Thursday, 17 January 2013

End Notes

As I began to wake this morning I remembered that it's coming up for six years since I started this blog. I did so at the suggestion of Kim in order to practise my writing. But it's been much more than that.

It got me though the hardest five years of my life,* providing me with community, friendship, and a reason to write about positive things. It helped me find goodness in my darkest hours, and I found it enormously beneficial as I struggled to process and harmonise all the conflicting elements of my life. And, crucially, it drew interesting, artistic, engaged, engaging people which allowed me to believe I couldn't possibly be as dull as I'd thought I must be. Or as monstrous as my husband tried to tell me I was. For a long time I thought it would always be my only social life.

But then I was asked to set up and run creative writing classes for community learning and development, and I met actual people in my home town every bit as interesting, artistic, engaged and engaging as those I met on the blog. The classes were a success and I was asked to do more in another nearby town too. And those people were great. And the odd thing was all of these people seemed to like me. I started being invited out for coffee, to lunch, and to the pub after classes. And there I met Dave, last January, on the very first post writing class pub visit.

By this time I knew my marriage was over (thanks to very illuminating relationship therapy sessions), but assumed I'd live alone. I have never lived on my own, and was really looking forward to it, even though I had no illusions about it being in anything other than a low-rent bedsit. I had talked to my sister about moving back to Kent where I grew up, and was positively salivating about being so near to London, so falling in love with a bloke four doors down came as somewhat of a surprise. Him falling in love with me even more so, and when he asked me to move in, and I heard myself saying ok...

2012 was my year of magical living, if I'd been given a year to live at the start of it I wouldn't have chosen any other way to spend it. Now this blog has done its job. I should probably have put it out of its misery last spring, yet I kept it limping on. However, for various reasons I will do so now. This is to be my last post here. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing your lives with me. Thank you for your support, and friendship. I see many of you on Facebook where I have more control over who can eavesdrop on conversations, and I have email contacts for some of you as well, so I'm not abandoning the friends I've made here. Should anyone not yet a friend on Facebook want to become one you need only ask, and I can also be found on Twitter and Pinterest where I indulge in different types of dialogue (Twitter, for me, is mostly about trying to save the world, Pinterest is about luxuriating in it).

Here's one last photograph:

Snowy Sunday on the river.

Bye, bye.

*You know the story: husband's long term affair discovered; attempt to repair marriage; philosophy degree; masters degree (creative writing); realisation that marriage wasn't responding positively to fixing attempts; frantic rethink about repair methods; near death experience; realisation that I wasn't able to help husband...

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

It's arrived

and even better, the exam papers I'm to spend my every waking hour marking for the next week or so haven't. Which means I've had time to play today.

Dave answered the door to the postman yesterday morning, and was handed a package for me! I was still in bed so he brought it up and when he realised what was in it went and got coffee (and the camera), climbed back in beside me, and together we attempted to work out how to use my new lens. As it's second hand no manual accompanied it. However I found a very basic one online, so we at least worked out how to turn it on before I had to get up and go to work.

Here's a first attempt:

Monday morning close up.

I've spent most of today reading the camera manual, and scrolling through the menus trying to work out how to do with the lens what I want. That is autofocus but manual everything else. I think I have finally managed it. And I found a group on Flikr dedicated to this lens which I've now joined. I'm hoping that by placing my own photos alongside those of other people using the exact same equipment I'll learn something. Fingers crossed it's dry tomorrow so I can go out and find interesting things to photograph, and get some proper practise in.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Play Time

The boyfriend destined to become my ex-husband thirty three years later bought me my first SLR camera for Christmas 1979. It was a cheap, store brand but perfect for someone who'd never even touched such a thing before, and I loved it. I replaced it with a Pentax a few years later because the mirror kept jamming, and I never looked back. I still have that Pentax, though it hasn't been used for some years, film is so expensive.

I went through a series of digital point and shoots until my son bought me my beloved Olympus EPL-2 for my fiftieth birthday a couple of years ago. Because he couldn't afford a lens as well he bought a converter so I could use my old Pentax lenses.

Super toy.
This combination has worked pretty well for me, but because of the way SLR lenses deliver light I struggle in less than brilliant lighting conditions. And these days I'm often to be found in low lit rooms. Not a problem when I'm shooting food as I can use a tripod, but when my subject is thrashing his guitar in a crowded pub it becomes one.

I'm not a wealthy woman, what I earn in three months tutoring at the university has to last me the rest of the year (though I'm exploring other ways to earn at the moment), so buying myself anything at all feels like a huge extravagance. And it feels hideously selfish. If I run out of money before I can earn any more, Dave will have to feed me. I already live here rent free. So I don't buy clothes, or shoes, or make-up unless I absolutely have to, or they're very cheap. I considered replacing my five year old, almost daily worn boots this sale period, but decided they'll be fine for another year. I do buy books, though I've just managed to break my Kindle so that temptation has been removed, and food, and cigarettes, and the odd bottle of wine or drink down the pub, but all these things can be, and are, shared with Dave. They all contribute to our shared life, and chosen lifestyle, so I can, to myself at least, justify them. Not so easy when it comes to a new lens.

And believe me I have tried! For the last several months all sorts of dubious reasoning has been filling my head. The best I've managed is that Moffat Music Live uses my shots to promote its doings, as Dave's on the board he gets some benefit from my hobby, and a new lens will mean better photographs for their posters. But it's pretty feeble. Not quite as feeble as me though, because I fell for it.

However, it did take a while, and I wandered between yes I'll definitely get one, and no no, don't be stupid you don't need one, for weeks. And once I'd decided to allow myself to look it took even longer for me to decide on which sort. For ages I got hung up on sharpness, one of the things that really irritates me about my photos is that shot through a dirty window look. They too often tend to fuzziness, but I'd have to have been Hitler to have been able to convince myself to spend everything I have on a super-duper prime lens. So I read a lot of reviews and articles, thoroughly considered the type of photography (and environmental conditions) I indulge in, and veered between a wide 12mm and a 50mm, both fast.

Then I woke up yesterday morning and thought: 'Eryl, you're such a plank!' So I ordered a second hand, 12–50mm, 3.5–6.3 zoom. And no sooner had I done so when an email led me to an article by a professional photographer about why, and how, kit lenses are much better than their image leads us to believe. He showed lots of examples of splendid photos taken with his kit lens, and linked to a blog post by a fashion photographer in a similar vein. I'm not a professional, and never will be, so don't need high end equipment. I just need something to play with. Something to explore with.

An email arrived this afternoon to say my order's shipped. I'm so excited I can barely sit still. I can't justify spending nearly ten percent of my entire year's earnings on what is, ostensibly, a toy. But I've been looking at the world through a lens since 1979, it's one of the things that makes me, and I love it.


Sometimes you just have to admit to, and feed your passions.