The Challenge: Status – Paused

Sometimes we all have to admit we’ve taken on a bit much…(click here for the Facebook Live video)

Earlier this week Little Whirlwind turned 4, and with it came a week of celebrations and days out with family and friends. I’d hoped to fit a Challenge in amongst the mix, but just getting the shot below at his birthday party (at the same time as coordinating everything AND being the in-house entertainment) proved to be more than enough!  (I can hear mothers across the land nodding in understanding, possibly while they sip on a nice glass of red).

I had high hopes for picking up where I left off with The Challenge this weekend, but a combination of factors meant that didn’t happen either.

As well as the Day Job and Parenting Job, I’m currently absorbed in martial arts training.

Next weekend (18th February), I’m taking part in Bristol Wutan‘s martial arts display as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. The plan is that I’ll be doing one of my Kickboxing routines, complete with surprisingly weighty weaponry.

I took part last year, and really enjoyed myself, so hoping all goes well next week. It would be great to see you there!!

Once next weekend’s out of the way, I’ll be hitting the photography Challenges head-on again, so keep the ideas coming in, and if I use your idea, you’ll receive 10% off your next photoshoot. 

Challenge #31: Beach-combing (and a new iPhone app)


Today’s challenge is brought to you from a wild and wooly wintery beach!

To watch my video introducing today’s challenge, click here!

Caveat: this is not a smugness-filled challenge, by any means. This is a challenge fuelled by desperation, sadness, and a huge amount of anxiety about the future. 

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a place surrounded by sandy beaches. I have no memory of copious amounts of plastic waste on the beach, and don’t remember ever seeing those tiny nuggets of plastic (nurdles) at all.

These days, whenever we head to a beach, we always go with rubbish bags, and fill ’em up with the (mostly plastic) waste that we find while we’re having our fun playing in the sand.

Beach-combing to my son is more about waste collection and disposal, and not so much about shells, pebbles and driftwood. And this makes me sad.

Little Whirlwind is having a very different experience of trips to the beach than I did. 

The other day a friend posted something on Facebook about how to easily collect the tiny pellets of plastic nurdles: basically sweep the beach at the tide-line, put the sweepings into a bucket of water. The sand sinks, the plastic floats.

Challenge #31 is all about sweeping plastic up off the beach, and trying out a new camera app. 

We were keen to give beach sweeping a try, so decided to head to Brean for a wintery play on the beach.

And I decided to document it using my phone (I didn’t want to get my pro camera sandy and wet!)… plus I had a new camera app to play with!

Techie Details:
Camera: iPhone 6 with Pro Camera app


Collecting bits of plastic off the beach feels almost futile. We collected SO MUCH in such a small area.

So on the one hand, that’s two bin bags of plastic, metal and glass waste, some kind of large plastic fan, three bags of dog poo, a soup tub full of plastic sticks and pellets, and two large plastic tarpaulins that aren’t being eaten by fish, or drifting about as a hideous plastic island in the middle of the sea. 

On the other hand, we covered such a small area of beach it feels like an impossible, never-ending task.

BUT if everyone went out and had fun with their families (because yes, it was fun*) and spent a hour or two collecting rubbish, we’d make a HUGE difference. What do you say?  Will you join the challenge?

*except the dog poo

LW did have a fun time. He enjoyed the experiment with sweeping the beach, and he did get a chance to dig holes and build sand castles. He also helped to collect rubbish. He understands (thanks to fab educational activities at The Festival of Nature and displays at Bristol Zoo, as well as chatting about it at home), the dangers to wildlife – and to us.

In terms of the new phone app, I’m quite pleased with it, although I kept forgetting to properly focus it!!  This wasn’t so obvious on the phone, but as soon as I popped them onto the computer I realised my mistake. I did like having more control over my camera settings though, and I’ll definitely be using it again! 

Would you like me to help you capture your special memories?! Get in touch to have a chat

Challenge #30: Lights! Camera! Action!

This week I’m going to be on the wrong side of the camera…

To get some idea of how apprehensive I am about this challenge, check out my Facebook Live intro here!

Did you know that part of doing these challenges was to get me more used to being on camera?

Yes, that’s right. I usually avoid being lens-side as much as possible!

But today I decided to take “being in front of the camera” to another level.

I’ve already created a few videos introducing myself as a photographer, and the most important one I have introduces the wedding photography side of my business.

To be honest, though, that video needs redoing.

Challenge #30 is all about creating a shiny new video-and-slideshow introduction to SuperFunkyPenguin wedding photography

That’s right: a VIDEO challenge!

Techie Details:

Camera: Canon 5D Mk III
Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f2.8
Other Kit: Rhode microphone, tripod, reflector, LED light and softbox, wits, charm and pizzazz. 

The main problems are: rubbish lighting in this house; virtually no blank wallspace (or “cosy corners”) for me to use; my lack of flare in front of the camera!

How did it go

It took a while to get the lighting and all the kit set-up. I get a bit frustrated with this kind of thing, because I like to just grab-my-camera-and-go, so working out lighting rigs and tweaking specific angles isn’t my cup of tea.

It took several takes. More than several.

To make matters worse, in my final attempt (which I was relatively pleased with), I was holding the reflector in view. Happily, after a bit of post-processing and cropping, you can’t tell!

It actually took longer to produce the slideshow in the end. It’s a bit longer than I’d hoped, but I cut the number of photos I’d originally chosen down by two thirds, and I love all the remaining ones so much I just couldn’t cull any more.

So here it is, the finished item. Be kind, please, to this fish out of water!

Building Confidence Through Dance

I will caveat this post with one bold statement: I am not a dancer. 

That’s not to say I haven’t dabbled in a bit of dance here and there.  I’ve given all sorts of things a go – from tap to ballroom. Just don’t mention the Country Dancing that was forced upon us at primary school. I always played the boy.

I suppose what I mean to say is that I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a trained, amateur dancer. I’m usually more about watching and photographing dance (both of which I love to do!).

My passion has always been more towards the music side.

Little Whirlwind has other ideas. As much as I try to encourage the music side of things, he LOVES to dance. To move and run and leap. And he takes such joy in it.

Then I noticed that as outgoing as LW is, at parties he was just watching while his friends danced and had fun. Too shy to dance in front of people.

And this made me sad.

I made a few enquiries about different dance classes available for his age group (he’s nearly 4), but nothing seemed to really fit what we were looking for. He’s a bit of a loose canon at the best of times, and although I would have no qualms in taking him to a ballet class, I just can’t imagine him fitting in with the more rigid structure the classes tend to take.

Then I heard that Svetlana (who’s set up the company OvDa, and is responsible for the amazing Tiny Steps performances) was setting up a new dance class for toddlers/preschoolers and their grown-ups, and we jumped at the chance!

I won’t lie. I was as nervous as the next introvert-mum-who’s-never-danced-in-front-of-anyone. But I had a hunch LW would enjoy it. So I took a deep breath, and joined the class.

LW mostly watched (and ran in circles round the room screeching) for the first few classes, and I worried I’d made a mistake. But Svetlana was so patient and encouraging, and LW told me after each class that he was having fun and looking forward to the next one. So we persevered.

We’ve now completed the first term and have begun our second term. LW is SO PROUD of his OvDa t-shirt, and can’t WAIT to get out of the house to get to class. He now joins in for most of the lesson, and is learning all sorts of technical manoeuvres (such as pliés and slides). He loves having permission to skip and balance and freeze-in-a-pose, and is learning about rhythm and dancing on different levels and how to move his body in different ways. He’s building his confidence.

And so am I.

Yes, we have to dance in front of people. But you know what, it’s actually FUN. In demonstrating to LW that it’s ok to let go a little bit, listen to the music and just move, I’ve learned that is IS ok to let go a little bit! 

And the other thing that’s happened?

LW and I are bonding. We’ve gone from having hourly battles-of-wills to actually co-operating a little bit!

His favourite class activity beyond anything else is mirroring – where he dances and I have to copy him (and yes, Svetlana, you were absolutely right, we DO practice at home!).

He’s also honed his Robot Dance, which he’s usually happy to demonstrate, and which I have now seen at least one of his friends at preschool do.

Svetlana runs classes for different age groups. We do the “Creative Toddler & Parent Combo” class (for 2-5 year olds), but if your little ones are younger, why not check out her DanceMums class? I photographed DanceMums a couple of times over the last few years, and was so impressed with how friendly and supportive the group is (as well as being an excellent work-out for new mums).

To find out more, you can contact Svetlana via her website or Facebook page

How to score a discount on your photoshoot in 2018

I’m not planning on running any specific competitions this year, but there is still a way to earn a discount on your photoshoot.

Yes, I’m going to make you work for it….

….a little bit!

The Challenges

Have you checked out some of my weekly photography challenges yet?

After much pondering and soul searching I’ve decided to continue with The Challenges. They’re proving a great way to explore my creativity and stay current with all my kit… not to mention learning new skills along the way.

I’m always on the hunt for new Challenge ideas, whether it’s a specific subject to photograph or a particular technique style to try out.

I’d love to hear your ideas! 

It doesn’t matter how technical or non-technical the challenge, if I use your idea you’ll receive 15% off your next photoshoot.

If I use your ideas you’ll receive 15% off your next photoshoot!

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Challenge #29: A Study In Paper

2018 has hit in full force, and although I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions, we have been iterating towards some pretty big changes of the ECO variety.

Today we embarked on the eco-friendly change that’s going to involve the most effort: Making logs to burn on the fire out of paper destined for the recycling bin. And what better excuse to get my camera out than to get Little Whirlwind and Long Suffering Husband do all the hard work while I fulfil my Weekly Challenge?!

To watch my intro to today’s challenge, click here.

Challenge #29 is all about doing a mini documentary-style photoshoot of the industrious shredding of paper, in really, really rubbish light. 

The main part of this challenge is to capture good photos in really rubbish light. Our lounge lighting situation is truly dreadful, so it was a good excuse to get some flash practice in.

I can’t use a flash for most of the photoshoots I do (it’s severely frowned upon during wedding ceremonies, and it’s really off-putting for children & their grown-ups when they’re supposed to be having fun and forgetting I’m there!). So it’s good to keep my hand in with it.

Techie Details:
   Camera: Canon 5D Mk III
   Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f2.8
Other Kit: Speedlight Flash 430EXIII-RT (on camera), with flash reflector

I used the flash on-camera as this is my usual set-up when I do use it. It’s not the best way to make use of a flash, but with my style of photography I’m constantly moving around to get the best shot of the action, so the flash stays on the camera. To make the most of it, I use a special reflector that attaches onto the flash so I can bounce the light. (Helpful hint: Never, ever take a photo with the flash pointed directly at your subject!).



Avoiding the inevitable clutter around the room was a bit tricky, but overall I think we all had a lot of fun with this challenge!

I always shoot in manual mode with my camera (this means setting the shutter speed, aperture and ISO for each photo), and this has led me to operating the flash in manual mode too. I think it’s the way my brain works… I just don’t get along with TTL mode.

Because the room isn’t that big, once I’d got my flash settings right it was just a case of choosing my position and trying to think three steps ahead of Little Whirlwind to get the timing right. In the end most of the photos that made it into the final cut were from the same location.

I hope you enjoy the photos!


The log-making device is an Eko-Mania Paper Log Maker, available through Amazon. 

To enjoy Little Whirlwind’s Instructional Video, click here!

Would you like me to help you capture your special memories?! Get in touch to have a chat

Challenge #28: A Study In Stone


I decided to go a bit easy on myself and make the first challenge of the year quite straight-forward. To hear my (freezing cold) intro, click here.

Thanks to the continued influence of GO Jetters on Little Whirlwind, we took a day trip to Stonehenge.

Challenge #28 is all about capturing the majesty of Stonehenge, as well as some documentary-style photos of my family.

There have been SO MANY photos taken of Stonehenge, that I really felt the pressure to capture something special. I knew I wouldn’t be capturing anything really unique – as you’re kept to a path around the stones, there are only so many shots actually possible. But I did want the photos to be good and striking at least.

Techie Details:
   Camera: Canon 5D Mk III
   Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f2.8


It was a beautiful, sunny day… but sooooo cold, so there was an extra added challenge of multiple layers of clothing, hat, scarf, gloves, and still-frozen fingers – not to mention streaming-in-the-wind eyes – to deal with!

Another problem was protesters. We had our first attempt to reach to stones aborted because the police were there trying to remove the protesters.  Although this led to a severely disappointed Little Whirlwind, it did mean that when we finally made it out to the stones, the sun was lower in the sky and the light was BEAUTIFUL!

Would you like me to help you capture your special memories?! Get in touch to have a chat

Challenge #27: Festive Frolicking

This challenge is also known as The Christmas Card challenge. 

To see my facebook introduction to what was SUPPOSED to be happening today, click here.

Every year I struggle to find a suitably festive image to use on the Christmas cards I get printed up. I like something a bit arty, pleasing to look at, and non-denominational.

But the photos I usually take around this time of year are lots of family photos, with all Little Whirlwind’s craziness… which I’m fairly certain wouldn’t make a particularly good Christmas card!!

Challenge #27 is all about capturing that totally amazing festive image in preparation for my 2018 Christmas cards

And this is going to be a multi-week challenge, because basically out plans just fell apart this weekend!

We’d planned to go to the Victorian Christmas at Blaise Castle yesterday, but having had no less than 5 social engagements on Friday, we were all completely burnt out by Saturday and spent the whole day resolutely Not Going Out.


This was partly because today we were supposed  to be driving down to Devon to see Little Whirlwind’s Nana, who unfortunately we won’t be able to see over Christmas.  Part of the plan was to go and see the festive room decorations at Saltram House, which was where I was going to try to capture my warm, engaging, festive photo.

Only this morning we woke up to strong winds (a few trees had been brought down near our village), flooding in parts of the village and heavy snow forecast.

As it was, the snow did arrive but didn’t stick, and we’d have probably been fine taking the trip. The only hitch being we couldn’t risk going and not making it back tonight (our cat had an op on Monday, and is all stitched up and sore – we can’t really leave her overnight at the moment).

Instead we headed to Tyntesfield to have some family fun in the snow…although we arrived too late to look around the house. And then the final hitch struck….

Techie Details:
   Camera: Canon 60D
   Lens: Sigma 17-50mm f2.8

Yes, that’s right. NOT THE RIGHT CAMERA. Actually, I did have my 5D Mk iii with me, but had accidentally grabbed the Ultra Wide lens on my haste to get out of the door, and it really wasn’t the look I was going for. Fortunately Long Suffering Husband had my cast-off camera, so I used that instead.


Well, considering I had the wrong camera and all the plans had fallen apart, I’m pleased with some of the photos I took (at least on a personal, family level).


I don’t think any of them will make the final cut, though.  This is mostly because I am now a complete Camera Snob. In all seriousness though, I’ve now become so used to the image quality from the 5D, that I can’t fail to be a bit disappointed with the 60D.  (The light levels were quite low, despite lots of reflective snow, and the 60D doesn’t perform particularly well in low light).

We did make the best of the situation though, and as a family had lots of fun.

This does of course mean that Challenge #27 will continue…

Photo credit: Long Suffering Husband

Would you like me to help you capture your special memories?! Get in touch to have a chat

Challenge #26: Simplicity

There’s been a lot going on in SuperFunkyPenguin Land over the last couple of months, and now on a personal level the mad-rush-to-Christmas has already begun.

To hear a little intro to this week’s challenge on the theme of Simplicity, click here.  

We had a family trip to Radstock in Midsomer Norton today (mostly because I had some post-wedding goodies to deliver to a lovely couple, and I decided to turn it into a mini adventure).

Challenge #26 was all about keeping things simple in this crazy, crazy world. 

The plan was to have some lunch, then head over to the Radstock Museum.  Unfortunately (and contrary to the info online), the Museum is closed for December and January.

In search of something interesting to do, we ended up at the Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust.  Cue: a train ride, meeting Father Christmas, and lots of cake and tea!! 

Techie Details:
   Camera: Canon 5D Mk iii
   Lens: Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 (because that’s what was on my camera when I grabbed it as I ran out of the door this morning)


Because our main plan was scuppered and we had to head off into the fading light in search of adventures new, the time I had allocated for this challenge was really reduced.

And because we arrived at the railway with just over an hour before closing time, everything was a bit rushed, and I didn’t have time to strip my photos back to the simplest form I wanted.

That said, because I had my camera in my hand, I caught some great family moments, and we had a really fun day out – so I’m not to distressed by the fact that most of my simple photos aren’t really what I was originally aiming for!!

Would you like me to help you capture your special memories?! Get in touch to have a chat

Challenge #25: Leading Lines

Museum in Exeter

This week I wanted a challenge that worked on a particular skill I want to enhance, and used my new 12-24mm ultra wide angle lens (because (a) it’s still my newest toy, and (b) I want to practice with it some more).

To see my coincidentally stripy introduction to leading lines, click here

I chose to work on Leading Lines – where “natural” lines in the scenery lead your eye in towards the subject. It’s something that I do from time to time, but without really thinking about it. So the aim was to consciously work on honing this skill.

Challenge #25 was all about using leading lines to draw the eye in to the subject

A doorway in Exeter. The distortion has made this a bit “flat”, so I’m not sure it counts as Leading Lines, but somehow I like it anyway!

This has been the longest drawn-out challenge yet. This was because we had a completely packed weekend with client meetings and family excursions. So I just kept the camera at-the-ready and tried to capture a few shots here and there.

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


The challenge began on Friday where I had a little practice run with Little Whirlwind at Windmill Hill City Farm after I’d finished photographing Freelance Mum. None of the photos made the final cut, but I’m still happy with some of the shots I captured.

Royal Crescent, Bath

Saturday was a trip to Bath. I’d had a few ideas about what to try, but there were just so many people milling about the markets, shops, streets…everywhere. We ducked down side streets and tried to escape the crowds before ending up looking round a Georgian House at Royal Crescent (Best. Idea. Ever.  Little Whirlwind LOVED exploring the house, and I found some very useful leading lines!).

Exeter Museum – when you have to use a statue as the subject because your family are fed up with you 😉

We were in Exeter on Sunday, and again the city was heaving with Christmas Shoppers. My plans for some great Cathedral Interiors were thwarted by the fact I forgot it was Sunday(!), and the services meant we couldn’t have a look round. Little Whirlwind is on a complete MISSION MUSEUM at the moment, and begged us to find a museum to take him to.

This kept us all happy, and I found my favourite Leading Line Location (the photo at the top of this post).  Unfortunately by this point LW and Long Suffering Husband were both completely fed up of my yelling for them to stop and stand on one leg with their arms in the air while I took a photo!!

Exeter Museum. A bit of a safe shot, but I liked the dark-to-light gradient, too.

To be honest, I’m not completely happy with how this challenge went. I wanted to get some different, more quirky, leading-line angles, but there really was limited opportunity due to lack of time and excess of other people!

On the other hand, I am quite pleased with some of the photos I’ve taken (even if they are a bit “safe”), and it has prompted me to actually spend three days consciously looking for leading-line-type scenarios. So, I’ll keep working on it!

Would you like me to help you capture your special memories?! Get in touch to have a chat