Category: Travel

Jul 09 2012

Winning At Photography

Perhaps it is only the truly creative person who labours long in isolation to perfect his or her craft. The rest of us like to have some acknowledgement and appreciation as we go along.

So it is with my photography. The Open University’s interactive ten week course encouraged its students to upload to a common pool of photos each week and to comment helpfully on each other’s efforts.

Most of us felt bereaved after the course had finished. Whatever could we aim at in the ensuing weeks? We had made helpful online contacts. Although we’d never actually met, we valued each other’s opinions and constructive criticism.

We continued to support each other via flickr groups. But there comes a point when either interest wanes, or  you feel that you want to test your ability further. That is the point when you join a competitive camera club.

I’ve been a member of Shepshed and District Camera Club for 18 months. I’ve entered the competition league and submitted entries for all contests so far this year, being elected Assistant Competition Secretary somewhere along the way.

I have learnt a lot from judges’ adjudications, which has encouraged me simply to go on taking photos. Familiarity with equipment and technique shows in the quality of work that you produce.

I’ve also been placed with at least one entry in most competitions and am making a small dent in the club’s league.

My biggest success to date has been with a view of the skyline at Garendon Park, just east of Junction 23 on the M1. A landowner in the 19th century had a folly built on the skyline, which we locals nickname The Temple of Venus. Evergreen trees resembling cypresses were also planted along the ridge. In winter, in the right sunlight, the viewpoint is remarkably Tuscan. Which is why I strayed on to private property one very cold winter afternoon in mid-January, in the golden hour before the sun went down, to take a photo entitled Tuscan Landscape in Loughborough.

Tuscan Landscape in Loughborough

Tuscan Landscape in Loughborough

Not only has this photo taken first prize in a club contest, it has also been used several times by my local newspaper, the Shepshed/Loughborough Echo, to illustrate stories about the fate of Garendon Park, notably on the front page of the edition dated June 15th 2012. The editor rang me personally for permission to publish!

I was also very gratified when three of my prints were displayed at the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Jubilee photographic exhibition in June.

I have finally succeeded in assembling photos taken in Oman in January and March 2004 into an entry into the camera club’s slideshow challenge, which was very well received. The club will be introducing an annual slideshow contest from next year.

Please enjoy Journeys in Oman.


Apr 16 2012

Long Time Gone From SoozNooz

Having been away from my blog for so long, I hardly know where to start again. I have not been idle. I just haven’t been recording it here.

For one thing, I’ve been furnishing a new apartment in Tangiers, Morocco, just 100m from the beach one way and 500m from the railway station in the other direction. You can sip tea in bed in the mornings gazing out over the Mediterranean. You can also rent it from me for a relaxing break. See the photos.

As well as  making a considerable investment, I also had a great adventure, travelling overland through France and Spain to Tangier arriving finally at the new Port-Méditerranée 30 km east of the city. Which is when the fun began with Customs. I was fortunate to be travelling with my Moroccan friend, Aziz, who was able to contact his friend in charge. The chief gave orders that we could be allowed through with household goods. Otherwise we could have been detained all weekend.

We were not the only travellers. Decrepit vans were piled high with the sort of stuff that people in UK take to recycling centres. Once cleared through Customs, they would be travelling south through Morocco to The Sahara, selling the goods on the way. I have a poor photo. If I can get the webhost to allow me to change permissions on my folders, I might even be able to upload it for you.

We were delayed originally because we had brought photo canvases which I had made. The Customs officials had been alerted to the theft of a painting from The Louvre in Paris only the day before, so we became suspects. I was mortified when Customs men began flinging them on the ground at the back of the van, and ventured to put them back carefully into their packaging. Aziz was alarmed, as he said my actions would be regarded as suspect.

After leaving Leicester at 8pm on a Wednesday evening, we arrived finally at the villa in Ksar Sghrir at midnight on the Friday. Sleep? What was that? A few snatched hours in the front of the 4×4 in garage lay-bys at irregular intervals.

Other than Morocco, I have been busy studying again with the Open University. I took the new Geology course and got a distinction. ‘So I should!’ exclaimed my husband, being a Geology graduate in the first place. However, it did teach me the new way of looking at Sedimentology, so was well worth it.

The following year, I took U101, Design and Design Thinking. I’ve never thought of myself as a designer, but discovered that I do it all the time. I’m not sure I feel particularly compatible with people who call themselves designers though.

It’s the short, ten week courses, that have been real eye-openers. I took T189 Digital Photography late in 2010, which has opened up new routes and interests via photography. Thus I have been recording what’s been happening to me through my camera rather than through writing. See the evidence on Flickr.  I also did well on the partner course T150 Digital Audio.

More to describe another time. In the meantime, I shall have to harangue my webhost about ftp permissions on my directories.

Dec 29 2008

Leicester Bach Choir in Germany

I travelled with the Leicester Bach Choir to Germany between 13th-16th June 2008. We visited Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where J S Bach worked for the last 27 years of his life

We sang a concert of accompanied and a capella pieces of European Sacred Music in the Stadtkirche of Meiningen on Saturday evening to an audience of over 100. The acoustic was tremendous.

We also sang the accompanied items in the morning service at Georgenkirche in Eisenach on Sunday. J S Bach was baptised at the font in the church.

View the photos on Flickr.

The video shows some of the more informal moments of our tour around Eisenach.

First published 18th June 2008.

Dec 29 2008

Gothla, Jogle 2007 and Betjeman

It's not that I've been doing nothing, but that I have been doing a lot which has prevented me from updating my news.  It didn't help when I discovered that I wasn't able to log in to write an entry.  This was finally resolved when I worked out that the web host had changed security settings on my site.

Gothla happened in June.  I wrote originally about the positive interaction we were having with Internet marketing and social networking back in February

The event itself was a great success, and we are looking forward to repeating it next year, this time in a specialist performing arts venue in Leicester.  Over 100 people thronged to the hafla on the Friday evening.  The workshops were fully booked, such that Sashi repeated her Gothic Tribal Bellydance workshop on the Sunday afternoon, and even that was over-subscribed.

The website has been updated with video and links to a photo gallery on Flickr

No sooner had I finished, temporarily, with Gothla, then I was organising the John O' Groats to Lands' End bike ride on behalf of my son and four of his friends.  Seventeen year old lads have the energy and fitness levels to do the ride, but lack the organisational know-how.  More sombrely, we discovered that they did need adult backing anyway to be able to make bookings at campsites.  Several campsites demurred at the age of the boys and only accepted them when they knew that they would be accompanied by adults.  I was surprised to find out that most campsites will not accept bookings from same sex parties.

Notwithstanding, the ride went ahead and was hugely successfull and fulfilling for all involved.  I have written up the story of the JoGLE on the web, which we hope will be a useful resource for anyone else wanting to undertake the journey.  Furthermore, the boys raised sponsorship of £1180 in aid of Cancer Research.  The cheque presentation took place last week during half term.

Finally, I researched, scripted and starred in an entertainment at The Richard Attenborough Centre in Leicester at the end of September, entitled, How to Get On in Society! John Betjeman revealed in his poetry and song. I had fantastic support from friends and was pleased that we managed to get around 60 people in the audience, including members of The Betjeman Society.  Again, I'd had to trudge the streets of Leicester to distribute leaflets and talk to media outlets.  It's not enough to send press releases by email.  You have to get on the phone as well or meet people directly.

And I took my Open University exam in Economics a week later.

First published 28th October 2007.

Dec 29 2008

Oman photos used on Saga cruise

How to dress appropriately to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

How to dress appropriately to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

I was approached by a husband and wife company earlier this year for permission to use some of my photos of Oman at Oman Vistas in a presentation to passengers on a Saga voyage. The MV Spirit of Adventure was cruising to Sri Lanka from Muscat via Mumbai and Goa.

It seems that my photos were particularly useful for revealing to ladies how they should, and should NOT, dress to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, or Jama'a in Al Ghubrah, Muscat. I had turned up at the mosque dressed inappropriately, as shown, and been told to leave.

How ladies should NOT dress to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat

How ladies should NOT dress to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat

Female passengers have been turned away from the mosque on previous occasions because the length of their blouse sleeves did not cover the wrists appropriately. In fact, I was even admonished for showing just the slightest trace of my hair beneath the front of my hijab. To be honest, I felt humiliated. But there you are. When in Muscat, do what the Muscatians tell you to do.

Petunias at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

Petunias at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

However, the gardens are lovely. From November to March, Muscat's roadside gardens revel in 'zillions of petunias', as a friend of mine once put it. Presumably, the target audience on the cruise also enjoy gardens, since this photo was used too.

This item was first published on 29th November 2006.

Dec 29 2008

Photos published in Schmap travel guides

I've had significant response from my Flickr photo account, with people contacting me to use photos for publication or as part of projects.

Today, I've heard from Schmap dynamic travel guides. Several of my photos, uploaded to Flickr and published under a Creative Commons licence, are being used in their guides to Paris and Florence.

I've downloaded the player and find that it's a well-integrated online map guide to hotels, restaurants, attractions, bars, museums, gardens etc to all sorts of places all over the world. Try it out.

This item was first published on 15th October 2006.

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