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Kat Payne

WorldNomads Travel Scholarship entry 2013

UNITED KINGDOM | Sunday, 13 January 2013 | Views [179]

I bought my first DSLR camera 3 years ago, a Canon 450D, and since then, we have had an ever-changing relationship. From the beginning it always accompanied me on various trips, enabling me to get better holiday snaps, but I knew I wasn’t using it to its full potential. I attended a couple of photography courses in my hometown, London, gradually getting more out of it, but I think the turning point for me and my passion for photography was a year ago.

I decided after 6 years working in digital marketing, I wanted to see more of the world, grow and develop as a person; learning and experiencing different cultures and meeting new people. I quit my job, moved out of my flat, said goodbye to friends and family and headed off with my trusty Canon. I made my way to Sangkhlaburi, a rural town in western Thailand, on the Burmese border, where I would call home for the next 4 months - spending my time volunteering; working with the local community on building projects, teaching English at the local school and helping out at an orphanage. The opportunity to work on my photography was huge, with amazing subjects and beautiful landscapes all around me. All the while immersing myself in a completely different culture, experiencing their way of life and the difficulties they face.

It was, without a doubt, the most life-changing (as clichéd as it sounds), emotional, eye-opening and fun 4 months of my life. It was here, in the sleepy town of Sangkhlaburi where my passion for photography really grew and my Canon and I became inseparable. With never-ending opportunities to take shots of smiling children, incredible scenery and happy locals, I began to think I wanted to make more of my photography. I love sharing my photos with people and it has been a rewarding way to raise awareness of this community and the problems they face on a daily basis; my photos from this period have been used on the charity’s (who I volunteered through) marketing material and website.

I returned to the UK for a few months, where I spent a lot of time going through all my photos and actually won The Times on Saturday Citizen Traveller competition in July; seeing my photo in a national newspaper was a huge thrill! However, in October I moved to Bangkok on a more permanent basis and I have been using it as a base ever since. I attended a photography course in Chiang Mai run by Flash Parker Photography, and after being the only person on the trip who expressed interest in taking my photography to a point where it could become a career, I spent the ensuing 3 days soaking up as much information and advice as possible. The course concentrated on learning different techniques, focusing on composition and visualising the image before shooting it, really concentrating on how to take a photo that would tell a story to the audience.

I got so much out of these few days and I came away determined to improve, practice and develop my portfolio. In the last 2 months I have been building my portfolio, travelling as much as my bank account will allow and sharing my work on Twitter and Facebook. My photography has become an obsession of mine, seeing things my peers don’t notice and working out in my head what settings I would use and how I would take the shot; constantly itching to make each better than the last. I am critical of my work and always look back through my photos assessing what I could have done to improve it, whether that is taking it from another angle or including additional elements within the frame to tell the viewer more of a story.

When I do get a shot I am happy with, the rush of adrenalin is like nothing else! I assisted on an assignment recently, shooting street food in Bangkok. The buzz I got from how hectic it all was, listening to exactly what the editor wanted from the photos and making sure we achieved it was incredible.

I am fully aware of how difficult travel photography is to break into, but I am also determined, passionate, focused and ambitious. I know this is the path I want to take with my career and I only hope I am lucky enough to make the right steps, learn from the right people and develop my skills enough to get there. This scholarship would be an unbelievable opportunity; to assist and be mentored by Jason, and learn first-hand from his experience and knowledge. With all of this happening in such an interesting and different culture, enabling me to see a country I have not visited before. In return, I would like to assure Jason, I would give the 8 days my absolute all and listen and learn as much as possible; hopefully assisting and helping him as much as he would teach me. 

Tags: jason edwards, travel photography, worldnomads scholarship

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