Skip to content

My photography journey

I have always wanted to take good photos. I nagged my parents for a camera from when I was about five or six years old. I still remember the first one I owned – it was a kiddie friendly point-and-shoot film jobbie that was shaped like a clown’s face. It’s the only clown I can ever remember having an affinity with (I don’t quite suffer from full-blown coulrophobia – a phobia of clowns – but let’s just say I am not a fan).

Clowns / people in masks... they're scary!
Clowns / people in masks… they’re scary!

From then on, I snapped away, handing my poor mother one roll of film after another for processing. I think the clown camera  conveniently broke at some point, but I then started buying those throwaway cameras with my pocket money instead.

In high school, I asked for a decent camera of my own for my birthday and was gifted a beautiful little Olympus compact camera. I took it with me when I did an exchange programme in Australia, and despite dropping the thing in Sydney and damaging its auto focus, I just kept snapping. This resulted in a full album of blurry images and an ensuing game of “guess who’s in this picture”.

For my 21st birthday, my uncle, Dave Esmonde-White, who was then an amateur photographer (he’s recently turned pro), granted my wish and paid for me to do a basic photography course at the Cape Town School of Photography. He also gave me his old Ricoh SLR film camera. I remain grateful for both of these things.

It was my first SLR (single lens reflex) camera and it opened up a new world to me. I finally started to learn how to control the camera to get the image I wanted from my head on to the film. I remember the magical feeling of picking up my processed images and flipping through them and occasionally finding that almost perfect shot. It’s something I will always miss about film.

Yay for starting to understand depth of field!
Yay for starting to understand depth of field!

Then I finished my degree, got married the week after I graduated and started working as a junior copy writer. Like many newlyweds, my husband and I were living mainly on love and Salticrax, so getting photos developed was a luxury I couldn’t really afford at that point. I got a little Canon digital compact camera and mainly took weekend snapshots that stayed on my computer and never got printed.

In 2010, again for a birthday, my wonderful parents gifted me my first digital SLR – a Nikon D3000. Since then, I’ve done a few courses at the College of Digital Photography here in Johannesburg, and tried to improve my photography skills. I’ve bought a proper tripod, a second lens and a bit of other camera equipment, and I’ve learned to occasionally get up early (I am SO not a morning person) to chase the best light.

2014-09-29 09.59.33
Sometimes it is actually worth getting up early!

The more I learn, however, the more I realise how little I know. I am still such a beginner! And for some reason I find it very difficult to “put my photos out there”. It feels like sharing a bit of my soul and opening it to judgment. I’m used to sharing my writing because that’s what I do every day and I have some confidence that if I wasn’t an adequate writer I wouldn’t still be eking out a living from writing. But photography is another matter entirely!

This year, when setting some goals and re-looking my dreams, I was forced to admit that I am being a bit of a wuss.

So I have taken a brave and bold step (or so I keep telling myself – it fells more like mad sometimes). I have joined Snapwire – a stock photography site that aims to “make photography human again”.

It’s been enlightening:

  • I have been so inspired by the photographers showcasing their work. It’s given me new ideas and made me want to pick up my camera more often to try new things.
  • I have been challenged by the photo requests that come through from Snapwire clients. Again – this gets me photographing more often and taking photos that aren’t same-old same-old (like the millionth picture of my three cats!).
  • I have started to see my photography style as I create a portfolio. It’s always easy to spot someone else’s style, but I didn’t think I had a particular bent myself until now. It’s become apparent that I really like colour. And finding fun ways to shoot everyday or boring subjects. I’m so not the “washed matt hipster instagram photo feel” type. And I’m okay with that!

That’s my photo journey so far. I hope it keeps progressing. I’d like to be able to sell my feature articles with photos to boot one day. Shew… I can’t believe I am going to publish that statement. It kind of makes it real if it’s “out there”.

Well, so be it! Here’s to new adventures in painting with light!

PS: you can see my Snapwire portfolio here.

Snapwire portfolio small