Hi I’m Sarah, often known online as Toonsarah. People tend to assume that ‘toon’ has something to do with cartoons, but it’s not, so let’s deal with the name first. Although I’m a Londoner by birth, and have lived in that city almost all my life, my husband is from Newcastle upon Tyne in north east England, a city called the ‘toon’ (that is ‘town’) in the local Geordie dialect. I consider Newcastle something of a second home because of our numerous visits, and have become a keen supporter of the local football team, Newcastle United.
Five at Five Questions
- When and how did you start on your photographic journey?
I wrote about my photography journey a while back for the Lens Artists Challenge. Here are some extracts (you can read the full post here: https://www.toonsarah-travels.blog/my-photography-journey-more-than-fifty-years-of-images/)
I got my first camera when I was nine years old, a gift from my parents. It was a Kodak Brownie Vecta, a simple box camera. The first photos I took were at the model village in Eastbourne, which we used to visit regularly while staying with relatives there. I remember well Dad saying that I had a good eye. I think he simply meant that my shots were in focus and quite neatly composed; but his praise stuck with me and I was hooked. Most of my photos were taken on family holidays and were really just snapshots. But I can see looking back through them that I was starting to develop a sense of location, posing family members against interesting or significant backgrounds. I still have my first photo album and I note that I took so few photos that it lasted me five years!
Seeing my enthusiasm, a few years later my parents gave me my first 35 mm camera, a cheap ‘auto everything’ one from Boots. I started shooting colour slides; looking back through some of my early ones I find a mix of family snapshots and attempts at something more creative.
I progressed to using SLR cameras, but when I transitioned to digital I decided not to go down that route as I was finding it increasingly tiring carrying a lot of equipment that I used only occasionally. So today I use a bridge camera and find that the perfect compromise.
- What subject do you like photographing the most?
My other passion is travel and therefore of course travel photography. But I don’t have a single favourite subject, it depends on the place I’m visiting. I like to create a sense of the destination in my photos so I focus (pun intended) on subjects that reflect its various qualities and highlights. That means wildlife on a safari of course, landscapes in the desert or among mountains, and street photography in cities. Those are probably my favourites, but I also enjoy taking macro flower shots and architecture, especially details (doors, windows, decorative touches). The one genre I never do is studio work and formal portraiture.
- Have you been influenced by other photographers, if so by whom and why? If not, who is your favourite photographer?
I’m definitely influenced by others. We love to visit photography exhibitions in London and do so frequently – sometimes small shows by a single unknown (to us) photographer in a private gallery, sometimes much bigger exhibitions such as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Travel Photographer of the Year etc. We are lucky to have the excellent Photographer’s Gallery in central London too. But I can be equally influenced by a striking image by a fellow blogger or a friend on Facebook. I ask myself how they achieved it, could I do something similar?
My favourite famous photographers include Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier Bresson, Walker Evans, André Kertész and Sebastião Salgado. A friend recently gave us the latter’s huge ‘Genesis’ book – amazing!
- What is the go-to camera equipment that you use regularly and what software do you use to process your images?
My main camera is a Panasonic Lumix bridge camera, the DMC-FZ200. I love using it, it’s the perfect compromise for me between a heavy DSLR (I just can’t be bothered carrying a load of equipment around these days) and too-simple point and shoot. But it needs replacing as the lens is sticking and unfortunately it’s been discontinued. I’m tossing up between a couple of different Lumix options, but I won’t be deserting the brand as I’m very happy with the results I get. I also use a small Lumix TZ70 point and shoot when I want a camera I can slip in my handbag, and occasionally my Samsung Galaxy phone.
For editing I mainly use Photoshop Elements and the Nik Efex plug-ins. I love Silver Efex Pro for B&W conversion and Color Efex Pro for creative editing. I recently bought Luminar Neo as a one-off purchase but I’m still getting to grips with it and I think it will always be one I turn to for specific needs rather than my main go-to editing software.
- What is your favourite method of processing an image? (i.e., colour, monochrome, saturated, dreamy look etc)
This one’s hard to answer as it depends a lot on the subject matter. I often use monochrome for street photos … but not always. I like to create quite a punchy saturated image … but I sometimes go for soft and high key. One look I do like is what I call ‘colour monochrome’ – a single colour across the whole image but not black and white. Basically, I just enjoy fiddling until I create an image that I like and hope others will too!
Thank you, Sarah, for participating in the Five at Five Introduction Series.
Next Week’s Intro is Nora Leonard of Norasphotos4u