Grief, Stress and Photography

Welcome to my first blog post of 2021, in which I reflect on my grief following the loss of my dad, the stress of becoming self-employed, and my latest photography blog project. Stick with me – it’s more uplifting than you might expect!

Where to start?

Firstly, I’d like to thank my old followers for coming back to my blog, and I’d also like to welcome anyone who’s visiting this site for the first time! You’ve landed on my photography blog. If you’re looking for my photography services website, then just tap the button below.

PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICES WEBSITE

I hit a wall with this blog in 2018, to the extent that over two years have passed since my last post. An abandoned blog sends out all the wrong signals. It looks like I’ve disappeared off the face of the Earth, or gone out of business. Well, thankfully I haven’t!

Extreme challenges

My whole world was turned upside down four years ago when, in the same month, I was made redundant from my career as a project manager, and my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. I can’t even begin to describe the devastating impact on my life, not to mention the extreme levels of stress.

I didn’t take the easy option of dusting off my CV after nine years and finding another well-paid, secure job. Instead I became self-employed as a photographer, mainly specialising in weddings. Running my business was all-consuming, as I found myself at the lower end of the steepest learning curve I’ve ever encountered.

A bride and groom walking hand in hand on a beach in front of large rocks

Juggling grief, stress and photography

While all that was going on, my dad was going through chemotherapy and, later, radiotherapy to his whole brain. My dad’s journey through cancer lasted fifteen incredibly emotional months. It didn’t end well. He died in June 2018 in a hospice in Perth, with myself, my mum and my brother at his bedside. It was the middle of my first full wedding season and I was run off my feet. The only option was to stick a smile on my face, function on autopilot, and deal with the immense grief at a later date.

Everyone expects to lose their parents. But I never expected to lose my dad when I was 32. He should have been around for another 20 to 25 years. That’s not something I can peacefully come to terms with, or move on from.

A father and adult daughter sitting on a rock with arms around each other, with a large rock and the coast in the background
Me and my dad at the Kilminning Nature Reserve in Fife, April 2015

Irreversibly changed

Nearly three years have passed since my dad’s death. I’m irreversibly changed by the experience but I’m now in a place where I’ve embraced my new self. Something else significant has happened. I’m loving my new career as a photographer! My stress levels have dropped substantially and the two lockdowns this past year have given me much-needed time and space to improve every aspect of my business.

I’ve gotten through the most enormous to-do list in the last 12 months and I’ve finally arrived at my blog. How do I go about reviving it?

I face a couple of challenges. Firstly, I simply don’t have time to blog like I used to. Gone are the days of writing 1,000 words every week and committing to excellent blogging etiquette by being a devoted reader to my fellow writers (sorry folks). Secondly, it pains me to admit it, but I’m also not really pursuing landscape photography at the moment.

Here’s why.

Passion and obsession

Ten years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, my life revolved around my passion for landscape photography. I’d be out with my camera at sunrise or sunset most weekends, and all my holidays were planned around this obsession. I could never have imaged feeling the way I do now. People are always shocked to hear that I no longer have a camera welded to my hand on my days off. I came up with an analogy to try to explain my mindset.

A landscape photograph of a large boulder in front rough grass, with a lake and mountains in the background

Imagine you’re super keen about cooking and baking. You spend all your free time shopping for the best ingredients, trying out new recipes, and faithfully blogging about the experience. Then you become self-employed as a chef. You work long, exhausting hours preparing meals for your customers. Of course, you’re not just cooking; you’re also marketing your business, managing your staff, and balancing your accounts; putting your heart and soul into everything you do. What would you want to do on your precious days off? Cook? Bake? Hell, no! You’d probably be living off ready meals.

Other hobbies

This is what’s happened to me with my landscape photography. The urge to head out at ungodly hours to capture great landscape images still lives inside me. But, it’s buried pretty deep, often only surfacing when I run landscape photography workshops. On my days off, I want to be out pursuing my other hobbies, such as walking, cycling, wild swimming, or touring around Scotland with my new caravan (look out for LOTS more on this in future blog posts!!).

A landscape photograph showing a snow-capped mountain with green deciduous trees below it, perfectly reflected in a lake

So, what direction do I take my blog in, if I’m no longer sharing that passion for landscape photography? Well, thankfully, I do have another photography project on the go (and it doesn’t require me to get up at 5:00am). It’s my ‘Before and After’ project.

Strong connection

One way of coping with my dad’s untimely death is by maintaining my fiercely strong connection with him. I’m doing this in a number of ways. It was my main motive for buying a caravan in 2019. It inspires me to re-visit places my parents took me to when I was growing up. I’m also exploring locations that Dad would have loved to go to during his retirement, had it not been stolen by cancer.

A woman smiling and holding a large camera, standing in front of a white car and small grey caravan in a woodland

We travelled all over Scotland during weekends and school holidays when I was growing up. As a result, I have a vast number of old family photographs. They’re so incredibly precious to me. Sometimes I feel more than a little sad and nostalgic when I look at them. Mostly, however, they inspire me to live my life to the full, in spite of the hurdles that have been put in my way. I want to get out and about, and pursue new experiences in the outdoors, all the while feeling very close to my dad.

Here’s a first peek at my Before and After project, with my dad and I standing on the same spot at the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, 21 years apart. This is my Before and After project in a nutshell; re-visiting places with a special meaning and ‘recreating’ old photographs.

A man smiling with his hands in pockets, standing on a grassy knoll with a stone circle, people and a lake in the background
Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, 1999
A woman smiling with hands in her pockets standing on a grassy knoll in front of a stone circle with a loch in the background
Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, 2020

Photography and blogging

So, what can you expect from my blog in future? Well, for a start, no more long hiatuses! I’m going to show up on here once a month. That feels manageable (and exciting!). I’ll share photographs and memories from my Before and After project; extracts from the book I’m (very slowly) writing; and the outdoor adventures which I’m welcoming back into my life.

Enjoy!

PHOTOGRAPHY SERVICES WEBSITE

© Karen Thorburn Photography
All rights reserved
Privacy & Cookies Policy

Photography Services Website
Blog – Home | Blog – About
Landscape Blog | Adventure Blog
Health & Well-Being Blog


6 thoughts

  1. Hi Karen! Welcome Back!!
    Keep this in mind Dad has not gone anywhere he is there in your memories, I can guarantee that because coming June will mark 6 years, but Dad is still with me, with us each and every important moments in our lives. Through the memories we keep them alive. looking forward to read and interact. Take care.

    1. Hi Josh! Great to hear from you. Sorry it’s been so long! I hope you’re well and that you’re still busy blogging! That’s super that you have two sites now. I’ll look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to while I’ve been away. Absolutely, the memories of our dads are so precious and will always be with us, which is a great comfort. Best wishes, Karen

  2. Welcome back Karen. Sorry to read about your dad. But it sounds like you’ve been very busy and have a lot of projects in the pipeline, so we’ll all look forward to reading your future posts. 😊

    1. Thanks Mike! Great to hear from you. I hope you’re well and are managing to get out and about close to home. I’ll look forward to seeing what you’ve been up to while I’ve been away! Ah, thanks Mike. It’s been a rough time but thankfully the future is starting to look a lot brighter again. 🙂

Leave a Reply