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.

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.

S L I D E S

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In those in-between days, before Olive was born, we had a chance to catch up on a few Netflix box sets and films. We drew the curtains, switched the lamps on, and settled in for film nights. One of the ones we discovered is Kodachrome. The write up really spoke to us, and the trailer reeled us in. Have you seen it? It’s about a photographer and his son making a road trip to a photo lab in Kansas during the final days of the development system known as Kodachrome. It’s moving, poignant, and beautifully shot. Straight after the film, I rummaged in the top drawer of the cabinet in our lounge. Mum and Dad had given me a box of slides when they were moving house, and I thought I recognised the branding. Sure enough, they were Kodachrome. Suzi’s Dad gave us a slide duplicator that can be mounted onto our cameras to take photos of slides. It’s something I had on my to do list to complete, the film just acted as a catalyst. Suzi’s Grandad and Dad were, and are ,prolific photograph takers, so Suzi also had a stack of slides that we’d also wanted to look through.

These bright over saturated photos from our formative years were revealed. I’ve seen one from my red bonnet days before, but the others had been waiting patiently in the slide box to be discovered. We loved the everyday feel to Suzi’s family photos, and were baffled by my family seemingly erecting a row of deckchairs by a pile of building rubble!

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But I guess this is what we both love about family photography and that these unexpected moments can be discovered years down the line. We love the colours and tone. When we rebranded a couple of years ago, we looked to old film wallets and slide cartridges for inspiration. Our work has that nostalgic feel, and we wanted the brand to reflect that too. In this digital age, we still wanted to hold a hand with the past, so we created our photo wallets for our family clients. Here’s a short film about them.

‘’We’re all so frightened by time, the way it moves on and the way things disappear, but that’s why we’re photographers. We’re preservationists by nature. We take pictures to stop time, to commit moments to eternity. Human nature made tangible.” (from Kodachrome).

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If you get a chance, we’d really recommend Kodachrome. And if you have any other suggestions for movies/docs about photography or film, we’d love to hear them! We’re trying to watch a few more inspiring things when Olive allows ;-)

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