How I found my passion and how you can too

Portraits by  Kaye Ford

Portraits by Kaye Ford

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Chances are, if you clicked on this post, it’s really important to you that you find a path that makes you happy. As someone who felt unsure about where they were going for years, and was absolutely desperate for anything to point me in the right direction, I get where you are coming from. It’s scary. It’s unknown. It’s frustrating.

I tried a whole host of things to work out where my passions lied. I revisited old hobbies, gave new things a go, I even forced myself into activities my gut was trying to dissuade me from. It seemed as though I went round and round in circles; full of energy but no idea where to invest it. I thought I was going to explode.

It wasn’t until I stopped searching outwards, and began looking inwards instead, that I started to make real progress. I know, I know, sOoOo mushy. But from this experience, I found that my passion was something that already lit a fire inside of me... And now I’m going to show you how you can find your passion too!


What sparks joy? What do you love?

The internet may have gone a little wild with the Marie Kondo memes since the release of her Tidying Up Netflix series, but the sentiment of observing what ‘sparks joy’ and holding on to it works in this scenario too. So much so that the first step in finding my passion was reconnecting with myself, and thinking about what brings me joy. This allowed me the squash the feelings that finding the path I wanted to pursue was out of reach, disperse the franticness I felt over the overwhelming choice available to me, and really focus my search down.

To start, grab yourself a piece of paper or start a fresh document on your laptop, and divide it into three columns. Title the first column “Things”, the second “Activities”, and the third “Important”. 

Under the first column, list every single Thing that you find joy in. And when I say Thing I’m talking favourite artists, actors, bands, TV series, films, YouTubers, places, colours, cake… And so on. This doesn’t have to be a definitive list, but, like all of this exercise, getting everything out of your head and on to paper will make it easier for you to get an overall picture of yourself and where you are at. 

In the second column jot down all the Activities that you enjoy doing. Now, Activities can involve physical activities, such as sports and travelling, but this also encompasses everyday activities too. By this I mean: popping to your favourite coffee shop for a hot chocolate, spending hours people watching, buying yourself fresh flowers on payday, researching hashtags for Instagram, writing reviews on the latest cinema releases, slipping into fresh bedsheets, walking on crunchy snow… Basically anything that involves you doing something, in or out of the house. 

Then in the final column, take note of anything that is Important to you… Do you live for your family and friends? Is self care your main priority? Are you a frequent date-nighter with your partner? Is living as ethically as possible a big part of your lifestyle? Do you volunteer for any LGBTQIA+ groups? This is the space to make a note of anything you feel strongly about, that shapes you or influences your choices.

Whilst we can easily rattle off our favourite TV show of the moment or musician in a heartbeat, it’s unlikely that beyond our childhood years - where fan-projects were MY JAM - we have actually taken the time to consider the things we love. And when I say love, I mean the sort of love that fills you up from head to toe, and makes your heart do that warm and fuzzy thing.

This exercise is an important reminder of what you love, and, in my experience, seeing it all laid out in front of me, made me feel so much more assured of myself. And don’t forget; cross over is cool. Don’t fear writing similar things in each of the columns! In fact, it is actually quite useful, because it helps you…

Portraits by  Kaye Ford

Portraits by Kaye Ford

Sian

Find consistencies; what have you loved for a long time?

Now your lists are complete, review the Activities and Important columns and highlight all of the linked or similar points within them. From doing this, you may observe a couple of themes, or perhaps one theme that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Once you have found all of the consistencies, split them up into these themes, and rewrite them as new lists. It is vital to do this as it will help you decide on the area or field your passion falls into. 

For example…

  • Books and Reading
    Activity: Reading Books.
    Activity: Perusing bookshops for hours.
    Important: Prioritising meetings with the book club.

  • Being Outdoors
    Activity: Going hiking and climbing on the weekends with my partner.
    Activity: Spending time researching at rural cottages for trips.
    Important: The annual family walking holiday.

To find the field your passion falls into, concentrate on the theme you find yourself drawn to the most. If there is one you can pick out straight away then that’s great, but it can become really easy to overthink this bit. I got stuck in a loop for months and months by second guessing my instincts. What helped me break this cycle was looking back over my life to find consistencies there too.

I asked myself: “Is there anything I have always done or come back to time and time again?” - I knew that if I had chosen to keep up a hobby or interest for a significant amount of my life, it would have to mean a lot to me and would have likely brought me a lot of joy over time. This led me to photography!

As this was so telling, it’s time for you to take your new list of themes and look back across your life. Have you always been an avid traveller, keen cinephile, eager bookworm, total foodie, passionate sportsperson, or maybe even a dedicated follower of fashion and beauty? Listen to your gut and let it lead the way.

Once you’ve put your finger on the theme you love, you will be able to…

Portraits by  Kaye Ford

Portraits by Kaye Ford

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Make it personal: How can you turn your interests into a passion that suits you?

At this point, you should know what you love, what you have loved for a long time and the theme they fall into. A path may already be revealing itself to you, or perhaps the direction you would like to head in is becoming clearer. It’s also likely that whilst you have your chosen theme, you may not see a way to jump in, or build the ideas within it into a long-term pursuit - possibly even a career.

To work out whereabouts to get stuck in, it’s time to give your chosen theme centre stage, but consider the other themes in relation to it. By doing this, you can take everything that is of value to you and find a way of weaving them together to end up your personalised passion! HUZZAH.

For me, the Activities and Important columns revealed Photography as my biggest overarching theme, but other areas I felt strongly about were…

  • That I work best alone and am self motivated, but appreciate the time I spend with people. I also enjoy learning about them and their stories.

  • That, because prioritising my wellbeing is important to me, having the opportunity to balance and plan my own schedule would be incredibly beneficial.

  • That I express myself through creativity and helping others. From writing to drawing, I like to experiment by bouncing between art forms, and I find putting together resources rewarding.

This let me identify that I wanted to work on my own and for myself, so I could manage my own schedule, but take photos of people. And also that blogging and creating content was something I loved too. This then made me consider intertwining photography and blogging; by using my blog and socials to share my work, career change experience along the way, and what I have learned about photography to inform, entertain and educate others... And that was it. I knew my passions were portrait photography and photography-related content creation.

So, that’s how I found my passion, and I hope you did too! I’d love to hear your findings from completing these exercises, so be sure to get in touch via Twitter to let me know how you got on and where you are heading next.


[Record scratch] Hold up. “What’s the point of the Thing column, then?” I hear you ask… Well, besides it being a helpful tool to reconnect with yourself and settle in to this exercise, it can be a great way to find inspiration for your aspiration too.

Consider why you are drawn to the things, people and places you are. Do you want to follow in one of your idol’s footsteps, take aspects of their career into your own, or possibly even work with them? What is about their ethics you want to emulate? Is there a niche somewhere within it all that you want to tap into? Could your favourite colours be the colour palette for your new business venture?

Use your findings to help you work out the next steps to take, and plot out how you want to thrive in your passion.

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Five Things to Remember When Being Photographed

Ella

As someone who has taken photos of people, and been photographed, I can fully appreciate how nerve-wracking it is to be in front of a camera for the first time. Or even twenty-first time, if it’s not something you are used to. I know that I often have the same questions running through my mind; what should I do with my face? Where do I put my hands? Is everyone looking at me?!

With everything, being comfortable in front of the camera is something that takes practice and confidence built overtime. But, what do you do when you’re all out of ideas or have no clue where to start? Well, here are five things to remember when being photographed…


I am working with you!

When shooting, I want my subject to know that we’re a team. I want to produce shots that we are both happy with, and so am always on a mission to create an environment and safe space that allows for this to happen. If joking around throughout, playing some music to pump you up, or walking you through the experience as we go is what it takes, then BRING. IT. ON.

Additionally, it’s always worth telling me if you would prefer to shoot in quieter areas, or would like to take a break to have a breather. Keeping me posted on how you are feeling allows for me to be as accommodating as possible.

This also extends to the editing process. The first thing I do following a shoot is sift through the images for the best ones, and delete those I don’t think you’ll be happy with. Eyes half-open, a gormless mid-sentence-style, or just an expression not quite turning out the way we had envisioned in our heads; we have ALL been there. But have no fear, any photos that could be deemed as unflattering will be left on the cutting room floor - never to be seen again!

Rowena
Luke

You can tell me the look you are aiming for or ask for help

Sometimes people come to me with a specific idea in mind for a shoot, other times they don’t have any ideas past wanting their photo taken. Let me tell you now, I am a total people pleaser! I love it when I can bring a vision to life, or work with someone to create one. And if there is ever the opportunity for a mood board, you can bet that I’ll be running face first into it with my arms outstretched. 

If we’re shooting on location, and you find yourself (like me) unsure what to do with your face or limbs, don’t be scared to ask for direction. This just means we can be more experimental! The more I play around with my camera and you with poses, the more likely we are to find something that clicks. When something magic catches my eye, I can give prompts to direct you, and we can work on capturing that spark.

Or is a simpler vibe, without a big song and dance in front of the camera, more your style? That’s cool! I get it. Instead, we can have a big ol’ chat. I find that talking throughout a shoot not only builds a relationship between photographer and subject, as well as ease any nerves, but also create opportunities for natural-looking shots. As our conversation ebbs and flows, you move around and I snap away, there will be pauses that offer the perfect chance for capturing relaxed portraits.

Something else worth noting is that when I first had my photo taken, I let the photographer know parts of myself I was conscious of, and that I would be grateful if they could avoid shooting in ways that would highlight them. Just knowing that they knew and respected this calmed me, and let my mind wander to other things. So, ask questions, make suggestions or voice concerns throughout the process. If we’re both clued in on your thoughts and feelings, it will help us achieve rad shots!


Opt for a look and poses that suit you

Oh, ho, ho. This is something I wish someone would have told me before I chose to wear a fitted dress that highlighted my sweat patches, Dr Marten sandals I hadn’t worn in, and have my make up professionally applied for a shoot. Picture me slathered in suncream, my eye watering from either the sun or the heavy falsies in my eyes, wading through a lavender field whilst trying not to anger any bees… It is a credit to the make-up artist and photographer that the photos turned out well, but let’s just say I felt WAY out of my element.

My choice to try a new look was intended as a confidence booster, but it soon turned into something for me to worry about. Whilst it makes sense to me now, I hadn’t considered that fixing lashes that are determined to fall off, pulling the skirt of a dress down for the 3758th time because it keeps riding up, or trying to get along with rubbing shoes could make me feel all out of sorts... Yet the discomfort I experienced held up a magnifying glass to things I wouldn’t normally batter an eyelid at.

From having this experience I now opt for clothes that I love and feel comfortable in, because they are what I look and feel good in. If you aren’t sure what to wear, I’d suggest putting together outfits you would rock every day or during a night out, and style your hair and make-up in the ways you would normally.

Gregg
Eleanor

They are called a ‘passerby’ for a reason

Sit for a second. Cast your mind back to the last time you were in a public place. Can you picture five people you walked past? Do you remember their faces? Could you draw them from memory? I sure as heck can’t, and not just because I don’t have the drawing skills to.

When a camera is pointed in your direction, it can suddenly feel as though all eyes are on you. When in reality most people are so caught up in their own lives that they walk on by; not realising what is happening or being interested enough to take the time to find out.

On vary rare occasions, someone may stop to watch. This seems to born from curiosity or, from the look in their eyes, an attempt to work out if they have seen you on TV before! Whilst I now use this as fuel for confidence (because if they think your famous why not act like you are?!), understandably it can feel intimidating. 

The main thing I suggest to keep in mind is that a ‘passersby’ is called that for a reason. They pass you by; both physically and mentally. Meaning the likelihood of you seeing them again, outside of the shoot day, and them remembering you is so very minute. I also use this mentality when dancing at gigs because, quite frankly, it’s good to know that no one will remember me or my Dad-dancing.


It takes time to get comfortable

Lastly, not not leastly, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. 

Having your photo taken is a whole new experience, and it can feel unfamiliar time and time again. It can be nerve-wracking the first time, feel a little odd when getting back into the swing of being in front of the camera, or a bit unfamiliar if you are working with a new photographer and learning how they work. 

It is important to remember that, like every single thing you have ever done for the first time, and felt as though you would never get, it takes time. And on that note, let me leave you with these two portraits from the first and most recent shoot where I had my photo taken. Almost unrecognisable, huh?

If you have any questions or concerns that have been unanswered in this post, please feel free to get in touch with me via email or on Twitter. I would be more than happy to talk them through with you!

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Progress Journal | Pursuing portraiture

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

The first time I took portraiture photographs, outside of a bunch I snapped for my Mum’s work way (way, way) back when, was in Summer 2018. On a whim, I rounded up a group of friends during golden hour, and we shot in the fields near where we live. That single decision, and the session that followed, sparked something off inside of me and that was it. I wanted to pursue portraiture.

Between then and now, I have been scheduling in all the practice I can get. From shooting on the fly at Pride and at night with Luke, to continuing to work on my skills with Rosie, Eleanor, Rowena, Gregg, Lizzie and Ella; who all kindly let me take pictures of them! I am learning, and gaining more confidence, every time I shoot… Even if I do feel the fear that I will walk away with no usable photographs beforehand - something that has never happened.

January has already been an exciting month for my me, but things are just about to get better. February sees me doing my first ever (not one but two) paid shoots! It has been incredibly heartwarming to receive good feedback about my work on Instagram, through comments and direct messages, but having people go out of their way to book in and put their confidence in me, is such a boost. To have this happen so quickly is helping solidify that this is the right path for me. Which is making me feel ALL OF THE THINGS.

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

At this point, I really want to continue practicing whenever I can - sorry in advance, friends and family - in order to experiment and improve. I would also like to grow my social media networks in the hope my work will reach more people, and to put together some physical materials I can give out when networking. The biggest barriers I am facing at the moment are directly impacting my ability to do the aforementioned though. The cost of travelling for shoots, rallying up people I know, and making time to work on my socials and networking are all areas that I need to work on.

When I am not working my full-time job as a video editor, I am balancing my time between the above, spending time with loved ones, and taking the time to carry out self care. As someone who struggles with mental illness, it’s vital that I take my time rather than push myself to the limit, and hurt myself in the process. So, as much as I would love to shoot, and shoot, and shoot, it just isn’t the feasible or healthy option for me. But, that’s okay.

From not knowing what I wanted to do last year, to feeling dead-set on making freelance photography a thing, I have already made such huge strides - none of which I should, or want to, overlook. To continue improving and progressing, I feel as though my next steps involve taking what I have discussed on board, and then building it into a workable plan. One that allows me to manage my time, achieve what I would like to, and stay afloat. I’ll keep you posted with how that goes!

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Why Portraiture? Talking Career Choices and Finding my Passion

Portrait by  Kaye

Portrait by Kaye

At the end of 2018, I enrolled in on-going talking therapy. Despite making great strides in overcoming social anxiety and managing depression, I was in a slump. I was exhausted, I had lost my drive and I felt lost. If 2017 was the year of riding high, 2018 (for the most part) was the year of coming down.

In these sessions, we spoke at length about my chosen career path in film and television production. Whilst I am grateful for what I have, I am unhappy working in this field. The lifestyle clashes with my personality, the structure messes with my wellbeing, and, ultimately, the work itself leaves me feeling unfulfilled. 

It was rough to say those things out loud and let myself finally begin to accept them. I had studied to work in this industry for five years. At one point I was working three jobs so I could get my foot in the door. I got involved with some incredible work experience opportunities, which I will be forever thankful for, and feel so lucky to have had... but my love for working in the industry had revealed itself as more of a lust.

I was disappointed in myself. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I felt like A FAILURE.

Portraits by  Kaye

Portraits by Kaye

Sian

Further sessions came and went, but somewhere along the line, the conversation turned to photography. I told my therapist about some photos I took with friends in the Summertime, after getting a seemingly overnight itch to try my hand at portraiture. As I explained the buzz I felt when going over the photos from the shoot, I could feel myself lighting up all over again. I may have gone into the shoot as an excuse to spend time with friends and try something new, but I came away from the whole experience beaming with a pride I hadn’t felt in years.

It was this conversation that caused a weight lift, after spending months feeling stuck. Doors I closed way back in my teens, in the belief I was destined for different things, were suddenly bursting open, and the contents locked away were starting to make sense years down the line.

When I was in Junior School, I took photos of friends and family on a Polaroid OneStep, and overtime gradually upgraded through cameras to a Canon 60D; which I used when studying A Level Photography. As a kid I was naturally drawn to programmes with actors in over cartoons - hellooo That’s So Raven, The Amanda Show and Zoey 101 - and as an adult, this interest has blossomed into learning more about real people and their stories. So much so, I chose to specialise in Documentary filmmaking in University. And, even though I chose not to pursue Photography in education, I never stopped taking photos.

This realisation has given me a whole new lease of life. And whilst I initially had no idea where to start, I suddenly have a clear idea of where I want to go. I want to go out and shoot.

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Lifestyle

Goodbye 2018

Portraits by  Luke

Portraits by Luke

2018. You’ve been a year full of unexpected people, events, and things. 

2016 and 2017 were whirlwinds. I received a new diagnosis that made sense of so many years, worked through another round of CBT, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone - all in an effort to tackle depression and social anxiety head on. I reconnected with old pals, toured around the UK to meet the friends I had made online, and flew solo to America to travel around Arizona, California, and Nevada with a bunch of strangers. I kicked major ass.

2018 dragged. I neglected the goals I set myself in January, and am ending the year with them incomplete. I stopped throwing myself into the hobbies and exercise routines I once enjoyed; noticing I was constantly competing with myself to do more, rather than finding happiness in actually doing them. And I spent months feeling completely lost and unfulfilled. At a glance, 2018 sounds like a dud year, huh?

I thought so, until I reflected again; looking past the initial idea of achievements I could check off a list. I soon came to realise that 2018 has been a year of looking inwards. Particularly through on-going, open-ended, talking therapy I started a few months back. 'My allotted worry time’ as I like to think of it, has caused me look at aspects of my life, that have troubled me for years, in a whole new light.

I have found that I am terrified to disappoint or upset those closest to me, and so always put their feelings before my own - no matter the toll it takes on my health; that I am unhappy in the career I have chosen, because it just isn’t the right fit for me; and that I worry. A lot. These realisations have caused me to action changes in my life. Including stepping away from A Film Club for the foreseeable future, focusing all of my energy into working on my portraiture, clueing up on how to overhaul my space and style, as well as trying to make time for myself.

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I believe this has played a part in strengthening some of my relationships in 2018 too. I went on trips with Eleanor, Emma, Luke, and Lauren. Partied on at gigs aplenty with friends and family - including reliving my teenage years with Lizzie, at You Me At Six’s Take Off Your Colours 10th Anniversary tour - and started a ~ romantic ~ relationship with my now boyfriend. All of which have helped me to slow down, and live in the moment more. I am lucky to have the people in my life that I do.

The last time, or should I say couple of times, I wrote about life stuff, I felt like I was floundering with no direction. I felt stagnant, lacked a drive, and feared I was slipping into unhealthy habits. The whole experience, and related feelings, bothered me immensely. I wanted to know where I was going, and I wanted to know it now.

But, from the lessons learned in therapy and time spent with loved ones, I can see that a successful year does not always mean reaching huge milestone, after huge milestone. That actually, understanding my priorities and working to establish a balance between moving forward and rest, will help me make the choices that subsequently lead to progress, and reaching those milestones. And that, no matter how small, an achievement is still an achievement

I may not feel ‘found’ just yet, but I feel like I am heading in the right direction, and closer to myself than I have ever been. I am excited to see what the new year brings. Roll on 2019.

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#the31dayclearaway

#the31dayclearaway

#the31dayclearaway is a decluttering activity and method, with the aim to decrease the number of possessions owned, by thoughtfully disposing, donating, recycling and selling them, over a 31 day period.

In the hopes of creating a small decluttering community, I will be hosting this activity via my new lifestyle-oriented instagram @sianlives, throughout January 2019. Whether you are at the beginning of a decluttering journey, a seasoned minimalist looking for a refresh, or just someone wanting to put their possessions in order, everyone is welcome to join in. And, depending on the level of decluttering you would like to do, there are two ways to get involved; The Overhaul or The Tidy Up.

The Overhaul is for those who feel like the amount of things they own is starting to overwhelm them. For this option, the amount of items that are cleared away corresponds to the day of the month. I.e. 1 item on the 1st, 2 items on the 2nd, 3 items on the 3rd… All the way up to 31 items on the 31st.

The Tidy Up is then for those who find themselves surrounded by bits and bobs, that have worked a way into their possessions over time, and want to give their space a spruce. This option involves clearing away 1 item a day, for 31 days.

#the31dayclearaway

Over the last couple of years, I have become increasingly interested in decluttering, intentional living and minimalism. Even more so after I noticed that clean, tidy and simplistic spaces have a positive impact on my mental health. Being in a space where I know exactly what is there, and where everything is or belongs, gives my stimulated mind one less thing to think about - which, when living with anxiety and depression, is a dream.

Even though I have significantly decreased the amount I own over the last year, donating bags and bags of clothes, books and more, I still have a fair bit left to do. Struggling with hoarding in my younger years and early teens has had long lasting effects on my ability to remove things from my life with ease, but I feel like this activity and method will set up my 2019 off on the right track. I can’t wait to get stuck in!


As I had such a wonderful response to this, then secret, declutter-with-me method on Twitter, I decided to get things underway a little earlier than initially planned, by getting everyone clued in now. A big thank you to Lizzie for helping come up with the name, and to everyone who expressed an interest in the method. Keep your eyes peeled on @sianlives, and I’ll see you on January 1st to get started…

Will you be joining #the31dayclearaway? Let me know on INSTAGRAM and I WILL keep you notified!

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Luke

On the same day I shot Rosie, Luke also generously offered up his time (and self) to be photographed. Despite my initial nerves, the photos from this shoot gave me a confidence boost so huge I felt I could legitimately pursue portrait photography as a career.

After seeing Kaye Ford (Fordtography) highlight the effectiveness of using props in portraiture, I tried to think creatively about the ways in which we could use those Rosie brought along.

The framing using the umbrella happened completely through trying different things. Watching my edges has always been something I have tried to master in photography, and so was chuffed when I reviewed the image to find Luke and the umbrella filled the frame in its entirety.

A lesson learnt from this shoot has been to buy and try shooting with a reflector. Whilst I lightened up shadows in post, using a reflector would have lifted the shadows to a more favourable extent.

Whilst shot humorously, as explained over on Instagram, I find the third image striking. Luke’s rigid pose is held with purpose, and you can see through the look on his face his commitment to it. Serving major Jonathan Van Ness vibes... Can you believe?

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Barmouth Bound

After wolfing down a Sainsbury’s meal deal in a car park, and setting off an hour or so later than initially planned, Luke and I headed for Barmouth.

Once we left the motorway and began weaving through the Welsh countryside, I pulled out my camera and began to shoot. As we sped past the built up foliage, rolling hills, and all-round beautiful scenery, I couldn’t help but think about my Trek America trip last year.

We began in LA and wound up in San Francisco, detouring to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and (my love) Yosemite along the way. The entire trip was magic, but the imagery from the drive out of Yosemite National Park has stuck with me so vividly.

I can still see the setting sun’s golden light flicker through the gaps in the forest canopy, as we travelled down the winding roads back to camp. The comforting sound of Grizzly Bear’s Two Weeks easing the need for conversation. Our bodies, tired from hiking, moulding into the van’s seats as we drifted in and out of sleep.

This leg of the journey to Wales felt reminiscent of that drive. Everywhere I looked I saw the blue, green and yellow tones all warm and orange-tinted again. This consistency making anywhere feel familiar, almost like home... Road trips are just good for the soul, dude.

On the whole, I feel these images perfectly capture the nostalgic, and somewhat ethereal vibe of our journey to Barmouth. Especially when it comes to subject, composition and grading. But, if I was to take them again in attempts to improve, I would be interested to shoot with a Neutral Density (ND) or Polarising filter, just to find out what difference this would make to bringing out the details of the sky.

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