Our Retreat

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If you’ve been wondering what happens on our Capturing Childhood weekends, this blog post is for you! We are just planning our shoots for our next retreat in October, and we realised we haven’t shared the photos from the last one back in March. So here’s a little about our experience, what we chatted about with our group, and we’re sharing some of the amazing photos they took over the weekend too.

When you first start out with something fresh, like a new course, it feels like a very vulnerable place, wondering if anyone will want to come. Our retreat weekends have been steadily growing, and this is how we wanted it to be. We’ve had a mixture of attendees, from parents wanting to take better photos of their children, to portrait photographers just about to set up their business and feeling they need guidance, and help building their portfolio. There are places left on our next weekend, on the 5th and 6th of October. It will be the fourth of these weekends that we’ve run, and we’re looking forward to welcoming new weekenders to the barn on the hill, a perfect location to learn, shoot, and just be.

We thought we’d take you through some of the things we talk about and share. These weekends are ever evolving, and we like that too, that the course grows, shifts, and changes a little every time.

In March, we were joined by 6 participants, all at different stages in their creative journey. Everyone brought so much to the group, and we’re forever grateful for these conversations about our creativity and practice.

We always start our weekend off with pastries, tea, and introductory chats.

And then everyone finds their spots on the comfy sofas. In the morning, we talk about techniques, breaking a shoot into chapters, and how to see and use light.

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When we’ve chatted for a while in the morning, we like to stretch, and get out there for our first shoot of the weekend. Martha was our first model. We had just talked about how light can give shots a signature feel, so I wanted everyone to experiment with different light, and see which they like best. We also chatted about getting down on to the children’s level so we’re let into their world. What I love the very most about photography, is everyone’s different interpretations, that there are so many different ways of viewing character.

After lunch, we really start getting into personal style, and feeling confident in our voice as photographers, that we always have something new to say in our photos. How bringing our thoughts back to us, back home, can help with the stories we’re trying to tell in our images. What does a shot make you feel when you press the shutter? And how when we’re taking shots in this way, the viewer feels part of that story too. Olive and Suzi stepped into the limelight for our next practical, and when I started getting excited about the light we had in the room, I crept into a few photos too.

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On Day 2 we talk a lot more about personal style through our own experiences with this. What we do when we’re planning a shoot and how personal projects can feed into work. Day 2 leads us into a family shoot in the afternoon, where we put everything together that we’ve learnt over the weekend. The day before, I took everyone out to the location so they had a good idea of where it was going to take place, and maybe spot some areas they’d like to experiment with shooting. I lead the shoot so everyone can see what happens on our sessions. How I lightly direct if there’s need for this, and learning when to step back so those natural interactions happen.

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I’ve never been great at saying goodbyes, as I always want an event, party, workshop to carry on! It felt very special these two days spent together in the barn on the hill. If you’d like to join us for our next Capturing Childhood weekend retreat, the dates are 5th & 6th October. The location is close to Hebden Bridge in Cragg Vale. Both Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge train stations are nearby. Payment plans are now available, just let us know if this is the option you’d like to go for by emailing us at info@sarahmasonphotography.co.uk.

Wherever you are on your portrait photography journey, we’d love to get you a step (or two or more) closer to shooting in the way you want to, the way that makes your heart sing. We hope to see you soon.

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 - Frames

Sarah Mason Photography Family Photography Yorkshire

From some of the conversations we’ve had this month, people are really enjoying having a theme to work to. It can help to focus your mind when you’re out and about with your camera to have a topic in mind. So February’s theme was FRAMES. For us, in our photos, we’re always trying to create a feeling of depth, something to lead a viewer into an image. We’re all taking images in 2D of a 3D scene which can sometimes look flat, but using various compositional elements can really help to create that depth. So we thought it would be great to experiment with one of these elements - FRAMES! 

Thanks to everyone who joined in. Here are a selection of the frames you experimented with. As we run this monthly challenge on Instagram, we’ve credited and linked images to Instagram accounts. We have just launched our monthly theme for March too. Find out more about it after having a gander at the frame shots…

We’ve loved looking through these and see what you’ve been experimenting with. So, we’ve just announced our March theme and it’s GROWTH. It’s always good to see different people’s interpretations with themes like this. From early spring bulbs and buds, little ones, personal growth, baby bumps, teething (we’re in the thick of this at the moment!), whatever you’d like. Just tag your photos with #storiesoftheeveryday_growth and we’ll share all the photos in a blog at the end of March. Happy growing!!

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