The 3 L's

Photography Graduation

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A quick announcement… my graduation! Yes, I’m finally out of the education system after… wow, seventeen years! Even longer if we’re counting nursery. The vast majority of my life has been spent as a student, and now finally, I’m free. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.

I was so ready to leave last summer, when I was completing my exhibition, As I’ve mentioned before, I broke my foot in the lead up to my final deadline – on a photo shoot. Terrible, terrible timing on my part to break my first (and hopefully only – *touch wood*) bone. It left me feeling frustrated, bringing a grinding halt to my planned photo shoots. I made a few wobbly attempts, balancing on one leg, crutches stuffed under my armpits, camera firmly on a tripod, but it proved a nightmare. Luckily, I am not a last minute person when it comes to deadlines, and so I was organised, I had already shot several shoots for my final project, giving me a lot to choose from. I can’t imagine what would have happened had I broken my foot before having taken a single final-exhibition photograph.

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But, as I have also mentioned before, proudly, everything went well, and I came out of my three years as a student of Commercial Photography with a first. Yes, I am proud of myself for that. For once, that perfectionist streak is calmed. There is nothing more I can do to please her. In this matter, anyway.

Looking back, I do wish, however, that I had not cut down the number of images that I planned to display at the exhibition to just one, for practicality. Maybe I’m wrong to regret it, maybe it would have proven impossible, as I remember the difficulty I had in trying to squeeze my single A1/A0 (I can no longer recall quite how large it was) print into my friend’s tiny Smart Car. Correction. That suggests that it was me doing the squeezing… I remember watching, balanced on my crutches, on the pavement, while my friend tried single-handed to squeeze the huge, framed and well-wrapped image into her tiny car. It just about squeezed in, with some persuasion. I’m not sure that she, or any of my friends, would have agreed to a further two trips back and forth to the framing shop for the other two, had I gone ahead with my original three-image plan.

Ah, c’est la vie.1536726_10153718395340291_331009447_n

None of that matters though. My change in opinion over the last year of my time at university is what matters. I left feeling, like most of us at graduation, I think, a little deflated, wondering whether it was worth the money that I would soon have to start paying back, or whether it’s a waste of time studying photography as a degree. I wondered if I’d chosen the wrong University, and wondered how different my life would be had I studied elsewhere. I’m a terrible ‘what if’ person.

Now, however, I look back and I don’t feel that way anymore. To any fellow photography students/graduates who ever feels that way, I suggest that you do the math, and calculate just how much money you would have spent on hired lighting, studio space, camera equipment for the various shoots and experiments of the past three years. Add to that an estimated cost for a photography workshop with your lecturer, rather than the ‘free’ (until we all reach that dreaded debt threshold) lessons they gave us. Because those are the equivalents to learning the trade sans degree. Personally, I may now be in debt, but I’ve saved a few thousand.

Yes, you could argue that most of my photo shoots would not have taken place were I not at university, surrounded by the exact inspiration and people and the opportunity to use free equipment and free studio space, because spending money can be stifling for the imagination when a poor, starving artist. Then again, how bare would my portfolio look without the free access to studios and equipment?

What if, what if, what if…

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Hannah & Dan

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Recently I was lucky enough to be asked to photograph the wedding of Hannah and Dan in Lichfield. The weather was, as you can see, typically British, and we spent the day sheltering indoors from the rainstorm to end all rainstorm, thus putting an end to our plans to take some beautiful photographs in the small park across the road from the Registry Office. It was a shame, but luckily, we had a backup plan in place, because of course, no wedding photographer should ever step outdoors without a backup plan. You can’t rearrange for next time, after all.

After handing my umbrella over to a little girl who’s Dad’s coat over her head was not doing much to protect her dress from the rain (it’s not like I can hold an umbrella and a camera with particular ease anyway), I spent the first hour drenched, until I finally found my way during a scheduled break to the ladies, to freshen up. Drowned rat is an understatement.

The beautiful bride, Hannah, however, looked incredible.  She was glowing. I just wanted to share a few images from the day. I had such a fun time shooting this wedding, and I was welcomed into the day with open arms by the entire wedding party, feeling like I was a part of their group rather than simply the wedding photographer. There was such a special atmosphere that day. Thank you, Hannah and Dan, for choosing me to document your day.

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Oh, and a special mention has to go out to these two… they were hilarious!

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Preview from a recent shoot. How amazing is this makeup? Time and time again, I am blown away by Emma’s amazing skills. She even admitted to me pre-shoot that she was a little worried, for she had not learnt how to air-brush with makeup yet on her college course, and felt that this would be the most successful technique needed for our shoot… well, it just goes to show that whatever you throw at this girl, she can blow you away with her abilities. I know that she is already in high demand, but I’ll say it anyway: I strongly recommend that every photographer, designer and stylist in Derby, send her an email, give her a call, organise a shoot together. She won’t let you down.

She’s also the cheeriest person I know, which is a definite bonus!

Model: Fiona

MUA: Emma Grant

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Galaxy Beauty

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The 3 L's

My Secret Weapon.. Mind Palace

Firstly, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

This is a bit of a random post, I suppose. It’s a topic that came up recently and it surprised me as to how many people think that the idea of a mind palace is something that was invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the Sherlock Holmes stories, or worse, some thought that the mind palace was created specifically by BBC Sherlock’s writers… FYI, several Sherlock novels are available at the Kindle store for free! ♥

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Sherlock gifs from here

So no, the mind palace technique is not an invention of Conan Doyle or the BBC Sherlock team. Otherwise known as the Method of Loci, it’s a method that has been used since ancient times. I started building mine when I was about 13, and I can honestly say that it has helped me sail through every exam I’ve ever taken since then. Never mind the fact that my last exam was five and a half years ago (Photography courses.. practical assignments.. lucky me!). That just meant that I could dedicate my palace to topics that generally interest me rather than things that I had to study, such as algebra, the very mention of which still makes me shudder to this day.

And it’s not just me and a fictional character that has a mind palace. Derren Brown has one, in fact he’s written a book about it, Simonides had one. In fact I think he developed the idea, or is credited with having done so, at least, back in the 5th/6th century. They’re commonly used by memory champions, and apparently they’re also common among revising students. Yet, despite that, on mentioning that I have a mind palace, rather than hearing the expected ‘sure, me too’ around the room, I was instead met with blank looks. Hence this blog post.

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It’s really not difficult to build a mind palace, even if you feel that you’re not a particularly creative person or you don’t have a strong imagination, or a bad memory, because building a mind palace in itself is a super-workout for the mind that will quickly start improving your memory, expand your knowledge, increase your creativity, awareness and observation of the world. Or so I’ve found.

No, elaborate gesticulations such as those shown in the gifs above are not necessary. I’d be lying if I said that when alone I didn’t point or mime the opening of a door or something small like that when alone, but I am perfectly capable of walking around in public while simultaneously storing new information or refreshing old information without closing my eyes, flailing my arms and muttering to myself. Sometimes it does help to close your eyes and block out the world around you, though.

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I’m not about to say ‘so this is how you build a mind palace’, because what works for me might not work for others. I just wanted to share how I’ve gone about it. I started small, and I think that’s the most recommended tip of all in the various books and previous blog posts across the internet. Start with your bedroom, your apartment, your house. A place that is familiar to you. The main building of my ‘mind palace’.. which is all accuracy is more a ‘mind city’ now days from years of expansion, is a combination of three houses that I have lived in, merged into one. They were all a similar size and with a similar layout, (hence the merging of three), but I’ve stripped down all decor to make it a blank canvas, a unique space in my mind. White walls, bare wooden floorboards, with just a few items of furniture to distinguish each room: a sofa in the lounge, a fridge and oven in the kitchen, etc.

After making my layout, each room was assigned with a subject. Baring in mind that I was still in school when this started, my front lounge is for English, the dining room is Math, the kitchen is Science, and my bedroom, being my favourite room in the house (obviously), held my memory triggers for my favourite school subject – history. Etc, etc. I’ve never lived in a mansion, so needless to say I eventually had to start adding extensions. Another room for when I started learning Italian, for example.

Another important point is to always follow the same route through your house. I started by drawing a map of my mind-house, and drawing the route that I would follow. That again is just a personal quirk of mine; I write down my memory triggers too. I think it stems from years of filling notebooks with stories as a kid, I can be typing away on my laptop, and then I’ll suddenly get this compulsive urge to copy whatever I’ve just typed onto paper. Just the last few sentences. Or vice versa; I’ll write something down on paper just to immediately type it up and throw away the scrap of paper anyway. I just don’t feel like I’ve recorded something properly until my hand has literally formed each letter itself.

I don’t get the urge to do that for every single little thought that enters my mind though, luckily, so most of my memory triggers are recorded in a digital format. I have an Evernote Notebook dedicated to my mind palace, with a specific note for each room, and then I just list and describe each memory trigger. And every evening before I fall asleep, I’ll walk through my mind-house, following the same route, and I’ll just go over everything, keeping it all fresh in my mind until it becomes so deeply engraved that when I’m old and living in an old people’s home, they’ll all presume I’m mad because I’ll barely be able to remember my name or where I live, but I’ll know that Big Bird in a tux shouting ‘wazzappp’ reminds me of the correct pronunciation of ‘oiseau’. I won’t bother to break that memory trigger down. You can figure it out for yourselves. Mostly I don’t need Evernote, but it’s there just in case – especially if for whatever reason, I’ve had to add 100 memory triggers to my mind palace at once. Then it’s definitely needed to help it all sink in.

That’s the thing about memory triggers: the crazier the better. I tend to follow the same rules for creating memory triggers. If I have to remember something that I find tedious and boring (again, algebra springs to mind), I’ll try and think of a crazy, funny trigger, whereas if I want to remember something that I’m genuinely interested in, I lean more towards creating logical leaps, because I don’t need to find something to entertain me regarding that topic in the first place.

Again, this is where creativity really comes in handy. An example of one of the triggers lurking in the corners of my mind palace… I was struggling to remember the word for ‘cat’ in Italian: gatto. On hearing the word out loud, my mind immediately springs to my favourite dessert: black forest gateau, and so I placed a gateau on a table in my ‘Italian room’ – a spare bedroom. From there I began thinking about the colours of the berries: purples and, once they begin to mix with the cream, pinks, from which my mind leaped to the Cheshire Cat in the Disney animated version of Alice in Wonderland. Purple/pink berries, purple/pink striped cat. Suddenly this gateau was shaped as the Cheshire cat’s face, grinning up at me, the berries and cream forming its colourful stripes.

Gif from here.

One last detail for this memory trigger; the word for cat in Italian is pronounced more as g-Ah-tto. Having at this point recently watched Singing in the Rain, I remembered those Vowel prints in the Moses Supposes scene. Bam, my Italian room suddenly has the ‘A’ print hanging on the wall behind the Cheshire cat gateau, and there you go, I suddenly remember to think about the pronunciation of the a when saying cat in Italian. Yes, I know that technically, the print in that movie is representing A rather than Ah, but it works for me.

Over the years, adding to the mind palace has become a habit. I have this personal rule, because I’m one of those people who has a tendency to obsess over intelligence; I just never feel like I’m never smart enough, so every day, I add three things to my palace, as a minimum. Just to keep my mind steadily expanding, keep things sharp, and so on. That’s just me though. I like to think that I’m always growing smarter, even if it’s at the glacial pace of three facts a day. You can see why it’s no longer just a house with several extensions, but a full-blown city. Well, not an entire city, but rather, the well-trodden route that I have covered about a hundred times in Rome, walking from Vatican City to Trevi Fountain, via Castel Saint Angelo, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. It’s quite a recent addition, having happened only in December, while I was in Rome. It just seemed like an obvious step to me; I was walking that same route most days, often acting as an amateur tour guide for my new friends who had never been to Rome before, so adding the route to my mind-map engraves the city in my mind for future visits, while also giving me plenty of space for future memory triggers. I also have the Eiffel Tower thrown in there as a memory trigger of its own. Because of course, a personal mind house/palace/city doesn’t have to make sense.

It’s proven to be such an essential and useful part of my life, it’s helped me remember shopping lists, learn languages, remember film/book recommendations, and generally just learn useful/useless facts. I’m not saying it’s given me memory super powers.. I can sense certain friends reading this and saying ‘oh but what about that time I asked you to buy milk/pick up my order/etc and you forgot?’ That comes down more to my bad listening skills, so I’m sorry, lovelies, but using a mind palace will not get my head out of the clouds when you’re talking to me. Apologies.

I hope this hasn’t come across as arrogant, and ‘oooo, I have a mind city so I’m therefore better and smarter than youuuu’, I just thought it’s something I’d share. I’m definitely not some sort of genius. I’m not even that bright. I’m just a little bit of a narcissistic perfectionist about my intelligence. Maybe.

Basically, just because Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character doesn’t mean that mind palaces are only found in fiction!

Finally, there is a brilliant list of memory books here.
I especially recommend this one.

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January Wish List

 Because even during those lucky months in the up-and-down of self-employment, even though I’m just kind of floating around with my camera and my passport, with no need to pay rent or bills as I was this time last year, there’s always about one-thousand more things on my shopping wish list than I can possibly afford. Even if I were to sell my kidney, it just wouldn’t be enough. Sigh.

 

 

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  1. Fendi. Striped Sherling and Calf Hair Tote. £2770. Available here. A girl can always use a new handbag, and this one, frankly, is stunning. I’ve always ‘played it safe’ with my handbags, sticking to blacks or browns or, if I’m feeling daring, a deep red leather. Perhaps it is about time that I move into patterned territory, and I think this striped Fendi bag would be a good place to start. Let’ just brush over the £2770 price tag, shall we? A girl can dream…
  2. Becksondergaard. He Loves Me Scarf. £45. Available here. While I tend to walk around in what is apparently becoming my ‘trademark’ over sized gold scarf from Switzerland, I am a big fan of collecting scarves, particularly if they are either vintage, or vintage in style. This Becksondergaard is adorable in both name and look, the He Loves Me Scarf. How many of us spent our childhood playfully picking apart flowers to see if *insert name here* ‘loved’ us? If only life was as simple as our love lives being decided by whether a flower has an odd or even number of petals!
  3. Smythson. Mara Textured-Leather Jewellery Box. £555. Available here. I’ve always had rather eclectic tastes, and Smythson for me is a brand which oozes class and sophistication. I’ve always adored everything that they produce in the same gleeful was as I do every Chanel or Chloé collection, and I’m especially excited now that Smythson has moved into the realm of beautiful leather cases for our technology. They always produce to the highest quality, making the £555 price tag well worth it.
  4. Kiki de Montparnasse.  Amour Sleeveless Silk-Satin Robe. £320. Available here. I’m a woman who feels most at ease with herself when lounging in bed with a good book. I take great pride in choosing what I will wear for such lazy Sundays; I’m not someone who throws on a pair of tracksuit bottoms and an old t-shirt. Therefore, its no wonder that this beautiful, navy blue silk-satin robe caught my eye. Let’s face it, I’m someone who considers owning a boudoir dressing area as fairly high on my lifelong wish list. Priorities, clearly.
  5. Bella Freud. Signature Incense, Wood & Oud Scented Candle. £38. Available here. Like most of us, I think, my candle scent tastes change from spring/summer to autumn/winter. While in the summer, I prefer floral, clean, beachy scents, in winter I prefer to stock up on two types of candles; Christmas scents (spiced apple being my all time favourite) and woody, earthy scents. It’s as if lighting a scented candle makes me feel instantaneously better with the current temperature; I find summer heat more bearable with a beachy candle burning, and equally I feel instantly warmer the moment I light a woody candle (and no, I believe its for more than just the obvious reason of there being a naked flame present). It’s no surprise then that at this time of year, this Bella Freud candle was bound to catch my eye.
  6. The Estate Yard. Deer Fine Bone China Mug. £12. Available here. I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t collect mugs. Most of us don’t realise that we do, until one day, we reach into the cupboard with our latest china purchase, and find that we have no option but to balance the new mug precariously on top of all the rest.  I know that its not just me – being an avid coffee drinker, I’ve seen inside the mug cupboards of so many people over the years, I know that its a national ‘problem’. Nevertheless, its not one that I plan to change anytime soon, and so here you go, I’m throwing in a mug, perfect for winter cocoa, soup, and of course, my much needed fuel: coffee.
  7. Mod Cloth. Streak of Success Skirt. $59.99. Available here. It may be bitterly cold outside, but throw on a thick pair of tights (or several) and I’d still be happy to head out in a skirt. This navy skirt from Mod Cloth is perfect year-round, in keeping with the midi-skirt trend that has been around for so long now (which I will never tire of). I especially love the simplicity of the white band detail. So simple, so versatile and perfect.
  8. Jimmy Choo. Attila Embossed Patent-Leather Point-Toe Flats. £375. Available here. Black flats are my staple shoe. I walk my way through about 5 pairs a year. Generally I choose suede, rotating between a contrasting toe-style or an over sized bow. Sometimes, however, I do something crazy and choose patent leather… you know, in case I ever leave my mirror at home and I need to check my reflection.
  9. Sweaty Betty. Double Time Run Tank. £60. Available here. It’s January, a time of fitness-related new year resolutions that only about 3% of us will stick at until next year. Mine is to take up pilates again. It would be a much easier resolution to stick to if I lived in London, land of the free yoga/pilates classes in every park, any day, any time, you can guarantee you’ll find a yoga mad group flexing on the grass. Try that in Derby, and people stare. It seems to be acceptable in Paris as long as your French, and you’ll be considered laughing stock if you try it in Italy or super-relaxed Spain. Nevertheless, I am determined to try, wherever I may find myself. First things first, I need the perfect pilates wardrobe, and Sweaty Betty has proven to be a great place to start.
  10. Sweaty Betty. Easy Run Capris. £55. Available here.
  11. Bare Minerals. Bare Skin Perfecting Face Brush. $28. Available here. Choosing the right makeup brush can be as important as choosing the right makeup in achieving that flawless, au naturel look. Choose the wrong brush, and you could be left looking blotchy, patchy, with brush strokes as visible as the Mona Lisa. I’ve heard great things about this brush from Bare Minerals for creating a flawless look, and I hope to soon be able to try it out for myself.
  12. Nip+Fab. Bee Sting Fix Eye Night. £14.95. Available here. It’s the latest crazy to sweep the celebrity world; the use of bee venom to ‘plump’ up the face and reduce and prevent wrinkles. I may be only twenty-two, but I’ve always believed that anti-aging skin care starts early – its much easier to prevent wrinkles from appearing than it is to remove them once they’re there, after all. While there are plenty of much pricier bee venom creams, potions and lotions to choose from, I would prefer to start with Nip+Fab’s budget-friendly version. Who knows, perhaps its the secret to maintaining my youth that I’ve been searching for?
  13. Clothbound Classics. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. £11.29. Available here. Being a bookworm, I could not compile a wishlist without including a book or two. I’m a big fan of the classics, and Dickens is no exception. Being the artistic sort, it only makes sense that I would yearn for this beautiful clothbound version of my favourite of his novels: Great Expectations, don’t you think? A range of classics have been given the same classy treatment, and are available here.
  14. MAC. Punk Couture Eyeshadow. $40. Available here in Spring 2014. This one is not yet available for another few months, but I already have my eye fixed, waiting impatiently. I know what I like and what I don’t when it comes to my makeup, I’m not one for experimenting for bold eye shadows (unless a camera is involved), preferring neutral shades, venturing only as far as deep blacks, plums and navys for a night out smokey eye. This pallet is teetering on the edge of my comfort zone, consisting of both pale pinks and smoky navy, but its not quite anything like I’ve ever used before, and so I am excited to experiment, ever so slightly.
  15. Missoni Home Husky Throw. £248. Available here. Patterned blankets go hand-in-hand with chilly English winters, don’t you think? There’s nothing I love more than snuggling up beneath a stack of blankets, with my scented candles burning, a good book in my hand, and a mug of steaming cocoa at my side, cosy in my beautiful dressing gown, while the snow is falling outside. Wintery perfection.

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