Postcards to my baby: Pattaya

Christmas Day 2017. Twenty-four degrees celsius, if you can believe it. Blue, cloudless sky, punctuated only by palm trees. The sound of the sea, gently rising up the clean sand, leaving gifts of shells for me to find. The calls of men selling hats, water bottles and street food on long bamboo poles or hand-carts as they amble up and down the beach.

For our Christmas dinner, we went to the Hard Rock Café Pattaya, and had a delicious English-style Christmas dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, gravy and all the trimmings. After four months in East Asia, it was like coming home, without having to actually go back to England with all its problems.

After we had eaten, a group of twenty or so children arrived and took to the stage, singing Christmas carols they had learned in their English lessons, and their teacher explained how the school had been set up for them. Education is widely seen as the key to ending poverty, and in countries where literacy is low, getting schools built and teachers trained is very important.

I hope by the time you are old enough to see Thailand for yourself, those children are out changing the world and teaching the next generation.

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This is part 2 of my Postcards to my Baby series. Part 1 here. All photos copyright MamaAdventure.

A Photo A Week Challenge: Footwear

This week’s challenge from Nancy Merrill Photography is to share a photo or two of footwear. This photo is the sandals I have been wearing for the past 18 months.

Basically, my feet grew during pregnancy but they got so wide that none of my shoes fitted, so I bought these when we were still living in China, back in late 2018. They’ve been to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Xi’An in China, Osaka in Japan, Oslo in Finland and they’ve been to London, England and Wexford, Ireland before finally leading me to Belfast, where my Jellyfish arrived. Their journey is another point of view that tells the story of my pregnancy and motherhood so far.

They’ve been with me for two Christmases, despite getting some strange looks from the in-laws this Christmas (not sure why… I live indoors so sandals were fine over winter), and I’m still wearing them. I was beginning to think my feet would stay huge permanently.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried my old trainers (sneakers) back on, and found they finally fit me again, but of course, it’s summer now, so I’m still wearing these sandals, except when I go running. My feet have got used to feeling the wind against my toes, and I’m not sure I could go back to wearing closed shoes most of the time.

They’ve become like a good friend whose company I don’t want to part from. Some shoes are like that.

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A photo a week challenge: Just for Fun

This photography challenge comes from Nancy Merrill Photography. The challenge was something fun. My contribution is a photo of Hogwarts castle, from Harry Potter, which I took in 2019 at Universal Studios, Japan while I was pregnant last Spring.

Japan was so much fun. I think Japan and South Korea were my two favourite countries to visit in Asia. I would definitely like to spend more time there one day.

 

Postcards to my Baby: Shanghai’s Old Town

Dear A.

One day, you’ll see China for yourself and understand why I can’t describe it very well in one postcard. It is a land of opposites, complications, and yet… simplicity.

On one hand, the bureaucracy to do anything at all is intense, and often requires an app which only mostly works in English, until you’re trying to do anything complicated. On the other, in rural areas, life has never been burdened with problems like technology, literacy, money or germ theory. Truly.

The nuances across this vast land are stark. This postcard is of the old quarter of Shanghai. It might not be a quarter. Vendors sell whole fried squid on a stick and tourists line up down the street to buy them. In the narrowest alleys, people hang their washing on the electrical wires and they look like a canopy of multicoloured trees above a rusty rainforest of decay, but no birds venture here. The sky is white with pollution.

What no photo can ever convey is the smell. This area stinks of fermented pig urine. In the distance, skyscrapers loom. The clean, sleek future, eclipsing the murky past. Even during the Mid-Autumn lunar festival, few tourists venture down these side streets, funneled away by mapping apps and official, approved guides.

When you get here, this urban wilderness might be gone; replaced by more skyscrapers filled with things China wants to be known for, instead of what it is. A land leaving its winter, its identity is as changeable as the tide. I hope you will see it in Spring, once the sakura blossoms.

Maybe, if I’m lucky, you will see me in my Springtime, too.

Lots of love,

Mama Adventure

This is part one in a series of postcards I have written to my baby while I was still pregnant, telling them about what we did before they were born.

Part 2 is here.

A photo a week challenge: Peaceful Place

The creative geniuses around WordPress are finding ways to keep the now-defunct weekly photo challenge alive. This challenge comes from Nancy Merrill Photography. The challenge was a place that brought you peace. My contribution is a photo I took in 2018 at Lake Tahoe, just a few miles up the road from the town of South Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada side, in the USA. Honestly, I have never felt so at peace and at ease as I did on this quiet retreat. I’d just driven down from the dusty hustle of Reno where I’d been for a big author conference, and after that toxic, smoky environment, the clean air and abundance of nature at Lake Tahoe was nourishing.

I would live there if I had any chance at all of getting a US residence visa.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic

This week’s photo isn’t magical in and of itself, but the editing that I did to it feels like some sort of voodoo magic that produces amazing pictures. It’s for the WPC found here

I edited this picture with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) a free program that’s just like photoshop. I know a lot of people probably already know how to do stuff like this, but this is the first time I’ve done anything so complicated and I feel really excited by the result! What do you think? Old hat or still a fun technique?

black white red monochrome color isolation GIMP photos picture example rose
It’s not a “true” color isolation, as there’s yellow in with the red, but I really like this effect.

Chaos: Weekly Photo Challenge

I think this weekly photo challenge, ‘chaos,’ fits the week rather well, and that’s why I chose this picture. The chaos theory is one of those scientific ideas that resonates with a lot of people who don’t need to understand the underlying mathematical justification (it’s complicated) to see the validity of the concept. If you’re unfamiliar with chaos theory, I think it can best be explained by the phrase, “things just happen. What the Hell.” Or there’s a whole analogy of a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world, which through a series of knock-on effects causes a tornado on the other side of the planet. Take your pick.

Here’s my photo:

The remains of a life lived in chaos. This was a suitcase I found in my dad's flat just after he died, and I found it again a couple of weeks ago. Photo taken with 18-55 f3.5 Canon EOS 650D set at ISO 3200.
The remains of a life lived in chaos. This was a suitcase I found in my dad’s flat just after he died, and I found it again a couple of weeks ago. Those are cat pictures stuck to the inside of the case. Photo taken with 18-55 f3.5 Canon EOS 650D set at ISO 3200.

How to shoot photos indoors

 

“John Loengard, the picture editor at Life, always used to tell me, ”If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.”
– Joe McNallyThe Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters

As part of my ongoing series about photography, I wanted to talk about how to take a picture indoors.

Indoor shooting is relatively simple once you know how, because light levels tend to be more constant than they are outdoors, where clouds can cause serious problems with over or under exposed photos. I also have an article with more general info about setting up a shot.

  1. Lighting lighting lighting:
    Some people claim you can never light too much, but if that lighting is uneven, you will get a better shot by ditching some of the lighting and changing your camera settings to adjust for low light levels – you can do this by slowing down your shutter speed (1/30 will let more light in than 1/300), by increasing your ISO, or by changing your f-stop number to a lower number (1.8 will let in more light than 4.6, but check your lens, some don’t go down very low). If you do have access to bright, even lighting, you want to play around (left, right, and top are usually where you put them) to find the best positioning for your lights. Remember to adjust the white balance on the camera if you’re using artificial lighting or everything has a tendency to come out yellow.
  2. Tidy:
    Tidy the area in and around the shot, because unexpected things will end up in frame if you forget about them and move the camera slightly. I’ll never forget the time I’d done a set of photos for this website, and it was only when I was resizing them that I realized a couple of the pictures had a pair of old socks in the background!!
  3. Eliminate Wobble:
    Put the camera on a stable surface if you can, such as a tripod – this is essential for video. While you don’t need a tripod specifically, any stable surface should be fine, it’s easier to change the height and levelling of the camera with a tripod. For Youtubing, I put my camera on the wooden flat bit at the top of my headboard and I sometimes raise it with paperback books.
  4. Angle it:
    Playing around with angles is one of the fastest ways to improve pictures from sort-of-meh, or flat, to vibrant shots that will jump out at the viewers. Even the most boring of things can look totally different depending how you shoot them. Tilt your camera up or down, increasing or decreasing height of the camera to ensure the subject is still in the viewfinder, to experiment with different angles.
  5. Focus:
    If you’re using manual focus, you need to make sure you’ve adjusted it. With automatic focus, check that the key elements of the shot are actually in focus. I had one bridge camera whose autofocus had a terrible habit of focusing on the least interesting component of any given shot, which drove me to distraction because it didn’t have a manual option – this terrible focal problem was the entire reason I snapped and bought my DSLR.
  6. Snap it:
    Finally, when you’ve got your shot set up, take your picture. I always re-take at least twice to make sure I got everything right.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Partners

The weekly photo challenge is Partners this week.  I got this snap of two dandelions which I thought fitted the theme:

A yellow dandelion and its grey-haired granny went out for a walk... photography
A yellow dandelion and its grey-haired granny went out for a walk…

Pink Snow: Weekly Photo Challenge: Pure

Pure as the driven snow, me.” – Me being sarcastic at some point in the past.

This week’s weekly photo challenge is ‘Pure‘ so I found some beautiful recent cherry blossom photos that I haven’t shared before, to spread the purity of pink snow:

Pure Cherry Blossom May Blossom Snowfall Petals
Pure Cherry Blossom
Pure Cherry Blossom May Blossom Snowfall Petals
Pure Cherry Blossom
Pure Cherry Blossom May Blossom Snowfall Petals
Pure Cherry Blossom