I know I am in a similar boat to many other photographers who have endured a year and a half of barely any events to photograph! However, I am happy to say that work is beginning to trickle back. And what better way to reintroduce myself to the wedding scene than to share this beautiful occasion. Liz and Bayly are a wonderfully thoughtful, kind couple who went out of their way to hire local contractors and make their intimate wedding an opportunity to support local business, as well as celebrate their vows with close family and friends. Thank you to both of them for sharing their day with me and allowing me to share it with you. Below are a handful of moments from the event, some of which I’ll definitely be adding to my website.
In the meantime, do enjoy these pictures of this lovely family having a wonderful wedding in Wandsworth!
If you’re just after photographs, please scroll down to the bottom of the page. Otherwise….
When I agreed with Nic Brown, editor of the local edition of family magazine, Raring2Go, to head out with her to the newly opened GoApe in Battersea Park, it didn’t really register that I had in fact agreed to climb to the tops of some incredibly tall trees, hang from ropes and then go careering through the sky. I wonder, if those facts had actually registered in my mind, I’d have been so eager. The thing is, just a few years ago I was too frightened to walk across a very high bridge I know well, never mind leap off tiny platforms, harnessed admittedly but still… When I say I was too frightened, what I mean is I was really bloody petrified – stuck, still and immovable about the whole tall bridge thing. But apparently, it’s all changed now.
“Sure”, I said, “I’d love to go along to that”. I wasn’t even nervous. In fact, weirdly, I had sort of forgotten that I was once so scared of heights. So, off we drove this morning. And I have to say, even as we filled in forms and read through warnings that began with the sentence, “You are about to embark on a high risk activity….” I still didn’t think anything at all about my previous terror.
The five minute ‘training’ didn’t faze me, and the first couple of stages didn’t either. It was only as I found myself having to climb up a narrow but steep, netted in – thankfully, tunnel that I had any hint of fear. Hang on a minute, I thought, wasn’t I afraid of heights at some point? Oh yeah…. anyway, I was really pleased because even though I found I was suddenly consciously aware of those past feelings, it still wasn’t bothering me. Much. Cool, I thought!
What was quite tricky, I must admit, was taking photographs. We were high up, so even though I was enjoying myself, and not in the same sort of state I certainly would have been in several years ago, it was still fairly nerve wracking at moments, and the rain didn’t help either. I managed to get some nice shots of Nic making her way across the wobbly roped bridges, but of course I always had to be very careful not to step too close to the really rather small platforms in-between each crossing as well as making sure I wasn’t holding people up, so there were things other than taking photographs to think about.
But the thing with the way GoApe is designed, is that it gets more and more challenging as you progress, and so a little scarier too as you get higher. I’m saying I wasn’t as nervous as I once might have been, which is true, but I did swear pretty much every few minutes, so I guess I was finding it somewhat terrifying in-between feeling fine about it. OK, I’m sort of playing it down; it was getting more and more ‘yikes’ as we went. And then the bars you could hold on to were no longer available. And as we made one crossing, all I could say in disbelief was, “It’s just a pole!, It’s just a pole! It’s just a pole!’
Then we came to the zip wire. Oh my god! Was I really going to let myself fly down that? Apparently I was – but only after some very nice friendly people told me that of course I could do it. And guess what it was the most fun ever. I loved it and was rather sad we’d come to the end. But, brilliant news… We were told we could go up the next level of difficulty and go on another zip wire too – whoo hoo! – not, however, before someone working there asked, “Was that you screaming all the way down the zip wire?” Uuuh, yup, that was indeed me.
So off we went again. A bit harder this time. Oh, hang on, a lot harder this time. More precarious seeming, higher and more wobbly all round. I wasn’t keen on the wobbly bits at all. But apparently I wasn’t doing it quite right, which I found out a bit later when someone told me how to get a better balance by holding on to the ropes properly, rather than clinging ignominiously to the wires. Turns out it really feels better when you hold on to the correct ropes. Note to everyone: maybe, just maybe it’s best to pay attention to the training rather than try to get great shots of the person doing the training… although who knows, perhaps they didn’t tell us about the balance thing; I wasn’t listening, obviously.
There was some more wobbly bits and a roped wall to cling to which wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
And then came the second zip wire. Which was good, right? Because I loved the first one. But suddenly I had one of those ‘what if’ moments. And that’s the worst thing to have happened because somehow I didn’t quite make it all the way across, and I’m sure the ‘what if’ thought was responsible, although of course it could have been that I am just so terribly waif-like that I wasn’t quite heavy enough for gravity to do its thing and ensure I made it. Er, hang on, am I really that waif-like? Well, no, actually. I mean, I’m not large but I’m not a tiny wispy thing either. Nope – I’m not even remotely a waif.
So who knows? It was probably the ‘what if’ moment that threw me off course a bit. Anyway, my harness, with me in it, slid back to the middle after failing to make it all the way over, and there I was hanging goodness knows how many feet above the ground quite stuck. I looked down at the ground feeling suddenly sick with fear and a very sweet looking man putting rubbish out the back of the cafe below smiled at me. Or did he smirk. Who knows? I was fucking terrified! “Hello??” I called; horrible, hideous, terrifying thoughts racing through my mind, adrenalin pricking my cheeks. “Hi,” said a voice from below, “what’s your name?” I told him and he then explained he was going to give me an extra wire to grab onto. “Ok!” No one looked terribly panicked. Well, no one expect me that is. I felt really panicked. I kinda wanted to burst into tears. In fact, it was pretty bloody terrifying actually. At the time.
But of course, I grabbed the wire, pulled myself over to the next platform and then stood very quietly by a steady and sturdy tree and tried to gather myself. “Do you want to carry on?” “No!” I replied, “not really”, the thought of any more hanging mid air really too much just at that moment. “You’re nearly there,” said the kind voice. “Ok,” I reluctantly agreed. But I took my time. Staying very still and letting the fear subside. And suddenly as I stood there, everything became really clear and focused in my mind.
Shit, I thought. You have to face your fears. You have to do some weird and crazy stuff, like climbing up trees and flying down wires. You can’t just sit at your desk the whole time. Or hide under your duvet, which obviously was for many years my default position. But you can’t, especially if you’re going to take any decent photographs. Because let’s face it, any monkey can learn how to press a button on a camera. But if you want to do more than that, you have to take risks and put yourself in scary situations and push the boundaries of what you’re doing. Again and again. And for some of us, well for me, things can seem scary until they’ve been done – and I realise they weren’t that scary after all. Or even if they were, I still managed to get through it and do something positive.
When I first went out to take photographs of actors for free in order to get some experience and build a portfolio, I was shitting myself. And then when I set up and published my website, I was so frightened of what the world might say, I can’t tell you. And then when I went to do some corporate jobs when I still felt I had really no idea what I was doing (I did though, actually, just less than I know now), I was so bloody scared, I nearly burst into tears on the way.
I have to say, one of the reasons I feel I was able to put myself in any of those situations, despite my innate desire to climb under the duvet, is because after having found myself lying a pool of snot and grief on the floor three years ago, following the break up of my marriage, which was perhaps the scariest thing I have ever been through by far, I realised I can pretty much face most things. Suffice to say, it has been a catalyst for all sorts of pretty challenging changes. And definitely for the good too, I’m sure.
I must tell you though, that I still get nervous, but only because I really want to do a good job; and thankfully, no longer to the point where I can barely move, or where I spend more energy trying to quell the terror than I spend on just getting the job done. The more you get out there and do it, the easier it becomes. But the challenges you set yourself get harder, just like the levels at GoApe do. There are barriers inside me that I have to overcome and always will be. And maybe I’ll get stuck now and again but thankfully, there are people like the man who handed me the wire to help. Phew! So, on I went and when I reached the last zip wire I made the people there promise me I’d be able to get across without getting stuck again and guess what, I did!
In the end I had a fantastic time. It was so much fun and despite the slightly terrifying moment dangling from a wire between two trees in the middle of the air, I am absolutely pleased to bits I didn’t remember how bloody shit scared I used to be of heights and went along. Thanks so much to Nic from Raring2Go for the invite! My muscles are really sore so I know I got some exercise. And all in all, it feels like a very good thing that I’m off for a drink with my friends now – I think I deserve it. Here are some pics from the morning. Stay well, SJ
Son No 1 is learning about how the world works and doing a bit of shopping. He also likes looking at photographs and finding out about his relatives – more below. Image (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2014
I am a bit slow when it comes to understanding things properly. Blame it on the three pregnancies and years of baby-rearing, or the smart phone addiction, now scientifically proven to be making us all a lot less smart than we once were, or perhaps I was just born that way.
Despite the fact that taking family portraits has been part of my job for the last 15 months or so, I don’t think I fully grasped just why such photographs might be so very important to people until recently. Maybe I’m beginning to comprehend the value of photography because I’ve been studying and thinking about it rather a lot. Perhaps the afternoon that Son No 3 and my mother spent some time looking at old family photographs did it for me. Or the fact I am able to show my sons pictures of my late father, who at the end of his life was a rather lonely old man whose only exercise was to limp awkwardly from his flat in the centre of Bournemouth to the bookies round the corner and back again; mumbling to himself and clutching his betting slips on the way there and usually nothing on his return, or if anything at all, always far too little to make any difference to his life.
This is how I remember my father as that is how he was for the majority of my grown-up life but he wasn’t always quite like that and in fact had a fantastically interesting, albeit difficult, life. It’s great to be able to show the children more positive images of my dad and see them myself too, as well as more recent images.
Son No 3 who never met my father asks questions about my dad all the time, and about other members of our family, as he grows and tries to make sense of where he fits in the world with no living older relatives other than my mother, who is thankfully a very young granny. How she hates that word! And you might be able to see why when you look the photograph of her below in her 20s holding the baby me. Nevertheless she is a good granny and when she and Son No 3 looked through the old albums he recognised family resemblances and was quite convinced that my long dead grandmother was me – although she seems to have been much more elegant than I could ever be.
These old photographs have become really important for my children and perhaps when they are older they will be more so. Nearly all families possess such collections and perhaps they don’t get looked at very often but they become incredibly precious over time, poured over during moments of change or upheaval. Or just now and again when people can find half an hour to tear themselves away from their smart phones and chat through who everyone is or was with an inquisitive two-year-old.
If you’re thinking about having some family portraits done, do get in touch. We can discuss what sort of thing you’re after and make sure you’ve got some great images for relatives to have today or for your kids to look at when they’re older, and for their kids and further generations to do the same in years to come. Share this blog post via WordPress, Facebook or Twitter and receive a 5% discount on family portraits – offer available until 31st April 2015. (Conditions apply. Please see my Terms and Conditions at www.sarahjanefield.co.uk.)
There is so much to learn about photography it can sometimes feel overwhelming. I don’t think life is any different to photography in that regard and I’m beginning to see that being human is about one long learning, relearning and learning it all over again exercise.
These last few weeks I have been looking at secondary schools with my oldest son as he’s currently in Yr 6 and so preparing for a new phase of childhood. What I have learned about secondary schools is that it is so important not to listen to the gossip and crucial to visit each school and make up your own mind. This morning we made our application and it was pretty nerve-wracking putting schools that many people dismiss at the top of our list having visited and discovered that the stigma attached to certain institutions is utterly outdated and misplaced. Goodness, I hope we’re right – it feels such a responsibility. My son is so pragmatic and is taking it all in his stride.
My youngest two are way off that just yet. My middle son merely needs to learn that apple cores go in the bin and not under his bed, or behind the sofa or anywhere else where they can rot and becomes invitations to small rodents and fruit flies. Odd to think that that sort thing isn’t pre-programmed genetically in some way. Nope – small people aren’t quite human, definitely need socialising and that’s something I keep having to relearn again and again and again.
The mummy in the following photographs has three sons like me of similar ages so was full of empathy about the chaos that ensues. We understandably had quite a lot to chat about – I wonder if she can teach me to be more in control of my boys because that above all is what I need to learn, I’m certain!