Photography was my first real creative pursuit. Most things had turned digital by the time I got the bug. The most impactful memory of film photography was the time my dad and sister turned the garage into a temporary darkroom and some chemicals from that ended up eating into my body board. Teenage me was not happy.

My first camera

Teenage me cheered up a few years later when my parents brought me a Sony Cyber-shot. It had a whole 5-megapixel camera (that was decent back then). At the same time, Dad brought himself the most expensive Nikon DSLR going. Together, we went off photographing the local coastline and moors. Or we’d take the telescopic lens (nickname the LMG – Light Machine Gun on the count it was so bloody heavy – no affordable carbon fibre tripod frames back then either) around nature reserves to take snapshots of the wildlife.

I still have my compact Sony camera. It still works a treat, and I can’t force myself to get rid of something which brought me so much enjoyment. It also caught the best sunset silhouetting Compass Point, in Bude.

My first proper camera

Ultimately, I brought myself a proper Nikon DSLR in my mid-twenties (and inherited Dad’s numerous lenses, while populating the supply with my own purchases). That enormous hole in my bank account luckily coincided with my employer discovering I had been on the wrong tax code for years and the credit I received was near enough the same price as my new camera. Result!

People take pictures for many reasons. For me, it is a means to connect with the world around me. Not only in exploring unknown places but also in seeing old places in a new light. I’ve lost count of the number of photographs I’ve taken in and around the town in which I grew up. But photography taught me to take notice of the subtle changes which occur. A wide-angle lens allows me to see the bigger picture. Switch to a macro, and I explore miniature landscapes most people would overlook.

Nice Rocks!

My evolving hobby would eventually bring me romance. Not something I was expecting if I’m honest. But very glad it did. It began with a shitty day. In fact, it was a more shitty everything. So I cheered myself up by going for a walk and brought my camera with me. There is a rock formation north of Bude called Earthquake Beach, and it is here I took The Photograph (the capitals I feel are necessary). A quick bit of geology: sediment layers are put down horizontally. Tectonics have forced these once horizontal bands of rock in this area to stand vertically. South of Bude, at Millook, has equally bonkers geology. I recommend going to look at it if you’re in the area.

A while later, I put The Photograph onto deviantART (back when it used to be a nice creative community rather than a place which copies your work to fuel “AI” image creators). I get a few hearts and comments. One which reads, ‘Nice Rocks!’

Nice Rocks Guy lived in Cornwall, was a keen photographer, rock lover, and into pretty much everything I was. After conversing for a time online, we went out for a Chinese dinner and took a few adventures with our cameras. Sufficed to say, I married him.

Honestly, I deep-dived into photography because I was tired of searching for romance. This is why I believe going out and doing what you love will lead to meeting like-minded people.

The perfect shot

At first, I went out intending to capture the perfect shot. Over time, this desire has waned, not because I don’t think I am capable, but because I am no longer focused on the endgame. Now, it’s more about being out and experiencing whatever I am trying to photograph. The chance of capturing the essence of that sensation in a snapshot is a nice extra.

Photography has evolved. I remember when the purists said film was superior to digital. Software like Photoshop allowed for manipulation beyond what was capable in the camera and darkroom. The line between photography and art became murkier. Now, we must question if a computer created a photograph. Glossy magazines Photoshopped models into unachievable bodies. Now, there’s an app or a filter to do it for you in real-time.

The curse of social media

Perhaps some will find it strange I use photography to connect with the world. These days, I watch people visit a spot, take photos and an obligatory selfie on their phone’s camera, and leave. It’s like a tick-box activity. Something to pop up on social media, which is the primary drive for many. They desire to copy the ultimate Instagram shot the algorithms vomited into their feed, hoping to make a few more likes and follows. Cue idyllic spots only the locals knew of suddenly packed with selfie hunters, spoiling the atmosphere people like me enjoy.

Social Media has created in people a drive to document their lives, predominantly in carefully curated photographs, to give a false impression of a perfect lifestyle. There appears to be a lack of creativity in the images. Phone cameras are limited, and everyone copies the same shot that went viral. No one is going to like a photo from an Instagram-loved location if they can’t recognise it as that place. So photographs become repetitive and dull. How many people now take a photo purely because they’re thinking, ‘This will look amazing on my social media. I bet I’ll get a ton of likes.’ There are many branches of photography, and this is one of its sadder directions.

However, social media isn’t all bad. I have met many creatives, including photographers and made friends along the way.

Photography and other forms of creativity

Photography creeps into my other creative outlets. I may take a few snaps as inspiration for a future painting or as a reference for my fictional writing and blogs. I have painted many landscapes based on my photographs and taken aspects from places I’ve visited and recreated them in my stories.

Photography and grief

I lost my father-in-law just before Christmas. He also enjoyed photography, and I learnt from my sister-in-law that he, too, had his own darkroom while she was growing up. The loss caused my desire to paint and write to completely dry up. However, I found comfort in going for local walks alone and taking in my new surroundings. I moved to Hayle in the summer, and I’m still exploring. With only my camera phone and an eye for an interesting shot, I explored, walking through the town, climbing the coastal hill fort, and weaving around the estuary I know my dad would love to visit (with a modern, lighter telescopic lens and tripod). By hiking to the highest point and crouching to within an inch of the ground, I connected and experienced this place where I find myself. I find this time alone in my surroundings, taking pictures, deeply healing.

Today, I rarely go out with my ageing DSLR. Like many, I find it easier to take photos on my phone’s camera, yet I am frustrated by its limitations. It is something I should rectify. The camera on my phone is useful. However, it doesn’t have the scope which using multiple lenses brings. Still, I haven’t lost the eye in looking at the world differently.

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