How did I name Spikey Mouse Photography?

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

Nikon Z7

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?

2022 a New Year

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?

Standing in front of a zillion people naked!

I showed a piece of art work to a gallery manager/owner last week. You know where you have one of those dreams where your standing in front of a zillion people and you realise your naked, well that’s how i felt! The pieces are still a work in process, im not sure which direction they will take but i wanted them scanned to a memory card so i can use photoshop to play with the images a bit more. It’s really like stripping back your skin and showing someone whats underneath when a ‘stranger’ looks at my new work, i feel very exposed and worried they will laugh at my efforts but he didn’t, he said that one was amazing and one had potential, phew wipes brow. So now i have to figure what the potential is and how to produce it.

I’m not sure about you but when im on a creative binge if i look at other artists work i find i start to emulate them, i know nothing is new but i find keeping to my own style, which is kind of fluid, quite difficult if i look at other artists and then the old self doubt raises it’s head but i think this time i may just have a look at Gustav Klimt as i appear to be going in that direction anyway.

Do You Have a To Do List?

This is Me and my dog Storm.

I, me, ( personal pronoun ) myself, (reflexive pronoun ) all words i am finally able to say that describe me, Karen, no carer or daughter added to it, just me. I have been ‘just’ me for 21 months now, yes i am wife, mother, grandmother, sister but i am finally free to find me and i feel like i am ‘finding’ me, finally. It is strange how everything has changed yet nothing has changed, i still live in the same house with the same people, i still hold onto the same dreams but my art has changed so much. Getting back to my To Do List, I’ve had and still have a desire to be a different me, do different things that the ‘old me’ wouldn’t or couldn’t do and over the last 12 months I’ve been kind of creating a list of things that need to be done as i haven’t been able to do them in previous years.

  1. Go to a VIP opening of a show at a Contemporary Gallery. ✔
  2. Actually speak to the artist about their work and give my opinion on it. ✔
  3. Speak to a gallery about representation. ✓
  4. Arrange a holiday in a camper van.
  5. Go to Hilbre Island for a sunset. ✔
  6. Swim in the sea.
  7. Pay off my debts.
  8. Say ‘NO’ more. ✔
  9. Be more creative with my photography. ✔
  10. Stay on Hilbre Island through a full tide.

Not a bad effort really, the ‘List’ is changing constantly, morphing into different areas of my life, there are still many things out there that I want to do and will do. Do you have a List?

When Life gets turned upside down

And the curve balls don’t seem to stop coming! Life is a struggle for us all at the best of times, low pay, high taxes, poor living accommodation, child poverty, i could go on and on. There is all that and Covid 19 then just when you are going for the greatest thrill, a new grandchild, duck there’s another curve ball coming our way.

Our daughter struggled with addiction, not an easy thing to say but she came home, clean and has been sober for, oh i don’t know, something like 4 years now. She had an unexpected pregnancy and has a beautiful 2 year old boy and now has a loving and supportive partner and a new baby. That’s where the new curve ball strikes again, her pregnancy was troubled with severe back pain and she was prescribed painkillers which in the end became Tramadol.

There are serious side effects to Tramadol during pregnancy and we have now discovered our beautiful new grandson has quite a serious heart problem. He has a hole in his heart and a heart murmur which the doctors don’t think will close on it’s own so surgery could be down the road for our little one. Hopefully he will be home in a few days but In the mean time we are the lucky few who are looking after our grandson. He is such a beautiful child and it has been an honor and a privilege to be allowed to look after this little munchkin. He’s been so good, hasn’t shouted for mummy and daddy, slept through the night, (phew) and will play for hours with the simplest of toys.

It will be quite a wrench when he finally goes home but oh for the peace and quiet and being able to go out whenever we want! No more constantly watching him with our dogs in case fur or ears are pulled. On the down side we haven’t been able to work all week, on the up side we have had plenty of rest playing in the sunshine in the garden but baby we need to get back to work so please come home soon. Love you, Nanni xxx

For more information on the side effects of taking Tramadol during pregnancy click herehttps://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/bumps/monographs/USE-OF-TRAMADOL-IN-PREGNANCY/.

ReCreating Myself

You are never the same person all of your life, you have incarnations of a different you, daughter, wife, mother, carer perhaps, artist and many more which is how it should be or we would go mad with boredom. How we get there is up to us and certain outside interference which we usually don’t see coming. For me it was a VAA strategy session that turned into a light bulb moment and it’s scary because i know that going forward and moving to portraiture is going to show a lot more of me than landscape photography ever has. I’m on another journey of discovery and i have to jump while i can, jump into letting my mind allow me to immerse myself in the human form, to letting go of the things i have held onto for such a long time, letting others take the strain and doing things just for me.

Small steps are required, im a control freak who hates others doing what i can do myself but im going to try. The first thing has been getting my kids who are young adults now and my husband, who is quite capable, to cook our evening meal. Its just one small step, the next step is to talk to the women i know who model and ask them for their time and experience so i can learn how to photograph people, who better to ask! I can see there is so much to accomplish before i can say i am a portrait photographer, im chipping away at it slowly, i have the time. Im going to need a name for a start and thats a lot to think about, having the wrong name / brand wont help, a few suggestions would help and im going to need equipment, all of my kit is aimed at landscapes and many of my lenses just wont work for portraiture.

I can apply for grants to help with equipment and costs, the goodwill of my friends and family so i can practice on them but it is my mindset that needs a lot of work, as i go forward i will need to allow myself to become something different and that will be a journey and a half. For so long my mind has been moulded into carer mode, i’ve not allowed myself to have a selfish bone in my body and now i need a lot of them. It’s going to be the quiet times in my mind, the thinking times, the introspective times that will allow me to recreate myself and i know it will be a struggle and take time and courage a lot of courage as im rather shy you know.

Maybe i will start a new blog all about this phase of my life and chronicle how the caterpillar became a beautiful butterfly.

How Covid 19 is changing my life….. part 2

I began taking photographs for myself in 1995, the year my eldest child was born. We bought a Canon Sureshot to start documenting the life of our baby, lots of people do it. As he grew and more children were added to our family the photos continued. I graduated to a Minolta bridge camera and discovered i actually enjoyed going out exploring with my husband and taking photos of landscapes. After a while i borrowed a Canon D60 and that was my KERPOW moment, i finally knew what i wanted to be when i grew up, a landscape photographer!

I was encouraged by my friends and family and started to print photos, looking back they were so bad! Fast forward a bit, i’ve become a better photographer but now i’m a carer for my mum who has cancer. I fast became my mums nurse, taking her to appointments, scans, radiotherapy, chemo was by mouth so i became very knowledgeable about her drugs and i lost myself. Photography became a lifeline, a crutch that has helped me through so many things, while mum was well and the kids in school my husband and i would drive off for the day, just the two of us and pick a destination about an hour from home, here we could relax, be ourselves and i could take beautiful landscape photographs, no people allowed!

poppies flowering by a white wall

Fast forward to the present, im grieving and Covid strikes, no more trips out, forced to stay at home and there is that voice in the back of my mind, ‘Karen you don’t want to do this anymore’. Throughout the pandemic i have been very lucky to have the support of three incredible sources, the Wirral Chamber of Commerce, the Visual Artists Society and Independent Wirral, the webinars they have put together have been amazing and much needed. Every week there seems to be something to participate in and i have increased my knowledge base in social media, business, art practices and much more.

You know when every day is the same and it gets so frustrating? I was up to the point where i was considering wearing my pj’s all day, bored with life, a little voice getting louder in my head telling me things needed to change, i needed change when i booked a strategy meeting through the VAA with Karen van Hoey Smith. I didn’t know what to expect, Karen had spoken on several webinars i had seen and to be honest i felt she was rather intimidating with her knowledge and background. Our meeting came around and i hadn’t prepared anything for a strategy meeting but i took the bull by the horns and started just talking to her about my life. Towards the end of our 2 hour session Karen looked at me and changed my life! She had put 2 + 2 together and made 4, not 3 not 5 and having put all of the pieces together she made the analogy of me being a caterpillar pupating into a butterfly.

Yes it really is time for change, just like that voice is telling me. Why? Because i have used creating landscape photographs with no people in them as a way to decompress from the hospital visits and constant care for my mum, to be alone with no more people around me and now with the voice in my mind whispering ‘change matters’ i am pupating! turning to mush to create a beautiful butterfly that will fly far and wide photographing PEOPLE! My grief process has led me full circle and now i am slowly recognising that there are no people being forced into my life to crowding me and i am free to seek them out for myself. That is why the voice in my head has been telling me i need something new, something with human contact, why i am drawn to portraiture and why my mind has been recreating the images i want to photograph…..TBC

How Covid 19 is changing my life.

I’m sure Covid has given thousands of people in all walks of life, in all job sectors time to think about what they really want in life, what is important to themselves and their families, time to pause, take stock and realise they perhaps aren’t living their ‘Best Life’. We have ALL had the most horrendous 18 months of our lives and been affected by this pandemic in one way or another or perhaps even several ways. We may have had our eyes opened to the job that has never satisfied, the partner you no longer connect to, the home you never liked, to the life you feel very dissatisfied with and while the pandemic rages around us we find in the quiet of lockdown that we can do something about it, right now while the world battles this horrible disease.

If you have read back into my blog you will know that i have been a carer for a very long time. That i have been the dutiful eldest daughter and looked after my mum from the time my dad died, through her diagnosis of Multiple Myaloma Cancer and ultimately her death. When my mum passed away quietly holding my hand i felt, grief yes but also relief. Relief that finally i was going to get my life back, relief that my husband and family would finally be a ‘normal’ family and the relief that finally i could be who i wanted to be, not who i had become.

Four months is all i got then Covid struck us all. Then i became a struggling artist just like so many others. Our ‘amazing’ government did step up to save our economy, they gave millions of pounds to the big corporations to ‘keep them going’, PPE contracts to their best buddies and family members, they helped businesses furlough staff and financed small businesses but they did nothing for artists! I fell through the cracks, literally, i don’t pay tax as i don’t earn enough so don’t qualify for any help as im not a real business. My husband is self employed but pays no tax as he is quite early in his career as a writer, so no help there. We have been living on Social Security benefits which is basically hand to mouth poverty.

Yes i have a car, its a disability car as i have Fibromyalgia, yes we own our own home with a small mortgage but we haven’t been able to pay our mortgage for months, all this on top of GRIEF, well damn something’s got to give………. Try creating Art when you have energy companies, credit card companies, mortgage companies etc literally knocking at the door, IT JUST DOESN’T WORK.

At first i tried going down the learn it all route and as a member of the Visual Artists Society i have learnt a lot but nothing is helping my creativity. I’ve tried creating with Polaroid film, got a few images out of it, ran out of film, have no money to buy more, that stopped. Tried to be enthusiastic about photographing my local landscapes, been there done that so many times, i’ve approached other photographers for mentoring, they wanted me to PAY! for something i would have done for free given the circumstances. And all the time at the back of my mind i’ve had this voice getting louder and louder yelling ‘I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE’ and a quieter one asking me what do i want and i’ve come to realise its just NOT this!……………………TBC

You are NEVER too old to learn!

Way back in the day, when home computers started to be the ‘thing’ i was lucky enough to be gifted a ‘home computer.’ People these days just dont realise that once upon a time we didn’t actually have ‘computers’ as such, not like now when nearly every home has at least one and people work mostly on line on computers at the moment because of Covid 19. We were lucky, my brother-in-law gave us the old computer from work which was a Compaq, it used ‘floppy disks’ and the RAM was 64K and the memory an impressive 512KB. No one knew how to use them so when things went wrong they stayed wrong until you found out how to fix it and you couldn’t just ask Google! The next computer which we bought was a Medion with a Pentium 3 processor and Internet! Dial up 56kbs netgear modem and emails through AOL, oh the luxury 😉 That’s when i got the bug and started to learn, taking course after course and buying software through Serif, mastering that and after several computer upgrades, Adobe Photoshop.

I taught myself how to use Photoshop when i bought my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot and then a Minolta bridge camera and as i have worked through PC’s, Laptops, cameras and versions of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, i have picked up more and more knowledge, mostly thanks to good old Google. But i knew something was lacking and as i am always eager to learn new things i jumped straight in when i had an email from Dave Cross inviting me to his virtual Lightroom Summit. Five days of Lr goodness and most importantly for me, learning about gradient filters and editing goodness! It has made me look at my images in a different way and has given me more tools to use when editing them, the hard part is not going too mad with the editing, i have a style that i want to keep, i just want to refine it.

  • at the end of the the wirral peninsula sits the fort perch lighthouse, standing in the evening light guarding the mouth of the river mersey as the irish sea rages around it.

I’m not sure if your one too but i’m a use it or loose it kind of person so end up writing things in books so i can go back to them, writing it down helps it stick, so now i find myself sitting at my computer all day, bang goes the housework, out go the dog walks, someone else can do the cooking i’m on the computer! I am creating a workflow in Lr that i didn’t have before and i really like it, it makes it so easy to find the images you like in among all of the thousands in my catalog, so i’m creating again but i’m also kind of appalled at how few photographs i have taken over the last 18 months! :0

This year i have taken to taking my camera with me when i walk my dog Storm but i walk the same places, see the same views that I’ve seen and photographed over the last 12 years and i have itchy feet. I want to go places and photograph new landscapes but SO DOES EVERYONE ELSE and i want peace and quiet not hordes of people escaping after lockdown 3.0. Can you feel my frustration? So i’m staying at home, ignoring the housework, the cobwebs and the young adults that always want feeding at a different time to me and i am putting my head down to learn. Lightroom is first then its Photoshop with maybe a little bit more about techniques using my camera and most deffinatley more about filter systems and ND filters. 2021 is most deffinatley my year of learning.

New Work

Finally, after how long? I’ve broken the back of my creative drought! It’s taken long enough and i have had to battle long and hard to break through but I’ve actually made new work. Mind you it was a battle to get the camera out, so i have been leaving my bag by the side of my chair in the hopes that it would make me go out. It has kind of worked, i have sat and watched countless sunsets while wishing i had the energy to move and when i have moved the sunsets been terrible! Murphy’s law i suppose. I’ve taken to walking the dog with my camera, he still uses his lead 😉 and the camera gets in the way but i HAVE used it and have started to experiment with filters too.

Fort Perch Lighthouse

The craft fairs are starting again now, I’ve a bit of a conundrum as i’m in a bit of a catch 22 situation, I need money to make money and unfortunately have missed out on a three day fair over the Bank holiday due to lack of funds. It is so very frustrating! I also need to print new work as I’m fast selling out of the old stuff which is exciting as it will be great to see customers reactions to my new work. Looks like i will have to start skimming off the housekeeping money!

Just a reminder that the VAA International Open Exhibition is on until June 30th and there is still plenty of time to visit the exhibition and voting is still open on the peoples choice award. My photograph ‘Formby Beach Pathway to the Sea’ is receiving plenty of views and hopefully plenty of votes, use the link to visit the exhibition and visit the Peoples Choice Award page here. There are over 250 amazing artists showing there work from all over the world and i am very proud to have a photograph in the exhibition.