Category Archives: photo

The young photographer

Our boy Bill is showing some considerable interest in my cameras.  But given his record of high tech destruction (DVD drives being particularly vulnerable) and sticky fingers on precious lenses, I’m loath to let him get his filthy mitts on my cameras.

Budding photographer

But his birthday is coming up soon.

However, when I’ve looked at kiddie cameras online, I’m shocked by their cheesiness and their low megapixels.  Obviously a camera for a three year old should probably have fixed focus and be rugged, including some minimal water-proofedness.  But reading through the reviews on Amazon, I’m disappointed with all of them and it seems like the chances of getting a randomly good photo is low and the possibilities of a bit of adult intervention through cropping and post-processing would be minimal because the size of the original file is too low. Maybe he wouldn’t care, but I think I would. Maybe I just need to get over it, but I’d quite like to have momentos of the world according to Bill.

I looked at shock proof, water proof cameras but they’re all quite expensive. And although some have dropped into the £150-ish range, that seems a bit high for a third birthday.  I’m really not sure what to do.



What’s this – I’m playing a social networking game called Empire Avenue, partly for fun, and partly – believe it or not – for work.  We’re building a new platform for knowledge sharing and I’m looking at fun online rewards for sharing knowledge.  But I need to include this code to verify my blog, so I can get more in-game currency.  The point of this game, eventually, I believe is to provide a big advertising platform with personalised recommendations.  The point of any game features we bring to the Knoweldge Hub will be to support knowledge transfer among local public services.

Don't shoot a gift horse in the mouth

I take a lot of pictures and half way decent ones get uploaded to my Flickr account. Sometimes I get requests to use these photos.

It’s tempting to think that I could charge for the use of my pictures. But truthfully, although sometimes I take some great pictures, I’m not consistently good enough and I’m not willing to put in the effort to market my photos. And even if I were, the market for the kind of pictures that I like to take probably isn’t that big.

So when I started to get requests to use my photos from students or non-profit projects, I changed my license to a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license.  And then when I started to get requests from artists who don’t strictly fall under the non-commercial aspect or agencies working on behalf of local government or struggling bands or writers working on niche projects who were never going to pay me – I changed the license on some of my photos to a Creative Commons attribution license*.

Today I got a copy of book in which I have a photo credit.  It’s from a well known factual publisher and they never offered to pay me for it, although I was offered a free copy of the book.  (I was too lame and too paranoid to send them my address – I have my freaky moments).  Cool.

Pay me not for my peony

Today I also turned down the “opportunity” to have one of my photos featured in an online television show about teenage fashion designers  I was approached via my Flickr account and asked if they could use the photo with credit but without compensation – they just wanted to base some design elements off one of my peony pictures.   Fine by me.  Let me know which ones you want and I’ll let you use it.  Unless you want exclusive rights – in which case I’ll have to charge.

I’m sent a two page legal document with herefores and whereas and I have to give them my legal address (remember how I wouldn’t share my address to get a free book?).  Ummm, no.  If you want me to waste my time filling out your form, I really have to charge.  My day rate is not inconsiderable.

I get a buzz out of other people using my pictures.  But I take them because I want to.   I have no love of form filling.  I applied a Creative Commons attribution license to my peony pictures and told them there’s no way I’m filling out the form.

Use them or don’t use them.  I’m all about the gift economy and sharing knowledge and content.  But please, don’t shoot a gift horse in the mouth.

*Images of recognisable people, especially my son – I do not let people use for free.

Butterflies and ponies

We had a weekend that disappointed my inner eight year old girl.

First off to Wisley, where we walked around in crisp air under amazing blue skies while the toddler slept in his all-terrain pushchair.

Blue skies at Wisley

We managed to pry his eyes open just in time to visit the butterfly exhibit.

We’re members of the RHS, so we get in free – but presumably Wisley needs to keep a steady stream of cash visitors coming through the door so there are the occasional family friendly, gimmicky attractions, particularly in the winter.
To me, there garden is beautiful any time of year and late January is amazing with the witch hazel and cyclamen and hellebore and a handful of snowdrops in bloom.  Surprising treasures in a winter landscape.  And the Piet Oudolf borders are full of striking and sculptural seed heads.  But I understand that not everyone is a garden geek like me.  So to bring in the punters, they pump the glasshouse full of butterflies.

Solitary poser

But not full enough.  Far too many people (and every last one of them with a digital camera) and far too few butterflies.  When I go to a butterfly exhibit I want it to be like the scene in Snow White where all the birds are gathered round here.  I want butterflies galore.  Instead, it was the occasional tired insect surrounded by lenses.  And a few dead (or nearly so) clustered around the trays of rotting fruit that had been left out to lure them from their leafy refuge.


Inner-eight year old girl: where are all the butterflies?

Me: Beautiful day out, some great photos and toddler had a wonderful time using the lift in the glass house.

Pony rides

I’ve been promising the toddler a horse ride for a couple of weeks.  I’m not sure where the idea came from or why he was suddenly so insistent.  I wasn’t even sure, at first, that he meant a real horse ride.  But when I showed him a picture of a child riding a pony at the nearby urban farm he smiled that satisfaction smile that meant that his poorly enunciated demands were finally understood.

On Sunday it finally worked out that we could go and with some rushing around we made it down to Deen City Farm only a few minutes late.  I joined the back of the queue, which moved not at all as a birthday party had booked pony rides for all the little kids.   Simon and Bill went off to enjoy his favourite ride of all.  The yellow bus.

Determined bus driver

As the party cleared out, and the line started to move I called Simon who brought a screaming, kicking toddler up to the pony queue.  No promises of pony rides could compensate for removal from the yellow bus (which wasn’t even turned on that day).

But when he saw other children riding the pony and saw that he was close to being fitted with his own riding helmet.  He calmed down.  When the woman reached for his hand to lift him up onto the platform he did not look back.   I could tell that he was excited, but he was trying to keep it cool.

The pony ride itself was brief, when they say ‘about a minute’ on the website – that seems fairly generous.  But he loved it.  A real horse ride, on a beautiful pony.


Inner eight-year old girl: I waited all that time and I didn’t even get to ride the pony beyond a muddy old yard.

Me: All that running around and waiting in the cold was worth it to see the look on his face.

Gone to the market to buy a fat pig

I’m a grocery store, supermarket kinda girl.  I generally like buying my meat shrinkwrapped with a use-by date.   It’s fast, it’s easy, I don’t have to talk to anyone or reveal my lack of meat-buying nous and it’s – you know – OK.

But there’s a butchers on the edge of Wimbledon that we regularly pass by on the way to Richmond Park.  It’s nice looking.  I reckon it just may be where rich people buy their meat, and even if you’re not rich you need to have a reasonable net worth to shop there.  I’ve only ever bought cheap cuts there myself.

My brother makes some amazing ribs.  Tender, fall off the bone, sweet and crispy on the outside ribs.  The kind of ribs that would show a Memphis native that a Middle Tennessean has got ’em beat both ways on BBQ.    When he visits us in the summer, we usually set aside a day to make some ribs.   But the first time we tried this set up we had problems sourcing adequate ingredients.   We had been to a number of supermarkets and found some measly little piglet ribs smeared in suspicious red sauce in a little foil tray.

So, I suggested we try the butchers as a last resort, I’d never been in before.  We got there and saw some ribs in a slightly less scary sauce, but still marinaded up.   “Do you have any plain ribs?” we asked.  Out they brought the most amazing full side of ribs, plump and full of meat.   We had to get it cut up to fit in my giant boiling pot.  There was a slightly false start when they began cutting them into single ribs, but the butcher realised his mistake when my brother and I shouted “No!!!”

My goodness, high quality meat makes a difference.  Delish.


I had planned to go to  the supermarket to buy a pork shoulder for Christmas, but was dreading the heave.

We passed by the buther shop  yesterday on our way to Simon’s birthday walk in the park.  We’ve had some lovely solitary walks in the park on his birthday in some very strange weather.  One year it was freezing mist and the park was silent but for the ice droplets falling from the trees.  Magical.

But yesterday was just plain miserable.  Rain.  Cold, cold drizzly rain falling on frozen paths.  It wasn’t even as festive as sleet.   We walked, slipping down (and Simon falling once) down to Isabella plantation and fed the ducks.

Who were very grateful for our meagre crusts.

Actually it was pretty amazing.  I counted up almost 30 pair of Mandarin ducks.  And a solitary wood duck. (These are pics from last year, because it was too wet to get my camera out.)

And then, because we were feeling very damp and cold.  We left.

In an attempt to salvage our journey I suggested we stop in the butchers on the way back and pick up a pork shoulder.  Which we did.  Excellent service as usual.  Freshly cut from a larger joint.   This year is the first time I’ve ever tried cooking pork shoulder and it’s pretty fantastic.

I’m even more excited about trying it with a really nice piece of meat.  A Merry Christmas indeed.


On our visit to Wisley on Sunday I had a purple cabbage coleslaw in the restaurant.  It was fantastic and I thought it would make an excellent accompaniement to our pork shoulder roast.  But I can’t quite find just the right recipe for it.

However, I did find a recipe for a congealed coleslaw.  Yep, that’s right – coleslaw in jello (or jelly if you prefer), but there was no picture of the final product.   Which made me think about the Weight Watchers recipe cards which made me laugh til my sides hurt the first time I saw them – which unfortunately was at work.

And no my memory was not faulty.  Here’s what we could be having along with roast pork.  (Only sadly, I have no jelly mould).

The Young Zoolander

Despite myself, I quite like Covent Garden.   Lots of fabulous buskers, lots of kinda cool things that you really don’t need.

I went there last year with my brother to check out the Transport for London shop (for all your Underground poster needs) and to buy a t-shirt for some girl he knows, he said it was in exchange for taking him to the airport.  But since we went to rather trendy  t-shirt shop, it would have been cheaper to take a cab (depending on the strength of the dollar, of course).

Don’t get me wrong – their T’s are super-cool.  And I was able to pick up a  t-shirt I’d had my eye on since before our Bill was even born – as in “wouldn’t that be such a cute shirt if I ever had a baby”.   It was a price so high, that I  was tempted to evade an honest answer when Simon, ever the miserly husband, asked me how much it cost.

This morning I had an email from the shop asking me if they could use this image.

I do think my little guy is adorable, but I don’t think much of this picture for either my photography or his cuteness, but I guess they were only interested in the T.

Free for all

Most of my photographs are published under a Creative Commons license, which means that anyone can use them – I only ask that I get credited.   I used to allow it for non-commercial use only, but generally would allow my photos to be used for commercial purposes for free.   The requests were so infrequent that I don’t think I could ever make any money out of it – so I’m generally quite happy to just let them use it.

I use other people’s photos a lot, too in presentations – and though I work for the public interest – I may be stretching non-commercial licenses.  So, I thought – what the heck – I’ll allow people to just use my images.

But when it comes to images of my son, I’ve decided I’m keeping it at All Rights Reserved.   I may have taken the pictures, but they’re not of me.

I can’t decide if I should let him be a child model at all (however limited) and I definitely don’t think I’m going to farm out his image without at least getting a t-shirt out of it.  The one he’s wearing is a little tight these days.

Top shots

I love taking photos and over the past five years I feel I’ve really grown as a photographer.   I can give Flickr a photo hosting and social networking site some considerable credit for helping me to see and be in touch with some great photographers. 

It’s a struggle to spend as much time on photography as I used to.  I can’t really take the time to set up shots anymore.  I used to drive Simon crazy with my endless framing and fiddling, which was especially bad when I was using film and every frame had a marginal cost.  Now, I take shots as I find them mostly.   I don’t even do much by way of post-processing (though I do some). 

A Flickr group Top Shots of 2009, allows you to post one single item.  Your top shot from 2009, presumably.

But what would that be?  

Pony club   This rather odd shot of a pony club instructor in a tutu. 

water lily  This heavily saturated pair of waterlilies?
Gordon Highlanders I’m quite fond of this one, partly for its slightly voyeuristic qualities.  What can I say?  I’m a bit of a perv for a man in a kilt.

Goose stampede This scary photo of stampeding geese? (Ok, maybe not a top shot)

Menin Gate I love this photo of cyclist stopping to reflect on a war memorial in Belgium.

Pink dogwood I got some great dogwood photos – and since I hadn’t seen a proper dogwood in bloom for over a decade to me it was an amazing sight.

Frozen I love this Christmas card perfect image of frost on euphorbia

thru the window And this is one of the most recent shots I’ve taken

(More of my fave shots from 2009)

What do you reckon?

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Geese of doom


This photo has shot up in Interestingness on my Flickr account recently.  Not entirely sure why.  Interestingness is a funny measure of, well, interestingness for the images on Flickr.   It’s based on algorithm as closely guarded as the Colonel’s recipe, but you can guess that some of the 11 herbs and spices are views, comments, groups where it’s posted and links to to the image.   Interestingness is measured overall – so there’s a number one most interesting picture every day  and it goes on down to the top 500.    I’ve had several photos make the interesting rankings – no where near close to the top, and not for a while.  You can see  my most interesting photos.

When I took this picture, I had been sitting on the ground photographing the geese when a dog startled these geese.  They started running toward me, but veered away at the last minute.  I’m slightly phobic of geese (as in they scare me on a deep level but if I keep my distance, I can pretend to myself that no one notices that I’m afraid of them).  I’m very proud of myself for manging to squeeze off a frame.