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2019: the year in review

With my first full year of business complete, it's time to take stock. Here are some  highlights from a fun-packed 2019

January to March

For a photographer who shoots predominantly outdoors, these tend to be the quietest months: a time to visit trade shows, plan the year, and catch up on office-based work.

The colder weather may be a deterrent for families seeking outdoor photographs, but it's no obstacle for newborn babies who are snuggled indoors safe and warm. And so, my first shoot of 2019 was for a family who had just welcomed a new baby boy.

February saw a blanket of thick snow settle on the Somerset countryside, with many roads impassable and the village school closed. I decided to offer a community photo shoot  to families within walking distance. The atmosphere was brilliant, with sledging, snowballs and laughter galore.

In March, I travelled to the NEC to attend the Photography Show. It's a huge event that attracts exhibitors from all over the world: the perfect chance to talk to new and existing suppliers, try out new equipment, and learn from speakers at the very top of their game.

Towards the end of the quarter, I started working with John Wainwright & Co Ltd - a basalt quarry based in the Mendips. This was to be the first of three visits I made to the quarry in 2019 to carry out commercial photography for the company's newsletter, website and Annual Report.

Natural newborn photographs, by Somerset newborn photographer Sarah Gibson
Newborn photography - January 2019
Photographs of families playing in the snow, by Somerset family photographer Sarah Gibson
Community snow shoot - February 2019
Commercial photography at Wainwright quarry, by Somerset photographer Sarah Gibson
Commercial photography at John Wainwright & Co Ltd - March, July and November 2019

April to June

The arrival of spring heralded the start of a busier period for outdoor family photo shoots. I found a gem of a location with open glades, willow arches and an abundance of beautiful spring flowers – and I was delighted to be granted permission by the landowner to shoot there.

In April, I made the decision to branch out into dog photography. Although I'd photographed dogs on an informal basis for friends and family, I wanted to build my pet portfolio. So I put out a model call - and had an excellent response. Once I'd finished these photo shoots, I realised I was hooked, and resolved to make pet photography a new part of my business.

May saw me travelling to Sherborne in Dorset to photograph the Old Girls' Day at Sherborne Girls. The event included a drinks reception, a music recital, a room-unveiling ceremony and Evensong in the beautiful Sherborne Abbey. You can view some of the photos from the event here.

In June, I received some brilliant news. Forestry England granted me an annual licence to use their nearby forests for outdoor photo shoots, complete with a key to gain vehicular access to their local network of tracks. In return I cover some events for them, and have turned my hand to a bit of landscape photography (a great excuse to teach myself some new skills).

June was also the month that I discovered the incredible wildflower meadows at Stogumber, planted by philanthropic farmer Ken Sellick. I'm planning at least one return visit this year, and urge you to go and see this stunning West Country landmark, too. 

Perhaps the biggest highlight of this quarter was photographing the children at Little Boots Day Nursery. The location and ethos of this setting make it perfectly suited to my style of photography. I spent a week in my element, capturing 60 children outdoors in theirs.

Spring family photos, by Somerset photographer Sarah Gibson
Family photos - Spring 2019
Photographs of dogs playing outdoors, by Somerset pet photographer Sarah Gibson
Dog photo shoots - Spring 2019
Children playing outdoors - nursery photography by Somerset photographer Sarah Gibson
Outdoor nursery photographs - June 2019
Photographs of children among Stogumber wildflowers, by Somerset family photographer Sarah Gibson
Visiting the wildflower fields - June 2019

July to September

July saw me carry out a pet photo shoot for Obie: a Doberman who had been diagnosed with a terminal heart defect at only three years old. Just a couple of months later, Obie passed away: a reminder of the importance of capturing what matters to us when we get the chance.

I also returned to Little Boots, but this time to photograph their summer holiday club for school-aged children. Once again, I had an incredible time accompanying the children on all of their outdoor adventures. Highlights included fossil-hunting in the river, den-building in the woods, and building bows and arrows out of sticks.

In August, I photographed an event hosted by Forestry England at its Trinity Hill site near Axminster. Organised as part of its 'Tributes to Trees' centenary project, the day involved creative writing workshops, craft activities, and a visit from Gail McGarva and her beautiful Story Boat, Vera. You can read more about the event in this blog.

The latter part of August was spent on our summer holidays in Dorset. We visited the Isle of Purbeck, where the National Trust owns a lot of land... and this gave me an idea. Each year, the National Trust hosts a competition to find a photograph to feature on the cover of its handbook. I decided, for the first time, to have a stab at entering – so I took some photographs, emailed them off, and thought nothing more about it...

Photographs of doberman in fields, by Somerset per photogrpher Sarah Gibson
Obie - July 2019
Photographs from Forestry England event in Axminster, Devon. Taken by Somerset Photographer Sarah Gibson
'Tributes to Trees' event at Trinity Hill, Axminster - August 2019

October to December

October brought with it rich autumn colours and soft, warm light: the perfect conditions for portrait photography. So I carried out some family photo shoots - a selection of photographs from which you can see below.

I also travelled to Surrey to attend a two-day masterclass hosted by my pet photography hero, Dutch photographer Haron Haghuis. Of all of the high points of my year, this comes near the top. Haron was hugely generous with the skills and knowledge he shared, and I feel so excited about putting it all into practice.

With the arrival of November came the news that, out of thousands of entries, two of my submitted images had reached the final 15 in the National Trust competition. To say that I was delighted is an understatement - especially when I saw my photographs appearing on the pages of national publications such as The Daily Mail and Country Life.

In November I was invited to photograph a centenary tree-planting ceremony for Forestry England, and carried out some product photography for a friend who's launching a new business. Some photos from the tree-planting ceremony are below, but the product images remain under wraps... for now!

My final highlight of the year was getting involved in a travelling photo project, organised by a group of fellow professional and amateur photographers. The idea was that we would all take an object (in this case, a Santa hat), and photograph it in line with our style and vision. The project was great fun to take part in and planted the seed of an idea for some festive mini-shoots next year.

On that note, it's time for me to get back to my planning for 2020. Thank you for all of your support this year, which has come thick and fast from all directions. Here's hoping that this year is as enjoyable as the last!

Autumn family photographs, by Somerset family photographer Sarah Gibson
Family photo shoots - Autumn 2019
Photographs of dogs in woodland, by Somerset pet photographer Sarah Gibson
Dog photography masterclass - October 2019
Children playing on Studland Beach, Dorset. By Somerset family photographer Sarah Gibson.
Images shortlisted in the 2020 National Trust Handbook competition
Centenary tree planting at Castle Neroche, Somerset. Taken by Somerset photographer Sarah Gibson
Forestry England centenary tree planting at Castle Neroche, Somerset - November 2019
Girls in forest, by Somerset family photographer Sarah Gibson
The Travelling Hat Project - December 2019

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