#18 in the Judging a Photograph Series

.Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph.

I find it harder to get a good portrait of a person than an animal. Humans need some interaction and I’m not very good with the whole “striking a rapport” thing when my face is behind a camera. With animals I can just get myself in position, make a little noise to get their attention and snap! It’s not a very scientific approach, is it?

Taking a Quality Portrait

There are also “rules” for human portrait photography for which I don’t have a lot of time. Rembrant lighting, body angle for men and a different one for women, arm positions, shoulder heights, the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong – I know these systems work. I just can’t remember them for long enough to actually use them in a photo shoot. My memory is like a sieve.

I don’t mean to over-simplify the things which you can do with portraits of animals. Animal photographers do glorious work, and often include some element of motion or movement into the portrait. Capturing the personality of a family pet is such a fun thing to achieve.

Access to Animals

However we haven’t had pets for a long time, so the animals in my photos are the ones we find in zoos or on farm visits. Straight away there is a problem with getting a good shot. You guessed it – the chicken wire fence! Like everyone else I find myself trying to shoot through the holes. Or if it’s a low fence I am stuck with taking a photo over the top, and getting a view of the top of the creature’s head.

Birds of Prey

If I can overcome the problems of cages then I might have some luck. Birds of prey are often brought out of their cages to show by their handlers. The trick is to get a good background and avoid people and hands getting in shot. It’s about avoiding clutter and distractions.

Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph. Peregrine-merlin crossbreed.

Even better than that is a background which shows context of the animal. That is why I was really pleased to get a shot of this peregrine-merlin crossbreed in front of a castle. A perfect location! However in the few moments that the crowd stepped out of the way, I still managed to make a mistake. The castle background is lovely but the dark staircase mirrors the dark wing and to be honest, it doesn’t look great.

Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph. Fierce hawk.

This shot of a hawk worked better but I was battling very bright sun. There was also an ugly green tarpaulin background. It’s wonderfully fierce and is the only picture that really has emotion.

Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph. Snowy owl. Is it Hedwig?

Lastly this regal snowy owl was in a very dark corner of a wildlife park and I struggled to expose the shot. Then I decided to under-expose the photo and that worked because the owl is so white. By boosting the highlights in Lightroom, she just pops right out of the image.

Have you ever got a great shot through chicken wire? I would love to see it if you have – please do tweet me or message me on Instagram.

Please Support This Blog

I will always blog in support of enthusiast photographers. I’m passionate about it! So please nominate me in the PHOTO category of the BiB awards. I would like just a few votes to encourage me to keep it up. I may only have been doing this for a year but it seems I’ve broken new ground in blogging. Thank you!

Read the previous blog in the Judging a Photograph series – click here.

Read the Judging a Photograph series from the start – click here.

Photalife

Visit Newby Hall and gardens near Ripon with a tween and teenager on Falcondale Life blog. Unusual plants, Bear collection, dollshouse exhibits. Ride the miniature railway or pedalos.

The leaflet for Newby Hall and Gardens near Ripon, North Yorkshire declares “so much to see and do!” There is a lot of truth in that statement. Visiting a stately home with a tween and teenager I did expect to run out of entertainment quite quickly. However teens are like toddlers in at least one respect; if you keep moving, there’s a chance they won’t get bored.

We had a leisurely arrival in time for lunch. Just outside the entrance is a large, fenced picnic area. This time we decided to treat ourselves to lunch in the conservatory self-service restaurant. It was good food and definitely a little special.

Visit Newby Hall and gardens near Ripon with a tween and teenager on Falcondale Life blog. Unusual plants, Bear collection, dollshouse exhibits. Ride the miniature railway or pedalos.

Exhibits – Dollshouses and Bears

Near the restaurant is a large cabin which is now the permanent home of the Dolls house exhibition. This collection was crafted by two enthusiastic friends over a period of decades. I was completely unprepared for the vast number of astonishing homes of every style. The attention to detail was beyond belief. Charmingly, each home has a card telling its story, and the imaginary tale of the tiny residents. I could have spent a lot longer in this exhibit!

Visit Newby Hall and gardens near Ripon with a tween and teenager on Falcondale Life blog. Unusual plants, Bear collection, dollshouse exhibits. Ride the miniature railway or pedalos.

Just across the lawn is another cabin housing Gyles Brandreth’s Teddy Bear collection. If you watch “the One Show” on BBC1 you may have seen him talking about this collection several times. There are many antique bears. Some famous bears are the original item, such as the original Fozzie bear from the Muppets. They are displayed in a variety of scenes, including a chapel where there is a teddy wedding underway. Some very excited young children were enjoying this exhibit.

Both of these exhibits were free for visitors to the gardens.

Activities – Play, Water and Rail

Visit Newby Hall and gardens near Ripon with a tween and teenager on Falcondale Life blog. Unusual plants, Bear collection, dollshouse exhibits. Ride the miniature railway or pedalos.

For younger visitors there is a nice playground and a water splash area for hot days – bring their swimming costumes. My girls took a pedalo out on the small lake. The pedalos have a weight limit of 65kg and are not recommended for adults, so this was perfect for the girls to have a bit of independence. There are some charming old-fashioned banana boat swings as well.

For a few extra pounds we rode on the miniature railway. The train carriages are very small to sit on. Parents hold on to wriggling toddlers like glue. It’s good ride with views of the river and impressive flower borders.

Exploring Newby – Gardens or House

Visit Newby Hall and gardens near Ripon with a tween and teenager on Falcondale Life blog. Unusual plants, Bear collection, dollshouse exhibits. Ride the miniature railway or pedalos.

Lastly we explored the gardens, which are famous for their collection of species and floral displays. They desperately need more plant labels, but that’s just my opinion. There’s actually a plant sale stall at the exit, so it’s a great day out for gardeners. A lot of the far end of the grounds are laid out in an enticing grotto style. Around every corner or down each step is a new discovery and a new view. That kept us busy for a long time.

Visit Newby Hall and gardens near Ripon with a tween and teenager on Falcondale Life blog. Unusual plants, Bear collection, dollshouse exhibits. Ride the miniature railway or pedalos.

We kept our eyes open and spotted some curios in various corners. Our favourites were a seashell wall inside a gazebo and a door from the jail cell of a famous convict, set into a garden wall. We didn’t visit inside the house. It is a private home but is open to visit. I know it is stunning because it features as the backdrop for several TV dramas including Victoria with Jenna Coleman. I am not keen to pay the extra to go in because photography is not allowed inside the house.

 

Newby Hall is open just half the year from the start of April until the last weekend in September. A family ticket for the gardens was cheaper by two pounds when I booked online – I did this on their mobile site quite easily just before arriving.

Read about other family days out – Leeds Industrial Museum and The National Memorial Arboretum.

Love flowers? Read tips for taking photos – click here

 

Visit Newby Hall and gardens near Ripon with a tween and teenager on Falcondale Life blog. Unusual plants, Bear collection, dollshouse exhibits. Ride the miniature railway or pedalos.

We visited at our own cost, this is not a sponsored or collaborative post.

#17 In the Judging a Photograph Series

.Getting the best from a camera phone at the beach. Mobile phone photography tips for days at the seaside. How to get better shots of the landscape on a cell phone. Read it on Falcondale Life blog including editing advice.

It may be stating the obvious but beaches are beautiful and look great in photos. There’s a problem, though. If I’m going to have a day at the beach with my family then I am not going to take my big camera. There’s enough other things to carry like the beach shelter, the body boards, the towels, the flip flops, the picnic, the kite, the sunglasses, the hats, the sun lotion, the buckets, the spades and lots more. I know what you’re thinking – we have forgotten the barbeque!

I don’t want to leave valuables unguarded while I swim. That’s another reason for leaving any half decent camera behind, even my posh compact. Sand is another problem as it gets everywhere and will severely damage lenses. Sometimes I lock my phone in the car glove box when I am at the beach, but occasionally I do take it with me. I’m more likely to take it if it’s cloudy as photos are easier without blazing sun.

Understanding What the Phone Camera is Doing

If I’ve got my phone camera I am limited by its wide angle lens and the fact it hasn’t got a true zoom. Also the exposures values are judged automatically, giving me little control. What kind of pictures can I take?

My phone guesses the correct exposure by looking at the centre portion of the screen i.e. a fairly large area in the middle. It doesn’t matter where I tap to focus, it’s always judging the exposure of the photo using the centre of the screen.

In a bright and sunny place like a beach it’s really important to remember that my phone is guessing how to expose the photo using just the middle of the image. Anyone wearing a hat or standing with the sun behind them will be in too much shadow for their face to be visible, unless I get a close-up. Often my family won’t let me take their picture so instead I look for nice shots of the landscape.

Getting the best from a camera phone at the beach. Mobile phone photography tips for days at the seaside. How to get better shots of the landscape on a cell phone. Read it on Falcondale Life blog, including editing advice.

Three Tips for Shooting Beach Landscapes on a Phone

First to make sure that the horizon is near the top or near the bottom of the photo. This means the phone will get a nice exposure of the main part of the picture.

Secondly use the wide angle to get the texture of the beach or sea into the foreground. Try holding the phone down low.

Thirdly use an editing programme to adjust brightness and contrast. There are loads of free apps like Snapseed. Small adjustments make a big difference. Not editing photos is just lazy! We used to call it “developing” when it was film.

Getting the best from a camera phone at the beach. Mobile phone photography tips for days at the seaside. How to get better shots of the landscape on a cell phone. Read it on Falcondale Life blog. Edit the photo for the best results - here is how I did it.

My Photo: Bright Puddles – Before and After

This shot looked pretty striking before I edited it. The horizon is high up but the puddle is bright so the beach still looks a bit too dark. It’s a nice effect but even better after I edited it. I was using lightroom but all these effects can be found in a mobile app. Here is what I did.

1. Reduced the exposure a little.
2. Reduced the contrast a lot.
3. Clipped the blacks (which is like darkening the shadows in a mobile app).
4. Increased the vibrance (in an app that would be the saturation).
5. Increased the clarity (in an app that would be the structure or sharpness).

Look at the improvement in the sky texture, and see how the footprint has appeared out of the sand. It was definitely worth editing, would you agree?

Read the previous blog in the Judging a Photograph series by clicking here.

Read the Judging a Photograph series from the start by clicking here.

Follow me on Instagram, click here.

If you’ve enjoyed my photography blogs I would be thrilled if you would nominate me in the Photo category of Britmums “Brilliance in Blogging”. Click here to nominate.

 

Photalife

How to decide if I should let my child wear makeup? On Falcondale life blog. As a Mum my opinion matters and I want my daughter to have perspective. When is the right age for makeup? How to help my daughter understand about makeup. Superdrug makeup flatlay and dance in a prom dress.

At nearly 12 years old my youngest daughter finally asked for makeup to experiment with. She’s waited until she is quite old to let me know she is interested. If she practices over time she can learn to apply it neatly. But if she thinks she can wear a ton of black eye-liner to go shopping in town with her friends, I will have something to say about it! I’m sure that won’t happen.

Why do I think my opinion on my child’s makeup matters? After all, we have to pick our battles and there are bigger issues like homework.

I can’t avoid the concerns about young girls wearing makeup. At one end of the scale it could be self-expression but at the other end of the scale there is sexualisation. Mums are leaders to their children so my opinion will always chime, whether they appear to be listening or not.

How to decide if I should let my child wear makeup? On Falcondale life blog. As a Mum my opinion matters and I want my daughter to have perspective. When is the right age for makeup? How to help my daughter understand about makeup. Children's jewellery

My Own History of Makeup

As a child I had a large strawberry birthmark on my nose. My mum bought me foundation and powder to cover it when I was around 11. I was not encouraged into anything beyond this, but I was curious. I did have other makeup as a thirteen year old. Sometimes with a friend we applied lipstick and eye-shadow badly and removed it in a hurry.

We weren’t supposed to be allowed makeup at school and I remember a male teacher made a lot of negative comments about it. To be fair, he did say we all looked good without it, and we might need it when we get old. I guess that was ok, but it stuck with me because I thought, what does he know, because he is a man?

Back then there was a book on the stall at church, about a young girl who wore makeup when out with friends. She hid this from her parents who didn’t want her to wear it. She wiped it off on the way home with a tissue and in the end she got an eye infection. Nothing else about church made me think that makeup was inherently bad and I was confused by the so-called Christian message in this book. Eventually I realised the book was not really about makeup. In a crass way it was a warning about disobeying parents. The theme about makeup confused me.

I never discussed makeup with my mum and I probably should have because books like this, and my opinionated male teacher, were not much help.

How to decide if I should let my child wear makeup? On Falcondale life blog. As a Mum my opinion matters and I want my daughter to have perspective. When is the right age for makeup? How to help my daughter understand about makeup. Superdrug makeup flatlay.

Providing a Good Perspective

A few years ago I bought both my daughters a makeup set. My youngest was barely 9 so hers was mostly tinted lip-balm. I wanted my girls to know that I thought it was ok to play with the stuff. I never want them to feel that it is banned or frowned on. Above all, I didn’t want it to be something they felt they should hide from me. Anytime I could say “wash your face, you’re wearing too much” or “take that off before you go out”. Those sets are still completely untouched but at least I gained the initiative.

I don’t want my children to hide makeup from me, but equally I don’t want them to go overboard. It’s true that they look better without it and I can tell them so. I want to be able to give them perspective. For example they already understand that I would wear more for a night out and less in the day and this makes sense to them. If they are choosing their own clothes, then I have to assume they are ready to express themselves with makeup too.

How to decide if I should let my child wear makeup? On Falcondale life blog. As a Mum my opinion matters and I want my daughter to have perspective. When is the right age for makeup? How to help my daughter understand about makeup. Dance in a prom dress.

Being Practical

In my view, if teenagers never experiment with makeup, then suddenly one day an event like Prom will come around and they will have no idea of how to approach it. There will be a sudden crisis! I do see practical advantages in kids having a go.

Starting to use makeup means starting to take care of skin, thinking about cleansing hygiene and moisturiser. It’s a good time to add in some sun protection and avoid permanent damage to vulnerable young skin.

The one thing I did add to the new makeup bag for my tween was remover wipes. The girl in the silly book at church did remind that proper cleansing is no joke. It’s important.

What is your experience of children starting to use makeup? Let me know in the comments!

After the Playground

Other blog posts – are my children old enough to be left without a babysitter? Click here

Other blog posts – are my children worried about things they have seen on the news? Click here

#16 in the Judging a Photograph Series

.Tips for taking more interesting photos of roads on Falcondale Life blog. A road can make a good leading line in an image but tarmac is boring. Take more interesting photos of your journeys and travel with these tips for photographers.

I take a lot of pictures of roads because I like to remember journeys. If I’m having a family day out or I’m going on holiday, the journey might be part of the fun. Maybe you think taking photos of tarmac is boring! This is how I try to make roads more interesting in photos.

Roads for Leading Lines

The best thing about taking a photo of the road in front of me is that it makes a leading line in the image. That’s a strong feature in a composition. The leading line works by making your eye move along it, into the photograph. It should give a feeling of three-dimensions, even though the photo is flat.

A leading line usually runs diagonally from the lower corners of a photograph. Even with a road directly ahead, the edges may be at the corners and it will peter away into the distance.

Tips for taking more interesting photos of roads on Falcondale Life blog. A road can make a good leading line in an image but tarmac is boring. Take more interesting photos of your journeys and travel with these tips for photographers. A road in the Yorkshire Dales.

Zoom to Add Perspective

This shot taken in the Yorkshire Dales has a lovely view ahead of it. Instead of snapping it from the passenger seat, we stopped and I got out to take the photo. It would have been better if we had stopped 20 yards sooner because then I could have used more zoom. If I can stand further back and zoom in on the road ahead then it adds a lot more perspective.

Making Tarmac Less Boring

Tarmac is boring and I hesitate to commit a lot of pixels to the black stuff. In this shot there is a lovely damp sheen on the road surface from the rain. By turning the photo black and white it really stands out. Roads, pavements and especially cobbles look fantastic after rain.

There were two other reasons why I turned it black and white; Firstly to cut through the mist in the background; Secondly because I needed a photo to enter in a monochrome competition. I didn’t win anything for this one and I wasn’t surprised as the competition was stiff. The colour version is a nice shot but I have never processed it and it’s RAW SOC (straight out of camera).

Tips for taking more interesting photos of roads on Falcondale Life blog. A road can make a good leading line in an image but tarmac is boring. Take more interesting photos of your journeys and travel with these tips for photographers. A road in the Yorkshire Dales.

I even shoot pictures of the motorway. Perhaps that sounds a bit weird but one of these days I’ll write a post and share more pictures and you will understand where I am coming from! Why not challenge yourself to take a photo of your journeys as you go out and about over the spring and summer months?

Read the previous post in the Judging a Photograph series by clicking here.

Read the Judging a Photograph series from the start by clicking here.

Follow me on Instagram – click here

Photalife