When my birthday was creeping closer and Ant was asking me what I wanted for my present I had absolutely no idea.
Then one day when I was scrolling social media I saw our wedding photographer, Sarah Mason, was starting to run some photography retreats. One of these was a capturing childhood retreat and straight away I knew I wanted in.
The retreat took place on a freezing cold, snowy weekend in March. I got up early on Saturday morning, packed up everything I needed and grabbed my homework.
When I arrived in Hebden Bridge, which is such a picturesque little village, I was greeted by the frozen canal as I made my way to The Wash House, where it was being held. I was greeted by Sarah and ushered into the warmth of this gorgeous little house.
The log fire was roaring, there were tea and pastries and we were all ready for what the weekend held.
Once all the other retreatees (is that even a word) had arrived we all started by introducing ourselves and our photography history to date. There was a lady who had her own studio and had a wedding shoot booked in this year. Another lady who just loved photography as a hobby, me, and then another lady who ran a photography course that Sarah herself had been on. Such a mixed bag of backgrounds but all I could focus on was the fact that I felt completely out of my depth already, surrounded by these incredibly talented women.
As the morning progressed and Sarah started her teaching, we were talking about camera settings. Sarah asked who was shooting in manual, and I was the only one. This stopped me in my tracks and really made me think. Maybe, I wasn’t too far out of my depth, and maybe I just needed to start actually believing in myself a little bit more.
The rest of the morning Sarah talked us through lots of information, hints and tips all about taking photos of children and families. We also had some practical tasks as well which helped solidify some of the things Sarah was telling us. And during the morning lots of things came up that some of us knew about and others didn’t. And nothing felt like a stupid question because we all had so many. I learnt so much that first morning.
After the most amazing lunch made for us by Suzi, we were ready for our first shoot. A lovely and very brave family made their way down to the house for us to take some photos of them. We all wrapped up and ventured out into the snow to put into practice all the things Sarah had taught us that morning. We headed along the canal and then into the snowy park and spent a good hour taking photos of this energetic and fun family together.
Once we were all frozen to the bone we headed back into the warmth to defrost in front of the log burner and talk about how we found the shoot and ask any questions that cropped up.
The rest of the day was spent learning more from Sarah with hot cups of tea before we all headed home eager for the next day. The first thing on my list of things to do that night was to fiddle with some of the settings on my camera, such as back button focusing.
The next day was another freezing cold and snowy start. After more hot tea and a little chat, we got straight back to it. There were lots more things Sarah talked us through, some more practical work and then another shoot. This time with just one child and his hot chocolate. We split into two groups for this and I got some of my favourite photos on this mini shoot. It was great to actually get some results from all the learning straight away. It was great fun but again absolutely freezing cold so it was only a quick one. Again, whilst our fingers thawed out we ate more delicious lunch made by Suzi and chatted over the shoot we had just done.
After lunch was more learning and Sarah talked us through how she edits her photos and stores them. Which reminds me that I really need to buy an external hard drive.
Sarah also showed us how to free lens, a photography technique that is quite tricky to get the hang of but one that I absolutely love playing around with. Although I think it will take me a while to master.
Then we sat down to discuss our style. This bit was the bit I found the hardest. Our pre-retreat homework had been to bring our five favourite photos with us and this was why. After lots of deliberation and thinking, we all managed to come up with words that described what we loved about the photos we had chosen and think about whether that was our personal style or if that’s what we wanted it to be. It was a real eye-opener.
Sarah also asked us to think about any little projects we would like to do after the retreat to keep us going and push us onwards. And then she set us some more work for the week after the retreat. We had to take a photo every morning, thinking about our style. I have to admit I struggled with this as 1; I’m not a morning person and 2; I’m always in a rush on a morning. But I did try and I got a few. It’s not something I’ve kept up with though. I have however set myself some other little projects and so far they are ticking over nicely.
Overall, the course was worth every penny, and I absolutely loved the weekend. I came away from the retreat buzzing with newfound confidence and ideas to keep pushing myself forward. I’ve even been brave enough to set up my social media pages on Facebook and Instagram, solely for my photography and have had a few shoots booked in since doing this. It’s been a scary old leap of faith but one I know I would never have taken before doing this course with Sarah. Not only did she teach me lots of practical things to put into practice she also helped boost my confidence no end.
If you are looking for any kind of photography course to go on, I’d highly recommend looking into the ones run by Sarah & Suzi. Even if it’s just for the lunches Suzi makes.