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Leon, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is in the midst of a national crisis. The people have taken to the streets to angrly voice their disapproval of the current president, Daniel Ortega. From mass protests to burnt out buildings and looting, a majority of the Nicaraguan population are prepared to do all they can in order to get Ortega to step down.  As talks continue, tensions are rising, with pro Ortega camps now coming out in force to display their approval for the man that has been at the helm for over a decade. For those that remember the civil war that plagued the nation back in the 70s, some fear history could soon be repeating itself.

As both a tourist and a photographer, it has been a strange experience to find myself caught up in the middle of such civil unrest.  My experience has been mixed thus far, from not being able to detect there was any problem at all, to being barricaded in a shopping centre for 3 hours due to the protests taking place in the streets.

"Reportedly there has already been in the region of 50 deaths. If my photos are not making a difference - then I should not be taking them".

It’s in moments like this that you soon realise what kind of photographer you are. For some, being amongst the demonstrations, violence and energy of the local people would be a gold mine for them to make some exceptionally meaningful images. For me however, I have opted to stay away from the trouble (unless it finds me). I am not a photojournalist, and even if I wanted to give it a go, there are plenty of far more qualified and talented photographers already filling that role. Furthermore, as a street photographer, this should not be an opportunity to get some “good photos”. The people are struggling here. Reportedly there has already been in the region of 50 deaths. If my photos are not making a difference - then I should not be taking them.

Instead I have been documenting the beautiful aspect of this country, something that is certainly in abundance.

So far I have visited two amazing, cool towns; Leon and Granada. The former boasts some terrific baroque and neoclassical architecture, whilst the latter is able to show off the colours and detail of a Spanish colonial town.  

Leon, Nicaragua.

In terms of being a tourist with a camera my experience has overall been positive. The local people seem more than comfortable with having a camera pointed in their direction, with some even eager to pose without encouragement (which can be a bad thing when you want those candid moments!). The only negative about the two towns is that some people can be quite reserved. They are both built on wealth, so whilst I have no concerns about my camera being stolen, I have had a few “holier than thou” looks come my way. 

Travel throughout Nicaragua

Getting around has been simple enough. I have been using a mixture of public transport, tuk tuks and taxis.  However due to the protests, travelling from Leon to Granada was not without its complications. What should have been no more than a 3 hour journey, ended up taking 24 hours including a stay over in the countries capital, Managua. On 15th May protests had reignited and many of the roads leading to Granada has been barricaded, leaving many forms of transport shut down. Using a mixture of arson and intimidation with weapons, the message of the population was simple - if you make it difficult for us, we will make it difficult for you.

I was lucky to befriend a local taxi driver who was able to take me to a nearby hotel in the city. We agreed to meet early the following morning to see if access to Granada had been reinstated. We were able to get to the town the next day almost without any altercation. At one roundabout however, we were stopped by a group of protesters who were wearing balaclavas and carrying baseball bats. The driver explained that I was a tourist and they were happy to let us go through. Whilst initially quite scary, the men seemed reasonable, clearly demonstrating it was not me who was the enemy they were fighting against.

Struggling with privilege

Granada, Nicaragua.

As a white western man with money (not much, but far more in comparison), I am seen as a benefit to Nicaragua. I am part of a group of tourists who are prepared to boost the economy and drive business for the natives at a crucial time. In result of this, it has become somewhat of an unspoken rule that people like me are to be protected whilst the nation goes through such a challenging period. Naturally, I am not complaining that my status is keeping me safe, but whilst businesses, homes and lives are being lost - I do feel somewhat uncomfortable with the privilege I have. This is not my country. I will spend no more than 12 days here, yet I am being treated with a superiority in comparison to those that have built a life here and contributed far more than I ever will. It is a strange position to be in.

What’s next?

Granada, Nicaragua.

I have 7 more days left in Nicaragua before I leave for Costa Rica. The message is that it will be less complicated the further south I travel. Aside from the issues this really is a beautiful country and somewhere I am glad I have visited whilst travelling Central America. I am also happy with the content I have been able to create whilst being here.

I will be sad to leave, however the experience I have had will always stay with me. I will certainly be keeping a watchful eye on the developments of the current conflict. Hopefully things will be resolved soon and the nation can be restored to what it truly is - beautiful Nicaragua.

 

 

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“Get yourself a comfortable pair of shoes”

That was one of the first things I learnt when I started to practise street photography. It was for good reason, as for anyone reading this knows that street photography involves an intense amount of walking. What the teaching also did however, was implant in my brain that street photography was all about the hunt - something I have discovered can have a negative impact on your work.

Pre-shoot checklist 

Charged battery - check.
Clean SD cards - check.
50mm - check.
Bottle of water - check.
Snickers - check.
Google Maps - check.
Correct attire to fit weather conditions - check.

As soon as all is cleared I leave my home, travel to my starting point and begin the hunt. It is usually from this point that I begin walking, only stopping to take a shot, for the next 5-6 hours. An issue that started to develop from this hunt mentality is that I became increasingly frustrated when I did not find something to catch. Endless amounts of walking would lead to fatigue, my eye would become lazy and in act of desperation I would return home with a low quality shot, trying to convince myself it had some worth.

Then one evening whilst thinking of the frustration that had developed and what I could do to overcome it, I had a thought - Why do I always have to go to the shots when I can let the shots come to me?

This initially went against all my street photography instinct. Part of the excitement of having a day filled with shooting is the exploration. But what if this was having a negative impact on my work? I then started to think about all the shots that went by me as I walked the streets looking for an interesting frame. I cannot shoot what I did not see.

I decided to put my new way of thinking into practise. Instead of walking miles on end, I would remain on one block for the full duration of my session. I thought that deciding to slow the train down if you will, will make my eye more accurate. It would make my mind think more and my decision to take the shot more calculated.

Here is an example of my new approach…

Leon, Nicaragua 

Had I been whisking through the streets my eye would likely have seen - nice coloured wall/woman sweeping. I would have either taken a bland shot or not talking one at all. However, being stood on the path stationary, I waited to see if the scene came to me. Being more observant allowed me to spot the woman in the pink walking towards my frame. Thankfully just as she was approaching, the pigeon landed in the street, so I decided to use the woman as a frame within the frame - giving the image more depth. Thankfully all the colours merged well together and overall I feel  this became a stronger shot.

The drug of the hunt

The hunt approach to me is honestly like a drug. The feeling of euphoria one gets when putting in the leg time and getting a great shot because of it, is honestly one of the big reasons I feel keeps most people hooked to this art form. I will never walk away from that, but it will no longer be the sole idea of what I think street photography should be.

If you are going through a rough patch with your street photography and feel like you are wasting countless hours and miles, then try this approach for yourself. Slowing down, scoping the scene and being patient will make you more present whilst making your work. Like me, you may also feel a lot less pressure to succeed.

Hunting is great - but you don’t always have to go and get your dinner - sometimes you can let your dinner come to you.

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© Jose Alonso

Part of truly experiencing travel through Central America, is taking a ride on a chicken bus. Often old beat up North American school buses, chicken buses are a cheap method of travel, but they are usually a challenge. Overcrowded, and driven by someone with a death wish, the chicken bus isn’t for everyone. Of course, with the large quantity of people crammed into the vehicles, it is a great opportunity for those with something to sell to make some money. The diversity of products that come through the buses are intriguing to say the least. Here are some of the more unforgettable items that have come my way so far.

Bus Clowns

© Uriel Soberanes

Clowns are something you would expect to find at a children's party. This is certainly not the case in Central America. At any given stop you may find a man dressed like a clown jump on the bus and give the passengers a 5 minute show with the intention to make you laugh. As soon as they have finished their set, they will walk down the aisle ready to take your money as a sign of appreciation for the quality of their humour.

Underwear

Whether you need a few pairs of socks, a new bra or some tighty whities, the sellers on the bus have got it covered. On one journey (only 20 minutes in length) we encountered 4 different underwear specialists come on board and show you their wide range of underwear and lingerie.

Aspirin

You know that feeling of having a headache only to go through your bag and realise you left your aspirin at home? Well in El Salvador you will be able to find a man who looks less trustworthy than a crack dealer come and sell you a huge box of aspirin for only $1. What goes into their magic tablets and the legitimacy of their effectiveness, only they will know - purchase at your own risk!

Condoms

One bus journey, many years ago, a man must have witnessed something truly eye opening. Someone who was on their way to see a lover must have realised mid journey they had forgotten to bring a condom. In result of their realisation, they stood up and cried “has anyone got a condom I can buy!?”. From that moment the man who witnessed this ordeal saw a gap in the market and realised a lot of money could be made from selling condoms on chicken buses. Because if that did not happen why the hell are people bringing huge sheets of unboxed condoms onto a bus? Alas both times I saw the latex protection up for sale, nobody was prepared to purchase them.

The Angry Mango Man

The story behind the angry mango man is patchy at best, mainly because of my limited understanding of the Spanish language. I am almost sure I heard him say the word mango and I am absolutely certain he was angry, what with all the shouting he was displaying. Once his anger infested speech came to an end he asked the passengers for money. What ever his story was it worked, he had a lot of people putting their hand in their pocket to show both their understanding and appreciation for the angry mango man anecdote.

Toothbrush

© Alex

I imagine we have all had that moment where we stop to think that our teeth are feeling a little bit furry. We take a moment to rethink the steps of our morning; moving through getting up, to breakfast, to leaving the house. Our heart quickly sinks and our jaw drops - “I haven’t brush my teeth today!”. Don't worry, the toothbrush guy on the chicken bus is hear to save the day. He will even give you a 3 minute presentation as to why buying a toothbrush from him is a far better choice than buying it elsewhere.

Parasite Man

Thinking of getting some specialist information on how to eradicate both the symptoms and route cause of your parasite problems? Forget a doctor or gut expert, just get 20 cent and jump on a bus in Central America. Whilst there you will be able to find Central America’s very own Del Boy Trotter. He will spend 10 minutes giving you a presentation (with pictures) of why his magic product will cure you of all the damage that your parasite is doing to you, both inside and outside. If you are unsure about if you should purchase his life changing health product, he will give you a little sample to take there and then in the hope that you make a purchase.

****

Who knows what other fantastic and questionable products I will have the opportunity to purchase along my travels. I can assure you if they are worth sticking in the mind then you will be the first to read about it.

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Tulum, Mexico.

Yesterday I was walking with my camera around the Island of Utila, a Bay Island belonging Honduras. It was a glorious day filled with sunshine, cool air and the vibrant  laid back atmosphere that is so often linked to island living. With my camera in hand I thought to myself that I could do this everyday (which currently, I am). I then started to think about what motivates me to do street photography, and more so, what motivates me to create my best work.

The answer is not as straightforward as I initially thought it would be. My instinct told me that my love for the art, the people and the story telling was clearly going to be my motivation. It’s certainly why I enjoy it so much, but sometimes those three entities are not always enough to get me from my couch to the streets. My mind started to explore different, deeper, elements that contributed to this craft being such an influential part of my life.

Aside from the three components aforementioned, the other motivators included; self therapy, exercise, colleague validation, a desire to be accepted, money.

Self Therapy

I have written in my both my articles on my site and those published elsewhere, that I am a person who lives with anxiety. From obsessive thoughts to deepened worry, anxiety is something that has developed in my mind over the years. Previously I would be someone who “suffered from anxiety”. Today I use the term “lives with” as I have been able to develop ways of coping in order to ensure I don’t allow anxiety to take control over my life. Part of those coping mechanisms is street photography. Being out on the streets keeps my mind concentrated and makes me feel a sense of freedom. The combination of a camera in my hand and the discovery through exploration helps eradicate the symptoms that anxiety has brought me over the years.

Exercise

As many of you will be already aware, street photography can involve an insane amount of walking. Personally I have walked non stop all day, sometimes to the point my muscles start to cramp. Of course any form of exercise will have a positive affect on both body and mind. For me street photography allows the exercise to take place without being fully aware it is happening. By that I mean if you’re in the gym for one hour then you know why you are there. To pump iron, burn fat and drop down and give it 50. The exercise is at the forefront of the activity, something which I find can put me off going to the gym. When on the street the priority is the content, allowing my brain to give that my main focus and my body being able to get the benefits.

Colleague Validation

Ataco, El Salvador 

I consider anyone who is serious about street photography to be a colleague. Like any field some people are interns, others reliable employees, and a small group have earned the right to be considered top executives at the the world of Street Photography Towers. Everyone has their place and everyone's contribution and thought process is as important as the other. That is why when I have a shot and those within the bubble validate that, I get a great sense of pride and euphoria. The feeling motivates me to want to get that feeling again (if you are getting that feeling with every shot you take - you’re being lied to), thus meaning I’m out on the streets trying to get the best work I can.

A desire to be recognised

Anyone who creates content, puts it on the internet, enters it into competitions or promotes it through other avenues, is doing it through a quest for recognition. Where this desire stems from is different from person to person and is a topic that could be explored deeper in a future post. Recognition is similar to colleague validation, however from my perspective I see it to be a more deeper, consistent level of validation. In the future I would love to be a go-to person who had firmly cemented themselves within the upper quarters of their field. Firstly, it is a clear sign that I have worked hard and been able to get the benefits from doing so. Secondly, and more importantly, it means I will have an artistic voice that carries value, a voice that people can trust. Having that recognition would be very important to me. The desire for this pushes me to get out and make my errors and failures, because I know I will only learn from them - pushing me closer to be goals.

Money

In any art form, money can sometimes be a dirty word. Often seen as a way of selling out, purists can be bullish in their suggestion that you should only do it for the love of the art. It sounds lovely, but there is really nothing wrong with combing your passion with the financial demands of society. Now in a street photography sense, you will never be rich. The day dream of “if only someone paid me to freely roam the streets as I please everyday” will in the most part remain just that. It is however, realistic that you can source a form of income from street photography. The likes of Eric Kim and Daniel Arnold have been able to forge careers through their love of street photography. If they can do it then those who have a similar desire can do it also*. Personally I have made the odd bit of money from selling prints and from entering local competitions. This does have an impact on getting out on the streets and thinking deeper about the work I produce.

*Both Eric and Daniel have worked extremely hard to get to the place that they are at. If you do want to experience their level of success then do not expect do so without the same level of dedication both these great creators have had to display.

What motivates you?

I have wanted to explore my motivations in the hope it can help you get your brain thinking about what motivates you. The reason I feel it is important to connect with your key motivators, is because it can help you push harder, more so in those times when you are feeling deflated. Reminding yourself why and what gets you out in the streets can be the difference between you having a Netflix binge (which isn’t always a bad thing) and getting out and creating great work like you originally told yourself you were going to do.

Please, do let me know your motivations and if you found this article useful. You can contact me here - Contact Dan.

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Photo by Oziel Gómez

Traveling is the most amazing experience. Traveling with someone you love makes the journey even more special. You’re able to share both those once in a lifetime moments and the stories you will be able to tell for many years to come. It is perfect - well, almost…

Away from the eye catching social media posts that are accompanied with cringe worthy captions such as “omg I’m having such a super duper fun time with my girlfriend omg”, traveling with someone whom you are so close to can be tough, and at times, extremely challenging.  

Going on the trip of lifetime with someone you are in an intimate relationship with is different from going with friends for example, as with the latter there is less pressure for things to go perfectly well. With a partner you build up this almost Disney like fantasy of how things will be, or more dangerously, how things should be.

Think about it, in everyday life are you constantly in the pocket of your loved one? You go to different jobs, you have your groups of friends, there is always an escape. That isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, when you are traveling you have nobody else, you don’t have jobs to go to - you are there, both of you 24/7.

You are trying to manage two different temperaments in stressful situations. It can be easy for the other person to become the first and only option to vent your frustrations towards, even if it isn’t directly related to them. We all have off days. Days where we don’t feel like talking or we are tired and irritable. It’s those days, if not handled correctly, that bust ups can happen.

The reality is it won’t be all love and romance when you are traveling for extended periods of time. The best way to manage that is to accept it and own it. It’s not like the movies, you won’t always be this amazing person that your partner constantly wants to be in the company of, and you will both make mistakes.

If you are thinking of going traveling with a partner or you currently are and having some conflict, here are some tips that have been working during our trip.

****

1 - Go solo from time to time

There is a natural tendency to want to do anything and everything together. But does it have to be that way? Why not when your partner wants to do something you are not fully invested in, can’t you just go away and do your own thing? The answer is you can. Taking time to have your own space and enjoy your own things allows you to miss the other person and it also creates fresh and stimulating conversation. Personally, there is nothing more attractive about a relationship than two people that can take time apart from each other and then regroup.

2 - Play to each others strengths

You will soon learn whilst you’re away that both of you excel at different things. One of you will speak a foreign language, whilst one of you may be able to navigate your way around much better. Instead of feeling like you should share responsibility of everything equally, accept it is better to play at each others strengths and cut the other person some slack at the same time. Having this mindset will alleviate any frustration and get you both working effectively as a team.

3 - Don’t argue before breakfast or before bed

Most of us cannot function before our first meal of the day, and we are less likely to be rational when we are tired and ready for bed. Some of the most toxic arguments happen during these times and they tend to escalate for no good reason whatsoever. Instead, leave your frustrations to a time where you are both in a better frame of mind. Shouting matches are just a symptom of the conflict, handling it through conversation at the right time will resolve it much quicker and have far less emotional damage.

4 - Don’t walk around aimlessly for food

When you are traveling it is very important that you ensure your basic human needs are met. This includes having energy through food and water. You won’t always have the privilege of being able to plan your next meal effectively, and you will find yourself needing to pick something up on the go. At these times, it is vital you are not picky or indecisive. If you both fancy different things then it is better to take care of yourself as soon as you can. Making choices when hungry is hard, when two people are hungry it is even harder. Hunger can turn to “hanger” and before you know it you are having a pointless argument about absolutely nothing of significance.

5 - Be grateful

Being grateful is for me the most important step you can take to ensuring things go as smooth as possible when traveling with your partner. Remember, what you’re both doing is absolutely magical. Being able to up sticks and go see the world is one of the best things you will do in your lifetime. On top of that, finding someone who wants to be close to you and share all of that with you is something you absolutely should be grateful for. Remember that and use it as a stepping stone to making your relationship deeper and more secure.

One of our many happy moments. Caye Caulker, Belize

The post is not to shed light on the doom and gloom of relationship traveling. However it is intended to give you an honest perspective and tell you that the Hollywood esque experience is hardly likely to happen. The good news is 99% of the time you will have the most amazing journey and be glad you are away with the person you love. However during that 1% when things aren’t so glossy, do ensure you do all you can to handle it in the best possible way.

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Last week I read an article by the wonderful street photographer Elizabeth Grey, in which she asked the question; Do female street photographers see differently?

Female street photography is on the rise, with more and more organisations representing the excellent high standard of street photography that women are bringing to the table. With the conversation of female representation ever growing, it is natural that someone should make a comparison on the potential differences men and women have in relation to how they see a frame that they are shooting.

Here is what Elizabeth had to say about her question in the piece.

“So do I see things differently? Sometimes I think I capture the world from a softer perspective than a man. I am always looking for expressions and emotions. Motherhood may have helped me become more in tune with subtle nuances in people’s gestures. I don’t intentionally try to capture sexy images of people unless they tell a story.”

© Elizabeth Grey

Whilst it is a good question, and a thoughtful answer, realistically there is not enough information presented to really establish a clear outcome as to whether or not woman see the world differently to men in regards to street photography. However I would argue that having a softer perspective and being able recognise the emotions of others is not exclusive to gender, and is more likely related to our unique life experiences and how we empathise with others.

Many avenues of life give you your eye.. and there are too many variables to generalise. Our socioeconomic backgrounds, the relationships we have with our family, the behavioural traits we have as individuals and how we identify. All these things and more shape who we are and the way we shoot.

If you look at the work of Robert Frank, his images were full of empathy and had a gentle touch to them. From photographs of children, couples embracing and racial tension - he really had the ability to hold you to an image and make you feel. Just take a look at his work in Paris - Robert Frank, Paris

My thoughts

In terms of my answer to the question, my instincts would say that no gender does not make us see differently as street photographers. Of course as one group we do have a wide range of eyes and a variable amount of ways that we all tell stories through our work. However, I feel our gender does not play as much of part as does our life experience - which is extremely complex in comparison to what sex we were born.

I’m glad the question has been asked though. It created an excellent conversation amongst a section of the street photography community, which for me is always a positive thing. And whichever side you are on, right now neither can be fully sure of the answer.

© Elizabeth Grey

So, how could we get the answer?

Discussing the topic with my girlfriend, who has a degree in psychology, she came up with this suggestion…

“You could get a collection of photographs, half taken by male street photographers and the other half by female. Put together a large group of people and present the images to them, without disclosing the gender of the photographer, and ask them if they thought the image was taken by a male or a female. You can then analyse the data and look for trends. This way you would be closer to getting an answer”.

So, Elizabeth what do you say? Fancy working on this together so we can show the street photography world the answer? I’m game if you are.

One thing we can all agree on at this stage, no matter if you’re female or male - from both genders there is some quality work being put out there which puts the field in an extremely healthy place.

****

To see more work from Elizabeth, be sure to visit her website - https://photographybyelizabethgray.com 

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I’m currently in Santa Ana, El Salvador. It is a picturesque town located in the west side of the country. The town itself is full of colour, variety and heavy footfall - especially in and around Parque Colon, where the locals gather each day to relax and enjoy time with friends. All of this on paper reads as though it is the perfect place for a street photographer. So why do I find myself having a hard time getting out and getting some shots in?

Hard to be a Ninja

With or without a camera I stand out like a sore thumb. So far, I am one of a very few white males circulating the town, which has meant that my appearance immediately draws the eyes of the local people. Combine that with having a camera and pointing it in the direction of others, it becomes pretty hard to go in an out of the streets unnoticed - no matter how subtle I am trying to be.

The reason I am one of the few white males in Santa Ana is because not many people from the US and Europe travel here. Unfortunately El Salvador has a representation for being an extremely dangerous place to be. It has high crime rates and is currently dealing with a major issue with homicidal related crimes. My experience so far has been pleasant as the locals do seem friendly. However it is hard to let all the warnings about the country slip out of your mind, and in result I cannot fully relax into my street walks.

Due to the high crime rates, the streets are filled with police and security who are carrying firearms. Just to highlight the extent of the situation; if you were to go to Pollo Campero to get some fried chicken, you can be sure that the door will be opened by a security guard who is carrying a pistol in his waist side.

This kind of culture is alien to me. In England you know when you see law enforcement with a gun then something serious has gone down, not that someone has potentially made a fuss over a bargain bucket.

Struggling to shoot the poor

El Salvador is a poor country. It is a completely different world to the one I know back home in London. The streets a filled with hundreds of people doing all they can to make a dollar or two. Then here I am, this white British guy who has been able to travel the world, all whilst having a nice big full frame camera in his hand - a luxury not so accessible to the people of Santa Ana. There is a mental block in my mind. It tells me I have no right to make these people, many of whom are in a level of poverty that I will never experience, the highlight of my frames. I’m certainly carrying an element of guilt with me when I walk around.

 A struggle but not impossible

It hasn’t been all closed doors whilst I have been here. As I say there is a lot of beauty within these streets and I have done all I can to get some shots. Also, Santa Ana does have some more affluent parts where the feeling of unease is not so present. Sadly I still find myself being tense, and in these circumstances I never seem to get the best out of my work.

I know most of my barriers are physiological, and I would never let it put you off coming here - there are plenty of positives.  But in this moment there is a dark cloud that has been installed over my head and I am finding it difficult to escape.

I’m going to go away and process that and see if I can come back with a different mindset for you.

Thanks for reading.

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After posting on social media for a few years, I, like many, became engrossed with the amount of likes I would get for each image. It got to a point where I would be constantly checking for updates on my phone to see if the number was going up. As each batch of likes rode in, you can be sure I was only a moment away from checking it. This verged on being an addiction, to the point I came away from my phone and social media (You can read about it here - Dumb down your Smartphone and be more productive)

Whilst I limited my time on social media, I still posted and the main goal in my mind was still in relation to the number of likes. Then, something changed; I posted this photo…

A moment of clarity

I knew this photograph was strong, however not as strong as it turned out to be in regards to the feedback I got online. I woke up that morning and sent out the post on both Facebook and Instagram. As I have trained myself to do, I shut down my laptop, went about my day and forgot about it.

I got home later that night to find I had hundreds of notifications. From comments to likes to DMs, people were loving this image. It had become by far my most liked image on Facebook and was in the top 3 on Instagram. But it was not the amount of likes and admiration that image got that made me most happy, it was who the admiration was coming from.

For the first time it seemed almost everyone I have on social that I, and pretty much everyone in the field, consider to be a name of worth showed love for this image. Even photographers who are less established but I still consider as strong creators were interacting with the photo.

These photographers accounted for around 5% of all the likes the image got. And whilst I am grateful to anyone who shows love for my work, for the first time the 95% were not the main focus in my mind.

You see, it was those 5% of likes that reinforced the belief I have in myself that I can produce strong photographs, something that should be at the forefront of any serious street photographers personal goals.  They made me feel proud, and more so that I could be part of the conversation within the field.

What it also did was further establish just how much I respect the work and knowledge of those 5% of photographers. As for them to have such an impact of my confidence and emotions just shows how respected they are.

Get out of the social trap

Likes, of course can give you a good feeling. As I say however, it can become more of a dependency than a source of enjoyment. It can also be harmful to your development, as the people liking them may have limited knowledge on what makes a good photograph. This can fool you into thinking you are doing better than you are.

When you next upload a photo ask yourself “who is this image for?” and “who will like it, rather than how many will like it?”. Trust me, when you see the support come in from all the people you respect the most, it will tell you so much more about what makes a strong photograph.

So be careful not to get stuck in the social media trap that so many others do.  You may become more concerned with the amount of love you get rather than the quality of your content, and who exactly the love is coming from. 10 likes for a great photo from the right people, is far better than 100 likes for a mediocre photo from the wrong people.

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I knew as soon as my girlfriend and I were told a boat would collect us to from the town of Rio Dulce to take us to our accommodation, that we were going somewhere that would be disconnected from day to day civilisation. It was a beautiful 45 minute trip through beautiful valleys of green trees, blue sky and wildlife. we quickly realised we had arrived in someone else's back yard - and they were not human. Our hosts for our stay ranged from pelicans to vultures, toads to spiders, and crabs to geckos.

As the boat slowed down and motioned to lock up, we gazed at our surroundings both in awe and with a slight dose of hesitation. We were in the jungle, far from our creature comforts.

Off the Grid

For only £14p/n for a double room we had booked 2 nights at Finca Tatin, an accommodation and activity centre which sold itself as an Eco Lodge. With its main source of energy coming from solar power, and there being no internet connection anywhere on site, we soon had to become accustomed to being off the grid.

Being situated somewhere that the internet is non existent can take a few moments to adjust to. Those in the developed world are so accustomed to being connected that we start to take it for granted. That said, it is somewhat liberating to be away from the cyber world and fully integrated in the real world. Having no connection pushes you to read, have a conversation with someone new or just sit and work through your own thoughts.

Keeping Busy

Finca Tatin itself has plenty to do. You can relax and read a book on one of the many hammocks. You can play table tennis and pool. If you are feeling energetic you can use their gym whilst it is basic, you can certainly get in a good work out. For a more leisurely stay, they also provide a sauna and hot shower (all other showers on site only offer cold water), however there is a small fee for such a luxury.

Around the site there is plenty for you to do, with the lodge offering boat rides to different locations. You can take a kayak to the hot springs and lose yourself in the nature made jacuzzi. If hiking is more your style you can have guided tours through the Tiger Caves or take yourself for a wonder throughout the jungle. If you opt for the former, you will have to ensure your Spanish is up to scratch as all the our guides only spoke the local dialect.

We decided to take a splendid boat trip through the Rio Dulce to Livingston, a coastal side town with a Caribbean influence. It is a lovely little location, with a laid back atmosphere. You can meander around the local shops where you can buy anything from handcrafted jewellery to fried chicken and chips!

Communal Living

One of the main highlights of Finca Tatin is cena - dinner served every night at 7pm. With a different menu every evening, you are provided with freshly cooked local ingredients. However, you will not know what you are having until it is served as the menu only describes the meal as “local cuisine”. What makes cena so special is that it is only served communally, making sure you interact and have conversation with the other guests who have come from all around the world to stay at this glorious hot spot.

On our first meal we were served some nutritious steamed vegetables with what is most easily described as corned beef cottage pie. On the second night the chef spoilt us with roasted potatoes and some mouthwatering chicken in cheese sauce. We were all certainly satisfied.

After spending an eye-opening 48 hours at Finca Tatin it was time for us to leave. We said goodbye to our friends, including the spiders, crabs and geckos. Upon getting on the boat back to Rio Dulce, we quickly checked in with ourselves - both in the agreement that being off the grid had left us feeling rested, refocused and re energised.

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©  Kelli Stirrett

Envisioning success can be an extremely easy and comfortable thing to do. You set your minds eye onto a life that fits in with who you want to be and where you want to be. Some people dream small, whilst some people dream big. No matter your perspective we all have goals. Coming up with targets is the easiest part, the process of achieving them is where the struggle starts, and it can be easy to get too secure in the former. Here are some steps you can take to ensure you don’t get too comfortable in your dreams.

Lost in fantasy

Before we get into the details of making sure you take the necessary steps needed to make fantasy a reality, allow me to give you an overview of my own personal experience…

Nearly my whole life I have had big ideas, dreams and personal development targets. “I will be this” or “I will do that”.

I have spent days, weeks, months, and years with the firm belief that I can hang with the best of them, but most of this belief has been based of my mentality rather than the reality. Does this make me deluded? I don’t think so. I have knocked on the door of and rubbed shoulders with some extremely successful people working in any industry I have been involved with. However it takes a lot of guts and persistence, bravery and courage, to fully cement yourself as a key player in your chosen field.

Pushing hard towards your aspirations leaves you in an extremely vulnerable position. Where as living in your mental bubble and dreaming that you deserve to be what you want to be makes you feel safe and warm - hence why it is possible for you to get lost in there - and then only dumb luck will get you to your end goal.

The dream to be a content creator

© Raw Pixel

For years I wanted to write. I was full of ideas and opinions and was very lucky to grow up in a time where sharing those thoughts was easier than ever. I had countless content ideas, from comedy, diet information, sport, and the arts. Several blogs were started  - all of them ended.

It wasn’t until the last 12 months, as I was saying goodbye to my twenties, that I realised I had become too complacent with my ideas and too distant from the work needed to bring them to life. With that in mind I practised hard, I created content, then I created some more. I did everything I could to ensure I was in the best position to start making my dreams come true.

In the past 6 months of posting I have been ridiculed and abused online, at times leaving my confidence in the gutter. It would have been easy for me to withdraw and go back to the safety net of my mind and remain a dreamer. However, I pushed through. I became more robust and told myself I must take the rough with the smooth. The pay off of that approach is that I now find myself in a situation where my articles have been read by people all around the world. I have earned a source of income from writing, and people contact me daily to share their thoughts on my work (mainly positive) and to thank me for inspiring them.

This is not me lacking modesty, rather wanting to highlight the benefits of pushing through the barriers, getting out of your mind and fulfilling your ambitions.

Through the conversations I have had with people I have found that many too have shared the same mental block. It is through this form of dialogue I have established crucial steps to take to ensure you keep working towards fulfilling your true potential.

1 - Work on your dream every day

Whether it’s 10 minutes, 1 hour, or a full day - practise your craft and ensure you are working on it on a daily basis.

2 - Integrate yourself with successful people within your field

Networking with people who are successful, creating a relationship with them, it allows you to get an inside view of what life is like for them - and what it could be like for you. Seeing others succeed should make you want to do the same and helps you realise someone with the same dream as you has made it a reality - so why can’t you do it too? Send an email to those that inspire you, ask them for a conversation. Many requests will get shut down, but there are successful people out there always happy to help and pay it forward.

3 - Push harder when you get knocked down

No matter what your skill and ambition is, people will always want to tear it to pieces. You will get shut down, told your not very good - and it will hurt. However, each time it happens make sure you come back with something stronger. Don’t go and hide away. Keep putting yourself out there and you will see your confidence and ability will increase.

4 - Give yourself allocated self space to dream

Picturing success is not a bad thing. It is becoming lost in it that can be problematic. With that in mind give yourself some space and time each day to envision the life you want. Give it more strength by completing some positive affirmations. Once this time has passed, it is time to go put the work in that is needed.

5 - Take days off from your day job to focus on your ambition

For many taking annual leave means leaving behind their home and going for some sun, sea and sand. If you are serious about developing yourself, use your time off to focus on your craft. This way fatigue from your day job cannot be an excuse and you can put all your new free time and energy to working on what is most important to you.

6 - Get off the grid

© Raw Pixel

Turn off your social media. Stop looking at accounts that you envy. Stop reading Buzzfeed and watching YouTube. Of course these tools can be useful for your progression, but they can also fool you into think you are busier than you actually are. Take a day or two away and really push hard towards your targets.

 

This realisation is still pretty new to me. However it has been an extremely important one. If you can relate to any of what I have said above then I believe putting in place the steps above (and finding what works best for you) will get you out of your mind and into the real world. Somewhere someone as talented as you certainly deserves to be.

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