Better late than never: time-lapse of day 5 of 365

I’ve finally got round to editing a load of outstanding photos from the 365 day project, not least this one from way back on day 5.

I decided to experiment by doing some time-lapse shots, but promptly afterwards my laptop packed in and I didn’t have any software to create it. Better late than never, and not too bad as a first attempt, although I definitely need to work out how to remove the word art from the title fonts…what’s wrong with a plain font?



Can plug sockets make a decent photo?

I’ll leave you to answer that question, but I’ve had to open my mind to think just about anything can be the subject of a photo if I’m going to really improve my photography skills, and stick at this 365 day thing. Whether anything (including a number of lonely plug sockets) can be an interesting or decent photo is another matter though.

This was taken in the empty office which is next to ours at work. I liked the regularity of the pattern and tried this shot from a few different angles – straight on was a bit dull, although I quite liked the shapes and the symmetry. I decided this angle with the blurring effect was the best of the ones I took. I also liked the suggestion that the plugs go on forever (they don’t, that would be a pretty weird set-up for most offices, even empty ones).

013 plug sockets resized

A fruity theme for day 12: apples and the penultimate day of juicing

Today is the penultimate day of my 7 day juice diet. I’ve not eaten any solid food since last Monday night and I finish my diet of exclusively fruit and veg, juiced up, this Monday. I thought one of my 365 photos should commemorate my ‘juicing’ phase of the year, especially since I’ve almost finished it.

I wanted to try to break some of my bad eating (and drinking) habits, and decided I needed to do something fairly drastic if I was going to have any chance of it working – I’ve been reading a lot about habits recently and realised I needed to change my routines quite significantly to have a good chance of having a long-term impact on my diet. So I decided to try a 7 day juicing plan. No takeaways, no ready meals, no alcohol, no caffeine, just fruit and veg, some supplements like wheatgrass and spirulina ,and a small amount of yoghurt. 

It’s actually not been as difficult as I thought it would be, although it’s been hard not having any wine or a curry this weekend, as I ALWAYS have a curry on a Saturday. But not this week. Just as well the diet’s been working and the juices do actually fill you up, otherwise I think I’d have cheated…

012 apples resized

I had to go shopping today for some last juicy provisions, mainly apples, as you can probably see. When I got home, I peered into the shopping bag on the floor using a 50mm lens, and because I took it in the kitchen this afternoon when it was quite overcast, I used a separate flash (not the built in one) rather than turning on the strip light in the kitchen, so I could control the colour and light tone a bit more (I bounced the light off the wall). 

I must have eaten – or drunk – about 80 apples, as well copious amounts of other fruit and veg in the last few days, so I’ve definitely been getting more than my 5 a day. But I’m still really looking forward to having a curry next Saturday. The real test will be whether I make any changes longer-term, although I’ve just invested in a blender after discovering some really nice smoothies, so maybe breakfasts in future will consist of fewer cheese toasties and more fruit and yoghurt. I’ll have to treat myself to a toastie this week though; with the amount of cheese I usually eat I’m surprised I haven’t had cheese withdrawal symptoms in the last few days.

A transport theme for days 9 & 10

Yesterday I walked to the top of a multi-story car park round the corner from work to get some nice views of Manchester’s skyline. I wasn’t particularly inspired by anything but as I was on the 11th floor, I started looking down to see whether I could get an interesting or unusual view on something, rather than photographing a building.

I decided this close up view from above of two bike seats might make an interesting photo. Just as well I took it anyway, as I was moved on by a security guard shortly after.

010 bikes from above resized

I’ve added a bit of posterization and upped the contrast in post-processing.

Today I had a drive over to Wakefield to look at a new car, so I took this photo at the showroom. I decided to capture a reflection in the badge of this Renault – this isn’t the car I went to look at, but it caught the light and reflection well as I walked past it.

011 car reflections resized

Days 6, 7 & 8 of the 365 day photo project

I may look like I’m getting ahead of myself, posting up pictures from days 6-8 when I haven’t sorted out days 3-5 yet, but I’ll have to upload those another time. Days 3 and 4 are time-lapse photos and I haven’t managed to find a decent program to run them through, and the pics from day 5 are saved in RAW rather than JPEG and I have a problem with my laptop so can’t convert them…blah blah.

They’re done though, honest. And I need to buy a new laptop so I can do some proper editing and saving down from my memory card which is getting a bit full in the meantime. Preferably before my current laptop actually dies. (I’m considering doing the Mac thing. But I don’t know if I can really justify the price premium. It annoys me a bit, but I still want one. But I digress.)

Day 6 then is the big wheel which reappeared recently in Manchester, this time in Piccadilly Gardens, converted to black & white with a bit of added contrast.

006 Manchester big wheel resized

I think this daily photo thing is already helping me improve my eye – day 7 is a photo which was taken literally steps outside my office in Manchester. It’s a shot looking up at the building, but as I went to rotate it upside down and resize it to upload it here, I turned it on its side and really liked the effect. This photo also had the best colour in the sky of the ones I took – the others were a bit dull. Which reminds me, I need to buy a filter for my lens (as well as a laptop).

007 looking upAnd so for day 8, which was also taken steps away from my office in the Northern Quarter. I need to try not to end up with 300 photos of graffiti as that would be a bit too easy, and pretty boring.

008 Northern Quarter graffiti

I’d say so far so good; apart from the time-lapse issue, I’m fairly happy with the photos. Let’s see if I can keep it up!


a 365 day project – day 1, new year fireworks in Brussels

I may come to regret this but in writing this down I’m committing to attempting a 365 day project, where I take a picture every day for a year. I did a 52 week project in 2012 (one photo a week, the clue’s in the name) which to be honest was hard enough, but because I’ve taken photos so far every day this year, I thought I’d give it a go. I know I’m late posting them up, but I have been taking pictures every day so far – as if that’s some achievement. It’s only day six. Let’s see about the next 359 days…

Seriously though, I’m hoping making myself take a photo every day will (this sounds like a list of objectives, maybe it is):

  • Let me see patterns in the photos I take, given the volume of them over a relatively short period of time, so I can challenge myself to work outside my usual ‘range’
  • Make me focus on what makes a good photo – not just on what the right settings are (not that I’ve really sussed either out yet)
  • Encourage me to use my camera phone more – because as much as I like my DSLR, I know I can’t take it everywhere as it’s not always practical – I think this will help me be more spontaneous
  • Mean I’m using my camera (DSLR or phone – just photographing stuff) more often
  • Get me experimenting with different techniques more often (I’ve already tried doing some time lapse stuff for the first time which I’ll post up shortly)
  • Challenge me to quickly spot photo opportunities because of the urgency of having to take a photo every day (this was a challenge enough once a week, especially on a Sunday night when I ended up in the kitchen or garden in desperation again. I’m not sure what every day is going to be like)
  • Improve my photo composition
  • Document things I’d have forgotten if it wasn’t for doing this project
  • Generally improve my photography skills.

That’s not a bad list really, is it? If I manage to get anywhere with this maybe I’ll revisit this post again and see whether doing the project did actually help. With the best intentions, and with three alarms a day set to remind me to take a photo, what are the chances I’ll remember to do it every day anyway? And there’s no point cheating and taking two the next day is there? I guess we’ll see…

Anyway, here’s day 1 which was taken during the new year celebrations in Brussels. The rest to follow, along with a separate page for the project so they’re all in one place…

001 new year fireworks in Brussels resized


Doing something useful: a bit of good for nothing

What happens if you stick a bunch of creative people who’ve never met before in a room, give them a brief to come up with a brand identity and marketing strategy for a social enterprise, and tell them they have until the end of the day to finish it, but that there are no leaders and everyone should self-manage?


On Saturday I went along to Good for Nothing where we did just that. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but the whole idea is to give some of your time and use your skills to do good for a social enterprise. The social enterprises come along with something they want help with, and they get access to a diverse group of people who want to do some good for nothing – in this case, most of whom hadn’t met before – and who aim to turbocharge a project by completing it in a day. There’s a briefing the night before to get you thinking about the problem, then you spend the whole of Saturday doing. Solving the problem. Coming up with ideas and doing stuff.

In this case the two organisations pitching their ideas to the group were Cowherd’s, a healthy vegetarian cafe which will run as a social enterprise in Salford and which wanted help with creating a brand and strategy, and Levenshulme market which was looking for a new website to better reflect the market and its stallholders. I opted for the cafe, not only because of my vegetarian leanings (which made this an easy choice), but also because I do strategy and brand a lot more than I do website building – I don’t really do code!

It was a great day – loads of creativity, working quickly with a lot of new people, all keen to help the organisation whose team we were supporting, and all just getting stuck in rather than debating or spending ages deliberating. And the results were fab – our Cowherd’s team created a logo, menus, business cards, paper bag designs, website wireframes and a marketing strategy in a day, while the Levy market group created an actual website – well, almost, I think they finished it on Sunday (as I’m writing this, it’s not live yet, presumably they need to transfer the domain over etc.) but come on, one day or a couple, it’s still pretty amazing! It’s ridiculous how much we got done, and Paula Maguire from Cowherd’s seemed genuinely really impressed with the designs and ideas she took away. As did the lady representing Levy market.

So people who are doing good (the enterprises) got something useful from a bunch of other people (us) doing good for them, and we got to solve a problem, meet a load of new interesting people and make some new contacts, as well as doing something more useful than what we’d usually do on a Saturday – we made a difference to someone just by sharing our time, which is a great feeling. I met a couple of ladies who work literally seconds away from my office, so we’re planning to do some ladies-who-Christmas-lunch soon, sounds like a good excuse to meet up again to me.

Big thanks to the guys at Good for Nothing who organised the whole thing, looking forward to the next one!

Fancy doing a bit of good for nothing? They’re on twitter and that, have a nosey.

a portrait with a homemade pinhole camera

Ever fancied making your own pinhole camera and then taking and developing a photo with it? I’ve just got back from one of the ‘Thursday lates’ at Manchester Art Gallery, where I did just that – I  made a camera from a coke can, cardboard and masking tape. Love it!

Pinhole cameras work by allowing a small amount of light to hit the photo paper or film inside the camera (or can in this case). The paper is covered with a layer of crystals which are sensitive to the light hitting them, and the varying levels of light (i.e whether parts of the image are lighter or darker) react with the crystals to create an image on the paper. Because the hole is so small, the exposure time has to be quite long – the picture I took (below)  was 1 minute 50 seconds, and the first one I tried was 1 minute 30. With the first one I could have sat there for 10 minutes for a good exposure though, and it wouldn’t have made any difference, as the pinhole was blocked so no light got in – oops.

Once the picture is taken you develop the negative in a darkroom. The gallery had a tent set up for this and you could go in and watch your photo developing. The paper we used today – rather than film – needed a soak in a liquid to develop it, and as it’s soaking the image starts to appear, as a negative. Once it’s ready, you have to stop the crystals from reacting to the light by putting the photo into another liquid (two different ones actually), then drying it out. The photo just looked like a blob to start with and I didn’t think it had worked, but once it had been scanned into a laptop and inverted from the negative, amazingly I could see the outline of my shoulder and face. I turned my head half way through the exposure in the hope that I’d look like I had two faces, but I probably should have stayed still, I don’t think the exposure was quite long enough.

That said, I like the picture. It’s a bit odd, which makes it interesting. And there’s something quite exciting about making a camera yourself using such basic materials and creating an actual, physical photo with them. I rarely get my photos developed these days, and when I do – recently that’s only been when I’ve used film – it’s quite exciting picking them up and seeing how they’ve turned out. Creating an image like I did tonight is better as you get to see the photo  as it’s turning out, not just when it’s done. You really feel like you’ve made the photo, in a different way to shooting digital, or even film. It’s a bit of a gamble about whether it will turn out, it takes a while, it’s a bit fiddly, it’s not perfect, and it’s not predictable (at least, not until you’ve made yourself a decent camera), but that’s why it’s also so much fun. If I can suss out how to create a darkroom at home I’ll definitely try it again.

3 o’clock dancing

3 o clock dance rulesIt’s mid-afternoon. You’re flagging a bit at work, and need a pick me up. Do you have a biscuit? A coffee? How about doing a spot of 3 o’clock dancing? Pick a song on your iPod or YouTube, get up, turn it up and throw some shapes.

We decided to give it a go at work this week. As you might expect, not everyone joined in when we tried it – in fact, some people (you know who you are!) left before we started and avoided the whole thing completely, partly because they didn’t want to dance, and partly I suspect because they thought it was just a bit stupid. Which it was, really. We also had some voyeurs and people filming, which has inspired some rules for 3 o’clock dance club (I’m aware I’m probably contravening rule 1, but I wasn’t the one to first post the rules on Twitter). Some pretty crazy moves went on and there was a lot of giggling; it definitely lightened the mood.

According to the rules which are now stuck up on the wall, it’s not going to happen every day. Which is probably not a bad thing – it might lose its appeal and irritate people if we do it too much – but as a way of doing something random every now and again to make people laugh, it works. It was a suggestion which came out of a creativity workshop earlier in the week and I’m glad we tried it – what have you got to lose? Except maybe a bit of dignity. But see rule 2, there’s no judging, so it’s all good.