My Watershed Photograph

When the world says give up… Hope whispers, try one more time….Author Unknown

We all have that one photo that changes the game.  That one photo that tells you, YES, you really can do this.  A watershed moment.  I’ve been lucky enough in the few years I’ve been doing photography to have two such photos.  But today I’m sharing the second one that led me to doing the work I am today.  However, let me go back a bit further.

As I’ve said before, I’ve always loved old photos.  Photos were too expensive to waste by pulling duck faces, sticking fingers up or poking tongues out.  People were dressed beautifully as it was an occasion to have a photo taken.  I love the attention to detail that was paid and the resulting beauty it produced.

My mum had a slide camera when we were young and took lots of photos.  She didn’t always get it right, but occasionally she got really amazing photos.  She may not have been the best photographer in the world, but our childhood was documented in a time when my parents used every cent they had to provide for us, their 12 children.

It felt normal to always have a camera and with the introduction of the instamatic camera, it was reasonably easy and cheap to take photos.  They may not have been the best quality but they were affordable.  I took lots of photos on my old instamatic when the kids were little.  Thankfully I did, as when my daughter was 10  she was killed and I had nothing left but the memories and the photos.  It made me more determined than ever to document my sons’ lives.

My poor, patient sons allowed me to take photos of them all the time.  Even at the age where having your mum take your photo is considered punishment, they grinned and bore it, knowing how important it was to me.  For my 40th birthday, my friends all put in together and bought me my first digital camera.  It was in the early days of digital and most produced pretty poor quality photos.

Not mine though.  It produced beautiful photos with rich, true colours.  It was a point and shoot but had so many functions I’d never experienced before.  I fell in love with it.  I still have it.  I will never get rid of it.  It’s where the journey really began in earnest.

A few years ago (about 4 I think) I started a blog.  I tell my life story on there.  As it started to gain some exposure, I knew I had to start taking photos to put on there with it as I often googled them instead which didn’t sit right with me.  Using someone elses photo isn’t good form, so I decided to do a short photography course.

The course I signed up for was Cert IV in Photo Imaging.  A six month, full time course.  Okay, it was a bit more than I wanted to do but I figured it would be worth it.  When I had finished that course, I knew I wanted to explore it more so I continued on and did another 12 months to complete my Diploma.

It was during Cert IV that I went out with some friends from the course to shoot a sunrise.  I was feeling quite gloomy as everyone around me was taking great photos and I was still getting garbage ones.  I couldn’t work my DSLR out and I was ready to give up.  This particular morning, I finally hit the jackpot.  I got one photo that I loved.  Sunlight playing across the valley of the beautiful mountains I live in.  Suddenly I felt inspired.  Yes, I could do it after all.

I had always been fascinated by composite photos and wanted to bring fairy tales come to life.  Things that looked completely real but  couldn’t be.  I love fantasy.  Instead of doing what I was really interested in, I tried my hand at weddings, birthdays, christenings etc.  I felt under so much pressure to get it right that it stopped being enjoyable.  I really started to feel like an abject failure.  I craved to create fantasy but didn’t feel I had the imagination or the technical skills to do it.

After I came to the realisation that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing photography wise, I  was playing with some photos one night and decided to give the fantasy a go, never planning on showing it to anyone.  With a photo I’d taken in studio, I played until I had created a mermaid. (The Little Mermaid is my very favourite Disney movie of all time)  I knew she wasn’t perfect but I had finally done something that I could see had a base I could work from.

I studied a lot of other people’s composite work and watched You Tube relentlessly, trying to learn as much as I possibly could.  After a while, I revisited my mermaid and added textures, made water surrounding her and light coming from above.  She has so many layers, I had to cut the size down to be able to save her as a PSD file.  I finally got her to a stage that I loved her completely.  She is still a personal favourite as she showed me that I could do this.  I could finally create the fantasies that I loved.  Is she perfect? No.. She doesn’t need to be.

I still have so much to learn but am finally happy with what I’m doing. If you can learn even one thing from me, then I’ll feel  that I have paid forward some of the amazing things I’ve learned from the generous teachings of others online. We all develop our own style, our own work flow and our own shortcuts but it’s great to look at how other’s do their work.  I am currently getting set up to do videos instead of just photos so will be able to share so much more of my work flow then.

So here she is.  My watershed moment.  The sign I needed that I could really do this.  I call her Hope.. That’s what she gave me.   When the world says give up… Hope whispers, try one more time.  I did.. and I’m so pleased she whispered to me.

Hope Whispers



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