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Today I’m delighted to feature another blogger on Falcondale Life. My guest writer is Samara Kamenecka who has tips to share about travel with kids in Montreal. She is a New York-born freelance writer and translator living in Madrid. When she’s not busy trying to mould her two kids into functional, contributing members of society, she can usually be found enjoying a glass of wine (or three). You can find her blogging over at Tiny Fry and there’s a photo of her at the end of this blog post. This blog contains affiliate links. Eight Must-See Sights for Kids in Montreal The city of Montreal offers a variety of magnificent sights for children, including amusement parks, museums, and national landmarks. What to see depends on the age of your children and their interests,…

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Pic of the week - Storytelling Photos with a Phone on Falcondale Life blog. Phone cameras are getting really good but I say they are not really trying to compete with DSLRs. Phones excel in types of photography such as storytelling photos. Have you developed your phone photography skills? How do you understand phone photography compared with traditional photography?It’s been a bit quiet on my blog in the last few weeks thanks to a week’s Christmas break and then this – a foot operation! Please be assured that work is going on behind the scenes to plan plenty of great new content for 2018. Are you following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook? I’ve kept those updated.

Just now I’m a bit worn out by the rigours of hospital treatment but my energy will be back very soon. If you’ve been reading my blog since the very start then you will have seen my previous blog post series “Ouch to 5km” about my mystery foot problem. It turned out to be arthritis after all. I thought I was far too young for that!

Photographer guilt

You may have seen this photo on my Instagram stories recently. It was captioned “I never realized the the fridge was 93 million miles away until #crutches!”. This type of storytelling photo is one of the true joys of phone photography. I know a lot of photographer friends find it hard to accept that phones have a real place in the photographic world, because you can’t compare them to DSLRs or a good mirrorless camera. As a photographer it’s easy to let in guilt. You take a photo on your phone, then you say to yourself “I haven’t done it right, I should have used a better camera“. Well I say just take a step back a moment and think.

Pic of the week - Storytelling photos with a Phone on Falcondale Life blog. Phone cameras are getting really good but I say they are not really trying to compete with DSLRs. Phones excel in types of photography such as storytelling photos. Have you developed your phone photography skills? How do you understand phone photography compared with traditional photography?

Storytelling Photos on Phones

First of all, phone cameras are getting seriously good, but “good” for a phone camera is not the same as “good” for a DSLR. A phone camera is wide angle, doesn’t zoom, it’s often grainy as the phone will do everything in it’s power to expose for the available light, and the depth of field on near focus is always shallow. However there’s no way I could have taken this crutches photo on my DSLR.

Phone cameras can do some things that other cameras cannot do. I don’t possess a DSLR camera lens with such a wide-angle as my phone, for example. Last summer I took a splash-proof phone camera into the spray of Niagara falls. My DSLR would have died! The most obvious example of a type of photography where the phone camera is king is the selfie. That’s almost physically impossible on a DSLR. Whilst many selfies are crass, the competition to take a good one means that standards improve.

The more I use my phone to take storytelling photos of my life, the more I discover and understand the place that they have in the photographic world. It’s a different area, it’s new. So much of it is not the same as the photography that has gone before. There are new types of images thanks to phones. I intend to try to take more of those as I feel it’s a new area of skill to learn. It’s an onward development from candid, storytelling photos which have been around for years.

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When I manage to take more storytelling photos on my phone I will most likely post them to Instagram stories and Facebook page stories (the circles at the top) as that’s ideal for day-in-the-life images. I’ll put a few on Twitter too. I’d love to see your shots if you want to give this a try! Tweet me or message me on any social media.

Do you have phone photography skills that don’t translate well to a normal camera? How would you describe what we are doing with our phones, is it personal photojournalism? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Photalife
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Travellers Beware of Fake EHIC Websites - my story on Falcondale Life blog. My story of how I was fooled by one of those fake EHIC card websites appeared in Which? magazine. How easy is it for travellers to get caught out by a fake website? Read how it happened and what the experience was like for me. Reasons why the problem may grow with Brexit on the horizon.This post contains affiliate links.

If you’re planning your next trip abroad to an EU destination then you will need to carry a valid EHIC card. At least until Brexit, this card will allow British citizens free access to emergency health care in 27 EU countries. A valid EHIC card does have to be renewed every few years. Last June I went online to renew cards for all four of our family members. We were actually going to the USA on holiday but our KLM flights were routed through Amsterdam, so I was just being super careful.

Why I Appeared in Which? Magazine

To cut a long story short, it all went a bit wrong. In December 2017 I was a featured case study in UK consumer magazine “Which?” You guessed it: I had been caught out by one of those fake EHIC card websites.

Going back to that day in early June, I googled “EHIC renewal” or “European health insurance card renewal” and the top result was EHIC Direct. I’ve noticed that it is not the top result any more when I search today. Also the landing page is substantially different than it was in June. Now there is a central block of text with a much better disclaimer. You can’t miss it, although if you don’t read it all the way to the end you still might not understand it.

Travellers Beware of Fake EHIC Websites - my story on Falcondale Life blog. My story of how I was fooled by one of those fake EHIC card websites appeared in Which? magazine. How easy is it for travellers to get caught out by a fake website? Read how it happened and what the experience was like for me. Reasons why the problem may grow with Brexit on the horizon.

Finding EHIC Card Websites

Back in June the only disclaimer on the EHIC Direct site was in the side bar. The whole web page was so busy and visually confusing that I didn’t see it. By the time Which? Magazine published their article the side bar of EHIC direct had improved. There are several titles and one says “visit the NHS site” but back in June the title was “Official NHS Website”. Below that title was a disclaimer that at first I did not read, because the title above it led me to believe I was looking at the NHS site.

On that day in June I took a screen shot of the EHIC direct landing page along with the T&Cs. It’s true that there was disclaimer information on the website, but some genius graphic designer succeeded in deflecting me from it with the busy layout of the page, and above all by the banner “Official NHS Website.” I had entered all of my family’s information – names and dates of birth, address and so on before I realized that there was a charge. These pages of the website that recorded the personal information did not have a clear disclaimer on them. I remember feeling a bit annoyed at the cost.

Travellers Beware of Fake EHIC Websites - my story on Falcondale Life blog. My story of how I was fooled by one of those fake EHIC card websites appeared in Which? magazine. How easy is it for travellers to get caught out by a fake website? Read how it happened and what the experience was like for me. Reasons why the problem may grow with Brexit on the horizon.

Realizing My Mistake

Once the credit card had been accepted I decided to google “EHIC renewal cost” because I felt it was an unfair charge. I remember a chill came over me as I realized I had been fooled. It felt like I had been caught out by some Chinese scam website or fake Nigerian Prince! I was incredibly upset and worried. Quickly I cancelled my credit card but I wasn’t fast enough. I was sobbing on the phone to the credit card company because at that moment I believed I had been caught out by criminals – that is a measure of how unsettling it was.

Then I spotted that EHIC Direct website did have a cancellation option. I used this, so instead of paying about £35 I only paid £10. I was very surprised that cancelling worked, considering how shady it all seemed.

Why This is a Big Consumer Issue in the UK

I suppose that by putting a disclaimer on the website, EHIC Direct could claim they had complied with the letter of the law, but in my view it was not in the spirit of the law. They sent me an email offering a free iPhone app, but I don’t own an iPhone. This company now have all my family’s personal data on their system and I am not comfortable with that.

What bothers me most is that after Brexit there may be more cards and forms and visas and permissions which we will all be applying for. This problem of middle-men is going to mushroom. These companies do not add any value to the service which the Government provide so it is not free enterprise. The small print mentioned a “check and send service” which was actually non-existent. No government minister should feel hesitant in shutting them down in these circumstances. It is not commerce. There is no earthly reason for these companies to exist. They do nothing. The Government should ban them before more of them spring up to do our post-Brexit paperwork.

Travellers Beware of Fake EHIC Websites - my story on Falcondale Life blog. My story of how I was fooled by one of those fake EHIC card websites appeared in Which? magazine. How easy is it for travellers to get caught out by a fake website? Read how it happened and what the experience was like for me. Reasons why the problem may grow with Brexit on the horizon.

I felt incredibly foolish for letting myself be caught out by EHIC direct but as Which? Magazine points out in their article, clever people get caught out all the time by fake websites. It’s difficult to be safe all the time. If you think you’ve been caught out, take screenshots, contact your card issuer and raise a case with Trading Standards. And remember when you’re searching for EHIC card websites: it is FREE. Here’s the government website which confirms this: https://www.gov.uk/european-health-insurance-card

Have you ever been fooled by a fake website? Please share your story in the comments.

Cuddle Fairy

 

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Is Now the Time to Buy an Electric Car? on Falcondale Life blog. Electric cars are here but how are manufacturers going to bring us more choice? What are the pros and cons of owning an electric car and will I be able to charge it? Insider tips and owner opinion.This is a collaborative post

“Electric cars are the future. One day we will all drive an electric car.” I’m sure you’ve heard these phrases but in fact electric cars are already here. Nissan, Renault, BMW and Tesla are some of the better known brands but all car manufacturers are working toward electric. Charging networks are just beginning to grow, but you can get a New Motion charging station for your driveway so you don’t even have to wait.

Cost of making an electric car

This is a whole new field of technology. To make an electric car manufacturers need a custom made production line in the factory as the engine and drive train are all new. That’s expensive but the biggest cost of making an electric car is the battery. With increased volume of electric vehicle sales, battery prices have now dropped some way. Industry insiders tell me they are waiting for a tipping point where battery cost is low enough to mean high volume car production can start. That moment is just about here, now.

Is Now the Time to Buy an Electric Car? on Falcondale Life blog. Electric cars are here but how are manufacturers going to bring us more choice? What are the pros and cons of owning an electric car and will I be able to charge it? Insider tips and owner opinion. Motorway driving image.

Risk of making an electric car

The car manufacturing industry is highly risk-averse because any mistake is so expensive. These new electric power technologies are untested in long term use. If a fault causes a product recall then the cost would be sky high, and the publicity would be crushing.

The manufacturers have to balance the risk against the cost of production and once they’re happy with that, electric cars will take over.

Planning to buy an electric car

I spoke to Liz, a Nissan Leaf owner. The Leaf is fully electric with a range of 250km and Liz has a charging point installed on her driveway. She is happy with her purchase. “We wanted an electric car as a second family vehicle to do short runs around town. The new technology looked interesting and we wanted to see what owning an electric vehicle would be like. We thought the cost benefits would work for us, and we liked the environmental benefit too. As it’s on a two year lease, if it doesn’t work out, we are not stuck with it.”

Is Now the Time to Buy an Electric Car? on Falcondale Life blog. Electric cars are here but how are manufacturers going to bring us more choice? What are the pros and cons of owning an electric car and will I be able to charge it? Insider tips and owner opinion. Unsplash image of woman driving a car.

Owning an electric car

Liz identifies two strong themes of life as an electric car owner. The first is comfort and convenience: “The Leaf is so quiet that the whole family can talk as we drive. And it’s nippy at low revs – to beat people off at the lights is easy. The range is good enough for shorter motorway trips and days out, and we can de-ice the car using a smartphone app before leaving the house.”

The second theme of owning an electric car is what Liz calls “charging stress”. Before going any great distance you have to know where you will find a car charging point, and it has to be the right sort for your car; they’re not standardized. “Sometimes we arrive at the destination and the charging point is broken, or a petrol vehicle is parked in the way” she says. “It works well for us because we have a charging point installed at home.”

I am itching to get an electric car just like Liz. You may think it’s only because I love cars but I would truly love to reduce our emissions and save all that petrol money. Does it appeal to you? Let me know!

More motoring on Falcondale Life:

Driving Routes to France: Your Options
Dark Sky Drives: Seeing Stars with the Family
How We Planned our American Midwest Road Trip
How I sold my old car

Additional image credit Relive Media.co.uk via Unsplash

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Winter by the Water, Pic of the week on Falcondale Life blog. Winter photography at Swinsty reservior in the Yorkshire Dales. Winter photography can be difficult so share some ideas and tips.Many people find winter photography quite difficult, myself included. Some people find that the hardest part is going outside in the first place. The weather can be quite off-putting and the days short.

Winter Photography Ideas

If you can get outside, turn up your ISO and look for shape, contrast and texture. Perhaps you normally look for colour, beautiful plants and fluffy clouds. It does require a different mindset to deal with bare branches and iron skies.

These photos of a winter walk around Swinsty reservoir are not amazing but they work better as a group. Winter daylight has a blueish tint, and water is a good way to embrace that in a photo. The rigid verticals of the trees are contrasted by the shimmering water.

Winter by the Water, Pic of the week on Falcondale Life blog. Winter photography at Swinsty reservior in the Yorkshire Dales. Winter photography can be difficult so share some ideas and tips. Winter by the Water, Pic of the week on Falcondale Life blog. Winter photography at Swinsty reservior in the Yorkshire Dales. Winter photography can be difficult so share some ideas and tips. Winter by the Water, Pic of the week on Falcondale Life blog. Winter photography at Swinsty reservior in the Yorkshire Dales. Winter photography can be difficult so share some ideas and tips. Winter by the Water, Pic of the week on Falcondale Life blog. Winter photography at Swinsty reservior in the Yorkshire Dales. Winter photography can be difficult so share some ideas and tips.

Another idea is to find something bright or coloured to contrast against the gloom. You may find an evergreen leaf or a red berry to use for this. I am not a big fan of vignettes but winter photography seems to be a time when you can get away with this quite a bit. Also purple-ish filters can work well. Try high, savage contrast and soft focus too. The simplicity of a winter landscape image may be ideal for some strong, experimental editing. I have not tried it with these shots as I think they already have enough going for them.

Swinsty and Fewston Visitor Information

Swinsty and Fewston reservoirs are right next to each other and both have good paths all the way around the edge and free parking. There’s usually a Yorkshire Dales ice cream van in each car park, although perhaps not in winter! They are not far from Harrogate just off the A59 in the Yorkshire Dales. Yorkshire water have a mountain bike skills trail near the central car park. To walk around Swinsty is about 3.1 miles, to walk around Fewston is 3.7 miles.

Follow me on Instagram to see these and more of my photos.

Do you have any tips for winter photography? Please comment below and let me know.

Photalife
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