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ShareMondays2020 – In Safe Hands

A Safe Pair Of Hands

ShareMondays2020 – In Safe Hands

My favourite image of the week is my nephew, Finley, playing at hand-clapping with my mum. I’m not allowed cuddles yet as a shielded person, but to be able to get together in the garden, as a family, was wonderful. Seeing my parents being able to rekindle this special bond with their grandson was so very precious!

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ShareMondays2020 – Happy Birthday Bro!

Longes Family Portrait

ShareMondays2020 – Happy Birthday Bro!

Happy Birthday Robin!!! Yes, that’s my little brother on the left, with my sister-in-law, Mo, and nine month old Finley. They came over for a brief window visit this week and it really lifted my spirits. It’s been ages since we’ve seen each other in person and Finley is growing up so quickly! He’s such a character and like most little ones his age, he just wants to put everything in his mouth. It was so funny when he made a beeline for the birdbath and feeders! I had visions of a wet and confused baby until Robin just managed to get to him in time.

The birds continue to visit too! My brother isn’t the only Robin visiting the feeders! There’s a lovely pair of robins nesting in our hedgerow and the adults have been cleaning up the mess on the ground left by the starlings.

The juvenile starlings are becoming much more independent and are still very vocal. The blue and great tits don’t get much of a look-in at the feeder but it’s great when we do see them! The pigeons are also very good at clearing up whatever mess is left underneath the feeders by the starlings and tits.

For 30DaysWild I have also been watching the bees that are feasting on nectar from the hydrangea outside my window. I’ve seen three different species. Occasionally there is also a cat in the flowerbed too!

My parents continue to make random window visits too. This week they chose to visit in the rain! No need to make such a song and a dance about it though, lol 😉

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#ShareMondays2020 – Hurting

Hurting

#ShareMondays2020 – Hurting

My image this week was inspired by my husband’s thoughts on the layout of last Monday’s image. He said it really reminded him of an album cover by the band Tears For Fears. Perhaps you remember it? It’s called The Hurting. A true masterpiece of musical commentary on social issues. I was really struck by how relevant this album still is. Mad World could definitely be an anthem for current times.

As I did previously with song titles from the late, great David Bowie, I have taken the titles from this album and reworked them into a “new” poem. Words from the past, still powerful in the present. (original lyrics by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

Hurting

Are we broken?
The children suffer
In this
Mad world.
Change.
Memories fade
Since the
Start of the breakdown.
I am
The prisoner.
Watch me bleed
In my pale shelter.
The conflict
In my mind,
Ideas as opiates
To keep away from
The idea of opiates.
I won’t become a
Wino even though
I’m hurting.
We are
The hurting.
We are broken
But it will
Change.

The title song, The Hurting, has resonated with me for many years. It was released in 1983, not long before I became the victim of serious bullying at school. It carried on for many years and has affected me throughout my life. The mental scars are worse than the physical.

Could you understand a child
When he cries in pain?
Could you give him all he needs
Or do you feel the same?

(Verse 2: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

I was seriously ill with Crohn’s disease for a number of years before finally being diagnosed in 1995. Recurrent bouts of diarrhoea, weight loss, fatigue, onset of asthma, malnourishment and rectal bleeding. Every doctor had their own theory and most of them were really just accusations of wrongdoing on my part. Making it up to get out of school, drugs, misuse of laxatives leading to anorexia, more drug abuse accusations (you do art don’t you?), munchausen’s syndrome, hypochondria. Many of these are genuine health conditions suffered by people, they do actually need treating, but the then medical profession used these words and phrases as if this was some kind of criminal activity. Diagnosis for IBD has improved over the years, but I’m sorry to say that many young people are still being stigmatised, marginalised and misdiagnosed.

All along
You’ve been told you’re wrong
When you felt it right
And you’re left to fight
The hurting

(Pre-Chorus 2: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

And here we are now, 2020. I’ve faced many hurts in the intervening years. Some people might be forgiven for thinking that the greatest of these would have been my abdominal surgeries. Actually, the two most painful things were losing my ability to paint and being unable to have my own children. I think most of us are hurting at the moment. Whether through isolation, fear, grief, anxiety, financial instability, separation, pressure, work stress, trauma or perhaps a combination of these. Now, perhaps more than at any other time in our lives, we need to acknowledge these feelings, be kind to ourselves and seek help if we need it – Every Mind MattersSamaritansMind

Is it an horrific dream?
Am I sinking fast?
Could a person be so mean
As to laugh and laugh

On my own
Could you ease my load?
Could you see my pain?
Could you please explain
The hurting

(Verse 1: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

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ShareMondays2020 – Le Chat Ã‰caille

Juno

ShareMondays2020 – Le Chat Écaille

Something a bit more simple for the weekly competitions today! Juno, posed on the windowsill, giving the classic shaping of the famous Art Nouveau poster, Le Chat Noir, by Théophile Steinlen. I can’t really share just Juno! This portrait of Luna focuses on the beautiful colouring of her eyes.

Luna

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ShareMondays2020 – The Shielded

Shielded

ShareMondays2020 – The Shielded

So just who are The Shielded?

Well the media are rather misrepresenting us I think! We are the unseen 1.8million. We’re not all in care homes, aged over 70 or “people who would probably have died at some point this year”. If I hear, or read, one more report that claims that many of the Covid-19 related deaths don’t really count, because that person would have likely passed away soon anyway, I will scream! Every death is a person, an individual with loved ones. All the World War rhetoric inspired me to get hold of a vintage gas mask. DON’T wear one of these to protect yourself against Covid! It’s a representation of the suffocating mask I feel has been placed upon me. I can’t help but think of Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum Est! Please read it. I am stumbling and floundering.

Masked

Many people in The Shielded group are there because they have a lifelong illness that requires immunosuppression. This could be because of cancer, organ transplant or autoimmune disease. The aim of our treatment is to give us as long a life as possible! Many people in this group are young. Most people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis – are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25. I was 19yrs old. My mother was told that it was 50/50 if I would actually make it through the night. I stay shielded so that she, and the rest of my loved ones, don’t have to hear that kind of news again, because I’ve contracted coronavirus!

Shielded Warriors

While the majority of the population are now thinking about the easing of lockdown, The Shielded know that we’ve got a few more months of being shut away in our own homes, before we can even get that “one exercise outing per day”. Count your lucky stars people! We’re not superheroes, just ordinary people who would like to get on with our lives in the usual way too. Some people are waiting for operations, new therapies, hospital referrals or local treatments. Part of normal life for a lot of us. We’ve accepted that certain things have had to go on hold. You can help us get back to our normal by Staying Home, Protecting The NHS and Saving Lives. Who knows, you might even save mine!

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ShareMondays2020 – Life In Lockdown

Destroyed

ShareMondays2020 – Life In Lockdown

I set myself another learning challenge this week which forced me to stick myself in front of lens! I wanted to learn how to create a displacement layer with text to overlay onto my face. I watched several video tutorials on YouTube, and pieced together elements from the different approaches, to find a method that worked for me. The text is from one of my own poems called Identity, a self-portrait in words if you like! I used an online tool to place the text into a word or tagcloud. There are several available. You can also add the text straight into Photoshop and arrange as you want.

Self Portrait in LockdownDisplaced IdentityDisplaced Identity

Identity

Do you know me yet?
My name is whispered in
The gathering breeze,
Sung with elation by
The wild breaking seas.
It screams from the cliff tops
Into soft, shadowed lees
And is hushed by the warmth
Of tumbling leaves,
A gentle susurration
Twixt autumnal trees.

I have flown on the winds,
Delved fathomless oceans,
Fallen great heights,
Risen from depthless emotions.
Felt the warmth on my face
Of a sun kissed horizon.
I’m the song of the earth.
My roots run far, deep, and wide,
Bearing scars of life lived,
From your sight, I’ll not hide.

My height is unmeasured,
My depths undiscovered.
‘Tho my glow may be dimmed,
My soul still recovered.
I am born of this world,
A sweet force of nature,
A creature of magic,
Mother, lover, carer, creator.
Determined, desired,
Oft’ tired, yet inspired.
A wild thing, set free!
I ask you again,
Do you, yet, know me?

This video is a good starting point!

I decided to take a number of portraits while I was set up for it and try to convey some of the emotions that so many of us are feeling during lockdown. Not even being able to leave my flat, as a shielded individual, I’m feeling the pressure even more. The outdoors has always been my sanctuary, my coping strategy. Channelling my feelings into photography and poetry has been a good outlet for me. Learning is my main coping strategy now! I’ve always loved learning, but the good feelings and sense of achievement are more important to me now than ever before!

My homages to The Scream and Anxiety by Edvard Munch

I couldn’t resist a homage to Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry.

Two Minutes To MidnightHidden

And then I decided to really try and let my inner turmoil and frustration show. I’m only human, of course it gets to me! And although my Crohn’s has had me housebound or stuck in hospital for weeks on end before, nothing can quite prepare you for something like this. Especially knowing that I am so vulnerable to complications if I was to contract the virus. It is frightening. It is desperate. We need to everything we can to keep minimising the spread of Covid-19, staying home, protecting the NHS and the incredible front line staff and all key workers. Together we CAN save lives.

DestroyedDestroyedDestroyed

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Dispersion and Twirls in Photoshop

Set The Music Free 3

Dispersion and Twirls in Photoshop

With the current restrictions on going outdoors, many photographers are using this time to go through their back catalogues and learn new techniques. I am part of the fantastic SheClicks community for female photographers. Last week one member shared her experiments with the Twirl technique. I will add links to YouTube tutorials for both techniques at the end!

By the end of the week, we were all hooked! Between us all, I think we could fill a few galleries with these fun abstract pieces. You can also use the twirled images as overlays or textures. Some members used the effect to create an abstract background, revealing a part of the main image through masked layers. I loved some of the peacock twirls that others had done so I thought I’d have a go too! Here are my before and after images.

I decided this was the perfect time to finally learn a technique that I have wanted to do for years! The dispersion technique can be used to great effect to make your subject appear to be disintegrating, or exploding outwards. It’s a fun way to create a story for a portrait shoot. I went back to some images I made last year with my dear friend, singer-songwriter, Julia K. I’ll start with a simple edit where I have kept the background clean and simple. The act of singing appears to be reverent, a prayer to the gods.

Julia K

Initially we wanted to visualise sound through shapes and movement. It was a great opportunity to use long exposure and light-painting to frame a story within my images. We took inspiration from the name of her studios, Firespark, and brought in some indoor sparklers and fireworks. Yes, we did set off the fire alarm a couple of times! It’s such a joy to be able to work with a fellow creative, just exploring different ideas, even if they do sound a bit bonkers.

Firespark

I wanted Julia to be static in the images, with the sound emanating from her and surrounding her. We tried a number of different poses that allowed me to create in-camera double-exposures, as well as single images that I could turn into composites within Photoshop. Both techniques are creatively satisfying with similar, yet distinctive results. In-camera multiple exposures always have a more organic feel to them. Creating a composite using Photoshop gives you a much crisper end result. In these three edits of my image of Julia, you can now see why I had her looking up into the space above her. The spirit of music is reaching out to her.

I think I was attracted to the dispersion technique because it brings back that organic feel to a digitally created composite! In addition to using dispersion, I also brought in some overlays of musical notes that I warped, to give them a sense of movement as they explode out from the microphone. Including a bit of texture, with an overlay to the background, added to the organic feel I was looking for. I made three final images for Julia to choose from; full colour, monochrome and selective colour, that revealed the vibrant red against the black and white. Selective colour is very much Julia’s signature look, her brand. I knew she’d choose that one, but which look do you prefer?

I have called this piece Set The Music Free. It’s given me inspiration for creating more stories from other images in my back catalogue, as well as some future projects that I really hope to be able to do with Julia in the future! I hope this has given some of you a bit of inspiration to learn some new techniques and keep creative during this turbulent time. You can learn how to do these two techniques in the following video tutorials. Have fun with them!

Twirling:

Dispersion:

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ShareMonday2020 – Songbird Of Shadows

Songbird of Shadows

ShareMonday2020 – Songbird Of Shadows

Happy New Year everyone! A new ShareMondays tag and my favourite muse to start it all off. Happy Birthday to the wonderful Julia K, dressed as Brandon Lee (aka The Crow) for her Dead Famous party on Saturday night. She’s singing I’m In Love With A German Film Star with purity and passion, well, one of The Passions in fact, Clive Timperley on guitar! What a great party and I absolutely loved hearing two dear friends performing this beautiful and haunting song together. Thank you both!

Clive

Video by my wonderful hubby, Simon Williams!

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ShareMondays2019 – Lazy Days

Juno

ShareMondays2019 – Lazy Days

I’ve been out of action for two weeks now and I think our Juno is as bored of it all as I am! The antibiotics did improve my throat infection and I finally have my voice back. I only started the correct treatment for the inner ear infection last Thursday though so I’m still a little bit off balance. Hopefully things will improve soon and I’ll be back out there again!

 

 

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ShareMondays2019 – Vogue

Vogue

ShareMondays2019 – Vogue

Another appointment in London led to another visit to St James’s Park last week. My lead image is a macro of one of the new pelicans. The three are just ten months old and have yet to develop their punk-like crests, but they have such beautiful shaping to the feathers on the back of their heads. They all still have some of their juvenile plumage on their wings, a brown colour, which easily distinguishes them from the three adults.

Gliding

Of course the pelicans aren’t the only birds in the park! I had great fun watching juvenile coots munching on mushrooms around the edge of the lake. Anyone foraging for fungi in the Royal Parks should seek permission first! Not all fungi are suitable for human consumption, but many are an important source of food for hungry wildlife.

Fungi Feast

Lots of visitors to the park feed the birds and squirrels with peanuts. This is actually a great food for them at the moment as they contain plenty of calories to keep their energy reserves going in the colder weather. The parakeets love being fed! They’ll come and sit on your hand (head, arm or shoulder too!) to eat nuts or fruit. The smaller birds like the robins, tits and dunnocks will happily come to take bird seed from you too.

A Bird In The Hand