This is me on my way to a surf lesson in Cornwall, UK. All looks fine here, but a few minutes later it was a chaotic floundering of limbs and board! My dog Rufus was uninterested!
This video highlights the difficult realities of the Covid pandemic, but is also optimistic about how we can help. For World Mental Health Day, mental health charity Mind’s theme was “Do One Thing for Better Mental Health”.
Whilst I write a little further down about myself as a photographer, I think it is worth describing a little about why I chose to raise funds for Mind.
I have just turned 60 (I had a fantastic lockdown birthday!), but about 10 years ago, I was struck by depression. I know what the trigger was (changing job) but not the reason, why did I suddenly implode? And it was an implosion. From a very happy family environment, in good health and doing well in my career, I pretty much fell off a cliff and suffered two years of utterly dark times. I used every bit of medical help available and with a wonderful supportive family, I managed somehow to cling to some normality. Depression can take a huge toll obviously mentally but also physically, and it took me another three years to feel as if I had recovered. I have broken all sorts of bones and ligaments, but absolutely nothing in my life has compared to the anguish, the despair and the desperation I felt then.
In recent years, mental health has been a little more openly spoken about, perhaps thanks to people like Stephen Fry and also royal support from William, Kate and Harry, but it has forever been an under-invested area. Covid-19 has brought about further huge suffering of course and so I felt mental health, Mind in particular, was my clear cause to try to raise funds and help during lockdown and beyond.
And so to me and photography.....
I am one of a large army of enthusiastic amateur photographers having forever loved form, structure, colour, light and composition. I have often indulged myself in projects, whether getting up early for the golden dawn light or standing roadside at dusk capturing light trails on busy streets. Holidays and walks have frequently entailed my wife and son patiently waiting for me to catch up as I lagged behind finding new subjects, views and angles. I can't say I have a speciality in any way as I've enjoyed landscape, macro, sports, portraiture, studio and nightime projects. A small handful of commissions and one wedding is the limit of my semi-professional work. Whilst I am less of a true technical photographer I have always paid attention to colour temperature (white balance), depth of field (via aperture control) and also some of the core tennants of composition such as lighting (front, side, back-lit/rim lighting), the rule of thirds (with the subject on a third axis, either horizontal or vertical) and leading lines (visual cues drawing your eye to the main subject). I try to leave post processing to a minimum though use Photoshop Elements to carry out some cropping, levels (brightness and contrast), saturation (colour) and sharpening. I also use DXO Viveza for some localised image enhancements. But if the subject or composition doesn't stand up, no amount of digital help will improve the image.
Selecting images for this project that would appeal to a wide audience was not easy and I know I have left out some that might appeal and included others that will leave many people rather nonplussed or, worse, disappointed. But I hope I have found some balance and picked images that the majority will find pleasing to look at and in many cases interesting. All the images come from the digital world of the 2000's except one. I took this single outlier whilst trekking in Nepal in 1982 and it remains my favourite of all time so I made an exception to include it. Like many photographers, I have a huge back catalogue of digital images as well as dozens of albums from the 35mm print world and boxes of loose pictures. The latter are mostly in the attic and one day will get sorted (with hundreds no doubt thrown). For this project, pouring through all of the digital images was a daunting but hugely satisfying task. And I have unearthed some spectacularly embarrassing pictures of myself, family and friends.
As for equipment, I have used a small number of cameras ranging from iPhone, compact, bridge to full frame cameras with interchangeable lenses, as well as tripods and monopods. Generally speaking, I'm a Canon fan but am enjoying my Sony also. All of these cameras have been used for the images in this book with one interesting addition, my old Rollie compact. Just one image (the outlier referred to above) was taken by the Rollei whilst trekking in the Annapurna region of Nepal as part of a two year backpacking trip in 1982. The camera suffered mechanical problems (unsolvable in Nepal) and necessitated the drilling of a hole in the side of the camera, attaching a copper wire to the shutter release mechanism and then pulling on it to an audible click before pressing the shutter release mechanism! Of course, the wire snagged frequently with some many awful images and the occasional weird and wonderful production!
David Sykes, June 2020 (and small update January 2021)