Stories Of The Everyday - Winter Light

You’ve charged your camera battery, cleared your memory card, made your flask of tea, and you’re excited about the photos you’re going to take. And then you hit overwhelm with the possibilities of all the images you could or should take. And sometimes you don’t even take one image.

We’ve been there too!

And that’s why we wanted to give a helping hand. Having a theme can often really help make that shift, get your finger on the shutter, and get you feeling creative. We know some of you will have made intentions for your photography for 2019, and we don’t want you to be put off by the cold dark days of winter, we hope you’ll embrace them, and start, (or carry on) that relationship with your camera. As some of you know, we’ve been running our Stories of the Everyday hashtag on Instagram for a few years. It’s a lovely community, growing every week, and we share visual stories from around the world every Friday. We’ll keep doing this, but we also wanted to introduce a monthly theme, to help with that motivation, and maybe help you to build a portfolio of shots with a similar feel. So we’re going to launch a theme until the end of January, right now! And it’s…

Winter Light

You don’t even have to step outside if you’re in hibernation mode and can’t entertain getting out of your onsie! Of course if you did want to take photos in the great outdoors and soak that winter light and air in, you may want to think about the onsie. There will be 12 themes this year. We’re a bit late launching this one, but they will be at the start of every month. The hashtag on Instagram for Jan will be #storiesoftheeveryday_winterlight. At the end of every month, we’ll showcase a selection of shots in our blog. Here’s a bit of inspiration if you’re thinking about what to do. We love using WINDOW LIGHT, so let’s start there, and it’s a light source we all have.

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We like the subject (this can be a person or an object) to be facing the window, the light source, and we take the photo from one side. We shoot in manual, so we expose for the highlights in a shot so we can get those darker backgrounds. It’s something worth experimenting with if you’re feeling comfortable with those settings. You can usually achieve this darker background by making your shutter speed faster.

If shooting portraits maybe isn’t your thing, the same principles apply to still life subjects too…

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You can see where the light source is, to the left of the lemon, as there is a subtle shadow to the right of it. Also, watch out for your backgrounds and maybe declutter. I decided I wanted to keep those objects in the background as I liked the yellow tones mirrored. On all three of these window light shots, it was a pretty grizzly day outside.

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And then if we go outdoors, get wrapped up and embrace what the day brings! This shot was taking in January on a variable day. The wintry sun had just gone behind the clouds. If the light is quite flat like this, I often get the subject to look straight at me.

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You’ve probably heard of backlight. This does exactly what it says on the tin, it backlights your subject matter. The sun is low in the sky at this time of year, but the sweet spot is to be found in those golden hours. You can see here that there is lens flare on the photo, this can happen when you’re shooting directly into the sun. This is personal taste, and we love a bit of it.

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Think about taking your photos from different perspectives.

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It’s fun trying to capture steam rising from a cup of tea using backlight, both indoors and out. If you try it indoors, face the window directly and have the cup between you and the light. And if you take it outdoors, fingerless gloves are a great idea, you can get to all your dials and buttons on the camera, and then warm the ends of your fingers up on your cuppa.

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And then there are the magic pockets of light. Sometimes on a staircase, sometimes through the trees, sometimes like a spotlight in an indoor market…

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Or on your staircase. I took this one with my phone.

We hope there are a few ideas here you’d like to try out. I think January can be the hardest month for a lot of people and this is just a small way to try and get you using your cameras. And remember, don’t give yourself a hard time! We’ll have another theme starting in February. Remember to tag your photos with #storiesoftheeveryday_winterlight on Instagram, and we will share your photos in a post. And if you just want to see what other folk are up to, just follow the hashtag. We hope this blog helps a little.

In December, we ran a Winter Light workshop in a beautiful Yorkshire home. The day was particularly grizzly outdoors, and my aim was to show our workshoppers what light they can play with indoors even on the grimiest of days. I’ve put a selection of their shots below. I ended up in quite a few photos myself as you can see (I actually quite enjoyed being in front of the camera). You might get a few more ideas from these. Thanks to Julie, Heather, Jess and Sarah for the photos.

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Whatever you experiment with, we hope you have fun! We’re excited to see what you all come up with. And if you’d like to find out about any of our retreats and mentoring, you can take a look here.

All the best, Sarah and Suzi x

An Inspiring Year

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At this time of year, we’d usually be compiling a post about what we’ve been up to over the last 12 months and sharing shoots we’ve had. We just wanted to do something a bit different this year and share work from artists that have really inspired us over the last year. There is work here about being in the inbetween years, documenting communities, family dynamics, generosity within the photography community, illustrations, light chasing, cinematic work, and starting over.

Siân Davey

Looking For Alice

Looking For Alice

When we scroll through Siân’s Instagram feed (that’s where we found her stunning work), we are always struck by the narrative in each post. How she weaves story of her own family life through the squares, and that light, so delicate and painterly in quality. Her work gives us goosebumps. I was a bit nervous when I wrote to Siân the other day, and then a lovely reply pinged into our inbox. One of our intentions this year is to let the people who inspire us know. Siân currently has 2 books published ‘Looking For Alice’ and ‘Martha’ about her daughters. Here’s a link to her Instagram feed is and here’s a link to Siân’s website. We’re sure you’ll feel the same way about her work as we do.

Martha

Martha

Lucy Saggers

Betty’s Baking Day - Lucy Saggers

Betty’s Baking Day - Lucy Saggers

We spied Lucy’s work back in 2017 and were struck by these timeless black and white images depicting village life in Yorkshire. Although Lucy has done a lot of of other work, it was this body of shots, Of Life and Land, that really spoke to us. The use of light and the tender relationships towards the people she’s photographing is incredibly moving. Back in March, we went to see her exhibition of the collection of shots, and we had the pleasure of meeting Lucy there too.

It was hard to pick a favourite, but I think it was a mini series of photographs about Lynne Lynch and Betty Fox. Lynne has been going round to Betty’s to wash, cut and blow dry her hair every 2 weeks since 1976. In this collection of shots about a small community, Lucy has stripped everything back to what matters, highlighting these relationships within a Yorkshire village. Here’s a link to her Instagram feed, and here’s a link to Lucy’s website.

Lynne Lynch washing Betty Fox’s Hair

Lynne Lynch washing Betty Fox’s Hair

Carolyn Mendelsohn

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When we realised that Carolyn’s exhibition Being Inbetween was being shown just down the road from where we live, there really was no excuse, and we would have travelled a lot further to see it. We were greeted by a collection of large format mounted prints, photos of girls in those inbetween years, 10-12. The exhibition explores their hopes, dreams, concerns. All are lit the same and taken with the same backdrop and the exhibition is accompanied by soundscape. We’ve been dabbling with sound in our films and it struck us how powerful the interviews were with the girls as we looked at their photos. The series is ongoing, and there is a book in development. You can see more about Being Inbetween at this link and more of Carolyn’s other work at her website here.

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Gemma Koomen

Ice Skating

Ice Skating

We became aware of Gemma’s work when we saw a little book all about Wild Swimming written by Flora Jamieson and illustrated by Gemma. It sits proudly on our bookshelf. Gemma’s illustrations awaken a childhood nostalgia, I think that’s why we’re so drawn to them. Little scenes play out, and our memories dance. We can hear the crunch of the snow and smell the washing on the line. They are full of hope and light, friendships and adventure. You can see her beautiful Instagram feed here and more of her work on her website here.

Laundry Day

Laundry Day

Natalie Kingston

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We’ve followed Natalie’s work from afar for a while, and we’re constantly blown away by her cinematography. She’s worked on numerous short films, commercials and music videos. We love those tones and the light she captures. See for yourself in her reel here . You can follow Natalie on Instagram here or watch more of her films on her website here.

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Diana Hagues

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Not only is Diana an exceptional documentary family photographer, but to us, she embodies the heart of community within the photography world. She organises meet ups and chat groups, always takes time to answer people’s questions, offers encouragement, and is just a thoroughly lovely person. She takes amazing self portraits too. Her work has just been showcased in the latest issue of Click Magazine 2018 Voice Collection (congratulations Diana!) You can follow Diana on Instagram here and see more of her work at her website.

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Joanne Coates

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A couple of years ago, we bought the Yorkshire Post as we were really drawn to a collection of photos in the weekend magazine. The photo series depicted the life on the seas with a group of fishermen. Jo was the photographer behind the images. As it says on her website, she has a documentary approach to everyday stories, she tells the story of working life. Jo’s Grandad used to fish the North Sea, and through this work, she found a shared connection with him. You can follow Jo at her Instagram feed here and see new project work at her website here.

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Annie Spratt

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Annie’s beautiful work captures the shifts in seasons in the New Forest where she lives, and further afield. Whatever landscape she’s taking, it feels like you’re right there with her. And that light!! She’s particularly generous with her work and she gifts photos every day to be used by the Unsplash community. You can follow her on Instagram here or take a look at her Unsplash page here.

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Joni Burtt

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We can always tell when it’s a Joni shot when it comes up on our feeds, with her images like film stills. Her candid take on her family life is beautiful, and with the words that accompany each photo, she lets us into her everyday life. We love a bit of freelensing in our photography, so we’re really drawn to those dreamy ethereal shots where Joni is using this technique. You can follow Joni on Instagram here, and see more of her work at her website here.

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Alex Sedgmond

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Alex wrote to me a few months back after he’d read my piece in Ernest Journal. We’ve had a few chats since then about our photography, health and light. I always love when a message pops up from him! He has so much integrity. His posts on Instagram really show his true passion, his wanderlust. He’s a kind soul. You can follow him on Instagram here and get stuck into his blog posts and other work here.

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Felicity Keefe

Beyond The Shadow

Beyond The Shadow

For the last few years, I’ve been a bit obsessed by how the Old Masters used light in their paintings and trying to adapt this into my photography. When I was looking for inspiration in paintings last year, I came across Felicity’s work. Her beautiful landscapes allow you to breathe it in, smell the morning dew, feel the cold air, hear the rain or a leaf falling from a stark branch. I love the movement, and of course the light. You can follow Felicity on Instagram here and see her collections and find out about exhibitions on her website here.

The Shifting Dusk

The Shifting Dusk


Here’s to an inspiring 2019. Maybe we’ve introduced you to someone you haven’t heard of yet, let us know! And we’re always keen to know about your favourites. Who’s inspiring you?

How To Find The Light

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

As photographers, we’re all light seekers. For us, it’s all about finding the quality of light. What are you drawn to? What makes you tick? Me and Suzi have talked before that light almost becomes another character in a photo. The delicate thread that weaves through an image to create an emotional connection to the viewer. So how do you start really seeing the light? On our last retreat, we talked about what’s helped us see it, but I think this should really be how we FEEL it. How does it make you feel when you see backlit grass bending in the early evening breeze, or the spot on the stairs illuminated in the morning through the bannister? Maybe it’s how you feel when you see the shadow of leaves on the trunk of the old oak tree dancing in the dappled light.

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If me and Suzi had a choice, we would probably choose to shoot our family portraits in the golden hours permanently. Those times just after sunrise, or just before sunset. Of course it’s not always practical, but give it a try if you can, you will really see a difference. Are you drawn into delicate light, all dreamy and ethereal? This will more than likely be BACKLIGHT. Gossamer threads and subtle golden tones.

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The sun will be behind your subject. Using light in this way, you can achieve that beautiful rim light too that really helps to create depth in your images. You may want to try a silhouette of your subject, if not, over expose for your subject. You might find it a bit harder to focus, so we often manually focus when we’re using backlight.

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

Sometimes we’ll battle with the harsh overhead sunlight that midday can bring. Living in the Pennies though, we do often come across those dull overcast days, and we don’t mind shooting in these at all. EVEN or DIFFUSED light doesn’t have to be flat. You might want to think about the location you’re shooting in so depth comes from the positioning of your subject.

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If it's absolutely bucketing down, it’s probably not going to be too much fun for anyone, but try getting out just after the rain – the light can be lovely. Catchlight in your subject’s eyes can really make your images pop. Windows to the soul.

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

I've always been drawn to the dark, but a dark that's shattered by a pop of light, whether from a window, a gap in the trees, or a sunny spot on a staircase. Especially with shoots in a family home, I look for this type of light. FRONT LIGHT can be very dramatic, contrasty and like a theatre spotlight. I love finding this light, and more often than not, it’s spilling onto the stairs. I have a whole series of these ‘kids on the steps’ shots!

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Using it outdoors can give such a strong feeling to an image too, just be careful not to have your subject squinting into the light.

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SIDE LIGHT from a window can provide lots of atmosphere in a shot. It's best to turn off interior lights indoors. We love the way the light hits one side of the subject’s face and then drifts into shadow. It gives a cinematic quality, a moment suspended. It's the light that really makes me tick. Suzi always knows when I've found it as I'll take a sharp intake of breath!

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

If you’re interested in this type of light too, maybe just have a Google at some of those Dutch Masters, and look how they created such feeling in their paintings. Those subtle contrasts and shadows, and how they managed to capture the beauty in the everyday in such a striking way. To me, they are the ultimate light seekers. I love its constant pull. It can really help to reflect a tender moment,

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Here’s an easy exercise if you want to find YOUR light. Pick out your favourite photos from your Insta feed, look at Pinterest, or photos you are drawn to in magazines, and look for the signature light. Print them out and put them in front of you if you can. How does it make you FEEL when you look at the collection?

When you’re next on a walk, or even just doing things round the house, just see how the light falls at different times of the day. As the sun is getting lower in the sky this season, the quality of light changes. Warm and golden, drawn out shadows, it’s a great time to get out and experiment!

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

What I love about photography is just by using your feet around your subject, and using all the different angles of light, you can get so many different feelings in quite a short space of time.

We do talk about light a lot on our retreats as we feel so strongly about the way you use light can really help consistency in your work. We still have early bird places available for our next Capturing Childhood on the 30th and 31st March 2019. Over the weekend, we go a lot deeper into how we can use light to reflect emotion, through exercises and practicals. If you’d like more information, here’s the link to our retreat page.

If you think this post it could help anyone, please do share. And if you’d like to ask us anything about light, how to use it, how we use it, just let us know. And most of all, happy light seeking!

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

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