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Friday, 27 February 2015

Photography at BFH {improvers part one}

So, term two - we're officially Improvers now instead of Beginners - woo hoo!

It was lovely to see so many of the same group back and raring to go, and we jumped back in where we left off - with portraits.  Because this is the UK and it's February it was raining for most of the session, so we stayed indoors up until the last half hour or so because we're wimps who don't like the rain careful about keeping our cameras out of the rain, in case they turn into gremlins if they get wet.

So, portrait tips :

•  use aperture priority mode - a low number/big aperture so you can blur the background to draw attention to the face

•  consider monotone to preventing distractions of busy or colourful backgrounds

•  keep the camera the 'usual' way round - as in landscape not portrait

•  communicate with your subject - ask them to look at things around the room / nearby

•  think about where in the frame you're leaving empty space, and whether it enhances the overall image

Lighting


Graham had brought along a bag of tricks - various reflectors and lighting knicknacks.  It was interesting to see how different a portrait you get dependant on whether there's no reflector, or a white one, or a gold or silver one!

Things to keep in mind regarding lighting


•  Try to find a diffused light source - non direct sunlight from through a window for example

•  If your subject is sitting at a table to help them feel more comfortable,  lay white paper on the table if it's a dark colour, as this will reflect much more light upwards minimising unflattering shadows / double chins

•  Play around with angles, and if you have a reflector (and ideally someone to hold it for you) try different shots to see what works best in the conditions you've got


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Indoor shots...







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...and outdoors too

(when we finally agreed to brave the rain which had stopped by then)




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Everybody being very arty, trying to get the perfect shot of Rachel (of Rachel in Real Life.  You need a bit of the pillar, the shape of the arch, shadows, light, texture...


Or maybe not.


While I'm starting to see the technical elements that make a 'good' portrait, I much prefer the ones that tell you something about the person, or else provoke a reaction in you as you look at it.  

I love this shot of Rachel because it is very Rachel.  It shares something about her personality, her sense of fun.  From a technical standpoint there are some positives - catch lights in her eyes, blurred but not too blurred backdrop, a range of tones, a bit of texture from the stonework and interest from the graffiti...  and I'm not going to list the areas with room for improvement, so ner.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

fusing glass

Making something out of glass was just not something I had ever considered realistically do-able - I mean, I had assumed that was something you'd need a whole industrial workshop to be able to do, you know?  But making a piece of stained glass was on my bucket list along with making a bowl on a pottery wheel (did this too, but struggled with the texture of the clay - ugh), so back in 2010 I took a twelve week course on stained glass - and I spent ten weeks struggling to cut straight lines and make a small simple panel.  As there were two weeks left I popped into the room next door, where the more experienced people were, borrowed an oil filled cutter, and found my difficulty with straight lines was over.  I had a go at using up my glassy leftovers to make some simple coasters, which went into the absolutely huge kiln.   I collected them the following week and couldn't believe that the wonky looking pieces I'd made with all those sharp edges had been magically transformed into these incredible glossy smooth tactile coasters - I was hooked.  Within six months I had my own kiln and an ever expanding corner of the bedroom was devoted to glass.


Like so many hobbies, the longer you do it, the more gadgets you convince yourself you need.   I have a wish list but the lack of space has been an effective deterrent - having the kiln in the bedroom restricts when I can put it on as the room gets very hot, but as the air becomes very dry it's ideal for drying washing during the daytime!  The new house plan includes either a garage or else some kind of glorified shed set up with light and power and whatever heat protection would be necessary to run a kiln out there, but the house in London needs to sell before we can start officially looking, damn it!

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One of the things that drew me to warm glass work was the shiny tactile nature of fused pieces - so gorgeously smooth and sparkly!  For various reasons it's best to work with one 'type' of glass, that is to say (basically) glass that heats and cools at the same rate.  The two main brands are Spectrum and Bullseye - I choose Bullseye as it has a wider colour range than Spectrum and wider availability of other forms such as frit and stringers.

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Sourcing supplies for warm glass work in the UK isn't always easy - it's not as though you can pop into the nearest Hobbycraft and pick up some 3mm Bullseye tested compatible glass.  One of the main specialist suppliers is Warm Glass, based (conveniently for me!) just past Bristol Airport, so only about a half hour car ride away.  That's where I bought my kiln, and where I now get all my glass - they have tempting offers and a generous loyalty discount scheme, and they know their stuff if you have any queries or need help working something out.


Although being surrounded by sharp glass and a potentially very hot kiln might not seem like a good idea for someone with a seizure disorder, I haven't yet had a problem.  On a day when I'm feeling dizzy or have hit the deck already I steer clear, but to be honest it's the faff involved in having to clear my desk and chair onto the bed (so that I have a surface to work on and chair to sit on) that I find more outputting!  There's a real sense of achievement with opening the kiln and finding something that has worked out better than you dared hope, or having someone admire your necklace and being able to say "oh thank you, I made it myself".  Our friends tend to come to me with commissions for coasters and serving platters and lightcatchers for housewarming gifts and birthday presents and the like, and with a baby due to arrive in our circle in the summer I hope to be able to make something special.  

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It's definitely a different pastime to have, but one that's brought me a great deal of pleasure.  Do you do anything with your time that you'd never have forseen?  Or is there something that you always wanted to do but never got around to, or never had the opportunity to try? 

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Monday, 23 February 2015

organisation's what you need...

I've been - don't laugh - organising my glassy nook.  I am not what you'd call a tidy person* - I'm more of a subscriber to the 'creative minds are rarely tidy' school of thought, but my corner of glass has been steadily growing and I now can't find the things I'm looking for.
(*understatement of the year)


So I bought myself some tough looking storage boxes with separation-y compartment-y trays, and got sorting.  I've found some bits and pieces that I made before the brain cloud, so the things I like are going on Folksy and bits that I don't like, if they can't be salvaged somehow, are going in the bin.  

Yes.  The bin.  Well, the recycling anyway.


That's the plan.

Cross your fingers for me, and send a search party if you still haven't heard from me in a week or so.  Seizures with no warning and lots and lots of glass do not a healthy combination make!

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Sunday, 22 February 2015

everyday images 16/2

Sunday


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Friday


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Thursday


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Wednesday


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Tuesday


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Monday


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My image of the week for Truly Madly Kids #iotw link up is my Saturday shot - I'm certain that I'm not the only parent who spots a gate open that is usually locked shut and hears "for the first time in forever..."!

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Truly Madly Kids

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Saturday, 21 February 2015

word of the week

It's school holidays here in Bristol, and we've been keeping it fairly low key, and low cost, so my word of the week is
free

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free

  (frÄ“)
adj. fre·erfre·est
1 ... 
5.
a. Costing nothing; gratuitous: free meal.
b. Publicly supported: free education.
...

sourced here

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I'm sure everyone has times when they're feeling 'poor', and we're saving up at the moment in preparation for moving house, so trying to watch the pennies a bit.  We're not the ones who casually buy a coffee every time we're at softplay,  or popcorn at the cinema, so the kids don't tend to notice the difference.   We don't have a weekly budget or anything that organised, but we do spend more when the kids are home from school - entrance costs to places, a meal out maybe - so we've been trying to find free fun instead.  Although the weather hasn't been that great we've made the most of the drier days by taking Eli on great long walks...


...and making faces at each other in the car.  Never underestimate the entertainment value of sticking your tongue out at your kids!


And, of course, it's free!

What word sums up your week?

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The Reading Residence

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Friday, 20 February 2015

the brain cloud; or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

{tw for non explicit reference to csa}

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time now, but found it too hard to do, for reasons which I trust will become apparent as you read on.  The phrase brain cloud is from a film - Joe Versus the Volcano.  The lead character, a hypercondriac, is diagnosed with a brain cloud - a fictitious illness - for reasons too complex to explain here.  No, I'm not a hypercondriac, but I do seem to specialise in complicated, and as it took several years to get a diagnosis it felt appropriate. 

Spring 2011 - everything was finally falling into place.  Smiler's health was stable, he was settled at school, I had a permanent contract with the council doing a job I enjoyed and was good at, Noah and Petal were fine, Mr Manley and I were great, and there were no crises looming. 

So my brain decided this was the perfect time to make a point.

I went from a team meeting at work one Wednesday morning to A&E with head pain so intense I don't even have words to describe it.  One of my pupils was fully dilated and not reacting at all to light, and after years parenting Smiler I knew this could be a big deal.  Within a couple of hours I was having an MRI, and being talked to about emergency brain surgery and consent for resuscitation.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

a walk, some puddles, and how to wear a frisbee this season

Having got over the sleep disturbances (by way of a five day zombie impression with a temperature over 40°) Smiler has been making the most of the school holiday.  Today we all went for a lovely healthy walk in the sunshine - you know when it seems like a good idea but then you realise all over again how utterly unfit you are?  That.


I'm really proud of how much walking he did actually - he found a "cutie" rock (don't ask me - I have no idea how a rock can be cute,  but apparently it was) that kept him occupied for a while,  and there's always the distraction of Eli of course.  Eli spent a very enjoyable five minutes searching everywhere for the frisbee, completely unable to work out what we were laughing at - he was, in fact, wearing the frisbee.


Noah tripped over a stick and landed flat out on the floor, then ten minutes later Petal tripped over thin air and landed flat on her bum - she absolutely did not forgive any of us for laughing at her,  but it made a nice change from helping Smiler up from the ground! 


Smiler was shattered and back in his chair before we were on our way back home,  but it was great to see him interested in the world around him again.  When he gets ill he really goes for it, and there's a strange atmosphere around the house when he's silent and Mr Manley and I are both exhausted from taking turns staying up to watch him.  I blank out what goes on almost - I know Carol and I filmed our presentation for the Bristol Parent Carers event, Noah and Petal got to school and back each day, Eli got walked and fed, but the details just don't stay in my brain.   Maybe just as well.  Anyway, Smiler is back in the land of the living, so Mr Manley and I get to join him - woo hoo!  Til next time anyway.

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Monday, 16 February 2015

image of the week


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focal length 28.80mm
aperture f/4.0
shutter speed 1/7 sec
iso 800

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Not a good photo, but I love the joy in Noah's face - he's very self conscious these days so this was a rare moment!

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Truly Madly Kids

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

everyday images 9/2



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The last photo here was from last week, before I decided to do this,  but I like it and wanted to include it!  From now on, only seven days at a time, I promise.

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

photography at Bristol Folk House {Pt 5}

It was Show and Tell for our last session at the Folk House, sharing photos we'd taken during the course, or before, ones we were proud of or ones we wanted to know how to improve.  


I included these two because before I knew how to create that effect, lateral motion blur as well as the blurred movement within the subject (the dog's legs and tail, the runner's legs) these are the sorts of photos that I would have assumed were incredibly complex and that I would never be able to take.  But they're not, so I can, and I did.  And I love the way they look in black and white!  Definitely a technique that I'll be using in the future. 


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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

a project in progress :: framed fused pendants part 4

Since the initial plan for squares and rectangles left me with cabachons that were too big for the frames, and with an alternative method in mind, I got cutting - at least, I tried.

As you can see, this was, like so many things, easier said than done.  Accurately cutting glass gets more tricky the thicker it is, and these pieces were cut from pieces which had been fully fused (so attained a thickness of around 6mm) and properly annealed (the process by which the glass is cooled at a carefully controlled rate in order to ensure the piece is as durable as possible).  Even the pieces that I managed to cut to approximately the right size don't fit the frames properly!  I also really struggled with cutting close to the edge of the piece - score marks but no breaking going on there.

I'm still refusing to conceed defeat however - I'm going to (at some point) get the dremel out and try grinding down the corners at the base and bevel the top edges of a few pieces, then try firepolishing to see how they turn out.

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An alternative in the meantime, however, is to full fuse pieces and use specialist adhesive to attach a bail to the back, and hang this on a chain or ribbon or cord. 


This cab has gone through another full fuse cycle in the kiln, which rounded all the edges and corners out beautifully.  All smooth and polished and glossy.  The opaque white base provides a clean backdrop to show off the colours of the stringers, and the clear droplet puddles across the surface gently bend and shape their course. 

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Monday, 9 February 2015

image of the week


focal length 13.00mm
aperture f/5.0
shutter speed 1/1100 sec
iso 400

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Truly Madly KIds
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Saturday, 7 February 2015

photography at Bristol Folk House {Pt 4}

Our mission today was to find colour, and keep the composition guidelines in mind while we did that.  I find the rule of thirds quite easy to follow, and it makes a big difference to the way the pics end up looking.  The main discovery of the day was that I don't like colour.   I know that sounds a bit odd, and is probably not very well worded - Kim and Rachel pointed out that it would be more accurate to say I'm not drawn to colour in the same way that I am to texture and detail and shapes and lines. 

Having said that, I like this one from inside the cathedral.  Not particularly original I know, but I'm getting to the stage where I can pick out features that make it work. 


This one, for example, kind of follows the rule of thirds in that if you divide the picture into three equal vertical pieces the eye catching element takes up one of these thirds.  As this technically breaks the 'avoid the bullseye shot' rule I've decided to ignore that one, and point out that I've used the architectural elements of the arches (echoed in the shape of the window itself) to frame the window - a frame within a frame emphasised by the multiple arches and symmetrical features.

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