My Photography Journey
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
My Photography Journey
Last week was all about My Vegan Journey, and hopefully you enjoyed that, this week is all about My Photography Journey. Some of you may know, if you have read my “About” page, that it all started off with a trip to the Lake District with my dad, who is a landscape photographer, in 2018. Prior to that, I’d had absolutely no interest in photography, I had taken pictures on holidays and stuff, but that was about it. I had always enjoyed being creative by drawing and writing but always found myself dipping in and out of it, the very definition of Hyper Focus: spend a fortune on pens, pencils, paper etc and draw every night for a few weeks, then not touch it again for months or even years.
But, back to the Lake District. We were driving around, having been up since long before sunrise, moving from one location to another and I had taken a few photos because the place was just so calm and beautiful, but I didn’t think anything more of it. As we were driving , my dad saw a gorgeous spot where the low sun was shining through the trees and the completely clear water was perfectly reflecting the tree line. He spent what, at the time, felt like ages setting up his tripod, trying to get the right composure, waiting for the perfect moment of light and then I just popped up next to his camera with my phone, took almost the same exact photo, shared it on Instagram and started getting Likes almost immediately. I still love that photo, and it sparked an interest in me. However, after the trip, I thought nothing more of it.
Fast forward a few months and, as I mentioned last week, I was playing American Football, in January 2019 I suffered a concussion (which ultimately led to me retiring from playing later in 2019). Now, I won’t bore you with all the details, but it was a relatively minor hit which gave me ALL the post-concussion syndrome symptoms for months and months, so I had a long time out of action. I still wanted to attend games and I decided this could be my opportunity to start filming some of the games, so I did some research and bought my first DSLR camera! My dad was a Nikon user, so that is what I went with as well, not only so I could learn how it works from him, but also for sharing lenses and because they had a good range of fairly entry-level cameras, which was all I needed.
So over the following months (Spring/Summer 2019) I pretty much just used the camera for filming the games and taking a few photos during them too (if you want to see any of those videos, head to the Somerset Wyverns YouTube channel). I took it out a few times on walks and photographed the dogs as well, but was mainly just using it in Auto Mode.
Towards the end of the season, I started playing again, so the filming stopped and, if I used the camera, it was at weekends on dog walks, maybe a couple of sunrises and sunset, but it was still just a hobby and developing it further never entered my mind, until I went to the Lake District again with Dad. This time, I had a camera of my own and we treated it almost as a personal little workshop. I started learning the different features and a bit more about composition and got some photos which I was pretty happy with! Around the same time I found The Beginner Photography Podcast. This podcast took me to the next step, the Exposure Triangle just clicked, I learned how to use the camera on Manual Mode from then and haven’t looked back since!
Well, 2020 hit and, fresh back from our Lake District trip, I was enjoying my photography and learning how to use the camera. Then, of course, Covid hit and the world locked down. Here in the UK, that was in mid-March. This of course meant that I couldn’t really go out anywhere to play with my camera, so I played around online and learned some more tricks with the camera and, for the first time, started thinking about how I could grow my photography into more than just a hobby. I was still focusing on landscapes and shots of flowers and things while on my lockdown dog walks as that’s all that was allowed a the time.
I decided to use lockdown to practice, practice, practice. I was photographing all kinds of things on my walks, yet, despite being vegan, the idea of photographing animals still hadn’t crossed my mind. Then one day, out of interest, I Googled “vegan photographer” and, somewhere on one of the pages, I discovered We Animals Media.
If you haven’t heard of them before, where have you been!? I talk about them regularly! They are a media group and stock photo site founded by the incredible photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. They focus solely on animal rights and veganism, from happy sanctuary residents, to heart breaking vigil photos and farm footage. I looked at their website, their YouTube channel and into Jo-Anne herself and it just clicked, I should combine the two things I enjoyed doing the most: photography and veganism!
This. Is. It. I need to go to sanctuaries and photograph the animals, share their personalities and stories with the world.
I got to work straight away, I set up a website (welcome by the way), made my photography Instagram account (@jamesgphotography), a Facebook page and then got to work. Now, it was still during lockdown, so I had to bide my time, but I started messaging a few local sanctuaries and lined up my first visit, Dean Farm Trust! I was so happy with the photos at the time but, as any photographer will tell you, you constantly improve and evolve your style and looking at them now, I would be disappointed with the vast majority of the photos I took. I did write a blog post at the time if you want to know a little bit more about the day.
During 2020 I ended up visiting a few other sanctuaries, Devon Horse & Pony Sanctuary & Pear Tree Farm, all of which I have since returned to!
I decided early on that a key part of my model was to support the sanctuaries and use the images to help save more animals, I do this by selling prints of the best photos, calendars, t-shirts etc and then donating the profits back to the sanctuaries I have visited that year. I also let the sanctuaries use the photos however they like. I do all of this for free, my only source of income being from the sales.
2021 was a strange year with highs and lows. I managed to release my first calendar with great success towards the end of the year and, in the Autumn, I also fulfilled a dream by becoming a contributor to We Animals Media. I also visited more sanctuaries than in 2020. Unfortunately, I had to cut my sanctuary visits short in 2021 after breaking my ankle and needing surgery to fix it.
This year has been a tough one due to the Cost of Living Crisis around the world, but it has still largely been one of growth. With the release of my Exclusive Collection, more photos added to We Animals, the release of my 2023 Calendar, more new sanctuaries, film makers met, breaking 500 followers on Instagram and 600 on Facebook, so a MASSIVE thank you to all of you.
I also launched a clothing site where you can get t-shirts, hoodies and dresses featuring your favourite residents.
So that is My Photography Journey so far, I still have a long way to go, but thank you for being with me so far and I can’t wait to see what 2023 holds for us.