It took me a little while to find photography as my main creative outlet.
About fifteen years ago I wanted to be a writer and I even have a degree to show for it. What I eventually realised I didn’t have, was the passion to be satisfied with being glued to my desk the majority of the time to create a story.
But the story I love! I love to read it, watch it, hear it and I absolutely longed for creating it in some shape or form that fits with who I am as a person. After having tried out writing, painting, drawing, sewing, documentary photography, portraiture, I finally happened upon a book in my local art college’s library on self-portraiture.
Now we’re talking! I never even knew this genre existed. When I later found out that there’s such a thing as conceptual self-portraiture, I literally had goosebumps.
For the next few years, I learnt as much as possible about how to story-tell visually through fine art photography. I took courses, I watched free YouTube videos, I went to talks, listened to seminars and most importantly practised, practised, and practised some more.
I started off with a Fuji x-t20 but soon understood that a full-frame camera would be a far better option if I wanted to blow up my images large, so I later upgraded to a Sony A7R3.
Being a self-portrait photographer, who sometimes tucks herself under her camera for overhead shots, I needed a zoom lens and a very tall, sturdy tripod. In came the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens and a three-legged thing. A carbon fibre tripod extending to 1.87m (definitely beats my first tripod, which my husband found discarded on the streets of London. It was heavy, it was clunky, but it was totally fine to learn with.).
I also have a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens that occasionally makes it out of the bag.
For ages, I had a messenger type shoulder bag that I realised I really disliked because it made me lopsided and uncomfortable. So I was on the hunt for a backpack that could carry my gear as well as my chosen weird and wonderful props and costumes to the woods, to the tops of hills, to river banks and to all the places of adventure I find myself chasing for stories.
A friend suggested Zecti and there’s nothing better than tried, tested and recommended equipment. I love my bag!
My dog Sonic is always accompanying me and standing guard until I finish a shoot. He’s the best!
I am often asked how I set up a self-portrait and it is difficult to manage on my own. It can certainly be challenging, especially when it comes to getting the focus right. What does help enormously in setting up the frame is using my phone, which currently is a Samsung Galaxy A71 and with Sony’s Imaging Edge app I am able to use the phone as a remote control?
Because I can see on my screen what my camera sees, it eliminates the need to run back to the camera constantly to check the composition. I can’t focus through the app, which is a shame, but it’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make.
Another personal choice for me is using natural light, always in overcast weather, over studio lights. The only thing I am happy to take along is a little Lume Cube but I’m still figuring out how best to use even use this. I find using natural light easier to work with on set and later in post-production when I digitally manipulate my photographs.
Photoshop is my go-to editing software and while there’s most definitely information overload when trying to learn how it all works, it’s safe to say that a few well-chosen tools will get wonderful results.
Recently I have invested in a Wacom Cintiq Pro 32” display monitor. I still use its predecessor, my Wacom Intuos Pro, but the superior quality and being able to paint directly onto the Cintiq’s screen when editing provides an immersive experience that is an absolute game-changer for me.
Having any kind of tools that allow you to create stories is fantastic. It is the person’s mind after all that comes up with the idea, frames the shot and decides to release the shutter. Being able to later upgrade to better versions of gear I see as a privilege I would never like to take for granted.