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.

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.

Stories Of The Everyday - Wonder

Sarah Mason Photography

And here we are in May! It looks like you enjoyed creating those wonder shots for April, there’s such a beautiful collection. But more of that in a minute, we just wanted to talk about our May theme, which is…..COLOUR.

It’s a subject that’s been on our minds for a while, We talked about it on a recent Instagram post, and we had such an overwhelming response. It deserves its own blog post as the conversations that were started are so interesting, and we’d like to collate them into one space. We talked about how sometimes when we scroll through Instagram, life can sometimes look a little muted and desaturated. I guess we just wanted to show those pops of colour more, and not to be too scared to include them on our grid. So we’re trying to embrace it, and we wondered if you’d like to join us too, and try it for May? Are you up for unleashing those splashes of colour in your photos?! Hashtag your photos #storiesoftheeveryday_colour.

But before we paint the town red (or blue, green, yellow, purple!), here are a collection of shots from April’s theme, WONDER. Light can make such a statement within a photo, and when we looked through these, it was so interesting to see how light really accentuated those wonder themes. Let’s start with the ever dreamy backlight……..

And if you’d like to join us for May’s COLOUR theme, just hashtag #storiesoftheeveryday_colour, and we’ll share them in a blog post in a few weeks. Thanks for joining in!

Sarah and Suzi x

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