Come join the NEW Weekly Friday Photography Challenge: Beginnings

Announcing… the new weekly Friday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!

So the Weekly Photography Challenge used to be an amazing way for photographers (amateur and professional alike) to take a prompt and turn it into a piece of artwork. You could search your files or go out and specifically take a photo for the weekly challenge.

“Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I was scared of participating at first, because I knew nothing about photography (I still don’t know as much as many people, but enough that I’ve sold pictures to national news outlets) but I enjoyed taking pictures and I knew what I liked seeing in a photo.

I was away in China, where I couldn’t update my blog as our internet in our apartment was too slow, when the final WPC came and went, and I only found out earlier this year that the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge has now passed.

Obviously it’s a big commitment, to put out a challenge for everyone every single week without fail and to go and look at everyone’s contributions, but I am going to take it on. I hope this new one will be one of many challenges to inspire people to share beautiful photos and to bring together the strong community we used to have a few years ago on WordPress.

Beginnings

From endings, there are always beginnings. Leaves fall to the ground at this time of year and in decaying, they become the nutritious soil that nourishes all plant life.

Late Autumn is a time for new beginnings, as the lifecycle of the earliest plants begins, months before we see anything happening above the ground.

This week’s challenge, then, is beginnings. Here’s how to take part:

  1. Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
  2. Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
  3. Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
  4. That’s it! Super easy.

This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Friday, I will post the next challenge!

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.

Oops Button: Weekly Photo Challenge: Rare.

This is for the weekly photo challenge: Rare
So I found this actual key on a keyboard from an old computer at the Jim Austin Collection:

oops button real keyboard
Top row, fifth key across, unedited photo.

Let me know if you’ve ever seen this before or worked with a keyboard like this; I’d love to know more about it!!

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…

WPC Numbers: War Memorials (World War I and II)

Today’s entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers is just a few of the photos I collected around Europe showing the numbers of people who died in the two world wars.

Britain's highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis,
Britain’s highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis, taken with my phone because I wasn’t climbing Britain’s highest mountain with an extra 2kg of photographic equipment!! Taken August 2015.

Britain's highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis,
A zoomed in crop to show the words on Britain’s highest war memorial, on Ben Nevis. They aren’t being taken care of and are in danger of being lost as the lichen grows over them.

In Britain, every town, every village, every city has its war memorial.  It is a constructed object, such as a sculpture or a stone alcove, which serves to remind us of the people who never came home from World War I and World War II.

I once had the fortune to actually visit the war graveyard in Huddersfield.  It’s not for the faint hearted and I remember trying to read every single headstone, the name of every single person interred there.

The number of people who died on both sides in World War I and II is staggering.  When reading/experiencing that aspect of history, it tends to make me have a panic attack; the sheer inescapability of death was a daily reality for most of these people.  Having PTSD, I find this immensely triggering and tend to suppress the anxiety, leading to the delayed reactions I keep getting told are really unhealthy – the migraines, the vomiting, feeling angry (because I’m feeling so shaken) for hours, sometimes days afterwards.  I hate thinking about these wars, but I feel like I should, because they happened, and these people’s lives are over as a result, and the world would be very different if they had not happened.

The writing explains who the Wild Geese were.
The writing explains who the Wild Geese were. Dublin Museum’s exhibition on Irish Military History, Ireland, 2015.

Gottfried von Banfield's Order of Maria Theresa
Gottfried von Banfield’s Order of Maria Theresa, Dublin.

Wild Geese Gottfried von Banfield Order of Maria Theresa Ireland
Gottfried von Banfield, son of Patrick Banfield from Cork, Ireland, was the last person to be awarded the Order of Maria Theresa. He died in 1986 in Trieste, Italy. He was the last of the Wild Geese.

I wasn’t born then, so of course I never asked them to go to war for me, to ensure my future survival, but they did anyway.  Whichever side these soldiers were on, they were treated like millions of expendable ants at the beck and call of their country.  For that, for the fact that they were put in this shitty impossible situation with no real chance of surviving it, we should be fucking grateful to them.  We should have some empathy.  It makes me angry to think that some people pretend these wars never happened, people pretend that the Holocaust never happened, how can anyone really believe that?  I think in their hearts they know it to be true.

Memorials for Jewish deaths in Salzburg
Many of the victims of the Second World War were innocent people trying to go about their daily lives. These four people were all killed in concentration camps.

I’ve talked before about the memorials in the photos above in Impressions of Salzburg.  What I’ve never talked about was my experience in Salzburg Museum, because it set off my PTSD and made me sickened and pretty depressed. The Salzburg Museum’s exhibition of the First World War was a particular eye opener.  The Austrian point of view is that they were defending their assassinated archduke.  The exhibit explained an awful lot about World War I that we in England tend to not get told, and English speaking resources tend to follow suit.

World war 1 great war first world war Austria memorial cards German soldiers deaths
These are Austrian memorial cards, with names and photos, of dead soldiers. Relatives at home will have had these printed when they were told their loved ones had died in the trenches. Taken in Salzburg Museum.

I would strongly urge anyone with an interest in the history of the Great War to research original non-British primary sources as well as the English sources we’re used to seeing, to get a more balanced view of the First World War, who was actually fighting it, and how it caused the second.  I’m not taking sides here, but it’s damn scary to see how Britain actually contributed to the rise of Fascism and Nazism, and I think there’s a lot of lessons we aren’t learning while we pretend our government wasn’t part of the problem in that first war.  The individual soldiers, of course, had no idea of this.  The only people who should have been involved in that war were Austria and Serbia, and as a result of ridiculously convoluted diplomatic ties, millions upon millions of lives were lost for no reason on all sides.  Many were aged 16-18.

We need to remember them, otherwise we could *be* them.

A quote from Karl Kraus, printed on a white board as part of the Great War Exhibition at Salzburg Museum, August 2014
A quote from Karl Kraus, printed on a white board as part of the Great War Exhibition at Salzburg Museum, August 2014