Hello and thank you for calling in...

My name is Helen and I am a Photographer living in England. I started this Blog on the day that my Grandma died, three months after my Father died and several weeks before a third funeral. Initially it was a very personal way to stay connected to the people I'd lost and it helped, it really did. But writing and taking pictures everyday has opened back up a creative side that I had lost during the everyday. A big thank you to my followers, to those who take the time to comment and to new visitors, I hope we will become Blog friends too...

Monday, 28 November 2011

Christmas starts here

We went to our local garden centre on the latest photography club outing with a challenge to capture 'Groups of Objects'

'Cups of Joy'
'Three Baubles'

The Christmas displays at this time of year make for exciting compositions and the bright vivid colours are wonderful. The array of different objects, whilst a little overwhelming

'Red hats and Carrots Noses'

at first are thrilling when you 'get into it' however be prepared that it will take you a few shots and bit of wondering around before you begin to 'see' the picture possibilities. Permission is needed of course.

'Masked Christmas Gold'

'Teddies on Parade'

But you do have to be prepared to be patient and a little thick skinned as no-one is

'Three Baubles II'
tolerant to a tripod and a photographer in their way so you can't really get away with taking time to compose shots, a picture from further away that you can crop in closer when you get home is much easier to achieve.

'Us Three'
and flash photography is not allowed so sometimes its difficult to stop camera shake or get enough light in the darker areas of the display.


I think the trick is to take lots of shots and be prepared to edit when you get home. Take a look at Kat's blog post on aspect ratios, it gives very useful information on cropping your images. Take the time to try your picture cropped in different ways, you could even make a copy and produce two very different images from the same original shot.

The effects are worth it, I have turned these images into very nice little Christmas cards.

Monday, 21 November 2011

feeling the strain

Reading through the blogs I follow and spending a very hectic weekend with a whole lot of different people I’ve noticed a common theme – the women are tired, worn out tired. A lot are poorly, many blogs are lonely and post less and many friends are wilting. The customers at my art fair this weekend were a subdued lot, hard to engage and listless compared to the bouncy sparkly people that came through the door at the same venue in the spring.

This is always a busy time of year for women, we trudge along full of the worry of a million and one things to do before the big day, while children buzz with excitement and men pretend that nothings happening. But is it just that this year seems different, women seem more strained, more desperate for a rest and actually more un-happy.

Maybe the men are feeling it too but just don’t show it the way we do. The debate at our dinner party on Friday evening about public sector workers and their pension cuts got very heated between the men. This has never happened in the ten years our group have all known each other. Firstly I’ve never known a political conversation to take place, talk is normally of a jolly, superficially great fun nature and secondly I’ve never know the group to turn on each other.

Don’t get me wrong there were no fisticuffs and everyone left as friends but I was squirming in my seat at the rising voices and increasingly aggressive tones. This is the group that’s jollied along through endless airport delays over the years, endured with British stiff upper lip and a lot of giggles bone shaking coach trips, terrible ski chalets and once, three nights without sleep while our children ran us ragged. I guess the men are feeling the strain too. Theres a strange atmosphere in the air.

At our local garden centre yesterday, where we have every year the most amazing Christmas display you will ever see, the place was heaving but the tills were empty. You could walk straight through to pay for your item rather than the usual endless queuing but no-one was. It was surreal. The decorated halls and small shops were full to bursting of people who had come along for the feel of Christmas but the credit crunch has really hit now and no-one could afford to buy. I noticed on Remembrance Day, the amount of people who took the time this year to attend services, wear poppies, far more than usual and I’m wondering if now that we are all under more strain finically, have we developed a greater capacity for ‘feeling’, for sympathy and understanding. Or maybe it was a chance to pull together, the huddling together for support that the nation does at occasions like that. Maybe both. I’m reading a book at the moment that talks about the way everyone rallied around in the war, when times were hard, communities pulled together and theres certainly been some of that, more people than ever before at local events with everyone looking for the chance of a bit of frivolity amongst all the doom and gloom.
Theres is an air of tension though, how quickly the riots irrupted in this country a few months ago was frightening, so the worry is it could swing either way. I have no conclusion to these ponderings yet, I’m afraid they are just a collection of thoughts but I will have to sit down quietly with myself and figure out why I’m on edge, genuinly worrying about my fellow man.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Shades of Autumn Photography Challenge

Lots of Brown images today to link in with the Shades of Autumn Photography Challenge's colour of the week, but the images tell a story of how I'm feeling right now.

I just had a Birthday and you know that feeling - 'times a ticking' ......

Feels a very long time since my heels were a'clickin

I'd like to pack a case....

and make an escape......

but alas its just wishing.

So I'll stay home and see

all the joys England gives to me

when harvests are done

and winter does come

but oh how I'd love

to break bread with my love in some sunnier climes........

Monday, 14 November 2011

wanderings in the woods

A gloriously sunny foggy morning led to some magical sights in our local doggy walking spot.

I dragged myself out at silly o'clock to amazing rays of light through the trees

glistening dew covering every surface

and the most spooky mist rising off the ground meeting the fog. The bench above has been 'relocated' from the adjacent golf course and sits in the middle of the field.

But the picnic benches in the picture above are a permanet fixture full of licky ice cream kiddies in the summer and huddled up doggy walkers stopped for a chat in the winter.

I spent hours wondering around as the sun rose along with the wellie boot wearers and it was lovely to chat as muddy mongrels jumped up to sniff my camera.

Each walker had a suggestion of their favourite part of the wood to photograph

and the highlight for me was the little water rats feeding alongside the robins and blue tits at

some bird seed that someone had left on top of a tree stump.

Perhaps it was the excitement but I only managed fuzzy pictures of them but it was wonderful
to take the time to just watch nature being beautiful!

Monday, 7 November 2011

colours and lines

Running with last weeks posts about colour, black & white photography and the colour purple I clicked over for my daily fix of Kats blog and had a 'moment' when I saw her photograph 'Under the Bridge' This picture incorporates my colours and I could look at that picture for hours, it calms my soul. These are the colours I paint my figurative paintings in and I have clothes with patterns in these colours, so looking at this picture is heaven to me.
But it is a little more than that, the subject is 'me' too. There is Architecture, water, my new favourite decay and lines! How thrilling are lines in a photograph, sending your eyes backwards and forwards, around the picture and back to the beginning again. I have hundreds of pictures with 'lines' running through them and this links nicely with Kat's current
Exploring with a Camera theme of Opposing Lines.
'Red Leicester'

Red Leicester has so many lines that when I first saw the picture I had taken, it felt a little overwhelming. When taking it I was drawn to the colours I saw through the lens. The red made a striking foreground against the brown wood and the pale blues of the sky through the windows. The architectural elements were a secondary consideration even though I had gone to Leicester to capture architecture and pattern but all the opposing lines in the picture take your eye off in different directions and somehow it works.

So as with Kat's picture, take the colour away and I would still love it, which is what we have been trying to achieve in black & white photography, although it was the colour that I connected with first in both pictures.
I find this subject fascinating, that you can look at an image and LOVE it, its that subconscious 'knowing' that this picture is just perfect for you. Its when you begin to break down the reasons why you like it that it becomes really interesting and I listen intently to visitors to the Gallery, when after looking around at the many images on the walls they stop in front of one picture and are transfixed. Many times the first comment is "This picture is me" and then, usually when a puzzled friend asks why, they begin to break it down into "I love the colour" or "I love to look at boats" or "I love the pattern". Often people will come in looking for a picture that matches their living room and they leave with something totally the opposite. They come in with a practical head and they leave following their heart.
As I've mentioned before, as an artist you are aware that by painting onto white canvas you are baring your soul to the world with your creation. You are choosing the subject, the colours, the composition and presenting it for admiration and often criticism. Its a scary thing to do sometimes.

I wondered if the same where true of photography, do our pictures have our stamp on them in the same way, could you look at a photograph and say oh yes thats so and so's work. These ponderings inspired the 'Me Reflected Photography Share'
I had been looking for a picture in my portfolio that holds all the elements of the 'me inside' to put in the share and I hadn't found one. Kat's picture would be very close and I wondered why in all my time as a photographer I had never strived to take my perfect photograph and had never analysed what elements I would need in that picture. I have some pictures that I'm very proud of, as I'm sure every photographer does but they have all been reactive photography, something catches your eye and you take the shot. Its not so easy to manipulate nature or buildings into your perfect composition and if you do, it then begins to feel too contrived. Enter the whole debate about photoshoping and if you take out or add parts to an image is it cheating? ....... this is where my head begins to hurt and I realise I'm rambling way off track again and I still haven't loaded the dishwasher......

Saturday, 5 November 2011

pictures from the allotment

"Take nothing but pictures, Leave nothing but Footprints"

Here are some more photographs taken from the allotment
I talked about yesterday, some of which I have sold in my Gallery and that has had me puzzling over the quote above.

'Frosted Flowers'

Photography is one of the very few things I do, with a growing family, that doesn't cost me money. Wandering along on my own with my camera capturing the 'magic' is mine and I don't have to pay a fee or a tax for any of it. The countryside is just there waiting for me with birds, squirrels, water voles, sheep and cows putting on a show that

doesn't cost a penny.

'Rays of Light'
But thinking about the quote, I do 'take'. I print my photographs and sell them, I get something out of all this natural giving and do I ever put anything back? Suddenly I feel very selfish and .. eek ... exploitative! Perhaps I'm over thinking it - hey I've nothing to feel guilty about today so lets invent something! hmmmm

'Smiling Flowers'

When my group and I visit the local nature parks and places of interest we pay for the car parks or we pay an entrance fee so thats fine, no guilt there and when I go to my favourite canal locations in this area I take bread for the shivery ducks so I supposed they don't mind being my muses for half an hour. The cows, well cows are such flirts they will happily pose for hours on end pulling funny faces for absolutely nothing. But how does it work when you are photographing something that in essence belongs to someone else, like the allotment, should you ask first?

'Cold Cabbage'
I went to take pictures in Leicester at the Highcross Centre, a gem of patterns and architectural elements for any photographer and I got 'told off' by security. It hadn't occurred to me that I would need permission to photograph outside the building at 8am but the manager from Waggamamas (which had an amazing reflection of the building in the window ) came out and told me to go away and then the heavys descended in the form of a gadget laden security guard, who directed me to the Management Suite to get my okays. I tried to show her on my camera that I was infact taking pictures of the stunning blue sky against the supporting steel of the top most corner of the centre but apparently in that part of Leicester even the sky belongs to the big boys and us mere mortals cant have a piece of it without permission.

'Dawn of an English Morn'

The same thing happened in my local Co-Op (a large department store) They have some amazing displays in their homewares department, lovely patterns made by repeated objects and shiny, sparkly things hanging in rows holding reflections to die for. So I was snapping away with my i-phone in order to put them on my Instgram page and I have to admit this time I did feel a little sheepish but I wasn't going to sell these pictures, I was just taking them for the joy of the capture when oops wrist slap by the manageress
" I can't let you take photographs, you might be a competitor trying to steel our ideas"

I'm hoping to take a model to Calke Abbey to capture some Vouge like shots against the blistering shutters in the abandoned rooms. Now I know I'm going to need permission for that and I suspect its going to cost rather a lot for the privilege. I haven't plucked up the courage to make the phone call yet......