Review of the year - 2017

It was January 2nd 2017, exactly one year ago today that I made a decision. A decision that altered the course of my life potentially forever.

I have been shooting promotional images for my own businesses for years, mostly out of necessity. As time went by other people picked up on the work I was doing and asked me to shoot images for their businesses too and this had turned into a fairly regular stream of work. Outside of work photography I enjoyed shooting landscapes, food, abstracts and street shots but despite all this I didn’t consider myself a photographer. Fear was stopping me from even entertaining the notion that I could be a photographer and so all of these images I had shot, images I was proud of, were sitting hidden away on a hard drive. I was afraid to put them out there because I was afraid to put myself out there.

On the 2nd of January 2017 I made the decision that enough was enough. I was going to throw myself headfirst into photography...full time. No more excuses. No more hiding away or ignoring it. Hey, I was doing it all the time anyway and loved it so it was time to put myself out there and take a chance. I posted my first images on Instagram, Facebook and Flickr and the response was fantastic. People were enthusiastic about my work, encouraging and engaging. I felt a rush of enthusiasm that has continued to grow as the months have passed. It’s been an amazing year. I know it’s early days and there is a way to go before I am able to just do photography full time but I couldn’t have asked for a better start than the one I’ve had this year.

I know, like myself many people would love to go full time with photography and so I thought I would share some of the high points of my first year, some of the moments that cemented my love for photography and made me 100% sure I made the right decision. I hope that if you are reading this and making all the same excuses for not doing it like I was that this might inspire you to get up and go for it. There are images out there to be taken and you have as much right as anyone else to be the one to get them. There are businesses out there looking for images and you may be sitting at home hiding them or your talent away. There are experiences to be had if you want to take the chance at having them. The truth is that it is expensive to get into photography and right now it is a saturated market but that should not stop you from doing it. I’ve spent a tonne of money this year on equipment, I’ve borrowed a fair bit and had to rely on the generosity of family members and friends to help out but I’ve made almost all of it back and next year I hope to make even more, to start paying the bills with photography. Sure, there are low points, and I will go into some of those in my next blog post but the highs have been so high I don’t even care about the those bad points. This has undoubtedly been the best year I’ve had in a very long time and it all came down to that decision I made last January.

Here are a few of the stand out moments from the last year.

Cover of Local Life 

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This was an advertisement shoot for Steampunk Coffee for the front cover of the May/June issue of Local Life. The remit was to create an aspirational scene to promote Steampunk’s “Life’s a journey, bring great coffee” tagline. It was an article about coffee on the road and a celebration of the coming summer. The only problem? We were shooting in early May on the east coast of Scotland, it was overcast, windy and absolutely freezing. I had to get a bit creative with the editing to make it look summery and warm.

This is a very special image for me not just because it was the first time one of my images had been used on a front cover but also because it features my wife Ailey. I learned a bunch doing this shoot and had so much fun, I’m very happy with how it came out and more importantly so were the guys at Local Life and Steampunk.

View From White Meldon  

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Oh boy, where to start with this one? It was late August, 15 minutes before sunset and a faint mist was just starting to form. I was getting eaten alive by midges and I could not for the life of me work out a composition. I tried angle after angle, lens after lens and different focal lengths, anything I could to find some way to tie all of the parts of this amazing landscape together. I was watching the shadows lengthen right in front of my eyes and was starting to panic a little that the sun was going to go down and I was going to miss the opportunity for the shot. Eventually I found the small patch of heather and ferns you see in the foreground and used them to anchor the scene and took the shots. I got home, loaded up the raw files and...I hated it. It didn’t have the magic of the scene I saw on that hill. It sat open in photoshop for 5 days. I edited it and re-edited it at least 4 times. By the time I had an edit I was happy with I had lost enthusiasm for the image. I decided it was an ok shot, not a keeper but I would stick it on my phone just in case I wanted to instagram it one day.

A week later I was in Ikea, I was bored and to pass time I was looking through my phone and stumbled on the picture. I decided to post it and then I put my phone back in my pocket. On my way home I casually clicked on Instagram and was met with a barrage of likes and comments, more than I had received for any post before, like way way more. It was staggering. I could never have predicted such a phenomenal response. That volume of engagement continued for the rest of the night too. The next day the image started to get shared on hubs and the engagement grew. Then, about a week later VisitScotland shared it on their Instagram and Facebook accounts and all hell broke loose. People were messaging me from all over the world to ask where it was, when was the shot taken, would it still look like this and if I was selling prints. I had messages from people thanking me for the image as they had spent their childhood summers there and asking if they could create water colours of it, it was crazy. Split over the various accounts that shared it, it eventually toted up well in excess of 100,000 likes with thousands of shares and comments, a truly surreal experience.

I still sell a few prints of it per month and I regularly get messages and emails regarding it. For an image I nearly scrapped and walked away from the response has been overwhelming. I think it will always be one of those special images for me. A real case of right place at the right time. 

Blue Fall

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My favourite image of the year. I really can’t explain what it is about this image that makes me like it so much, I just do. I had been trying for 40 odd minutes to get a shot of the Black Linn falls but it was the peak of autumn and the place was mobbed. I wanted to capture a 5 second exposure, long enough to create movement in the water but short enough to retain the detail but this shorter exposure wasn’t long enough to blur out the people. I decided to abandon that shot for another year. Deflated I walked around thinking about giving up and going home. As I made my way along the path this little tree caught my eye. The rusty brown leaves were contrasting perfectly against the blues of the waterfall. The tree looked so delicate and vulnerable perched precariously on the edge of the falls with this tremendous unstoppable blue cascade thundering away behind it. A simple set up but I love it. In fact, It’s the first of my own images that I have printed, framed and hung on my own wall. 

Steampunk Book

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Back at the start of summer I began working with my friends Cath (Steampunk’s owner) and our friend Rachel (rachelseagoillustration) on a book for Steampunk Coffee. The book would tell the Steampunk story and explain the philosophy of the company as well as containing recipes and coffee guides. This varied content meant I had the opportunity to shoot a broad mix of images from food shots to images of the building and candid shots of the staff at work. These images then had illustrations by Rachel overlaid onto them so there was an extra challenge working out layouts and positions for the individual parts. I’m really proud of what we achieved in this book, it’s definitely the highlight of my year and I’m really looking forward to working on exciting new projects with them in 2018. 

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I know it’s a bit cliched to finish with a thank you but this has been too amazing a year not to. The support I’ve had from everyone around me has been overwhelming. To all of you who have supported me one way or another in this first year, thank you! You have all been sensational!

Onwards and upwards!