• Henry Szwinto

A Photographer in Lockdown

There is absolutely no doubt we live in crazy times. Whether you are a professional photographer, an enthusiast or a supplier like PermaJet, our world has been turned upside down. I have a relatively new business but it was growing. All my weddings were cancelled except one which was rearranged and significantly smaller. My portrait and commercial work has also suffered and like many small businesses the branches of the government’s magic money tree don’t seem to spread far enough. Many photographers have had to switch to alternative incomes and many enthusiasts have lost their camera club meetings and competitions, or they have not been able to travel to their favourite locations. How do we cope? How can we lift ourselves?


Here are some examples of the kind of photography I love to do and a photo I was inspired to compose when my moral hit rock bottom. The very process of depicting how I felt was like an alcoholic recognising they had a drink problem. That is when you are able to do something about it.


Photography before lockdown


I love working with people. I am very proud of some of my landscapes and my wildlife photos but they never make people cry, except maybe the occasional judge at a club competition. In contrast the success of some of my wedding work and portraits can be measured with tears. More of my portraits are Christmas presents than my landscapes. I also love the interaction with people and that makes the whole project more rewarding. So my first photo is called “Getting Carried Away” and it came from a fun family photo shoot that I did at my home where I also have a small studio. Your clients need to be keen to do a shoot like this but it can be great fun. We managed several composites over the space of an afternoon shooting (with hours of editing to follow) and the family loved it.



I also love excellence in any discipline. This is why I ended up doing a couple of photo shoots with a young international modern pentathlete. As I got to know her (and also from my own experience as a top level hockey player and marathon runner) I felt that there was a bit of turmoil inside so I came up with the idea for “Inner Conflict”. If you cannot learn to defeat your own inner demons then how can you hope to beat your opposition? This image looks great on a matt paper like PermaJet Portrait Rag 285 and has done well for me in competitions but few people, including judges, realise this is a composite and she is fighting against herself even though the title is “Inner Conflict”. If people can’t work it out then that is a very welcome compliment for my editing.



Regarding excellence, I love a top athlete and if that athlete happens to be a horse then you have a magnificent subject. Many people are content with photographing horses in a yard but I want to try and do it the same way I would if it was Mohamed Ali that turned up for a shoot. Surely you would want to get them in the studio or at least show them off at their very best. This is how I approach my equine photography and this is how I got the photo “Semoto”.




I am lucky enough to live in the New Forest and Wildlife is close to my heart. I designed and built our own house here (with most of the building work done myself) and at the same time over 35 years we have developed a superb wildlife garden. On our doorstep we have Pennington Marshes where I took my next photo “Fishing for Prawns”. This is a frustrating photo in competitions because people don’t believe it is real. I even saw a judge turn my print through 90 degrees and say “I wonder if it looks better that way round”. I love it when the terns arrive in spring and often go down when the wind is flat calm because I always feel a reflection can only add to a photo when water is concerned. I saw this tern fishing in an unusual way and rather than diving it was swooping and plucking food from near the surface. The erratic flight behaviour was pretty hard to track with a telephoto lens but I started to get the hang of it and managed to get a half decent photo but, as always, I felt I could do better. We had a spell of really quiet weather so I came down 5 days in a row at 4.30. a.m. so I could shoot at dawn. I managed to get plenty of good photos of all kinds of birds but finally this was my photo. I don’t mind if a judge can’t work it out. I do mind if people think it’s a composite but regardless I know what it took to get the photo and that is my own reward. I guess this image more than any other (and I certainly understood this with my marathon running) reminds me that when I enter competitions I’m not really looking to beat other people. In fact I am competing against myself. Maybe that is my own “Inner Demon”.




Away from the coast we have the New Forest with adders, silver studded blues, nightjars, orchids, fungi and many other lovely inhabitants but of course we have the deer. The red deer in particular are wonderful and if you show them respect and are gentle in your behaviour they can be very tolerant and you can get some great shots. Many of the deer are recognisable as individuals and the dominant stags all have names. For me this is not the same as photographing deer in a Royal Park. It’s much harder to get near and to come away with no photos often doesn’t matter. “Four Friends” is one of my favourite red deer photos and it looks superb on PermaJet Titanium Lustre.



A photographer in lockdown


Much of what I have shown above has been very difficult during lockdown. It’s not just the travel restrictions or the inability to meet up with people that causes problems. The stress of lost business and going stir crazy as well as the reduction in club meetings and competitions means it can be very hard to think creatively. I expect many photographers have found it hard to pick up a camera at all. I think I recognised I was at a pretty low ebb and that is what made me produce my last photo, “A Photographer in Lockdown”. I don’t want to explain it to you because I think many of you will identify with different aspects of the image and it’s what you see in the image that is important. What I will say is that each component has a meaning to me and I don’t expect that to apply to yourself. Am I being negative? Before you make up your mind, bear in mind this is a starting point for me and I see a time of recovery ahead for all of us.



If you would like some insight into how “A Photographer in Lockdown” was produced please look out for my next article on PermaJet’s Blog.





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