My Photography Journey by Tamryn Jones
My photography journey has been a long one. As I sit down to write this I am overwhelmed with things to say. It feels as if there are so many levels I could delve into here making it very difficult to sum up all in one blog piece. There is the incredibly frustrating side to my journey because mastering the technical aspects did not come easily to me. Then there is the emotional side to my journey deeply connected to life and my struggle with depression. This is the more therapeutic side which helps me escape, be drawn in and feel artistically rewarded.
Prior to 2007, my photography looked like this. I think throughout my life I have always seen the importance of owning a camera and felt quite a strong desire to have my life well documented. I hold images like these of my boys very close to my heart.
In 2007 I got my first DSLR. It was a Canon 400d which came with an 18-55mm kit lens as well as a 70-200mm Tamron lens. At this point I had 2 little boys aged 2 and 9 months and was hoping to be able to take ‘nicer’ pictures of them. So what did I do? I kept the camera in auto of course. Then all I needed to do was hang up a dark sheet, use the camera’s pop-up flash and VOILA! I’m awesome.
Needless to say it didn’t take me long before I wanted that flash to be off permanently. I did a bit of reading up on how to use the camera in AV and TV mode (manual mode was way too daunting) but I couldn’t really get to grips with understanding the exposure triangle at this stage.
Now, for some reason I had it in my head that professional photography was all about studio lighting equipment so I enrolled on a 2 day lighting course down in Wiltshire. Off I went for the weekend and absolutely loved it. I had well and truly been bitten by the photography bug. The workshop was incredibly informative though I didn’t take everything in because there was just so much to process and think about. Things like white balance and grey cards went way over my head but I came away confident of my next steps. Not long after I bought the Elinchrom D-lite studio kit, a light meter and even a snoot. Yep, I thought I was the real deal now.
By 2008 I was beginning to look at images a little differently. I remember loving window light and depth of field yet most of the images I was pleased with were just lucky shots and I had no idea how to get those same results in manual mode.
I did my own maternity shots which I was fairly happy with.
By now I was getting a little frustrated with shots of the kids because, although I duly metered the light strength of my d-lites and set my camera to f8 1/125 as I was taught, I still didn’t quite understand how to fully use light to shape and mold my subjects and I was getting bored with my limitations. I was using Photoshop but other than playing with exposure, contrast and sharpness I really didn’t know what I was doing.
My 3rd son was born in 2009 and my daughter came along in 2011 and during this time my photography was all much of the same really. I had upgraded my camera to the Canon 550d at this point and my comfort zone was definitely my mobile studio. When out and about with the family however, my shots weren’t that great. I was trying things, failing, trying again but felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was working mostly in AV mode but with natural light and decent shots were still mostly down luck.
In 2012 I started taking on clients for my studio work and I traveled here and there and everywhere with my mobile kit and my car full of props and backgrounds taking family photos. I was amazed at how quickly the word spread and how busy I became. There was something missing though. I was longing for more natural kind of photos and the artist in me was desperate to emerge. I was frustrated and impatient.
2012/2013 probably mark the biggest changes for me. I was determined to get to a point where I had full control over my images. My husband got me the Canon 50mm 1.8 for my birthday in March and from then on I was completely hooked on prime lenses. By the end of 2012 I had upgraded to the 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.8. I discovered Photoshop actions, yes I used them all. More importantly though I ‘forced’ myself to learn to shoot manual. I read and re-read all the photography books I had. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I took loads of photos and slowly started to see the results I was looking for.
In 2013 I found my stride and was very happy with the images I was achieving. I was thirsty for any photography knowledge I could get my hands on. I also started to appreciate the value of the online photography community, workshops and training days. I did a one-to-one day of training with renowned UK and International Photographer and Nikon Ambassador Kate Hopewell-Smith. I also finally went full-frame and purchased my beloved 5d mark III. At this time I also felt confident enough to take on lifestyle clients working solely with natural light.
It was in processing these particular images here from late summer that ignited my love for black and white photography. Something clicked. There was a depth and intrigue to them and the artist in me was purring.
Not long after I joined Clickin Moms. Things moved forward for me in leaps and bounds from here on. I spent a few weeks dissecting the masses of information on the forums. I loved as a whole how Clickin Moms encouraged a unique photography voice and I felt very at home almost instantly. Now fully engrossed in my black and white work I did Allison McSorley’s Breakout Finding Light Among the Shadows. I can’t over emphasize how much I gained from this. It was like she had tailored the breakout just for me. It was exactly what I needed given that I live in the UK and have cursed the dull, dark weather often. The breakout gave me a big boost and I started truly seeing the light around my home.
I also did Megan Dill’s breakout Therapeutic Photography: An Introspective Approach. Through this I started to understand and use photography to convey feelings and this is probably where the relationship between my expressive artistic voice and my emotions (a lot of them quite dark) became deeply rooted.
I also decided that I needed a wider angle lens to challenge myself and it was definitely the right call. I jumped straight in and got the 35L. It took some getting used to but oh my goodness how I love this lens. I started thinking more about image composition and placing elements purposely within the frame. I could see my photography style now emerging. My work took on more of a fine art feel and I had picked up enough knowledge through various sources along the way to now be processing in ACR and Photoshop without the use of actions. I was able to photograph with vision.
I was now mostly using my 35L and 85mm 1.8 so I decided to sell my 50mm 1.4. In early 2014 I started toying with the idea of applying for CMPro. I thoroughly enjoyed putting my set together but it took a lot of bravery to press send on that application as I know how far I had come in my journey but knew there were mountains still to climb.
Almost 16 months later and I still have that acceptance email in my inbox. I still can’t quite believe I made pro. I think I actually cried I was so happy. I was astounded.
The rest of 2014 was a dream photography wise. I struggled a bit with my depression (I suffer with seasonal effective disorder) but my dark contrasty black and whites went hand and hand with this and I enjoyed immersing myself in the image creations. Photography was/is my escape.
I also did a ’30 days of self-portraits’ project.
2015 has been a little weird for me photography wise. The first part of the year I was stuck in a rut and could go weeks without even picking up my camera and then when I did take a few photos they would stay on my camera for another few weeks before I felt any inspiration to upload and look at them. I was still getting results but the obsessive desire to photograph and edit was definitely starting to wane. I don’t think it’s unusual for a creative person to feel this way from time to time. I know I’ll find my stride again. I have been distracting myself with other things but my photography will always be here and I love to utilize the craft more leisurely and less obsessively. I can honestly see myself falling in love with landscape photography and my new found love for hiking will be a good excuse to delve in. I think for me at this stage I don’t want it to be forced. I want the moment to entice me, the creativity to flow out of me and when that happens it’s heaven and when it’s not there it simply isn’t there.
More recently I decided to get a study along seat for the workshop Lightroom Fundamentals with Jamie Rubeis just to change things up a bit for myself. I have had LR installed on my computer for years but never used it much.
I have also recently got Sarah Wilkerson’s breakout Flawless: The Secrets of Skin which has done wonders for my colour editing.
I also decided that I needed a 50mm focal length back in my life and purchased the Sigma 50 Art which so far is proving a beautiful lens to use.
Over the years my photography has been equally frustrating and rewarding. Thank you for letting me share my journey with you. I wonder what my images will look like in another 8 years!