At the start of this year I decided to start thinking more about photography. I have always loved the idea and concept of photography but dismissed myself as 'not arty'. Thankfully at the grand old age of 34 I have woken up to what complete rubbish this view is.
When I say 'not arty' what I mean is 'I am not very good at accurately drawing or painting to photographic quality (or, if I'm honest, any quality)' but isn't that the whole point of photography? That you don't have to draw or paint what you see. You can use light to capture it instead.
(Or you can use more abstract art, which I fully embrace as a perfectly valid way of making up for my lack of ability to draw or paint anything that looks like anything)
I'd have always said I don't have a good eye for a photo either but actually I have worked really hard this year to understand better what makes a good picture. For the first time ever I have started to think about composition, background, light - all those technical elements that make a good photo.
One of my biggest inspirations has been the Instagram community and I follow some ridiculously talented photographers on there. I freely admit I have been hugely influenced by some of the exceptional creative talent on Instagram and happily enough, some of that talent is prepared to share some of their secrets.
This week I have been enjoying a free taster course from Emily Quinton at Makelight. Emily is absolutely one of my favourite IG users and in the time I have been using the app I can really see how her influence has spread far and wide.
In a way that's one of the challenges of Instagram, using the platform in a way that's your own not just shamelessly copying everybody that you find inspiring! I've had my time trying to photograph beautiful floral flat lays with limited success. Perhaps I will return to it one day but at the moment my primary passion is taking photos of nature, wildlife and the great outdoors.
I absolutely love observing the seasons through my camera (or to be strictly accurate my iPhone), noticing the little details and the way the same thing can look different every single day. In another life I would have definitely been a wildlife photographer (and who's to say that I still won't be!?) and I have thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this year capturing some of the wild beauty very close to my home.
(In fact last night a stunning fox sneaked into our garden, not your average mangy urban fox that I grew so used to in London, but a proper rural fella with a full, heavy brush and a gleamingly glossy coat. Cherry, Violet and I watched him, rapt, through our French windows until a cat chased him away. Established garden hierarchy despite size is cat tops fox, and fox tops badger. This has made me think a garden camera would be a fantastic investment for us. It'd be like our very own Autumnwatch!)
The things I photograph and want to photograph more are very different to Emily's trademark floral creations, but I am finding the course hugely inspiring and her practical and down-to-earth advice extremely useful. The course encourages you to think about your Instagram feed and what you want to use it for, collect and collate images from other snappers that you admire and then hone in on what's missing from your gallery of inspiration - the contribution that only you can bring.
At the moment I am with my children 24/7 and that means they feature a great deal in my photos. More and more though I am aware that I want to move away from sharing pictures of my children so much. Clearly they are the number one priority and event in my life, but I want to use my IG to create something for myself that is primarily about me, not them.
Creative family life and outdoor adventures are big parts of who I am and what I am working towards, but there are many, many other elements of me that I am looking forward to bringing into focus in the future. Including more purposeful trips to photograph wildlife. At the moment I am just snapping what I can when I see it, but I am excited about the prospect of actively going out looking for wildlife to shoot and bringing more of the great outdoors into my feed.
I also love the way photography encourages you to slow down and notice the little things. It's almost like a gratitude meditation, scouring your home or area for something beautiful that has been under your nose all along. All of the photographers I follow on IG are relentlessly positive, happy and upbeat and I'm sure this ability to notice the small details contributes towards that.
As a starting point I'm pretty sure I'll be signing up to Emily's fantastic-looking Photography for Beginners online course. In fact my only regret from prioritising photography this year is that I sold my DSLR camera in a fit of 'I'm never going to find the time to use it!' last year and I really, really wish I hadn't!