Archive for the ‘ beginner photography ’ Category

Red Sky

Red sky over Kidderminster

I have set up a highly efficient office in a room in my house. It’s got all mod cons – computer, laptop dock, printer, scanner, speakers, filing cabinet, cupboards, bookshelves, phoneline. There’s a nice picture on the wall, a big map of Shropshire and a giant whiteboard where I can plan work and cross things out when I’ve done them. I like this bit best.

Yet after three weeks of working as close to full time as is possible with two kids to pick up every day at 3pm, I’ve already decamped with laptop to the dining room table at the back of the house. Sometimes I end up on the settee, hunched over the keyboard. The lovely oak desk with its posture-friendly office chair is abandoned.

I’ve ended up with a crick in my neck and sore shoulders but, despite realising the stupidity and wastefulness, I can’t help it. I live in a house, you see, with two distinct climates. The front of the house, where the office is, gets the morning sun and is flooded with light until about 11am, when the sun moves round and it falls into shadow. By midday the back garden is bathed in sunshine. Thus, the back kitchen and dining room are lit up, warm and welcoming, while the study turns dull and cool.

I was in the back room the other night; I’d returned to my laptop to finish something off while Richard put the boys to bed. Then I became aware of this bright red glow. When I looked out of the patio doors I was convinced something must be on fire nearby, so intense was the red sky. To one side was bright blue sky; to the other ominous dark clouds; and betwixt was this sweep of fluffy, swirling scarlet mass. I grabbed my camera and took a few snaps. It was weird, and eerie, and amazing, and lovely, all at once.

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Blue Skies

Night sky, sea, sand

I’ve waxed lyrical about Woolacombe in north Devon before. It’s become a family tradition to come here over Easter to celebrate my birthday and it’s one of my highlights of the year.

This photo was taken within a few hours of our arrival for this year’s annual sojourn. I love  its simplicity and calmness, the lines and the shadows.

This week away is one of those rare times when I get to carry my camera around with me much of the time. There is so much amazing scenery, so many places worthy of a photograph, that I could spend the entire week snapping.

I’ll try not to bore you though – just a photo a day if that’s all right with you.

Pretty Dresses and Sunshine Days

Now that was a proper sunny day wasn’t it? Doesn’t a bit of sunshine lift the mood? Wow – just lovely. Time to dust off the bbq and dig out the sunhats and cream. (That’s jinxed it – it will probably be raining by the time you read this.)

They say the best things in life are worth waiting for. Like the Spring days we are experiencing now.

Last time I blogged I was a bit despairing and thought I had made a terrible mistake turning down a job back at the newspaper where I first started out as a journalist.

Now I’m about to start a different and, I believe, much better job. It was definitely worth the wait.

From May 3rd I take over as editor of Shropshire Life magazine, a niche county publication aimed particularly at posh, well off and aspirational people in my beautiful home county.

I am so looking forward to getting started, though I fear the good folk of Shropshire might be a bit alarmed by my populist approach and lack of airs and graces. Ah well, what’s the worst that can happen? (*erm, spiralling decline in readership, withdrawal of advertising, the sack?*)

Anyway, as part of my pre-start preparations, I visited Albrighton Hall in Shropshire on Thursday evening to attend a forum of readers of Shropshire Life. I must confess I was dreading it. I’m not exactly a chav, but I do sometimes find posh people a bit intimidating. I was expecting lots of blue rinses and monocles, double barrelled names and name-dropping.

Instead I got to spend a funny, insightful evening with a bunch of people who, for the most part, I’d happily have as friends. They were all bright and interesting, not at all snobby, and included a teacher, a struggling farmer, a shop owner,  a small business manager, and a youth centre boss. I came away with a spring in my step and a hatful of new ideas.

In the meantime I’m trying to make the very most of my last few weeks of relative “freedom”. The job should only entail about 5 hours work a day, but that will limit how much additional freelance work I can take on, at least for a while; but more alarmingly it also curtails the “me time” that I had got used to enjoying while the kids were both at school this past few months.

When I say “me time” I do of course include in that things like the ironing, cleaning the loo, washing the floors, hoovering, dusting, shopping, gardening, running errands and cooking.

But it also includes lovely time meeting with friends over coffee or a beer, going out for long walks in the countryside, visiting my folks, wandering aimlessly around shops sans kids, enjoying bizarre and usually short-term craft projects, writing, taking photos and generally having a nice old time.

Sadly the first part of my “me time” will have to continue – the chores and so on will not do themselves – but I fear the latter part will get squeezed out.

So I’m planning one hell of a busy and pleasant few weeks until S-Day. One of the lovely things I did last week was spend a day with my friend Becky, who I met when we both took a beginner photography course at Kidderminster College. She’d asked me to go along with her to help take some publicity pictures for a family friend, Charis, who has set up her own designer dressmaking business.

We turned up on a beautiful day – a bit overcast but warm. We found a nice spot at the edge of the large pond Charis’s home overlooks. Modelling the clothes were Charis’s younger sister and a friend. They were incredible and very patient as we amateurishly took the best photos we could.

Thankfully she is delighted with the finished results. They will find their way onto her website and into publicity material to launch her new venture.

I too was pleased with the results. The models were brilliant, especially considering they had never done any modelling before; the setting and light were good; and the dresses were just beautiful.

As someone who struggles to take up a hem, I can appreciate the intricate skills she shows. If you have a wedding looming, or want a one-off dress for a party or special event, you should give her a call. Her website is at http://www.charismaticcloth.co.uk The photos will be uploaded in the next few weeks (you can see my full set on my facebook page if you know me).

Each dress can take weeks to make from concept to finish. As I said at the beginning of this blog, the best things in life really are worth waiting for.

Living like lovers, swanlike

Side by side for life

I’ve always liked swans. They are majestic, elegant, long necked and incredibly graceful. These are things I am not but hanker for.

I also love the purity of their appearance – all that white, virtually untainted by colour

But most of all I love the idea that they are monogamous creatures; they pick a mate, and stick together for life.

Only now I’ve found out it’s not always true. They sometimes “divorce”. They have affairs. They do the dirty on each other.

I put them on a pedestal, but they have let me down. They are no better than humans after all.

Anyway, before my illusion was shattered, I snapped this pair swimming about together in Springfield Park. It was an overcast day, one of those days when the sky is white with cloud and colour is drained out of everything; not ideal photographic conditions. I liked that this pair were almost in symmetry, either side of this line of shadow in the water. I liked how they look almost identical as they glide away.

I imagined them sailing off to spend the night snuggled up side by side on the bank. In fact they were probably off to a sex party with the neighbours. Dirty beasts.

While on the subject of monogamy, comedian Andrea Walker once made this observation: “My husband thought monogamy was a type of wood. I said: “Honey, no – monogamy’s when you just sleep with your wife.” He’s like, “No,— that’s monotony.”

Off to the nest

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing…

My boy Felix

Today is the first real day of my PostADay Challenge. I intended to start with a bang, by conjuring up some magical words and images to dazzle and amuse you.

But as it happens the little dose of flu that’s been leaving me under the weather for a week or so has kicked in big style.

I’m just off to bed, hoping not to keep coughing myself awake all night – but before I go I thought I would share this picture of my son Felix with you. I have cheated a bit – I didn’t take it today, but yesterday in the bandstand at one of our local parks.

It seemed appropriate though to use a photo taken in a musical location, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

Today Felix was lucky enough to sing at Birmingham Symphony Hall as part of a regional schools’ “Sing Up” event. It was magical and the setting was very inspiring.

I had intended to blog about the event and include a picture of Felix in his full, mouth open, eyes wide, singing glory. However, our seats were up in the gods, so it was impossible to isolate him, even using a fairly good zoom lens.

Anyway, that’s it for tonight folks. I’m very much hoping to be back to my usual self very soon; I’m VERY bored of feeling rotten. I have lots of things to DO, lots of places to BE and lots of fun stuff that I’m missing out on.

From a very frustrated J xxx

Spring is sprung – and I’ve won the lottery!

“Season creep” is the term describing the gradual process by which one season slowly but noticeably slides earlier and earlier into the next. (It’s not to be confused with the term “slimy creep”, which is when a dodgy bloke slowly but noticeably tries to slide his hand up your leg.)

Spring is the season we in England most often think of as “creeping”. Apparently the rate of “creep” has now reached a couple of days each decade.

This is good, yes? Soon the first day of Spring could well coincide with Christmas Day. January will truly be a month of new beginnings and renewal, instead of the dull, overcast, flu-filled drudge it is now.

Today was, I am convinced, the first day of Spring 2011.

I was fortunate enough to have a day completely devoid of commitments (at least, nothing I couldn’t put off.) So when I walked/dragged the kids to school this morning, blue sky overhead, fluffy clouds a-skittering, I knew it was going to be impossible to resist the lure of the outdoors.

Appropriately suited and booted, I set off from home at about 11am, the Fleet Foxes singing me a lullaby or two through my earphones.

Within minutes I was off-road, heading over the marshland skirting the edge of Kidderminster town centre, pictured above, towards the Staffs & Worcs Canal, which I followed to Wolverley village, about two miles away.

Halfway along, when I stopped to take a few photos, I spotted two discarded lottery tickets on the towpath. Out of curiosity I stooped to pick them up. They are in my pocket now. I assume one of them will prove to be the winning ticket. It will make a great story. (Should you care my “winning” numbers are 11, 26, 31, 42, 43 and 47 or 04, 25, 40, 42, 45 and 47.)

No, Mr Lotto, I don’t want publicity if I win. Oh. Oops.

Anyway, distracted though I was by thinking of where I’d travel to first with my lottery winnings, I carried on walking, reaching Wolverley Court bridge and lock a few minutes later. This is the approach towards the bridge.

It was a glorious day. I was lucky to be able to enjoy it, rather than be stuck in a centrally heated office.

I do count my blessings, I promise; I know I’m lucky to be able to enjoy days like this when it suits me. It also means me and mine will never be rich, not financially anyway. (Oh, except for the lottery millions heading my way.) But there is more to life…

Anyway, back to my theme – which is, or was, Spring. The realisation that Spring might, just, have sprung already, came quite a long way further on.

After passing the Lock pub (and resisting the urge to go in and order champagne all round in lieu of my upcoming lottery win) I headed across a field, bathed in sunshine.

Whatever seed had been sown there was beginning to come to life. Green shoots, standing in stiff rows, swayed gently, like overheated guards at the Changing of the Guard.

Now, I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to nature’s cycles, but I thought this was significant. I’m certain one of you can tell me what this crop is, if not bog-standard grass…and will also be able to tell me if it would be expected to come up yet? I am interested. Really. (No Latin names though…)

Here’s a picture of it, with sun streaming in to help it keep growing.

Anyway, an hour later I was back home, feeling like shite. Two hours after that I was taking my first antibiotic for a chest infection and dose of flu.

No wonder this walking malarkey was leaving me a bit breathless and knackered. Don’t worry though; now Spring is here I’ll be just fine.

I often get a bit of a cold or somesuch in January – I think it’s the payoff for being fit and healthy for the Christmas/New Year frenzy. Let me know if Spring has sprung in your neck of the woods. I’m expecting daffs by next week. Not that I’ll care – I’ll be in Australia, enjoying my winnings.

My Goldfish, My Friend

This is my goldfish, Daisy. I wanted you to meet her because she is now nearly eight years old and I suspect she might not be long for this world.

We’re not big pet people in my house. Sure, we love animals – dogs are cute, kittens are fluffy, hamsters are nice enough if you like rats – but we don’t want the hassle of looking after them, of them disturbing our spontaneous lifestyle, and most of all we don’t want to spend the next 10 years clearing up their pooh.

Daisy was bought from a local petshop when my eldest boy was two-and-a-half. He wanted a gerbil but we decided he was way too young to be responsible for a pet. Daisy ended up being the compromise. I thought she’d be dead within a few months. Shows what I know.

She doesn’t take much looking after – a bit of fish food dropped into her bowl most days (if I remember) and a clean bowl once a week or so. The kids have long lost interest in her. Not surprising really – they can’t pick her up or stroke her or play with her or even study her, being as all she does is swim round and round and round.

But I think she’s special. I have even grown to love her. No, really. I know she’s just a goldfish, with a very short memory and no brains and all that, but I honestly believe we have developed a genuine rapport.

Every morning, when I walk into the kitchen, she rushes from the far side of the bowl towards me, pressing her face right against the glass. I peer in at her, and she definitely, definitely, has a flicker of recognition. I even think (and I know this sounds crazy, but really…) she is trying to communicate with me. This is far-fetched, I know, but maybe, just maybe, she is even a reincarnation gone awry – a human soul trapped in the body of a dumb goldfish.

Maybe, just maybe, she is trying to tell me something – about God, or the universe, or whether Sky was right to sack Andy Gray, or whether George Osborne really is a first class plonker with no idea about what he’s doing. If she is, how will I ever be able to work out what she’s saying? Is there a fish translation course I could go on?

She stares at me a lot as I go about my business in the kitchen. It is a bit unnerving – although admittedly less so since I realised she has no choice but to stare, not having eyelids.

I talk to Daisy a lot as I go about my chores in the kitchen – cooking or cleaning or preparing food or listening to the radio. This obviously says a lot about me, particularly that I am a bit mad in the head, but she is a good listener. You’d think so too if you met her.

In fish terms, I think she is also very pretty. She is a proper golden colour and has a long flowing tail. I am proud that she is my fish. My friend Daisy.

At this point in writing today’s blog I decided to look up goldfish on Google, just to check their expected lifespan. Excitingly, the world record is 43 years, so she could be with us for some time yet. On the downside, it would seem I have been: a. starving her by only feeding her a small amount of food once a day; b. making her life a misery by keeping her in a bowl, not in an aquarium; and c. making her life a misery (part 2) by keeping her alone. All the proper fishkeeping guides tell you very clearly that everything I am doing I should be doing the opposite of.

What do I do now? Buy a big aquarium? Buy her a playmate? Feed her more? I’m tempted to say she’s been doing just fine under our existing eating/living arrangements, but maybe her apparent desire to communicate with me has been fuelled by starvation and loneliness. Perhaps I am not a good person. Perhaps I am a bad person and should be reported to the RSPCA. Or the NSPCC (she is like a third child to me). I will have to give this matter some thought. To carry on, or to change course? Oh, what a dilemma.

PS: I had a goldfish once before. He was called Darren. He was won for me at a funfair, when fish in plastic bags were the traditional prize, by a boy called Darren who had a crush on me. (He was 14, I was 18). I took him with me to university (the fish, not the boy). The first time I went home, leaving him in the care of my so-called friends, he died (I think he had been fed to death). By the time I returned, he had been flushed away to the big fishbowl in the sky. I reckon my so-called friends wanted rid of him. Perhaps if one of you is reading you could tell me what really happened, November 18th, 1986?