Damon Marshall’s journey with photography and YOPD
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Damon Marshall’s journey with photography and YOPD

Once a keen landscape photographer, Damon’s battle with YOPD meant that it became harder and harder for him to be able to get out and take his beloved shots. But now, a successful surgery has opened a window of opportunity for Damon to be able to get back out into the landscape, camera in hand.

I have always resided approximately within the central North Island, living in Hamilton for the past 27 years. I moved hear from Rotorua at the age of 20 to obtain my Graphic Design degree. After which my girlfriend and I did our 'Big OE' in the UK and Europe. We returned engaged, bought a house, got married, and created beautiful boys, living the kiwi dream!

Damon Marshall

I did have a small interest in photography while we were traveling overseas. I would definitely take the time to compose a pic that was at least calming on the eye. However, it wasn't until around two years after my YOPD diagnosis that the spark was fully ignited.

At that time my mild symptoms were easily controlled with medication so I would head outside to take pics as often as I could. I really enjoyed early mornings, with the atmosphere and golden light becoming a theme I loved to capture. We lived within a handy walking distance to the Waikato River so I could head down there before starting work. I consider that area to have been my photography training ground lol.

‍My photography is completely self-taught. I have chosen not to do any online courses, workshops, etc. so as to not institutionalize my creativity. Also, my aim is to not replicate the work of others. There are many clever photography enthusiasts in NZ and indeed around the world, who take jaw-dropping images, but seemingly in a similar style at the same bucket-list locations.

Whenever I am considering an image my thoughts are all about the story, "what am I trying to say to the audience?".

Also, I always attempt to present my images in a believable manner. It's true that the camera may not have captured exactly what I saw, so I'll only edit to the point of how I remember the scene.

This is an example of the panoramic landscapes I wish to do more of. It is also my favourite landscape photo that I have taken...

Photoshop has made it incredibly simple to stitch panoramas together and I was enjoying including this technique in my landscapes a couple of years ago but haven't been able to capture a lot of landscapes since.

How does YOPD affect your life and your photography?

It’s now ten years since my diagnosis and if I could sum up Parkinson's Disease in one word, that word would be 'Cruel'. It takes and takes from you and anything you want back you've got to fight like hell for.

I am constantly assessing and adjusting all aspects of my life, photography included. The severity of my symptoms and the amount of 'off-time', (periods throughout the day when medication is ineffective due to using it for so long) have slowly increased. My main symptom is severe rigidity, I have no tremors which some people might associate with PD. It's actually a very complicated condition with many random symptoms, for instance, I now only have four senses - I can't smell anything anymore!

In terms of my outdoor photography, it's all about my stars aligning I guess. Having the confidence in the duration of my mobility at the time to get to location X, do the camera business, and get back home... even if I have a driver! As my world has become smaller, so has my photography. Hence, I have gradually migrated to mainly macro in the last couple of years.

Do you plan your shots?

I've never been one to plan my shots, generally walking out the door with no goal in mind and zero expectations. This means I will never fail and makes me so relaxed that I can enjoy every moment. Yet I can't remember a single time that I've returned home with nothing worth sharing. On this rare occasion, I did plan this shot using the Photopills App. I wanted to be sure the location and lighting direction of the sunrise would create an ambiance across the trees towards the church. I love every pixel of this image.‍

What else should we know about you and your photography?

Six months ago I had Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery. If readers are interested but do not know of this procedure, I recommend searching it up on the internet. It is becoming more and more helpful to manage my symptoms. As it so happens my family and I are currently on a six-night trip in Hawkes Bay as I write this. I absolutely would not have considered being able to do this a year ago as my situation was becoming extremely dire.

It's been many years since the four of us have been able to bond like this.

I have my Rolleiflex SL35 35mm film camera with me, loaded with B&W film which I'm shooting with for the first time. It's so much fun thinking about capturing images in a different way. And who knows, there may be a few frames for a new panoramic landscape sitting inside my digital camera when I get home...

While the rest of the country chases trees in a lake, I am content with the shots I got that morning of this unique scene.

I've had a few attempts at this scene and was super stoked with this version. I highly recommend revisiting your compositions if you can, as once may not provide the best conditions for your efforts.

In contradiction to my previous comment, this was my first visit here with camera! I don't use filters so this was a layer stack of several exposures.

The hues and atmosphere at dawn are well worth any photography enthusiast crawling out of bed for!

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