ANZAC Day was last month, a day in Australia where we remember all who have defended our country, those who have served and those who have fallen. My family and I attended the Newcastle ANZAC March, something that’s becoming a regular gig for us.
Last year we rushed to eat brekky, grumbled through getting dressed and moaned about walking in the rain. Whilst slopping through puddles to a good vantage point, a very young but highly decorated officer in uniform stopped me, gestured to my little girl and said “Thank you for coming and bringing your daughter. It means a lot to me”. Such a simple statement but it reduced me to tears as we walked away. I was filled with shame for whingeing about coming but his words instilled pride for our efforts. I felt a sad appreciation that our 10 minute car trip into town could be acknowledged as a such a meaningful act. When the parade started, I rolled off a couple of hundred shots in between smudging tears and rain from my camera and cheeks.
One of my favourite shots of the Newcastle ANZAC march isn’t of the service men and women marching by, but of my daughter overawed and nestled into her father, his arm protectively around her while she watches the parade.
This year I vowed to “keep it together” and acknowledge the Anzac marchers by catching their eye and clapping as they walked past. As we walked from the aged car park into Newcastle Mall, I admired the warm morning breath of Autumn in Newcastle, so lovely. I snapped a few shots as we moved: elderly servicemen on motorised scooters, women weighed down by family member’s medals, children skipping in the sunshine. The marchers lined up, patient but ready to go. The mood was light and cheery.
And then the parade started. Those currently serving marched first, led by an army band strong in stride and precise in movement. We respectfully clapped and I rolled out shots between troops. But as the March moved forward and the line continued, there was a subtle shift in mood. Eventually, those who had served-before appeared, their age and experience slowing the march to a sombre pace. Their lined faces told a bigger story and I took shot after shot. Inevitably, I cried for these people whose expressions were shadowed with memories of war and loss.
I put down the camera to wipe my eyes, sunglasses on and feeling quite frankly a little ridiculous. As a line of elderly gents walked past, the teary surge was unstoppable. I caught the eye of one serviceman glancing my way. As he marched past he noticed my tears; he closed his eyes as his bottom lip trembled in response. It was incredibly moving and I was reminded again of how simply ‘turning up’ can make a helluva difference and I was so very glad we did.
The photos I captured on ANZAC day are just for me. They are to remind me of those stories of the march I have just shared with you. They are my record, my visual reminder of moments in time, my connection to memory. For me, photography is both a passion and a necessity.
My love of photography is something I’ve shared in the past through my little self-indulgent blog Sunday Girl in Newie. I wrote Sunday Girl posts when I felt like it, when I had something to say, but those moments became fewer and further between; many drafted posts never saw the light of day because I didn’t feel I had the right images to visually articulate the story. Eventually I realised that whilst I created Sunday Girl for the joy of writing, it had become as much an excuse to take photos as anything else.
So here I am. Still sharing stories but also aiming to talk about the things I’ve discovered as an amateur photographer, as someone who is unashamedly focused on capturing moments of family, life and my local landscape.
Photos of children and people and nature and pets and clouds and beaches and forests and buildings and picnics and tantrums and childhood and life in all it’s glory.
Photos that are simple yet evocative and most importantly, achievable by anyone. Yes, anyone. I know this to be true as I personally have little or no technical photography skills…at all…really. I like to focus on finding the perfect shot, that glimpse of someone or something in the moment, something that looks just “right” – a beautiful composition. So for the moment I rely an my camera’s auto-focus settings. This may not always be the case, but as I learn and grow I’ll be sharing that with you too.
So…this shot. Taken of my daughter at the end of a day at the beach.
This photo of my daughter won the Newcastle Herald Summer Photo Competition. To say I was surprised was an understatement, but at the same time it was a lovely and timely validation of the direction I was heading in my photography. This image earned me a new camera, lens kit and backpack. Fantastic!
The day I took this shot, my family and I had decided to spend the day at a beach. We packed up the car, towels, boogie boards, snacks, water bottles and sunscreen and drove the 30-40 minutes to Caves Beach, a beach we rarely visit. My daughter had never seen the caves at low tide so that urged us on. The addition of my camera to the beach bag was last-minute; I grabbed a plastic zip-loc bag for my digital SLR camera to keep the sand at bay.
Later in the day, post cave exploration, I was lying on my towel watching my girl play in the sand. I could tell she was tired, a little irritable, so I asked if she wanted food, a drink? She arrived at my side, covered in sand and with an expression I’ve seen many times before. An “I’ve had too much fun but I’m tired but I don’t want to stop but I want what you offered but I’m over this but not” look. Most mothers will know this look. It precedes the train-wreck that is a tired child.
As I made a grab for her water bottle I quickly took my camera out of its bag and, lying on my back, took this photo. The blue of the sky, her expression, the sand on her face, her freckles and the breeze blowing her salty curls was something I wanted to remember. She looked so beautiful in her dishevelled state. So I took the shot.
Actually I took multiple shots. My current favourite camera setting is the “sports” setting, the one that rolls off half a dozen shots while you hold down the shutter button. The shot I chose was the best of about 10 or so images I quickly captured that day. Speed is critical when photographing my daughter (and most kids) as she never stays still for long.
So my story and this new blog begins. I plan to share some of my photographs, the story behind them and how I captured them. I’ll share tips for fellow amateur photographers. I’m also hoping to share the work of some of my amazing family and friends who are much, much better photographers than me and whose work continues to inspire me.
Thanks for joining me today. I hope to see you here again.
MUMMY PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
- Grab it: Take your camera with you…everywhere. Digital, SLR, whatever you have or at the very least your mobile phone. You can’t get that great shot without having a camera with you.
These shots were captured on an iPhone 5
- Hand it over: It may be hard to hand over the camera, but do it every now and again. Ask someone you’re with to take a couple of shots for you, with you in them. It’s important. A lifetime of gorgeous images and captured memories won’t be the same without you in some shots too.
- Love the light: Always look at the light. Morning and afternoon light throws beautiful shadows, can soften subjects and create magic. When I was growing up I was always asked to face the sun for family photos. The result? Squinty eyes and grimaced smiles. Don’t be scared of a little shade. In the beach shot of my daughter, the sunlight-brightened colours framed the shot, drawing attention to her gently shaded eyes and expression. Sunlit backgrounds behind your subject are fine too, and will often highlight details you could otherwise miss – just stand to the side to avoid direct glare. The take-home message is…experiment with natural light.
- Be sneaky. Posed shots with kids can work but generally aren’t nearly as interesting as those moments that ‘just happen’. Candid shots capture so much more genuine emotion than ones where we are forced to “smile!”
- Look for the ‘everyday’. The ‘everyday’ can make wonderful shots: kids brushing their teeth, playing in home-made cubby houses, swimming, running, drawing, reading a book. These are the shots that you will treasure as your children grow. Your kids will also find them fascinating, especially when they are older. Don’t underestimate the ‘everyday’ as a photo subject.
- Get down. Get down to your child’s level for some shots, right down to their eye height. It’s better for portraits. For the beach shot of my daughter I was leaning back on a beach towel, lower than my standing daughter. Looking up and under her hat made it easier to capture details like her eyelashes and sandy face.