Blog

Here you will find some useful posts on choosing a location for your shoot, what to wear, client sessions and other random pieces I hope you will find interesting!

Sorry I'm late!...Update

Hello everyone!

First of all, apologies for my silence lately. It’s been a chaotic couple of weeks!

I had a week off work for a holiday at the beginning of September, it didn’t go too well:

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Swapping lenses - the Canon f4 7-200mm

I loved my Sigma f2.8 70-200mm lens.

It’s been through a lot with me. From wind, rain and hail at Sunderland AFC Ladies matches to the heat and dust of Kenya, it has served me well and got me some lovely photographs.

However it weighed a tonne. OK, I exaggerate, it’s 1.4kg but that’s almost the equivalent of a bag of flour, plus there’s the added weight of the Canon 5D MKIII along with that.

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Peak Design Everyday Sling Bag

Like many photographers, I have a love-hate relationship with camera bags.

I like backpacks that come with a waist strap and spread the weight over two shoulders, but I don’t like having to remove the bag from my shoulders and put it on the ground to get a camera out or change lenses.

I like the idea of slings, but having too much weight on one shoulder is not for me. I’m 5ft tall and petite so if I overload a sling or a messenger it’s too much for me to want to carry.

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My gear for a photo shoot

So, what equipment do I bring to a shoot? I don’t bring that much, actually. I’m only small and petite and I don’t want to be lugging lots of heavy camera gear around with me.

Usually I work on outdoor portrait shoots with my main camera body, a large lens plus one or two smaller lenses and a second camera body for emergencies.

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Jim Steinman's "Bat Out of Hell: The Musical"

The "Bat Out of Hell" musical premiered in Manchester before moving to the London Coliseum over the summer, and fortunately for me it included a time when I would already be in the capital for Wimbledon!

Most musicals based on pop or rock albums take the songs first, then put together a musical from them. Bat Out of Hell started life the other way around.

Songwriter Jim Steinman has been working on a musical based on Peter Pan meets Romeo and Juliet long before Cleveland Records bravely took on an album that no one else wanted and brought Steinman’s music to the world’s attention in 1977.

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Where was Jurassic Park in the BBC Proms?

That was the question on many people’s lips either as they left the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday 20th July after the John Williams Prom, or after watching the performance on television the following night.

While those of us in the audience had been treated to a night of musical and acoustic perfection from the BBC Concert Orchestra, the selection of said music left a lot to be desired.

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Online gallery opening - SPECIAL OFFER!

SPECIAL OFFER! To celebrate the opening of my new online gallery shop, I am offering a 50% discount on these three canvases!

These prints will not be offered at these prices again for the foreseeable future so make the most of it!

Promotion will run from the 31st July until the 11th August.

Visit my gallery shop here: http://bit.ly/ctphotoshop

Exciting news!

Firstly, I will be on holiday from the end of this week into the beginning of the next so I probably won't be sending out a blog post on the 17th July (sorry!). 

However for the following week I will hopefully have had an exciting trip to London followed by my first Proms concert so there will be plenty to update you with for the 24th.

Then secondly...

For the 31st July I have something exciting planned! Keep an eye out in your email inbox for details of a chance to own some of my photography artwork at 50% off!

Local Spotlight Feature - Theatre Space NE

If you haven’t yet been to one of Theatre Space NE’s productions - or even heard of them - where have you been?!

Theatre Space NE is a community interest company that believes “any space is a theatre space”. Sunderland’s “Plays in the Park” season includes two Shakespeare plays and a family show throughout the summer in Roker, Mowbray and Barnes parks. 

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How to Choose a Photographer

It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Find a local photographer, book one, have your session and get some nice images out of it. Only there are now so many photographers around, how do you pick the right one?

It’s a bit like picking the paint colour for a feature wall. Standing at the swatches wall in B&Q thinking you want “green” but when you get there you find you can have teal, turquoise, pine green, emerald…Not only that, but you start thinking about the furniture and accessories in the room: Well, that colour will go with my curtains while contrasting nicely with the carpet. Ooh and I can paint my old wooden chair the same colour!…But then that will clash horribly with my neon pink knitted pouffe…

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Full Sessions v Mini Sessions

Full Sessions

This is when the photographer guides you through the entire process. They will chat with you to find out what it is you are looking for, how it will fit in with your decor, advise you on what to wear, find out what you like to do as a family and try to incorporate it into the session. This is the point where any wall art such as canvases, framed prints or albums are discussed. 

After the shoot - which can last from 45 minutes to an hour - you will be invited back for the presentation session a couple of weeks later to view your images and place an order for the artwork and the images you love.

Pros

  • Can usually book for a time and date that suits you
  • Can choose your own location if the photographer shoots outdoors, or simply go to the photographer’s studio.
  • Your photographer will help you decide what kind of photographs you are looking for and shoot the images accordingly.
  • Your photographer will help you choose what piece of artwork to compliment your home
  • There will be plenty of time to get the images you and the photographer agreed upon
  • Should you have to cancel because of health, a family emergency or bad weather, the photographer will be happy to reschedule your session.

Cons

  • Cost more than mini sessions
  • You will have to commit to spending around three hours with the photographer, the initial consultation meeting, the actual photography session and the presentation session when you see the final images. If you are pushed for time the photographer may agree on a 15-minute phone call or a 15-minute time slot before your session in place of the consultation meeting.
  • Takes more time for the finished products to arrive, although they will be worth the wait!

 

Mini Sessions

Mini sessions are a sort of taster of photography. A photographer will advertise a place and time of two to three hours during which they will hold sessions at around 20 or 30 minutes each. Anyone who wishes to book simply picks a time slot to suit them, pays the amount and turns up at the allocated place. It is advisable to get there 10-15 minutes early.

They are a great way to try out a certain photographer’s style and get some professional digital images without spending a lot of money or investing a lot of time. Sometimes they can have a theme depending on the time of year, or they may be linking up with a charity to raise money.

Pros

  • Brief, ideal for full-time working mums
  • You get a set amount of digital files within a couple of days to share on social media.
  • Cost less than full sessions

Cons

  • A photographer may only advertise for mini sessions two or three times a year, so you need to be quick to make a booking and be able to commit to the time you have booked.
  • You do not get to choose your location and slots are limited
  • You may not get the exact image you were looking for, especially if the mini sessions are themed e.g. Easter or Christmas, or due to the shorter session.
  • You are not guided through the process of choosing any kind of wall art, although if you make a request to the photographer for a particular item they will usually be happy to oblige.
  • If you cannot make it to your time slot and do not give adequate notice or fail to show up you may have to forfeit your place and your payment. However if you do give adequate notice so the photographer can re-book the slot you should receive a full refund.

If you like more information on my full or mini sessions, feel free to Contact me for more details.

A Brief Guide to Posing for Photography Sessions

OK, so you’ve booked your photography session, you have your outfits planned, you’re all excited and nervous about the shoot…but you’re anxious about posing. I don’t know what to do with my hands, I fiddle with the toggles on my jacket when I get nervous…

Don’t be! For most of the shoot I will let you do your own thing. As for couples, you know better than I do how you “fit together” and you will naturally fall into that anyway.

However I do have some guidelines on posing that I will run through just to get you loosened up and relaxed. Here are a handful to get you started.

Women

Put your weight on one leg.

Turn slightly around 45 degrees.

Put one hand on your hip.

Put one hand on your hip, with the other, play with a strand of hair.

Put one hand in your pocket and hook your thumb on the outside.

 

Men

Put your weight on one leg.

Turn slightly around 45 degrees.

Put one hand in your pocket and hook your thumb on the outside.

Put both hands in your pockets and hook your thumbs on the outside.

Lean against a wall or the inside of a doorway.

 

Both

Walk together.

Hold hands and walk together.

Put one arm around the other, put your other hand in your pocket.

Put one hand in each others’ back pocket! Put your other hand in your pocket.

He puts his arms around her waist. She puts his arms around his neck.

Stand close together and face each other. Look down, then look up at each other.

 

Anything evolving from these poses will largely depend on our tour of the session location as we go along. We might find some nice steps to stand or sit on, a decoratively painted wall as a backdrop, a rustic fence.

The main thing to remember is to relax! Dress in a way that makes you feel confident, you will smile, you will feel happy and relaxed and it will show in your finished portraits!

Inspirations - Jurassic Park

Image courtesy of http://jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/File:Image11.jpg

Image courtesy of http://jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/File:Image11.jpg

The following was written on the 29th January 2017, but I never got around to posting it until now, mainly because of the PS at the end!

You know how most kids are expected to outgrow their love of dinosaurs?

I haven’t.

Jurassic Park was released when I was six. I don’t recall seeing it at the cinema, or even my first viewing, but I’ve always loved it.

There was an episode of the TV quiz show Pointless where the final question was actors in the Jurassic Park trilogy (before Jurassic World). I got six pointless answers. If only I’d been on that show I would have won myself a nice sum of money and set a Pointless record! I would also have been exposed for the nerd I am if I had admitted to knowing the actors’ names from still having the Jurassic Park 1993 annual and from watching the closing credits just so I can listen to the score.

Oh, that score! The movie soundtrack to my childhood! If the BBC Proms ever do a John Williams prom at the Royal Albert Hall and include the JP score I’m there! I think I might even cry.

When you’re six and seven years old watching the movie you’re just interested in seeing the dinosaurs. When you watch it countless times as an adult on ITV3 even though you own it on blu ray and ITV has adverts and they always cut the bit where the Rex eats the lawyer sitting on the toilet, you see it more from Ian Malcolm’s point of view.

Is it so wrong to be bringing dinosaurs back to life 65 million years after their extinction? Obviously. Would I still visit a real Jurassic Park given half the chance? Absolutely! Double standards, I know.

Now I also see it from a photographic point of view. That shot during the first Rex attack when Grant and Lex are huddled by the overturned car in the background and the Rex’s huge foot plants itself in the mud in the foreground makes me do a Homer Simpson drool.

And Jurassic World? At first I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I kind of do. I wasn’t expecting to be wiping away tears only five minutes in, but I was. When the two boys arrive at their hotel room, Gray excitedly runs over to throw open the balcony doors, the music swells and we see the Park in its entirety I thought: “John Hammond would be so proud!”

The fact that Sir Richard Attenborough had died only a few months beforehand made the moment way more emotional that it should have been! It even makes the end of the first movie sad, when they’re all at the helipad ready to escape and he looks forlornly over at his failed ambition. *Sniff*

This following PS was written on the 26th May 2017.

PS: Since writing this I am thrilled to report that the BBC are doing a John Williams Prom this year and Jurassic Park is mentioned in a related blog post on the Albert Hall website, although I am still waiting on the official programme for that night. Most importantly, I managed to grab tickets by being on the Hall’s website at exactly the right time two days after they sold out! 

Am I a clever girl? :P

5 Locations for a Photography Session in Sunderland

I hope this “locations” feature will become a recurring theme as I discover more places to hold photography sessions, so don’t worry if your favourite location is not mentioned here, it will turn up eventually!

 

1. The Seaside!

We are a seaside city, so naturally we have miles of coastline and beaches to enjoy! Don’t worry if you don’t like sand, there is the promenade, the pier, the lighthouse and lots of steps and low walls to sit on. The kids will probably want to play on the sand anyway and write their names in it so you may find yourselves outnumbered and outvoted on that matter. Further north along the coast there is Souter lighthouse and the Marsden cliffs.

Photography-Locations-Sunderland

 

2. The Riverside

The south riverside has views across to the University, the docks that host a variety of ships and other sea-going vessels and views of the Wearmouth Bridge. The north side again has views of Wearmouth Bridge, but it also has the National Glass Centre, St Peter’s Church, the University campus and the marina. Both riversides are home to an array of huge industrial warehouses and docks if you like the grungy urban look. It will be interesting to see how the riversides develop when the New Wear Crossing is completed in 2018.

 

3. The Parks

We have so many parks to choose from! Here are some of my favourites:

Mowbray Park: sadly this lovely city centre park has been getting a bad rep in the media lately but it is ideal for photography. It has a Victorian bandstand, a long avenue full of colourful flowers and decorative balustrades, a small pond overlooked by the Museum and has free hourly parking nearby.

Roker Park: located on the seafront, with dramatic cliff walls leading to the beach, manicured grassy areas, a play park and a small train ride.

Barnes Park 1: The “pretty” park. There is a children’s play area, a bandstand, lots of new decorative statues and seating, plus a little pond with ducks and bridges.

Barnes Park 2: The “wild” park. Lots of tall grasses, lots of nice trees, hills and pavements, a couple of little bridges. It’s also a minute’s walk away from my house!

Herrington Country Park: vast sweeping grasses, standing stones, a lake with geese, a skate park and an amphitheatre. Located on the A183 off the A19 it has a nice backdrop of Penshaw Monument, which brings me to my next point.

Photography-Location-Sunderland-Mowbray

 

4. Penshaw Monument

Come on! Who doesn’t love a climb up “Pensher” hill?! There’s nothing like seeing this Grecian-inspired folly in the distance after a long journey and knowing you’re nearly home.

Photography-Locations-Sunderland_Penshaw

 

5. Sunderland Stadium of Light (outside)

For the die-hard football fans! There is plenty parking on non-match days and there are many photo opportunities outside of the building. From the gated reception area with the club crest above it, to the industrial riverside views. The white roof lattice-work makes for a nice backdrop against clear blue skies (well, we do get them occasionally!) and there are simple brick walls that form plain backdrops and provide some shelter should the weather turn inclement (more chance of that than blue skies).

What are your favourite places in and around Sunderland that you think would be a good photography location? Let me know in the Comments section below and I will include it in my next locations blog. Rural or urban, nowhere is too “unusual” or “weird” for a photography session!

How to dress for a photography session in Sunderland

It’s fair to say that the weather in our little corner of the world in the north east of England can be somewhat…erratic. It can be hot and sunny outside your house but two miles down the road at the coast it’s ten degrees colder and foggy!

Dressing for an average day can be a challenge at the best of times, but what about the added pressure of a photo shoot?! Keep these guidelines in mind when deciding what to wear and it should remove some of the more stressful decisions!

 

Be an onion

OK, I know us northerners are meant to be hard as nails and don’t know the meaning or function of the word “coat”, however I am not your typical northerner.

I absolutely hate being cold and I’m sure you will hate it too if you’re trying to look happy and nice for a photograph while your bare arms are pimply with goosebumps. It’s a fact of life that we get all four seasons in one day so wear layers!

Not only will a t-shirt under your shirt or blouse help keep you warmer, it also offers a quick new look if you don’t want to be wearing the same top for the whole shoot.

Jackets and coats with pockets are not only good for an extra bit warmth and to hold your essentials, they are also handy places to put your hands to add a bit of variety to a pose.

 

Please don’t dress the same!

Unless you’re going for The Simpsons dressing in Uncle Sam outfits in an all-singing, all-dancing, stars and stripes jamboree look? No? I didn’t think so.

Mums, I know it sometimes happens that when you lay out the clothes for your little ones that day, you don’t realise until everyone is sitting together at the breakfast table that you’re all wearing plaid / stripes / blue tops / denim in an unplanned coordination. Break free from this trap today of all days!

 

Neutrals

Try to wear mostly neutrals or light toned clothing. This will give us more freedom and creativity in utilising the various backdrops at our chosen session location.

By this I don’t mean: “go and buy lots of beige clothing in sizes to fit the whole family”. Neutral can be anything from off white, stone, light grey, all the way through to earthy reds, oranges and browns, even a dark khaki green.

Gentlemen: avoid wearing loud, branded clothing or sports tops that have more logos that Lewis Hamilton’s F1 racing gear. A small, unobtrusive logo on a chest pocket or sleeve is fine.

For the kids, if they have any t-shirts with statements that reflect their personality like “Here Comes Trouble!” or “Ninja in training”, bring them along and they can be worn for their individual portraits.

 

Introducing colour

Be selective about how to wear colour. Find jewel tones like burgundy, teal, amber or amethyst, avoid bright primary colours that pull the viewer’s eye straight to the person wearing it. 

For a touch of coordination, pick a colour, then Mum can wear a necklace in that colour, Dad can wear a t-shirt (under a neutral shirt!), the kids can wear a belt, bag, shoes or hat in that colour! It brings you all together nicely without being overbearing throughout the images. 

 

Wear comfortable shoes!

Be practical. We are holding our session outdoors after all! Ladies, please wear flats. Unless you are Bryce Dallas Howard who can outrun the 32mph Jurassic World T-Rex in Louboutins (Howard wears Louboutins, not the Rex…) I don’t want you tottering along in Shard-like heels that pinch your toes and get stuck in damp grass. You will feel uncomfortable, feel miserable, and that will show up in the images no matter how skilled the photographer.

Same for if you try to cram little Johnny’s feet into his Sunday best shoes that are now two sizes too small. The best I’ll be able to manage is a pained grimace mingled with hate because it is sort of my fault he’s stuck out here in the the middle of a field in shoes that squish his feet.

 

Time for a change

Bear in mind that these suggestions are guidelines. The main thing is for you to look and feel great in comfortable clothing that you enjoy wearing, so bring something with you to change into for individual portraits. 

If you have a pretty summer dress in bright, sunflower yellow that reminds you of your favourite holiday, bring it! That sharp, tailored suit that makes you look like James Bond, hang it in the car for a different look.

If the kids have their favourite dressing up outfits or the teenagers have their own “look”, let them express themselves.

TL:DR

Wear layers!

Be warm.

Be comfortable.

Do not match.

Wear neutrals with jewel tones.

No loud brands or logos.

Wear comfy shoes.

Bring along something you love to wear.

Stars and Lightning over Mount Kilimanjaro!

Milky Way and lightning storm over Mount Kilimanjaro!

Milky Way and lightning storm over Mount Kilimanjaro!

As far as experiences go, this is one of those “once in a lifetime that will never be repeated” moments.

My brother, myself and our two Italian gentlemen fellow travellers had arrived at the Amboseli Sopa Lodge for our final two nights on safari.

It was a nice lodge overlooking Mount Kilimanjaro, with friendly staff and spacious rooms with furniture and decoration courtesy of Fred Flintstone.

We were the only four tourists staying there that first night. They were expecting another group to arrive the next day but for now we had the place to ourselves!

After our evening meal in the deserted restaurant, we went outside wondering “what can we do for the rest of the night?”

I happened to look up at the night sky as we left. It was filled with stars. We all stopped to look.

As our eyes adjusted from the artificial lights of the lodge to the darkness, we could see the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

Thanks to the Star Walk app on my phone and the lodge’s free wifi, we were able to identify a couple of constellations.

There were some bats silently flying around above us but they didn’t bother me. At least they were eating the insects that otherwise would have been feasting on us!

Then came the lightning.

It was in the distance but it lit up the sky as a complement to the stars. There was no thunder.

I went back for my camera. Not my big expensive Canon 5D MK III with the Sigma 70-200mm lens attached, but my “cheap” little Canon 100D with a 24mm pancake lens.

At first it didn’t go well. I began slowly and tentatively but achieved nothing but a blank screen. No matter what settings I changed it made no difference.

Then I realised I had made the beginner’s mistake: lens cap!

From there it improved. I took a sweeping shot of the sky with lots of stars but I wasn’t really focusing anywhere. Mainly because I was resting my camera on a wall on top of my hoodie for the long exposures.

I moved further away from the lights of the bar and restaurant but now I was resting my camera on a chair which was even lower than the wall.

Then Pietro (who had a big Canon camera with the Canon 70-200mm plus the 2x extender but he was not taking photos that night) loaned me his tripod. Now things really began to get interesting!

I was able to aim the camera further down to include the foreground bushes and get a focus reference.

After a handful of much improved photos I realised that the lightning was silhouetting Mount Kilimanjaro on the horizon! 

A quick adjustment of the tripod, another 30-second exposure and a dramatic flash of lightning brought “Ooooh!”s from the four of us as the resulting image flashed up on the small camera screen.

I went for another. Again a huge flash of lightning! But our reaction for this second shot was a mere “Meh” compared to the drama of the first image.

After a few more attempts I knew that the photograph that caused the biggest reaction was going to be the best I would get that night.

The following night it was cloudy. That night had been my one chance to get those photographs and had I waited an hour later the clouds may well have moved further across the sky.

Of course the image looked good on the camera screen, but how would it turn out on my 21” iMac?

I need not have worried.

Yes, the bushes in the foreground were way too bright and there was some movement in some stars from the long exposure but the camera had picked up more stars than the naked eye and the silhouette of the mountain was as crisp as it was going to get.

I knew it would take some editing to get the image how I wanted it to look in my mind, but how?

In Lightroom I played around with some settings, exposure and contrast sliders and presets but it still did not look right.

In my sleep-deprived state it took me longer than it should have to notice I could easily remove the rope fence that was strung across the image above the bushes. Once that was out of the way it freed me up to try other things.

In Photoshop I tried layer masks and adjustment layers but again the foreground was too bright.

It was nearly 8pm when I remembered the gradient masks in Lightroom and they solved my problem!

Not only did they desaturate the bushes while keeping the lightning bright, but they allowed me to slightly lighten the sky above the highest point of Kilimanjaro to give its outline more emphasis.

One of my goals while on safari was to attempt a night sky image, weather permitting. I had hoped maybe I would get one night with lots of stars and perhaps a nondescript acacia tree lit up in the foreground as a focal point.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Mount Kilimanjaro would turn out to be my focal point against a backdrop of billions of stars, the Milky Way and accompanied by a lightning storm!

Visiting the Van Gogh Museum - Amsterdam

My purchases from the Van Gogh Museum.

My purchases from the Van Gogh Museum.

None of us slept very well on the ferry heading out that night. I was too cold, too hot, then a bit of both while being clammy at the same time, the ship would hit a wave and creak, or the young child next door would wake up and start to cry just as I was ready to doze off.

Undeterred, we had our short breakfast in the cabin, got ready and went down to wait to disembark.

Driving on the coach through the grey, cloudy landscape that was not too dissimilar to an English countryside in the same weather I couldn’t help but think “I can see why he started out with greys and browns in his palette.”

Having seen only small or incredibly overly detailed maps of Amsterdam I had been rather concerned as to how exactly we were going to navigate our way around this maze of streets and canals. In Venice I had to check the map at every corner to see where we were and where we were going.

Thankfully we had all picked up a larger and more easy to read map on the ferry. On alighting the coach we turned right and found ourselves walking up what had to be the widest shopping street in the city. Halfway along it, Primark and C&A were next door neighbours in a delightful juxtaposition of old and new!

That brought us to the main square, the Dam, and the Royal Palace. After a brief wander around we started to head into the main arterial canal area, and that was where the fun started with the bikes. They came from every direction without warning! Without making a sound!

It was the kind of scenario in which you wished you had chameleon eyes so you could see from the back of your head and every other 360-degree angle in between.

We had to yell out “Bike! Bike! Bike! Bike! Bike! Bike!” to each other so often that we started to sound like the seagulls in Finding Nemo, interspersed with the occasional “Tram!" whenever Mam looked in danger of stepping out in front of one.

Somehow we made it through unscathed, grabbing a bag of famous Amsterdam frites on the way, and began the long walk through the art gallery shops along towards the imposing Rijksmuseum.

Cutting through the walkway under the facade of the main building, we found ourselves in a vast open green space. To my slight consternation I could not see a building that looked like the Van Gogh museum, only one way off in the distance that I sincerely hoped was not it.

Then Dad pointed it out to me. It was over to the right at a much nearer distance! The building I was nervously making for was the concert hall.

My e-ticket in my iPhone Wallet scanned in no problem, I bid goodbye to my parents and off I went. It was similar to the main entrance to the Louvre, a massive new underground entrance hall covered in glass. Why do all museums feel the need for that nowadays?

It was a bit overwhelming at first. I did not know where to start. Even with a floor plan it took a while for me to get my bearings. Basically: start at the bottom and work your way up.

It is a simple and effective route both physically and psychologically. You start with the aforementioned earthy browns and greys of "The Potato Eaters", progressing steadily upwards to the giddy, vivid colours of "Almond Blossom", "Irises" and "Sunflowers".

My experience in the National Gallery with "Wheatfield with Cypresses" where the wheat stalks seemed to move as I walked passed them was even more evident here. Everywhere I looked something on the walls was moving as the light caught the thick layers of oil paint.

Though I did have to stifle a laugh on reading the description of "Garden with Courting Couples", his attempt at a Seurat-inspired pointillism technique. After seeing all the other paintings with their large, confident palette knife strokes I found it quite amusing to imagine him trying out the dots for a few moments before getting fed up of it and reverting back to his own method. In the event they are not so much dots as tiny paint stripes in varying directions and thickness.

I even saw a painting that reminded me of a photograph I had taken in the North Yorkshire moors, in a small woodland in the village of Glaisdale. Had I been more selective with my cropping I would have had a very similar composition to “Trees and Undergrowth”. Maybe I should try it along with the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop?

I had taken a small sketchbook and pencil, but the galleries were quite busy so I had to content myself with clumsy, aimless sketches in front of “Almond Blossom”. There was however, a brief but wonderful moment when I found myself with space around me so I took a step to the left to be centre stage in front of this beautiful painting with no one blocking my view or peering over my shoulder.

One of my “must-see” paintings was “Wheatfield with Crows”, his final painting. I walked around the top floor three times in my quest to find it, but was unsuccessful. It later transpired that it had been removed for some restoration work.

Having been sent some birthday money by my two brothers, I made a beeline for the shop. I had an idea of what I wanted and while I stuck with a couple of purchases, most of them fell by the wayside.

I bought two books that were on offer when buying them together: “Draughtsman” and “Painter”. They are two beautiful big books with lots of information and pictures in them but they were awkward to carry on the journey home! I’m sure they’ll be worth it once I dig into them properly.

I also bought an “Almond Blossom” large postcard, a lens wipe and a pale pink, organic cotton t-shirt with the quote “What is done in love is done well”, a mantra I hope to bring to my own work.

Having had my creative fill I headed back upstairs to the entrance hall and was about to take out my phone to call Mam when I saw her approaching the doors. Talk about good timing!

We all had a quick sit down and I had a drink. Mam and Dad had already had both in the Rijksmuseum cafe. Then I navigated us back through the canals to pass Anne Frank's house, then along past the Dam to find a couple of churches Mam wanted to see. Dad and I had a coffee while she went into one little church that was inside what looked like a house.

By then it was time to head back to Central Station for our coach back to the ferry. Mercifully the sea was calm on the return voyage, the cabin beside us was empty and so we all slept well that night.

On our arrival into Newcastle city centre, as we headed through the Monument to get our free coffees from Waitrose with our loyalty cards before catching the bus home, I could not help but be relieved we no longer needed our chameleon "radar" to look out for bikes!

Painting

Orla Kiely coffee jar brush holders!

Orla Kiely coffee jar brush holders!

It’s strange how things happen, isn’t it?

In one of my favourite books, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying” (no, really, bear with me!), tidying guru Marie Kondo says that whatever you decide to get rid of will “come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now, the thing that will bring you the most happiness…I promise you: whatever you let go will come back in exactly the same amount, but only when it feels the desire to return to you.”

I used to love drawing, painting and colouring. I never had very good technical knowledge, but mostly my drawings and paintings looked similar to what they were supposed to look like.

For my GCSEs I studied Art as one of my subjects, then afterwards barely put pencil or brush to paper. About a month ago my parents dug out a folder containing some of my old artwork. They no longer “sparked joy” as Kondo would say, so I recycled them.

A couple of weeks later I found myself longing to paint again. I watched some videos on YouTube, found a couple of free and cheap courses to follow, and bought myself some paints, palettes and brushes (probably more than I needed, but the first little watercolour set I ordered got lost in the post so I had to find something to fill the void in the meantime).

While I have enjoyed the simple pleasures of making my brushstrokes, mixing my paints and trying to follow instructions, it has been a lot harder than I anticipated and there is so much to learn and relearn!

Even something as simple as mixing colours isn’t that simple when you get back to it. The less said about my water to paint ratio in watercolour painting the better. However I am really looking forward to getting more proficient and learning more about a medium I used to enjoy and still admire.

It has also been fun trying to find creative things to use as storage or a painting tool. I have finally repurposed two of my three Orla Kiely designed Douwe Egberts coffee jars as brush holders. My Dad varnished an unused, little wooden chopping board to make a (free!) cute wooden palette for oils and acrylics.

I have even considered taking a mini watercolour travel set and pad to Kenya with me…Or maybe I’m not that confident yet and I’ll be better off concentrating on the photography while on safari. I can always paint from a photograph when I get home and have more time to work on the piece.

In the meantime, my Mam has booked a mini cruise to Amsterdam for the three of us next week! That means that next Tuesday I will be visiting the Van Gogh museum where I should gain more inspiration to explore my rekindled hobby. I already have my entry ticket booked and saved to my phone to save time on queuing on the day!

It just seemed odd to me that no sooner had I removed my old paintings and drawings that I quite liked but also reminded me of not such a good experience studying it, it then reintroduced itself to me free from those memories. Then no sooner had that happened than I have the chance to visit the museum of my favourite artist and do something I have wanted to do for a long time!

Let’s see…what else can I get rid of to see if it comes back to me in another form?

Is it Possible to be an Eco-Friendly Photographer?

In an ideal world, I would love to be an eco-friendly photographer, but is that even possible?

I know I’m only one small person trying to make a difference in a world of seven billion, but as Galadriel said to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring movie: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

OK, so I can stop ordering 200 6x4 prints for a client and instead create one or two big statement wall art pieces, but there will still be other papers: contracts to sign; order forms to write on, cross out and add up on; questionnaires to fill in, price lists, business cards and gift cards.

Of course the best solution here is to find paper and printers that are sustainable, putting back what they take out, planting a tree (or two) for every one they chop down.

I try to be digitised wherever I can, emailing invoices and receipts, however there will be occasion when a physical paper piece is unavoidable whether for the benefit of my clients or my own records. I don’t mind keeping the post office in business (I was doing it almost single-handedly a couple of years ago, I wonder if they’ve noticed I don’t order things online as much anymore…) by sending the odd USB stick or album by post if it is too far away for me to drive.

In fact, being digital in itself leads to more consumption of electrical power. Charging camera batteries - still better than throwaway ones that end up in landfill, though, powering my iMac, charging my laptop, lighting up a room or a subject.

It is all well and good me taking pretty photos of stunning sunsets and lions in Africa going “oh, wow! Look at this! We have to protect and treasure this forever!”, but what about my own carbon footprint in getting to my location, whether it is the Lake District or the Masai Mara? Petrol, airline fuel, plane tickets, travel documents, vaccination certificates.

In this instance out in the English countryside or African wilderness it is perhaps best to have a simple rule: leave nothing that does not belong here. If that means taking every last sweet wrapper, drinks can, dirty hankie and used loo roll (apparently that will be an issue while on safari) home with me to dispose of properly, then so be it. On a visit to the Grand Canyon in 2008, the first thing I saw was the Canyon, the second thing I saw was a discarded Coca-Cola can in it. It was heartbreaking.

I bought a t-shirt from an outdoor shop the other week. It’s my favourite colour (purple) and has some simple yet beautiful words printed on the front that perhaps we can all live by, whether we are trying to be eco-friendly or not. Try and take a moment and think that these words are not just for when we visit a national park and are not allowed to pick wildflowers, but rather they can be interpreted in the wider sense for humanity’s relationship with the planet as a whole:

“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, keep nothing but memories.”

It's a nice day for a wet wedding

Ok, so the inevitable happened.

You booked your wedding day for the middle of summer, checked the forecasts all week and there is 100% chance of sunshine and 0% chance of rain.

Then you get up on your wedding day, the sun is shining, everyone is happy and excited, then as soon as you set foot out of the door the clouds form and the heavens open.

It's a fact of life when you live in the north east of England. It will rain when you least want it to.

But you needn't let the weather ruin your day! The best thing is to be prepared, just in case.

I always keep a large, clear umbrella in the car for such eventualities so you needn't worry about your hair getting wet, I also have a large clear poncho to spread on the ground to prevent your dress getting wet and muddy and because it's clear it won't show up in the photos.

If your dress is long enough to hide your pretty shoes, ditch them! Pop a pair of old, comfy trainers in the car and change into them before we head out for photos. That way you won’t be worrying about ruining your shoes, your heels won’t slip on slick paving slabs or sink in the mud, your trainers won’t be seen in the photograph and most importantly you will be standing comfortably! You may be cold and wet but at least your feet won’t be hurting!

If you’re like me and you hate being cold, bring a coat! A pretty coat that you love and preferably has a hood, primarily to keep your hair dry and secondly it’ll make a nice frame around your face.

Rain can also add an artistic feel to your photos. Whether you are huddled under a brolly in the car park or a folly in a country manor garden, slanting rain can be used to create an unusual effect that can be enhanced with the use of black and white images.

Once the showers have passed, reflections in large puddles create a fun sense of the weather that day...You might even be persuaded to "jump" into them!

Even seemingly atrocious atmospheric conditions can lead to great photos, for example dramatic clouds behind you as you gaze into each other's eyes, oblivious to the weather can make for a statement piece of artwork or panorama.

In such conditions, a colourful accessory like a rose, scarf or pashmina can be used to create a pop of colour in an otherwise black and white image.

If you are absolutely, positively opposed to stepping outside and getting wet, I don’t mind at all! I’ll find a nice big window on the ground floor somewhere, place you both in front of it, then I’ll pop outside and get a shot through the window as the rain drops trickle down the window panes!

On the other hand, you might be a Princess Fiona who “likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain” and is more than happy to take some exuberant, liberating photos during a downpour. I’m game if you are!

Remember this: even if it does rain persistently throughout your wedding day, there is always the off chance at the end of the day that the clouds will part to reveal a beautiful sunset with skies by J.M.W. Turner. Wouldn’t one stunningly coloured photograph of the newlyweds at the end of the day make up for an entire day of grey?

Let’s hope so!