GROWING up close to water had a profound influence on the subjects that captivated photographer Jan Smithies.

“I grew up on the banks of the River Humber in a village called Hessle, near Hull.

Not only did we live close to the river, but we spent many Sundays on the nearby coast,” she says.

"It may, unconsciously, have influenced the sorts of subjects I’m often drawn to, with water as the focus, or background to, my pictures.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Leaves on the surface of the Leeds and Liverpool CanalLeaves on the surface of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Leaves on the Leeds and Liverpool CanalLeaves on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Jan’s mum worked in a Kodak photograph processing unit. “There were always big boxes of black and white photos in my childhood home, documenting Mum’s family, friendships, romances and marriage,” she says.

“Through her work, Mum had access to cheap film and free processing. Images of my early childhood and the births of my two brothers were documented in ‘My Baby Book’, which I’ve always found endlessly fascinating.

“For the remainder of my childhood our family life was documented in colour slides. We couldn’t wait for the films to come back from processing and re-live extended family holidays - at least 20 of us would go to Butlins - via our slide show nights with the big screen up and Dad operating the projector.”

Jan was eight when she got her first camera. “No doubt to relieve my parents from constant pestering to be the one behind the camera - of course, there is a slide photograph to document this.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jan aged eight, with her first cameraJan aged eight, with her first camera

In common with many home photographers she mainly captured holidays and family occasions. “Aged 16 I applied to join the Wrens as a photographer, but was turned away as I was too young.

Life took Jan in different directions. She worked in the NHS focusing of tacking health inequalities, worked for an MP and established her own consultancy company through which she ran leadership and change management training nationally and in Bosnia and Romania

She also held a role as a local councillor representing Keighley West on Bradford Council.

But throughout, she carried on “taking snaps”.

“The big change for me came with the switch from film to digital - it allowed much more experimentation and risk taking. I can trace my development from taking snaps to taking photographs, and being able to save and edit them myself, to about 15 years ago,” she says.

Leaving full-time work in 2013, Jan worked on a range of freelance contracts which gave her more time to go out and about with her camera.

“In 2016/17 myself and my partner spent six months living in Orkney, a place we still visit to regularly. That was a transformational experience for my photography, with such an amazing, varied natural world around me.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Life among the rock pools, OrkneyLife among the rock pools, Orkney

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Rock pool, OrkneyRock pool, Orkney

“My favourite and best photographs are taken when I head off for a few hours or a day on my own, and spend a lot of time getting absorbed in a place, looking in-depth at small details and ‘searching for the light’.

“I can easily spend several hours walking along a small stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal or by a handful of Orcadian rock pools, and come home with dozens of photographs, most of which then get deleted of course, apart from the one of two gems that I’ve managed to capture.

Jan shares her work on Facebook and is involved with the arts charity Keighley Creative.

In recent years she has become increasingly interested in the relationship between painting and photography.

“I’m looking at the way the eye perceives the interface between painting and photography.

“People have often compared my photographs to paintings - some think they are paintings. Someone compared one of my images to one of Monet’s paintings - that is a beautiful complement.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Sunset at BridlingtonSunset at Bridlington

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jan is passionate about photographyJan is passionate about photography

Leaves in the canal, ponds or puddles are a popular subject, especially in autumn.

Jan used a long lens to photograph leaves floating and reflecting in the canal. “Focusing tightly on the leaves blurred the background and added an almost-abstract watercolour painting effect which initially was purely accidental,” she says.

“I think that is why some of my photographs have that sort of painterly look.”

Jan also uses the technique for flower and wildlife photography. “My current favourite photograph is a slightly abstract one of a leaf and its reflection in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. When I exhibited it, a friend bought it, which is lovely as I will be able to see it on the wall of her sitting room.

“People often stop and ask me what I’m photographing, as there appears to be just dead leaves in water and nothing else, but when I show them the image they are surprised by what they’ve missed.”

Encouragement from fellow artistic and creative people has been invaluable.

“It has given me the confidence to see myself as a photographer, rather than a person who takes a lot of photographs.”

Earlier this year Jan teamed up with Bingley-based painter Jane Fielder and Bradford textile artist Kate Stewart, both who often show their work, for a joint exhibition in seven empty shop windows in Keighley.

“This was my first public exhibition, and to work alongside two experienced and well-regarded artists was a great way to start.

“It was lovely chatting to visitors and shoppers who were really positive about having mini ‘art galleries’ to look instead of empty shop windows. I was glowing with all the positive feedback and encouragement.”

“It’s great to think that some of my photographs from the exhibition are now on people’s walls as far afield as London and Scotland, as well as locally.

“I am now applying to show some of my work in other exhibitions in other parts of the country and to sell photographs and cards via stalls at events such as makers’ markets and art shows.”

Jan recently began posting on Instagram as imagesjls to to reach wider audiences.

“I’m a member of the Telegraph & Argus Camera Club Facebook site, which highlights the wide range of talented photographers across the district.”