Finding Your Voice

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Finding Your Voice, it’s a term that gets thrown around within creative disciplines a lot isn’t it. And photography is no exception, in fact we have a day workshop called just this. We ran another one this week, and it’s made me think about a few things, as a few recurring conversations happen every time we run them.

You’ve probably heard a lot about finding your why, a buzz term at the moment, but one we keep coming back to. We like a good Ted Talk like the next person, and you may have already seen the Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, if you want to watch it again, here’s the link. I got goosebumps when I first watched this with a marketing mentor a few years ago. And it’s something we share with our retreaters and workshoppers too. “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” He repeats it, and I can often hear his voice saying it.

On our workshops, we’ve had so many conversations about Instagram, curating our feeds, and the mythical beast that is the algorithm. I know I’ve posted photos that I think fit the criteria, seen the little red hearts beating before my eyes, my dopamine fix sated, for now, until I crave that next hit. And then a feeling of hollowness. Because I didn’t really FEEL that photo in the first place. I’m trying to quiet that voice that says, in a bit of a high pitched Yorkshire accent, ‘Ooooo, that’ll look nice on the grid’.

Why are we taking the photos we are taking? Who are they for? Surely, ultimately they’re for us. Only when we feel something in our images, will our viewers feel it too.

If something catches your eye, don’t overthink it. Take it. Show it. If we’re drawn to a pile of toys lit by the sunlight in the corner of the room, or a peg on the washing line glistening with rain, take it, and try and stop that niggle that might start questioning if it’s ‘right’ or not. We felt something just before we pressed the shutter. If it makes you feel something - BINGO! Surely that’s all that matters, and not creating something we think people want to see. People want to see you.

Let’s ditch perfection.

We’ve had a few people messaging us this week saying that they feel in a creative slump. Sometimes it’s a push to pick up your camera, it’s as if all our muscles in our body are conspiring against us to create, due to fear of failure. But these times of resistance are the times I encourage you to pick it up the most, if you feel you can. The camera can sometimes become a conduit to what you want to say with your images, and a rope ladder to bring you out. When I feel most stuck, I look at an object, say a bowl of fruit, and think about how I can take 10 different photos of it. Setting the scene with a wide shot to show it in the environment, and then a close up of a detail, maybe the stalk on an apple. I’lll try different light and perspectives, maybe holding one in my hand, and if I’m feeling energetic enough, maybe set the camera up on a tripod, set it onto a long exposure, and put myself in the frame walking behind the bowl to create motion blur. When I set myself to do something like this, it nearly always shakes me out of a slump, and gets me thinking about all those things I want to do, and maybe spark a few more ideas too.

We wondered if you’d like to do a week long project, making a commitment to pick the camera up at the same time each day for the next 7 days, that hopefully is manageable? As our monthly Stories Of The Everyday theme is HOME, we thought we could base it around that. When you have a theme, or limit yourself in this way to a time or word, (or even a combination of the two), it can lead to stronger images. If you’d like to join in please hashtag your images on Instagram with #storiesoftheeveryday_home if you want to show them. And I guess we’re all trying to bring it back home, to find what is right there inside, the gems that make our work, and our viewpoints unique.

It feels quite pertinent that Instagram are trialling hiding likes on posts in some countries. We’d love to hear from you if you’re in one of those countries, has it influenced what you’re showing or want to show in the future? I think it’d be great to roll it out here too.

So, are you in? Will you join us for the next 7 days? Just pick a time of day when you think it’ll be most convenient to capture a photo that symbolises home (maybe set an alarm on your phone). We hope it’s a gentle way of just picking your camera up each day to create, and if you feel those niggles, we’re here to encourage you to push through it, and take those photos that make you feel something. Let’s get creating!

We’re going to be running another Finding Your Voice retreat day in October. If you’re interested in joining us, please send us an email to express your interest and you’ll be the first to hear about the next date - info@sarahmasonphotography.co.uk.

For now, we hope you have a lovely weekend, and have fun creating!

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If you're in the mood for a bit more reading, I wrote a post last year about not being able to please everyone. If you’ve got a cup of tea on the go, and you want to put your feet up for a few more minutes, here’s the link.

P L A C E

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire

We knew at the start of the year that Sense Of PLACE was going to be one of our Stories of the Everyday monthly themes. It’s been such a big part of who we are in our work over the years, so thanks for embracing it, and sharing your places with us. Sea views, holidays, gardens, home and favourite cafe’s to name but a few.

And we thought for the first time that we should share captions too as these words make up the whole sense of place.

At the end of the blog, we’ll share July’s theme, another one close to our hearts. But first, enjoy this beautiful collection.

‘I started going to this place 17 years ago with my grandad, just us. It was our special place and we would always eat the same thing. I haven't been in 7 years because he developed dementia, he recently passed and I wanted to share this place with my children and my husband. In this first photo my kids and husband are in blurr in the back and the woman at the front is the same woman whose been there all these years. This photo brings together old memories and new for me. The place hasn't changed at all ❤️’

‘These roses hang just outside my bedroom window. They are an instant signifier of home for me and are one of my favourite things’.

‘The beautiful dunes... this is one of the things I miss most about life in the uae... they were my sanity saving weekend escape and a little piece of my heart will always be there...’

‘Grasmere, from Allan Bank House. Stunning whatever the weather. Mr F-D and I were lucky enough to have a weekend away together in the Lake District, celebrating our wedding anniversary. We married in the Lakes, the rain falling from the skies in the week leading up to the wedding, much as it poured down last weekend and ever since it seems. Fortunately the sun came out for our wedding, although I do remember the heels of my ivory satin shoes sinking into the water logged grass whilst having our photos taken. The heels of those shoes still carry a water stain to mark how far they sank!’

‘Time spent on the little beach along from the marina is their version of playing in the garden.’

‘Take me to this place again.❤️’

‘Funny how time changes our memory - a bit like childbirth! When I think back to this Cornish holiday in 2018, I see the kids running free with kites or building moats around their carefully constructed sandcastles next to the clear, turquoise sea. But in reality, it was tough. My little boy had a nasty case of hand foot and mouth disease, there was no sleep and we were sharing a very small caravan! Nonetheless, Cornwall will always be the place I choose to return to time and again, whatever diseases are thrown our way! @sarahmasonphotouk monthly theme is all about ‘A Sense of Place’ in June and there really isn’t anywhere else I feel so entirely happy and free. So I guess this is mine.’

We called by for an hour at Dove Cottage. I often think that 20 minutes in any garden, but, especially this one, should be prescribed to anyone who needs to decompress.

I often don’t know what I’m going to record for people when I first walk in to their lives and it’s THIS that is the most exciting and important part of my process. The not knowing. To be let in, trusted and to able to explore that part of a journey with them, into their beautiful real, is beyond special to me. I happen to know these two more than most, as I stood here part of their father-daughter moment. -My father, my sister.’

‘There was so much warmth and colour everywhere - all blending together and made gentle by the sun and sea. Sun on your bones every once in awhile fills your boots with energy and healing. 🍃🍃🍃🍃🍃🍃🍃🍃🍃🍃’

What a difference a day makes...
I was ridiculously lucky to be able to tag along with @joannewithers and @damian.withers.9 for another swim in Windermere this evening. It was glorious! Although admittedly the water was still quite cold, but the atmosphere couldn’t have been more different above the water. Sunshine and blue skies in abundance.
I couldn’t help but think what a contrast this all is to how I spent my days even five or six years ago. No daily commute in traffic, no standard 9-5, no built up grey cities, just flexible hours, time to escape and green countryside and gorgeous lakes and rivers. I am incredibly lucky.

‘These are a few of my favorite things ...’

‘I’ve been documenting mornings in our home for the past 82 days as part of a 100 Day Project ~ here are a few of the snaps I’ve taken. Of course, they show a snippet of serenity in what is invariably a chaotic time of the day here, getting everyone up and sorted for the day ahead before dashing out of the door. I’m also joining in with @sarahmasonphotouk monthly hashtag which is #storiesoftheeveryday_place .
This place is my home and although I love being out and about exploring, I always love coming back here ~ and these photos will remind me of this time in our lives...’

‘My photographs are inspired by a bit of everything, but mostly a love of nature and art. It's where my children and I spend the majority of our time. There's nothing better than finding a weekend free to explore a nature reserve or walk in the local woods. I've shared the story of where I first found these inspirations that influenced my early childhood, and in turn, of my children now. It's up on the blog now along with some images shared from this summer adventure. I would love for you to have a look.’

‘R a i n y d a y van scenes... and the magic - closeness - they bring’

‘I’m just going to leave this here - a little poem me and the girls memorised and read to him this morning:
If I scratched my knee,
Or if I bumped my head,
When I was afraid of the dark,
Or that thing under my bed,
When I cried in the night,
Or even in the day,
You were there for me
To make it all ok.
You ticked my feet,
And laughed at my jokes,
You taught me to believe
In having high hopes.
You made everything good
That was once bad.
I just want you to know
I love you, Dad☺️’

‘Whitby today..no I didn't blend out the background in preparation for a painting. That is summer in the UK. It is pretty gorgeous though isn't it?’

Finally coming round after a gorgeous break in Norfolk. We camped in a field at @kelling_heath which basically feels like Center Parcs without the price tag. The woodland site even had its own train stop so we took a steam engine to Sherringham and spent far too long snapping its vintage station. I couldn’t help but use Silva and her smock against all the vintage props (milk churns for the win!) We spent lazy days at Wells and Holkham beach eating picnic after picnic. The weather shined, the kids slept well, and it was the most inexpensive trip yet they loved it.

‘Sea fret. I love them. The freshest of facials. This one rolled in within 20 minutes in Denmark then rolled out again 20 minutes later leaving us with clear skies and sea. Reading @sarahmasonphotouk newsletter today, this little memory was the first thing I thought of, shortly followed by any forest I've ever visited, for the #storiesoftheeveryday_place

99% of the time I spend here at Wild Meadow I am on my own...making beds, cleaning floors, weeding the veg patch and mowing. So it was pure indulgence to spend a whole day with a wonderful group of IG friends, enjoying great company and plenty of laughter.

One of my faves from our @chesterzoo visit last month. I wanted to capture one of the boys looking wistfully up at the glorious sea critters, or wistfully up at any of the zoo animals tbh... but mostly I got blurs and backs of heads like usual 😂 ❤️

Outside is my kinda motherhood.

H O L I D A Y S are all about building sand castle cities and seaweed sea defences ❤️😂 I’ve got the holiday blues today, remembering our relaxed and easy, lazy days of last week in Corfu. Still, I’ve got my photos to start editing, these are all iPhone shots but I love them none the less! It doesn’t matter which camera you have to hand so long as you capture memories 💕

‘Dale brook Pool, Kalk Bay, Cape Town. A little bit of my heart is in this spot! This year it will be 20 years since we first fell in love with Cape Town’.

No filter.. just home June evening 🌒

I’m not quite sure how if this insta video will work for everyone, but wanted to share this one from @ashleaflondon These words seemed so fitting for the theme: ‘ Greeting you this Sunday morning with the delicate touch of sunshine through these ferns I had the pleasure to witness in Richmond Park two weeks ago. I don’t know about you, but for me, spending time with nature brings me to the quietest of places within myself. It allows me to step back and just observe with awareness within and with-out. This is the place where I don’t feel the urge to do anything or be anyone. This is my definition of quiet. The place that offers me stillness, richness and a quality of attention hard to find elsewhere. This is the place where I seek solace. Without visiting this place often through the doors that nature offers, I feel, I would be less able to make sense of the world I inhabit.’

Thanks so much for filling us up with your stories of PLACE. And now onto July’s theme which is all about HOME. The place, the people, the pets, the light, the details and objects that make it the heart of who you are. Just tag #storiesoftheeveryday_home. We’re looking forward to sharing your images already!

A Sense Of Place

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I will always remember that feeling of being in the car, sat in the back next to my sister Katy. The Ford Escort Dad was driving struggled up the hill a little out of Oxenhope, onto the moor beyond, and my belly would flip when we left the last of the houses behind. We’d drive on tarmac sandwiched between brown earth, sometimes peppered with a purple haze when the heather was in bloom. The twists in the road hugged the moor. There was the corner that became treacherous in winter with the snow drifting, the corner where the radio would cut out, and then the corner that I waited for with anticipation. The corner that revealed a view over Calderdale that gave me my first rushes of a sense of place.

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I grew up in Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales, all chocolate box picturesque scenes, bright limestone and rolling hills. My cousins grew up in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, only 30 miles away, but in an entirely different landscape. Those steep valley sides, chimney stacks and big skies seemed so far removed from where I was. This landscape felt exciting, so different to the one I was part of. We were lucky enough to have lots of family get togethers growing up, so us cousins saw quite a lot of each other. Many of these gatherings would happen at my Aunty and Uncle’s over in Hebden Bridge. The first view of Stoodley Pike piercing the sky, was always my marker. At 37 metres tall, the monument can be seen for miles, and it was always my first indication we were nearing a place, and people I loved. Now the wind turbines have joined the view too.

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It seemed to go so much deeper than just on our way to see family though. This landscape had somehow claimed me. All those years ago I knew I wanted to live in Hebden Bridge ‘when I grew up’. And after a couple of stints in London, a few years in Liverpool and a bit of travelling, I made it!

The other morning, I drove up onto the moor road to photograph that corner, and some of the views along the way.

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We sometimes went swimming in the stream that forges its way down this valley. Sitting in innertubes, our bodies lathered in suncream, we shared many a picnic here. It’s a place I love to come to now and have a dip.

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The blistering summer heat often caused those mirages. The wobbly vapour lines rising from hot tarmac, and Dad woud pull down the sun visor above the steering wheel to shield his eyes.

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We always called this the mini monument and my sister would often confuse it with Stoodley that towered over the valley. It sits close to the village of Peckett Well. The last one before you drop down into Hebden Bridge. This memorial commemorates the residents of the Wadsworth area who were killed or missing in World War I and II.

This is the pub before you drop down through the trees into Hebden Bridge. I can’t remember which one of my relatives drove into the car park thinking it was the turn off to my Aunty and Uncle’s house, but I do remember the laughs when the story was retold.

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And this view is so pertinent now. Through the cow parsley, over the fields and across a valley to Heptonstall, the village we live in now that’s perched just above Hebden Bridge.

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Some of the mills have now given way to flats. I guess maybe they were derelict when we were passing by in the Ford Escort.

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There have been a couple of places since then. I’m inspired by how landscape can affect us. I’ve spoken before about when Suzi took me to Suffolk for the first time to meet her parents. The flat lands made me feel so restless and uneasy. I think that’s one of the reasons I took the North Coast 500 trip around the tip of Scotland. I wanted to test myself, to see how I was in these remote landscapes. The landscape that both excites and scares me. It sometimes feels that there is a re-wild reset button inside me and I’m dancing around the edges.

Me and Suzi have talked about where we’d like to live in the future if we leave Hebden Bridge. We both would love to be by the sea. Maybe when we’re older and Olive has left home, we might live in a little house that overlooks the ocean. I’m sure my Hebden Bridge sense of place feeling won’t mind sharing with a big sea view!

We’d love to hear about your places too, and this month’s Stories of the Everyday theme is all about these places that are part of us. The June hashtag is #storiesoftheeveryday_place. We’ll share a collection of photos and words in a blog post at the end of June.

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