“I have learned, that the moon does not need to be full for us to love it. That we are not tragedies stranded here beneath it.”
I first heard these words whilst listening to Buddy Wakefield’s ”We Were Emergencies” poem, and they’ve lodged themselves in my heart ever since.
Another year gone, another “crescent moon” year, which yes, has held plenty of beautiful moments - but still, feels more like a year that’s been spent living between the spaces on the page, than living in the story itself. You know what I mean?
I think of all the times I’ve been too busy to finish listening to the end of the song after I’ve parked up, I think of the girl who used to drop all her work, and run to the tops of the hills when it looked like the world was in for a good sunset that day. I miss my cat desperately, and dream of him often, but my current apartment has a no-pets policy, so getting another companion isn’t an option right now.
All the little things which add up to a half lived life, sometimes they get me down. But sometimes, I remember those words - that the moon doesn’t have to be full for us to love it. I take a little moment, remember that a half-lived year isn’t a half-lived life, and carry on.
Anyway ;) … Here’s how I made this photo!
Guess what I got for Christmas? Hint - it wasn’t designer bags or fancy shoes this year…
I got a GENERATOR!
Yep, a handy portable generator so I can finally plug stuff in outside on shoots! I’ve wanted to attempt a concept like this for a long time, but never found a powerful enough battery-run light to light up the forest. This worked like a charm!
My lovely friend Jordan is on lighting duty - I had him shine the light in a variety of places to make sure I didn’t miss any sneaky moonlit highlights/shadows.
The hardest part of this image was creating the moon itself. I tried editing in a few “real” stock moons to begin with, but nothing quite looked right. Eventually, I resorted to distorting the light we brought along itself (using liquify/iWarp) until I had a nice (ish) moon (ish) shape. Surprisingly, it actually worked much better than I’d hoped!
Here’s the before/after. I loved doing this shoot, as soon as the woods started to get dark, and the light shone on the ground, I knew I would love this photo. It’s lovely to get that feeling of excitement looking at the LCD screen on the back of your camera - it’s been a while since I’ve been itching to get home to edit, too!
The Story Behind The Picture.
As well as having a personal-life “crescent moon” year, I’ve also had a real block creatively. I’ve dreamt up as many concepts as ever, but bringing them to life has been more of a struggle the last 12 months. More often than not, I would come home from a shoot and feel frustrated, editing for hours, endlessly trying to make my concept “work”. Usually, I’d end up leaving said photo in the pile of other “never minds” in a random folder on my desktop…
I’ve felt like my reasons for these photos not reaching the bar I’ve set vary. Sometimes, it was that good old Instagram pressure of needing your photo to feel as “likeworthy” as the last, sometimes it was because I felt my work had stagnated in a mess of overused ballgowns and predictable concepts. Sometimes the inspiration behind the concept was too important to get wrong - I’ve included one of these examples in this set, which I’ll talk more about underneath the photo.
So, most people do a Top 9 this time of year, so instead, here’s my Bottom 9!
Here are my least favourite nine pictures that I made this year, which I didn’t feel happy enough with to share online.
What I Liked: The concept!
Why It Doesn’t Work: The roots were from a stock photo, and don’t blend into the environment well enough.
Ironically, this was actually inspired by all my failed ideas! This shoot started off on the wrong foot. I went into the woods and cracked a lightbulb (safely) into a bag, but unfortunately took a LOT more glass off than I wanted to… I used a glue-gun to glue on some dried flowers I’d been keeping on my desk, and took myself to the fields nearby to see if I could make this idea come to life. I wasn’t entirely happy with how my little lightbulb flower looked, but thought I’d roll with it.
After editing all the elements together, I decided that the roots were the weakest part of this picture - and that I’d have had more luck choosing a location which had roots there to begin with. Onto the “Never mind” pile it went!
What I Liked: That this was topical portrait, and therefore important to talk about on social media.
Why It Doesn’t Work: The lack of usable wall space resulted in a lot of cloning, and the red paint was harder to edit on than I imagined.
This was a politically motivated portrait, which I really wanted to share. The day before the election, I felt quite annoyed at myself for not being more open politically online. It’s so important that anyone with an audience should use their voice wisely, and as a person I really enjoy politics as a topic (despite it grinding my sense of humanity down to the size of a pea), I enjoy hearing people’s different ideas and methods of tackling the world’s problems, it’s interesting hearing why some agree and some disagree. I’m NOT into shit-flinging, though. As soon as someone stereotypes another person with any view different to theirs as a “bad” person, I’m out. There has been so much nastiness surrounding UK & US politics especially over the years, so little patience for the complexity of all the issues, and to be honest, it made me feel incredibly nervous to join the conversation.
But, anyway - back to the day before the election! I felt I wanted to throw my opinion into the ring. It’s so important to vote, and figure out who your life experience and views align with. For me, that is Labour. Of the two main parties, I align with their policies more. The Green Party would have been a wonderful party to vote for, but since my constituency was a marginal seat, it was important to cast my vote for either Labour or Conservative.
I did a few online “Who should you vote for?” quizzes to make sure my opinions still aligned with Labour, I did more research into the controversial aspects of the party that there were concerns about, and I read both manifestos and weighed up the pros and cons of both leaders.
I ended up posting this image on my Instagram stories and my Facebook. Had it turned out technically better as an image, I would have felt confident posting it on my Instagram main feed, but I struggled with the paint aspect so much in the edit.
I drove around for about an hour trying to find a good wall that wasn’t next to a road (so my tripod didn’t get squished), but there weren’t any light coloured ones. Shooting on a darker coloured wall meant editing the red paint on looked mostly unrealistic. I wanted it the shade of red to be as close to the Labour shade as possible, and I really struggled to get there! So, that’s why this sort-of ended up in the Never-mind pile.
BUT I really do want to start being a little more topical in my concepts, and for that, I’m proud of this one.
What I Liked: The Concept (again)
Why It Doesn’t Work: The location choice didn’t look as good as I’d hoped, changing the stones to rainbow colours also didn’t look as realistic as it did in my practice edits.
Ahh, you know that feeling of BURSTING with ideas, but not being able to make them work? I’ve just spent the last hour typing about it, so hopefully you recognise that right now ;) This was another photo based around my struggle of bringing these concepts to life, and ironically, this didn’t work either!
James & I visited Malham Cove as the scenery for this shot. Two photographer friends of ours came along to help (Hi James & Merika!), but it felt like everything was against me for this concept! After carrying the easel up the HUNDREDS of uphill stone stairs, the sun was in a bad position for me, the wind was blowing the dress between my legs, and my hair straight into my face, it was just a 10/10 terrible experience (minus the company!)
I went home and tried to work with the images I had, but I just couldn’t warm to it. The concept I liked, but the visuals to represent the concept had morphed so many times before I got to this, that if didn’t feel like the same concept I’d originally been excited about.
After spending about three hours colouring the stones in, I eventually decided to chuck it. I might re-attempt this concept another day in another style, we shall see!
What I Liked: The location/wisteria! I adore the stuff!
Why It Doesn’t Work: No pizzazz :(
Ahh, I love wisteria so much! For the last three years I’ve either missed the blooming season due to busyness with wedding bookings, or not been able to find accessible locations to shoot with it, so I was SO EXCITED when I came across this wall of purple!
Unfortunately, though I like this picture, it just feels “meh” to me… I don’t feel like it tells a story, I don’t get lost in the image, I feel like I’ve relied to heavily on a pretty dress and pretty flowers. So, it lives in the Nevermind Pile.
What I Liked: The first picture is my favourite of my Bottom 9, I love the colours and the tones, the dress and the poppies, of course!
Why It Doesn’t Work: The composition doesn’t gel as well with my usual style, it looks more “fashion” portrait (which is totally ok) but I don’t think it would sit well on my feed (le sigh!).
Poppies are my other photo-favourite season, and I made sure I wouldn’t miss them this year! These two images of poppies I also like, but didn’t love enough to share. Again, I think I got so wrapped up in the idea of poppy fields being so beautiful that I didn’t put enough thought into a concept. Never mind. Maybe next year?
What I Liked: The concept!
Why It Doesn’t Work: The first picture I think I look like an evil gremlin, the second just doesn’t do the concept justice.
I. Spent. Hours. On. These.
No joke. I re-edited both of them four/fives times, stared at them for hours, sent them to my friends and asked them to tell me with their fresh eyes, what I simply couldn’t see that wasn’t making them work. There is just something “off” about both of these images. I love the concept and will try to re-shoot next year, as it’s about a topic which I think needs to be talked about more in the photo community - but not with either of these photos. Never mind ;)
What I Liked: The. Location. Is. Amazing.
Why It Doesn’t Work: There isn’t enough “wow” to the image, not enough motion, no storytelling.
I found photos of this incredible abandoned cottage in a nearby village in Jan 2018, and made it my mission to hunt it down and find the location. I asked the locals, I took every road I could think of in the village it purportedly existed in, I zoomed in on Google Earth looking for buildings which looked like they didn’t have a roof. I searched for landmarks in the photos in real life, to try and figure out which hill they might have been facing. To no avail. Eventually, I simply looked at the website the pictures were posted from, and found there were GPS co-ordinates right in front of my eyes the entire time.
Anyway - some of you might recognise this dress! I shot with it in my recent castle photo on the staircase. I think the reason I never ended up sharing this shoot was because
1) It’s landscape orientation - and Instagram makes landscape shots look crappy (yep)
2) It doesn’t do the dress justice
3) I just don’t “wow” at it. I want to, but I just don’t. So in the Nevermind Pile it lives.
So there we go! I do hope you’ve enjoyed looking at all the pictures I wasn’t happy with this year - I hope it reminds you, dear reader, that even girls who can create tremendous, towering moons out of little thin lightsabers, are also capable of creating total flops of photographs. I hope you are reassured that everyone has an inner critic, and that no one has quite figured out how to quieten it’s sharp tongued voice just yet. I hope it makes you feel less lonely when you next create a “Nevermind” picture, and I hope you keep being inspired by concepts that grab your imagination nonetheless. I know I will :-)
Happy New Year, everyone!