Its that time of year that strikes fear into a mother’s heart. The letter home from school that announces with a chirpy style ‘ we are allowing the children to get dressed up for world book day!’

I have come over the years to really really not like world book day. I love books, i think reading is a thing of great importance and beauty and must be encouraged. The concept of world book day is an awesome one. What is has morphed into in the world of primary school kids is a bloody thorn in my side. It makes me laugh out loud that the letters are always quick to sternly point out..’please do not go out and buy anything..whatever you have lying around the house will be fine’

really?

hmmmm.

The school my kids go to decided to only allow the kids to dress up in a certain type of costume. The younger kids ‘had’ to come as either a princess or a pirate..and the two older year groups had to come as something from Peter Pan. Now call me an old cynic but isnt the idea behind something called ‘world book day’ surely designed to display and showcase the colourful and varied books that kids read and lets face it there are not many 11 year olds (my son) who would be reading and enjoying Peter Pan? Sort of squashes the kids own creativity i think..never mind the fact that some kids might actually want to come in as a character from a book they enjoy?

The ‘dont spend any money’ comment irks me somewhat. Firstly I am not, myself, massively handy with the old sewing machine and secondly I don’t have too many pirate type things lying around the house. Having a son who has always hated any sort of dressing up,  he always asks me why he can’t just go as himself to these sort of things, I have very little dressing up clothes at my disposal. Then there is the whine and request from my four little girls who all want to go as Queen Elsa from Frozen because their best friend is going as her and she just ‘has’ to be the same. uh -huh..yeah that will be the dress that is £40 in the Disney store ( no they didn’t get it!)

It is a total headache and a cash cow for the supermarkets, who around this time of year start expanding their dressing up ranges so that we can all go in and lay down the cash so that my daughter can go to school as a pirate in an outfit off the shelf that will be worn once and then unlikely see the light of day for a good while..until the next world book day i guess providing they are allowed to come as pirates! *eye roll*

I know it is a bit bah humbug of me but i feel that surely a day that celebrates literature should be, at the very least, about actual books, stories and the writing of amazing literature rather than just about how many Buzz Lightyear costumes can fly off the shelves? and actually those Toy Story characters? a book? really? Not a screenplay written for a very successful and enjoyable movie series…yes….but not a book?

What about the kids bringing in their favourite book? a book swop? having a writing stories class with a writer for the older kids. That would be something the kids gain from surely?  Opening their minds to the world of literature without having to wear a costume all day and line the fat pockets of the supermarkets even more? Then of course there is the delightful side issue to these sort of days which is the over -competitive parents who kids waltz through the school gates in the morning looking like they have just come from their own hair and make-up department on the set of a movie. You know who they are…yeah…they are everywhere and not just in world book day.

When one of my kids was in reception they had to do a ‘build your own house’ out of boxes etc. We give our kids the stuff and tell them to get stuck in. One year, i kid you not, there was a model of a lighthouse with a working tiny sized lightbulb!!

You see what we are up against? 😉

I am ALL for celebrating literature with bells on and i love that kids should be allowed to let their imagination run away with them if they want to add an outfit to their world book day…but the yearly nightmare that has become the dress up for world book day i think is missing the point by a country mile. in my opinion. 🙂

One of my little misses working a dorothy/madonna wig/lazy town combo.

and why not?

one week




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I am continuing my series of looking at some of my images from last year and sharing some of my thoughts and the settings i have used. Last week i was talking about learning and how, i believe, that is the greatest investment you can make in your photography arsenal!

One of those things that we all say is how much we love natural shots, those candid captures that really bring out the personality of our subjects. Its something that we all strive to do as we tell the stories of our lives. Sometimes its not always the easiest to do. The light may be poor, the environment might not be right or you might just have not got to that shutter quick enough! 😉

One of those images that people love is the everyone jumping in the air type shots. We have all seen them, they are a favourite wedding shot or portrait session shot of the family. Its something everyone can have a go at and when you have a couple of wriggly kids it is a great distraction and they all love getting involved.

From a photographers point of view that type of shot is actually quite hard to do well. I like doing the shot because the kids love it but it isnt an easy shot for me to do well and be happy enough with it. Its often a shot that i would ask a family with older kids to do as they can actually jump away from something..rather than fall, which is what a lot of toddlers will look like they are doing. But if we are getting nowhere with some little ones then this type of shot can certainly bring them back into the spirit of it!

Its a hard shot to do outside of a studio setting. When you can control the lights and use strobe lights and have a fast shutter and lower aperture then you can get a sharp image and freeze movement. Outside you are limited to using settings that are appropriate for the lighting you have been afforded and so you might not be able to have a fast enough shutter in order to give you that low aperture (big number) so that your depth of field can work for you and more is in focus!

I mentioned this type of shot to another photography hero of mine who i spent a workshop day with and his advice was don’t do it unless asked!! 😉

So here are a few of my thoughts on how i go about getting these shots.

1. As i mentioned it is a great shot to get the kids back on side. They love to do it, all kids love to jump and they love the fact that they might be caught in action. It is the one shot that always gets them rushing to see a preview back on the screen.

2. One thing i always make sure that i explain to the kids is that they have to listen to me and only jump when i say so. I usually count them down 1.2.3.jump!

3. I always tell them to make a shape. usually arms out to the side, legs out..or something…if they just jump then if you capture that moment it will just look like they are falling. Doesn’t give much of a feeling of movement. So…make a shape!

4. Look Ahead! its natural for all kids to look down to where they are falling. That is going to get you a shot of the top of their heads. So i always say look at me and pull a face!! We go for make a shape and pull a face! It usually works!

5. You need a low or narrower aperture (thats a high number) or F stop. I would usually aim for F8 so that i can try my very best to get most of the family in focus. A family is made up of lots of different heights so if you are asking them all to jump up in the air, focusing each person well is hard. A wide aperture (low number) may give you one person’s face in focus but everyone else will be soft.

6. You need a fast shutter speed. You want to freeze movement right? Generally i would shoot at above 1/250 to capture the movement.

7. Aim to try it in good lighting…bright daylight conditions. Then you won’t have to massively increase your ISO to cope with the aperture etc that you are needing for your camera.

8. Hold hands! This is a really good one if you have little kids, will help to get everyone going ‘up” at the same time.

9. Put your subject on a little hill or step and ask them to jump off that rather than jump UP in the air from a flat surface. It’s easier and not so much effort for a little one.

10. Set your camera’s focus to a single point. On a lot of cameras it will give you lots of AF points. You can set your camera to only pick the one you choose. If you leave it to select it, it will be jumping around all over the place trying to focus on the different subjects. Use it to help you get folks in focus. Select one ( i usually go for middle) and then you can always re-compose your shot if need be.

I never really tire of this shot. Even though, in reality, most clients are not going to choose it for their wall. But i do love the joy that it brings out in the kids and the kid its brings out in the adults!! 🙂

Here are some of my favourite ones…

the ordinary momentsMotivational Mondayliving arrows

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If you follow me on twitter or instagram then a few weeks ago you would have seen that my girls (three of them) were getting ready for a ballet show. They go to a ballet school that is run by a lady who danced for the English and Australian National Ballet..so she has quite high expectations for the girls in her company! I took these pictures just before they left, hence the make-up. They were pretty excited about the make-up bit it has to be said!! 🙂

The shows take place every second year, which is a good thing as i dont think i could cope with it every year…but pretty much since October half term we have been too-ing and fro-ing to lots of rehersals. The older girls have been to about 30 hours of extra practice in the last month or two and whilst that might seem like a lot, they accept that they have to be committed to it to be able to give their best performance. It is a big theatre and its only run on one night so its pretty important to get it right.

This is our third show and so we were ready this time. We gave the girls a little pep talk about what to expect and how it might make them feel. We usually hit a few ‘i dont want to do this anymore!” type of comments but they are soon forgotten after the show when they are all on a high and have fallen in love with the performance side of ballet. 🙂 They get to appreciate how much enjoyment can be gained from actually working hard at something, sticking with it when the going gets a bit tough and then being thrilled when they experience the results. I am so proud of them just for that regardless of how they actually performed!!

But they all did great and this year having three girls in the show gave us a lot of interest all the way through the show. Faces shining, big smiles and lots of attitude and giddy, happy and tired girls at the end. But it was all so worth it.

I am very happy that its two years to the next one however!! Maybe then it will be all four girls in the show!!

Motivational Monday

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We had been expecting this.

Things were not looking good. There was an anxiety in the air, a tension and just a little bit of palpable panic.

It was one of those days when you don’t go far, you stay and hover like moth attracted to the light.

Except this wasn’t light, it was dark.

It was a darkness that was threatening, rising on the horizon like a storm, blue clouds slowly turning black and joining together and moving faster.

It happened quickly…..as it often did.

Fast.

His heart rate drifted, colour quickly changing. movement silenced and still.

Smiles disappear from the parents faces as they glance from the monitors to his face to my face.

I move quickly but quietly, smiling reassurance, words hushed but firm.

‘i just need to get next to him if i can for a minute’

They move. So fast. pushing chairs back like they have suddenly been charged with electricity.

Jumping aside.

I check, listen, watch.

Suction.

Extra breaths.

Waiting…

Watching.

No change.

Quietly i say ‘I just need to get some help’

Reaching for the red button.

and Action!

Doors burst open. Quick words are exchanged. A plan begins.

Settings are altered and a tube is changed.

More breaths. Counting slowly and waiting…

watching.

exchanged glances over the bed. Quick words to the parents stood paralysed at the end of the bed. Do they hear us? Im not sure. Their eyes search mine for reassurance, pleading..

is he going to be okay?

We wait.

I say quietly in my head ‘ not today little man, please please not today’

Might have even been a prayer.

An eternity frozen in 30 seconds……

colour returned slowly

numbers began to rise. Heart rate picking up.

chest moving.

Panic is over. Fear has passed by on this 25th day.

This was not going to be that day for this family.

This was not going to be that day.

themondayclubMotivational Monday



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