How the sea brought me closer to the street

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Scotland. Moving from the hectic life of London, to a more subdued environment which is best described as - the middle of nowhere. With my winter attire and some walking boots, my camera was packed ready to capture a different scene to the one I am usually accustomed to. Prepared to shoot some landscapes and nature I was looking forward to having a more relaxed approach to my photo walk. However I was quick to learn that a different scene does not equate to a different eye, and the weekend proved to be a much needed reminder as to why I am so passionate about Street Photography.

Removing the pressure

Street photography poses its own challenges. It can be lonely, frustrating and full of  anxiety. I am extremely passionate about the craft, which means I take it very seriously, resulting in a dedication to wanting to be better and work towards hanging with the best of them. A consequence of this is that each photo walk I take can come with an intense amount of self invoked pressure.  Instead of enjoying the process, I am sometimes guilty of getting lost on just the end goal. Of course setting a standard is important, however it should not result in your passion starting to verge on being a chore.  

This weekend was a great opportunity to use my camera freely, I just wanted to take some shots of a place I had never been before, the quality was not going to be the main focus.

Rediscovering passion

I haven’t fallen out of love with Street Photography, however I have not been shooting as much. I was hitting somewhat of a brick wall, and picking up my camera was becoming an effort, rather than a fluid motion. Going up to Scotland, being near the sea and the hills, the sand and the grass, in its own special way brought me back closer to the concept of street photography.

The way it did this was by how my relationship with humanity was involved in the frames I took over the course of the weekend. This is important because it gave me a perspective as to what originally drew me to the concept of endlessly roaming the streets with a camera, taking photos of people that drew my interest.

Like most passionate Street Photographers, I am pulled towards the genre due to my strong interest in the human form. Away from the camera, I am constantly reading up on the psychology of human behaviour, what makes us behave the way we do and what processes are important to our development as individuals and also as a society. With this in mind, it is of course of no surprise that capturing this through a lens is something that is deeply important to me.

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My first stop on this long weekend was Earlsferry, a beautiful coastal town in Fife. Having come up from London, it was liberating to have the fresh seaside air fill my lungs, I remembered what it was like to breathe.

We made our way towards Elie Ness Lighthouse and were met with some truly beautiful light. It was a great opportunity to create some glorious silhouettes, both of human life and its wonderful surroundings.

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The next day we took our 4x4 and headed out to Crail. Known for its challenging golf course, which asks you to fork out £350 for a round of 18. Adjacent to the course is a lovely little beach, and we managed to arrive when people were few and far between. There is something quite liberating when you feel like you have a section of land all to yourself.

People did come however, along with their dogs, and I was able to catch this encounter between these cute little warriors.

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Coming back to London

I came back to London feeling both re-energized and with a restored enthusiasm to get back out shooting the streets. The following day I dusted off my 50mm and went out for a walk with a refreshed eye, ready to be in-sync with the street scenes of the city.

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If you yourself are having creative blocks, maybe getting away from the street environment can help you too. Shoot a style of photography just for fun, a genre that you don't beat yourself up about if the content is not on point.

You will be surprised how moving further away from your passion can inevitably bring you closer to it. It worked for me.

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Are you proud of the work that you do?

Do you ever find yourself constantly comparing your work to others? I do. I will go out and have a great shoot, come home, edit, drink a beer and sit with the satisfaction that I have created something great. Only to then jump online and see the copious amounts of amazing photography that I feel I cannot compete with. That however, does not mean I don’t always take pride in my work, I most certainly do, and you should take pride in your work too.

Your toughest competitor is you

Competition is healthy, however in most fields it is unrealistic for it to be fair and balanced. For example, say you take an amazing shot - your best yet - then you go compare it to your favourite photographer and realise in comparison it is not that great at all. The difference between you and them is that they have 10 years more experience than you. Of course they will be producing more consistent, well rounded content, they have been running the race longer. It’s hard enough to catch Usain Bolt at the same starting line, you will never catch him if he has a 10 metre head start.

London, 2018.

London, 2018.

You can then get lost in comparing your work to those at a similar experience level as you. You may ask yourself “Am I as good as them?” or “Why are they taking that shot and I am not?” Before you know it you are in this unhealthy cycle of questioning your own ability. There are so many variables as to why someone is at a certain level and producing a certain quality of work, that it becomes almost redundant to try and compete. The only person that can offer a genuine comparison to the work your currently producing - is you.

What I mean by this, is as you progress and develop your craft, you are constantly evolving into a better version of yourself. If you look through your portfolio, from say 12 months ago, do you feel you have become a better photographer? If the answer is yes, then you are on course to win the race. Each time you evolve, or simply put, get better - you should be proud of everything you are creating.

Reflection

It is somewhat cliché for a photographer to look back on their content and cringe as they review images whilst saying “what was I thinking!?”. It’s natural to do this, and a way to say “Thank God I have improved since then”. That said, we should never completely mock our work from years gone by. I was looking through some of my images which I may not necessary consider strong today, but I did at the time - and it was those images that were all stepping stones to me thinking more about the work I produce. I take great pleasure out of looking at old photos, thinking about times when I would be constantly thinking about settings and reassuring myself I knew the difference between Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. I will never have that time again, and whilst that is clear sign of progression - there is a sadness about it.

Cologne, 2016.

Cologne, 2016.

I look at my portfolio today and I feel warmth and a sense of achievement. I think of the time I thought my Nikon D3200 would mean I took professional looking pictures as soon as I hit the shutter - and then I smile at the thought of how far I have come, both in being realistic and in skill.

So whilst I am not the best photographer on the planet, I am the best photographic version of myself that I can be at this stage of my creative life. This gives me the energy and inspiration to keep out doing myself, keep shedding my skin like a snake and evolving into something better.

I want you to go look at your work, go way back and review your journey. Do it right up to your most recent shot, forget about me, forget about all the others and just focus on you and your development - that is what is most important.

You can be content with the work you produce whilst still having the drive and ambition to go further. Be happy, be loud and without any doubt - be proud.

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