Tuesday 10 December 2019


This has been an odd year. It almost seems to have slipped right past me. This is only my second post of the year on this blog and I'm so ashamed of how long it's been since I posted on Blogger's Bookshelf that I dread to even check when my last post there was. I said at the beginning of this year that I wanted to edit all the photographs sitting on my desktop but the fact is the pictures in this post are the only ones I've even looked at.

I took these with a disposable camera, given to me by a friend. I carried it around with me all through spring and summer this year, taking a few pictures everywhere I went. The only other camera I've touched all year is the one in my phone, and even that less than usual. For some reason I've spent a lot of this year thinking about what I share online, and why, and how much, much more than I ever have before. I turned off all social media notifications on my phone and although I still think social media is whatever you make you of it and not inherently bad, it has felt a relief not to care about it so much.

I had all these ideas at the start of the year, for things I wanted to do, projects I wanted to start, projects I wanted to finish. I wrote a lot of words this year. I submitted a lot of stories. I got one published, in Popshot Magazine. I made it half way through a real second draft of the novel I seem to have been working on forever. I thought I stood a good chance of finishing it. Then my laptop decided it needed a new battery. Then my gallbladder decided it needed to be removed. The laptop spent a few days in the Apple shop and was returned with the problem all fixed. I spent a few days in the hospital and am still waiting to hear when my problem might be fixed.

I learnt a lot this year, especially about writing. And about gallbladders. I suppose I embraced the idea of letting go of perfection, at least where these photographs are concerned. And where this blog post is concerned, honestly, because I had no idea what would come out when I sat down to write it. I only knew that these photos had been sat in this post draft since September and I didn't want them to still be there in 2020. I wanted at least two posts on this blog this year, even if they are both rambling and reflective and probably break all the rules of modern blogging.

My D-SLR is ten years old now, one year for every megapixel it shoots. Ten years ago that was a lot of megapixels! Now you get more than that with most phone cameras. But that's no excuse for the fact that I've completely neglected both that camera and my 35mm SLR this year. I've filled notebooks with words but I haven't removed the lens cap on either of those cameras since last Christmas. Sure, I'll finish my novel in 2020 (positive thinking!) but I have to make sure I start taking pictures again too. I love the pictures in this post but even I can't believe they're the only ones I have to show for 2019.

I think for a while I sort of forgot what hobbies are supposed to be. This blog is a hobby. Photography, for me, is a hobby. I used to hope it would all amount to some kind of job and, even though I gave up on that idea a long time ago, I started to feel like there was no point in doing it when so few people pay attention. I have completely changed my mind on that front. I've seen what Internet fame can do to a person and I'm more than happy to keep that out of my life, thank you. Having so few readers just means I already know who will read this post, which is a very good thing, because I'm sure that none of you will mind how disjointed and contemplative it is.

Hopefully next year I'll post more blog posts, take more pictures, and fill more notebooks. Hopefully I'll go to more beautiful places like the ones in these photographs, and tell more stories. Hopefully I'll get around to some of those projects I wanted to do this year. Hopefully I won't have to spend any more nights in hospital. Ever again. In my entire life. All I ever want, every year, is to fill my time with things I love. Hopefully you'll all get to fill your time with things you love next year. To quote one of the greatest songs ever written, 'wouldn't it be nice?'

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Summer On Film, Me On Perfection

I only posted on this blog 8 times last year. Did you notice? Probably not. That's okay. The thing is, I got distracted. I could tell you now about how eventful 2018 was for me. Probably most of the blogs you read have done a similar retrospective this month, looking back at the last year, but I don't want to. Parts of it were great, parts of it were terrible. I want to focus on what comes next.

There are hundreds of unedited photographs on my desktop, stretching back as far as April 2017. I just stopped editing them. I could go into why but again, I don't want to dwell. I want to edit them. I want to post them. So I will. Starting with these.

I took these photos last summer, at Mount Edgcumbe, Buckfast Abbey, and Dartmoor, with my dad's old Olympus OM-10 and a roll of film that's been in my desk drawer for nearly 10 years. I've only tweaked them a little bit, just a minor adjustment to the shadows and highlights in photoshop, and as you can see, most of them are still overexposed and blurry, but there's something about some of them that I really love.

I think what I love so much about film photos is that they don't have to be perfect. (Of course, it would be nice if some of them could be a little more in focus, but I'm sure I'll get there eventually.) With film, the imperfections are part of the charm. Light leaks and weird colours just remind you that these are physical things, even when they've been scanned into a computer and edited in photoshop. They were made using hands and chemical processes that I still don't totally understand, even after spending hours in the darkroom at school.

I get caught up on perfection sometimes. Okay, a lot. I abandon photos because I can't get the colours how I want them, I stare at a blinking cursor for days because I can't get the words to sound right, I get frustrated because I can't get a cake to come together the way the recipe says it should. I stop doing those things altogether. I know it's impossible to be good at everything right away without putting in any work but I still sort of expect to be anyway. It's a confusing character trait, I'll admit.

I've been making a lot of banana cakes. I've made them so many times over the years that my Mary Berry's Baking Bible falls open at that page but I got bored of them for a while and refused to make any more. Recently, I've gone back to them. They're easy, they're meant to look plain and unfussy, and even if I forgot to adjust the timing for our oven and burn one, it still gets eaten in a few days. Sometimes I put cherries in them too. I cut them up, wash them, dry them, cover them in flour. Sometimes it works and they don't all just sink to the bottom. There was probably a metaphor in there somewhere but I didn't get much sleep last night and I think I lost it with the cherries.

Anyway, my point is that I'm trying to let go of the idea of perfection. I'm not the best photographer in the world, I'm certainly not the best writer in the world, but there's always something to like, even in imperfect things, and the point of creating isn't to create perfect things anyway. It's just to make something you enjoyed making, and the more you enjoy it, the more you do it, the more you do it wrong, the more you learn the tricks that make you better. Like how to correctly set the exposure on your camera (I hope). Or that you should wash the cherries and coat them in flour before you put them in the batter.

There it is. There's the metaphor.