• Ben

What am I doing here?

OK, who am I and why do I have a photography website? This is a wee story about me and my photography.

That's me - photo by Hayley

I've always loved taking pictures, but never really understood the possibilities of photography until quite recently. When my wonderful wife-to-be moved to Scotland to live with me, she had recently made a move from Canon to Nikon photography gear - so she had some Canon gear 'spare' so to speak. I hastily arranged a deal, and began to take the whole thing a little more seriously.

It started off as a very steep learning curve, but ultimately a really enjoyable thing that we could do together. We both enjoy the outdoors, wildlife and walking, so photography was an obvious thing to do. Hayley had previously been a member of a small camera club in the Midlands, and suggested we join one - a daunting prospect for two people shattered by recent life experiences, suffering from acute anxiety and bereft of social lives.

Life had been about coping mechanisms for years for us both, and to actually go out and meet people out of CHOICE was a massive step forward.

We searched around for a club to join, and felt that Brechin Photographic Society looked good, and only seven miles from home. The people there couldn't have been friendlier or more welcoming, and quickly encouraged me to learn more about the art and start to experiment.

Fast forward two years and I'm now Competition Secretary and Forum Admin for the club, and Hayley is Assistant to the club Secretary (who is on holiday most of the time). I don't think I've ever learned so much in such a short space of time about anything, and the thirst to keep learning doesn't seem to want to slow down. I also do most of my employer's photography (I work for a housebuilder, and prepare all of the showhome and site photography and promotional videos).

At the end of last season, we decided we had nothing much to lose and put a few images in the SPF Scottish Salon, Scotland's premier international photography competition, and I received two, and Hayley one acceptance. Safe to say I was gobsmacked, but suddenly felt that the work I was producing might be approaching a decent standard. It just spurred me on to progress and learn more.

Sunset at Scurdie Ness - SPF Scottish Salon Colour PDI Acceptance 2017 - a two minute exposure taken in a brief display of colour before the light died completely, using graduated filters to balance the exposure and capture the movement in the water in the foreground.

Smoke Eagle - SPF Scottish Salon Colour PDI Acceptance 2017 - a composite image made from hundreds of layers of images of incense smoke taken using a bright torch in a pitch dark room.

Photography has taken me in a number of directions over this time. I have developed a keen interest in wildlife, particularly birds, and enjoy photographing them enormously. I'm more and more drawn to trying to capture the character and behaviour of wildlife rather than 'birds on sticks' images (nothing wrong with that of course).

Gannets having a right go at each other, Troup Head, Pennan

I also go through spells of tackling landscape photography, perhaps less so in summer when the good light is very early and very late in the day.

Landscapes always offer great opportunities to think about and plan compositions, and get creative.

Macro photography is also a technique I find fascinating, and I use the 'poor man' method of reversing prime lenses and using extension tubes rather than dedicated macro gear. This may well change when I win the lotto, but for now I love experimenting with different set ups and discovering what is possible.

Green Veined White on a Thistle - taken with a 50mm prime lens on manual extension tubes and a home made flash diffuser. Total cost of around £10.

So where on earth will all this take me? There's so much to learn, and so many more things to explore. I am constantly in awe of other people's photography, and inspired to create better images.

I spent a long long time learning to play the guitar. I got pretty good at playing other people's songs, but it gave me no creative outlet. I didn't have the natural ability to write original music. I found it both enjoyable and utterly frustrating. Photography is a different ball game. I can look at photographs and photographers, learn their techniques, and then do something unique with the knowledge. It feels like the creative outlet I've looked for all my life.

Being involved with Brechin Photographic Society has also introduced me to some really great people. It's been brilliant to make friends again with shared interests, and to begin to feel like a human being again. Tackling issues of anxiety head on by taking on a roll like Competition Secretary has been a massive help to me so far, and I hope it continues to build my personal confidence and self-belief.

I have a long long way to go, and still consider myself a complete beginner, but instead of frustrated I just feel enthused and excited to keep learning and creating.

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