Weddings, who’d of though it

We left the UK on a new adventure just over two years and four months ago. Although Bev had work and would be teaching (albeit in very different circumstance), I was stepping into the complete unknown, no job, no plan, no clue. I knew I would have some time on the Island, and I had always wanted to take up photography as a hobby, so, equipped with an amazon kindle book, and a £500 second hand canon with kit lens I started learning what all the buttons did.

Some of my earliest shots before I left the UK

I had no idea that it would take me anywhere. Shortly after we arrived on the Island I secured my first job with the tourism office, taking photos of the local restaurants and B&Bs etc. I had to get a work permit and register my business, Paul Tyson Photography (creative eh!?!) .

Photos of mixed standards of tourism establishments required creative thinking when it came to angles and lighting. Now I know why those glossy hotel brochures always look better than the real thing!

My landscape work was already quite well known and established by then, it seems I arrived at a  good time when excellent professional photographer Darrin Henry was busy travelling the world, and there were no other commercial photographers on the Island. Realising there was a gap in the market I promoted my new business, I remember Bev telling me, that “Any money I made from photography, I could spend on photography, but “(quite understandably) I wasn’t to spend any of the money she was earning!

Early St Helena Landscapes

Fair enough, but this provided me all the motivation I needed, the more money I make, the more toys I can buy. Inspired, and slightly jealous of friend David Higgins and his big lens for photographing St Helena’s wildlife, I bought a 120 – 300mm f2.8 Sigma lens. It was one of those ones that people look at and think “he must be making up for something” or simply, “what a tosser”!

My new f2.8 300mm lens allowed me to take these shots.

But I loved it and I could afford it, largely because of a new contract, and one I was most proud of, a commission from French Consul to St Helena to take exclusive photographs for a new guide book to Napoleonic sites on St Helena.

Photos and book cover from “On the Tracks of Napoleon” my first published images.

Next came night skies, we finally started to see the odd clear night sky and it was breathtaking, I simply had to get the gear to capture it on camera, another lens beckoned.

Some of my first Milky Way shots over our house in Half Tree Hollow.

In the mean time I was getting enquiries for studio type photo shoots, so thought I should pursue this and get some more gear. Backdrops, flash stands, wireless triggers and shoot through umbrellas followed. I think by now Bev may of been starting to regret telling me  I could spend anything I earnt on photography!!

The studio work didn’t automatically follow though, the requests continued, but, having set what I considered to be very reasonable prices given the outlay I had made, bookings did not come my way. My first studio shoot eventually came at the end of November 2015, it went well, very well, largely because of the gorgeous little girl I was photographing, and once the photos hit facebook the bookings came in.

My first studio shoot with the most gorgeous, smiling, happy young baby ever!

I soon began to realise that studio photo shoots, and portraits was a whole new ball game, not only did I have to know how to work a camera, and lighting, I had to know how to work a person! When amateurs come to you expecting to look like a super model you need to learn how to position and pose them, how to make them feel comfortable and relaxed with you, as a male photographer I think this is particularly challenging! Once again I took to you tube, and added to my 120GB of photography tutorials!

I started to feel the need to buy more gear. This time, it was a brand new camera, my first full frame, entry level professional camera. Wow what a difference, it allowed me to push the boundaries of what I could do, particularly in low light photography. Following on from basic studio work I was asked for more complex fashion type shoots, and my first real maternity shoot.

Some of my more accomplished studio work. Many were no where like this, over processed and overdone in many cases, but all part of the learning curve.

Again it was a new commission that helped pay for the new camera. I was commissioned to photograph all of the work that falls under St Helena Government’s Environment and Natural Resources directorate. This was a fantastic job, allowing me to see the workings of everything from the forestry team to the abattoir, from renewable energy to waste management. It was a mammoth job but again thoroughly enjoyable as I got to meet Saints from all walks of life.

From pigs in the butchery to people planting endemic seedlings, ENRD does it all.

In September 2015 the airport project started to hot up, as first flight after first flight landed in succession. First ever plane to land, first jet powered plane, first airliner. By now I had grown in confidence as a photographer and on the Island in general and I was pushy enough to speak to the important people and get myself runway access alongside the Islands media representatives. The results of this have been amazing, and my airport photographs can now been seen around the World as St Helena became the new hot tourism destination. My shots our the Islands wonderful landscapes started to appear in prestigious travel sites such as Conde Nast.  Of course we all know that the airport did not open, but in terms of World media, the wind sheer disaster was now an even bigger story and I had contacts from major newspapers and media outlets around the world. My photos of the airport and various planes landing can now been seen globally on sites ranging from the Times, the Independent and the BBC in the UK to USA today. Shots of the first commercial plane to land were quickly put on my facebook page and received over 100,000 views, astounding!

The first landing and first commercial jet liner to land on St Helena


One of my images as it appeared in the Time Newspaper.

Not only were my photos appearing in media outlets, I was now to be featured in World famous London store Harrods, as I was commissioned to produce point of sale images for St Helena coffee!_mg_2620-edit

Fancy a coffee? I have to admit this is one of my favorite photos, taken on a log in my lounge! The steam isn’t even real!

Photo shoots became a mainstay but a new and interesting job came up with Enterprise St Helena to produce interpretation panels for tourist spots around the Island. This was a brilliant new challenge, combining photography with graphic design and writing, as well as proving a fascinating journey through St Helena historical archives and old photos. Learning more about the history of the Island and getting paid was great, but more importantly its wonderful to know that when I leave St Helena there will be something I produced, left behind for others to enjoy.


One of 14 interpretation panels soon to be erected across St Helena.

As an aside I was also able to use my graphic skills when I was commissioned to produce the Governors official Christmas card. This was a test in itself, as the request was for a card featuring Lisa Phillips, her lovely black Labrador, dusty, and all twelve of Dusty’s new puppies!! Over 140 photos were taken to produce this card, mostly consisting of dogs bums and tails. But it was a huge pleasure, and the puppies were just lovely.

Colourful bokeh of Christmas lights with a bauble

Governor Lisa Phillips and her adorable Labrador pups. As a thank you for this job the boys were able to go and meet the puppies and spent over an hour cuddling and playing with them. They are fabulous.

Another “first” hit St Helena in October 2016 as an electrical storm shot lightening bolt after lightening bolt down upon us. thunder and lightening is a rare occurrence on St Helena, with some reports stating its over twenty years since the last one, making this storm the first ever to be photographed and shared around the World from St Helena.

These shots received over 20,000 views on facebook!

And so in December and January 2016/17 I find myself as a wedding photographer, with four bookings in as many weeks. Not my first I have done a few here and there, but as I have improved along with my gear these have been the first that I have charged sensibly for (relative to the amount of work) and that I feel accomplished in my work. I am enormously proud of the photos I have taken during wedding season. It is certainly a challenge, working fast, adjusting to rapidly changing light conditions, the photography is a challenge in itself, but its only now that I realise a wedding photographer is also the wedding director, and is looked upon to direct people from venue to venue, into groups, and to help ensure the day runs smoothly. It is daunting, hard work, but immensely rewarding.

If you’d of told me back in July 2014, as we packed our bags for the unknown that I would be a professional wedding photographer before I left St Helena Id of laughed at you, but as the New Year arrives and I look back on my time here I have come a long way. I am building both experience and a portfolio, and who knows where this may take me.

My readers can help me out here, have you recently got married in the UK, or been a close part of a wedding? How much did you pay the photographer, and please, how do my images compare to this. Id love to hear some open honest critique so I can better gauge exactly where I am.





Two Hundred Years and Ten Months

Two hundred years ago today, Napoleon Bonaparte stepped foot on St Helena following his transportation and exile under British capture on the HMS Northumberland. Little did he, nor his Grand Marshal General Count Hanri–Gatien Bertrand know that two hundred years later people would be celebrating that fact with events, markets, re-enactments and all manner of things on this tiny little Island. The Bi-centenary celebrations are in full swing and much of the Island is involved one way or another.

For my part I have been pretty much a bye stander and observer, that is on-the-tracks-of-napoleonexcept of course for the very proud moment when I saw a printed copy of the book, “In Napoleons Footsteps on St Helena”. The book details the places of importance to Napoleons exile and how they stand today, featuring text by Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, French Consul to St Helena, and exclusive photography by none other than yours truly. Had you told me 14 months ago that my photos would be featuring in a new book celebrating the time of Napoleon on St Helena Id of thought you were mad, and yet I have it here with me as I type.

Even the boys have been getting involved, learning all manner of Napoleon related facts and figures and teaching their Mum and Dad a thing or two. By co-incidence these celebrations have coincided with Cancer awareness week, and Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photowalk. Once again Oliver and I wanted to take part in the walk, it seem crazy that it was just 12 months ago we took our first walk up High Knoll Fort to take part in 2014’s walk, and yet there we were walking in less than ideal conditions around Longwood and the boundary walls of Napoleons captivity. Sadly, for me, neither the walk nor the weather held much photographic inspiration. As we were accompanied by several other children, including Charlie, and who, like Charlie, had no interest in taking photos much of the walk was more a matter of childcare than checking my exposure and concentrating on the rule of thirds.

Visiting the Island as part of the celebrations are the Royal Navy crew of the HMS Lancaster, which is moored up in James Bay for a week whilst on a tour of duty. Cocktail parties aboard the ship, football matches, tree planting, and a host of other activities and events have been arranged for and by the crew. Sadly, the cocktail party on board HMS Lancaster, undoubtedly the highlight of the weeks proceedings was invite only, and I, being a lowly unemployed person had more chance of an invite to Plantation House than getting on that ship. When one of the boat operator who ferried the crew, dignitaries and councillors back and forth from the ship does not get invited for a look around, there is, in my opinion, something wrong. That being said, I feel far more honoured and pleased to of have an invite with one of said local boat operators for a trip round James Bay and close up view of the war ship, a spectacular sight alongside the RMS St Helena with the sun setting beyond.

RMS St Helena HMS Lancaster in James Bay St Helena

On Wednesday lunchtime I journeyed to Prince Andrew School to start photography classes with three Duke of Edinburgh award students. Upon arrival a large crowd of pupils and public had gathered around the school’s football pitches to watch International Football as a St Helena All Star Eleven took on the British Royal Navy crew. The students were determined to watch the football rather than take a photography class I protested very little and allowed the pupils to enjoy their lunch break as I settled down to watch the game myself. During the match the Royal Navy Helicopter did several fly pasts, much to the delight of the on-looking Prince Andrew School pupils. Airplane and Helicopter in the space of a few weeks, whatever next, mobile phones!!!

Speaking of which, mobile phones have reached the Island and the network was turned on at the end of September. I can fully understand the excitement amongst young Saints, and some older generations and the consistent ques outside the offices of Sure St Helena, the mobile providers, are testament to how much this services is wanted on the Island. But for me this is a sad day, one of the appeals of moving here was a lack of mobile phones, and I have already been passed by in the street by people who would normally stop and say hello as their heads have been buried into their new mobile technology.

Despite all and sundry seemingly going on around me I have found myself down in the dumps these past few weeks. Photography commissions have slowed, and, although I still have a couple of jobs on, I feel, as I did twelve months ago, unsure of my place and purpose here. Far from the chaos of the period from December to August when I felt as though I didn’t have time to breathe, I have instead found myself contemplating which cleaning job I should tackle today, or whether I should go shopping to get the milk we need. Once again St Helena’s ability to exaggerate life has come into play, as I feel as those all those around me are busily getting on with making positive changes on the Island, being invited to cocktail parties on board big boats, sorting out the small matter of a new airport and generally being important. Meanwhile my biggest daily decision to make is whether I should clean the car today, which, incidentally I still haven’t done.

Im sure this feeling will pass, September it seems always brings a flurry of new recruits to the Island, and I find myself re-explaining why we are here, or at least my lack of defined reasons for being here. I am also sure that work will pick up as the weather steadily improves, I have a new computer and new photography studio equipment arriving at the end of the month and Im sure round the corner will be a nice new project for me to embark upon. In the meantime though, I do really need to clean the car.

I have however created some positivity to the new found time on my hands and have been getting fit, swimming a kilometre three times a week, with my time reducing with each session. To my great pleasure my waist line has reduced back to its pre-midterm break size, and, if Im not mistaken my upper body is a little more defined. This was especially a good thing when, in fulfilment of a promise to Bev’s friends I served food at her ladies poker night wearing nothing but a small pair of boxer shorts and Charlies Gruffalo apron. The apron being the closest thing we had to the pinny that was promised. Having under gone physio in July I have been carrying out the exercises I was instructed to do to strengthen my injured groin, and I have been playing badminton for the past three weeks. On Saturday I hope to make my footballing comeback. Although the season here is drawing to a close, I hope that there is still time for me to find a team in need of a decrepit veteran and that I can still hold my own.

A recent facebook post had me deep in thought last week as Lisa Rhodes, Senior nursing manager announced her departure for a mid-term break after her first ten months on the Island. How on earth it is ten months already for her, Lisa is new, finding her feet, she hasn’t been here five minutes. Of course that is not true, Lisa has firmly found her feet and has not just set about, but completed the implementation of a great many positive changes to the Hospital and community nursing on the Island. It is just that, 11 months ago I had been talking with her on facebook, telling her to stick with her provided accommodation for now, until she gets here and decides where she would like to settle. Lisa had found my blog and I, having already been here fully two months, and by that time knowing the Island like the back of my hand, was dispensing sound advice to this potential new comer.

Although I felt I did at the time, I didn’t really at that stage know the Island at all, and like a great many things in life the more you get to know something, the more you realise how little you know. I recall vividly meeting Lisa on her first day, sat in Donny’s bar having spoken for several weeks across the World Wide Web. It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago, and I felt at the time as though I had been here for a great many years.

For Bev and I we have ten months left. It feels like a cross roads, still long enough to have plenty to look forward to and enjoy on St Helena, and yet no time at all in the grand scheme of things. Do I wish it were longer, yes, but above all I wish that the ten months ahead of me are as amazing as the ten months that are behind me