude towards my photography, every time I go out to take photos – whether it's landscapes, Weddings, corporate events, portraits, gigs...anything -I'm trying to take the best photo I possibly can.
I push myself harder to become the best photographer I can possibly be than I ever did in my engineering life – if I'm honest I just used to do enough to get me through the day and called it good.
I'll never stop learning. I'll never stop pushing myself. I want to be the best I can possibly be and I don't think I'm even halfway there yet.