Thursday, May 06, 2021

Lockdown update: What lies ahead?

What comes after lockdown?


Lockdown in the UK has been difficult for everyone, though for some it has been very difficult. As a trustee of a small charity helping those who have found themselves in very difficult circumstances due to debt I am well aware that for many lockdown has been a very real struggle.

For me personally it has not been easy but at least I haven't had some of the problems so many in our communities have. I am retired (effectively) and although my health has been well below par I have managed to get through lockdown without too many setbacks.

In terms of photography I have done very little since March last year. For much of the past year I have avoided contact with others outside my immediate household, mainly to minimise the risk of contracting COVID. With my health issues it would possibly have been fatal. Thankfully, I have now had my first vaccine jab (Astrazeneca) and am due my second one soon. In light of the progress made in vaccinating the population here in the UK and with the increasing easing of lockdown restrictions, I have started to give some thought of what comes next.

Like many folk, during lockdown I put on a few extra pounds. As I was already overweight I decided it was now time to do something about this. As I start I decided that the cheapest way (we all need to save money, right?) to improve my overall level of fitness and lose some of those extra pounds was to go for a daily walk. Now that I feel safer doing without wearing a mask (which doesn't help with my breathing when worn for long periods) I am trying to build up my daily total to 10,000 steps. So far it going ok with most days around the 5,000 steps mark. I have also replaced one meal a day with a balanced nutritious drink that is just 400 kcals. This is helping me to gradually lose those aforementioned pounds. On that my front, my target is to lose 10kgs in a month and to continue this until my weight is closer to the ideal BMI for someone my age etc.

Longer term

It was my intention to start freelancing as a photographer just as the pandemic hit and but an end to that idea. However, now that things are opening up I am looking at reviving this idea. I really want to focus (apologies for the pun) on my photography in the near future and to do so as a way of generating an income whilst doing something I really enjoy. Although I love street photography and landscapes, I want to focus on social documentary style portraits, of individuals and groups. I still have my Fuji gear and some lighting so there is no additional gear I need. Watch this space!

Another aspect of life that got delayed by the pandemic was a move 'up north' back to my native Lancashire. Now that things are getting back to some kind of normality (at least here in UK) that is once again something that we will be looking at. Essex has been home for over 20 years now but I miss the hills (the Pennines) and my family. My mum is on her own now and though my sisters live close to her the lockdown has taken its toll on them all. Family is important and it's time to be physically closer to them.

So, to conclude, life has finally moved on from being cooped up indoors under lockdown. In view of that I intend to post more often here and hope you will come back to read those future posts. Take care and stay safe. Thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost loved ones, still have symptoms from COVID (so-called 'long Covid') and all those who have not been as fortunate as those of us to have the vaccine, especially in countries like Brazil and India. 

Monday, June 01, 2020

Lockdown Update: What I have been up to during lockdown here in England.


Welsh landscape

It's been many weeks now since I went into my own personal lockdown. Due to some health issues I started my lockdown a couple of weeks before the official one here in England. Fortunately we have a decent sized garden with a south facing aspect so I haven't felt the need to go on walks locally.

Apart from watching too much TV (been enjoying Designated Survivor:60 days - the Korean version) and playing online games (World of Warships if you must know), I have taken some photos in the garden and been going through my library of images, trying to sort out the dross and do some re-organising. After years of saving to numerous hard drives, CDs and online (Dropbox and Google Drive mainly) I have realised that my library is in a total mess, with duplication and no systematic labelling of folders etc. I did once try to organise everything in Lightroom but even on a fast iMac it is too slow. Even Luminar 4 can't cope. So far I have barely scratched the surface. I guess I will have to wait until I can afford some 12TB hard drives to put into my NAS instead of the measly 1TB ones I have in there at the moment!

Speaking of Luminar 4, at the top is an image I took last autumn in Wales. Although it was a nice day the image is a bit flat, so I decided to see if I could fix that in Luminar 4. Here is the result:

Welsh landscape post-processed in Luminar 4

Hopefully you will agree that the end result is an improvement, although maybe the sky is a little over-saturated. My recollection is that the sky was closer to the second image than the first which had a fairly flat profile in camera (FujiFilm X-H1).

Here are my settings in Luminar:

AI Enhance settings in Luminar 4
AI Enhance settings in Luminar 4


Landscape Enhancer settings in Luminar 4


Luminar 4 makes it easy to do various edits to your image and you can even save the settings as a preset in the Luminar Looks toolbar for reuse with other images.

If you are interested in purchasing Luminar 4 check out the link below for some great deals.

Affiliate link: Luminar 4

Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic: How to stay positive and help the search for a vaccine!

Let's be honest - at this time of a global pandemic it's easy to feel a sense of panic or debilitating fear. That's a normal response to a dangerous and rapidly developing situation. So, how do we remain positive and what can we do that will help overcome our feelings of powerlessness?

Well, here are some of my personal tips on staying positive and I will follow these up with information on how you can help in the search for a vaccine.


If you someone who is self-isolating or shielding it is important to stay positive. You can do this by taking one day at a time and setting a goal for that day - such as read a book you have never read before (or even an old favourite you read years ago), watch some YouTube videos on a topic you have always been interested in but never had the time to explore. You can search on YouTube just like Google for any topic but here are some suggestions to start with:
    1.  Learn French 24/7 with FrenchPod101 TV
    2.  Learn Spanish with SpanishPod101.com
    3.  Learn Italian with ItalianPod101.com
    4.  How To Make Bread | Jamie Oliver 
    5.  How & Where to Start with Watercolor Painting for Beginners
    6.  3D Modelling - Noob to Pro - Basic Steps
    7.  Part 1: Learn to Draw | Getting Started
    8.  Roman History 01 - The Mythic Kings 753-509 BC
    9.  The History of Ottoman Empire : Every Year
    10.  Getting started with Creative Writing - tips and advice from writers and teachers

If you have access to a phone or a PC with a camera, why not keep in touch with loved ones, friends and carers via Skype, Facetime, Facebook Live etc. This can help reduce isolation, keep up to date with family news and also communicate your needs (if you need some shopping etc).

Try not to watch too much news, or read too much social media (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) as there are plenty of posts on social media that are either just negative in tone or have incorrect information in. 

Only trust reputable sources for information on COVID-19 (Corona Virus) such as:
  1. Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
  2. Symptoms and what to do - Coronavirus (COVID-19):https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/symptoms-and-what-to-do/
If you are self-isolating but are fit enough, why not do some de-cluttering and clear out your garage, spare room or loft? Only do this if you are physically up to it and would not be putting yourself at risk by doing so. This is not the time to fall down or put your back out by lifting a heavy object! You can always just deal with the small stuff - choose a few books to box up and take to the charity shop when everything is back to normal for example. Even a little bit of tidying up can have a positive impact on your mental health.

How about emailing people? We all have folk we have lost touch with but still have their emails. Why not send them a personal message expressing hope that they are well and wishing them all the best? You could remind them of some of the good times you have shared, maybe update them on what has been happening since you last met (stay positive though!). Maybe include some nice photos of family, holidays, pets etc. Share the love.



Volunteer - yes even if you are self-isolating you can still volunteer. Become a Check-in and Chat Volunteer - https://www.goodsamapp.org/nhs

Now, here is how you can help find a vaccine.

If you have access to a computer chances are you are not using it 24/7. So, how about donating it's computing capabilities to help find a vaccine for COVID-19? You may be wondering how this is possible - well it's through an initiative called Folding@home. Without confusing you with exactly what folding is let's just say that it's a way of using your pc (can be a Windows PC, a Mac or a Linux PC) to calculate possible solutions to protein folding, the diseases that result from protein misfolding and aggregation, and novel computational ways to develop new drugs in general.

It's easy to join up and all it requires is for you to install some software on your pc, have an internet connection and to leave your pc running 24/7 (ideally, though can turn it off at night if you prefer and the software will pick up where it left on when you switch it back on). You can still use your pc even whilst it's running the software and you can let it just run the software at 100% whilst you are not using the pc.

To find out more, sign up and get started check out https://foldingathome.org/

Here is a couple of screenshots of the software running on my Mac:
FAH Client up and running

Current Work Unit graphical display



Friday, February 14, 2020

Blender Tutorials

If you read my earlier post and are new to Blender you will want to find some great tutorials to help you learn how to get the most out of this amazing open-source software. I included some links in my earlier post and I encourage you to check them out.

However, i thought it worth sharing with you some more free resources I found today. This time they are on the official Blender site at https://cloud.blender.org/workshops


Here you will find not only tutorials but actual examples you can work through and learn by experience from! For example, Waking the Forest is the latest artwork by Andy Goralczyk. This inspiring image is available along with 5 hours of commented timelapse, high resolution images and all source files (textures and shaders are packed into the .blend)



It's amazing that these talented artists are willing to give back to the community and share their expertise with the rest of us, all free of charge. If you have learnt the basics of Blender then you will no doubt find these workshops an excellent resource for deepening your knowledge of Blender and flexing your creative muscles.

Let me know in the comments if you find this resource useful.

Featured Post

Lockdown update: What lies ahead?

What comes after lockdown? Lockdown in the UK has been difficult for everyone, though for some it has been very difficult. As a trustee of a...