Photographing Family - Ethel & Mabel

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Ethel and her sister Mabel, have such a sense of old world charm and style. I started documenting their life, (well actually at the time it was just Ethel), back in early 2015. I’d heard Ethel liked a cup of tea, and I wanted to record a Saturday morning with her at her house. If you’ve been following my new project on Instagram, I guess she was my first Tea For Two! And then, a year later, Mabel came into the world. Spending a morning with them was the first step into filmmaking for me, and the film I made still has such a special place in my heart. Roll on three years, and I went back up to document their morning together recently. I hope they’ll cherish these photos of them in their childhood home as much as I’ve loved documenting their life there. My style and edit choices might have changed a bit, but the sentiment remains the same. Here’s Ethel and Mabel, a story in mornings, so far.

It starts with Ethel. When I first arrived at her house, she took me by the hand, sat me down, and started to recount stories about her summer holiday. Her morning unfolded - reading books, dunking buttery biscuits into steaming cups of tea, all to the soundtrack of Saturday morning tunes on the record player.  

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And then, along came Mabel….

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And our latest shoot together…

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This is what we love about our portrait shoots, documenting these moments in life that may feel insignificant at the time, but looking back, are so poignant.  Beauty in the small things, beauty in the everyday.

If you’d like us to document your family life, we’ve just added some new packages. If you’d like to take a look, just click on the photo link below. We’d love to tell your story.





How To Find The Light

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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!

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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

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

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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?

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