For today’s post I wanted to talk about photography, how I got into it, where I am with it now, where I want to take it in the future and everything in between. I realised that even though this is primarily a photography blog with a bit of personal stuff mixed in, I haven’t actually talked much about my photography yet, so today I am going to rectify that.
I’m guessing that most of you aren’t aware of this, since this blog is very new, but I am going to college to study photography in just a few short weeks, so I thought now would be a good time to tell you about my photography and my journey with it so far before I start this new chapter of my life. Before we get into it though, allow me to introduce myself a little. My name is Samantha Drage (you can call me Sam though) and I am a 16 year old aspiring photographer and writer. Photography is what I really want to do and Writing is something I do on the side that I hope will one day make me some money as well. I live in England, so college is a little different here than it is in America. In England you finish secondary school (or high school) at 16 and then for the next 2 years you either go to a sixth form (which is generally more academic) or a college (which is generally more creative). You can then chose to go onto a University if you so wish.
As I said at the beginning, I am going to college in a few weeks to do a Level 3 Extended Diploma in photography and I am BEYOND excited to get started. If you read my last post: 5 Lessons I Learnt At School then you will know that I hated school with every fibre of my being, but college is going to be very different because you are treated like an adult there and have much more control over what you learn. Also no maths, which is always a bonus! 😉😁
Now I have introduced myself a little, let’s get into talking about photography! I am going to break this post up into about 6 month blocks and tell you everything from what camera I am currently using, events I’ve been to, how I edit my photos now vs how I used to (some of them are pretty bad! 😂), people who inspire me and how I got into photography in the first place.
The journey begins just over 2 years ago in March of 2017. At this point I was about to start my GCSE’s, which I had just finalised my options for and I had chosen to take photography at GCSE level. I had never studied photography before, but I have always been a very creative person and wanted to use my GCSE’s as an opportunity to learn as much about all the creative fields I was interested in as possible. My dad had been interested in photography for several years prior to this decision to take it at GCSEs, so he was already fairly well-versed in the technical side of things and, since he works as an IT manager, already had a lot of connections in the field. He suggested that we go to the annual Photography Show in Birmingham together and I said yes!
A few weeks later on the 18th and 19th of March we went to the photography show and I fell in love! We got to play with all the cameras, listened to experienced photographers from all genres and walks of life talk about their journeys and I did a workshop where I got to use a Fujifilm camera and I ADORED all of it! I walked away from that weekend being dead certain that photography was something that I was going to love, so my parents, being the kind and generous people they are, bought me the Fujifilm Xpro 2 camera that I had tried and loved!!!
Let’s go back a little and talk about how I knew I would love photography. I was 14 years old at the time and I’m sure a lot of parents would not have bought their 14 year old a very expensive camera after one weekend, but anyone who knows me, knows that I have always been incredibly mature for my age and that I never make decisions lightly. I am also autistic, which means that I have a tendency to be brutally honest, which can get me into trouble sometimes, but also means it is pretty obvious when I do or don’t like something. They could see that I had fallen in love with photography and I had already started an Instagram account where I took photos of the books I was reading just using my phone. They knew all of this and we are thankfully well off enough that they were able to afford that investment for me and it paid off!
Having ordered and received my new camera about a week later, I was more excited than ever to try it out. I used it to take better quality (although still not that great) pictures for my Bookstagram, which is still up and running today, so you can check it out here if you want to: @theoriginalbookdragon
Not two weeks later though, I boarded a plane for the first time in my life to go on a family holiday to America! Prior to that moment I had never set foot outside of the UK with my family. I had been on a few school trips to Europe, but I had never been on a plane, so this was a huge scary thing for me, but I bought my camera with me after only having it for two weeks and with no idea how to use it and just gave it a go!
I have never been one of those people that agonises about starting something because they want to be perfect or because ‘it’s not the right time’; I’ve always just jumped straight in and tried my best. Yes some of the photos I took were terrible, overexposed, blurry etc, but I didn’t let that discourage me because I also took some amazing photos – if I do say so myself – that are still my favourites to this day, despite having no idea what I was doing. I will insert some of those favourite photos that I took here for you all to see and I will also tell you that the one of the skyline of NYC was taken from the top of the empire state building with my holding the camera up in the air, unable to see the screen and clicking wildly! The Empire State Building is always heaving and it definitely was that day, but I still managed to get some amazing shots that I’m not sure I’d be able to top two years later.
The rest of year 9 and that summer then passed without much else happening photography wise. I did go to Germany on Music Tour with my school and I did bring my camera, but I honestly didn’t have much time to use it because I was kept busy with all the tour activities. It’s also worth noting that I bought myself another small camera at the beginning of the summer as well because I was going camping with my best friend. I wanted to bring my beloved Fujifilm with me, but my dad wouldn’t let me (I was allowed to take it to Germany though, just not 3 hours south to the beach?), so I bought a more hardwearing Olympus camera for a few hundred pounds.
I honestly never really got on with that small Olympus camera I bought and it mostly just sits in a draw neglected these days, but it does still come in handy for vlogging or if I need a better camera than my phone in a pinch.
My new found love for photography was really put to the test though come September, as I started my new GCSE Photography course! Like everyone, I was absolutely trash when I first started, mostly because I didn’t really like the artists I had to (essentially) copy and I just wanted to do my own thing, but eventually I learnt how to do what the course demanded and still did what I wanted without them realising! 😂 (I’m a Slytherin if anyone was wondering!)
The biggest challenge of the GCSE course was learning how to write about the photos I’d taken. The course demanded that you explain every tiny thing you did to the photo and why, which became increasingly frustrating as I tried to think of new ways to tell them that I had upped the brightness and contrast because I bloody well wanted to! I got a little frustrated, but overall, I did really love the course, it taught me a lot, forced me to work with other people (which I generally don’t do, but it was necessary and, largely, a good experience) and gave me the opportunity to do photo shoots in dark rooms and with equipment that I personally don’t have access to.
I’m going to put a photo below of an example of my work in Unit 1 in September of 2017 and an example from one of my final pieces right before exam season in 2019, so you can see just how much I improved!
By March of the following year, I was still just trucking away at my GCSE Photography course and improving everyday, but I did also go back to the Photography Show again (this has become something of an annual tradition now) because I wanted to attempt to make some connections, learn a load more things and get some inspiration for my own personal projects. I found exactly what I was looking for when I went to listen to Georgia Rose Hardy speak on the Cannon stage all about her 365 challenge.
I ADORE her photography so much and really fell in love with the idea of creating every day. I attempted my own 365 challenge, which didn’t last too long purely because I simply didn’t have the time with school and dealing with my mental health issues at that time. It is something I enjoyed doing though and something I may attempt again come New Years! I think what I really fell in love with was the idea of being ABLE to create every single day. I have always wanted a creative job from the time I was small. First it was a fashion designer, then a youtuber, then a writer, then an artist and now a photographer with all those on the side! I want to be able to make a living off of creating and doing what I love, which is exactly what I am now going to college in 2 weeks time to learn about!
It’s also worth noting that I joined the RPS (Royal Photographic Society) at the photography show in 2018. I haven’t used my membership much yet because I was so busy with school, but I am hoping to complete at least the first distinction they offer by the time I leave college and hope to pursue the others in the years following that. I’ll leave a link to the RPS website here in case anyone wants to check it out: http://rps.org/
By the summer of 2018 I was still just doing my GCSE’s, but I thought the 3 trips I went on were worth mentioning seeing as the sole aim of most of them was to take photos. The first trip I went on was to Rome in the Easter Holidays, which was on a school trip with other people doing Art and Photography. I was doing both, so I had my work cut out for me on that trip to make sure I was doing everything for both courses. I really loved my incredibly busy and fast paced trip to Rome though and I would love to go back some day and photograph the city again when I’m a bit older.
I also went to Barcelona at the beginning of July with my Dad for a week. This was a bit of an impromptu trip and we changed our minds on where we were going several times, but we eventually settled on Barcelona. We had originally planned to go to Amsterdam because I had been there back in 2015 with the school on a different music tour, but since I was only 12 at the time and I didn’t have my camera, I really wanted to go back to appreciate it and photograph it. I don’t remember why we changed to Barcelona in the end, but we did and it was a lot of fun! It was also incredibly hot, but the architecture there was amazing, so it was worth melting for.
The final trip I went on in 2018 was a family holiday to France. We actually stayed in the French version of Centre Parcs, which is sort of a holiday resort place here in the UK, but we made several day trips (1 to DisneyLand and 1 to Paris. It was just my Mum and I who went to Paris because my Dad and Sister didn’t want to go, but that meant that we just sort of did whatever I wanted to and I walked us all over the city. I wish we had got to spend more than 1 day in Paris, but that 1 day was amazing anyway and I will definitly be going back for longer one day to get even more photos.
2018 was an INCREDIBLY busy year for me and I honestly don’t know how I managed 3 trips abroad within the space of 6 months whilst also doing my GCSE’s and looking after my, somewhat fragile, mental health. It was all well worth it though because I got to see some amazing places and got some amazing photos of them (if I do say so myself!)
After a busy year 10 and flying all over Europe for 6 months, I stayed safely in my own country for the next year as my work load increased for my GCSE’s. By Year 11, there were significantly elss exciting shoots to do in photography and it was mostly just editing, writing and more writing, but it was all still useful because I can do some pretty fancy editing on Photoshop and I (kind of) know how to use Illustrator too!
I managed to finish my GCSE’s with a bang and come out with a 9, which I am BEYOND AMAZED that I managed to get, but I also feel that I do deserve it after all the effort I put in! For all those who aren’t in the UK or are just old and don’t understand the new grading system, a 9 is an A**! Yes that’s right, A** as in 2 stars! They changed the grading system here to allow them to determine the ‘great’ from the ‘excellent’ and the ‘average’ from the ‘I just scraped a pass’. I never would have believed I would have been able to get a 9 after all of my mental health problems, issues with accessibility at my secondary school (I’m autistic if you didn’t know) and a life time of being told I would never make a career out of being a creative, but I did it! I did it and it felt like the first big step in proving all those people wrong!
And that is where I’m at! My photography has come along in leaps and bounds over the last 2 years and my editing is MILES better than it used to be, but I still have so much I want to learn and improve, which is what I’m hoping college will be able to help me with! I will hopefully be doing another one of these in 2 years time at the end of my college course, or maybe even in 1 year depending on how much I have to talk about.
Do you like photography? What camera do you have/prefer if you have one? I’d love to know and have a conversation, so leave a comment down below or come and chat to me over on my Instagram: @thephotographydragon You can also see more of my photography on there and on the photography page in my website!
Goodbye for now!
Over and Out