Muggy sticky days are all that have been happening lately. I made it home on Tuesday in time to watch the big storm clouds break out. Living in England, I’d never before experienced the physical relief that a storm brings. The epic thunder storms we have here are one of my favourite things about this country. It’s times like this when I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful bay windows we have in the back.

I haven’t been using my camera all that much lately until a friend asked me about it and I realised I had to start taking more. There is something so delightful about taking photographs of memories, it’s been a bit of a struggle finding a balance between being in the moment and documenting it. Focusing on the moment has meant there are less photos to sift through afterwards, which is always good in my books! I think the Canadian would disagree, as you can see, he puts on his bored face when I pull out the camera. I enjoy that his bored face looks similar to a thoughtful face because then he makes for the best candid subject.

Am I alone in my love of storms?

I recently completed #100happydays. I didn’t say much after starting it because, if I’m honest, I’m not very good at sticking to projects like this. With that in mind, you can probably imagine my delight when I finished it off last week.

A lot of people asked whether #100happydays was hard. Taking the photos wasn’t difficult, the hardest part was finding something that made me ‘happy’ every day. Everyone has grumpy days and sometimes it can be difficult to find a positive moment every single day. Even though I thought that the gloomier days would have less than excellent photographs, I found it to be the opposite. There are very few images I could point to and say ‘oh, yeah, that was a rubbish day’. Doing this project made me look back at the last 100 (108, actually, I got a bit carried away) days and see them in a whole new light.

I found it a great way to log my achievements (painting with clients at work, making bechamel sauce from scratch, trying to smoke a cigar), my favourite pieces of art work, all the foods that excited me and the mini adventure I took with the Canadian to Toronto (or, at least, the best parts of the trip).

There are many stories and comments that accompany most of these images. If you click on each image you should get a large ‘pop out’ preview of it but if you want to see what’s really going on in each one then visit my instagram profile and have a gander.

I’ve seen many people roll the 100 happy days project into #365happydays but I think 100 was a nice concise one for me. It’s made me pretty excited to find other projects to focus on other mini projects. I did the 30 days of selfie, and I’ve now completed this one. Each time I learn something new. Do you know of any other mini projects? Perhaps some to do with drawing or sketching. I’m so motivated right now that I want to utilise it before it disappears!

Have you tried to participate in #100happydays?

I love summer in this little area of Canada. I mentioned a few months ago that I had managed to land myself a ‘new’ job, and, even though it’s new to me, I spend a lot of my time up and out, exploring all that Leeds and Grenville has to offer. We recently did a big BBQ event in the park and these are a few snapshots of what I am privy to every day. There are many downsides of living this far away from such a big city but in the summer they don’t seem to matter at all.

It’s no secret that I went to England over the Christmas period.

There is something really magical about the UK at Christmas time, I have yet to experience the same coziness and Christmas spirit in Canada. Saying that, Canada is usually too cold to allow for collective, outdoor fun times, unless you are happy to brave seriously brutal minus temperatures.

 

It was delightful celebrating in the UK with my family, it was the first time since 2009 that we had spent time together at Christmas.

Christmas in the UK is awkward, things close, tourism isn’t at its best but there’s still so much to love. The festivities seep through everything from the incessant Christmas music to the roasted chestnuts sold on street corners. In the end, The Canadian and I rented a car and split time between visiting my family and friends and exploring Yorkshire, this included a quick trip to Ilkley to see the Moors and pick up macaroons and egg custards from Betty’s.

We flew from Ottawa just before a massive ice storm, so we spent 10 hours (with delays) in Philadelphia. Turns out The Canadian comes in handy, occasionally, and we managed to get access to the business lounge as part of a military appreciation program and/or the efforts of the lovely receptionist who took one look at our exhausted faces and took pity on us. It was definitely a good way to spend a 10 hour layover.

We had a lot of fun in Leeds and Yorkshire, generally. I will be posting more photos from our trip (and, eventually, a video!), so I won’t go into too much detail here, but here are the photos from the ‘good’ camera.

One of the many, many things I love about Yorkshire is the large number of small towns and quirky history. When we were little, my mum was always taking us to Hebden Bridge to visit the clog factory and post letters to Santa (there was a Christmas themed exhibit), so it seemed only fitting that I share a little of that with The Canadian. Unfortunately, many of the museums and exhibits have since shut down but there was still so much to share about the area, especially the old fashioned railway station and signs.

 Although the entire experience was amazing, it really was getting to spend time with one of my besties that made it all perfect. My sister and I have quite a significant age gap, and, once we got over the whole ‘older sibling’ /bossy thing, we seemed to have developed quite the wonderful friendship.

When I first told her I’d be visiting for Christmas, her first response was ‘board games are going to get played!’. We played 3 games of Monopoly and I was shamed into realising that I am no longer any good at this game. I still put that down to the freely flowing alcohol and The Canadian’s sneaky ways of beating us both, multiple times. He just sits there quietly and wins, with no warning whatsoever. not cool.

I am so grateful for those Christmas memories. In the past few years, I have missed out on so many beautiful experiences and this Christmas was really needed. I wanted to spend time with my, now grown up, sisters and be a part of my adult-family holiday, and the opportunity afforded to me leaves me feeling very lucky.

converse shoes against leaves

birch discs being cut

composting leaves in black bags

shovel against the mud

the lemonhive birch wood pile

Winter is right around the corner. I am starting to feel the cold and the other day, The Canadian woke me up when he was scraping ice off the car. Ok, so the noise woke me up, but feeling sad that his day had started so badly kept me awake. We’ve recently had some trees chopped down in the back garden. Just in time too, as they were pretty unstable and last week saw some vicious winds that blew over our fence (!), I’d hate to have seen what it would have done to the weak trees had they still been standing.

We have a whole pile of leaves that we’ve been bagging up for composting. Apparently black bags allow leaves to compost slowly, not sure how true this is but since we have a 6′ pile of leaves in the back garden, I’m willing to give it a go.

The Canadian kindly made discs of birch for me to practice painting on, but in the meantime, I have to figure out how to cure them properly. I found a microwave method but I’m a bit wary about putting wood in the oven let alone the microwave! Does anyone have any tips? I do not have a wood kiln and do not fancy waiting up to 18 months for them to get a 12% water/air balance. They’re about 1-2cm depth by 6cm x 8cm. So far, I’ve popped them into brown paper bags and left them in a warm place, apparently this will help.

Even if I don’t get any answers, I really enjoyed myself doing things in the garden. It’s a big deal for me to put myself at risk of spider contact. All you arachnophobes will know what I’m sayin!

I won the CAF third place price for environmental photography!

I don’t often submit my work into competitions.

Firstly, I am super scared of rejection (isn’t everyone?). Secondly, I don’t often think that anything I do is good enough to compete, so I don’t bother and third, it feels a bit boastful.

All of these things are issues that I need to work on.

When I came across the CAF  Photography Contest I was really skeptical.  I didn’t want to enter but The Canadian and a good friend in Kingston (Ontario) encouraged me. I decided to do it and challenge my first reservation. I didn’t mind if I didn’t win, in fact, it would provide me with the opportunity to learn. There were so many people competing that I truly believed that I didn’t stand a chance. I love my own images, they’re so exciting to me, that it didn’t matter if anyone else felt the same way. So, I entered, reluctantly, two hours before the deadline.

I struggled to think of titles for all of my images, except this one.

picture of a red barn in a yellow field against a gloomy dull sky

As soon as I finished editing this one, I realised it summed up my feelings about our last posting in Alberta. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the people I met and the memories I made there, but Alberta was isolating for me. It was also the place I experienced culture shock and the whole ‘fish out of water’ thing. It wasn’t ‘our’ posting, it was The Canadian’s and I felt trapped. In the end, I settled on the title “An Isolated Posting”. It just seemed to fit.

I’m glad that the emotion in this image was conveyed clearly and that someone felt it worthy enough to win third place. I cannot even express how happy I am about that alone, nor how inspired it has made me feel to continue practicing. Over the summer, my confidence with photo taking was knocked pretty hard, so this was a much needed pick me up.

Here are some of the others that I submitted:

A Cold Day on a Windy Beach

Bokeh Lights and traffic on a wet night

I took a lot away from entering this competition. I had to backtrack through my archives and figure out which photographs I would submit. While I was doing this, I rearranged my photographs and images (it was long overdue!). I also watched my progress with photography and my growth and knowledge with not only my camera but with photography concepts as well. All of a sudden I seemed to understand white balance, composition and the power of black and white images. I also noticed how my post-production techniques improved gradually over time as well.

Cat in a Box

It was a rewarding experience to sift through my images and re-examine my photographs. It made me feel proud and it inspired me to keep trying. That alone boosted my confidence after my little set back.

I have always liked my own images. And that’s the point. I don’t think I would continue to take photographs if I felt I was completely rubbish, nor would I continue if I felt that I didn’t have anything more to learn. My pleasure of the recognition doesn’t come from winning third place, nor does it come from being perceived as better (or worse – I guess) than anyone else. My pleasure comes from the fact that someone, somewhere thought one of my images was ok. That someone who wasn’t related, married or friendly to me and who had nothing to lose by saying otherwise thought that something I created was alright. And, that makes me feel positive. It makes me think that maybe my self-taught skills are on the right track, that maybe I’m able to connect with people through the images I create and that maybe someday I’ll be able to enter competitions as more than a ‘novice’. It inspires me to continue because it just confirms that I took the right path in March 2012.

 

Cat stares into camera with intrigue

Lake Louise Alberta Slow melt

Personally, my favourite is the bottom landscape image, which is yours? Have you ever entered a photography competition? What markers indicate your progression toward hobbies and goals?

Successfully documenting a road trip doesn’t have to be hard work. With some planning and a little exploring you can really have fun with it. Taking photos on a long car journey can be your first step toward creating an art journal, collecting your own textures for editing, developing travel journals + photo albums and tracking experiences. It’s so much fun to be able to review details of adventures long after the memories begin to fade.

I loved travelling across Canada. It’s the biggest car adventure I’ve undertaken and I enjoyed myself so much. I’m so happy that I decided to photograph the entire trip. The Canadian and I rarely go on holiday, so when we were posted from Edmonton to Ottawa, we decided that it was going to be fun. We’d been told by many people that the drive could be completed in 3 straight days of driving but, for us, that wouldn’t have been as safe, beneficial or as enjoyable as the time we took to smell the roses, photograph and explore areas of the country we’d never have the opportunity to see again.

Undoubtedly, the greatest part of the trip was spending time with my Canadian but, I’m not going to lie, seeing Canada and improving my photography skills were definitely up there on my list of enjoyment. 3,000+ km later and I had learnt a lot about finding great photo opportunities and improving my way of documenting our travels while road tripping it.

Here are my top tips:

1. Plan your trip

Planning your road tip, breaks and the time you have each day to take photographs can really help bring things together. If you know that you will be stopping in Town X for lunch and that you have an hour, you could plan to see the towns tourist attraction, have a picnic by a remote lake or visit a small market. Planning your photo breaks saves time and makes the experience enjoyable.

2. Wander

 Leave the highway. Study the map before you travel and look for unusual place names. Some of the best experiences and photo opportunities can be found in those remote places.

3. Document Enjoyment

Take photos of the things you enjoy, capture images that sum up your mood or the mood of the journey on that day. Don’t take photos for the sake of taking photos.

4. Practice your Photo Techniques

I took a camera manual with me. I know how to pick ’em, huh? When The Canadian drove, I read my book and learnt new techniques, compositions or settings that I would try out. Learning how to manipulate shutter speed, adjust composition and learn more about my camera was fun.

5. Use the Car

Take photos in the car, use the rear view mirror, the side mirror and the driver. There are so many options, but remember to be safe. Don’t distract the driver!

6. Be Real

Remember to document the things that make the trip real. Document the mess of travelling, the hotel rooms, the food. Your road trip is yours. It adds up and documenting all of it, including the little things makes a big difference.

7. Road Signs

Road signs make great photo opportunities on long journeys. The road trip was really long and we went through many towns. If for no other reasons, taking pictures of road signs can help divide your images into location points. This is particularly useful on a long road trip when you have no option of downloading your images to a computer.

8. Take Landscape Photos

Learn to take landscape photographs, especially of scenery that you love. They make great backdrops for written text in journals and blogs.

9. Review!

Review your photos often. Better yet, upload your photos to your computer, cloud or wherever you decide to store them and do it every evening. If you can’t upload then at least review your images in the camera. On our road trip I found so many photo opportunities that I had over 1k images by the time we reached Ontario! Far too many. It took an hour to go through and delete blurry, duplicate and imperfect images. If I’d have done this every evening it would have made my life easier.

10. Write

Take a notebook with you and write. It might not seem like a big deal but road trips are a great way to make big plans and goals. Conversations on long journeys are great and the experiences you have are rich. Don’t miss out on documenting those experiences. Having text to go with your photographs can really help bring a journal together.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Enjoy the moment. Photographs are great but if you don’t enjoy yourself then it becomes a bit pointless. Taking photos of everyday only has meaning if you enjoyed the moment. 

Canada is a beautiful country, but there are also some serious risks to wandering off, always be aware of wildlife, especially bears and other dangerous creatures. Polar bears, for instance, are not going to pose nicely, no matter how great your camera is.

I’ve broken our Canada road trip into a series of blog posts, which can be found here:
Tips for Successful Road Trips
What are your tips for making a mundane trip into an adventure? Do you have any road trip hints and tips for smooth travel?
In 2012, I travelled across 3 Canadian provinces and completed my first major ‘road trip’. Road trips are a new concept to me, so my excitement was intense. Follow the Road Trip Journey and discover places to visit and enjoy in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as hints and tips on the best way to make a road trip romantic, enjoy each others company and find great photo opportunities

We have been in Ontario for an entire year! (well, just over). Toward the end of 2012, we decided to purchase and live in Prescott, Ontario. A tiny town situated on the St. Lawrence river, across from the equally quaint town of Ogdensberg, NY. Small town living took some getting used to, as neither of us had experienced it prior to this.

However, it has been such an exciting experience and we have done so much. Living in a small town, although not always as idyllic as we had (naively) hoped, has provided us the leisure to enjoy each others company, to be away from The Canadian’s job and to develop our relationship, setting the foundation for our growth individually and as a couple. It’s just small changes, like developing a garden, planning to decorate, filling in the big gaping pool in our back garden and just generally making plans and enjoying each others’ company, but to us they are precious.

 

lake superior on a hiking trail
Ontario Facts:
Provincial Flower: White Trillium
Provincial Bird: Great Northern Loon
Provincial Tree: Eastern White Pine
Ontario was by far the most visually pleasing province to drive through. The reduced speed limits, although annoying (and difficult to stick to) at first, allowed for better enjoyment of the scenery.
welcome to Ontario

turtle lake, ONadvanced hiking trail, ON, between wawa and sault saint mariecross canada road trip ONTARIOkakabeka falls Road Trip Ontario

We stopped more often and enjoyed the rock, trees, water and richness of Ontario.
When our road trip brought us to Lake Superior I couldn’t comprehend that it was a lake and not an ocean. Even today, knowing that it is a lake (I had to check by looking it up), I’m still not sure of the ‘lakeness’ of Lake Superior. Surely it should be classed as an ocean?! Beyond this small bafflement, the rest of the journey was brilliant, much of my time was spent looking out for further glimpses of Lake Superior.
We travelled from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay and then onwards to Wawa. From Wawa we pushed ourselves to Petawawa, where we collapsed and spent a slow afternoon with Amanda and her family, who were posted here a few years ago.
From there, we braved the Queensway in Ottawa, during rush hour, and promptly became lost on the side roads of the city.

Some 3 hours later, we made it to Prescott, where my mother-in-law took us out for even more restaurant food. Although some what tired of restaurant food over the 9 days of travel, the restaurants in Prescott offered far better food than the falafel burgers of Nipissing or the dodgy burgers of Sudbury. instagram road trip canada

If you’re on a road trip that takes you through northern Ontario, stop in Wawa and see the world’s biggest goose statue, Lake Wawa and Magpie falls. Stop at Kakabeka falls and when in Thunder Bay, drop down and drive through the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which is the first real experience of Lake Superior, it is a bit of a circular trip but a pleasant drive, nonetheless.
Between Thunder Bay and Wawa, we left the beaten trail and headed for Turtle Lake Landing. Beyond having great photo opportunities, it provided great amusement. It was a ridiculously long drive down dirt roads and steep hills and a lot of judgement from locals who did not approve of our little hatchback, apparently these roads were for trucks only (eek!). Thank goodness we were able to make it back up the hill, I don’t think I could have stood the embarrassment of having to ask for help pushing it up the steep inclines!
Between Wawa and Sault St Marie, there is a hiking trail of …an advanced nature. It’s worth pulling over for, because, well: chipmunks. There are also some historical cave and wall drawings accompanying stories of sea monsters. It was only after finishing the hike and scaling the rock face above a very turbulent Lake Superior that we discovered that it was an ‘Advanced Hiking Trail Only’. Still, we managed it and enjoyed it, the photo opportunities were amazing and it was one of the biggest joys of the road trip. I also learnt that converse, designer skinny jeans and hiking are not the best of combinations!
Finally, be prepared for unpredictable weather on the roads of northern Ontario. Or, in fact, anywhere in Canada. Our road trip was blessed with fantastic weather, however, there were moments when we had to pull over on the highway because the rain was pounding and making visibility impossible.
I’ve broken our Canada road trip into a series of blog posts, which can be found here:
Ontario
What are your tips for making a mundane trip into an adventure? Do you have any road trip hints and tips for smooth travel?
In 2012, I travelled across 3 Canadian provinces and completed my first major ‘road trip’. Road trips are a new concept to me, so my excitement was intense. Follow the Road Trip Journey and discover places to visit and enjoy in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as hints and tips on the best way to make a road trip romantic, enjoy each others company and find great photo opportunities

I decided to join in A Beautiful Mess’ photo challenge, which involved 30 days of self portraits. Kind of awkward, I’ve never been a big fan of self-portraits or taking my own photo. There’s something incredibly…vain and self-absorbed involved in taking selfies. Especially every day and especially publishing them…or, so I thought.

Initially, I was a bit worried that I’d come across as weird and that my instagram friends would lose interest, but I persevered. The ladies at ABM had assured everyone that taking self-portraits was a great way to improve photography, and who am I to turn down a free photography lesson?!

I used my iPad and, eventually, my android phone to take the pictures and what was, initially, a really awkward challenge, eventually blossomed into a really exciting project. The Canadian even started asking if I’d ‘taken my photo’ for the day and whether he could see it (I think it’s because he was excited, but deep down I think it’s because it bemused him).

Here’s what I learnt:

1. Everyone has bad face/hair/body/[insert whatever thing you hate] days. 
The best thing about taking selfies was discovering that I had so much to share without having to really be in the picture. This is my favourite picture, taken the day I woke up, unwell and stayed in my pyjamas all day. It was an indulgent day but it was the first time I truly appreciated how great a knee would be for a photograph, and not just any knee but MY knee!

lessons from self portrait challenge

2. Selfies allow for camera play with a subject that’s always available
I love taking photographs. For me, it’s a pretty intense hobby. I take a lot of still life and landscape photographs, not because I hate people but because I don’t get to practice taking pictures of people all that often. The Canadian is not a reliable model and there’s only so many pictures you can take of a cat. Taking part in the self-portrait photo challenge allowed me to make mistakes, try new things and experiment with lighting. They didn’t all turn out great but it was fun.
3. Developing story telling
When I started the self-portrait challenge, I just took pictures of me. That’s it. As the time went on, I realised that just taking a picture of me wasn’t satisfying. My first pictures were taken during mini time outs during the day, but I wanted more. I didn’t want ‘time out’ pictures, I wanted pictures that encapsulated my day, and thus developing a way of telling a story started. Finding ways to include meaning, background and memory in the pictures became my main goal.
4.It doesn’t have to include just you
I tried to keep the photos limited. I wanted to be the only one in them. I mean, it’s called a selfie for a reason. But the more I tried this, the less I liked it. If anyone had to sum up my life in one photo it wouldn’t just be me, there would be others (at least one other) and many cats. So, I stopped trying to limit it and just accepted the presence of other people. Have you ever tried taking a selfie with you and a cat? Now that’s a challenge that would improve photography skills!
5. Be Brave
Take a picture of yourself after you just wake up. Or a picture of yourself with no make up. For me, these are the bravest photographs. Just do it! Two of my photographs are without make up and one involves some serious bed head. These are my favourite selfies from the entire project. I loved having the courage to take them and I loved how much they made me giggle trying to take them. I felt good and I wanted to capture that memory regardless of how I looked. It can be incredibly liberating to take pictures of yourself that under any other circumstances you wouldn’t take.
What are your tips for successful self portraits? What do you do to get over the embarrassment of holding a camera out in front of you?
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5 ways to improve photography without a fancy camera without a DSLR