Is Lockdown Making Me a Better Photographer?

As a landscape photographer coronavirus has had a disastrous impact on my business. But that aside could lockdown actually be helping me to become a better photographer?

A tree and a wall

Monday 30th March 2020

Most of my time at the moment is spent in the office. Fortunately, I love what I do so it never feels like a chore.

That being said it still feels good to get out so I took the opportunity to escort Mrs Sale to Pooley Bridge. We needed to pick up some essential supplies (crisps and wine!) but it still felt a bit ‘naughty’ to be out in the car.

While Helen was shopping I had a little walk about with my camera. It is the first time that I have been into the National Park since lockdown began.

There was an eery silence to the place. Normally it would be packed with visitors come to enjoy a cruise up Ullswater on one of the steamers.

At times living in a place so popular with tourists can be a bit of a chore. But the Lake District is definitely missing something without them.

I led me to ponder, without the tourists is there any point to our national parks?

Ullswater Steamers at Pooley Bridge
The Ullswater Steamers ticket office at Pooley Bridge – normally it would busy with tourists. Without them it is eerily quiet. I for one look forward to their return.

Tuesday 31st

I continue to get out for my daily exercise, using it as an opportunity to practice my photography.

One of the things that I find about being a photographer is that you can’t just turn it off. It doesn’t work like that for me.

Photography is like an itch that needs to be scratched.

Since going full-time photography has changed from being a pleasant pass time to way of life.

One of the few positives of the lockdown has been how I have been encouraged to shoot different subjects. Scenes that before I would have walked straight passed now catch my eye.

You might even say that the coronavirus is making me a better photographer.

A sheep and a tree
Is coronavirus making me a better photographer? Before I would have walked passed this scene. After just a week I am starting to see so much more potential for photography than before.

Wednesday 1st April

We are all going to have good days and bad during this crisis. Today I found my mood to be rather sombre.

It is interesting how my personal feelings and emotions effect my photography.

I am generally a fairly happy person. Packing in your desk job to follow your dreams will have that effect on a chap. Looking back at my portfolio I see a lot of cheerful, optimistic images.

But today I found myself being drawn to rather darker subjects.

It was the first time that I have ever been aware of my own personal circumstances influencing my photography. I am not sure if that is something to be excited or terrified by.

A tree and a wall
This tree is a metaphor for how I have been feeling today. It is clear that my mood is starting to influence my photography. I am not entirely sure that is a good thing.

Thursday 2nd

Woke up this morning feeling a bit more optimistic about things.

I decided that rather than limiting my photography to my daily exercise it is time to start looking for projects that I can do around the house.

Inspired by some multiplicity selfies that I had seen on Twitter I thought I might have a go myself. You can read about it here.

Lockdown self created by blending multiple exposures
It is time to start looking for photography projects that I can do around the house. This is my attempt at a multiplicity selfie.

Friday 3rd

After a day in the office putting the finishing touches to tonight’s video it was good to get out for some fresh air.

Fresh being the operative word here as the weather has taken a sudden turn for the chilly. As a result we took a shorter route, one that I haven’t taken for many years.

Along the way I clocked a lovely scene where the view of the distant fells was framed by a tree and a drystone wall.

At the moment little scenes like this give me so much pleasure. In many ways my photography is helping me to retain a connection to the countryside that I love so much.

In these uncertain times my photography appears to be an even bigger part of my life than it was before.

A tree and a wall
At the moment small scenes like this one give me so much pleasure. My photography is helping me to remain connected to the countryside.

Saturday 4th

My walk today led me to Shap Abbey.

This is a wonderful place for a photographer. I could have spent hours here exploring all of the different compositions but that isn’t really in the spirit of lockdown, is it?

Shap Abbey
Shap Abbey is a great place to explore with a camera. But during the coronavirus crisis it’s probably best not to linger.

When I got home I had a message from my mate Julian. He’d sent me his version of a multiplicity selfie.

I was rather shocked by this I have to admit. The selfie just isn’t his sort of thing. That being said he is always the first to support me in anything that I try so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Looks like he’s working on a new video. I wonder what it’s about?

Multiplicity selfie by Julian Baird
Multiplicity selfie by Julian Baird – at times like these the support that we get from our friends and family is even more important than usual.

Sunday 5th

When it comes to photography I have always thought that I am a bit of a one trick pony. I know a little bit about landscape photography but that is about it.

Lockdown is forcing me to experiment with different genres of photography. To try different things and to expand my skills, whether I want to or not. 🙂

Today I had a crack at photographing some simple flower portraits. I am rather pleased with the results.

Flower Triptych
Lockdown is forcing me to try different things. I am rather pleased with these simple flower portraits.

If you are interested in how took these images the video will be out on Tuesday.

At first I thought that lockdown was going to have a negative impact on my photography. What was I going to do if I couldn’t get to my beloved Lake District?

But after just a couple of weeks it seems that the coronavirus might be the best thing to happen to my photography in a long time.

14 thoughts on “Is Lockdown Making Me a Better Photographer?”

  1. Sounds like you were having a really bad day on Monday!

    The National Parks do have a huge important role beyond promoting tourism – and that is to preserve the special nature of the landscape that caused it to be designated a National Park in the first place. It is important that we do preserve these special places for ourselves but more importantly for future generations to enjoy as well.

    Loved the selfie by the way – your best one yet.

    1. I think Wednesday was the low point for me Stephen but I have bounced back and am actually really enjoying my photography at the moment. It is fun to try different things and to learn different skills. The selfie was important because it was a fun way to learn about blending multiple images. Something that will come in handy when I am able to get back to the Lake District, as you know better than most! 🙂

  2. Chris, as I read your day by day account I realized how each of us is affected by this Coronavirus pandemic and how situations such as this seem to try to take us in a direction we don’t want to go. When we stand and take some measure of control we can make some good of tough situation. Thanks for the reminder. Look forward to watching the video on Tuesday. The flower photos look great. Take care. Peace.

    1. Hi Marvin, you are so right about that. I am trying to make the most out of a bad situation. I see it as an opportunity to try new things and to develop my skills but I wasn’t expecting it to have such a profound impact on my photography in such a short space of time. I am loving shooting hand held with my little mirrorless Canon M50 and it has gotten me thinking about trying a completely different approach when all this is over.

  3. Reading this post made me smile, just because it follows my own mood swings over the last week, its comforting to know its not just me!

    I agree though, this is presenting challenges to keep creative, I know I’m not going to take any fantastic images whilst locked down in my house, but I’m trying different things to keep camera skills and composition skills developing ready to get out in the landscape again….might even try a water drop session!

    1. I guess most of us photographers are having similar experiences. It is important to try and make the most out of this bad situation. I am constantly racking my brain for ideas for photography projects that I can do around the house. Good luck with the water drop photography.

  4. I’m having the same ups and downs like you are, Chris. My usual thing is street photography, but for me personally, it’s just too risky to get out there for health reasons, even without the state lockdown. I’m at risk for a really bad case if I get infected.

    It means I’m really constrained here at home, but it’s made me think about the things I can do while I’m here. Bad lighting? Okay, maybe I need to learn how to light a scene indoors. Multi-selfies allow me to have a little bit of much-needed fun with the situation, and the final images make me feel less isolated.

    Through good days and bad, it’s good to keep a purpose in mind. And I think you’re right; if we keep it up through this, we stand to learn a lot.

    1. Hi James – sorry to hear that you are so constrained at the moment. I really like the selfie that you sent to me, I thought it was excellent. For me it had such a strong narrative. So pleased that you found it fun to do. Hope you will have a go at flower portraits too once the video is released later today.

  5. I totally understand how you feel about you Lake District. From viewing your photographs I can see that it is indeed a beautiful area. I to am fortunate to live in a similar area. I live in The Adirondack Park in northern New York State. What amazes me, is that a lot of people have never even heard of the Adirondack’s even though it’s the largest park in the US outside of Alaska. So I have lots of places to where I can take landscape photos and still practice social distancing. However my wife and I are trying to stay pretty much within walking distance of our home to show support for those less fortunate. Your black and white photos have inspired me to experiment doing the same here. This is a great time of year for doing B&W photos anyway since there isn’t much color outside right now, with no leaves on the trees and too early here for wildflowers. Since I live on a lake I am also going to try my hand at wild bird photography. We are in the middle of the migration season now so it’s the perfect time to try it out. Today is the first day that we have no ice on our cove and we’ve already spotted 3 pairs of mergansers and 2 pairs of mallards. Unfortunately I don’t have the best gear for wildlife photos but I’m going to give it a try.
    Thank you again for keeping all of us informed about your activities during the lock down and inspiring us to try something new. Take care and stay safe.

    1. Hi Peter – birds is one thing that I haven’t had a crack at shooting yet. We had a bird feeder just outside my office window and Mrs Sale has been putting down nigra seeds to attract the chaffinches. The only problem that I have is that the back drop is my car. 🙁 I am racking my brains to think of a way to solve that problem.

  6. Spring has sprung in NY. It’s wonderful to see the buds grow; getting ready to burst. And while photography has taken a bit of backseat to my garden, my spirits have been lifted knowing despite all this hardship, nature has a way of cleansing the soul, too. I’m waiting a bit longer before I break out the macro lens to capture some of Spring’s entrance. But before I do, there’s a multiplicity selfie in my future! Hang in there Chris. Try to make the best of what life is throwing at you and all of us. It’s a time to reflect and feed the spirit. After all, no winter lasts forever, and no Spring skips its turn. Be well.

    1. Hey Miguel, it is a beautiful day here today so I think I will head out for my daily walk in a moment. I’m trying to make the most out of a bad situation by taking my camera with me and trying different projects while I am in the house. Look forward to seeing your selfie! 🙂

  7. This blog post is quite significant. You document the ups and downs that we all feel with a great deal of candor. In the end, it is the positive, enthusiastic message that hits home. You continue to connect with your followers as the evidenced by the multiplicity selfie which has inspired so many people to contribute. Even I gave it a go! The title question of this entry is rhetorical. The answer is quite obvious. Cracking shot of the tree/stone wall by the way! Cheers mate 👍

  8. Love the B&W images, being self isolating has made me look for things around the house to photograph, late afternoon light coming through a frosted glass window gave me great lighting.
    One big challenge I have taken on is to learn portrait photography using OCF, and it was fortunate that a month ago I purchased a second hand Mannequin to practice with.

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