I am often asked how I came up with ‘spikey mouse photography‘ for my business, I have to admit that it is all thanks to a boy called Ben who wanted to buy his mum a birthday present. Ben is my eldest son and one day when he was out with his grandmother he decided that he was going to buy me a present for my birthday, I think he was around 3 or 4 years old at the time. They finally came up with a ceramic ‘Hedgie’ hedgehog and Ben has been buying me 2 or 3 of them a year ever since. It is an understatement to say that I now have quite a collection and when I was naming my new business adventure everyone suggested using ‘Hedgehog’ but I wanted something a little different and found that in Bengali Hedgehog was spikey mouse and a business was born! Strange how things happen, I have a great and memorable company name and am reminded every business day of my little boy Ben and my lovely Mum who has sadly passed away now. Ben is now a grown man and a father himself and is really happy I chose to use him as my muse, thank you Ben. x
Well I didn’t realise that my whole summer would be taken up with a grandchild, how was yours? I had great plans to spend the whole of the summer with my daughter, she is starting university next week and the plan was to do some collaborative art together, however I ended up looking after a five year old full time. I think it is these frustrations that can shake your belief in your creative talent, they certainly do for me. Someone upstairs (God) is throwing things in my way, stopping me from creating and making me be the person I don’t want to be anymore, which is utter bull shit I know but I just can’t help thinking it. Is this impostor syndrome? Is it a mark of my mental state? Who knows. I would imagine many artists feel this way at one time or another, its how you get around these thoughts that i’m interested in.
I’ve recently had extensive counseling for grief and anger, when I say counseling well it was more her listening to me waffle on about how angry I am with one of my children and can you please give me a way to cope with the loss of my mum. But in there was some very informative ideas on how I could cope with these feelings and they have come in handy over the summer as I have put my life on hold for a different child. Love yourself was one thing I tried to keep in the front of my mind, its easier to deal with others if you at least like yourself, take yourself away from your situation to recharge yourself, if you can. I tried having a date with my husband and that worked wonders, just doing small things for yourself, even if it is just playing games on your phone, taking a deep breath and then carrying on works for me. the ultimate tip is allowing yourself to be creative, i’m not sure if anyone else feels this but sometimes it feels like I don’t allow my creativity as a way of punishing myself for something that had happened be it my fault or not.
Anyway, a summer of no creativity, what can I do about that. Well not a lot as summer is nearly over but I can use the autumn to create new work and I’ve started already with multiple trips out locally and I’ve started several new Polaroid soaks and i’m collating ideas for more Polaroid experiments (breath), all that remains is for me to allow myself my creativity as you should. We are allowed to take time out of our lives to feed that part of our soul that is creative, if we dont we are doing ourselves a disservice. So how was your summer? Were you super creative or not so much, leave a comment and share the secret of your creativity.
Walking my dog Storm this morning along our usual route, (up the hill through the cemetery and down the hill back home) walking through the cemetery the sun was shining, it was a bit too warm when the sun shone, Storms an Alaskan Malamute after all, just think of that lovely fur coat it surely gets very warm and the breeze blew the scent of the mown grass at us and I was immediately engulfed and taken right back to summer time when I was a school. As it happens my school is actually just across the road from where we walk and I was whisked back to sports day, laying on the field watching my friends race and waiting for my turn, the scent of fruit juice and ice lollies, the roar of little voices and parents shouting on their kids, it was a good memory. My Mum came to mind, coming to sports day in a white pants suit and leaving with small smudgy handprints all over her legs, (white to a sports day, she was looking for trouble!) We stopped for a short time and just breathed in the scent and I took the time to just bathe in the remembering of a good childhood. Is there a scent that takes you back to a happy time?
Building my own PC, who would have thought! With my Lenovo ideacentre not pulling its weight anymore and not finding any prebuilds that had everything I wanted kind of forced me down this route. I’m not averse to a challenge and usually if someone says ‘ I bet you..’ then it just has to be done. That is how I found myself staring into the black depths of Hell or a terrifying and very expensive mistake!
The reasons behind a new computer land solely on buying a new camera, a Nikon Z7 who’s file sizes my Lenovo just couldn’t handle and if your taking the photos you at least want to see them and it just wasn’t happening. In my previous post there is a list of everything I bought, this is how I built it.
Unboxing was so traumatic as I have never even seen the inside of a computer before, starting with the motherboard and you dont want static when your touching this or its toast. How interesting, all of the connection points and stuff, I took a really hard look at it and in its own way it is a thing of beauty. I chose AMD Ryzen 7 for my CPU and that was a trauma to fit, dont touch the pins, fit it in the right way or else, find the triangles, which are SO small you need a magnifying glass to see! Next i fitted the Corsair SSD and there were NO additional screws in the box, the case anywhere, thank heavens for computer geeks who live near by. The Ryzen & comes with an RGB cooling fan so that went on next which was so fiddly trying to get the arms locked in place without pulling anything off or bumping anything but this was my first achievement, go me! The second was getting the motherboard into the case.
Several YouTube videos later, a replacement part and several days I managed the 16GB memory, which was 2 x 8GB Corsair DDR4 memory, which was a snap to fit, as long as they are in the correct slots! Cooling was something I had to research as the kids always say their computers are running hot when they game and I wanted to avoid this if I could so I chose Corsairs Elite performance triple fan pack and put two on the front and one above the CPU, with an integrated fan at the back of the case, one on the CPU, two on the Graphics card and one on the power supply, I think there is enough. I then fitted the Nvidea Geforce RTX3050 graphics card, the hardest part to that was screwing the plate back in at the side, three hands needed! Seagate Barracuda HDD and a 750W MSI power supply went in, I turned it on and ….. nothing. Say what! Confusion, I’m sat there scratching my head wondering and hoping i’d not just blown £1.500 when my daughter came in and saw me and my puzzled face, SHE was the one to figure out that just because its turned on at the back doesn’t mean you don’t have to turn it on in the front too! BINGO, it worked!!!! Definitely a sweaty palms moment and it is soooo pretty.
I had a moment as I couldn’t get the PC to recognise the monitor but hey kids don’t know everything, my son had plugged it into the wrong port and when plugged in properly opened up the Bios, a scary place if you get it wrong, I then tried to install Windows 11. So let me tell you a story, when purchasing your PC operating system bare in mind whether you want to install it from a CD or as a download, I bought a CD! It has no CD player! Off to buy a 32GB memory stick so I can use a kids PC to download it and put it on my computer. Windows 11 is brand new, so new that my computer kept telling me that it was not compatible, pull hair out in big clumps, so Windows 10 it had to be which I downloaded off the internet where I should have got Windows 11 from anyway. The install went so fast and after installing a few driver updates I was finally able to install Windows 11 and Adobe Cloud and Lightroom and PhotoShop and the photos that had caused the trauma in the first place! Opening LR was such a SHOCK, seconds instead of minutes, have you seen the Sky advert for internet with the minions, they open the laptop and all of a sudden are airborne because of the speed? That was me!
Apart from one or two hiccups I now have a lovely new computer, I’m not too sure about the monitor as I’m used to the glass screen on my Lenovo, I may add it as a second monitor just to check picture quality though I have been reassured I will get used to it, there are several persons who would gladly take the monitor off my hands if I don’t. I purchased a wifi keyboard and mouse too, the keyboard is fine but the mouse is rubbish so I will once again head over to Amazon and see what I can find/afford, I’m not paying stupid money if I can help it.
So that’s it, I’ve built my own computer and it works! GO ME!
Have you seen the photos on my website? They are beautiful, colourful, moody, photos of the Wirral in all of its glory. I’ve processed them in Adobe PS and LR on my Lenovo ideacentre, Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-6400T CPU with 8GB of RAM with a beautiful glass touchscreen and it has served me well. Until I bought a Nikon Z7 (cough) and now, well to say that it just doesn’t like the size of the files is an understatement. Luckily I’ve had enough money put by to buy myself a new computer and after arguing with my children, who seem to know everything about computers and what I need (lol) trying to tell me an all in one computer isn’t worth my time and I should get a tower and having looked at SO many on the internet, ‘I decided to build my own!’ 😲 Yeah I had a brain fart and decided I was perfectly capable to do it myself.
This year, 2022, has been all about things I can do for myself, that stretch me, take me out of my comfort zone and I think everyone should try it at least once. Anyway, everyone knows by now how computers work, what they need in them to work and there is so much on the internet these days that you can find out whats necessary at the click of a few buttons. So me being me I just jumped in and after a few conversations with those in the know ( the kids) and went onto the corsair website. It has its own build your pc page, you choose what you need and buy it, my first effort came to nearly £5000 😂 Yeah, so I went back and chose some different stuff, ordered it and when it arrived, well, there was only half of the things I’d ordered, then I realised, I’d only bought the Corsair stuff, no Windows etc 😢 for £1.400, erm NO. So I sent it all back and went onto Amazon. Three weeks later and a few phone calls to America I had my refund.
Part 2. After that disaster of a start and the feeling that certain young people were laughing at me I tried again only this time I googled EVERYTHING. 🤓 ‘Best Graphics Card for photography,’ ‘best cpu’ etc and in the end and not too painfully came up with the following; an AMD Ryzen 7 Processor , AMD as it is slightly faster than Intel, a Nvidia Geforce RTX 3050 graphics card, I weighed up between the 3050 and the 3090 and found there wasn’t a significant difference for my needs apart from cost, an MSI MPG B550 motherboard, a Seagate Barracuda 4 TB internal Hard Drive HDD, 16 gig of memory, 1TB SSD, an MSI MPG A750GF power supply, Corsair RGB triple fan kit, an MSI Vampiric 010 tower, Windows 11. I chose a BenQ monitor as I have had several in the past and know they have a good build quality and they have a great image quality too. Wireless keyboard and mouse but I have to say I am disappointing in the mouse and will be replacing it. Phew, then it all has to be put together!
So I Googled it! 😉 and watched MANY YT videos and when Amazon had finished delivering all of the parts I set out to begin the build. There is a video of Henry Cavill on instagram showing him building his monster computer, it took him several days to get everything installed and running and I kind of thought that he took too long, I thought it could be built in a day and that I would be zooming around Adobe LR like no ones business, oh how wrong I was!
Time is very important when your doing something like this and to get time when there are no expectations of yourself was difficult. I think in all it took me a week, maybe more as I had to return a part I’d ordered by mistake, swap it out for what I really wanted then had a part that was broken and had to be replaced but all in all, I did it with a little help from the kids. I haven’t named it yet and wish I had been recording myself when I opened Adobe LR for the first time because that was a moment, it was so fast! Now I have a shiny, super fast computer, bring on the editing!
Haven’t done one of these posts in a long while!
Wanderings with Chris to LLanberis which is a village in Gwynedd, northwest Wales, on the southern bank of the lake Llyn Padarn and at the foot of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. Google it and you will see lots and lots of posts featuring a tree, a lake and mountains. Some are fantastic others are samey samey but they are all unique as there is only one Lonely Tree on the sore of LLyn Padarn. I have seen this tree plastered all over instagram, sunrise, sunset, night, moody, you name it it’s been done and when we came out of lockdown it was the first place we headed to because I wanted to photograph it too. So armed with my new Nikon Z7 we headed out to Wales at stupid o’clock in the morning to get there for sunrise, only there wasn’t one.
‘Wikipedia says; Llyn Padarn is a glacially formed lake in Snowdonia, Gwynedd, north Wales, and is an example of a moraine dammed lake. The lake is approximately 2 miles long and at its deepest point is 94 feet deep, and is one of the largest natural lakes in Wales. At its south-eastern end it is linked to the neighbouring Llyn Peris. The busy village of Llanberis lies on the southern banks of the lake. The outflow of Llyn Padarn is on the northern shore and is called Afon Rhythallt, which passes by the village of Brynrefail, Gwynedd and becomes Afon Seiont below Pont Rhythallt, near Llanrug. It reaches the sea at Caernarfon. Padarn Country Park is located on the northern flank of the lake, including Coed Allt Wen, a rare and ancient sessile oak woodland. Both the woodland and Llyn Padarn are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.’ Wikipedia
We drove for about two hours in the dark, up before any sane person, I was excited to get there as it was the first hint of freedom we’d had for so long. I was expecting hoards of photographers crowding around the lakeside as it is such a popular place, there was Chris, me and two other guys and a few wild swimmers. We politely shared the best views, I was even encouraged by one guy to lend one of his lenses, we had the same camera, we waited for the sky to show colour, it didn’t, they left and we hung around with me taking photos from as many view points as possible in the off chance I could get something different, you can’t really.
Back home and to my horror I discovered my computers graphics card couldn’t handle the images from my new camera, queue new computer, it opened them in Adobe lightroom but took far too long to do anything with them. I have some great shots, the raw files are around 70MB each and are sitting on my hard drive until I get my new computer, those I have managed to process to some extent are below. I’m going back to try again for a sunrise.
A letter to a much loved friend.
My dear, you have been one of the constants in my life for many years, i’m not really sure exactly how long ago we met but it was, on my side, love at first, no make that second, sight. There was another but they were out of my league, then I saw you.
You fulfilled me, empowered me, gave me a reason to be the best me. I can remember the first day we met, the excitement of taking you home to meet my family, of being alone with you and learning everything about you. We had fun times you and I, things went so fast between us, memories were filled, replaced and filled again, I could do things with you i’d never done before and there was no one to judge. I felt so enabled, you helped me produce some of my best work, you were my muse.
I know you remember the trips that were taken to the beautiful countryside and the city’s, to the mountains and the stately homes, you store them in your memory better than I, that’s why I rely on you so much to remember but I have come to realise how much you struggle now. It hurts to see you slowing down, I wait for you to catch me up and its taking longer each passing day but I wait and hope.
Your end of life diagnosis was such a shock to us both and I have nursed you through, I have removed as much of the outside interference as I dare but no one can live without a heart and yours has just about given up on me now. There will be no more laughing at silly youtube cat videos together, no more reminiscing over holidays and days out, the best we can do together is read and write the odd blog post. I will miss you when you have gone, you gave me the taste for a better life, you were there whenever I needed you and you worked hard to ensure I had what I needed when I needed it the most.
How will I ever replace you, you were so smart, you look amazing, you can still get into positions I can’t dream of but I cant replace your heart, so my dear, I am replacing you! It will be so very hard to let you go as I have loved working and playing with you over so many years but it really is over between us, I must move on. I cant turn back time to when we first met but someone else can and I believe you will live on in another life giving enjoyment to another person and I will have another love a love that is faster, remembers more and has so many capabilities, my dear you are being replaced by a Ryzen 9 heart with a Nvidea Geforce RTX 3050 graphics card and an MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk motherboard with so much power that we will soar high!
Goodbye my dear, I hope you will live a fulfilling life with another, maybe I will remember you but you know how bad my memory is ………………
Nikon Z7 review. I’ve always owned Nikon cameras and lenses and decided to upgrade my D7000 to the Z7, oh boy what a difference! I had become increasingly dissatisfied with my D7000, the images were not as sharp as they could be, the camera was second hand when I bought it roughly 8-10 years ago and as I shoot to sell I knew that it was time to upgrade. Research is very important and I read as much about the various mirrorless cameras as I could, I tried out the Sony a7 but found it too heavy and far too expensive and really in my opinion that only left Nikon, so putting faith in the brand I found a great deal with Park Cameras and bought the Z7.
Don’t you just love the excitement of opening the big black box and finding a pristine camera and lens waiting for you? It sends shivers down my spine! Switching it on and taking the first photo, even if it is of just the cat, diving into the menu’s and sub menus, oh divine! Now, I’m not going to give you one of those reviews, you know the kind that you get from the guys who do techy stuff, I’m going to tell you the stuff that I feel is important.
First and probably after cost, the most important thing for me was the weight of the camera and any lenses I may buy and at 675g for the body with battery and memory card I find it a very reasonable weight, add in the kit lens, the 24-70mm which weighs in at 900g and I find this to be more than manageable. The size of the grip is smaller than the D7000 but I’ve small hands so I dont find It a problem holding the camera comfortably, if you have large hands adding the battery grip gives that extra bit to hold onto. ( Which is important because those cameras dont bounce which I found out the first time I used mine! ) I love that you can switch between the eye piece and the monitor just by putting the camera to your eye, that the monitor extends out but unfortunately not to the extent needed in portrait mode. The screen is touch sensitive and you can take photos just by touching the screen which I like, you can also adjust your settings on the screen, zoom in and out using your fingers, if you touch the bottom of the screen a scroll bar appears allowing you to scroll quickly through your images. The i menu can be customised bringing all of your favorite options under one button. The little joystick takes some getting used to, I keep forgetting its there when im moving the focal point around the screen but its a bonus as it moves fast. At 45.7 megapixels you get great detail to your images. Nikon says I quote “The back-illuminated 45.7 MP full-frame CMOS sensor with focal-plane phase-detection AF captures razor-sharp images.” And it does! Stunning images, I cant wait to print and compare, its going to be amazing. The menu is similar to the D7000, some extra stuff in there because its a full frame camera but its easy to navigate. I love that it is weatherproof, I’m constantly taking photos in the rain so now I dont have to be too worried about getting wet. One thing that is a complete let down though is that at the moment you cant upload your photos to a PC by WiFi, it just doesn’t work which is a shame. There are loads of other things to review but only having taken the camera out a few times I dont feel I can comment on them yet, so at this point I can say, yes I love the camera, Yes I’m glad I upgraded, am I a trifle nervous about the cost of lenses, yes but I’ve the converter so I can still use some of my older lenses. Oh and one other thing that is totally annoying, once the files have uploaded to your computer they are NEF files and you have no preview image so they have to go through Adobe Lightroom before you can see the results, if you know of a way to have a preview image with a NEF file let me know.
These images are straight out of the camera, I haven’t had chance to process any yet but I am really pleased with their quality, what do you think? Please comment below.
We all go through numerous changes in our lives and as a woman I have gone through many from childhood through to adulthood and out the other side, some have been harder than others, while a few have been so easy I’ve not noticed. Going from daughter to carer to facing the grief of loosing my parents has been one of the most difficult but it has also a significance, I am now free to live my life how and where I want. For the first time I can say to my husband, ‘ ok we’re off ‘ and go and have the adventure. I’m not quite out of the country yet but there are lots of ways to add adventure to your life, cut your long hair short, ditch those all encompassing jumpers, shop in a different location, go for a drive down the motorway with no plan for where your going, swap something that you are very comfortable with and learn to successfully use a new one, make a list of place’s you want to visit and start ticking them off, learn something new and basically just live your life like It’s one big adventure, after all we only get one life to live.
I’ve been speaking to women in my age group, women who have had children who have looked after their families, their loved ones and we all seem to agree, we ‘need’ adventure in our lives now that we are no longer needed by just about everyone. Some women ditch the husband for a new model but I personally think that’s an adventure too far but I could settle on ditching the house and running away to foreign climes. I’d start in Europe and visit all those little countries that appeal, Bulgaria for one, Italy, Sicily, Holland, etc……. There’s a guy on Instagram @1bike1world Dean and Nala the cat he rescued from the side of the road and they have the right idea, Dean rides his bike through country after country experiencing everything life has to offer. Now I’m not saying that I would go that far but having the guts to up and travel like that is amazing!
So far this year I have made my wish list, even ticked off one adventure, visited a place I’ve always wanted to go to, cut my hair short and reveled in just being able to do it all. I’ve bought a new camera, totally different from what I’m used to and am slowly learning how to use it and I am training myself to put myself first for the first time in 26 years. One thing that I am amazed at is how painful it is to do but I promised myself the adventure and that’s what I’m going to give myself, If you had the choice of adventures what and where would it be?
Failure to take great photos, photos that are not sharp are unfocused and not print worthy. Well the first phrase is a mindset thing and comes down to mental health, if you dont think you will, well then, you wont. Covid has done a tap dance over everyone’s mental health and for me the only way through has been counseling but no print worthy photos at all? I’ve been taking photos, learning about photography and experimenting for many years and I noticed no matter what f stop, iso, exposure length I chose, those pictures were coming out fuzzy. I checked if the lenses were focusing correctly, my technique, read loads of articles about it and came to the conclusion that I was going to blame my kit!
I can hear it now, the loud voices, ‘here’s another one blaming their kit for their own short comings’ well actually, I realised that I have owned my camera for over 12 years and most of my lenses for around the same time, I’ve not upgraded anything as I’ve gone along and stayed comfortable using second hand gear. Time for an upgrade!
First on my list was to find a camera and lenses that were light enough for me to carry, second was usability, third price and fourth, well price, some lenses are astronomical. I knew I wouldn’t be able to purchase the most up to date model so read up on Sony, Panasonic and Nikon. I’ve already had a trial run with Sony but found it far too heavy, I cant get to grips with Panasonic, dont know why but I’ve never liked their camera’s so that left Nikon. I read up on the Z6 and Z7 but as a landscape photographer felt the Z7 a better fit and bought myself a late Christmas present, thank heavens for Black Friday Sales!
I’m going to write a post on my likes and dislikes, if any and how I’m finding mirrorless over 3/4 frame, I cant wait to use it, to print the first photo, all I have to do is figure out where I am going to go to take those photos. Any ideas?
Best guess, i’m a little late for this post as we are heading into February all ready, to be truthful it’s not really occurred to me to post on my blog as I’ve not done anything yet. I imagine I am the same as a great number of people in being glad that 2021 is now in the distance, it was another tough year but we are out on the other side now and we have the chance to aspire to excitement and change.
One of the things that I have been talking to my husband about is saying ‘No’ more to our family, not in a mean way but in a way that will help them understand that they are capable enough to stand on their own two feet and not need to come to us whenever they break a nail. Each of them in their own unique ways have needed our help emotionally and financially but I can see, even if they cant, that they are capable adults now so please stop leaning on us, I suppose it’s me cutting apron strings.
What do I hope to get from saying No more? Well time and peace to nurture both mine and my husbands passions, I want more time to grow artistically, to learn more about photography and to explore the genre more and I want to give my husband the time and peace to write and to be able to balance them out so we both get to do the things we love. 2022 has to be a better year but saying that word ‘No’ is very hard! What do you want from 2022?