Life as a Freelancer - Struggles and Solutions

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Of course life as a freelancer is exactly as you would expect. Just as challenging, just as rewarding. Freelancing for me is a dream. Its hours of uninterrupted time alone to work on what I love, to focus or wander around eating toast as I need to, not worrying about what anyone thinks but just pouring myself into my dream. 

But also, every day can come with a crisis of some sort. What am I doing, how am I doing, am I good enough, am I doing enough, am I focusing on the right things, the list is endless...

Here are some things that keep me grounded while also keeping me organised and happy. 

Bullet Journaling

This is something I'd heard about ages ago that seemed very much not for me at the time. I came across bullet journaling through blogging and assumed it was all about calligraphy (which I'm crap at) and scrap booking (which isn't my thing) - but it's so not. It's a life saver. It's sitting in front of me right now and it's my whole work life in one place, I rely on this little book for everything. It's a way of tracking what I need to do, what I have done, and when I need to get stuff done by... but it's also a way for me to track my progress, my success, what works, what doesn't, and it's a way for me to look back and see how far I've come. Mine is just writing, no decoration, but I prefer a minimalist sort of set up anyway.

Here's what helped me understand what bullet journaling is really about.

Here's what convinced me to give it a try and showed me what tools I would work best for me.

And here's what helped me find extra stuff to add into it like a mood tracker, etc...

Podcasts and Audio Books

I thought I would miss working around people more than I actually do. I'm fairly social and talkative, but I'm definitely a lazy conversationalist and an introvert - so working on my own suits me really well. Having said that though, Adam has told me more than once that I need to get out of the house because I'm turning into a hermit. A happy compromise for me has been podcasts and audio books - they keep me engaged with something other than my own thoughts, and help keep me company during all that admin that I'd otherwise procrastinate on for weeks at a time. Here are my top podcasts and a few audio book series I've loved:

The Lively Show. From the Heart. My Dad Wrote a Porno. Hashtag Authentic.

The Rivers of London. An African Love Story. Mistress of the Art of Death. David Attenborough - Life on Air. Flavia de Luce.

Spreadsheets

Organising gets me super excited - I feel like I should say that's lame but I'm also fairly positive that everyone loves a well organised system so here's mine: I use google drive for all of my spreadsheets (they're google spreadsheets) and I have one for every kind of client, from photography work to video editing, influencing and then I even separate by industry. I also have a separate folder for each client in which I keep my contracts, invoices, notes, etc... I try to keep nothing on my laptop because the footage and programs I work with tend to be really bulky, so anything that causes my work to slow down causes my stress levels to rise! Conclusion: hooray for cloud based organisation!

Postcards

I just got these through, but I thought they would turn out to be a fun way of getting the people I meet to be interested in my work. They're bigger than a business card so harder to lose, they're also portable examples of my portfolio and what services I offer as a freelancer, and people are more likely to use them as book marks or decorations for their desk.

Work Space

I've tried to work in several different places around my flat, my neighbourhood... the world... and none of them really compare to my desk. I kind of think of my work as a piece of my heart, and getting my desk ready, organising my bullet journal, having nice things around me all day every day... it feels kind of like a weird sort of nesting. But it's an important process for me to take ownership of my work, to make it my own and it kind of gives me confidence - putting time into the enjoyment of the process of working has helped me feel better about the time that I have to spend at my desk, when I'm not out shooting.

Work Wife

Or wives. For me I have one work wife, which is a funny kind of truism because we now occasionally talk to each other about work as if we are actually husband and wife. Tania and I get together a few times a week to work together, and when we're not working together we're messaging back and forth, proofreading each others work, chatting about day rates and project rates, talking clients and collaborations, checking up on each others to-do lists, etc... freelancing, especially in an industry where there are few rules, it can be really tough! How much to charge, finding someone's email, getting an introduction... I also have chats full of the most inspiring ladies on Instagram and WhatsApp where we just talk about work, money, life balance, all that stuff. Being connected to people who are doing something similar to you is so, so important.

Exercise

One of the first things I did when I found myself in a position to set my own schedule was invest more time in my body. I've always known that I'm better when I'm physically active, my head is clearer, I have more confidence, I sleep better, the list goes on. But I HATE the gym, I feel like a hamster on a wheel. I'm also bad at exercising on my own because I'm so good at coming up with excuses and things that I "should" be doing. I knew I would never exercise if it were just up to me, so I started using a personal trainer! Honestly it's not at all what I thought it would be. The first few weeks my body ached like crazy, and now it still aches, but in a good way! I work better when I have someone other than myself to feel accountable to, and it actually just feels like fun games for adults. Every session is something different and I really look forward to it twice a week.

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Be the Light

Some photos from a visit to France with the beautiful Tania and her family, as well as some thoughts on positive anticipation...

If there's one thing this year has taught me is that there is no sense in betting against yourself. It's so tempting to be humble, to say "I'd love to but I probably never will...", or to be down on yourself when someone asks you how you're doing.

If you never try then you'll never fail and there's safety in that. If you never go up against a difficult challenge, if you never put yourself out there to potentially fail and to try again, then you'll never know the heartache of feeling like a failure. But more and more I hear people limiting themselves with their language (me included, btw...) and wrapping all their positives in an ocean of negatives, just to temper expectations. 

Since going freelance I've noticed my tolerance for being defeatist has slowly ebbed away, and I'm the last person to be getting rid of it because I've probably been the worst culprit. It had to get worse before it got better, but I've learned that the words you speak and training your thoughts has such an impact. Saying "never" even if you're hoping for a someday... it means never. You're putting your "nevers" out there to dampen expectation and to be humble, but you're not doing yourself any favours because the more you speak it or think it... the more likely it is to come true.

You have to be your own light, your own biggest fan, and bet on yourself every day even if your only evidence that you may succeed is that you have a heartbeat. You have to be honest, and out loud honest, not just in your head honest. You have to intrust your fears to your closest friends and listen when they tell you why it's going to be ok - and then just let it go. Don't cling doubt like it's a life raft so in the event you go under you'll have that safety net of "I told you so...".

In my experience I've found it's about training my mind to think positive, being conscious of my thoughts and replacing every idea that makes me feel down or anxious with an idea that lifts me up. And the hardest part for me has been training my mouth to follow along on those thoughts - too often I give into sarcasm about myself and my abilities, even the way I'm feeling, and then I walk away feeling like I let myself down. 

I've been working hard every day to keep my mood up. Listening to podcasts, exercising, doing those things I know will keep me happy over being indifferent and tired. I've tried to keep myself in a constant state of "looking forward to" and even just typing that gave me a jolt of excitement for things to come - even if I'm not even aware of them yet, I know good things are coming.

Maybe this post should be the beginning of a new blog series about what I'm doing to slowly train myself to become an optimist... what do you think?

Creative Restlessness and Why it's so Important

Today writing this I can tell that I'm in one of those transitional phases of the way that I shoot and edit. These phases come along in waves and each time things shift and change, and maybe only in a way that is perceivable to me, but getting through one of these is a struggle until I come out the other side and everything feels new and exciting. One day I wake up and I'm tired of doing things one way and I need a change - so I re-edit my presets, change my camera settings, window shop for camera equipment and look across instagram and pinterest for new inspiration.

It's simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating. So whenever someone asks me how I edit or what presets I use, I could tell you but tomorrow it may be different - because that's how you grow! I know it's so different for everyone but for me I need variety, I can't stick to the same format or theme or colour story. The subjects rarely change and what I like to shoot usually stays the same, but the way I shoot it and how I go on to edit it is constantly changing. I get bored and restless if I have to keep repeating the same process over and over, or if I don't learn something new.

I think it's always important to follow these paths of curiosity and restlessness. I can look at my work and always think it's fine the way it is, I could easily stay shooting the same way forever and following the same format for the sake of consistency if nothing else - but I feel like that would keep me at the same level forever. There's no personal or creative growth in that for me, and playing it safe would eventually make me turn on myself I think. I need to keep growing for my own sake. But I also think that personal creative growth is different for everyone, and everyone has their own paths of restlessness and a need for change to follow.

It is important to follow them though, because they always lead to exciting things.

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Four Lessons to be Found in Telling Your Own Story

Two days ago I published this video on YouTube, but I’ve been building up to sharing this story for a very long time. I had it all planned out in my head with everything I wanted to say, but I wanted it to come out naturally so I didn’t write it down, I just sat in front of the camera and talked… And it was awful.

Two days later I got on a plane and when I was in Kenya I tried again. And again, and again, and then again. Seven times in total, and each time it was just no good! The trouble was this... we often think of our lives in bits and pieces, but we rarely think of it in a narrative that would be interesting to an audience. 

Filming this was an eye-opening experience and here are a few lessons I learned while trying to tell my story:

1. Bringing up and talking about things that have happened in your life can make you confront parts of you that haven’t seen the light in some time – and that can be hard. In the original version of this video, which was half an hour long, I talked a lot more about family and and unlearning old habits. And it kind of made me a bit sad – not because I haven’t dealt with it all, but because it brought up painful memories and while I wanted to be honest, I didn’t want those painful memories to shout the loudest in my story.

2. You actually have to think about what you want people to get out of it, what you want them to take away from it all. Which means you have to think about your attitude, and how you represent yourself. So much of what I said in the original recording didn’t make the cut because I thought to myself – "I don’t want that to define me anymore". When you have to cut your life into a 15 minute film (which was probably a little bit long), you have to really work out your priorities which is an interesting process. It's all a bit therapeutic.

3. It’s important to own your whole story and not leave any part of it abandoned – which I did in the original recording, but a life story is loooooong. And getting to know someone in real life is not the same as getting to know them online. In person, if we were friends, we would get to know each other slowly over time through anecdotes and stories told over hours, not minutes. But when you’re talking to an audience you need to decide what they need to know, in choosing how you want them to feel about it, you get to make up your mind about how you feel about it. It’s a wonderful feeling to decide what from your past is useful to your present, and what you get to take forward into your future. Because it is a choice!

4. It’s difficult to narrate your past with enthusiasm, and without making it sound like a shopping list. I can talk with all kinds of enthusiasm about my present and my future, but making my past sound just as exciting is difficult because it’s already happened and I’ve already heard that story countless times in my head. But you can’t keep people engaged with a monotonous list of events… so this kind of forces you to inject some enthusiasm into the stories of your past which helps you look at it with fresh eyes.

All the time that went into collecting all of this information and telling my story in a way that was both honest and real, it was a good reminder of where I've been and where I'm going. I naively thought that I could just sit down in front of a camera, talk and hit publish... but it actually turned out to be weeks of work. And in those weeks I learned how to be happy with my story, how to own every part of it, and how to let go of what wasn't useful anymore. 

Even if you didn't publish it for the world to see, do you think you could tell your story in ten to fifteen minutes in a way that you felt proud of but also in a way that was honest and real? It's a worthwhile challenge to take on if you're up for it :)

FOLLOW ALONG

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Life Lately

I always thought that times of change would come in big waves that would pass over quickly in one great event and leave everything completely different. In my experience change has always come in with a bang. But lately changed has felt more like a glacier – I spotted it on the horizon months ago and I prepared myself in every way I could, and now four months later I’m still sat here waiting for it to sloooooowly come at me. It’s frustrating.

So life lately has seen me cleaning house, throwing things out, giving a lot of thought to the kind of life I want to be living and exactly how I’m going to do that. I’m so ready for that change now that I’m actually excited for it! Maybe that’s why it’s been taking so long, because I needed to be in a place to enjoy it instead of be scared of it. I’ve never been a fan of change – but growing up I had constant change and to my little girl mind, I never understood any of it. It always seemed so abrupt and harsh, chaotic as well, and if there was reason behind it I never knew what it was. So I guess maybe this slow change is a good thing.

But fun and exciting change, that I can get on bored with. I’ve been working on stuff for my YouTube channel and honestly diving head first into that was so scary. What if I wasn’t what people expected me to be? Or what if my voice irritates people, or I never learn to be succinct enough to get my point across? But a long time ago I learned that if I wanted to do something but I was scared to, to just leap into the new challenge and figure out the difficult parts on the way down – I guess I’m a lot braver about change when it’s on my own terms.

One of the biggest requests I’ve always had, and more so since I’ve started vlogging, is to share my story. I think probably my photography story but also what happened in my life to get me where I am today – and I’ve always really wanted to! But what’s held me back is not really knowing where to start. It feels so big and ungainly, like any life story! There’s so much and yet probably so little to say, but I’m just not sure where to start, what to include and how to make it interesting. And how to keep it SHORT! And keep it honest – include the good, the bad and the ugly. Because I want to be honest! But it’s hard.

Our sense of self-worth lives inside our stories. We have a tendency to orphan pieces of ourselves that don’t fit how we think we should be perceived. We either own our story… all of it, or we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness. Hustling is exhausting and it moves us away from who we really are.
— Brené Brown

When we think of our stories the thoughts tend to come to us in bits and pieces, we rarely step back and evaluate it as a whole. But looking at the big picture, it’s hard to take those pieces and stitch them together in a way that makes sense to us, or even other people! It’s a process, and I’m working on it.

FOLLOW ALONG

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Life as a Photographer, Questions and Answers

How to become a photographer

Before I get into answering your questions, I have some exciting news!! So many of your questions have been about how I take my photos and grew into becoming a professional photographer, so I decided to create a little something for you!

It's everything that I did when I was starting out to develop my own personal photography style. It's about how you find out what you really love to shoot, how you find your own voice and creative eye as a photographer, and how you push yourself to develop new skills and learn how to take those amazing shots! So sign up below to receive my emails and the free downloadable guide!

Ok, here we go with your questions...

What camera and lenses do you use? If you could only take one lens travelling with you, for portraits and landscapes, what would it be?

Currently I use the Canon 5D Mk iii with a 24-70 2.8 mkii, a 50mm 1.4, a 40mm, and a 70-200. I started out shooting almost entirely with the 50mm and it taught me a lot about photography. I couldn't afford another lens for so long and I think working with limited gear just makes you a better photographer! These days though I rely mostly on the 24-70 - it's good for portraits and landscapes. I'm eyeing up an 85mm though, it's on my wish list along with so many other things!

How do you approach photographing strangers? How do you make a connection with people?

Everyone has a different approach to this, I think you just need to find what you're comfortable with. Personally I'm not ok with photographing people without their permission, at least not their face anyway. So I always ask and try to make a bit of a connection with someone so that they can feel comfortable in front of the camera. Usually taking a few photos, showing them, and then taking a few more helps them to settle into it. 

How do you get a candid photo of someone while still getting their permission to take a photo of them?

Ask their permission, take a few photos, walk away and do something else for a bit, and then take a photo of them again when they're not looking. That or you can ask them to just keep doing what they're doing, and not look at the camera. If someone has agreed to a photo it's ok to try and give them a bit of direction for what you want. It's all trial and error and finding out what works for you.

How do you approach photographing a street scene? How do you get people’s consent? 

I think as a photographer it's a good idea to look up the data protection laws in your country, because then that will tell you what you are and aren't allowed to photograph and share without consent. For example, if you're shooting a street scene and no person is face on and identifiable, technically you don't need consent under UK data protection (you might get called out as a creeper though). But also, it's down to what you're comfortable with. Personally if I'm taking a portrait I always ask permission, it would make me so embarrassed to be caught shooting someone and to upset them in any way if they weren't ok with it. It makes me cringe just thinking of it. Of course the rules are different when it comes to kids as well... there's a lot to taking portraits in truth and I could talk about this for hours!

How do you edit your photos? What software and filters do you use?

I edit all my photos in Lightroom using my own filters that I created myself. And I change those all the time, I rarely stick to one filter or one way of editing for very long - and it changes from job to job depending on the branding of the organisation/company I'm working for. I definitely find lightroom to be the easiest and fastest way to batch edit, and quickly sift through and select photos/edit them individually. And also the photographers package on Adobe CC is pretty cheap!

How do you make sure that the people who you photograph know and understand what their photos are going to be used for? What happens if someone sees a picture of themselves and they aren’t happy about it?

Whenever I'm traveling for work, I'm shooting in communities that have a long and well established relationship with the organisations that have hired me. Before I even get there the community have been briefed on who I am, why I'm there and what their stories will be used for. But even then, every person photographed or filmed will need to give their recorded consent and have it explained to them all again. And even after that permission is always asked for photography and filming in the moment - and if we're shooting children then consent needs to come from the parents. There's a lot that goes on behind a photo or a film! But if the person photographed one day wakes up and decides they've changed their mind, they always have a way to get in touch with the program team who will then let the organisation know.

How do you make money from your photography?

To answer this question literally, I'm hired by an organisation or a company to shoot for a certain number of days for a specific rate... But of course there's more to that, it's a lot of hustle and grind to find the right people, reach out, make connections, make friends, find the organisations that are the right fit or need what I can offer. It's a lot of work to get to the paid work, if you see what I mean. 

What tech do you take with you when you travel? 

I always carry my macbook, camera, lenses, SD cards, card reader, hard drives, chargers, batteries, battery pack... I think that's it? Also an ipad mini for having a tv show on in the background in the evenings when I'm feeling lonely - usually something silly like Parks and Rec. I used to travel with so much more but now that I've relaxed into it I've cut my gear down to the bare essentials. It's so heavy! Oh and also my iphone comes with me too - gotta get those stories!

How do you do post production on the road?

If i'm doing it correctly, then I'll sit in the car after a day of shooting on the way back to where I'm staying and make my selections actually on my camera using the rating system. Then when I get back to the hotel I transfer all my photos onto a hard drive, then I back that up. Then I import into lightroom and look at the photos I've rated and skim through the rest in case there are a few I've missed. Then I do a test edit of a few favourite ones, and probably some I'm going to edit for instagram too - and then depending on the job I'll create a client preset in lightroom to use as a theme across the rest of the shoot. Then I'll stay up way too late playing around and editing, especially if I'm super psyched about the shoot I just did. I may send a few star shots through to the client to give them a preview. If I'm not doing it correctly I'll set my photos to upload and backup and then pass out face first on whatever bed is closest... This job can be tiring :) But mostly my post production happens when I get home and can dedicate a few full days to it.

What music do you listen do when you’re editing?

Ok the funny thing is I can't listen to music when I'm editing, it's so frustrating!! Music makes me daydream, and if I'm listening to something chances are I'll be sat staring glassy-eyed at a screen for 20 minutes before I realise I've accomplished nothing. But I do love listening to podcasts when I edit, it's my sort of self-education time where I learn tips and tricks about working as a freelancer or as a photographer specifically. Podcasts often help to get me through those crappy work days, or the times where I feel I should just give it all up because everything I touch turns to garbage - ha ha! Urgh. We all have those days. Should I do a post on my favourite things to listen to when I'm editing?

How do you deal with being away from home and Adam all the time?

Believe it or not sometimes I cry before I have to get on a plane and tell Adam I'm not going anywhere and he can't make me. Usually its when I'm in between long shoots and I'm so exhausted and I've taken on more than I can manage. Or the trip I have to go on is going to be really hard, physically and emotionally. I kind of feel like that's something I shouldn't admit to, but it's the truth. Adam has been responsible for dropping me off and scooping me up from the airport when I'm half dead more times than I can count, and I'm so, so grateful. We're ok with being apart from each other for long stretches but sometimes it can be harder than others, depending on how we're feeling. We have a rule though that anything longer than three weeks is too much, and we try not to go longer than that without seeing each other. Sometimes that means him flying out to see me on location somewhere for a bit, which can be fun. 

How do you cope with the long hours of work?

I cry. Ha ha. No not really. I mean, sometimes, but rarely. I just try to keep fit, I carry my yoga mat with me everywhere, I carve out enough time for sleep when I need to, and over the years I've learned the best way to deal with exhaustion is to lean into it and accept that it's happening. I know I can make up the sleep when I need to. But also, some jobs if I'm only on four hours of sleep a night I don't even notice because I'm loving it so much!! Sometimes I can't sleep because I'm so excited to get back out with my camera! Not every job is like that though, of course. I've developed a few rituals that keep me energised and relatively anxiety free when the exhaustion is creeping in, but it's taken a long time to train myself to cope with it.

Do you ever need an assistant? Can I come with you?

I get so many emails like this and I answer every one because I so know how you feel!! I was there once too. I've only recently, within the past two years, starting putting together teams to take out with me on a job. It used to be just me doing the photography, videography and interviews and it was hectic! Now if it's a big production and all three aspects of content gathering are needed, I put together a team, but I will generally only work with people who have a killer portfolio or who I trust can do the job. You don't need to have experience working for people so much as proof that you can do the job in the way that is necessary... Like, not every videographer will shoot the way that I like, or not every storyteller will interview in a way that I think is appropriate - I like to work with people who have the same way of creating that I do, but that's where the magic happens :) 

How did you find your own photography style and what do you think about when you edit your photos?

Oh my goodness that's such a good question!!! ;) sign up to my emails above or below and I'll tell you how, step by step. In terms of thinking - I think I probably just switch off. The way I shoot and edit isn't always something I think about, now that I have the skills I need, I just follow my intuition. 

When you go on photography trips, who do you travel with?

Sometimes it's just me! Sometimes it's a team, like I said above. But when I do field work for charities or for anyone really, I'm always accompanied by an in-country representative from the organisation. It's always people who work directly with the program operations, who know the local communities and speak the language - they have the relationships that allow me to be welcomed into the communities and I can't do my work without them. They're always behind the scenes and put in so much hard work so that I can do my job - they're basically superheroes and they have gotten me out of more sticky situations than I can count, even saving my life once :)

What are your biggest obstacles as a travel photographer? In terms of finding time, energy, inspiration, editing and motivation?

Finding the time and the right work, and the right work/life balance. I think it's easy to burn out in a career like this - especially if you shoot for charities, those trips can be really tough! Mentally, physically, emotionally sometimes too. Chasing after what I love to do but not sacrificing everything else in my life at the same time, keeping perspective - that can be challenging. Reminding myself that travel and photography aren't the only parts of my life that need to be focused on. And sometimes I don't have the time or the energy to do what needs to be done, and I lose the inspiration or put off an edit because I'm scared I did a bad job - but when I'm photographing (especially for an amazing cause) I'm loving my life more than at any other time, and that's where I find the motivation to keep going. And also I think it's so important to admit to yourself that you're only human, and you can't be 100% dedicated 100% of the time, sometimes you need a break so that you can remember what you're working for. I try not to beat myself up for lacking motivation sometimes, or energy - I'm human and my emotions change all the time. I've learned that having patience with myself is the most important thing. 

How did you get where you are now? How did you become a traveling photographer?

I started out working in the not for profit sector! My first job was as a legacy administration assistant, two days a week, for an animal welfare charity. Prior to that I had been unemployed in London for 13 months thanks to choosing an MA in journalism only to graduate into a full blown recession. Prior to that I worked in a butcher shop for a year... It's a long story. But once I found that I could take a pretty good picture I focused really hard on: getting better, shooting every day, pushing my way through to every opportunity, meeting other photographers, shooting with other photographers, networking, making friends in the industry, not getting down on myself when I was set back by something, starting to think of myself as a professional, selling my skills as a professional, and checking in with myself every day if this is really want I want from my life - because it's tough! Should I talk more about this in the future in a step by step, what I did, kind of way?

How realistic is it to pursue photography as a career?

That's a tough question to answer because it depends on what kind of a career you want. There are some careers that don't require so much personal motivation to get things done, especially careers where you don't work for yourself. It's easier to be accountable to other people than it is to yourself - at least I find that anyway... So far I've been the toughest boss to work for, and I've worked for some pretty big bullies! It is a challenge but photography is an art form and people do art because they love it. I think if you love it and that is what keeps you motivated even when you feel like you're rubbish and you're convinced the whole world is thinking the same thing, then it could work out. But it is exactly as difficult as advertised, whether you have jobs fall in your lap or you have to work really hard to land each one, it's a hell of a lot evenings and weekends, missing fun stuff, working late nights, etc... You get out what you put in. It is a challenging career to break into, but all the best jobs worth having are.

How did you practice and improve your skills as a photographer?

Definitely check out me free download for the best answer to this question. But I just love photography a lot, so I photograph a lot... I like trying to see if I can shoot something in particular and then I teach myself or ask someone else to teach me how to do it. And then it's on to the next and the next and you never stop learning. You just shoot for the love of it and learn along the way. When it comes to photography I found a lot of photographers I tried to learn from made me feel like certain questions were really stupid and let me just say, there are no stupid questions when it comes to learning! If someone makes you feel ashamed for not knowing more when you're just starting out, that's on them and their own insecurities. There may be value to what they are saying so definitely think on it, but keep trying to learn and keep pushing to grow your skills, don't let anyone put you down or make you feel silly for asking. 

How do you get your first client?

There's no one way to get that first client. You just have to take every opportunity and also create space in your life to let opportunity come to you. I try to do something every day that will help me get new clients, and I like to think of it as planting seeds - some may sprout and others may not, but you just keep planting and eventually one will. It's all about making connections, looking for the right fit, finding opportunities to shoot... the important thing is to start as you mean to go on, look for the right people and shoot what you love - I find things naturally progress from there. It's complicated and this sounds a bit vague, should I go into this in more detail? It may be a bit of a long post!

How long does it take to set yourself up as a photographer including the kit, website, skills, etc…

This is kind of a hard question to answer because everyone's journey and circumstance is different. Maybe you have a family that can help you out with lending money, maybe you inherit a camera or get one as a present, or maybe you have to fund everything yourself over time, I think it just really depends. I was shooting on a Canon 60D and a 50mm (the cheap kind) for years before a got a full frame camera. I taught myself how to build a website on squarespace with the help of friends who were doing it at the same time as me... You just kind of develop new skills as you go, when you need to. I think it took me about four years to go from no experience to someone who makes money off their work. But I would ask for help where you need it, so if you're not sure about where to go next then ask someone whose job it is to help you - that's my best advice. Whenever I've been stuck I've worked with Jen Carrigton and she's helped get me out of a dead end on more than one occasion. 

How do you gain creative self-confidence and stop questioning your abilities as a photographer? Have you ever doubted yourself and how did you get over that self-doubt?

Oh man, I don't know, but if you figure this one out can you let me know? I guess for me there just came a point in my life when I decided I wanted to have a job I love and some amazing experiences, and that outweighed my fear of that mean voice in my head who was telling me I couldn't. That voice never went away, but these days I hear it less when I'm too busy getting stuff done to listen. I think the best advice I can give on this is that there's no such thing as getting over that and living a life full of confidence and without doubt - you just have to do it anyway. Sometimes I feel so awesome about what I do and like I'm on top of the world, sometimes I feel like a bad person who takes rubbish photos - but the more I push myself to learn more and gain more experiences, the less I feel that way. And keeping busy just doing things anyway, that definitely helps. It's just practice and hard work and not letting anyone get in your way, not even yourself. 

How did you get into working in the not for profit sector and how do start working with charity clients?

In a way I grew up in the charity sector as a newly working adult, I started out in corporate PR internship and hated it - and my next job was for a charity. So I started working for charities from the inside out. All of my professional contacts are in the charity sector, I know all aspects of charity communications and PR, and I also know all aspects of charity fundraising/marketing and its multiple audiences. I think this knowledge has been invaluable to me because I can talk "charity" with clients in a way that probably a lot of other photographers and producers can't. But when it comes down to it it's just about the leg work, anyone can learn this kind of stuff without having to work in the sector. And the way of getting your first client is the same - just growing your experience and asking for a job.

How do you edit photos for Instagram and how do you keep a consistent, uniform-looking feed? And what are your favourite apps to edit your IG photos with?

My instagram is such a mix of work stuff and life at home stuff, and the way I edit is different for each kind of photo. If I'm posting a photo from my Canon then I'll do the whole Lightroom edit with my own filters etc... and if I shot a photo with my phone I'll edit using the VSCO app (I like the E and A filters the most), with the ColorStory app, and then try to work it into my feed. I'm not that great at Instagram, it's definitely a challenge for me to post in a way that is cohesive, but everything I've learned about creating a feed that looks good and grows followers I got from Sara Tasker, she taught me absolutely everything I know about the app and so she's probably better to go to for advice than I am. And she has LOADS of info on her site about it so definitely have a look.

How did you know what kind of photography you wanted it get into, and how did you land yourself in such an exciting career?

I tried it all out for myself to see! This is also kind of answered in my free download so definitely check that out. But I just tried a bit of everything until I found something that I just kind of lost myself in. I remember when I first started I really wanted a step by step guide of how to get myself a career like the photographers I admired, but the truth is everyone feels their way towards a career they love almost completely blind. No one has a path that can be followed and no one can tell you the right path to take. You just have to feel your way along, find what feels good and right to you, and go with your gut. It's just hard work, a little bit of belligerence and not giving up. I think it helps to be stubborn, not too proud to do the crappy jobs for a bit, and to accept that it's a constant work in progress. I definitely didn't land here, I climbed here, and anyone can do the same thing if they just settle into a life of uncertainty and figureing things out as they go along - but isn't most of life like that anyway? 

Who do you use to insure your gear?

Photoguard are pretty good I've heard, it's who I use but I've yet to make a claim so I can't say for sure.

What kind of clients make up your client base?

A real mix. Obviously I only show you guys my highlight reel but I've taken on jobs like corporate head shots or shooting mattresses to just make some money - not every job takes me around the world and I don't think I could handle it if it did to be honest. I like working with people a lot, and with stylists - so I've shot for some clothing brands. I've done some travel and tourism stuff, etc... Lots of lifestyle brand things. I'm not the best at styling and curating, but I love collaborating with other creatives who have those skills so I love taking on shoots that let me work with other people. I'm definitely not at that point in my career where I can turn down paid work because it doesn't sound fun :)

What is your photography story? How did you get to where you are now? What was your first break?

I think I've covered my photography story already above but I think my first big break, which kind of wasn't big/didn't break me into anything really, was when I went to Kenya as a producer for a few not for profit fundraising films. I had no clue what I was doing, zero experience, and I was terrified - but I wanted to try and I convinced my manager at the time that I could do it. The opportunity didn't land in my lap, but I did see space for me to create the opportunity for myself and I worked towards it for a while before it materialised. When I landed in Kenya I was terrified, I didn't know why I had taken this project on and I certainly didn't know much about what I was doing - but I had a vision for how I thought it should go and I just followed that. Funnily enough that first morning in Nairobi I went to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to visit the orphaned elephants and I thought "wouldn't it be amazing if I could work for more charities like this one day - but that'll probably never happen, how crazy would that be? That would be a dream job, I could never reach that far..." Now I'm typing this at Heathrow terminal 3 about to board a flight to go shoot for them. What is this life?! It just goes to show you can doubt yourself but still get things done anyway.

Do you clients pay for all your travel or do you ever have to pay for anything yourself?

If ever I travel overseas for work all of my expenses are covered from tickets to taxis and hotels. I'd love to be in a position one day to be able to go on some shoots on my own money, but at the moment I could never afford all the travel required on my own. I mean maybe I could, but I have a few other things to spend my money on at the moment.

How do you balance full time work and a freelance career?

It's just a lot of work. A long time ago I think working became a habit for me and for a good few years I just did it constantly. At home, at work, on the bus, out with friends... i'd be brainstorming, answering emails, pushing my work out on social media, trying to get noticed by future clients. The past year or so I've been trying to scale back as I've seen some of the rewards of that hard work coming in, I've tried to put less pressure on myself to be "on it" constantly. Work smarter, not harder, you know? I still work long, anti social hours but I've been taking a day off when I need it, switching off when I need it, putting my camera away when I need it, etc... Learning how to step away from work has made me much more successful than I ever was when I was hammering away at it until I dropped - but maybe that's because I've put in a lot of time already.

Do you have any tips for traveling solo, especially as a woman?

Following your instincts is important, and not putting yourself in silly situations as well. So like, not wandering out alone at night if you shouldn't, covering up if the culture requires it, etc... Sometimes it drives me a bit mental when you see travelers wandering around a more conservative or traditional culture and not respecting its values - I think this can be especially dangerous if you're a woman. Trying to blend in and be respectful is important, and if you're there to photograph its maybe the most important thing. It's just a matter of keeping your whits about you, keeping your passport on you (and a photocopy of it in your room), not carrying too much cash and just enjoying yourself. Bad things can happen to us anywhere these days, but the world is full of good people who are always happy to help if you just ask.

What drives your passion in photography and travel, and what motivates you to keep going?

I think I've covered bits of this above but in terms of what motivates me to keep going - that's a tricky one because I don't really know. It's just something that I do because I really love to do it, I like the travel and I like chasing after those shots that make my heart race when I know I've got a good one. I love the people I meet and the perspective it gives me of the world. I think each trip opens me up to new ideas and new ways of looking at things - it's made me a less judgmental person and given me a greater capacity for empathy than I ever would have felt without it. My job is the only thing I've ever felt real, genuine and consistant pride for. I just do it because I love to, it's not more complicated than that.

What's your advice for someone who wants to do what you do?

Well firstly sign up to my emails :) And secondly, just work really hard. Shoot as often as you can, get better every day, set goals for yourself and keep working towards them, and don't worry when it feels like a long, tough road - it can be! I know it seems like people "land" in amazing jobs or "break" into careers, but they rarely do. You work hard until you get your first paid job and then at that point you set a new standard for yourself and keep working hard until you achieve that. It's always going to be tough, and depending on how hard you are on yourself, it's always going to be frustrating. But you get out what you put in, so keep going and do it because you love it. If you stop loving it that is absolutely fine, keep looking for something else you love. There's nothing that you can't do if you just work bloody hard at it, ignore the voice that tells you you're not good enough, and if you have a genuine love and desire to make it happen.

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In Print

This post was written in partner ship with Blurb

Can you believe it wasn't really that long ago that we were using film cameras? My first camera was a film SLR, my mum bought it for me just as I was dropping out of university (temporarily) to travel around Spain and Morocco for a few months. I've always taken photos with various cameras but that was the first time I ever felt serious about photography... of course I shot on automatic the whole time and only had the cheap and plasticy kit lens, but the camera was heavy and that made it feel credible. 

To this day I still have two albums full of photos from that trip, and I'm pretty sure that was the last time I had any photo of mine printed. I loved using that camera, but I was never planning to become a photographer - making a career out of any kind of art form was for someone braver than me, someone with more motivation and drive. Who knew I had it in me? I didn't. But as it turns out there was something to that love of photography, and now here I am.

 

 

But these days I rarely see my photos in print. I live in a tiny two room flat with walls that clutter easily, all my client work is delivered digitally, and it wasn't something that ever really came up. It was only this past year that I saw one of my photos printed in a book and I found it so mesmerising - to actually touch and feel a moment that I captured, it's just so different from seeing it on a screen. And I think seeing something in print is that final and solid test to see if a photo turned out well, so I was interested to test out some of my other shots.

My dad has been bothering me for some of my photos for months now, so I finally got down to the task of putting together a book - which I knew would take ages because I'm so picky about how these things look while also being terrible at design. I went with Blurb because for years and years, Adam's family have used them to put together an annual family photo album, and the occasional wedding or anniversary book - they always look so good.

I wasn't sure how my photos would stand up to print because I shoot a little dark and I know light shots work best on paper - so I adjusted them a little in Lightroom and put together a photo book using Blurb's native design tool, BookWright. I could have used something else but I found it really handy to use a tool that had a template where I could drag and drop into a pr-set design - an eye for creative layouts and book design is just not one of my talents and trying to come up with something on my own can take me hours! This took me about 45 minutes, the image selection however... that took a lot longer.

I'm so pleased with the way it turned out that I sadly never actually gave it to my Dad! I bought him a cook book instead (bad daughter). I love the wrap-around cover and the quality of the print, and now I'm thinking I'd love to put together something like a magazine that people can buy through my website, what do you think? A collection of my best shots from the year, or one mini-magazine per trip - something like that. Add that to my list of projects this year!

This post was sponsored byBlurb, a brand I've known for years which I think you'd really love.

2016

When I think about 2016 I just can't believe it - any of it, It's been so incredible in so many ways, both incredibly good and incredibly challenging. But I'm ending the year in Canada with some of my favourite people, and somehow the challenges of this year don't seem so bad - they make me realise that I'm so well prepared for what's to come next year.

I hate to start with one of the challenges but it feels most relevant to this space - and I'm sad that 2016 has been the year that I've found blogging harder than ever. I've always used this space to just be completely myself, hold nothing back and be honest whether it came out in an ugly mess or something completely uplifting. I didn't tell anyone I knew in real life about it for ages because I hated the idea of picturing someone I knew reading here. As time went on and family and friends figured it out, I found I was able to almost shut out the idea that people knew what I was writing and while it did make me censor myself, it wasn't very much.

This year however, I've blended my blog with my portfolio and I've started to work with more clients - which is probably the most exciting thing ever! But pouring your heart out when potential clients are watching? Or knowing that you have to work with someone who knows so much about your personal life? That's hard. It makes you feel very exposed and I know that some bloggers do it and do it so well! But the more freelance work I take on, the more guarded and professional I feel I need to be - and terrible writers block takes over. I would love to get over this and just own both sides of my life, blend personal and professional and just let it all be me for everyone to see - but it's hard. 

It's a challenge for next year that I'm determined to take on, because I miss this space and sharing my life and adventures here.

But on the bring side I have got to work with some AMAZING people this year, both in the charity world and some beautiful brands. And none of these things have fallen in my lap, I've gone out and hand-picked each and every job I've done and chosen only what I knew I would love. Believe me, I've had a lot of rejection too, but the ones that worked out have been some of the best things I've ever done - for work but also in life. There's a lot to be said for not waiting for things to happen to you and instead going after what you want with as much enthusiasm as you can manage. 

It's meant a lot of hard work, a lot of self doubt, a lot of putting myself up for rejection and being ignored, a lot of failure, and a lot of restless, anxiety-filled nights. But I've also learned this year what it means to feel good enough, by my own standards. I've felt, probably for the first time in my life, genuinely proud of myself and what I'm doing. And of course I'm terrified that it could all disappear in an instant, but I've also become so good at ignoring that fear.

Some days you will feel like the ocean. Some days you will feel like you are drowning in it.
— Lora Mathis

2016 has also been the year of good friends. If you've been reading here for a while you may remember that I went through a really rough time a few years back. There's nothing like trauma to sort out who can really manage to be there for you in life, and who can't. And I don't blame some old friends for not sticking around, that kind of grief felt like a plague that everyone needed to avoid - but some didn't, they just jumped right in and stuck with me until I got through it. And when I came out the other side I found I had the most glorious group of people around me who taught me what friendship was really all about. 

I think one of my favourite feelings is laughing with someone and realising half way through how much you enjoy them and their existence.
— unknown

These days I have friends who encourage me and who I can chat to about work for hours as well as talk rubbish with and laugh until we collapse. I've learned the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded people and there's no limit on the value of a community who can laugh with you, dream with you, and cheer for you every step of the way. I would go to the ends of the earth for them, and I know they would do the same.

And I have a good feeling that that community will be expanding in 2017.

And the rest of this year has been a lot of constant travel and a lot of hanging around waiting for things to begin. 2016 has been full of stops and starts, full of inconsistencies, full of gaining and losing.

But ultimately this year has been about finding out what I'm capable of through trial and error. It's been imperfect and messy, a constant ebb and flow of winning a lot and losing in equal measure. Each step has felt like a progression though and I'm so happy with the direction my life is taking - even though half the time I feel like I'm steering the ship and the rest I feel like I'm tripping over myself just trying to stay on my feet. But I kind of feel like if you're not falling flat on your face sometimes, you're not being brave with your life...

Next year is going to be absolutely insane, wonderful, challenging and one hell of a ride. I can't wait.

We can only be said to be truly alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
— Thornton Wilder

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Autumn Wanderings

Autumn is the time of year where life picks up for me, is it the same for anyone else? September to January is where the magic really happens, where the most exciting projects pop up or good news comes in. Autumn and the early days of winter is when I really start to build some momentum, and then by the time the New Year rolls around I'm ready for a good long rest/hibernation until summer.

I've been working on some really exciting stuff lately. I mean, super exciting! I can't share it yet but keep an eye out for a few new albums in my portfolio of some really exciting shoots I've done over the past few months. And I'm hoping that good news brings with it more good news, and that good things just keep happening - you know when you feel like you're just about to catch a wave of good luck? I'm feeling that now, I hope I'm right!

But in between the excitement, trip planning, long-haul flights and piles of laundry mounting up, there are those wonderfully quiet moments. Moments like these were Adam and I pull over on the side of the road and jump out to take in the view, totally unplanned...

I don't know what I've done but I have managed to convince Adam that photography is fun. And now he's SUPER into it. I have never been so happy. He is all in one my second shooter, location scout, and producer - all the while keeping an eye on the light telling me when it's time to go and get those shots in.

Lately we have been making plans to go all around the UK, visiting our favorite spots and challenging ourselves to find some wonderful photo locations. With life responsibilities and work getting in the way we don't have as much time as we would like to hop in our old car and go somewhere beautiful, but we make it work.

There's nowhere like Yorkshire though. We were up there a few months ago for Sara's wedding, when the heather was still out and looking so beautiful.

In between downpours and styrofoam cups of tea we found a few special spots to leap out of the car on our way home and capture some of the magic. It's doing things like that which keep me going. There's so much hustle to be done, you have to work hard to make the life you want and that's something I'm coming to grips with - and the bone-tiredness that comes with it. But moments where I can put my feet up in the car while it rains outside and I'm all tired out from a fun shoot, those moments get me through those long hours of work. 

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The Truth About Not Good Enough

Who isn’t a high achiever these days? Who doesn’t have ambitions and goals? We all see other people doing things, we see it first-hand thanks to social media, but the how and why of it isn’t always clear. So we set out to do something similar with no road map and no real understanding of the effort or steps involved to get there. Unless we choose a well-trod path in life, chances are we spend a good long time fumbling around in the dark.

And what keeps us going is ambition, a dream we are willing to work hard for and a vision of what success looks like. And we do work hard, day in day out we work. You could call it perseverance and determination and a love for what we do, but there’s a very fine line between passion and belligerence. 

Most successes in life are a slow burn. We hope we’re on the right track but who can ever be entirely sure? As much as we seek advice, no one’s path to success is going to look the same and the truth is there’s no formula. But because we’re always looking outside ourselves for proof of success, it’s easy to miss our personal mile-markers. Who can say what interim success looks like? I mean, is that even a thing? So anything short of our ideal is, put simply, not good enough. 

Here’s how it sounds in my head sometimes: nothing is ever good enough. I’m never working hard enough, my successes aren’t big enough, my failures are because I’m not talented enough or I’m a joke. I’m not smart enough, savvy enough, or personable enough. I’m not good at communicating, I have a fundamental inability to genuinely connect with anyone. And that's on top of the usual not enoughs when it comes to my personality and body.

It’s so easy to think this is coming from a genuine place, and to believe it. Sometimes I’ll just come home and ask Adam “am I a bad person?” – and when the waters get muddy I go from being bad at something, to just being bad in general. It gets personal very quickly.

When that voice builds up enough momentum and claws its way into our hearts and minds, it’s crushing. It becomes all we can hear and we start to spiral. No one is going to convince us we’re anything but useless. 

It needs to stop

 

 

What I have discovered is that these kind of painful thoughts can’t survive if you just go back to what you love most. For me it’s my actual work, it’s getting on the road taking photos. Not being a photographer, but just coming up with fun ways of photographing for the sheer love of doing it. It’s chasing that thrill I get when I capture the kind of light that makes my heart jump. It’s finding other photographers that I admire dreaming over what they create, and the idea that everyone is in it together, just creating amazing stuff that makes them happy.

In the face of my love for the process, all that worry below the surface can just take a back seat. I’m here to create work that I love, and be determined in creating only what I love – nothing else.

Who knows what success will look like for me or anyone, maybe I’m already achieving it. All I know of success is that it’s usually made up of what I see other people doing, which nine times out of ten is a story I made up in my head of what it took for them to get there. I can’t follow that path, I don’t know the way…

And this is the truth of it all: if you want to do something brave and creative with your life, it is supposed to be challenging. It is sometimes full of self-doubt and criticism, it’s scary, it’s long hours and sometimes pretty lonely. But it doesn’t have to be so painful. Fall in love with the work you create, with the process of creating it, and the community of people creating alongside you on their own path. It takes the pressure off, I promise.

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Life Lately - Melancholy and Separation Anxiety

I thought it was about time I did a life update here, it's been too long. With everything happening these days I think it’s easy to believe my life as been all travel and Instagram opportunities. Obviously it’s not all that, but life is what you make of it amongst the general every day stuff of wishing for more sleep and trying to motivate myself to get some exercise. 

And my life is always changing. Plans, thoughts and the way I’m handling it is always changing. Life lately from one day to the next is never the same. One minute everything is coming together, so much is happening and I feel like I’m moving forward. The next minute the dust has settled and I’m wondering - now what?

I’m powering this engine myself and my coal shoveling is inconsistent. It’s not like I don’t have the will or the drive, but sometimes I just don’t know what to do next – you know? We rarely take a moment to recognise that periods of melancholic indecision and even boredom happen. It's part of the process - she tells herself...

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how sometimes you just have to let life happen to you. And I’ve also been thinking about how all the self-help and motivational hand drawn pins out there do nothing to address the fact that sometimes life is just a temporary, directionless drift. 

 

 

There’s a very prominent “take what comes” attitude prevailing here in London at the moment, it’s settling on the country like a dark cloud along with the appropriately damp and cold weather. There’s a mixed feeling of “oh what have we done”, “finally we’re free” and a resounding “what the hell next?”.

Frankly it scares me. I’m afraid of the rising tide of racism since the leave vote was announced, I’m afraid to now realise our government has zero contingency plans, I’m afraid of what a future for a Europe not united looks like – from within and without. I recognise that much of this entire campaign has been about fear, and it’s working. 

But the things that I do know are: better together has always been an unequivocal truth when it comes to a people united. Hate, racism and xenophobia has no place in a progressive country’s future – but it exists within our people and it’s important that we consider its cause before stamping it out, because I suspect its roots run deep. And moving forward I don’t think any amount of separation can stop me personally feeling like a citizen of Europe, and the world. I will always see pieces of myself in others, no matter how different our cultures, values or believes may be. 

We are all connected in our humanity, like it or not, we are all in this together. Personally I find great comfort in that.


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Home. A Life of Intention.

 

Coming home feels different these days. 


 

Life has always been looking forward for me – looking to the next trip, the next adventure, the next project. The thrills always came from the unknown opportunities on the horizon, and what was going to come next.

Traveling through Cuba was an adventure in every sense, I can’t wait to post my photos and stories. It felt like one of those endless trips, the ones where you land and immediately forget what day it is, how many days you’ve been there and how many you have left. Nothing felt specific, we just took things as they came up and had the best time with it.

Home has never felt like a specific concept for me. I don’t have a family home really, I don’t feel like I belong to one specific culture or place – rather I feel like my heart belongs in lots of places, and lots of people. But lately the idea of a home has become more solid for me. Maybe I’m finally growing up. I’ve always been a late bloomer.

In those quiet moments in Cuba, sitting on the front porch of our Casa of that particular town, I would get belly-flips of excitement in the pit of my stomach whenever I thought of home. A friend would cross my mind, or the idea of summer in my neighbourhood, or thoughts of sofa cuddles with Molly and I would feel genuine excitement for the slower parts of my life. The parts of my life that I built and chose and grew.

So much of travel is about what happens to you. You’re always in control of how you handle a situation, or process it, but travel takes so much out of your hands and you have no choice but to live in the moment and take whatever comes your way. That’s the thrill of it, I mean, it’s why we do it – to experience the unknown. For me it’s not thinking, it’s no commitments, it’s escaping into other cultures and other ways of life. It’s getting lost.

But home for me now feels like a culmination of choices I have made in my life that I am finally proud of. I find so much peace and joy in the idea of my home, my life and my friend-family that I have built here in London. 

But having said that, I have a whole lot of Cuba stuff coming up here. Lots, lots of photos, and a Cuba road trip guide coming your way soon.


The inspiration for these photos came from the story of women in coffee. A while back Taylors of Harrogate sent me some samples of their Esperanza coffee, grown by women. I've seen first hand the empowerment for women that comes with having a livelihood, a means to improve their living situation, educate and feed their children and elevate their status within their own community.  But of course the gender gap is universal, and in developing countries it is often overwhelmingly large. Taylors of Harrogate is working to address that with some amazing projects, check out their work here


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Notes on Change

Are you feeling it too? There’s change coming for sure. Everyone I know or come across (on the internets) seem to be going through something. Either they’re super tired/grumpy/down like they’re resting up for something big and they’re impatient to start, OR they’ve already started and change is happening for them.

If you follow astrology, which I seem to do only when there’s something written in the stars that I want to hear, you’ll know that we have had a few eclipses lately and Mars is apparently doing something which is making everyone angry. The thing to do seems to be just let it go, don’t try to fix it, just let it happen. There is healing in anger and sadness, and sometimes if you rush to fix the discomfort you don’t give yourself a chance to heal or process what’s going on. So I have been sitting with it and it’s felt as uncomfortable as a sauna in the rain forest. 

But having said that, I may be sitting with my discomfort but I've got my laptop propped on my knee and I'm getting stuff done anyway. Now seems to be the time to plant some seeds, which is difficult if you’ve been feeling as lethargic as I have. My friend Maja taught me a new word the other day: Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, it’s German for spring tiredness – “a temporary mood typically characterized by a state of low energy and weariness experienced by many people in springtime. It is not in the category of a diagnosed illness, but rather a phenomenon thought to be initiated by a change in the season”. I’ve had Frühjahrsmüdigkeit pretty badly throughout March and April. 

I can feel it ebbing away a bit now though, there feels like a bit of a vacuum in the air, like a big inhale or the quiet before things get super busy. It’s eerily quiet.

But truthfully I could do with a bit of a storm. I’ve had something of a drought around here lately and I’m in the mood for a new opportunity or a lucky break of some sort. You know the kind that come along and just sweep you off your feet? I wouldn’t mind being swept off my feet right about now.

So in my lethargic and hopeless state lately I have been sewing little seeds here and there. Knocking on a few doors and while I haven’t been up to shouting my intentions from the rooftops (re: too sleepy), I have been sending the universe little postcards of intent – and sending some emails too. 

I'm looking forward to someone or something coming along and shaking my life up a bit - but, you know, in a good way. Bad news can just bugger off please, and hello new and fun opportunities!

Photos snapped in Fez last December.

 

 

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A Life of Intention

I think it’s finally ok to say that winter is officially over, right? It’s getting warmer and the tree outside my house has a few baby leaves on it, and I’ve slowly stopped having the crippling, scarf clutching fear that at any moment the temperature is going to plunge and a blanket of drizzle will settle over London for days at a time.

On Sunday afternoon there was a thunderstorm and a flash downpour that caught people off guard on their bicycles and on their way home from their afternoon at the pub. I moved my favourite chair to the window and sat down to watch the world go by, and it was one of those peaceful moments that only come when you feel secure. And I have started to feel secure that soon I won’t be cold every second of every day, and evil central heating will be a thing of the past. And fresh air! Good grief, to open the windows!

But truthfully I have loved this winter. My Quiet Winter has brought with it a new and daily yoga practice, a healthy eating routine, a new-found familiarity with myself and a better understanding of what I know and what I don’t know. I spent a lot of time this winter learning to fully understand which way my heart was trying to point me, and strangely enough what I learned scared me a little. I found it was time to let go of some dreams that no longer serve me and had become a bit stale, of relationships and ideas of how things should be. It was a season of change when I wasn’t expecting it, and it feels like it has been preparing me for more change to come. 

The biggest lesson I learned however, was how to be intentional. Instead of just blustering through life like I am on a rollercoaster, never really understanding the ups and downs or recongnising the turns until I was way past them, now I feel like I have a little bit more clarity and control. 

Having learned what I want, I now feel like I have the tools and presence of mind to bring whatever it is that I truly desire into my life. It feels like a natural progression to move into something I’ve been thinking of as A Life of Intention. Where instead of tripping up the steps towards my goals, I stand on my own two feet and take them one at a time with the presence of mind to see where I’ve come from, where I am now, and where I’m going.

So this is the start of a new blog series and a new hashtag! I’m so in love with Instagram at the moment so the idea of starting a new hashtag is so thrilling to me – yea I can see how that sounds now that I’ve typed it out but I’m just going to leave it there anyway...

Check out the photos I've put on the #ALifeofIntention hashtag already and please feel free to use it yourself on the photos that really feel like they give you focus and clarity on the things you love most, the things that make you feel like you're building up a beautiful life around you.

 

 

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Brokedown Palace

When the place where your creativity and enthusiasm comes from just breaks down. I took these photos of a broken down and nearly abandoned palace in Morocco last December, and today they seem like the perfect photos to accompany a post about creative ruts.

Who doesn’t live in dread of those days where you wake up and all of a sudden you just don’t feel right. You sit down to work, full of ideas but none of the confidence and enthusiasm you had the day before. Maybe it’s an off day so you get up and get out, get through some mindless admin and come back to it all later. But still nothing. The next day it’s the same, and the day after that. 

Personally I have a really hard time recognising a creative rut for what it is. I usually tend to panic and spiral into thoughts about questioning myself and my life in general, the choices I have made and the ones I have put off making. Everything gets crazy big in my head, and very quickly too. 

I start to feel this panicky sense of running out of time, and that makes me feel desperate because I love my life so much and I’m afraid to change anything and let go of any bit of it the way it is.

With love and gratitude for all that you have comes a sense of fear of losing it all – but the only thing to do really is live every second of it and love as much as you can. And accept that nothing is permanent. So you sit down and think of all that you want to do and you put your ideas to paper, and then suddenly you’re up against that invisible wall again. Because it’s a rut, for goodness sake it’s just a creative rut!

Please tell me I’m not the only person out there who panics though...

After a while I do what I hate hate hate doing, I ask for help. I talk it thorough with friends, try to explain it all and while some people get it, others don’t – even though they try to. But that’s ok, no one can be on your wavelength all the time. But finally you find someone that says “yea, me too” – and sometimes that’s all it takes. 

Other times, these things help too:

Sitting down in your rut and enjoying the view. I find it so frustrating that I can’t just get stuff done all day every day. I have all the dreams and none of the ability to prioritise, so burnout is inevitable. Accepting every part of me is a personal goal of mine, and if that means hanging out in a rut for a bit, I’ll accept that time of mental rest if it’s what I truly need. 
Laughing/wallowing with a friend who is going through the same thing, or one who is amazing at empathy. I had to make a few phone calls before I hit on someone who sounded just as tired and just as defeated as I did. But when we finally met up serious chats pretty soon turned to laughter – a rut is just a rut after all, and thank goodness it’s nothing more serious. If it helps to laugh, I’m all for it.
Diving into something that isn’t your usual kind of thing. Lucky for me I have a film to edit and a looming deadline. It’s been about a year, maybe two since I’ve edited a film and I usually shy away from working with footage I haven’t shot myself. But diving into this edit and getting lost in a creative process which is so different from my own, that has helped. 

Creative ruts are the worst, but they’re part of the process and you can get pretty comfy down in that hole while you wait for it to pass, especially if you have Netflix.

 

 

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The Quiet Winter -Building a Yoga Routine

I'm at the point in my yoga practice now where if I don't carve out time to spend on my mat for two days or more, I feel a difference in myself. I'm less settled, I'm stressed, my anxiety levels start to rise and I'm just a little less happy.

When I do make time for yoga every day, I'm the version of myself that I am most proud of. I feel like I am living in every corner of my body and mind, and using that energy to carry me through life in a way that makes me feel more fulfilled than I ever have before.

When I set out this winter to take it easy, come back to myself and really work on my foundations to make sure I was in a good place to start making things happen, I knew that yoga would be a big part of it. I've always done yoga a bit, here and there, never really committing but loving the idea of it. I never took the time to work on the foundations of my practice and my mind was too itchy to sit still long enough to hold a pose - it was too busy making lists.

But when I decided to take a few months to invest in myself, I settled more into the idea of making a commitment to take at least 15 minutes a day to do some yoga. 

It wasn't easy at first though. My body ached and my mind wandered. I had a few false starts where I hurt myself a little bit and had to give up for a few days. But a part of me really knew what I would get out of it if I just stuck with it, and I craved that peace of mind so much that I just kept going.

The truth of it is there's no quick way to get into it. There's no easy fix or techniques that will grantee that you will stick to anything. It starts with a decision and from there it's a journey. It's about finding what works for you, not getting discouraged by failures or your own weakness when it comes to 'not being bothered'. It's about forgiving yourself and coming home to yourself and just believing that you absolutely can, if you only give yourself a chance. 

I wrote a post a while ago about starting as a fledgling yogi. Since then I've developed a more routine, fully fledged practice, and here are a few of the things that have helped me stick to it...

 

 

  1. Carve out a space - find a special corner in your home that feels great to do yoga in. Mine is the spot right between my bed and the radiator.

  2. Carve out a time - every day after walking the dog is yoga time for me. Without fail. 

  3. Beware of a gap in routine - if I skip a few days, I'm more likely to skip a few weeks/months. I have to be mindful of that.

  4. Start where you are, with what you have - I just started with a mat, and as tempting as it was to buy all those fancy yoga clothes, I use them now as treats for sticking with it instead of as an intensive to start.

  5. Make plans - my plans revolve around my yoga practice a lot now. When I go out, when I come home, it all needs to fit in around getting the yoga time I need. 

 

 

Now that it has been six weeks and I have been doing yoga almost every day, even when I was in Senegal, I feel like it's not going anywhere. I'm not saying I won't fall off the yoga wagon, but I pushed through the tricky stage at the beginning and now I'm really enjoying it - I'm even a little bit in love with it in a weird way. I've graduated from the spot next to the radiator in my bedroom, to the middle of the living room floor as I've grown from a small practice to a more expansive one. And I keep my mat rolled out under the carpet in my living room, so that it's always there, ready and waiting.

It feels like I’m starting a really good book, and in a few years’ time I’m going to look back and wish that I could start from the beginning again with fresh eyes because it was so wonderful reading it the first time. 

 

 

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Nope, not today. Strategies for switching off.

 

Not today

 

 

Zzzz

 

I am just awful at doing nothing. Duvet days make my skin crawl and the more I try to force myself into just switching off, the grumpier I get.

But I do crave slow mornings and all day pyjama parties, or at least the idea of them. I love the thought of watching my favourite movies all day, eating pancakes for lunch and rotating cups of tea and hot chocolate as time slips away.

But really, what ends up happening is this: I turn on the tv, open my laptop "just to quickly check something", hard drives are pulled out of my bag, notebooks become coasters for cold cups of tea and the tv is eventually muted because I can’t concentrate. But I'm all annoyed at myself for failing to switch off, so my work goes badly, ends up being useless, and the point of a day on the sofa is kind of lost.

 

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the mindst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

 
 

You stole my spot!

 

 
 

We do live in a hectic world, but I find it is so important to create space in my life so that I have room to breathe. If I don't take a moment to look up from the path I'm running along, I have sometimes failed to notice that I'm going the wrong way.

These are a few things I do to quiet my mind and give myself a chance to do nothing for a day – resting and recovering during The Quiet Winter is the most important thing.

Take some time out to do a bit of stretching. My mind and body are always a lot calmer after yoga.

Go out for a walk and get some head space, come back and get back into your pyjamas. Fresh air works miracles on the mind.

Have a long chat with a friend on the phone. It’s not easy to let your mind wander back to work when you have to keep up the other half of a conversation.

Take a long shower, I mean really long. My mind always calms down in water, maybe it’s the same for you? And then climbing back into my pyjamas after I’m all warmed up is the best feeling.

And if you must busy yourself, invest time in something that makes you feel taken care of. Cooking your favourite meal maybe, planning a dream holiday, putting together an exercise plan. Doing something that makes you feel like you’re investing in your future is such a great feeling, and the next best thing if you can't invest yourself in the moment.

 

Yawn sent me these pyjamas last weekend to try and I couldn't wait for them to arrive because pyjamas have been a favourite outfit choice of mine since I was little. I was excited because, new pyjamas, but also tentative because so often I'm a bit disappointed by uncomfortable/sweaty fabric or seems that stick into you at night. I have none of those complaints about this set - and of all the pyjamas I own, these are now the nicest and most comfortable of them all. Thanks Yawn!

 

 

 

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The Quiet Winter - Run Down January and A New Year

I swear January is the toughest month for so many because we don’t take into account how much we put ourselves through in the lead up to January 31st. And I’m not just talking about all the parties and drinking, I mean the feeling that you get at New Year like your crossing a finish line. I mean the lead up of the whole year. Like it or not the end of a calendar year feels like the end of an event, after which we’re more likely to feel tired than rejuvenated.

Just this week I have been EXHAUSTED. I’ve been getting headaches, I can’t concentrate, I’m hungry all the time but slightly sick so eating is hard and all I want is comfort food – macaroni and cheese. I haven't even had the energy to take new photos for this blog post, so I hope that explains the sunset over Fez in case you were confused.

I think a lot of people go through this in January and February, and then lose their momentum on the resolutions started with that amazing New Year feeling because they just don’t have any energy. And that’s not to mention the dark and the cold that many of us have to deal with.

Personally I don’t think now is the time to blame yourself and get down about your inability to commit to the great things you want to make happen in your life, I think now more than ever is a time for self-care and encouragement.

This time last year, when I was feeling crap and down about having no energy to get stuff done, I found a naturopath through Triyoga on a recommendation from a friend. I had no knowledge of naturopathy so I went in with curiosity and a bunch of gratitude for health insurance so that if it all turned out to be rubbish I wouldn’t be wasting any money.

I just need to take a moment here to say that visiting Triyoga in Camden is a healing experience in itself. It’s the most beautiful yoga studio/café/place to hang out and if I could move in, I would. I met with Merran Lusher for about four sessions and it was interesting to see how she worked, using what my body was telling her to point me in the direction of supplements, vitamins and other things it was asking for.

I still don’t really have a firm opinion on practices like Body Talk, etc… I don’t know if it works or not but the result made me feel a lot better so I’m glad I did it. After a few weeks of self-care, vitamins and following her advice on food and exercise, I felt a bit more of that New Year enthusiasm again and ready to tackle some resolutions.

This week I’ve felt a similar sort of painful lethargy and instinctively went back to the advice I was given last year. The supplements, the food, and the self-care.

I think it’s all too easy to blame ourselves when our grand plans get derailed by our lack of drive. But if things aren’t feeling right within, it’s probably because they’re not right. It’s not always easy to discover what the body needs, but it’s important to try, and once you figure it out and prioritise fulfilling those needs, amazing things can happen.

 

 

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The Quiet Winter – All About Food

If you’ve followed my online journey for a while now, you may know that my relationship with food is not a healthy one. I skip breakfast, drink too much coffee, I’m lazy with putting together meals so I prioritise carbs to quickly fill me up, I snack, and man do I eat way too much pizza – I mean, it’s a real problem.

But the older I get, the less my body can cope with it. Not only am I not keeping the weight off like I used to, but the impact that junk food has on my mood is increasingly noticeable. I lack energy, I feel frantic half the time, I’m distracted and stressed and I can get really down on myself. 

I know what the solution is, eat healthier! But when it’s 8:30pm and the fridge is empty and my brain is a bit broken from a long day (of crap food), macaroni and cheese wins out every time. Or first thing in the morning when there’s nothing to do for breakfast except go to the coffee shop and buy something – that’s a big chunk of my weekly budget gone right there, and the coffee isn’t even that great!

Teaching myself to be a healthier eater isn’t easy, it’s been a long road but the more I’ve travelled along it, the more inspired I’ve become. My repertoire of healthy recipes is still shockingly limited, considering I’m in no way a picky eater (just a lazy one), but I have a few firm favourites that are easy to make and keep me feeling good about myself because for me, the best part about healthy eating is making the choice to do something good for myself. 

And this Christmas Adam and I were lucky enough to receive a vitamix from Adam’s parents! Since we visited Hawaii last October I have been banging on about the vitamix and now that we finally have one, being healthy has never been so – effortless! This thing does everything! Soups, dressings, healthy ice-cream, dough, you name it, it’ll blend it.

But what I’ve learned is that you don’t really need fancy kitchen gadgets to make a healthy start. All you need is to find a few main staples that you enjoy, that are easy to make and that you can mix up for variety so that you don’t get bored. For me, these staples are: the acai bowl and the bliss bowl. Both the acai bowl and the bliss bowl are a mix of the healthy things you find most delicious, they're easy and quick to make, and they're good for you.

The acai bowl is mostly blended fruit with toppings like coconut, bee pollen, seeds, berries, more fruit, granola – really anything goes! You can even add in spinach and macha powder to make it a green bowl – but adding acai powder, or really any super food, makes it an extremely healthy and filling start to the day. Here's a recipe to get you started, and chocolate acai!

The bliss bowl is a combination of vegetables cooked in a variety of different ways with different seasonings and sauces. At the weekend I roast a tonne of veggies, steam some kale, spinach, red cabbage – and each morning I assemble a selection of veggies on top of potatoes or brown rice to bring into work for lunch. It’s colourful and experimenting with different dressings is so much fun! Here's a recipe I found if you want to give it a try. If you’re lazy like me, then tahini and lemon juice is a firm favourite. But I’m also working on a miso dressing, or even something with nutritional yeast which tastes better than it sounds. 

Taking time this winter to instill some good eating habits, even if they’re the most basic, has been one of my favourite parts of The Quiet Winter. I’m getting more experimental, I made my own granola last night, and more importantly I have a sense of pride that only comes in investing in myself and taking care of my overall wellbeing. It’s been good for my body, my heart and my head.

 

 

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Catching Up, Hello January!

It’s a brand new year! I’m so excited about all the possibilities that 2016 brings with it and I just don’t even know where to look first. The first few days of a New Year feel full of endless possibilities, so much can happen! 

But soon after I get to thinking about how nothing happens without hard work, you need to have plans and goals and you need to make it happen for yourself. That’s where I always get overwhelmed because were do I even start?

So this week I’m going to get to work on making some goals. This always shakes my nerves a little bit because goals mean decisions, and decisions mean commitment and to be honest that freaks the hell out of me. But no one ever moved forward for being too scared to commit, so maybe that is going to be my big challenge for the coming year – learn to commit, to have faith in myself and really invest my energy 100% in my goals.

2015 felt like a good year but a tough year. The end was great but the beginning and middle felt like a really awful battle between my head and my heart. I felt like I had a lot to deal with from both and neither could agree. It was like being in the middle of a custody battle for control over my life and it was a long summer of self-doubt and criticism, but I really think that coming out the other side of that I am a stronger, happier person. 

And it had some great highlights! They year ended in the best way possible when I found out some of my photos were featured on the Guardian! But all throughout I had some amazing travel experiences: Iceland, India (twice), Pakistan, Morocco (more on that to come), Hawaii, Italy, Canada and Paris. Adam and I had a pretty wonderful first year of being married. Friends had babies, got married, got engaged. I designed my own website and redesigned my blog. I became a photographer as my actual job! Lots of good memories made.

I have such a good feeling about 2016 though, and I just can't shake it. I don't know what's coming but I know that it's going to be amazing. On January first I didn't have any resolutions in mind, but I did have some ideas that I wanted to bring into the new year with me, so I just wrote down some words like simplicity, intuition and be present - these are just a few things that I want to work on in the coming year. But above anything, happiness is the ultimate goal and anything that serves that will always be a priority.

My other to-do list resolutions I'll probably keep to myself. They're business related, relationship related, blog related, that sort of thing. I'm a big believer in actions over words - do something first and tell the world about it through the change that you make. Sometimes I think the minute you say it out loud, the pressure of having to accomplish it becomes too much and the momentum goes. I've got some big goals though, so wish me luck!

What are your thoughts on the New Year, have you made any plans?

Oh and to kick off the New Year and maintain this awesome feeling of endless possibilities, I bought myself a pair of super comfy on sale yoga pants and started yoga camp yesterday, which is completely free! If you want to start yoga-ing, now is such a good time!

 

 

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