Mel Collie


Experiences Come From Within.

I read a question the other day - so I thought I would ask it here as its the inspiration for my thoughts today. Do you favour images over experience?

Well do you, punk? (said in my best Clint Westwood voice...)

When I look back, I used to snap thousands of images a day, just snapping and not seeing.

Editing took forever, and even though I love the editing process, it became, not surprisingly, a chore.

This didn't stop me though, glutton for punishment, me. Might have been the cake and coffee that I had as I sat and clicked away at the keyboard...

What did, eventually, slow me down was a combination of consistency -practice, practice - and just stopping to take the next sunrise or sunset, stop rushing, realising the frustration when I didn't get to the beach to take that sunset image, and just sitting with that, accepting it, just pursuing something of social media likes, instead of jut being where I was at that moment in time.

Practice is something that can bore us, but its a process, if you are passionate about that you do, practice is just another word for taking images.

Struggle can be part of producing great personal work. Climbing a mountain, being out in the rain, a long walk up a hill, a steep clamber down a track..sometimes the best places are hard to find, and thats why they can be the best places, as not many other people want to go there, we all love the pretty pictures but walking that extra mile can be a lonely place, because not many of us don't want to make the effort.

When in Snowdonia 2 years ago, the challenging climbs and early starts made me feel that it was a privilege to be there. At this moment in time theres no restriction or charge to go here and just discover, as the population grows though I can see this will change, and we will look back at this time and wonder why we didn't play, wander and discover more.

This slowed me down to take in the far reaching stunning landscapes. At first, overwhelming as theres so much in such a vast space to take in.

Popular locations can be tricky to photograph without filling the mind up with other peoples images influencing you on how you should be seeing these iconic mountain ranges.

This can muddy the mind and affect your focus.

The experience then becomes other peoples, and not yours.

Every place has a special quality about it. Snowdonia has it in abundance.

When you begin to slow down and experience the excitement and the passion this comes across in the images as you begin to understand the landscape, to be in it, to experience it. Every time we climbed a mountain my bloke would place his hand on a rock and silently thank it and ask for permission to climb, never taking it for granted, but being grateful for the experience. Techniques stay the same, cameras stay the same (well sort of), when the experience is lacking theres a disconnect from the images. Experiences now, from childhood, in the future, realising that slowing down to hear yourself breathe without any judgemental thoughts is key.

We lived for just over a year in the heart of Snowdonia, in Llanberis, with the quarry over the road and Moel Elio around the corner, many times I wandered on my own when the other half was working, and many times I didn't take a camera. I just explored. In all weathers. The climbing clothes shops did well out of us and our waterproof trousers , gloves, jackets, layers and boots. All necessary to make the experience even more comfortable, if thats the right word, theres nothing worse than a 6 hour trek with cold feet, Bridgedale socks aren't chap, but my feet are so worth it!

So, Snowdonia is where I found that I liked the way I could use the camera in different ways.I remember being stunned and my thought was "Really, I can do that with a camera!?!"
Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) was one way I discovered, by accident, in the rain, as I dashed down the steps from the quarry. the light on the lake was beautiful. I moved the camera as the shutter speed slowed due to the failing light, the moody blues of the sky, the movement it captured was my image of the week/month/life that made me stop and feel the emotion of the day in that one image, the feeling of the weather, the rain, the clouds, the brief light on the water.

I Googled camera movement, and came up with ICM. This led me to study the work of Chris Friel and Doug Chinnery. I practiced... a lot. I was so fortunate the lake was 2 minutes from the house, it made getting up early to catch the blue hour easier. I then played with multiple exposure. I then changed my camera and found a great camera shop, which I visited often, which led me to a talk being held locally by Charlie Waite.

Ideas come from life experiences. We forget the books we read when we were kids until recollecting them with a memory jog from a movie or a re-publication. Winnie the Pooh was my favourite book. 100 Acre Wood a favourite place I would want to be in. I adore being in the woods. A childhood spent by the sea too has hugely influenced me. These childhood experiences made their mark.

Experiences come from within.

Personal memories and the feelings behind them can show themselves in our images.