Like many photographers, I'm not fortunate enough to live in a major city, full of vibrance and inspiration, nor do I have the time/funds to travel regularly to shoot in different places.
Much has been written about making the most of the opportunities that lay on your doorstep, right under your nose, so I decided to use my local area as a way to practise, learn and develop my photography.
In terms of context, I live in a very small but growing market town called Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, just north of London. Being a market town, the area is built around the central High Street and Market Square and this is the main hub of life and activity in the area.
Although market days and weekends get busy, don't be mistaken - it's generally a quiet place, especially after dark.
And it's small!
I mostly concentrate my work in and around the High Street as it provides me with the most photographic opportunities.
Below is an image of the area for more context - you can see that the High Street runs through the centre and I have added a blue circle with a radius of 0.1 miles, so you can get an idea of just how small my working area is. Imagine shooting in an area that small in London or New York!
However, what the area lacks in size, it makes up for in its range of interesting subjects and, due to the East/West alignment of the High Street, there is plenty of great light to be found in the right conditions. I like a challenge!
So, just over 18 months ago, I started a project on my local area - LIFE IN LEIGHTON BUZZARD - and it's been a thoroughly worthwhile venture for many reasons.
In fact, I've been able to capture some great images for my main personal projects that I'd believed I could only get on the streets of a major city.
In my previous blog post (here) I shared some thoughts on my current photographic process for creating my images...
1 - find great light
2 - consider shape, composition and framing
3 - wait for the correct subject to enter the frame
I've been applying that method to my work in Leighton Buzzard lately, but it's been tough going.
The weather has been poor and on the few occasions that the light has been better, I've either been working or spending time with my family. Couple this with a small working area to cover and it's forced me to dig deep and look harder in my photography.
In fact, all of the images in this blog post were taken during a recent two hour session, within a tiny section on and around the High Street.
Again, I've been using monochrome to create images of high contrast, concentrating primarily on light as my starting point as mentioned above. I've also tried taking this method of working one step further by branching into abstract photography, pushing boundaries and making the viewer ask questions of the image.
How do you feel about these two images, for example?
Life In Leighton Buzzard started as a convenient way to practise but has grown into a popular project within the community, far more so than I'd anticipated.
I've had local press coverage, met some incredible people, made new friends and worked on some great projects with local businesses and charities. I've also held competitions to give away some of my prints from the area.
Most importantly though, whilst developing my own photography I've enjoyed just simply documenting where I live, both in terms of the local people and the buildings - it's incredible how quickly things change and if you don't grab your camera and capture them, they are gone forever.
I highly recommend you start working on a project in your local area, however small or seemingly mundane your location may appear, as it'll improve your work without question.
A little word of warning though - be prepared for the fact that some people won't like what your're doing!
That's fine of course as everyone is entitled to an opinion but some will challenge you, either on the street or online, especially if you live in a small community like I do. And it can get fairly serious at times...
I've had some quite strongly worded comments, emails and messages regarding the work that I'm doing, like the one in the image above, but these have been a distinct minority and are far outweighed by positive comments.
If you show people respect and behave appropriately (and legally!), you generally get the same back. I've learnt not to be afraid of putting myself 'out there' and to have confidence in what I'm doing.
If you'd like to follow my project, please do so here - Life In Leighton Buzzard - and also find it on instagram @lifeinleightonbuzzard (though I've neglected regularly updating on instagram due to lack of time)
If you have any questions, please do give me a shout and I hope you enjoy the images in the blog post (all taken with X100T and XT20 with 27mm/56mm in April 2018)