Saturday, 26 November 2016

Seabirds & Shutters: Thoughts on ambition, careers & the story of Salty Sea Photography

What came first? The Salty Sea blog or Salty Sea Photography? 

I doubt any of you (even my family) remember my blog being under any other name. But if you scroll back through the years, to the nostalgic era of blogs that were so wonderfully handmade, patchwork & different from today's clean white, editorial-esque & pristine templated variety, back to the days when nearly everyone kept a barely-read blog which we poured our heart and souls into as if we were writing to the entire universe, you wouldn't have found the Salty Sea blog as you see it now. There was no bloglovin', the vlogger generation hadn't risen yet and everyone's space was like a delightful, GCSE art scrapbook of colour, personality, playful outfits & crafty endeavours. However you could still find me writing random-meandering-journal entires to the internet... on a blog named Daydreams & other fairytales. Those were nostalgic times indeed. I often find myself missing many blogs that have stopped existing, blogs that belonged to those days and have extinguished like a candle reaching the end of it's life, finding no place in this new, modern blogging world which I must say, I've never felt like I belong in. 

Today, I thought I'd talk about something more serious and grown-up than my usual. Although I love to pretend that I'm still an adventurous little girl, free from responsibilities & able to prance around Cornwall dancing in the sand and splashing in the waves, the fact is I am an adult with rent to pay and a car to run and that requires work. I don't think I often really go into detail about my work here, my ambitions or career thoughts so I believed it was high time to go into a little detail about what I do with my life when I'm not strolling through white-washed villages and day dreaming.

So what did come first? Salty Sea Photography or the Salty Sea blog? 

The answer is: Salty Sea Photography. I named my blog after my photography project because a) I thought it sounded nice at the time and b) It made sense to connect the two and establish a sort of creative identity online. When I first started my photography degree, I set up a Facebook page for my work under my real name but it just didn't fit somehow... I liked the idea of an alias and I read somewhere else that you should name your business after what inspires you and what sort of feelings you want your work to evoke. My biggest muse has always been the ocean which is why I named it 'Salty Sea' - I thought it sounded gentle, I liked the connotations of the elements & how it reminded me of home whenever I was away. I guess now that sounds a little silly and sometimes I wonder if it's a foolish name but it's become such a part of my creative identity that I feel it too late to change it. But I guess it's just the same way I cringe at the sound of my own name; it's that sense of self awareness and overfamiliarity with our own skins that we sometimes get fed up with ourselves and what we say or do. This is why I feel that artists, philosophers, creatives - they always strive to evolve and find new ways of thinking and doing. It's that sense of heightened self awareness that pushes us to always crave more knowledge and to raise our personal goals and change ourselves and the way we work to be better, produce better things. That may not be the same for you, but that's how I operate. I get bored easily. I always crave new experiences and a change of wind. 

So what of my ambitions?

When I was really little, I always had it at the back of my brain that I wanted to be a published author.  I wanted to write fantasy novels for children like Harry Potter, The Edge Chronicles and The Graveyard book. I wanted to dream up fantastical stories filled with impossible things and lovable characters that would be enjoyed by children like myself and fuel their dreams - the same way that those stories fuelled mine. I also realised pretty early on that authors didn't make money just being authors... sadly it's not a full-time job. I then always had it in my head for years and years that I would be a teacher which eventually turned into "I want to join the Royal Navy" in the fleet air arms which then went back to "I want to be a teacher" when I realised going into the Navy meant getting up early every morning. This lasted all through university right up until my final year where I studied a module in teaching which taught me - I definitely don't want to be a teacher. It's not down to fear or nervousness of public speaking... I just don't enjoy teaching. What I actually enjoy is learning. 
In my last year of Uni, I realised that I actually had no idea what I wanted to do. My entire life I had been the focused one, the one who knew their goals and what to do and so sure of my future and for the first time, I hadn't a clue. 

If I am anything, it's a contingency planner. I love plans and goals and even more, I love to safeguard those plans and goals incase they fall through. I know that's obsessive... It's just what I do. One of my safeguards was laying foundations for the ability to run my own business. While at University, as well as doing my assignments and keeping this blog, I was also working on my photography portfolio... photographing weddings, dancers, musicians, families... anybody who wanted photographs. I put together my logo, my website, my social media and worked on building a reputation so that when I finished University, I wouldn't be floundering without a plan in mind. 
During my time on the photography degree, I never expected to actually make money from photography and when I changed to Creative Writing, suddenly I felt more motivated than ever to take photographs. 
I also attended the free business & self-employment workshops that the Uni laid on, taking on board all of the information I could that would prepare me for being able to work off my own back. I've always been a hard worker in life; at several points in my young-adulthood I've kept up to three part time jobs at one time! I'm definitely more relaxed now and don't feel the need to fill every minute of my free time with work and I've really grown accustomed to being in charge of my own workflow... I will quite happily dedicate afternoons to putting together materials or tweaking my website to constantly make my business better and the experiences more enjoyable for those who come into contact with my work. 
In my final year at Uni, I entered a competition for students that had set up their own freelance ventures during education and I won the award and a grant to help with my business start up costs! I felt hella lucky then and it just didn't feel real; I had created a thing, a service and I could ask for money for that thing and people would give it. It felt so adult and surreal and the concept of being 'self employed' didn't take root. It just felt like another university independent project... similar to my Creative Enterprise modules. I guess Uni does prepare us for independence and work after all! :) 

When I was small... I never considered that I would be a photographer. I never set out to be a photographer. In fact, although professionally speaking you could call me that, I still don't feel that photography is solely my essence. Yes, I adore it. I relish in absorbing the photography of others, practicing, editing, striving to improve and taking pride/feeling miffed with my work all that the sae time, but I don't feel like photography is my only identity. There is still the five year old inside of me that longs to be an author of stories. I feel it more apt to liken my identity to that of a storyteller and photography falls beneath that as a subcategory - just another medium, like writing and painting. I write stories and I photograph stories and I couldn't feel more comfortable & contented in what I do. Sure, I am still juggling the motivation to complete my first novel and stop myself from starting a second and I won't feel completely accomplished until I've managed to get published (my biggest life goal at the moment) and I still have to keep a part time job to top up my income (photographers don't earn as much as you think despite what they charge, the costs are enormous!) Luckily, I have a great part time job that is relaxed, has great ethics & is local so I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I work for a really lovely small company that works with designers and architects around the world supplying eco & completely natural wall finishes that mirror the techniques that have been used for centuries. I love having a job where I know I can whole-heartedly support their mission and have a role that always changes and varies depending on the day and because it's part time, I've got plenty of time to devote to Salty Sea Photography. 

I'm still at the very beginning of my journey career wise and I've no idea where it might take me. Despite thinking I knew exactly what I wanted for years and years and thinking I was a career girl, it only took a brief taste of the adult world to realise that that's not who I was at all. 
I learned a lot about myself at University through the more work based modules but also doing my part time jobs along side that. Through experimentation, I learned about what I didn't want and sometimes, when you're feeling lost ambition-wise, it's as useful to know what you don't want as to know what you do want. 
I knew I didn't want... 
  • To be a waitress. I did that for almost 10 years and after coming back from Uni to Cornwall to work as a waitress over the summer in a fish restaurant by the sea, I had a bit of a meltdown and realised that although I loved doing it while in education, I was completely used up. I had no soul left to give to another customer, I had no more energy and the repetitive shuttling to-and-fro to tables made me dizzy and dazed whereas before I had always felt focused and social. 

  • To work for a company whose ethics I couldn't support... I had worked for a couple of big companies over the years, one who famously made it into the media for charging a service charge which wasn't passed onto employees. It was really awful feeling like just another lesser and unvalued cog in a much larger machine that kept a big, faceless company ticking over and some people 'up top' very rich and well fed indeed. Especially working for a company that didn't treat their staff (even management) particularly well and took advantage of certain discretionary kindnesses & customs that society had built up over the years and used it for their own financial gain. Although I had some really truthfully lovely co-workers and managers whom I dearly miss, it wasn't their fault that the powers up top were greedy and uncaring. 

  • To have a repetitive task job - I really struggle with routine and repetition. Timing is fine... working the same time and days of the week isn't a thing I have an issue with but I knew I didn't want a job where the tasks were mundane and samey every single day. 

  • A career. I realised that I want a quiet life. Although I'm ambitious and I thrive off having goals, I realised I wasn't the sort that wanted to work in a fast paced business, growing up the ranks, clawing my way to the top. The idea of that terrified me. I'm not a fan of being competitive, I like to work with people not against them and I really loathe not knowing where I stand. I like to have feedback and criticism upfront and despite being really motivated to over achieve, I really can't stand hostile or intense environments. The concept of working for a big business in the city and having an office is more terrifying to me than jumping out of an airplane with a parachute on my back. I know that not all 'careers' involve this and if you're a career person, then I admire you because you are fearless, strong and dedicated. You're also focused. I think I'm far too namby-pamby for such things but I'm quite happy working my way through projects and goals. I like the thought of doing lots of different things throughout my time. I may not who where I'll be in ten years or what I'll be doing and I'm fine with that. Alot more fine than I thought I'd be, for someone who has to know all her plans and have her life paved out before her. I'm finding myself delighted by the thoughts of where my ideas and work could maybe take me one day and by not having that 100% planned out to the T, I a) won't be disappointed if it doesn't happen and b) by not having a set plan, I'm not limiting myself of what I could achieve. I've learned through life that things don't always go to plan and rather than having just one idea, I have benefitted from keeping several options open for myself. 

I thought it would be good to make a post right here right now - because I'm at the very beginning of my journey. I graduated about 5 months ago from University which doesn't feel very long at all and I'm really happy with the number of bookings I've got for wedding photography next year - it'll certainly keep me busy! Plus I get to travel all over the country. Who knows what I'll be doing in ten years, but right now - this is what I'm enjoying and the lifestyle that's working for me. It will be great to look back on this in a few years time, just the same way I started this blog at the beginning of Uni and it was great to look back at the beginning when I reached the end. 

I'm going to leave a list of a few of my goals here too, so that one day, I might smile knowing I achieved a few (hopefully!)

  • Publish a book (or many books) 
  • Take an enormous road trip along the west coast of the USA
  • Buy my own property 
  • Make a photography book 
  • See the Northern Lights 
  • Own a swanky studio space of my own 
  • Have an indoor hammock or secret reading cubby
  • Learn the violin 
  • Work completely freelance 
  • Have chickens 
  • Learn to eat more ethically 
  • Find a way of living plastic-free 
  • Sell prints 
  • Meet some more amazing people that teach me incredible wisdoms and expand my social and cultural circles
  • Learn how to keep my plants alive and grow a vegetable patch
  • Work on a project abroad 
  • Learn to sing (well)
  • Have a greenhouse of my own 
  • Learn how to bake well 
  • Get my work featured in magazines 
  • Learn the constellations
  • Learn to surf again 
  • Learn to ride a motorbike 
  • Win a respected prize 

These photographs were taken at both Potager Gardens in Constantine and the nearby village of Gweek. I've featured a visit to Potager on my blog before, you can read about it here. It's become one of my favourite indoor(ish) chillout-spaces to go to in Cornwall. It's a quaint little nest of greenhouses set in an abandoned garden nursery which have been turned into a cafe (serving vegetarian food grown in the gardens) resident art studios and areas where you can simply chill out. There's a bigger greenhouse filled with tables where you could just sit and write/sketch/think, play games (there's a ping pong table!) or dream away the afternoon in one of the many hammocks hung up around the gardens. It really is an amazing space and the work they do is wonderful. It's out in the sticks in the middle of nowhere but if you don't live so nearby, it's worth the drive if you're looking for somewhere unique to meet friends or get work done. 
George and I are lucky, we live relatively close (compared to the rest of Cornwall which is impossibly far away from us) so we can come here frequently. I often feel like cafes where we live want you in and out again - there aren't a lot of places where you can spend the day but Potager has that calm atmosphere and their beautiful work spaces encourage you to stay a while and dream up something beautiful. 

Anyway, I'm going to need to start exploring a little further afield soon else I'm in danger of becoming completely Lizard bound (easily done since I have so many favourite haunts here) but this blog may be in danger of becoming repetitive and that's not something I can abide by. 

Winter is here in Cornwall now, it's colder than any November in my memory. There has been some fierce storms that have rattled our windows and howled down our chimney much to my pleasure and I've enjoyed a grand total of two mulled ciders. Am I ready to embrace Christmas yet? Possibly not. I'm putting it off until December. Lights are beginning to go up around the county and soon, all the fishing villages will be filled with nautically themed christmas lights. Christmas in Cornwall is my favourite and I confess... I am really looking forward to the Newlyn Christmas Lobster light and the Mousehole harbour sea serpent. It's not truly the C word until I've done my annual tour of my favourite harbour villages and their quirky light displays.

And for utterly nostalgic purposes... I'll just leave you with this. A little snapshot of my old template, the Salty Sea blog back in the old days. The days of handmade templates and patchwork blog posts.



  1. I like very much, the person that you are. I like the fact you are not career-driven or a career-girl but ARE a hard-worker. I am similar in that respect. I love my job but I definitely do not want to progress 'up the ladder' of teaching. I am not a shepherd, I am very happy as a sheep.
    Well done for winning that grant, that is so good and I am so happy about the bookings you have. I wish I hadn't already got married, I'd have loved you to do my photos- your photos make me happy.
    Your ambitions are a joy! x

    1. Kezzie this is such a kind comment to read :D I think also can be more than just sheep and shepherds, I think if I likened myself to a nature analogy, I'd be an independent wind sailor floating across the sea, following where the gales takes me ^_^ I think we can be a nesting family of mussels, bold seabirds or anything we like indeed. The possibilities are endless :)
      I'm glad my photos bring joy to you :D That's truly a wonderful thing to hear <3 Your kind comments always bring me a warm feeling of support and gentle kindness :) I'm truly grateful for that xxx

  2. What a beautiful and honest post. In this day and age it seems to be judged a failure to not want a "Career", as if it means you are neither hard-working or ambitious. I think it's both brave and fulfilling to work towards the dreams which really make your life yours and special as we only get one chance at this life. I wish you all the best with your photography business as well as your writing and the lifestyle aims which will hopefully bring you a lot of joy. Gemma

  3. I love heasring about your goals and ambitions and truly believe you'll lead an incredibly successful life in whatever you choose to define that success by! So many of your list of goals resonate with me too, and I'm slowly but surely trying to tick some of them off! I've never been motivated by money or a specific career, but instead would rather enjoy what I do and be inspired and motivated by it. I also relish the fact that I don't have any clue what's next, or where life may take me, which is utterly thrilling! Alice xxx

  4. I loved this blog post. It reflects how I feel about life. My dream was always to come live In Japan. So I studied Japanese and came here as a teacher. I'm not on my third year and struggling. It's so restricting and repetative and I find myself struggling. I want to become a writer and am trying to apply to do a MA but it's so hard when your motivation is sucked by your day to day job. I also have to start thinking if I want to settle in Wales, by beautiful country or emigrate to Canada, where my partner is from.

    I find it extra stressful because, just like you, I have always been the focused one, the one who 'has her head screwed on right' and I'm terrified of not living up to my families expectations.

    I love your blog so much, they always speak to me and make me feel less alone and more comforted.
    Looking forward to your next post as always,
    Naomi xx

  5. Happy NY Sarah - a bit late in catching up with you. I'll be honest one of my goals this year is to learn how to put more narrative into my story just like you do - you really inspire me with your posts.

    It's so lovely to hear about your past, present and future ambitions. I've been self employed coming up to 10 years (a decade - where did it go?!) and I don't know anything else, I wouldn't even consider anything else. I too grew up with the notion of dabbling in writing a book but over they years found out my heart wasn't really in it, my blog is my next best thing. I think very rarely do we grow up to be what we intended and for most of us, that's probably good! But that's what I love about life, nothing is set in stone, everything is here for you to try. Who says you've to stick to one thing?

    I can never imagine quitting writing - especially for myself. I am in a period of change where my eye is wandering and I've stumbled upon something which is so scary but thrilling that I've put it down on my to do list, this year as the start. That said, writing and my marketing interest will play a big part!

    I guess the aim of the game is to collect the skills useful for the bigger picture and we'll end up picking them up from the most unlikely of places. I find myself in situations sometimes that make me second guess and suddenly a little voice says 'HEY CHELSEA, there's a lesson in this somewhere, grab a pen... '

    I love Cornwall so much, can't wait to visit again. Come and visit me soon! :)

    Chelsea xxx


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