@katelovestravel
Kate Loves Travel
Travel writer, blogger and photographer
Review: Radio City Christmas SpectacularI love going to the theatre to see all different kinds of live performances - from musicals to plays to gigs to music and dance recitals... anything really! So when the opportunity arose to go and see The Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York, I jumped at the chance... But, to be honest, we had no real idea of what to expect when we turned up to see it a couple of weeks ago!  All we really knew beforehand was that the dancers were called The Rockettes! [caption id=attachment_2543 align=aligncenter width=482] Radio City Music Hall[/caption] Unfortunately, I had been ill for the previous 24 hours (food poisoning!) so spent the time waiting for the show to start dosing off in the unusually comfortable seats!! The inside of the venue is spectacular (I'm a massive fan of Art Deco!) and we had a fantastic view of the stage from our seats on the front row of the first mezzanine level... [caption id=attachment_2544 align=aligncenter width=619] Inside the spectacular Radio City Music Hall[/caption] Well, what can I say about the show? It was, as it's name implied, truly SPECTACULAR! The music, the singing and the dancing were all incredible throughout the show. I knew most, but not all, of the songs that were performed but they were all very Christmasy and upbeat... [caption id=attachment_2545 align=aligncenter width=620] The orchestra were brilliant![/caption] ...and the projection on the auditorium (see photos above and below) was just so impressive! In fact, the entire performance was totally flawless - we were all blown away! [caption id=attachment_2546 align=aligncenter width=603] The projection throughout the performance was stunning![/caption] There was a visit from Father Christmas, a beautiful nativity scene (below) and lots and lots of music, singing and dancing from the Radio City Rockettes, the highlight being a number where they were dressed as toy soldiers, which was stunning! But 1.5 hours flew by (there was no interval surprisingly) and, before we knew it, we were leaving the auditorium... feeling thoroughly festive! The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is suitable for all ages and there were lots of families there enjoying themselves, as well as groups of friends and couples. It's on every year for a couple of months around Christmas time... [caption id=attachment_2547 align=aligncenter width=619] There was even a beautiful nativity scene...[/caption] So if you are ever in New York around Christmas time and want to enter into the Christmas spirit, make sure you book tickets to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular - I can assure you, you won't be disappointed! What's your favourite type of live performance to go and watch? Do you go to any Christmas shows or events? Let me know... Happy Christmas! Kate
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Photo Feature: LandscapesThe next in my Photo Feature series is a popular subject for photographers... Landscapes.  We all enjoy taking photos of beautiful views and here are some of my favourites, along with a few points to consider when photographing landscapes... Composition The most important element when shooting landscape is composition. So take some time to get it right.  Think about what's important in the shot: which angle should you shoot from, do you want to add any foreground interest, what's the focal point in the shot... there are lots of elements to consider. [caption id=attachment_987 align=aligncenter width=603] The beautiful Loch Lomond, Scotland[/caption] The image below, taken this summer, is effective because of the reflections of the sky in the lake.  Look for something to add interest to your landscape shots, whether that is a rock formation, a building, reflections, etc. Depth of Field The main thing to remember when shooting landscapes is that you want a large depth of field so that everything in the photo is in focus. To achieve this you need to set a small aperture (called an f-stop). Just remember: small aperture = large depth of field. However, a small aperture = a larger number in terms of f-stops so, for example, f2.8 will give less depth of field and f22 will give more depth of field.  So for landscapes you want a bigger number, such as f16. Just remember though that because you are using a small aperture there will be less light hitting the camera sensor so you may have to compensate for this by increasing your ISO or using a slower shutter speed (or maybe both). Location You can take landscape shots in all different locations - mountains, coastlines, forests, deserts, and even urban landscapes - but my favourite places are out in the countryside... and one of my very favourite photography locations is the Peak District, near to where I was born in Sheffield. The rocks in the foreground add interest to this shot looking over towards Hope from Stanage Edge, a favourite haunt of climbers. Unfortunately the light wasn't good the day I took this shot so it could have been better... [caption id=attachment_985 align=aligncenter width=648] Stanage Edge, the Peak District[/caption] But you can also get great landscape images by the coast, such as this one which I took on the beach in Weymouth (UK) earlier this year. The light on that day was great, but in the UK that often doesn't happen... and if you are only somewhere for a day or two you have to work with the light conditions you have. As the beach was the least important part (in my opinion) of the shot, that only takes up the bottom third of this image (see below re. rule of thirds). Rule of Thirds The two photos above, use the photographer's 'rule of thirds'. Basically, you divide your shot into 3 sections horizontally... the most important part of the shot will take up 2/3rds of the photograph. In this case, the sky in the first image and the beach in the second were not the main focal points in the shots so they only make up the top third (sky) and bottom third (beach), whilst the foreground/view and sea/sky make up the remaining 2/3rds respectively. But this is one rule that you shouldn't worry about breaking every now and then... Lines A common photographic technique when taking landscape shots is the use of leading lines - lines of some kind which draw your eye right into the photograph... such as the path in the photo below which leads you into the photo, giving the image a feeling of depth. You can use paths, rails, streets, buildings, etc - any kind of lines which lead your eye into the image can work... although there should be something in the background to stop your eye following right through the image and out the other side - in this case it's trees and shrubs. Generally, landscape photos are taken landscape, but on this occasion, I felt this one worked better this way round... [caption id=attachment_984 align=aligncenter width=481] This path at Brixworth Country Park leads your eye into the photo...[/caption] Black and White And what about trying some black and white?  Black and white landscapes work well where you have plenty of contrast... don't try and convert one that doesn't have that as it will just look a bit flat. The photo below works because of the foreground interest of the wall, people and the boats. [caption id=attachment_988 align=aligncenter width=654] A dull day on Derwentwater, Keswick (Lake District, UK)[/caption] Tripod Using a tripod is useful for landscape photography as it gives the camera stability when you are shooting using longer shutter speeds. It also means you can attach a spirit level to the camera to make sure your horizon is level (although this can be edited afterwards if necessary). But my best advice would be to take your time when taking your landscape shot - don't rush it... find the best angle, the best light (if possible), and a focal point that adds interest to the image. Obviously you can spend lots of time editing your images when you get home but no amount of tinkering in Photoshop or the like will make an average shot into a great one... Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to get out there and shoot some stunning landscapes (and there are plenty of them around)! What sort of photography do you prefer (either to photograph or to look at)? Let me know below... Kate    *I shot all the photos above on either an iPhone 6, a Canon EOS 40D or a Canon Powershot SX 60 HS.
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Winter Activities: Winter WalkingI don't think there is anything better than getting wrapped up and going out for a walk in the wintertime... I love getting out of my centrally heated house and blowing the cobwebs away with a long walk in the fresh air! And the countryside looks just as beautiful in winter as it does in summer... and probably even more so with a covering of snow! The key thing to remember if you are planning on going out walking in the countryside in winter is to ALWAYS check the weather forecast before you leave the house. If the weather looks too bad, then don't go out - it's just not worth it! [caption id=attachment_2537 align=aligncenter width=527] If you look out of the window and it looks like this, maybe you should postpone your walk...[/caption] And make sure you have good winter walking gear - going out wearing the wrong clothing/with the wrong kit can be dangerous, particularly if you are going walking in the mountains. If you don't know what you should be wearing or what kit you need for your walk, you probably should wait for the weather to improve before going out! But if you do decide to head out walking in the winter, make sure that you are prepared for ALL eventualities... the weather in winter can change very rapidly (particularly high up in the mountains) and can make any walk much more tricky if you don't have the correct experience or kit to deal with it. [caption id=attachment_2526 align=aligncenter width=369] There was a whiteout at the top of Ben Nevis... and that was in summer!![/caption] So here are my suggestions for basic winter kit for your backpack: Line your pack with either a dry sack or a bin liner to keep all the contents dry - and particularly any electronic devices! Plenty of food and drink (including lots of snacks and a flask of something hot to warm you up) Spare layers of clothing to put on if the temperature drops Hat and waterproof gloves Waterproof jacket and trousers Sunglasses/goggles (bear in mind that googles are more use if it starts snowing heavily) Gaiters Mobile phone (make sure it's charged, but bear in mind that you may not always have a signal so don't rely on it too much!) Map, map case and compass (and make sure you know how to use them) Whistle (for attracting attention in an emergency) First aid kit (including plasters in case of blisters) Medication (if required) Survival bag (these are reasonably cheap to buy and take up very little space in your backpack - and they could save your life!) Torch/headtorch (light conditions can change very quickly in winter and you don't want to be stuck up a mountain in the pitch black! A torch can also be used to attract attention in low/poor light) Crampons, helmet and ice axe (if conditions merit them AND you are experienced in using them) Whilst you don't want to be carrying a heavy pack, don't leave items you may need out just because the weather is good when you set off... you just never know what might happen later on in the day! [caption id=attachment_2527 align=aligncenter width=565] Snow looks pretty but can make walking more hazardous[/caption] So get out there and enjoy the countryside whatever the weather - but remember to always put the safety of yourself and your party first! I have a blog post coming soon on tips for walking in winter, so make sure you check it out! Do you like to get out walking in winter or do you try and hibernate for a few months until he weather improves!? Is there anything you always take with you in your backpack that I've forgotten? Let me know... Happy hiking! Kate 
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Gift Ideas for PhotographersSo, it's almost Christmas again - yay! But if you are anything like me, you'll only just have started doing your Christmas gift shopping... but don't worry, help is at hand! If you have a keen photographer amongst your friends and family, check out my great gift ideas for photographers: A Piece of Photo Art Why not search out a few of their favourite photos and make them into a stunning piece of wall art for everyone to admire? There are lots of different companies offering plenty of ideas for ways to display your best photos... [caption id=attachment_974 align=aligncenter width=591] How about a photo collage of favourite photos?[/caption] A Photography Course Let's face it, there's always something new to learn so why not treat someone you love to a photography course of some kind.  There are lots of options out there, and they cover all different aspects of photography... from basic camera techniques to advanced techniques to specific courses for landscape or portrait photography. And there is a course to suit every skill level - just make sure you read reviews of the course or get recommendations before you buy one. A Photography Book We all love to look at beautiful images, right? So why not search out a coffee table book of your recipient's favourite photography subject - whether that's landscape, abstract, portrait, wildlife? There are just so many beautiful photography books out there that any photographer would love to own (partly because we love to admire the work of others and partly because we all dream of creating equally stunning images!). A Camera Bag There are lots of fantastic camera bags out there, and if your photography enthusiasts are anything like me, they are always looking for a bigger bag to house their ever expanding collection of photography gear, lol! [caption id=attachment_707 align=aligncenter width=405] My trusty camera bag... which is in need of replacing![/caption] A Lensball This is one that is definitely on my Christmas list! For someone who loves trying out new techniques and taking creative shots, this piece of kit is a must have nowadays. And for only around £20 it won't break the bank! Gift Vouchers How about a gift voucher for a camera shop so they can buy some new gear? Keen photographers more often than not have some piece of kit they desperately want to buy! Or why not buy a voucher for somewhere that produces photo art so that they can create their own masterpiece to hang on their wall? Editing Software This is something else that is on my Christmas list... I need some new software for tinkering with my photos (which I love doing!).  There are lots of options out there but probably the two most popular are Photoshop and Lightroom (both from Adobe)... although these are not cheap gifts!! So there you have it - a few of my favourite gifts for photographers.... I hope it's given you some ideas! How are you getting on with your gift buying - have you nearly finished or have you not even started yet?! Happy shopping! Kate
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Book Review: Working at the End of the World by Con CurtisAs I love to read (almost as much as I love to travel!), I decided to do some reviews of a few travel-related books which I thought might be of interest to other travellers... So I was delighted to be sent a copy of Working at the End of the World by Con Curtis to kick off my review series! [caption id=attachment_2503 align=aligncenter width=409] Working at the End of the World[/caption] About the Author Con Curtis is a writer and photographer who lives in Yorkshire (UK). He plays guitar and loves the mountains, getting out there as often as he can. Synopsis Working at the End of the World is all about Curtis's six week journey to the Antarctic and his stint working for the British Antarctic Survey. The book is a frank and personal diary of his life living and working in this extreme and remote environment. [caption id=attachment_2502 align=aligncenter width=549] There are some fascinating images in the book...[/caption] About the Book No of Pages: 309 Illustrations: Yes Publisher: Austin Macauley (2017) Available formats: paperback, hardback and eBook (Warning: this book does contain some fairly strong language - although I would say it was justifiable considering some of the terrifying situations those working in the Antarctic found themselves in!) My Review I'll start by saying that I really, really enjoyed this book! And I loved it for a number of reasons... It is a very personal and relatable account of Curtis's exciting - and at times dangerous - work in one of the most hostile environments on Earth. I was transported into his storm-bound tent and could almost feel the cold and the fear - as well as the camaraderie - on many occasions throughout the book. The book has plenty of humorous moments, as well as touching moments and several tense, heart in the mouth moments, such as when Curtis and his companion have to cross a crevasse-riddled glacier by skidoo with little chance of being rescued if things don't go to plan: Being on this slumping crevasse for that very brief moment was a very strange experience. All my senses seemed so intense and fine-tuned for that half a second or so; the underlying acute knowledge that if it collapsed it was highly likely I could lose my life, or be badly injured; every aspect of my entire self, physical and psychological, was acutely focussed on that exact moment.   As I am also a big fan of being outdoors (whatever the weather!), and visiting the Antarctic is high up on my bucket list, this was a must read book for me! [caption id=attachment_2492 align=aligncenter width=438] I love to read about travel whilst travelling!![/caption] To sum up, Working at the End of the World is a truly gripping read and I struggled to put it down once I had started it... and despite the apparent harsh conditions, it made me want to visit the Antarctic more than ever! So if you love adventure travel and are looking for an absorbing read, I highly recommend checking out Working at the End of the World - I guarantee you won't be disappointed! My Star Rating: [usr 5]   What's your favourite type of book and why? Let me know in the comments... Happy reading! Kate    *I was provided with a copy of this book by Austin Macauley (publishers) for review, but all opinions expressed are my own.
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My November FavouritesThe month of November really seems to have flown by - it's all been a bit of a blur to be honest! But it's been a largely enjoyable month for me so I can't complain... So here are some of my November highlights: Visiting the Garden of Ghouls, Birmingham We decided to visit a Halloween event this year (we've never been to one before and it was a few days after Halloween but never mind!), and chose to head up to Birmingham to see the Garden of Ghouls in Birmingham Botanic Gardens.  We knew very little about the event before we arrived but it looked interesting... You are lead into the Botanic Gardens in small groups where, amongst the trees and plants, you are greeted by various ghouls, all with a spooky story to tell. The actors were brilliant and it wasn't long before some of the younger members of the group were hiding or in tears... Personally I didn't understand why you would want to bring such small children to a scary event like this but that's just me I guess! [caption id=attachment_964 align=aligncenter width=523] Garden of Ghouls[/caption] It was fun to wander through the Gardens in the darkness, with just patches of coloured light and creepy tableaux every so often.  But all too soon we had exited into the warmth of the cafe... where we sat and had hot chocolate and cake - a great way to end a fun evening out! Autumn Colours I love this time of year when the leaves all change to beautiful shades of brown, orange, red and gold and start to fall off the trees. Firstly, I love the colours of Autumn and, secondly, I love walking through all the leaves on the ground... crunch, crunch, crunch! [caption id=attachment_953 align=aligncenter width=544] Autumn Colours in Central Park[/caption] Poetry Review: 27, With a White Lighter I really enjoyed reading (and reviewing) this contemporary poetry anthology by Jennifer Juan (you can read my review at Review: 27, With A White Lighter by Jennifer Juan).  I used to love reading poetry but it's one of those things that I have neglected recently so it was great to dip my toe back into it. Hopefully this has inspired me and I will pick up my poetry books again... and maybe even find some more inspiring poets to check out! [caption id=attachment_788 align=aligncenter width=320] With a White Lighter by Jennifer Juan[/caption] My Trip to New York I absolutely love NYC - its such an exciting, vibrant city... with lots and lots of photo opportunities! There were so many incredible sights to shoot and here are a couple of my favourite photographs from my six day trip... The Oculus (below) is a futuristic shopping mall situated next to the One World Trade building in Manhattan. [caption id=attachment_955 align=aligncenter width=462] The Oculus, NYC[/caption] The New York subway is a clean, safe, fast and efficient way to travel around NYC... and it's fun too! [caption id=attachment_960 align=aligncenter width=455] Riding the Subway in NYC[/caption] If you want to see more photos of my visit to NYC, you can check them out here: NYC in Photos. So, those were my highlights from this month. What about you - what have you been up to this month? Let me know in the comments... Kate
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New York, New York!I have just got back from 6 days in fabulous New York City. It was my second visit and I loved it just as much this time as I did the first time I went (3 years ago)!  Again, it was a child-free trip with Matt and some friends (we left Freya at home with her grandparents) but I would love to come back again with Freya in a year or two when she's a bit older. As we had already done a lot of the big tourist attractions only a few years ago (Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rock, etc) we chose some different attractions/places to visit on this trip: One World Observatory We visited Top of the Rock on our last visit so decided to check out the One World Observatory this time.  As it is at the opposite end of Manhattan it offered a different - but equally spectacular - view of the City which was great.  The moment when the blinds suddenly raise to expose the stunning views over Manhattan is amazing and it is worth it for that alone! The one downside for me was that there is no outside viewing area so any photos have to be taken through (very reflective) glass meaning you can't get as good photos as you can from Top of the Rock. [caption id=attachment_2479 align=aligncenter width=582] View of Manhattan from the One World Observatory[/caption] Walking over Brooklyn Bridge I enjoyed the walk over Brooklyn Bridge as it was a beautiful day (if rather blustery!) and the views from the wooden walkway were great. And Brooklyn Bridge itself is an interesting structure and worth a visit on its own. Once you have walked over, head down onto the riverside and check out the views of the Bridge from the side - and the famous Jane's carousel... which unfortunately wasn't open when we visited. [caption id=attachment_2480 align=aligncenter width=612] Walking over Brooklyn Bridge[/caption] Central Park (although we did do this last time too!) You can't visit New York without taking a quick stroll around scenic Central Park.  It is a gorgeous (and very large!) park and, although we spent some time walking around it 3 years ago, we still managed to find things we hadn't seen before... [caption id=attachment_2481 align=aligncenter width=611] Beautiful colours in Central Park...[/caption] MoMA We briefly visited the Museum of Modern Art on our last visit to New York, so decided to go again this trip to check out the bits we hadn't seen before... I'll be honest with you - some of the artwork I loved, but some of it I just didn't get AT ALL! But if you are into modern art, then this is a great place to visit with works from the likes of Andy Warhol, Picasso, Frida Kahlo and many, many other famous names... [caption id=attachment_2485 align=aligncenter width=620] One of my favourite displays at MoMA[/caption] The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Instead of doing a Broadway show, we decided to check out the Radio City Christmas Spectacular this time instead... and it was absolutely AMAZING. We weren't sure what to expect but it blew us all away (even the boys!!). The projection, music and dancing were phenomenal. And that is all I'm going to say for now as there will be a review of the show to follow shortly... [caption id=attachment_2484 align=aligncenter width=606] The Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockets[/caption] Shopping We didn't really do much shopping on our previous trip so we decided to check out some of the shops on and around 5th Avenue this time, including Macy's. There is just so much choice in New York and the prices are slightly cheaper than in the UK so we picked up a few Christmas presents whilst we were there... [caption id=attachment_2483 align=aligncenter width=607] Shopping on 5th Avenue[/caption] Unfortunately, we didn't manage to see/do quite as much as we had planned to do on this trip for several reasons: a) I had a broken toe; b) I had a bad cold and; c) I got suspected food poisoning on day 2 which kept me confined to my room for the day... oh well, these things happen! And all too soon, our time in New York was over and it was time to return home... thankfully we managed to get an upgrade to Upper on Virgin Atlantic for the flight back, so at least we got to travel home in style! [caption id=attachment_2486 align=aligncenter width=460] Getting comfortable in Virgin Upper...[/caption] We had a brilliant time in New York and, although I'm not usually one for city breaks, I would love to go back again - and soon!  It is such a safe, easy to get around city with so many great attractions as well as fantastic bars (more on those in a later post!) and restaurants on every street... what's not to love!? Have you ever been to New York? If so, what was your favourite thing to see or do? If you haven't been, is it on your bucket list (if it's not, it really should be!)? Happy Travelling! Kate    *Unfortunately the light was very flat most of the time we were in NYC (it was overcast except for the last day) meaning many of the photos taken outside lacked much definition...but you got to work with what you're given!
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NYC in PhotosI have just returned from six days in New York - one of my very favourite cities in the world - having taken LOTS and LOTS of photos, so I thought I would share a selection of my favourite images with you - along with the reason(s) why I like them/why I think they work... Street Art The photo below is of a building which was opposite our hotel... I took it purely because I loved the brightly coloured images painted on the wall (I'm a big fan of street art)! I took a similar shot in the daylight but feel that this one taken at night has more impact... [caption id=attachment_935 align=aligncenter width=478] NYC wall art[/caption] Bustling Grand Central Station Grand Central Station is a beautiful piece of architecture and was opened back in 1913. It has to be one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world - as well as being one of the busiest, with a whopping 44 platforms! I chose this shot as it not only shows the grandeur of the building but also the fact that this is a functional space with masses of people passing through it every day to catch their trains. I like the feeling of movement in this shot, which is achieved by the blurring of the people as they go about their business. [caption id=attachment_936 align=aligncenter width=580] The ornate Grand Central Station[/caption] Bird's Eye View of the Street I always try to take photos from different angles in order to show a different perspective on day-to-day scenes.  I find that street scenes often work well shot from directly above.  This photo shows the busy New York street directly outside my hotel. From 31 storeys up, the cars look like toys and the people are just tiny dots! [caption id=attachment_937 align=aligncenter width=515] A bird's eye view of the street...[/caption] NYC by Night I love night-time photography and there are lots of interesting light displays to photograph in brightly lit NYC - particularly around Christmas time! Play around with your camera to make sure you get your settings right... [caption id=attachment_938 align=aligncenter width=561] Ready for Christmas in NYC[/caption] A walk over Brooklyn Bridge I loved walking over the Brooklyn Bridge as it offers such great views over that part of the City - but it is also an interesting structure and offers lots of interesting architectural photo opportunities. [caption id=attachment_939 align=aligncenter width=470] A stroll across Brooklyn Bridge...[/caption] View from the One World Observatory I enjoy taking photographs from high up (who doesn't?). On our last trip we visited Top of the Rock, so this time we went up the One World Observatory. As they are at different ends of Manhattan they offer different vantage points over this part of New York City. The downside to the One World Observatory is that there is no outside viewing point, so any photos have to be taken through glass, meaning some reflection is unavoidable. [caption id=attachment_941 align=aligncenter width=576] Manhattan from the One World Observatory[/caption] The Rockefeller Center by Night I love this shot of the Rockefeller Center lit up at night. It's such an imposing structure and I think this photo taken looking up captures the scale of the building as it towers over little old me down at street level! The coloured lighting adds further interest to the shot. [caption id=attachment_942 align=aligncenter width=484] The Rockefeller Center by night[/caption] Unfortunately, the light was pretty flat (due to the sky being overcast) pretty much the whole time we were in New York, meaning a lot of adjusting of camera settings and even more post-editing was needed to give the images taken outside (in the daytime) more definition... but you just have to work with what nature throws at you I guess! I think if I had to pick my favourite image from this selection it would be the Rockefeller Center by night - I just love the perspective and the colours in this shot. Which is your favourite photo? Let me now below... Kate   *Some of the photos above were taken on my iPhone 6 and the rest were taken on my Canon PowerShot SX60 HS.
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Photo Feature: MovementIn this edition of my 'Photo Feature' series, I will look at how you go about photographing moving subjects - whether you are shooting vehicles, people, wildlife, fireworks, etc.  There are basically two distinct ways of dealing with moving subjects when taking photos... and they are: Freeze! To freeze any kind of action, you need to use a fast shutter speed - how fast a shutter speed you need to use will depend on the speed at which your subject is moving... [caption id=attachment_918 align=aligncenter width=533] Motorcross rider frozen in mid-air![/caption] Here are some examples of suitable shutter speeds to freeze different types of action: Standard, everyday photos - 1/125 People walking - 1/500 A running race - 1/1000 Motorsports - 1/2000 Set your shutter speed first if trying to freeze motion, then adjust your other settings to suit the other conditions, such as the amount of ambient light. But does using flash freeze movement? Hmm, maybe, but only in certain circumstances... using your flash will freeze movement a little at slow shutter speeds. However, this only works if the subject is not well lit and they are not in front of a brightly lit background... so it's not totally a totally failsafe method.  And, also, if the subject is fast-moving, it's not going to work, you will still get some blurring in the final image! Experiment... Blur! To blur movement you need to do the opposite to freezing movement - use a slow shutter speed.  When using a slow shutter speed, you will need to use a tripod to avoid camera shake as this will make your entire final image blurred (rather than just the moving part!). One of my favourite things to photograph - and one of the trickiest - is fireworks. Using a slow shutter speed produces beautiful, coloured trails of light across the sky. For the shot below of a firework display at Disneyland Paris my settings were ISO 1000, f3.5 and shutter speed 1/20. This was a pretty reasonable effort to say that, despite what I keep saying about needing a tripod for this type of shot, I actually took this handheld. Unfortunately a tripod was just not an option due to the crowds... [caption id=attachment_922 align=aligncenter width=569] Fireworks at Disneyland![/caption] The main thing to watch out for when using a slow shutter speed, is to make sure you don't overexpose the image by letting in too much light.  To do this, you can alter the ISO and/or aperture settings to compensate. To blur motion, your shutter speed should be around 1/20 or slower... If you want to do a bit of writing with sparklers (and who doesn't love doing that!) you need to set a shutter speed of between 5-10 seconds. Start with an ISO of around 400 and a shutter speed of around f16 and be prepared to play around with these settings a bit, depending on how dark the night is (ie, is the moon bright, are there street lights, etc). I think both techniques have their merits and it very much depends on the subject and the effect your are looking for which one you decide to use... Kate  
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My Top Tips for Sustainable TravelLet's be honest, we are all getting more and more concerned about the deteriorating state of our beautiful planet (or at least most of us are!).  As someone who loves to travel, this is a bit of a dilemma since travel in itself - particularly air travel - is not particularly environmentally friendly... and the hotel industry is widely accepted to be one of the least environmentally sustainable business sectors out there! Which is why I decided to write down some of my tips for trying to be more sustainable whilst travelling, whether that is for work, on holiday or backpacking round the world... My tips for travelling more sustainably: Check out how sustainable your tour operator is - do they have any environmental initiatives (such as carbon offsetting, recycling services, supporting local communities, etc)? Take a re-usable water bottle with you and re-fill it rather than buying bottled water - those bottles end up in landfill more often than not. [caption id=attachment_2443 align=aligncenter width=527] Waste![/caption] Buy local produce (including souvenirs!) where possible as this cuts down on pollution caused by transporting goods from one place to another. It also supports the local economy. Use shared, public transport where possible to cut down on vehicle emissions. Or, even better, walk or cycle. Travel on large, modern planes where possible as they are much more fuel efficient. And try to fly direct as a lot of fuel is used during take-off and landing. Think about doing homestays - they are more environmentally sustainable than hotel stays and local people benefit rather than large corporations. If you stay in a hotel, don't just use your towels once... re-use them for several days (ie hang them up after use as this indicates they don't need changing). If everyone did this it would significantly cut down on the amount of washing which would save lots of electricity and reduce the use of harmful detergents. Try to avoid using single use plastics such as drinking cups, straws, etc whenever possible. [caption id=attachment_2437 align=aligncenter width=494] Try to avoid using plastic cups...[/caption] Don't buy gifts made from shells, animal parts/products or anything that may cause harm to the local environment. Don't visit attractions which exploit wild animals (you know the sort of attraction I'm talking about!) - if people stop visiting these places they will be forced out of business... it's all about supply and demand! Don't get to close to the wildlife - animals will get used to being around human beings, which is not a good thing! Always recycle whatever you can where there are facilities available. Don't buy inflatables just to use on holiday and then dump them - they will just end up in landfill. Don't waste water and electricity - they may be in short supply in some of the destinations you visit. Don't leave taps running or lights on when you're not using them. Donate to local charities in your destination - try and give something back to the local community. Think about taking a volunteering break where you provide assistance to a small community. [caption id=attachment_2436 align=aligncenter width=520] Sculpture made of plastic... and some shocking facts to go with it![/caption] So these are my top tips for making travel more sustainable... as you can see, many of these things are fairly basic and take very little effort. We only have one planet - we need to look after it! Do you have any more tips to add to my list? Let me know in the comments... Happy (sustainable) travelling! Kate 
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My Favourite Travel PhotosThis post contains some of my favourite travel photos from my trips around the world... some are recent, some are from many years ago and are scanned in film photos.  But I love them all - some because of the memories they evoke and others because I find them aesthetically pleasing. So, here they are: I love this first photo as it brings back happy memories of our holiday to Disneyworld, Florida... Even without seeing her face, you can tell how happy Freya is - she's had a princess makeover, she's cuddling a Simba toy and has a beautiful Disney balloon! I think that this photo subtly captures a mood and this is why I think it works - remember, you don't always need to show someone's face to capture emotions. [caption id=attachment_901 align=aligncenter width=397] Fun at Disney...[/caption] I was really happy with how this photo of the sun setting over Loch Lomond, Scotland - there is some lens flare (when light is scattered/flared across a lens system - usually from a very bright light source) but I don't think it ruins the shot. We were camping right on the edge of the Loch and this was the fantastic view from our camper van... it was a great holiday in a stunning location! [caption id=attachment_902 align=aligncenter width=554] Sunset over Loch Lomond, Scotland[/caption] I was happy with this shot as I think it shows how this imposing skyscraper looms over tiny, insignificant people below. Photographing buildings is often tricky as they can look slanted if you shoot at the wrong angle, so make sure you pick your position/angle carefully. [caption id=attachment_903 align=aligncenter width=412] The imposing One World Trade building in NYC[/caption] I loved watching these guys water hover boarding on the lake in Tignes... it looked great fun and the mountain backdrop was just stunning! I used a fast shutter speed (1/1250) to freeze the boarders in mid-air. [caption id=attachment_904 align=aligncenter width=535] Water hover boarding in Tignes, France[/caption] I love the depth in this photo of breakers on the beach in Norfolk... the breakers lead your eye off into the distance.  Leading lines are a great camera technique to give your photos the appearance of depth, as they lead your eye through the photo. [caption id=attachment_905 align=aligncenter width=430] Breakers on the Beach at Hunstanton, UK[/caption] This is one of my favourite travel photos ever... the Mayan ruins at Palenque are stunning, as is the isolated forest setting.  This is obviously a film photo that has been scanned in, hence the graininess - but I think it captures something of the splendour of the site. I managed to get up high (on another pyramid!) to capture this view over the central part of the archeological site.  You have to try all different angles to get the best shots, particularly at sites like this where structures are spread out over such a wide area... [caption id=attachment_911 align=aligncenter width=625] The ruins of Palenque in southern Mexico[/caption] This photo of an indigenous family in the village of Zinacantan, Mexico was taken many years ago during my year out from university.  I love the brightly coloured textiles they were wearing and selling. They were from Chiapas, a very poor part of Mexico, and the solemness on the children's faces still haunts me to this day... [caption id=attachment_909 align=aligncenter width=397] Family in Zinacantan, Mexico[/caption] Do you like taking photos when you're travelling? Do you have favourites that you love to look at or that bring back special memories? Let me know in the comments... Kate 
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Winter Activities: SkiingAfter the success of my 'Summer Activities' series, I thought it was only right to do a 'Winter Activities' series too. I know it's a little early, but I feel like it's time to get in the mood for some winter fun... it's starting to get pretty cold now after all! And where better to start than with one of my very favourite winter activities - skiing! The first time I ever went skiing was to Austria with school when I was about 11 years old and, to be quite frank, I didn't really enjoy it that much at all... which meant that I didn't go again until I was in my mid twenties when I went to Italy with my now husband. And this time I loved it - we had great fun! And we've continued to go pretty regularly since then - and now, obviously, we go skiing as a family. [caption id=attachment_2422 align=aligncenter width=607] Skiing with friends in Montgenevre, France[/caption] Skiing is a fun activity, that gets us all out exercising in the fresh air... and it is a great workout - you are certainly exhausted and ready for bed at the end of a tough day out on the slopes! But, if I'm being totally honest, my favourite thing about skiing is actually the beautiful, snow-covered mountain views all around you! You won't find me tearing down the pistes at 90 mph (well, not very often anyway!) - I'm far too busy checking out the stunning scenery!! And my other favourite thing to do when we're on a ski holiday - I love to sit drinking a steaming, hot glass of mulled wine half way down the slope, whilst enjoying the winter sunshine... what bliss! Particularly when I know it's grey and miserable back at home! [caption id=attachment_2427 align=aligncenter width=579] Bar with a view in Belle Plagne, France[/caption] So where is my favourite place to ski (well, so far at least)? I love going to France - it has so many great resorts (for all abilities and budgets) and is easy to get to from the UK. I'd love to try out some of the US ski resorts one day though as they look amazing... maybe next year! [caption id=attachment_2423 align=aligncenter width=617] Freya getting to grips with skiing in ski school![/caption] If you have read any of my 'Summer Activities' posts, you'll know that I love being outside and that I also love being in the mountains - which is why skiing is the perfect winter activity for me! What's your favourite winter activity? Do you like skiing too? Let me know in the comments below... Happy Skiing! Kate 
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Review: 27, With A White Lighter by Jennifer JuanI was very excited to be given the chance to review this soon-to-be-released poetry collection from Jennifer Juan as I am a huge fan of poetry in general (both reading it and writing it). And, after reading the press release, I was intrigued to dive in and find out more... [video width=1280 height=720 mp4=https://katekreates.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/27-With-A-White-Lighter-Trailer.mp4][/video]   About Jennifer Juan (excerpt from artists press kit)... Jennifer Juan is a cultural melting pot of an artist. She is a writer, a musician, a producer, a film maker and a podcast host, currently residing in the Kent countryside, but dreaming of the ocean. A tornado of darkness and delicacy, Juan creates engaging and powerful projects, using a variety of mediums and platforms, each dripping with her signature playful, yet powerful style of writing. A bit of background to 27, With A White Lighter... This is Juan's fifth major collection and, in her own words, is 'the most open and honest I've ever been'. This collection of contemporary poetry covers themes as varied as love and romance, the meaning of life, drugs, sexuality, Brexit, and lots more besides... Genre: Poetry Number of Poems in the Collection: 40 Publication Date: 3 December 2018 (available to pre-order) My Review I found Juan's poetry to be relatable and deeply personal and the diverse subjects covered will be familiar to most readers... But if you are fan of romantic, sugar-coated poetry, then this is perhaps not the collection for you! This is hard-hitting and honest and you can feel Juan's angst seeping through frequently whilst reading many of these poems, such as 27, With A White Lighter and Melody to name but two. If I was forced to pick, I think my two favourite poems from 27, With A White Lighter are Home At Last and Summer Sun. I enjoyed Home At Last because it just rang so true - it could easily have been me writing this about my battered hopes and dreams... and that is what I love about this book of poems overall - that it deals with issues that could and do affect all of us at some time in our lives in a very powerful and poignant way. Excerpt from Home At Last: Nothing changed, except me, the very last of those girls, who skipped, so drunk, so hopeful, so unaware, down the royal roads, to imagine our lives could be whatever we dreamed of. ........ I sighed, slumped against the serene screen of where I grew, and imagined my life could be whatever I dreamed of, and I dream, again, hoping I get right this time.   And Summer Sun... well, what can I say? We've all been there and felt the heartache of a break-up at least once, haven't we? And this poem captures the anger and pain we've all felt at some point in our lives... Excerpt from Summer Sun: ........... It's not your fault, if I said yes, to summer, thinking it could last forever, but I'll always hate you, just as much as I love you, for being so close, but disappearing, with the setting sun. ......... To sum up, this is not another book of hard to fathom, out of reach poetry - Juan's language is accessible and the poems are about the here and now, about contemporary subjects that we are all familiar with and that, to me, is its big appeal. So if you enjoy raw, hard-hitting poetry, make sure you check out this collection when it's released next month - I promise you won't be disappointed! MY RATING: [usr 5] 27, With a White Lighter will be available exclusively on Amazon (as both a book and an ebook) on 3 December 2018... And, in the meantime, if you want to find out more about the poet and her previous work, please visit her website at JenniferJuan.com.   Do you enjoy reading poetry and, if so, does this sound like your kind of thing? Let me know in the comments below... Happy reading! Kate    *I received a preview copy of 27, With a White Lighter to review but all opinions expressed are my own.
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Why I’d Rather Take the Train!If you've been reading my posts for a while, you'll know I'm a big fan of scenic railway journeys (The Jacobite, Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico, etc), but I actually really enjoy travelling anywhere by train!  But what are the advantages of taking the train over going by car? The train is much more relaxing - no stressful traffic jams to deal with and no searching for somewhere to park when you arrive at your destination. Going by train is often faster than going by car.  I can travel from Market Harborough to London in 57 minutes by train, whereas it takes me around 2 hours by car (due to the volume of traffic). It is more environmentally friendly than taking you car. You see more of the countryside than you do when you're driving along the motorway. And you have time to enjoy it as you're not having to concentrate on driving. There is no need to make regular stops for food/drink and to visit the toilet - they're on the train! [caption id=attachment_877 align=aligncenter width=606] Enjoying tea and biscuits on the train![/caption] You can get up and walk around if you want to stretch your legs, without having to stop and break your journey. I don't really enjoy driving - I find going by train much easier. So those are the advantages - well, for me at least - but what are the potential downsides to train travel? It is expensive (certainly in the UK) - unless you can get a cheap, advance ticket. If you are travelling as a family, it is pretty much always cheaper to drive, even if you have a Railcard. At busy times you won't necessarily manage to find a seat, which means standing in hot, crowded conditions - not ideal! It can be quite noisy if the train is busy (like it was on the way home from London last night!). There is always the risk of delays/cancellations on any public transport. Train times are not always convenient if you have to be somewhere for a certain time... trains don't run all night, so if you need to get to the airport really early in the morning, for example, there probably won't be a service you an use. You have to get to the train station from your house before you can get on the train, which is not always easy with bags, cases and kids... [caption id=attachment_2416 align=aligncenter width=593] The Jacobite in Fort William, Scotland[/caption] But, despite the disadvantages, for me, the pros far outweigh the cons of travelling by train. What do you think?  Do you like to take public transport if you can or would you rather always take your car? Happy Travelling! Kate 
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Countdown to New York…It's now only two weeks until I head off to New York for 6 days... and I cannot wait!  But there is always so much to do when you are getting ready to go away - and even more so this time as we are leaving our daughter behind with her grandparents! Which got me thinking about all the things I need to do before we go away on holiday... So here is my checklist of things I need to do before heading off: Check Passport (at least 3 months before you travel and longer at busy times of year): It is vitally important to make sure your passport is in date (and has at least 6 months validity for travel to most countries) well in advance of travelling... or you could end up very disappointed! [caption id=attachment_2318 align=aligncenter width=538] Grab your passport![/caption] Arrange Travel Insurance: Going away without taking out travel insurance is just not worth the risk - particularly if you are visiting countries like the USA where medical treatment is so expensive. Shop around and check what each policy offers. Also, make sure to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions otherwise they will not be covered but the policy. Check Medication: Two weeks before I go away, I always make sure that I have enough medication for my trip and for a few days after I return. Take a copy of your prescription with you too... firstly, if your medication is queried at customs you can prove it is prescribed and, secondly, in case of any issues it should help you get hold of more when you're abroad should you need to. Apply for an ESTA (for travel to the US only): Do this at least 5 days in advance of travel (I usually do mine at least a week to 10 days before to save any unnecessary stress!). You MUST have an ESTA to travel to the US from the UK (and any other country which has a visa waiver programme with the US). This can be done online and takes about 20 minutes - make sure you have your passport and hotel details to hand before you start to save time. The cost is US$14 and it can take up to 72 hours for an approval to be issued. [caption id=attachment_2400 align=aligncenter width=615] You need an ESTA to travel to the US...[/caption] Buy Toiletries: A week or so before I go away I always do a stock-take of everything in my travel wash kit and replenish anything that is nearly used up. Exchange Currency: It's worth shopping around to get the best rate, so allow time to do so.  I know you can pay by card pretty much everywhere but I always like to take a bit of the local currency as there are always times when you need a bit of cash. Everywhere stocks US dollars so they are easy to get hold of but, bear in mind, some currencies may need to be ordered, so make sure you allow enough time before you travel. [caption id=attachment_2405 align=aligncenter width=409] You always need a bit of cash...[/caption] Sort Clothes: The week before I go, I make sure everything I am taking with me is washed and ready... it's obvious, but we've all found clothes we were planning on taking on holiday with us at the bottom of the laundry pile the day before going away! Write a List: I need to write a detailed list of all Freya's activities... this is not something I normally have to do, but as we are leaving her behind (and she has a very busy life!) I need to make sure her grandparents know exactly where she needs to be and when! Pack! This is one of the last things to do - but don't leave it until the very last minute... there's always enough to do then as it is! [caption id=attachment_361 align=aligncenter width=571] How not to pack![/caption] Security Check: This should be the last thing you think of before you leave for your holiday. If you are going away and the house will be empty, make sure you have turned everything off (well, anything that should be turned off!), locked all doors and windows and put any valuables out of sight. And, if you have an alarm, make sure it is set... And that's it... you're ready to go and enjoy yourselves! What's on your holiday checklist... have I forgotten anything important? Let me know in the comments... Happy Travelling! Kate     
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Interview: Sarah Priest, PoetSo here is the second of my interviews with those involved in the creative industries. This time it is with Sarah Priest, a poet based in the UK... I'll let her introduce herself and her work: Tell me about yourself and your writing I grew up in Surrey opposite a disused airport and had a great childhood exploring the woods, climbing trees, making camps and just coming home for dinner - this was before the invention of mobiles and computers. I think this is where my love of nature came from. I wasn't particularly academic and English was one of my worst subjects, so writing for me was never something I thought I would do. I love it now, and whenever I go out, I always take a journal with me to jot down any inspirational thoughts that come to me, often turning them into a poem. I have an old dictionary from my neighbour written in the 60’s and I peruse this often to find new words - I feel I have a lot to catch up on! My working career began in insurance which I have been forever trying to change!  I’ve taken courses in Floristy, Reflexology, Indian Head Massage and lastly Counselling. I enjoy gardening although this has been hampered somewhat due to my back problems and I love sci-fi, my favourite film being Star Wars. I've been fortunate enough to buy my first flat, and for anyone who has read my book you will know I have been renting for many years. I now live in Hampshire where I enjoy walking, writing and visiting lots of tea rooms! How long have you been writing poetry? Poetry is a relatively new hobby of mine, which began in 2011 whilst attending cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for an eating disorder. During therapy I was encouraged to write down my feelings/thoughts and it was here that I wrote my first poem called 'Hope'. After therapy I continued writing poetry and had several one to one tuition sessions in creative writing, however it was not until I met my current partner who became my muse did my poetry take off. I saw an advert in a magazine from Austin Macauley saying they were looking for new poets. So I sent off a few poems for some feedback and received a reply asking if I could submit some more poems. So, in about 3 months I redid a few and wrote some more and sent them off and low and behold, a few months later, I received a contract through the post - I was over the moon!! What is your favourite writing style/subject? I really enjoy writing about nature, trees, plants, animals. The beauty of walking by a canal or in the woods, the simple things in life. My writing style can be somewhat melancholic, wistful and thought provoking. My poetry often brings a tear, especially the ones I have written about my mother who is suffering from Dementia. I do write the odd light hearted one, like Devil in a Sponge Cake which I wrote when a colleague at work asked me to write about eating cake. Who or what inspires/influences your writing?  Anything inspires me, sitting in a cafe, walking along the beach, articles in the newspaper, anything that evokes a passion within me. I also get inspiration from reading other poems, whenever I stumble across a 2nd hand bookshop I go straight to the poetry section. My favourite book is called The Desiderata of Happiness by Max Ehrmann it was written in 1927, I don't believe he is a well-known poet however his philosophical writings, his search for spirituality, social truth and peace resonate with me, his poetry is beautiful, simple, yet poignant, something I am trying to aspire to. You have a new book of poetry out – tell me about it… Love, Life and Death in a Teacup is my first book of poems, it tells the story of a period of time in my life starting with my passion the allotment or ‘sanctuary’ as I called it, falling in love, recovering from an eating disorder and watching the slow demise of my mother's mind to dementia. I realised all these events had one thing in common, tea! Relaxing in my chair after a hard day at the allotment drinking tea, meeting my beau at a café for tea, having a cuppa at the canteen before my therapy, so naturally tea had to feature in the title somewhere! [caption id=attachment_830 align=aligncenter width=545] Love, Life & Death in a Teacup by Sarah Priest[/caption] Which is your favourite poem from your book?  This is quite a difficult question as there are a few that stand out for me for different reasons, but I think Worlds End has to be my favourite as it’s about the first time I met my partner, here it is: Worlds End The day the world was going to end, I met you Each minute we are apart tears me in two I want to hold you close and never let you go Hear your soothing voice touching my soul Your tender kiss on my lips.   I miss you more than words can say And love you more with each passing day You are in my heart where you will stay Until the stars turn cold.   The world did not end the day I met you, it just began... What is your next writing project going to be? I am toying with writing some short stories. I have already written the beginning of about five, however I am still figuring out the middles and the ends. I would like to publish another poetry book as I have lots of poems written already and I am contemplating an autumnal theme, how shedding leaves is like shedding emotions and a time for reflection. Where can people get hold of a copy of your book?  My book is available online at Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and the publisher, Austin Macauley, and I am also selling copies to local gifts shops. I approached a tea shop just recently in Fleet called Amici, who said they were happy to stock a few copies, so if anyone is ever in the area it is a great café to have some tea and cake! Where can people find out more about you and your work? Please see my blog page... this is a new venture for me and I am still in the process of setting this up. I hope to be writing my first blog post in the coming months so watch this space! http://sarahpriest.ampbk.com/ I would just like to thank Kate for giving me this opportunity to share my creativity - I hope it inspires!   Thank you so much for taking part in this interview series Sarah - it was fantastic to find out a bit more about you and your writing! I look forward to reading more of your work in the future... Kate 
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A Weekend in Weymouth, DorsetI love visiting the coast but as we live such a long drive away we rarely visit, so I couldn't wait to head down to Weymouth on the south coast of the UK for a weekend away with my family... We stayed at a lovely B&B - the Cunard Guest House - which was close to the beach and right in the centre of Weymouth.  We had an ensuite, family room which had absolutely everything in it you could want.  And the full English breakfast on Sunday morning was delicious too! The weather was pretty good for October so we were able to spend most of our time outside, which of course we did! We spent Saturday walking along the promenade from one end of Weymouth to the other... via a lovely coffee shop (The Oasis Cafe in Preston)! [caption id=attachment_2389 align=aligncenter width=646] Weymouth beachfront and what's left of the pier![/caption] In the evening, after a yummy pub meal, we headed to the Weymouth Pavilion to hear a talk by tv presenter and adventurer, Simon Reeve.  We all really enjoyed the talk - he was an amusing and engaging speaker - and learnt a lot about his travels and his views on travel and the environment, amongst other things... It was 2230 when it finished so we walked back to the B&B and went straight to bed. After a hearty breakfast on Sunday morning, we loaded up the car and then headed out for a walk to the pretty harbour (with a coffee stop en route of course!).  There were lots of fishing and pleasure boats moored up, as well as people fishing from the harbour wall and others, like us, just out enjoying the autumn sunshine. It was a very pleasant way to spend an hour or two... [caption id=attachment_2392 align=aligncenter width=667] There was lots to see at the harbour[/caption] We had already found out that Weymouth was hosting some beach motocross on Sunday afternoon  and were very excited to go and check it out... and it was a big event with hundreds of riders of all levels taking part, as well as a sizeable crowd spectating! [caption id=attachment_2390 align=aligncenter width=652] Bikes on the beach...[/caption] As we used to be bikers in our younger days and enjoyed watching motor racing, this was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon... the racing was fast and furious with plenty of excitement! The only downside was that, although it was a sunny day, it was bitterly cold on the seafront! So we spent a few hours watching the racing (and getting absolutely covered in sand!) before heading back to the warmth of the car for the 4 hour drive home. There are plenty of other things to do in Weymouth, including several nature reserves (Lodmoor and Radipole Lake), a Sealife Centre, lots of shops/cafes/restaurants and places to walk... but unfortunately we ran out of time this weekend! It is a long way to Weymouth just for the weekend from where we live, but it was worth it to spend a fantastic couple of days in the sunshine with my family! I loved everything about it and will definitely go back again to check out all the things we missed - although maybe I'll wait until the weather is a bit warmer before heading back again! Where do you like to go for a weekend break?  Let me know in the comments... Happy Travelling! Kate 
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My Photography Bucket ListI have long had a travel bucket list (since I was a child to be honest!) but have never made a photography bucket list. So I decided I should have one, which got me thinking about the things/places I would love to photograph if time and money were no object... The Northern Lights It's been my dream for as long as I can remember to visit Iceland and see the spectacular Northern Lights (no idea why we haven't done it yet - it's not even that far away LOL!)... and getting a great shot would just be the icing on the cake! Tigers/Lions in the Wild I enjoy photographing wildlife and there are certain animals I would love to photograph in their natural habitats (before they sadly disappear forever!). The big cats - tigers and lions  - are top of my list. [caption id=attachment_812 align=aligncenter width=596] Hyenas... not my favourite animal but interesting nevertheless![/caption] The Pyramids at Giza from the Air Egypt is on my travel bucket list too... but I am a little reluctant to visit this area at the moment due to the threat of terrorist activity.  But I will get there some day and when I do,  I would love to take a hot air balloon trip and get some great photos of the pyramids from the air. The Sahara Desert I am a big fan of deserts generally - I find their undulating, ever-changing shapes and beautiful light mesmerising... I also love the tranquility. And those starry night skies (no light pollution!) are a photographer's dream! [caption id=attachment_813 align=aligncenter width=552] The Arabian Desert[/caption] A Solar or Lunar Eclipse Capturing such a rare natural occurrence on camera would be great... if somewhat tricky I imagine! I live in hope that I will succeed one day, as I have tried once before but without much success (due to not planning my settings properly in advance - lesson learnt for next time!). [caption id=attachment_816 align=aligncenter width=538] A not too successful attempt at capturing a lunar eclipse![/caption] Earth from Space Surely this has to be THE dream shot for most photographers, doesn't it? We've all seen the fantastic photos taken by astronauts from on board the ISS... Unfortunately this is the one photograph on my bucket list that I am highly unlikely to ever capture (although civilian space travel is certainly not too far off)! But I think you've always got to have a dream, haven't you!? What things/places would you love to photograph if you could? Or have you already captured some of your dream shots? Let me know in the comments... Kate    *Some of the images above were shot on a film camera and scanned in.
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Photo Feature: Live Music!Taking photos at gigs is always tricky, for a number of reasons - as you'll probably know if you've ever tried it! This is probably one of the styles of photography where I do the most post-editing... but why, what are the main issues you face? Lighting The biggest issue, of course, is that the lighting is not uniform... think frequent bursts of coloured light, strobe lighting, darkly lit parts of the stage... it's an exposure nightmare! What can you do about it?  Well, often not enough to remedy the issue completely! You just have to get the exposure as close as you can to the correct setting... start with an aperture setting of between f1.8 and f2.8 to let in the most light (but you may well still need to change the levels when you get back to your computer).  The other thing you can do that will help with the light issue is  to set a high ISO - start at ISO 1600 and see how you get on (but bear in mind this may mean the final images are slightly grainy). [caption id=attachment_731 align=aligncenter width=673] Download Festival 2018[/caption] Movement Next, if you're standing in the mosh pit down the front, just staying on your feet can be difficult, let alone trying to line up a perfectly composed shot! Trying to avoid camera shake can be tricky and, unless you have a press pass, there is no way you are getting a tripod into a gig with you... so you just need to be ready to shoot at the calmest moment, when you can stand as still as possible. A fast shutter speed will help, but the issue with that in this environment is that it may not let enough light in... so experiment with your ISO, aperture and shutter speed (the exposure triangle) and see what combination of settings works best. Maybe start with a shutter speed of around 1/200 or faster to freeze movement - if you are watching a band, singers in particularly move around a lot so unless you want to capture a blur across the stage, use a fast shutter speed! (Although you can also get some great effects with blurred action, so don't be afraid to give that a go too!) Equipment Taking an expensive DSLR camera to a gig is often not feasible (due to the risk of loss, damage, etc). So, often you've got to make do with your smartphone and all the limitations that brings with it. Saying that, I have got some reasonable shots with my iPhone.  The biggest issue with phone cameras of course is that when you zoom in the quality is pretty poor so unless you are very close to the front, you won't be able to get decent close ups of the band - although that doesn't mean you can't get other decent shots! [caption id=attachment_793 align=aligncenter width=610] Parkway Drive on stage... not the sharpest of shots!![/caption] But, if I'm being honest, I quite like gig photos where the final image is not technically perfect - that feeling of movement and excitement can be portrayed perfectly in a slightly shaky, off centre, dimly lit image. So get out there and give it a go - with a little trial and error you should be able to get some great shots!  Photography is all about practice after all... [caption id=attachment_794 align=aligncenter width=579] Guns n Roses Headlining Download 2018[/caption] Have you taken many photos at gigs? How did they come out - let me know in the comments? Kate 
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6 Tips for Travelling with a Growing FamilyTravelling as a family is one of our favourite things to do, whether we are camping in the Peak District or heading out to the Republic of The Gambia in West Africa. We only have the one child and it is amazing getting to explore with her. However, how do you travel when you have a growing family? Here are my six top tips... Think about the accommodation When you travel as a couple, you can deal with lumpy beds in hostels, but with children, you need to be a little pickier. Check the provisions to see whether they will offer a cot or a separate bed for older children, or whether you need to make your own arrangements. If you are pregnant you may want to consider villas, or hotels with lifts to make it easier to get to your room – now is not the time to book a room on the top floor of a block with no lift! Explain the process before you go A holiday can be a lot for a child to deal with – a change of routine, being somewhere new, experiencing lots of different things, the works. To avoid any anxiety or discomfort, try to be open and honest with your children on what to expect. Show them pictures of where you are going and let them make some small decisions on things like food or activities. If you have older children, get them to explain to the younger ones how much fun holidays can be. Make packing easy Don’t leave all the packing to one person! Make sure you create packing lists and anyone who is able, such as older children and teens, should pack the items from the list themselves. This will have to be checked by the parents, of course, but it should cut down the time a little! Spread the clothes across all suitcases just in case one person’s luggage gets lost on the journey. Make sure you have everything you need but don’t overpack and end up paying a fee for the extra luggage. Manage expectations The more people there are on a trip, the harder it is to keep everyone happy, so a way around this is to manage expectations from the start. Family travel is all about compromise so chances are everyone is going to have to do at least one activity that they don’t want to do. This can be managed by deciding in advance, and perhaps by splitting into smaller groups to get two things done at the same time, if they are not suitable for everyone. Bring entertainment Flights can be long and boring for children, so it pays to be prepared. Make sure you have some snacks on you, to avoid them getting hungry and demanding pricey airplane snacks! Pack some old favourites and some cheap, new toys or activities to keep them busy. However, don’t give them all out at once – spread it out to get the most out of them. Colouring or sticker books, an etch-a-sketch, or a travel game are great examples of things that won’t take up too much space. Document it all We’re lucky with a travel blog – everything is documented here for everyone to see, especially us! However, if you don’t quite want to go that far, be sure to take lots of pictures and videos where possible. Get your children to write a diary, or fill in postcards or scrapbooks, so you can all look back on the fun you’ve had! No matter how big your family gets, travelling together is an amazing thing and will create memories that will last for years to come. It might take a lot of organisation and a little bit of stress but it will be worth it! Do you have any tips for travelling with a growing family? Let us know in the comments! Happy Travelling! Kate    *This is a collaborative post which contains affiliate links, however all views expressed are my own.
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My Travel Beauty EssentialsI enjoy travel and take the opportunity to do it as much as I can, so packing is just part of my life... and I think I've got pretty good at it after all this time!  But I was recently asked what my travel beauty essentials were, which got me thinking about which items I couldn't ever imagine travelling without... So, after some deliberation, here it is... my list of travel beauty essentials: Hairdryer: I never travel without a hairdryer and this portable hair dryer from Panasonic is just perfect! My hair is not very well behaved if it's not blow dried - it does funny things (think weird kinks and frizz)! Straighteners... well, usually! Although if I'm trying to pack light, I leave these out and just dry my hair straight instead. Epilator/shaver.  Because you always need to do a bit of de-fuzzing, don't you? Perfume and deodorant. Because I want to smell nice wherever I am in the world! Toothbrush and toothpaste.  These aren't necessarily beauty products, but it is very important to have clean teeth if you want to feel good, which is why I have included them! All-in-one cleanser and toner (and cotton wool pads of course!). I try to take an all-in-one product as it saves space in my luggage - particularly if I'm travelling hand luggage only or going backpacking. A decent moisturiser. I find that travel tends to dry out my skin - think airplanes, heat, chlorine, etc... I tend to use a moisturiser with SPF to protect the delicate skin on my face from the sun. [caption id=attachment_2332 align=aligncenter width=347] Don't forget to moisturise...[/caption] Makeup. I don't wear a huge amount of makeup (particularly in the daytime) so I just take what I think I'll use... although it does depend where I'm travelling to and what I'm going to be doing obviously! My absolute minimum would be concealer, mascara and lip gloss - that's pretty much all I wear most days when I'm not doing anything special. But I'm off to New York next month, so I will take more makeup products than normal as we will be going on lots of swanky nights out - yay! Manicure Kit. You want your nails to look neat at the very least... Hair products. A good shampoo and conditioner, mousse and a finishing product... the hair essentials! Oh, and a hairbrush, obviously! Messy hair is only acceptable on the beach (or if you're trekking through the Amazon Rainforest or somewhere similar!) - you definitely want your hair to look good on all those evenings out don't you!? Body wash/shower gel. I know you get products provided in most hotels, but they are rarely as good as the ones you would buy yourself, are they? So what are your travel beauty essentials - do you think I've missed out anything important? Let me know in the comments below... Happy travelling! Kate    **This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Panasonic.
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Interview: Damian Sutherland aka Nitebytes, MusicianWelcome to the Kate Kreates interview series, where I will be interviewing people involved in the creative industries, and hopefully provide an insight into their lives and what inspires them to create, whether that's music, photography, poetry, comedy... My first interview is with Damian Sutherland (aka Nitebytes), a musician and gamer... Tell me a bit about yourself and your music… Music for me, now, is more of a hobby and an added string to the bow of my main hobby of streaming. That said, let's move on... I'm from a musical family, my father plays trad jazz (clarinet, alto sax and tenor sax), his father played double bass. Like pretty much everyone ever I played recorder in primary school, I picked up the Trombone in secondary school (attained grade 5 theory and practical). At 14 I started on side drum in a marching band, and got hooked on drumming so much I pestered my parents until they got me a drum kit (best Christmas present EVER!!! - there's a whole story around that... probably for a later question), so I've been drumming for 30 years. In my 20s the band I was drumming for went into the studio, and our bassist had some trouble laying down the tracks in a more sterile setting, so I took a go and played the bass on my band's demo. Soon after that, a friend of mine in another band told me he'd sacked his bassist for drug reasons and could I step in until they get a real bassist - I was with that band for 7 years and one album! (go look on itunes / amazon mp3 / spotify for Pyridine Piranha by Rooftop Farmers - that's the band I was substitute bassist for. Last year (2017) I had a motorcycle accident, headfirst into a lamppost at around 40 mph. This has affected my balance, memory, coordination, speech, all the things that feed into my music. I sold my acoustic drum kit just before Christmas 2017 and bought an electronic drum kit (to appease my neighbours), and now I play drums as a form of rehabilitation and physiotherapy to get back to where I used to be skill-wise. As an added twist, I do this on twitch.tv (pop in to twitch.tv/nitebytes one Thursday, you'll see me drumming). [caption id=attachment_775 align=aligncenter width=592] Check out Nitebytes on Twitch[/caption] Who or what influences/inspires you? My influences are mostly drummers; Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson, Terry Williams, Neil Peart, John Bonham, Nicko McBrain. They're all drummers with facets of skill I aspire to, and look back to when I'm going over the rudiments. Insiration these days is a very different thing, I look more to Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Matt Stutzman - these people all overcame something; Stevie Wonder and Ray Charlesbeat blindless to play the piano to world class standards. Matt Stutzman is medal winning paralympic archer, with no arms. If these guys can do  that? I can carry on doing what I do, these guys and more like them are my inspiration and motivation. What’s your favourite track at the moment (yours or someone else’s) and why? Favourite track: Van Canto - Neuer Wind It's sung in German, I don't speak German but having already liked it, I looked up the words, it's all about facing the world head on. It's fitting. It also makes the hairs on my arm stand up, always has. Van Canto are one of my favourite groups, acapella hero metal is what they class themselves as. What has been your best gig to date? My best to date would be ... oh geez, I haven't been to that many gigs to be honest, not as a punter anyway. I think my best would have to have been Queensryche (pre Geoff Tate's departure) in the early 2000s. It wasn't billed as a specific tour so I was surprised as hell when they did the whole of Operation:Mindcrime. It was awesome! As a performer, I think my best gig would have have been a charity gig I did with Rooftop Farmers in a pub, we were playing in the beer garden, and I had a wireless rig on my bass, so I wandered... up the climbing frame in the kids play area. I couldn't get back down again while playing, so ended up playing the last two songs of the set up there. Here is one of the tracks from my old band, Rooftop Farmers, called The Institution Tells Me... [audio mp3=https://katekreates.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/The-Institution-Tells-Me.mp3][/audio] Which do you enjoy best – playing live or writing/recording material? Playing live is where it's at for me. Writing and the studio is a means to that end. I've never been a main writer, you've heard all the drummer jokes: Whats the last thing a drummer says to his band? How about we play one of my songs. I've always worked better feeding into the writing of the others in the band. If you could work with anyone, who would it be and why? Ooooh, tough question. I'd love to work with so many bands and people it's tough to pick one. The more I think about it, the more I think I'd want to work with another streamer rather than someone famous. build a band across the internet. Downloads or CDs (or even vinyl!)? Each has their own thing, there's room for all. Downloads for ease, without a doubt. CDs because I like to have something 'physical' to hold on to, and Vinyl for the classics, and that little extra warmth that digital doesn't convey. Sum up your music in one sentence… I play rock of most varieties, mostly old school rock and hair metal, but with a twist of prog for some added interest and spice. Why should people check you out? These days I'm mostly doing drum covers on Twitch, so come in to my channel, say hi, put some requests in, and join me on my journey of rehabilitation.  Have you got anything exciting coming up in the near future? Sadly, I have nothing new coming up to promote save for my regular Thursday stint on twitch: 17:30-20:00 (UK local) every Thursday on https://www.twitch.tv/nitebytes   Thank you so much for talking to me Damian - it was great to find out more about you and your music! If you would like to find out more, please check out Damian's website at https://www.nitebytes.co.uk/ Kate 
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Mystery Trips: Yes or No?I'll start by saying I've never been on any kind of mystery trip... ever! And I'm still not sure whether I would go on one or not to be honest.  But I must confess that I am feeling a little bit tempted. Every time I see one advertised I wonder whether I should give it a go... but something always stops me. I suppose my biggest issue with booking a mystery trip is that I worry I will end up somewhere I've already been to or, even worse, that it will be a destination I've already been to and that I didn't like!! However, of course, you could also argue that I may end up somewhere that I've always wanted to go... hmm, tricky. [caption id=attachment_302 align=aligncenter width=563] Up in the air![/caption] But if I'm being totally honest, the real problem with it is that I am a bit of a control freak (anyone who knows me will confirm this!). And that control is taken away from me if I go on a trip where I don't know in advance where I'm going, isn't it? OMG, I won't even have a guidebook for when I get there - what will I do, how will I manage?!!  I'm far too much of a planner to cope with this - just thinking about it now is bringing me out in a cold sweat! But this is a largely a modern problem, isn't it? I can now go online and find out pretty much everything I need to know about a destination before I arrive (and I do, believe me!), whereas in days gone by, this wasn't the case. And I definitely think that this has taken away some of the magic of travel - I know pretty much what to expect before I even set foot out of my house... [caption id=attachment_264 align=aligncenter width=477] What would I do without my guidebook?? [/caption] So I can see the appeal of this type of adventure travel. It does add an element of excitement to a trip if you have no idea where you are going to end up and what you're going to be doing, which is quite fun isn't it? And, let's face it, some of our most enduring travel memories often stem from things we weren't expecting - things that surprised us on our travels... so I guess this is just taking that element of surprise a step further.  And, apparently, this type of trip is pretty popular right now with more and more companies offering mystery trips - which means plenty of people must be booking them or this wouldn't be such a growing travel market. It seems to me that maybe this type of holiday offers us something we can't get when we know in advance exactly where we are going/what we are going to be doing. I think what it does is it gives us a sense of excitement to be venturing into the unknown - something which we have largely lost when we travel nowadays... [caption id=attachment_1960 align=aligncenter width=503] Going on a magical mystery tour...[/caption] So what do you think? Have you ever gone on or would you ever book a mystery trip? Let me know in the comments... Happy Travelling! Kate 
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10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Me!I have been blogging at Kate Kreates for around 6 months now, so I thought it was time I told you all a little bit more about myself... so here goes! I started taking photos when I received a camera for Christmas when I was about 10/11 years old... it was a blue Konica Pop (film camera), which I absolutely loved - and which I probably still have buried in a box somewhere in the loft! Many of my blog posts are written whilst I'm sat by the side of a pool! My daughter swims competitively and I spend much of my time at the swimming pool whilst she trains. If you listen very carefully you can hear the splashing... [caption id=attachment_755 align=aligncenter width=547] Poolside is where you will often find me...[/caption] I'm a big fan of all things Hispanic (art, literature, food, etc). I did my first degree in Hispanic Studies, followed by a Masters in Latin American Studies (both many years ago obviously!). I have lived in about 12 different houses in different parts of the UK... as well as two stints living and working in Spain and a year out, which I spent in Mexico and Brazil. [caption id=attachment_760 align=aligncenter width=548] View from my window nowadays...[/caption] I have always used Canon cameras since I took up photography seriously (well, not that seriously lol!). I love listening to heavy metal and going to gigs/festivals. I listen to music pretty much all the time... [caption id=attachment_756 align=aligncenter width=543] Parkway Drive at Download Festival 2018[/caption] My other passion is travelling.  I travel as much as I can, even if I'm only going out exploring new places within the UK. My favourite style of photography is abstract,  although I also enjoy macro photography. [caption id=attachment_758 align=aligncenter width=552] Experimenting with portraits![/caption] My favourite author of all time is Gabriel García Márquez (Google him - he's definitely worth checking out if you like to read!). I enjoy walking. Anywhere. I love to walk in the countryside - particularly in the mountains - but I also take every opportunity I can to go urban exploring too. [caption id=attachment_757 align=aligncenter width=424] Exploring Camden, London[/caption] So that was a little bit more information about me - now what about you?  Why not tell me something I don't know about you in the comments below... I look forward to reading it! Kate 
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Walking: Far Ings & The Humber EstuaryWe spent last weekend in Barton-Upon-Humber (North Lincolnshire, UK) with family and woke up to a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning (although it was a little chilly!).  We often go down to the Humber Estuary for a walk but had never been to Far Ings Nature Reserve, so decided we would head down there for a short walk before enjoying a traditional Sunday lunch... The reserve - which is made up of various habitats - is situated on the south bank of the Humber Estuary and is managed by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. [caption id=attachment_2305 align=aligncenter width=582] Far Ings Nature Reserve[/caption] We walked to the reserve, then spent 10 minutes sitting watching the ducks and swans on one of the lakes before heading to the wide path that runs between the nature reserve and the River Humber.  The tide was out, exposing the mud banks at the riverside.  And the Humber Bridge looked truly majestic in the morning sunshine - it was a perfect day for grabbing my iPhone and taking a few photos. [caption id=attachment_2300 align=aligncenter width=582] The Humber Bridge on a sunny Sunday![/caption] There were plenty of other people (not to mention lots of dogs) walking by the river, enjoying the views - although it was not what you would call busy! [caption id=attachment_2310 align=aligncenter width=578] A Sunday stroll by the Humber...[/caption] There is a visitor's centre at Far Ings (we didn't go in, but they provide binoculars and there are displays on the wildlife in the area), a number of hides for birdwatching, as well as plenty of picnic tables and a shop... There are 3 circular walks around the reserve and many of the paths are accessible to pushchairs and wheelchairs, which is great. Dogs are not allowed in the reserve though so as not to disturb the wildlife, although they are permitted on the riverside path. [caption id=attachment_2304 align=aligncenter width=588] Far Ings from the riverside path...[/caption] So if you are ever in the area, Far Ings and the Humber Estuary are well worth a few hours of your time if the weather is good! Do you like walking and wildlife watching? Is going out for a Sunday morning stroll a ritual in your house? Happy Walking! Kate 
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Walking: Lathkill Dale, Peak District National ParkIt was a mild autumn day and we were visiting my parents in Sheffield and, as they are so close to the beautiful Peak District National Park, it seemed a shame not to head out for a short walk. As we wanted to have a nice pub lunch too, we decided to head to Lathkill Dale and the Lathkil Hotel.  Lathkill Dale is a very pretty, tree-lined, limestone dale in the Peak District NP, and is only about 3 miles from the lovely town of Bakewell (which is also well worth a visit). [caption id=attachment_2289 align=aligncenter width=460] A Sunday afternoon walk through Lathkill Dale...[/caption] After a delicious lunch at the Lathkil Hotel, which is beautifully situated next to the Dale, we headed down for a walk by the River Lathkill.  The short section we did is a gentle walk along a fairly good path and is accessible to most people... my mum has a leg injury at the moment and managed to walk along (with her stick) without any problem.  It is a popular spot and there were a fair few other people out enjoying a Sunday afternoon stroll in the (patchy) autumn sunshine (although it wasn't busy by any stretch of the imagination!). [caption id=attachment_2285 align=aligncenter width=588] Lathkill Dale, Peak District NP[/caption] There are lots of beautiful trees and plenty of wildlife to see as you stroll by the river (not to mention lots of weirs - 12 in fact!)... and in the space of less than an hour we saw, Moorhens, Coots, Dippers, Mallards and Swans on or by the river. [caption id=attachment_2286 align=aligncenter width=619] Swans on the River Lathkill[/caption] Not only did I enjoy being out in the fresh air and getting some exercise, but it was also a great opportunity to take some photos of the early autumn foliage and the local wildlife... [caption id=attachment_2288 align=aligncenter width=589] Ducks on the River Lathkill[/caption] Whilst we only did a small section of the walk, you can make it into a much longer walk (around 10 miles) by starting from the village of Monyash and walking through Bradford Dale too... we'll go and do that walk another day when we have more time! If you fancy walking this route, you'll need OS Explorer Map OL 24: Peak District. The Peak District National Park is one of my favourite places to walk in the UK - the landscape is stunning and there are enough walking routes to keep even the most experienced walker happy! (To learn more about my favourite places to walk in the UK, check out my previous post: My Favourite Places to Walk in the UK) Do you like to go out walking? If so, where is your favourite place to walk? Let me know in the comments below... Happy Hiking! Kate 
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Photo Feature: WaterWater. A fairly simple subject to shoot you might think? Or maybe not. There are a number of decisions to make when shooting anything moving, and water is no different... There are two ways of dealing with moving water: you can either freeze it or you can blur it. And they make for quite different final images... Blur I love this effect as I like the silky, smooth appearance of the water.  It gives it a dreamy, slow-moving  quality. To achieve this you need to use a slow shutter speed.  Try using a variety of different speeds to see which effect you like best. To get a milky texture on the water you need to set a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds plus (the one below was shot at 0.6 seconds). Don't forget, you will also need to adjust the ISO and aperture settings to make sure your image is not overexposed as at slow shutter speeds a lot of light is let in. And you will also need to have your camera on a tripod (and preferably a remote shutter release) for long exposure shots or your whole image will be blurred, not just the water! The camera settings for the image below were: ISO 200, f 20, shutter speed 0.6 seconds. [caption id=attachment_737 align=aligncenter width=591] Blurred water at Aira Force, the Lake District[/caption] Freeze To freeze moving water, you do the opposite to what you did to blur it - you need to use a faster shutter speed to freeze motion. I used a shutter speed of 1/125 for this shot so the fountains were frozen in an arch shape. (Other settings: ISO 100, f8.) [caption id=attachment_740 align=aligncenter width=570] Fountains in the Generalife Gardens, the Alhambra, Spain[/caption] I love the photo below of hover boarders on the lake in Tignes, France.  In my opinion, blurring the water in this instance would have taken away the dynamic quality of the boarders flying through the air and ruined the image somewhat, hence I chose to freeze the action by using a fast shutter speed... (settings: ISO 100, f5.6, 1/500) [caption id=attachment_742 align=aligncenter width=587] Aquatic Hover Boarders in Tignes, France[/caption] Reflection Refection on water can look great in photographs (or not, depending what the reflection is of and whether it detracts from the purpose of the photo!). The two images below work well, even though they are quite different. Both were taken towards the end of the day but that is where the similarities end.  In the first image, there is little detail visible other than the setting sun and its reflection on the water (which is the focal point of the photograph), whereas in the second there is a lot more detail visible. The interest in the second shot is from the reflection of the clouds and the trees in the still water. [caption id=attachment_743 align=aligncenter width=576] Sunset and Silhouettes over Loch Lomond[/caption] [caption id=attachment_745 align=aligncenter width=567] Reflections of Center Parcs[/caption] The most successful reflection photos are usually taken by very still, calm waters - although you can get some interesting effects with moving water too (obviously the reflection will be distorted). So which effect do you prefer? Have you used any of these effects before or do you just leave your camera on manual and see what happens? Let me know in the comments... Happy Snapping! Kate
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What I’m Looking Forward to in October…So, here we are... it's October already! I have no idea where 2018 is disappearing to (it will be Christmas before we know it, won't it?)?! But it's been a good year so far and hopefully this month will be no different... So these are the things I'm looking forward to this month: Crunching Through Fallen Leaves Let's be honest, who doesn't love walking through fallen leaves and hearing them crunch under foot... it's definitely one of life's simple pleasures! Autumn Photography I love all the colours of autumn - they look great in photographs so I can't wait to get out with my camera on a crisp, sunny day when the leaves have turned brown, red and gold... [caption id=attachment_2275 align=aligncenter width=583] The beginning of Autumn in Lathkill Dale, Derbyshire[/caption] Sitting by the Fire There is nothing nicer in the evening than lighting a fire... I look forward to the cooler weather solely for this reason!! A roaring fire, a mug of hot chocolate and a book - surely the perfect winter evening in! [caption id=attachment_2271 align=aligncenter width=454] I love a roaring fire...[/caption] A Weekend Break in Weymouth, Dorset We're off to Weymouth for the weekend towards the end of the month, which I'm really looking forward to... we don't get to the seaside that often so this is a real treat!  And I haven't been to Weymouth for many years so am looking forward to going back for a few days.  We're also going to hear a talk by the tv presenter and traveller, Simon Reeve, whilst we are there (a birthday present booked many months ago)! Halloween I love Halloween! We will be decorating our house and eating spooky treats as usual... not to mention a bit of pumpkin carving (usually hubby's job!). I am also hoping to go somewhere for a fright night experience... just not sure where yet, but probably a local theme park. [caption id=attachment_2272 align=aligncenter width=474] Halloween Pumpkin[/caption] What are you looking forward to in October - do you have any plans? Let me know in the comments... Happy October! Kate 
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My Inspiration!We all need inspiration sometimes, don't we?  So this got me thinking about who or what inspired me to create photographic images and I came to the conclusion that I had had a number of influences over the years, from photographers to artists to musicians. So here are some of my biggest creative inspirations... Art: Frida Kahlo, painter (Mexico) Frida Kahlo has been a huge inspiration of mine since my university days when I studied her work. Her paintings are autobiographical and poignant, recording some of the struggles she went through in her life... I love the honesty in all her work. [caption id=attachment_723 align=aligncenter width=488] Art vs Reality[/caption] Photography: Steve McCurry One of my favourite portrait photographers, Steve McCurry is able to capture the essence of a person in a way that very few other photographers can. I love his photo books and often flick through them for ideas. [caption id=attachment_724 align=aligncenter width=533] One of McCurry's most famous photos...[/caption] Music: Heavy Metal Heavy metal gave me the courage to be different. I got into it in my late teens and have never looked back... I like the rebellious image and the passion in the music that you rarely find in most popular music (although I do think you find something similar with opera though). I often listen to music for inspiration... in fact I listen to music EVERY day. My favourite bands? Slipknot, Parkway Drive, Linkin Park to name but a few... [caption id=attachment_725 align=aligncenter width=593] Heavy Metal![/caption] Literature: Federico García Lorca (Spain) and Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia) These are my two favourite authors of all time. Lorca's Romancero Gitano poems are beautifully written and his plays paint a vivid picture of rural Andalusian life and the role of women in society. [caption id=attachment_726 align=aligncenter width=438] A well-thumbed copy of Lorca's Romancero Gitano[/caption] I love Magical Realism (Magic Realism is a predominantly Latin American genre that is characterised by the inclusion - as if it were completely normal - of fantastic or mythical elements into what would otherwise be realistic fiction). And García Márquez is definitely one of its biggest stars.  If you haven't read it, check out 100 Years of Solitude (Cien Anos de Soledad in Spanish), one of the greatest works of Latin American literature, in my opinion. [caption id=attachment_728 align=aligncenter width=450] One Hundred Year of Solitude is a Latin American classic[/caption] Region: Latin America I did a degree in Hispanic Studies (and a Masters in Latin American Studies) and spent my year out in Mexico and Brazil (with a very brief trip into Argentina), which had a massive impact on my life... This remains my favourite part of the world to visit - I love the food, the music, the literature, the history, the culture and the way of life (everything basically!)! [caption id=attachment_729 align=aligncenter width=427] Day of the Dead inspired decor...[/caption] Who or what are your influences, either creatively or otherwise? Let me know in the comments... Kate 
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Throwback Thursday: The GambiaAs I haven't done a Throwback Thursday post for a while I decided it was about time I did one... and this time we are heading out to the Republic of The Gambia in West Africa.  We visited back in late December 2004 and, to date, it is still our only visit to Africa (sadly). We stayed for a week at the beachfront, four star Corinthia Atlantic Hotel in the capital, Banjul.  It was a lovely hotel and our comfortable room had views of both the pool and the beach. [caption id=attachment_2257 align=aligncenter width=637] Beach view from our room...[/caption] We were there over Christmas so a gala dinner and entertainment was provided. It was an interesting take on a traditional Christmas dinner and the Gambian entertainment was definitely an acquired taste... but it was such great fun that you couldn't not enjoy it! The highlight though was on Christmas Day, when Santa appeared on the hotel roof whilst we were all sunbathing by the pool - that's something I'll probably never see again!! And the pool area was lovely... so that's where we spent much of our week, relaxing in the sunshine. But we also took a fair few trips during our stay... The first was a trip around Banjul itself, which was fascinating. Unfortunately, away from all the international hotels, the roads turned to dust and proper sanitation was somewhat lacking (hence the smell at times!). [caption id=attachment_2259 align=aligncenter width=485] Some of the streets in Banjul needed a bit of work![/caption] We climbed to the top of Arch 22 (a decorative arch built to commemorate the 1994 revolution) to get a fantastic view over Banjul. [caption id=attachment_2258 align=aligncenter width=668] View over Banjul from Arch 22[/caption] We found the people to be very friendly and we received a warm welcome wherever we went. During the same trip we visited the Gena Bes Batik Factory in Bakau, which was interesting as I'd never seen batik being done before. It was also a good opportunity to buy some unique souvenirs. [caption id=attachment_2260 align=aligncenter width=651] The Gena Bes Batick Factory in Bakau[/caption] Then it was on to the Katchikally Crocodile Pool where we came face-to-face with free-roaming crocs! I'd never been so close to these fearsome creatures before so this was quite an experience for me! [caption id=attachment_2261 align=aligncenter width=648] Watch out![/caption] One of my favourite trips was to the Abuko Nature Reserve where we saw a variety of wildlife, including various primates and some rather sinister-looking hyenas! If you go to The Gambia, you should definitely make time to visit this reserve. [caption id=attachment_2262 align=aligncenter width=627] Bushbuck at Abuko Nature Reserve[/caption] [caption id=attachment_2263 align=aligncenter width=618] Green Vervet Monkey at Abuko Nature Reserve[/caption] But I think my favourite trip was a sunrise safari at Oyster Creek (at the Tanbi Wetland Complex just outside Banjul) where we went out wildlife watching in canoes as the sun rose, followed by a delicious breakfast. [caption id=attachment_2264 align=aligncenter width=627] Sunrise wildlife trip on Oyster Creek, Banjul[/caption] I would definitely love to go back to The Gambia again - it was a fascinating country to visit with so much to see and do and all of it easily accessible (it's not a big country). Furthermore, it is only a 5.5-6 hour flight from the UK too... Happy Travelling! Kate   *All photos in this post were taken on a film camera (Canon) and scanned in, hence the graininess... unfortunately digital wasn't around back in 2004!
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My 2019 Bucket ListNow I know it's only September 2018, but I'm a bit of a planner and, after all, most of us book in advance to get a good deal (although Holiday Gems offer some fantastic Last Minute Holidays if you're after a late getaway!) and also to give us time to save up... hence I'm already thinking about where I want to go on holiday next year! So, let's get down to business... here it is, my bucket list of trips I'd like to take in 2019: The Canary Islands  I would like to go somewhere to get away from the miserable UK weather in the February half term holidays - somewhere that is not too long a flight from the UK. So where better to go than the Canary Islands - it's only 4-5 hours flight away? And my favourite island? Beautiful Lanzarote - because it's pretty much always sunny, there's lots to see and do and there is plenty of great accommodation to choose from... [caption id=attachment_240 align=aligncenter width=652] Sunny Lanzarote[/caption] Greece I've never been to Greece but it's somewhere I would really love to visit - and soon! It always looks so beautiful and there are so many fantastic historical sites to visit - and I'm a sucker for history and culture (and plenty of sunshine obviously!)! Iceland I desperately want to visit Iceland and high up on my wish list for the summer holidays next year is a road trip in a camper van  to visit some of the amazing natural wonders that Iceland has to offer - from gushing waterfalls to volcanic peaks to huge glaciers to isolated thermal pools... I'm keeping my fingers crossed we get to do this one in 2019! A Weekend in Spain I want to take a short break to Spain at some point during next year for a bit of sightseeing and sunshine.  I absolutely love Spain and it's close enough to visit for just a few days from the UK... and it also means that I can practice my Spanish which is a bonus! [caption id=attachment_2211 align=aligncenter width=628] Beautiful view towards the coast from Mijas in the Costa del Sol[/caption] Christmas Markets Trip I did a Christmas Markets Cruise some years back with my Mum and we absolutely loved it!  We visited Germany, Holland and Belgium and went to visit lots of different Christmas markets. It was so pretty and Christmassy and I managed to buy lots of Christmas presents and unusual decorations. I would love to go with my own daughter next year now she's a bit older... [caption id=attachment_2220 align=aligncenter width=634] Shopping for presents at the Christmas Market[/caption] So will I get to all the fantastic places on my bucket list?  Hmm, who knows - but I remain hopeful! Keep following my blog to find out what I get up to... How about you - do you need some holiday ideas?  If you do, why not check out Holiday Gems and get planning your next getaway... Or maybe you've already made plans for 2019? If so, let me know where you are going and what you're up to in the comments... Happy Travelling! Kate  *This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Holiday Gems
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Photo Feature: NatureI enjoy getting out into the countryside (or even just in my garden to be honest) and taking photos. There are just so many incredible things to photograph in nature - from wild animals, to insects to flowers and trees.  So here are some of my favourite nature shots and tips on how to take similar photos: Garden (not mine unfortunately!): This was taken earlier this year in Stratford-upon-Avon. I loved all the greenery and the pretty flowers but walked around for a while before deciding where the best place was to take the shot from... take your time and find the best spot to take your photo from. I wanted to get some colour in the foreground and was trying to avoid getting people in my shot if possible (which is not easy when you're somewhere as touristy as Stratford!). (Camera: Canon Powershot SX60 HS. Settings: ISO 200, Aperture f4, Shutter speed 1/160) [caption id=attachment_685 align=aligncenter width=683] Beautiful garden in Stratford upon Avon[/caption] Male Mallard: I had to wait a while before an obliging duck finally sat still enough for me to take a photo - I have a number of slightly blurred shots of ducks to go with this one! With any kind of birds or animals, patience is key - it's very rare that they are obliging subjects! You just have to stay still and wait, making sure you are ready to take the photo as soon as the opportunity arises. (Camera: Canon Powershot SX60 HS. Settings: ISO 200, Aperture f5, Shutter speed 1/200) [caption id=attachment_686 align=aligncenter width=670] Mallard by the water...[/caption] Landscape: I love a good landscape photo (and I do realise that this is also a genre in its own right, but it is still part of nature at the end of the day!). This one was actually taken from a train on the Fort William to Mallaig line (the Hogwarts Express!) so turned out better than it might have done! I opened the window at the end of the carriage and set a fairly fast shutter speed to freeze the scene, otherwise it would have been blurred from the movement of the train. I also took a few shots through the carriage window first but, due to the sunshine, there was just too much glare on the glass to get a decent image so I was forced to leave the comfort of my seat (sigh). I like this photo because of the depth in the shot - this is achieved by the layers of mountains receding into the distance, as well as the loch which stretches as far as the eye can see (and perhaps even further as you can't actually see where it ends). Look for this kind of thing (objects getting smaller as they disappear into the distance), which lead the eye into your photo and give it the appearance of depth... (Camera: Canon EOS 40D. Settings: ISO 400, Aperture f16, Shutter speed 1/250) [caption id=attachment_687 align=aligncenter width=656] Scenic Scotland[/caption] Insects: I love this shot for several reasons... I love a close up (as you will have noticed from previous posts!) and I think the dew on the flower works well and adds a bit of interest to the flower... and the bee crawling down gives it a clear focal point. Again, I took several photos of this flower before getting one that I was happy with, mainly because there was a bit of a breeze at the time. For this type of close up shot, you need to find a good angle (particularly if it's a very sunny day) and get in as close as you can... (Camera: Canon Powershot SX60 HS. Settings: ISO 100, Aperture f5.6, Shutter speed 1/640) [caption id=attachment_688 align=aligncenter width=654] Bee on a flower...[/caption] I hope you liked my photos and found some inspiration in my post to make you want to get out and take some nature photos of your own! So what are you mainly photographing at the moment - let me know in the comments below? Kate 
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Packing Tips: BackpackingSo you've planned your big trip and the time has come to pack your backpack... But when you look at your packing list you realise that there is absolutely NO WAY everything is going to fit in a backpack that size... and it's the biggest one you could find!! It's a common problem if you're more used to packing a large suitcase when you go away. Packing for a backpacking trip requires a bit more planning as you have limited space (and weight) available. Most importantly, you need to remember that you have to CARRY your backpack - it's not on wheels like your suitcase - so you need to be able to take the weight comfortably on your back... if you can't even lift it off the ground, it's not going to work, is it?! So here are my tips for packing for a backpacking trip: [caption id=attachment_921 align=aligncenter width=482] Backpack at the ready![/caption] Before you put anything in your backpack, line it with a bin bag/large carrier bag for a bit of extra waterproofing - most backpacks are only showerproof and you don't want all your belongings getting soaked! Pack your heaviest things near the bottom of your backpack or near to your back (this means firstly that the waist straps will take a lot of the strain and also that your backpack is not pulling backwards away from you - it also makes it easier to stand it up when you're not carrying it). And put things you will need to access regularly in the the top or side pockets. Take travel sized toiletries. Either take ones you have picked up from previous hotel stays or buy small products - most chemists stock a wide variety of travel products so stock up on what you NEED. And, don't take more toiletries than you think you are going to need - unless you are going to the middle of nowhere, you can always buy products when you're there, can't you? [caption id=attachment_361 align=aligncenter width=636] How not to pack![/caption] Think: do you really need that many electrical items (straighteners, hair dryers, etc) - if you're going somewhere really remote you may even not be able to use them anyway. And ditch the laptop unless you are going to need to work whilst you are away... it takes up a lot of space and weight. Get out all the clothes you think you'll need, then put half of them away again.  Don't take things 'just in case', we all know we bring back half the clothing we took unworn, every holiday... you don't have the space for it when you're backpacking. Pack a capsule wardrobe of a few items that can be mixed and matched to make lots of different outfits. Roll your clothes to pack them rather than folding them - they take up much less space that way. Shoes are bulky and heavy - for most places a pair of flip flops, trainers or walking boots and a slightly smarter (lightweight) pair of shoes for going out should be sufficient. And ALWAYS wear the heaviest pair to travel in. [caption id=attachment_1675 align=aligncenter width=692] Far too many shoes![/caption] Do you need to take your camera as well as your phone? If you have a decent phone camera, there is probably no need to take anything else... Think about whether you need to take a sleeping bag and towel... if you are going to be staying in cheaper accommodation/hostels they don't always provide towels and sometimes not even sufficient bedding (or if they do provide bedding you may not be happy to sleep in it!). If you think you will need towels, buy some microfibre ones - they are super-absorbent and are much smaller and more lightweight than regular towels. [caption id=attachment_2192 align=aligncenter width=486] Microfibre towels are so small and lightweight[/caption] Do you need to pack a mosquito net and insect repellant for where you are going? (These are not items which can be left out if you're struggling for space.) Don't forget to pack any medication you need AND a copy of your prescription - just in case! If you are travelling alone, think about packing a bike lock to secure your backpack for times when you can't be there to keep an eye on it. When you think you've packed everything, pick your backpack up, put it on your back and walk round with it on. Is it too heavy? If it is, maybe you need to re-assess your packing and, if necessary, remove some items! Do you have any top packing tips to share? Let me know in the comments below if you do... Happy travelling! Kate 
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My Top 10 Tips for Taking Great Travel PhotosThere's nothing worse than getting home from your holiday/trip, looking at your photos and realising you haven't done justice to the fantastic destination you've just visited, is there? We all want to show our audience - whether we're talking about our followers on social media or our friends and family -  where we've just been and we want them to be wowed by it... so how do we take fab photos that capture the essence of our holiday? Here are a few of my tips for taking great travel photos: Always have your camera or phone to hand so when you spot something interesting you are ready to take the photo... if you haven't got your camera always at the ready, you may miss the action by the time you're ready to take your photo! Make sure you know how your camera works and what all the settings do! It sounds obvious, but many people only ever shoot on auto. Remember: cameras will often not choose the best settings for the shot you are trying to take - they regularly get it wrong! Sometimes you NEED to shoot in manual mode so make sure you can! My trusty Canon... Make sure you have the gear you need, but don't overpack - remember you could be walking round for hours so you don't want to feel like a packhorse.  A lightweight tripod, a polarising filter and a zoom lens (if you have a DSLR) should suffice for most shots (although you might want to consider a remote shutter release if you are doing lots of long exposure shots). Try getting to grips with street photography! Candid photos of people going about their daily lives can really capture the spirit of a place, so give it a go... (If you want some tips on street photography, check out this post from my photography blog, Kate Kreates: Photo Feature: Street Photography) Balloon Sellers in Oaxaca, Mexico Don't just photograph the typical tourist sites that EVERYONE takes photos of... look for interesting street art, markets, quirky buildings, etc - basically things that are a bit off the beaten track and that won't be on everyone else's Instagram feed too! Think outside the box - try and shoot from different angles. Get up high and shoot from above - this can be really effective for street scenes, for example, as you see things from up high that you wouldn't see from the ground. Or, get down low and look up, like I did for the shot below of the Statue of Liberty... Looking up at Lady Liberty! Don't make yourself the focal point of EVERY shot!  Most people want to get an idea of where you've been and what you've seen, not a photo predominantly of you with a little bit of scenery visible in the background! Unless of course it's a shot of you taking part in an activity, such as in the example below. Ice cream making class at the Ice Cream Museum, London Take notice of EVERYTHING that's in your shot - if you don't want something in it, change your position. We've all had shots pretty much ruined by unsightly objects in our photos that we didn't notice at the time... of course, nowadays you can edit it out afterwards but that's time consuming and doesn't always do the job satisfactorily. Likewise, take note of the light conditions (bright sunshine, overcast, etc)... If they're not good, can you come back when the light is better? If you can, try taking your shot at various times of day and see which comes out best. The right light can make or break an image! Lastly, take photos of things that interest YOU... don't take photos of things just because everyone else is.  Photos of things you care about/are interested in tend to turn out better than photos you take just because you think you should, basically because you spend more time getting them right... and they'll be the ones you treasure when you look back at them in years to come too. Fun on the beach! So those are my travel photography tips... Do you have any top tips to share - let me know in the comments... Happy Travelling! Kate  *Some of the photos above were shot using a film camera (some years ago) and scanned in, hence the slightly grainy quality, but they illustrated my point so I used them!
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10 Photography Project IdeasI love doing photography projects every now and again - they are great fun and encourage creative thinking... so here are some ideas for starting your own fun photography project: Photo A Day (365 or 30 Project): you can take a photo a day for whatever length of time you like... the most common periods are one month or one year.  This is a great way of recording what you've done over a period of time and it's great fun looking back on all your photos later! [caption id=attachment_671 align=aligncenter width=717] Toasting Marshmallows![/caption] Photo Diary: this is similar to the photo a day idea but, this time, you are actually attempting to make a record of what you've been up to.  Similarly to photo a day, you can do this for any length of time - even just for a day - and photograph anything interesting that you do throughout your chosen period of time. Movement: Capturing moving objects is a fun project.  Try to get a blurred effect by setting a long exposure... this works particularly well at nighttime when you can get some great light trails from vehicle headlights, but it also works in the daytime too. It takes a little while to get just the right amount of blurring so keep at it until you're happy with your shots.  You will need a tripod for this project as you won't be able to hold the camera steady enough without one which means you'll just end up blurring the whole image rather than just the moving part... and you may want to consider a remote shutter release too to avoid any camera shake. Single Theme: pick a single theme (absolutely anything), such as nature, street, monochrome, yellow, for example, and just take photographs that fit in with your chosen theme for as long as you like. If you get a few photos you are happy with, why not frame them and hang them on the wall together - this can make for a really eye-catching display! [caption id=attachment_672 align=aligncenter width=647] Life in Monochrome[/caption] Photo Collage: pick a large object/scene with plenty of detail and take multiple images of it (make sure you take a lot of photos)... then print them out and fit them together - overlapping all the photos to make a much bigger image of your chosen object or scene.  Collages can make really effective wall art if done well. Shoot Film: return to a time when digital photography didn't exist! If you've never shot film before, it takes a little bit of practice... You have to try and get your image right BEFORE you take the photo - you can't just edit it afterwards like you can with digital images! This is a really good way of fine tuning your camera skills as, if you get it wrong, you will be left with a poor photo that is only good for the bin.  On the flip side, the excitement of getting your photos back after being developed is something everyone needs to experience at least once - I really miss this element of photography! Paint with Light: This is great fun and can be done either with a torch or sparklers... put your camera on a tripod and use a slow shutter speed then get someone to wave a torch/sparkler around or write something and see what you get.  This takes a bit of practice but you can't some very effective images with a bit of perseverance. [caption id=attachment_669 align=aligncenter width=547] Sparkler![/caption] Self-Portraits: Get creative using yourself as the subject! See how many different ways you can represent yourself through photographs... think outside the box! [caption id=attachment_670 align=aligncenter width=709] The Windows to the Soul...[/caption] ABC Challenge: You can do this challenge in several different ways. You can either start at the letter A and work through the alphabet, one photo at a time. Or you can photograph something that looks like your chosen letter - why not make it into a collage to spell out a particular word... put it in a frame and you have a lovely gift. Photo Walk: Take a walk with your camera and document your journey - the great thing about this project is that it works equally well in an urban setting as it does in a rural setting... If you look carefully, everywhere you go there is something interesting to photograph! [caption id=attachment_399 align=aligncenter width=558] The curved entrance to the Winter Gardens in Sheffield[/caption] I hope you enjoy doing some of these projects - let me know how you get on! I still haven't decided which one I'm going to do next... Kate 
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Summer Activities: AquaparksSo this is my last post in my Summer Activities series because, unfortunately, summer is pretty much over - boo! And this time it's all about aquaparks! Now until a couple of years ago, inflatable water parks were only found in much warmer countries than the UK - for obvious reasons!  But now, they are popping up on lakes and reservoirs all over the place... but are they worth a visit? [caption id=attachment_2165 align=aligncenter width=788] Inflatable Fun![/caption] It was a sunny, Saturday afternoon and Rutland Aquapark was pretty busy, but we'd booked our slot and, to be fair, the whole process was very slick and well-managed.  After getting into wetsuits (and lifejackets) and listening to a short safety briefing, the kids headed - like a swarm of insects - excitedly into the (presumably quite cold) water... The aquapark has numerous inflatable obstacles, slides, jumps and airbags, all of which looked like great fun from where I was sitting on the bank, overlooking the water.  There were quite a number of children (and a few brave adults) on the waterpark whilst we were there, but it was not too crowded and everyone seemed to have time to go on everything they wanted to during their allotted one hour slot. [caption id=attachment_2166 align=aligncenter width=685] There were lots of inflatables on offer...[/caption] Whilst you do have to be able to swim at least a little to use the aqua park, it was very well supervised, with plenty of lifeguards around in case anyone got into difficulty - which they didn't thankfully! The most popular inflatables at Rutland seemed to be the airbags, the big slide and 'the Beast' - a high platform where you jumped off into the water below... The photo below doesn't really do it justice - it is higher than it looks on this photo when you see it in real life! [caption id=attachment_2164 align=aligncenter width=521] Freya tackling 'The Beast'![/caption] So what did Freya think of it? Well, she had been to this aquapark the previous year with friends, but still came out of the water raving about how much fun it had been! So whilst this was not the cheapest of my featured Summer Activities, I think it was probably the one that Freya enjoyed the most... After a quick dry off and an ice cream, we headed home after a fun afternoon in the sunshine... we'll definitely be back for more next year! And, next year, I WILL be going on it too (although I'm not sure I'll be brave enough for 'The Beast' but we'll see!)... Happy Splashing! Kate 
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Photo Feature: Street PhotographyStreet photography is one of my favourite types of photography... I love walking around with my camera and taking candid shots of life as it happens. But it certainly takes a bit of getting used to! Not everyone likes getting snapped as they are going about their business after all! So here are some of my tips for taking pictures in the street... My first tip is rather obvious... always have your camera (or phone) to hand!  You just never know when you may spot something photo-worthy when you are out and about. Let's be honest, we've all stood there before and thought 'that would make a great photograph' but not been able to take advantage of the opportunity! [caption id=attachment_645 align=aligncenter width=696] Enjoying the sunshine in Granary Square, London[/caption] Street photography covers a whole range of situations and styles - find your style and photograph what you enjoy... this will be obvious from the final images, as your best photos are generally the ones where you care about the subject! Start off in an area you are familiar with as you will find it easier to find interesting places to shoot and will feel more comfortable. [caption id=attachment_644 align=aligncenter width=561] Exploring Camden Market, London[/caption] Try to be subtle about it! If you want to capture people without them realising what you are doing (ie so they are acting naturally) you need to blend in with your surroundings and not be too obvious. Remember, people  often act differently when they see a camera... [caption id=attachment_643 align=aligncenter width=698] Flamenco in the streets of Mijas, Spain[/caption] Be patient! It can take a long time to get the right shot... sometimes standing in one place and seeing what occurs works but other times you will need to move around. Try shooting from different angles, not just street level... you could lie down and shoot upwards or try and get up high for a bird's eye view of the street. [caption id=attachment_641 align=aligncenter width=701] Walking the Highline in NYC[/caption] Go out whatever the weather! You can get some great shots even on the greyest, rainiest days. Legally you are entitled to take photographs in public spaces (in most countries at least - except in sensitive areas such as near military bases, etc)... however, sometimes people may ask you not to take photos of either them or their property - it is courteous to respect their wishes as they may see it as an invasion of their privacy! And also, you don't know how they may react if you don't heed their request... your safety is more important than any photo. Take care - remember not everywhere is completely safe (particularly at night) and walking round with an expensive camera could put you at risk. Generally for street photography, I use the smallest camera I can, or even my iPhone. (This also helps in terms of blending in, as a phone or small camera is less obvious!) [caption id=attachment_642 align=aligncenter width=697] Under the bridge on Regent's Canal[/caption] Be prepared to cover a lot of ground on foot - wear comfortable footwear and clothes suitable for the weather! And don't forget to take some sort of protection for your camera too - you don't want it getting drenched during a sudden downpour! In terms of settings it's trial and error... give it a go and see what works. But remember... you have to be ready to take a photo quickly - spend too long messing around with your camera settings and the moment may have passed. Typically in street photography you want to have as much depth of field as you can to capture the whole scene, a fairly fast shutter speed and high-ish ISO to freeze the action - although this depends on the effect you are looking for and the light conditions of course. On a sunny day, I would start with aperture f8 or f11, shutter speed 1/400 and ISO 400... although quite often I shoot on shutter priority mode because the light can change rapidly and you don't always have enough time to change your settings. You can also use continuous shooting mode to fire off a succession of shots from which you can choose the best ones later. [caption id=attachment_651 align=aligncenter width=559] And then there were none...[/caption] Try different cameras and lenses - whilst having a small camera or phone makes you less obtrusive, shooting with a zoom lens does mean that you can shoot from a distance without being noticed... see what works best for you. Try converting your photos to black and white - this is often effective for street photography and can give an image much more impact. And, lastly, the most important piece of advice - PRACTICE! It's not about having the best gear on the market, it's all about practice... that is what will make you a great photographer at the end of the day! [caption id=attachment_237 align=aligncenter width=568] Nighttime in NYC[/caption] So these are my top tips for getting started in street photography - why not give it a go and see how you get on! If you have any questions or need any more advice, let me know in the comments... Kate
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Our Favourite Activities at Center Parcs Whinfell ForestFollowing on from my previous post, A Family Break at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest, I wanted to give you a flavour of some of the fantastic activities on offer at Center Parcs... so here are our favourites from our visit this summer: Aqua Jetting This was the first activity we had booked, which took place in the activity pool in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise... And the girls (aged 9 and 12) absolutely LOVED it!  And, to be honest, I was rather jealous of them as it looked like great fun! Let's be honest, half an hour of zooming around in the water with an aqua jet would be fun for all ages surely! [caption id=attachment_2121 align=aligncenter width=666] Aqua Jetting in the Activity Pool[/caption] Aqua Sana Spa Hubby and I have been to Aqua Sana Spas on many occasions and always find them relaxing... there are so many different experiences on offer - lots of steam rooms, saunas, water beds, jacuzzis and a lovely outdoor pool - and, on this occasion, there was hardly anyone in the spa so it was nice and peaceful! The Aqua Sana Spas are some of the best spas I've been to (and I've been to quite a lot of spas!) and there are sometimes deals on, so keep an eye out (it is also better value to book a spa session for 2, rather than booking separately for 2 people)... Hair Braiding The girls enjoyed having their hair braided and it looked really good when it was done (it was £7 each and had to be pre-booked). Over a week later, Freya's is still in place and is still looking tidy! [caption id=attachment_2123 align=aligncenter width=588] Hair Braiding[/caption] Kayaking We love kayaking and spent an enjoyable half hour paddling around the lake in double kayaks. The staff at the watersports centre were very helpful and had us kitted out and ready to go in no time. Unfortunately, it rained a bit at one point but we were a little damp anyway from the splashing of the paddles anyway so it didn't really matter! But be warned: you have to watch out for other lake users in faster moving vehicles as some of them are oblivious to everyone else on the water! [caption id=attachment_2128 align=aligncenter width=698] Watersports on the lake on a very grey day...[/caption] Pottery Painting I think this was the girls' favourite activity of the week. They loved pottery painting (they'd both done it before) and spent a pleasant 1.5 hours painting their 'Dreams' signs in the light, spacious pottery painting studio.  The studio was pretty busy, with adults and children alike painting away quietly... One thing to note is that, as with everything else at Center Parcs, this activity is slightly pricier than elsewhere (which you expect to be fair), but if the weather is bad (like it was when we were there) it's a fun inside activity to do (for all ages)! [caption id=attachment_2124 align=aligncenter width=649] Enjoying pottery painting...[/caption] Swimming The Subtropical Swimming Paradise at Center Parcs is amazing. So many different pools, jacuzzis and slides to enjoy.  You could spend a whole day in there and not get bored. We went there every day for a few hours and, whilst it was the middle of the school holidays, it never felt too crowded. And, even better, it's included in the price of your holiday! [caption id=attachment_2129 align=aligncenter width=672] The village centre, home to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise[/caption] Tree Trekking The two girls and I had a go at tree trekking on our last day.  It was quite a pricey activity and I was a little dubious as to whether I would enjoy it (I'm not great with heights but wanted to challenge myself!).  It didn't look too high when you were stood on the ground... but when you got up there it was a different matter!! That said, we all enjoyed it - some bits were more challenging than others and both Freya and I had moments of mild panic, but we all got round the course in about 40 minutes. I'm glad I did it but I'm not sure I would do it again... if you don't like heights this activity is definitely not for you! [caption id=attachment_2126 align=aligncenter width=680] Tree Trekking![/caption] These are the main activities we enjoyed during our week, but there are so many other exciting activities to choose from at Center Parcs... there is definitely something for everyone! What do you enjoy doing when you're on holiday? Happy Travelling! Kate 
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Exploring King’s Cross, LondonFor many people, King's Cross is a part of London they just pass through after alighting from their train into the capital... but there is so much more to this area, which has seen a lot of changes in recent years.  When I was asked to spend the day exploring I jumped at the chance.  If you fancy doing the same, why not check out these hotels near King's Cross. Unless you have been living on a desert island for the last 20 years, you will be aware of the phenomenon that is Harry Potter... so no visit to King's Cross would be complete without checking out Platform 9 3/4 and the Harry Potter Shop!  Myself and my daughter are both big fans but had never visited the store (not sure why!) so that was our first stop... It's a popular attraction and the queue to get your photo taken pushing the luggage trolley through the wall was sooooo long! There was even a small wait to get into the shop - but it was worth it!  Everything any Harry Potter fan could ever want is in there... and the biggest draw has to be choosing your wand from the shelves which resembles those in Ollivanders. Our visit involved buying a wand, a ticket for the Hogwarts Express, a chocolate frog and a Gryffindor pencil! But make sure you have deep pockets because there is SO much you will want to buy! [caption id=attachment_2100 align=aligncenter width=505] The Harry Potter Shop on Platform 9 3/4[/caption] After that, we headed up the pedestrian area by King's Cross Station to the newly developed Granary Square to check out the refurbished industrial buildings and dancing fountains... the fountains were impressive and there were lots of children having fun splashing around in the sunshine. [caption id=attachment_2108 align=aligncenter width=680] Dancing Fountains in Granary Square[/caption] From there we headed to Scoop: A Wonderful Ice Cream World, a pop-up museum housed in one of the old gasholders... We were a little early for our slot so we took a stroll along the Regent's Canal. If we had had more time, we would probably have walked further along the canal as you can get all the way to Camden via the towpath.  After our brief walk, we sat in a small green space inside the shell of one of the other Gasholders (number 8 in case you're interested!). The whole area has been beautifully redeveloped and is well worth a visit. [caption id=attachment_2102 align=aligncenter width=712] Gasholder No. 8[/caption] So our time slot arrived and we were welcomed into Gasholder No 2 for our foray into the tasty world of ice cream! And I have to say, it was great fun!  We learnt about ice cream making and its history before having a go at making our own ice cream (ours was not great unfortunately!), tasted a sample whilst wearing an EEG machine to see what effect it had on our brain and tried glow-in-the-dark ice cream... the visit took about 40 minutes and we both enjoyed it a lot! The museum is only open for another few weeks so if this sounds like your thing, head over there as soon as you can! [caption id=attachment_2104 align=aligncenter width=719] A lesson in making ice cream...[/caption] [caption id=attachment_2111 align=aligncenter width=555] Experiencing vanilla at Scoop![/caption] After that it was time for lunch so we headed back to Granary Square to The Lighterman, a lovely bar at one side of the square.  The service was speedy and the food was great so we will definitely go back there again when we're next in town.  Afterwards, Freya had a splash through the fountains whilst I sat on one of the many benches enjoying the afternoon sun. We then finished off our lunch with a visit to the retro ice cream van parked on the square (it was definitely a day dominated by ice cream!). I can recommend the pineapple sorbet - it was absolutely divine! [caption id=attachment_2103 align=aligncenter width=690] The Lighterman, Granary Square[/caption] We strolled back down the pedestrian area, looking in the shops before heading back to King's Cross Station... we just had time for a quick drink and a snack in Leon, a natural fast-food cafe in the modern station concourse before jumping onto our train home. I had not really explored this part of London before but I will definitely visit again, particularly as there is a new retail complex - Coal Drops Yard - opening in October 2018 which looks like it will be another exciting addition to the King's Cross area... Which is your favourite part of London and why?  Let me know so I can check it out... Happy Travelling! Kate    *The spending money I received for this visit was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views expressed above are my own.
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A Family Break at Center Parcs Whinfell ForestWe booked a week long break in a four bedroom Executive Lodge at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest (Cumbria, UK) for my parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary in August...  we were a party of 8, ranging in age from 9-76! The summer had been beautiful so far so we were hoping for more of the same for our week away, but unfortunately it was not to be!  Thankfully there are plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied at Center Parcs even if the weather is bad... [caption id=attachment_2082 align=aligncenter width=682] Our group for the week![/caption] The check-in at Whinfell Forest was fast and efficient and we were in our lodge in no time... it was spacious, clean and tidy and had everything we needed (including a sauna, which was a bonus!). We chose our rooms - all of which had lovely views into the forest - and unpacked, before returning the car to the car park and heading out to explore... and Whinfell Forest is a lovely site to wander around, watching the wildlife and enjoying the beautiful scenery. [caption id=attachment_2083 align=aligncenter width=659] Our 4-Bed Executive Lodge[/caption] Center Parcs Whinfell Forest is a spacious resort and even though there were clearly lots of people on-site it never felt crowded.  The lake around which the site is set offers lots of watersports, including tuition, and the massive pool complex is great fun, with slides, jacuzzis and even cabañas for hire! There are also plenty of places to eat and drink and the takeaway service is a great option if you don't fancy going out (or if everyone fancies eating something different which we often did!). [caption id=attachment_2088 align=aligncenter width=689] The Lake and Village Centre[/caption] We had already booked some activities before we arrived - largely the ones we really wanted to do (tree trekking, kayaking, pottery painting, etc), as we knew it would be busy in the middle of the school holidays.  But, actually, we managed to book a number of other things when we were there without too much trouble, which was great as the weather meant we did more activities than we might have done if it had been warm and sunny! [caption id=attachment_2094 align=aligncenter width=654] Enjoying the pottery painting[/caption] Having been to Center Parcs before, we knew how pricey things were on site so had taken a fair amount of food/drink with us.  But we still planned to eat out at least once a day and during the week managed to check out The Pancake House (yummy pancakes and waffles), Cafe Rouge (French-style food), Starbucks, The Lakeside Inn (typical pub food) and the Sports Bar (bar snacks and meals). We enjoyed the food and drink everywhere we went but overall I think the meal at cafe Rouge was our favourite meal of the week, even though the service there was pretty slow! And if you have any special dietary requirements or allergies, Center Parcs has options available, all of which are clearly marked and, in some places, we were even given a separate menu! [caption id=attachment_2084 align=aligncenter width=578] Freya enjoyed the Pancake House[/caption] One of the reasons we love Center Parcs so much is that, because the accommodation is all spread out throughout the forest, you can sit and watch the wildlife from the comfort of your sofa... we sat watching red squirrels, deer, pheasants, nuthatches, tree creepers, coal tits as well as many other birds right outside our lodge! [caption id=attachment_2085 align=aligncenter width=601] Red Squirrel outside the lodge[/caption] There was plenty to keep us all entertained for a week at Whinfell Forest, although I don't think I would want to stay any longer than that... The only downside was that the weather was pretty poor all week - grey and wet - but in the UK that's a chance you take, even in summer!! [caption id=attachment_2086 align=aligncenter width=613] The miserable weather didn't stop everyone enjoying themselves![/caption] The only other unfortunate thing about the trip (aside from the weather) was that my Mum had a fall on the first day and injured her foot and leg. The staff both in the swimming complex and at the medical centre were fantastic and couldn't do enough to help... they even gave my parents a gift of a bottle of prosecco and two glasses when they found out it was their anniversary. In fact, all the staff we came into contact with during our break were so helpful. The fantastic staff are definitely one of the other things that I love about Center Parcs - in all my visits I have never encountered a member of staff who didn't provide great customer service! So, all too soon it was Monday again and our break was over... so we packed up our cars and headed home, having made some great memories. Look out for my next post all about the activities we did at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest, coming soon.... Happy Travelling! Kate 
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Photo Feature: Close UpsHere is the next instalment of my photo features series... this time it's all about shooting close-ups. I enjoy shooting things very close up - you can create beautiful images by focusing in on the smallest detail of your subject. And there are several ways of doing this... which you use will depend to an extent on how close you can physically get to your subject matter. [caption id=attachment_577 align=aligncenter width=653] Portrait![/caption] The easiest way is to get in close and just shoot the part of your subject that you want... just pick a bit that looks like it would make an interesting photo. Whether that's because of its shape, texture, colour or anything else.  This only works, of course, if you can physically get close to what you want to capture... so it's fine for certain subjects: flowers, people (generally), and objects which are at your level or which can be moved to your level. If you want to get in really, really close and focus on the fine detail, you will need to use a macro lens/setting which allows you to capture extreme close ups. [caption id=attachment_519 align=aligncenter width=665] Lily Up Close![/caption] But if it's not possible to get close to your subject then you'll have to take the photo from further away and either use a zoom lens or crop in close when you are editing in order to focus on the specific part you want in your final image. Obviously, for some subjects these are the only options... if you want to shoot just a small part of a building for example, more often than not you will be unable to get close enough so will need to zoom in or edit the image afterwards to only show the part you want. Bear in mind though that if this is what you plan to do, you will need to make sure the original image is high enough resolution for you to be able to crop out all but a small part of it.  If it's not a high enough resolution then your cropped image will just look grainy. You can use macro/close up photography on pretty much anything... I enjoy shooting nature/wildlife shots up close but there are so many subjects that have some interesting detail that can form an image. I sometimes like to take a series of shots showing different perspectives of the same subject and this can look very effective when they are all displayed together. In fact, it doesn't even need to be obvious what the photograph is of - it's good to challenge people and see if they can work out what it is they are actually looking at... art should make people think after all! [caption id=attachment_576 align=aligncenter width=692] On the rocks...[/caption] Why not give it a try and see what you can create? Let me know how you get on... Kate     
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Summer Activities: WalkingSo here is the next post in my Summer Activities series... As well as swimming, I like to go out walking... and it doesn't really matter where.  I love walking in the countryside and admiring the views but I also like walking round and exploring urban areas too. [caption id=attachment_1422 align=aligncenter width=643] Walking in the Alps[/caption] Walking is a healthy activity that can be done pretty much anywhere and in any weather - although obviously it's more enjoyable in the sunshine! You don't need lots of expensive equipment - just some sturdy shoes and a waterproof jacket (which you definitely need at any time of year in the UK)... although obviously you can buy lots of expensive gear if you like! And you can generally just get out and walk anywhere for free too - it's definitely one of the cheapest outdoor activities you can find! [caption id=attachment_2060 align=aligncenter width=625] A walk by the canal at Foxton Locks[/caption] If you live in a town or city, it is great to escape into the countryside even for a few hours now and then... and, for most of us, open spaces are not too far away. I find the fresh air and peace and quiet both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time (if that makes sense?). But if you can't get out into the countryside, most places have green spaces scattered around which are fun to explore. Or how about going urban exploring? Go out and wander around your own town/city and see what you can find... it's amazing what you stumble upon when you are out and about (and not rushing around!), even in your hometown.  There are always interesting things to see that you've never noticed because you are usually too busy going about your daily life... whether it's a piece of exciting street art, a beautiful building or a quirky museum. Give it a go and see what you can discover! [caption id=attachment_2063 align=aligncenter width=627] It's amazing what you find when you're wandering around...[/caption] Do you like to walk?  If so, where do you like to go?  Do you like to jump in the car and head for the hills, coast, etc or do you just pull on your trainers and walk around your local area? Happy Walking! Kate   
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