One place I have wanted to visit has been the Anglesey Barracks at Dinorwig Quary in Snowdonia National Park. I’ve seen plenty of other photographers popping in there to take some amazing photos and decided to tick it off my to do list, so armed with plenty of water, snacks and layering up because the weather couldn’t make up its mind, we headed off late in the day in the hope of catching a sunset. We have tried this before but chickened out at the climb but this time we were determined to go, had even google earth’d it to check out the trail but oh my dear gosh, going UP to the barracks is torture!
Both of us have dodgy knees and I have hips that don’t want to play so it took us an age to struggle up the steps and there were parts that had us on our knees but we did it. I’m not sure how long it took but it seemed to be forever, however that first view as you follow the path round was magical. I just sat on a rock for half an hour and took it all in, the light was amazing but created deep shadows so I decided to try creating black and white images first and then when I found a composition I liked changed over to colour. We stayed there for a couple of hours waiting for the non existent sunset, chatted to a couple of fellow photogs and decided to venture back down and I can categorically say it was far easier to go down than it was to go up!
Finally the day arrived and I received my camera back from Nikon fixed and with several new parts and after jumping up and down with joy I set to organising our next trip out to Wales. I had hoped that we would be able to get out before the snow melted and mid March saw us off to Dyffryn Ogwen, the Ogwen Valley, the scene of the crime (the dropped camera), for a chilly day out.
When we arrived at the Ogwen Valley visitors center there were quite a number of intrepid hikers including young people completing their Duke of Edinbrough Gold Award so we decided to walk around Llyn Idwal, a new route for us. It was so pretty with it’s dusting of snow and the other hikers were so friendly it actually took far longer than it should to walk round as we kept stopping to talk to people.
I was on a mission to find a composition I was happy with and took my time finding it, I also wanted to make sure my settings were correct and that my focus was in the right place because I had actually been without my camera for over three months and I had kind of forgotten how to use it, all my settings had been reset too. I can’t say that I didn’t struggle because I did and while the images looked okay on the back of the camera I didn’t think they were all that good when viewed on my computer which was disappointing.
The walk around Cwm Idwal was designated moderate, people of all ages and abilities were walking it on this day and we found it to be a challenge because of dodgy knees and hips but we took our time and stuck to the shorter walk around the edge of the lake but I have to admit to having jelly legs by the time we got back to the car. The last part of the walk was walked in a flurry of fresh snow to our great delight and we, big kids that we are, did not want to go home!
After our last visit to Llanberis and the Lonely tree our sights turned towards other areas of Wales that we hadn’t visited before and this time we chose the Ogwen valley as there seemed to be a lot of interesting photographs coming from that area, it was also half an hour closer to home so we didn’t have to get up so early. Initially when we woke up at stupid o’clock I looked out of the window and saw the rain and just got back into bed but as the morning went on it was decided that ‘why the hell not’ and off we went with hope in our hearts that the weather would be kind and give us a break. Little did we know………
The Ogwen Valley, or Dyffryn Ogwen in Welsh, blew our minds! Part of the Snowdonia National Park in north Wales, this wide glacial valley is surrounded by the most amazing mountains and tucked away are these little lakes with waterfalls, in the rain anyway, as well as historic towns and massive quarries where Slate, Copper, Lead, Zinc and other minerals were mined. We drove through the valley with so many wonderful views but no stopping points and in its autumnal colours, well it was just breathtaking, the colours were rich and saturated and the light was diffuse through the rain, perfect.
When we arrived at the visitors center and youth hostel it was raining, nothing wrong there it had been raining all day off and on, so we had lunch in the car and this is where it was starting to go down hill to one of the worst days ever. To start with the lining of our big flask exploded when it was being filled, so no coffee, that’s number 1. We waited for about half an hour for the rain to go off but it didn’t so struggling into our waterproofs we decided to head out and explore which is where my idea of a walk and Chris’s idea kind of diverged. I wanted the easy route around the lake, he thought I meant the lake to our right not left and took us off that way, it was stunning!
But it was still raining and it was a struggle to walk along the path because who knew there would be so many idiotic people like us walking out in the rain! Hikers, dog walkers, kids on a school trip, all soaking wet and smiling. We were unsure of the path and there was so much to look at, rushing water over rocks, mountains, waterfalls everywhere and we just wanted to stop and drink it all in, in the rain. This is where it gets tricky because here I am big waterproof pants that I had forgotten reached up to my chest and were now pooling around my ankles, new waterproof coat, remember that, camera bag, tripod and new Nikon Z7 mounted on said tripod and I am looking like I don’t know what with a head on a swivel trying to take in the views all at once so I could get the best photos and my new Nikon Z7 flew through the air and crashed onto the stones at my feet, it had detached from the tripod! That’s number two!
Yes my lovely and very expensive camera was on the floor in a puddle, the whole world stood still!
We had made it approximately 400 meters up the damn mountain and I’d broken my lens, the glass was ok but the lens its self looked bent and the focusing ring had a gap on one side, noooooooo! We decided to press on but the shine was gone from the day, I wonder why and yes it was still raining, anyway we made it up to Llyn Idwal and that is where I stalled, emotionally spent and overwhelmed by the view I’d had enough! I took my best photo of the day at the lake but I wanted to go home and cry in the privacy of my own home, in my p’jays, with coffee, warm and dry and as we turned back the sky lightened and the rain started to thin out and the views down the valley stunned my mind. We made it back to the car in one piece, struggled out of our very wet weather gear and to cap off the day found ourselves wet through.
Yes our coats had done a great job but mine in particular had leaked through the arms and the zip and the shoulders and the back, ok it failed spectacularly and it was not a cheap coat, my old waterproof trousers had done a better job of keeping me dry, that’s number three. And it stopped raining as soon as we got into the car! How I wished we had stayed home and I’d had a p’jay day. Anyway, our waterproofs and boots took three days to dry out and my camera was packed up and sent to Nikon for repair all that was left was to look through the photos I had taken and to process the ones I liked the best and here they are for your delectation, I hope you enjoy them.
The summer has come and gone, blue skies are filling with clouds and autumn is bringing with it the hint of a chill and those colours photographers dream of. Autumn or Fall has to be one of the best times of year, golden, red, yellow colours in the trees as they prepare to drop their leaves, fog and mist, maybe a bit of frost, you cant beat it. This is the time when my blood stirs and I have an over powering need to be out in nature with my camera. Bearing in mind my husband and I are well into our fifty’s, so totally not fit and with several full on health conditions between us that doesn’t bode well for walking any kind of distance, so anywhere we do go has to be well researched and not too long a walk. We decided that our first trip out would be to Llanberis in north Wales with an approximate drive of two hours each way and the decision was to go for sunrise.
I usually shoot sunset photos because to put it bluntly I hate getting up early and wasting all that lovely time in my warm bed but I was so excited to be driving off the Wirral that this time I didn’t mind. Picnic lunch and flask of coffee packed, goodbyes said, we drove off into the night chasing the sunrise, our destination, Llyn Padarn, Llanberis which is a glacially formed lake in Snowdonia and is an example of a moraine dammed lake and one of the largest natural lakes in Wales. It is also home to the ‘Lonely Tree’.
As per usual we were late setting off and we literally chased the sunrise arriving at Llyn Padarn just as the best of the colour left the sky. I jumped out of the car and walked as quickly as possible to set up my camera and tripod on the shore, the sky still lingered with beautiful golden light and I managed to take several photographs of the tree backed by the lovely light, then it was gone. We hung around talking to the other photographers for a while, traded some landmarks then over coffee decided where to go next. This trip we visited the lake and found an easy way to the Dinorwic quarry and I have to say that the light streaming down the valley was magnificent! Golden, diffuse light that gave me some spectacular images.
We stopped for some lunch and coffee and a teacake at the lovely Tu Hwnt i’r Bont tea house, we were welcomed very warmly and were soon sat in front of the fire with locally made tea cake and Bara Brith. We went outside to appreciate the red creeper covered house, we had missed the best of the colour by about two weeks i think and had a short walk along the river before heading home.
It was exhausting work driving and mentally exhausting with the emotions that run through me when I am in the situations where there is great light and amazing landscapes, which there were plenty of, it reminded me why I do what I do, the buzz stayed with me for days and editing my photos just kept that buzz going. Posting my work on to social media and seeing it along with the work from other photographers of the same area gave me a quiet glow, so much so that I quietly started researching our next adventure.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.