Challenge #24: Cakey Bakey Documakey

By far the biggest challenge today was Making The Christmas Cake. This is an epic undertaking, culminating in approximately 11 hours of AGA cookage time, by which point I’ve forgotten we’re making a cake in the first place.

So I thought I’d make it even more challenging by not just photographing Mission Cake, but also taking photos good enough to post here whilst also trying to contain the floury collateral damage.  

Easier said than done.

To see my slightly-distracted-by-random-banging-noises intro to this challenge, click here

I also wanted to capture me in this set of photos, doing “normal stuff” with my family. Basically, the idea was to have a documentary style photoshoot, with all of us involved…!

Challenge #24 was all about having a personal family documentary-style photoshoot, and end up with cake

For the docu-look, I went for the 24-70mm lens, but kept it zoomed at 24mm, then used a combination of tripod & remote control and hand-held to get the images.

Techie Details:
   Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
   Lens: Sigma 24mm-70mm
Other Stuff: Tripod, Remote Control


I don’t often go for full-on documentary style photography, preferring to keep my images as simple and clutter-free as I can. I do like to have a few of this style in the photoshoots I do, but I think this is the first time that I’ve done a complete set like this.

It was kind of fun, and reduced the post-processing time, as I wasn’t trying to remove tiny bits of clutter and distracting lines which often can’t be avoided. There’s just so much going on in all these photos that I didn’t bother to remove anything or even crop them. They just are what they are!

Using a tripod and remote, it’s a bit tricky to remember to look natural, so I cheated.  I set it up so the remote triggered the timer function on the camera (rather than just taking a photo), and then we all took turns in being in control of the button. Basically, none of us really knew when the shutter was going to go!

Funnily enough, I’d been concerned about how I was potentially turning a stressful situation into an even more stressful situation. But instead, it kind of got the family more interested, involved and focussed. Little Whirlwind was inspired to grab his own camera and take some photos, and everyone got involved. It was a really lovely experience, and we all ended up having a lot of fun.

I did struggle a bit with the lighting in our kitchen. It’s dreadful, and inconsistent (so I can’t even use my grey cards). But I wanted it to look natural, so I didn’t add any light sources. Ideally I’d have turned our hideous ceiling light off, but we don’t get enough natural light in that room and it would have been too dark for baking!  Most of the images have had their colour corrected in post processing.

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Challenge #23: ULTRA WIDE

Bristol Boxkite from below. It’s not perfect, but Little Whirlwind was disappearing off into the bowels of the museum at the time, and as a first shot, I’m quite proud of it!

I’d been contemplating a wider-than-my-existing-24-to-70mm zoom lens for a while. Sometimes it can be tricky to get the whole venue room in at weddings and events if I can’t physically get back far enough.

And then, low and behold, on a second-hand camera kit website (to be specific, MPB who I’ve now used twice and are excellent), an offer came up for a Sigma 12-24mm lens.

This is classed as an “Ultra Wide Angle” lens, and is a whole new kettle of fish for me.

Of course, I ordered the lens, and within 24 hours it was in my eagerly awaiting hands.  

That was yesterday. So today I took it out for a spin. And it took the honourable place as the subject for Challenge #23.

To see my (slightly loud and rather destracted-by-other-mums-staring-at-me) Facebook Live intro to this challenge, click here.

A classic “look up and capture the magnificent architecture” shot

This kind of lens requires different techniques to my existing lenses, so I did do a bit of reading-up and theory-learning last night. (I’m actually hoping to use the lens “for real”, if a rather briefly, over the weekend. So it was important I took it for a real trial run today.)

Challenge #23 was all about figuring out how to shoot ultra wide

And it was a rather steep learning curve. Ultra wide angle lenses can add a huge amount of distortion to an image, and they definitely aren’t good for portraits!

Techie Details:
   Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
   Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6

Dino-mad Little Whirlwind was Very Keen to head to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery today (we’d been to see the Pliosaurus exhibition a little while ago, and he was desperate to head back there and have another explore).  So that’s were the Challenge began. Like Challenge 20, this is a great place to try out stuff, because the light is so utterly dreadful that if you can take a reasonable photo here, you’re well on your way.

He fell asleep in the car on the way home, so I took a detour and got some outdoor shots. Straight into the setting sun. Because at the other end of the Challenging spectrum to NO LIGHT, is LOTS OF LIGHT aimed right at you.


It was absolutely brilliant to try out something new, and I had a wonderful time!

This is what I learned:

1.  Keeping it straight and level is crucial.

For me, the hardest part was making sure that my camera was square on to my subject (for the “sensible” photos where I didn’t want to make use of the distortion). I find this surprisingly difficult as I naturally shoot at a bit of a wonky angle, and although this can be corrected in post processing with my other lenses, it can’t be fixed with this one.

2. The lens can see more than my eyes.

My field of view through the lens is INCREDIBLE. At 12mm, it goes just beyond my peripheral vision. This means that before I take a photo, I need to do a much wider visual sweep of my scene. During this challenge, there were a few things that I missed when I took the photo that I only spotted after I’d uploaded the images to my computer.

3.  Lens distortion at the edges of the frame…

The third thing I learned was that I have a tendency to pop the subject of the photo into a corner or over to one side of the image. But this is where the distortion is most obvious, so people kind of get stretched and squished.

I kind of love and hate this all at the same time. It’s more of a proof-of-principal shot, although it does make me feel weirdly seasick. I don’t like some of the unnecessary clutter, and the lady on the left is too distorted. But I’m going to work with the idea on future shoots.

And finally:

4. Lens Flare

This is a much bigger issue that with any of my other lenses. The domed lens really does attract and catch the light. This can be a bad thing, but it can also be harnessed, and once I’d figured out what was happening, I tried to use it for dramatic effect.

Lens flare isn’t for everyone, but I quite like it if used sparingly!

I had such a great time with this lens, and I’m hugely looking forward to using it again, to add an extra dynamic to my photography.

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Challenge #22: Flash Bang Wallop What a Picture

This was a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment idea for a Challenge, but I wanted to show what can be done with practically no light, and a fireworks display is a great place to find little, or intermittent light.  (And lots of big bangs.  But that doesn’t usually affect the pictures.)

To see my Facebook Live intro to this challenge, click here.

We pottered down to our local fireworks display, which is held in a large recreation ground. Before the fireworks, there are some bright floodlights on the two tennis courts at one end, but they get turned off for the display. There are no street lights or other lighting around (except for a little bit spilling out of the sports club).

Oh, and the glow sticks!

I only shoot in such low light conditions once a year (i.e. bonfire night celebrations), so although I have done this kind of thing before, I’ve not actually taken photos quite like this. It’s also only my second one with the 5D Mk iii.  And it’s still very, very challenging!

Challenge #22 was all about taking interesting photos in very, very low light conditions

With no flash. I didn’t want to use artificial light as I felt it would spoil the essence of the photos. I wanted to capture the story of the event.

Techie Details:
   Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
   Lens: 50mm f1.4


I enjoy this kind of challenge, because it really does require a lot of creativity to use the tiny bits of available light.  It also needs some very careful settings (I always shoot in Manual mode), because there’s no bringing back a dodgily exposed picture under these conditions in post processing even if it is in RAW.  (Mostly because the very high ISO introduces more noise, and this is exacerbated when you fiddle in post processing).

I found this setting to be much darker than I remembered, and focussing proved to be the main issue. Once I’d found the focus, the camera dealt with the almost-non-existent light very well.  However, for the most part, there wasn’t enough light to autofocus, and I was even having trouble manually focussing because I just couldn’t see enough. I did resort to manual focus for most of the challenge, as autofocus was just too slow. But I was having to check the images and refocus based on that, because I just couldn’t see well enough through the viewfinder.

Oh, and if you watched the video: the hand strap worked very well, although I did feel the weight of the camera more (it’s not a light thing at the best of times, but I’m used to wrapping the hand strap round and round my wrist which spreads the weight a bit). The downside to using it when out-and-about with my family is that I can’t just sling it over my shoulder when I have to rush Little Whirlwind on a PANIC MISSION to the loo.  (Incidentally, there was no need to panic, but he’s three, and a bit melodramatic.)

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Challenge #21: Autumn Fun

Ok, I’ll be honest, I kind of went a bit easy on myself with this one.  Kind of. 

To see my Facebook Live intro to this challenge, click here.

You may have noticed that my social media posts have been a bit sparse over the last week or so… this is due to a combination of work commitments and both Little Whirlwind and I coming down with the dreaded lurgi.  (I still sound a bit horse in the video.)

So, justified by the fact that the last few Challenges have been quite technical and invovled, today’s mission was to have fun at Ashton Court in Bristol with my family and take some Autumnal photos.

Challenge #21 was all about Autumn Fun

The Bonus Challenge was to coach Little Whirlwind a little bit. (Not that he’s very open to coaching most of the time, being the Excruciatingly Independent type).

We’ve swapped cameras about a bit, so he’s now wielding a Canon 650D which originally belonged to Long Suffering Husband (who’s been given one of my 60Ds). We now all have Canon DSLRs of varying sizes.

And if a very small, blonde person hidden behind an enormous lens happens to stride confidently up to you, take a photo, nod, and then stride off again, then you know you’ve been Little Whirlwinded. 

LW had his first trial-run of the camera yesterday, and really took to it. I’ve set it in an automatic mode for him, and he learned the basics on how to focus on a subject (although it’s still a bit hit-and-miss). Today, as he has a zoom lens attached to the camera, we tried to cover the basics of zooming in and out.

Techie Details:

   Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
   Lens: 50mm f1.4

Little Whirlwind:
   Camera: Canon 650D
   Lens: 18mm-55mm (kit lens)


We ended up doing a lovely, but fairly short (in distance if not duration) circular loop around a small part of the grounds at Ashton Court.

The route took us through open parkland, up a sparsely wooded track and then into some relatively dark woodland.

I kept seeing shots I wanted to take, but today I had a less-than-compliant LW and an increasingly exasperated LSH.  (There’s only so many times I can shout “OOO…OOooooo… quick, the light’s perfect, stand here!” before they just wonder off in the opposite direction!).

But I’m still happy with the results, and it was interesting to photograph LW using single shot mode. I did miss quite a few action shots because of it, but captured some nice dad-and-son shots as LW began to run out of steam and calm down a bit.

The Bonus Challenge started off quite promisingly, but because LW is three, his attention span is approximately 5 minutes, so I did end up carrying his camera for longer than he was using it. I like looking through his photos though – what he sees as important and interesting (there were 9 blurred shots of me going to throw some rubbish in the bin, for example).

Here are my favourite photos taken by Little Whirlwind (they’re all unedited, and he did it without assistance): 

Would you like me (or Little Whirlwind) to help you capture your special memories?! Get in touch to have a chat

Challenge #20: Museum Macro Madness

Only ISO10000 here… (f/6.3, 1/80 sec, if you want the techie details!)

Ok, I admit it, this challenge was a little bit barking.

To watch my croaky Facebook Live Challenge #20 introduction, click here

Frustrated by the results of a previous challenge, I hopped on to Amazon and bought myself a set of macro extension tubes.

These nifty little tubes click onto the camera between the body and the lens and turn any lens into a macro lens. They’re really cheap (£12.99 for the set-of-three I purchased) and very effective. And much more economical than a “proper” macro lens.

I’d had a bit of a play about at home, and found a combination I liked (21mm tube with 50mm lens), but wanted to test it in the real world.

Challenge #20 was all about shooting macro under about the worst possible conditions

A wasps nest, at ISO20000, 1/80 sec, f6.3

When I was learning to drive, my mother used to take me out-and-about and make me drive the narrowest, steepest, twistiest roads under the most difficult driving conditions. I (quietly) cursed her for it at the time, but her logic was sound: if I could drive under the most difficult set of circumstances, I’d have no problem passing my test, and furthermore, I’d be a pretty confident driver after that.

So I applied that logic here.

The main downside to extension tubes over a proper macro lens is that they stop some of the light reaching the camera’s sensor, so you have to compensate by winding the shutter speed down and increasing the ISO.

The ISO essentially increases the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light…and noise, which means images can get pretty grainy. And if you don’t get the exposure right as you’re taking the picture, the graininess only gets worse (much, much worse) if you try to fix it in post processing.

And museums are dark.

So Point 1 was to make sure I exposed correctly in camera, and Point 2 was to take the shutter speed as low as I could whilst hand-holding the camera (I didn’t want the inconvenience of a tripod!).

Tiny pots of pigment (ISO20000, 1/80 sec, f/6.3)

Point 3 was to try to balance out the aperture so I still let enough light in but got enough of the subject in focus. (For more about depth of field, check out Challenge #14.)

Next, focussing. With the extension tube attached, the focus range is very, very tiny. A small movement towards or away from the subject knocks the focus off.

Point 4 was to try to stay focussed!

And finally, Point 5: all the objects I was photographing were behind glass. This reduces quality in itself, and I also had to choose subjects carefully so that I didn’t get my camera reflected in the glass. It also meant I couldn’t add an external light source to make photographing easier!!

Silverware detail (and reflection from my lens in the glass casing to demonstrate the issue!) (ISO20000, f/6.3, 1/80 sec)

With everything stacked against me, it was like learning to drive with Mum all over again….

Techie Details:
Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
Lens: 50mm f1.4 with 21mm extension tube

Much, much less kit than my last challenge, but at least as technically demanding!

Fishtail (I’d have liked to have got a bit more of the fish in focus, but I do kind of like it drifting off into the background giving the impression of an illusive fish). (ISO10000, f/6.3, 1/80 sec)

Well, if you’ve got this far, you’ve at least skimmed points 1 to 5 above!

I also didn’t have time on my side. The thought process behind, setting up of, and taking each shot had to be fast, because Little Whirlwind was with me and he loves the museum. And it’s amazing how far a 3 year old can get when you turn around to take a photo!!

Fabulous bokeh going on there! (The sparkly lights in the background). (ISO12800, f/6.3, 1/80 sec)

Consequently, I didn’t take that many photos – but I am pleased with the results. There’s nothing I’d want to print out and frame here, but in terms of exploring the technical side and seeing what my camera can do, I’m happy.

Having such difficult conditions really forced me to think about my camera settings and framing of the shot before taking the photo. I didn’t have the luxury of taking a quick picture and being confident I could improve it in post processing (for the reason stated about above exposure).

Pinned bees. It’s not a museum without old, dusty, dead insects pinned to a board, right? (ISO20000, f/6.3, 1/80 sec)

It was also interesting to take my camera up to its maximum ISO (25,600!).  To put this into context, bright sunshine needs an ISO of about 100.  When I shoot in a church or other wedding venue, I try not to go above 2,000, but sometimes go up to 3,200. The most I’ve ever gone up to before is 6,400 for a very darkly lit stage performance.

And what this challenge has taught me is to trust the camera and its ISO more! As long as I expose correctly in the first place, using a higher ISO is possible (depending on the subject and setting).

The whole challenge has left me feeling much more confident with the extension tube/macro set up, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do under more favourable conditions!!

This is my favourite photo! Yes, it’s dark. Yes, only the tip of the nose of the croc is in focus. But it does look kind of foreboding….! (ISO25600, f/6.3, 1/125sec – it was one of the first photos I took, and I later knocked this down). We’ll ignore the backwards “CANON” reflected in the glass…!

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Challenge #19: Simply Backlighting

Little Whirlwind is convinced these dolls represent his mummy, daddy and himself. (This is despite the box they came in saying these are the Grandfather, Father and Son dolls…)

Do not be fooled by the title of this challenge. For whatever reason, there was nothing simple about it.

To watch my Facebook Live intro to this challenge, click here

Backlighting is where the light is striking the back of the subject and creating a glow around them.

It’s featured in some of my other challenges (like last week’s sparkly challenge, and Golden Hour fun with Challenge 5), but hasn’t yet featured as a challenge in it’s own right.

Backlighting is a technique which can be a little tricky to master, but when it’s done correctly can look fabulous. The idea behind today’s challenge was to think more about the technical aspect of shooting towards the light.

Challenge #19 was all about beautiful backlighting.

And because I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to do this challenge during daylight hours this weekend, I opted to use some of my lesser-used kit.

Techie Details:
Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
Lenses:  70-200mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4
Other Gubbins:
– Flash: Speedlite 430EXIII-RT
– Interfit 5-in-one circular reflector
– Phot-r 95cm Octagonal umbrella softbox
– Godox LED64 Continuous On Camera LED Panel light (used off camera)
– Yongnuo RF603CII/RF603II Remote Flash Trigger
– Light stand (for flash/LED)
– Tripod (for flash/LED)
– Stepladder
– Blood, sweat, tears

You can tell by the amount of kit that this isn’t the usual thing I do. I much prefer minimal kit (like just a camera and lens!). But as the purpose of this challenge was to think more technically about my approach to backlighting, I thought it might help to actually set the scene up myself, and bribe an unwilling volunteer (Long Suffering Husband) to simultaneously sit, look in the right direction and hold a reflector.

Neither the backlighting nor the catchlight in Long Suffering Husband’s eyes are what I’d hoped for. Although I’m relatively pleased with the picture, it’s not the striking image I was after.

In an ideal world, I’d have done this challenge whilst out-and-about, preferably at Golden Hour, just before sunset, and captured some wonderfully natural backlit photos.

Instead, not only did I run out of time this weekend, but I also decided to throw in lots of extra kit, meaning it would take even longer to complete.

I’ll freely admit that I struggled with the backlit portrait. It’s not what I do, and I don’t do it for a reason: it doesn’t inspire me. Even when I got LSH to pull genuine expressions, I feel like most of the personality of the subject is sapped away by all the extra rigging they’re surrounded by.

And because I wasn’t feeling inspired, and because it’s not something I enjoy, I really struggled to get it right.

Although I am happy to do a few standard-type headshots as part of a wider (and much more natural, free-flowing) photoshoot, I’m not about to become a corporate-headshot-photographer any time soon!

Things improved dramatically when I added a bit of humour into the situation and started to actually play. This involved sending LSH off to enjoy himself by tidying the kitchen while I snuck into Little Whirlwind’s bedroom and stole some of his toys.

And then the cat came in. Well, I did mention I might use the cat as a subject in the intro video. I managed to coerce her using a lovely blanket.

Finally, because it’s really late and I need sleep, I decided to combine the last two ideas I had. This is testament to just how tolerant our cat is…

Would you like me to help you capture your special memories, in a natural, free-flowing and unposed way?! Get in touch to have a chat


A Very Special Family Photoshoot

A few weeks ago, on a cloudy but bright September day, I joined a family of four for a bit of fun (oh, and a photoshoot!) at Ashton Court.

I’d been approached by the Gilbert family several weeks earlier: they needed a photographer who was patient and sensitive to their needs.

Their daughter, Freya, has a life-limiting rare metabolic disorder called Pyruvate Dehydrogenase deficiency, or PDH. She uses a wheelchair, is visually impaired, and is non-verbal. So having a photoshoot in an environment where both Freya and the rest of her family felt comfortable and at ease was crucial.

We chose Ashton Court as there’s good disabled access from the Church Lodge car park, and a very short walk away from the car there’s a quiet spot with trees, a wheelchair-friendly path and wide open spaces.

Some children can be a little apprehensive of the camera at first. I definitely didn’t have that problem with either Freya or her little brother Freddie. There was so much life and energy and fun. Two year old Freddie was doing whatever he could to make his big sister laugh, and loved the responsibility of pushing her chair, even though he could only just reach the handles! Freya made it very clear that she was loving the sudden turn of speed!

I had been told that Freya could crawl quite fast, and the idea was to get her out of the chair for a bit of an explore.

The best surprise for me was seeing her excitement and determination as she walked short distances from mum to dad, and – as her confidence grew – almost running away from them, squealing with laughter.

Freddie enjoyed helping his dad to blow bubbles, while Freya and her mum watched in delight as the bubbles drifted off on the breeze.

There was a brief shower of rain, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, and the ever-curious Freddie took the opportunity to help me take a few photos, in between holding the umbrella for his sister and trying to climb a tree!

Very soon the rain stopped, and the family were back to having fun jumping off logs!

I loved meeting Freya and her family. It’s so easy to become defined by our situation or conditions. But what I saw – and what I photographed – was a happy, lively, strong-willed and very affectionate little girl, who adores her little brother and her mummy and daddy.

I felt so privileged to be part of this very special morning, and to capture these memories for a wonderful family.

For more info and support about PDH, check out The Freya Foundation, which has been set up by Freya’s parents to raise awareness of the condition.

Challenge #18: Structured Sparkles

50mm lens, 1/250 sec, f5.0, ISO 1600

Today (somewhat inspired by a Creative Live course I’m currently undertaking), I decided to concentrate my efforts on getting interesting, simple, detailed shots of jewellery, shoes and dresses, as if I were photographing a wedding.

There are more details in my FB Live video here.

So far, when I’ve done the detail shots at a wedding, I’ve played it quite safe. I’m not going to start experimenting and playing while I’m working, so I thought today would be an excellent opportunity to have a bit of a mess-about with my various lenses and see what I could come up with.

Challenge #18 was all about trying to get striking images of jewellery, shoes and dresses. 

50mm lens, 1/250 sec, f5.0, ISO 1600

In an attempt to simulate a fairly difficult location for getting-ready shots, I chose the hardest room in my house to photograph in, and I didn’t give myself much space to get it done, either.

Although I could have gone and got some tinfoil or other potentially interesting backdrops, I decided to to keep it as close to a real photoshoot as possible. I only used a small table, the light from the window and my reflector.

Techie Details:
Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
Lenses: 50mm f1.4, 24-70mm f2.8, 70-200mm f2.8

I don’t own a macro lens (yet), which would have been ideal for most of this, so it was important to play with all three lenses to see what different effects I could get.

24-70mm lens, 1/200 sec, f5.6, ISO 1250

Well…  I realised quite early on that I’d rather over-tasked myself.

I should have chosen EITHER jewellery OR shoes OR dresses. I could have retrospectively modified the challenge. But I didn’t.  I plugged on regardless.

This is so far from my usual shooting method that it did take longer than I’d hoped, too. And yes, after a while, I did find I was getting disproportionately angry at everything instead of just having fun!!  (I’m not about to give up the in-the-moment stuff and embark on product photography, that’s for sure.)

70-200mm lens, 1/400 sec, f2.8, ISO 100

Not having a macro lens did make things much more difficult, I think. It’s on my wish list, but isn’t something I’ll be buying any time soon – it’s another bulky tool to lug about in order to get just 2-3 photos to put into a wedding album. So it was important to see what good shots I could get with my existing kit.

Because I don’t have the “right” lens, I have had to crop the images. I’ve also done a bit of manipulation – making the blacks blacker, increasing the highlights, and editing out all the cat fur that seems to get everywhere. Nothing major though, just little tweaks here and there.

My current lenses really struggled to focus on the tiny rings, and some of the images aren’t as sharp as I’d have liked, although I’m pleased with the overall effects.

50mm lens, 1/250 sec, f3.2, ISO 1000

I did learn a fair amount – not least that my beautiful 50mm lens struggles to focus on something tiny at f1.4, and that I really don’t like setting my shutter speed less than 1/200 sec (which I really should have done in this challenge). But I feel I could have got more out of this challenge if I’d limited it to just one ring and one pair of shoes. So I think I’ll be revisiting this topic again…!

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Challenge #17: Dancing in the Rain

Ok, ok, I’ll admit it: There wasn’t that much dancing.  There was a lot of coercion and bribery.

To find out what I was trying to do, check out my FB Live video here.

Basically, this was the challenge I wanted to do last week – taking photos with my nice big umbrellas, in the rain. But it didn’t rain in the end last week.

Well, an 80% chance of rain this morning (think: Met Office app with big black cloud and multiple raindrops) left me overly hopeful that I could get this challenge out of the way during my only “free” hour today.

Only the rain never came. At least, not this morning.

So we went out for the day, and came back late. Little Whirlwind had fallen asleep in the car on the way home (it was a long drive), and woke up groggy and crabby. But it was raining, so I decided we really should try to give it a go!

Challenge #17 was all about having fun in the rain

It was supposed to be in the morning, with everyone full of energy, rather than last thing in the evening. So the “fun” was slightly more subdued that I was hoping for…

Techie Details:
Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
Lens: 50mm f1.4
Flash: Speedlite 430EXIII-RT (and flash reflector)


It was dusk.  It was drizzling. I had a very grumpy little boy, and a larger one who just wanted his dinner.

So the challenge itself increased.

I managed to shoe-horn the welly boots onto everyone and get us all out of the door (grabbing my flash on the way – it was getting too dark to shoot without it, but I was uncertain how it would behave on a rainy night in a dark park).

Little Whirlwind only enjoyed carrying the brolly for the first 35 seconds, then just wanted to run around a damp park and slide down a wet slide and paddle in mud, and basically not interact with any one or any thing.

We had to use all our skills as parents (yes, bribery) to get him to engage. I think he ended up having fun doing jumping-in-puddle competitions with Long Suffering Husband, and overall the experience was quite good.

I didn’t really get the shots I was originally after because of the light and the need to use flash. I tried a few different things with the flash. I mostly shoot with the flash in manual mode and control the power output – which is how I shot today. I found keeping the power output really low seemed to give the best results.

Photographing someone holding an umbrella behind their head posed an extra challenge as even bouncing the flash on the card I’d brought cast dreadful shadows onto the inside of the umbrella. As the brollies have a lovely light-and-shiny inside coating, I tried bouncing the flash both off the card attached to the flash and off the inside of the umbrella itself, which seemed to work much better.

Not perfect, but photographing someone holding an umbrella, using an on-camera flash tends to cause massive shadows cast onto the inside of the brolly. I tried to flood the inside of the umbrella with light from the flash to reduce shadowing. I’m treating this as a win.

Although this challenge didn’t exactly go as planned (it was actually much more difficult), I’ve learned a huge amount this evening and I’m glad I persevered and got everyone jumping in puddles.

I think they’re discussing what they’re going to have for dinner when Mummy FINALLY stops leaping around with the camera and trying to get them to do stuff.


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Challenge #16: Freedom

To watch the Facebook Live video of me being a bit overwhelmed, click here.

Today’s challenge was supposed to be all about dancing in the rain. And then the weather improved, and we didn’t have rain.

Feeling a bit thrown, I’d usually come up with another idea – I did consult my ideas list. But instead of feeling excited or inspired, I just felt drained.

I’ve had a busy week with client meetings, photoshoots, and lots of behind-the-scenes stuff (here’s a live video on that subject from Tuesday). I’d also just done a quick first-run through the photos I took during a family session this morning, and got genuinely emotional over the photos (blog post to come in the next few weeks about this morning’s special shoot).

What I really felt I needed this afternoon was to just switch off.

Challenge #16 was about Freedom…to relax.

I may have taken “relax” too far at this point… I was lying on the grass

I toyed with the idea of challenging myself to take no photos. Now, I’m not being funny here, but I think I’d find that even more stressful. I take photos. It’s what I do, whether I’m working or not.

So instead, I headed to where I’m the most happy – the garden (that’s where I posted the video from). Very soon Little Whirlwind, Long Suffering Husband, and even the not-very-adventurous Cat had joined me.

We dug a bit, we sang out of tune a bit, we played badminton (ok, that’s stretching the term slightly), we got the bubbles out (at which point NVA Cat beat a hasty retreat), we found loads of spiders and we picked some raspberries.

And, as I usually do, I captured some of the fun on my phone.

Techie Details:
Camera: iPhone 6

There was no script. No idea of what we were going to do. We just did. And I just snapped away.


In some ways I feel a little disappointed in myself that I couldn’t goad myself into something more spectacular. But then I know that I’ve taken quite a few photos this week that I’m really proud of, and that there’s only so many nights I can work until 1am, and only so many mornings I can then get up at 6am to parent, before I burn out.

This afternoon, by necessity, had to be non-taxing and fun. And it was. And I’m already feeling a lot better.

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