Umbria … a gastronomic and visual delight!

Visiting Umbria, a region that’s said to be “Tuscany’s little brother”, was a visually and gastronomically delightful experience. Fragrant truffles, delicious handmade cheeses and fabulous wines were some of the treats we enjoyed. Orvieto and Perugia were our bases and from there we travelled to hilltop villages like Terni, Todi and Gobbio, drove east to the plains of Castelluccio and enjoyed the views over lake Trasimeno._MG_7521 _MG_7524 _MG_7558 _MG_7561 _MG_7602 _MG_7624 _MG_7635 _MG_7647 _MG_7649 _MG_7670 _MG_7676 _MG_7712 _MG_7726 _MG_7744 _MG_7759 _MG_7761 _MG_7793-Edit _MG_7822 _MG_7832 _MG_7857 _MG_7906 _MG_7982 _MG_8002 _MG_8005

Hong Kong …

I was lucky to piggy-back on my partner’s work trip to Hong Kong and as he has a few days free, we explored the island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Always looking for photographic opportunities we still managed to fit in relaxing massages and some truly wonderful meals. It’s the first time I’ve really enjoyed dumplings!

My last trip to Hong Kong was over ten years ago and the construction activity that has gone on since (and still goes on) is phenomenal. Buildings just seem to pop up everywhere and in the smallest of spaces.

Our train journey to the Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls took us through small towns and villages; I had somehow been expecting vast swathes of farmland. The falls themselves were disappointing as there was little water so in one sense it was a long journey for nothing – yet no trip into the unknown is ever a waste of time. The National Park was lovely – cool and calming and I could see why so many people spend their days-off there, picnicking and relaxing with family.

It was really hot, sticky and as ever, extremely busy and vibrant. We were there just before the protests began in earnest and although a small part of me wishes I’d been there to record the crowds of protestors at such an historic time, the rest of me was glad just to have a holiday!


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Jatiluwih rice terraces

The stunning rice terraces of Bali, exemplified by those in Jatiluwih are wonderous sights. Every hue of green is visible as you look at the undulating layers of the fields. I travelled to Jatiluwih twice, once in the sunshine and the second time at dawn on an overcast day. The colour palettes were so different with the changing light. It was just before the harvest when the terraces are incredibly lush. As we travelled around Bali we came across rice harvesting in different areas and went down into the fields to watch the workers. It’s an incredibly labour intensive job and hard, physical work. We also spotted this honeymoon couple who were beautifully co-ordinated as they took self portraits throughout the terraces.Bali, May 2014

The ecologically sustainable subak system is the traditional method of farming and irrigation, deeply embedded in the Balinese culture. This co-operative water management system is presided over by priests in the water temples and emsures co-operation between villages. UNESCO has recognised the importance of this system of farming to the common heritage of humanity and subak and the rice fields have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. more information about UNESCO’s choice is here:

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Uluwatu Fire Dance

Uluwata Temple on the south coast of Bali hosts daily performances of the Kekac (Fire) Dance. Mainly for tourists, the dance is a story-telling performance based on traditional tales and involves melodrama, humour and fantastic costumes. The Monkey King was particularly athletic and exciting to watch as he leapt around madly. We were extremely privileged to have “back-stage” access to watch the performers preparing and resting between scenes. I had expected them to be in a room to get ready, instead they were camped out in the concrete areas underneath the stands, sitting on the ground and balancing mirrors anywhere they could. It was fascinating to have that kind of access although it did mean I missed most of the performance – including unfortunately the pyrotecnics! Shooting at extremely high ISO settings was a challenge as the images are very noisy but not using flash captures a completely different side to the night and is considerably less intrusive for the very patient performers.

Despite the performances being a daily event, the actors attacked their roles with such energy, humour and spectacle that it seemed really fresh. Next time I’m in Bali I’m planning to attend and watch the entire show.

For the complete photostory please follow this link: Kekac Dance

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Out on the fringe ….

The Brighton Photo Fringe that is!  Concurrently with the Brighton Photo Biennial (the largest photography exhibition in the UK), the Fringe runs from 4th October – 3rd November 2014. I am very excited to share the gallery with five other local photographers, Colin Miller ARPS, Audrey Marshall ARPS, Steve Boyle ARPS, Nicola Miles and Sylwia Liszak. We will be exhibiting in the brand new Artista Gallery and Studio, right in the heart of the city.

Each of us has a different style and approach but we share commitment, a personal vision and fierce independence in what we make and show. Working as a team with gallery owner Alex, we have agreed how to share the quirky exhibition space to showcase everyone’s work to its best advantage and are working on our marketing strategy together. We will be having an open Preview Evening on October 3rd, but if you can’t come then, do pop in anytime during the month for a coffee, drink or food and see “Six Photographers Under One Roof”.

I’ll bring you more news as we fine tune our plans, suffice to say it will be worth visiting!



Charity begins at home!

Although I’ve experienced some really exciting opportunities to photograph for non-profit organisations overseas, I also help out here in the UK (which some of my friends have noted, I should do more of as charity begins at home!)  Recent work has been in support of friends who are fundraising or have charities dear to their hearts. So I’m sharing a selection from some of these events.

Climb Kili for Cornerstone involves four close friends who are bravely (madly!?) climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania for Cornerstone. It’s a charity that supports vulnerable children and adults throughout Scotland – broadening their opportunities and helping them live rewarding and meaningful lives. Fundraising for the trip has included tea parties, cocktails and gourmet dining, silent auctions, supper dances, pop-up shops and a myriad of other fun events. Ann and Antonia Chapman and Lisa and Steve Duthie have all committed to raise more than the minimum required to fund their trips and it’s hard work! Plus the training and preparation – phew, I really admire them. Helping with the fundraising is my contribution; I’m far too worried about freezing my toes off on a mountaintop to join in … but I wish them all the best of luck!

Ladies Tea Party at the Fourmile, Kingswells, Aberdeen

Ladies Tea Party at the Fourmile, Kingswells, Aberdeen

"Bag a Mountain" Supper Party at the Aberdeen Douglas (featuring the Scottish Cup!)

“Bag a Mountain” Supper Party at the Aberdeen Douglas (featuring the Scottish Cup!)

Motor Neurone Disease is a devastating diagnosis and the Motor Neurone Disease Association is the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning. MNDA is a powerful national and local network that provides information and support alongside fighting for improved services. Volunteer Carol Reiley, working with fitness instructor Becky Stevens held an open “FitSteps” class in the Dolphin Leisure Centre in Haywards Heath to raise money for the charity. FitSteps is a dance orientated fitness class created by Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe of “Strictly Come Dancing” fame and Carol was fortunate to lure Ian to Mid-Sussex to co-lead the class. People of all shapes, sizes and ages Rumba’d, Salsa’d and generally had a marvellous time while raising money for this superb organisation.

Ian Waite and Becky Stevens lead the FitStep class.

Ian Waite and Becky Stevens lead the FitStep class.

Ian and Becky showing their slick moves!

Ian and Becky showing their slick moves!

Home-Start is a leading family support charity and Gette Cobban the Scheme Manager in Aberdeen asked if I would provide images the charity could use locally on their publicity material and to launch a new campaign. The photo session was carried out at the George Street charity shop which is so professional, well stocked and dressed that it belies the image that many people have of charity outlets. The Aberdeen branch was a finalist on the Grampian Award for Business Excellence this year and from what I saw, it is well deserved. Representatives from Aberdeen Football Club, volunteers, staff and trustees all played their part in a fun morning (as we dodged the sun and wind!)

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

The Home-Start shop in George Street, Aberdeen

Bathing at Pura Tirta Empul – Bali

Pura Tirta Empul water temple, is near the village of Tampak Siring in Bali; its sacred spring attracting worshippers who bathe there for healing and spiritual merit. It is believed that the god Indra created the spring after his forces had been poisoned and created a “fountain of immortality” to bring them back to life. The Balinese have been bathing here for more than a thousand years.

The main rectangular pool is made from carved stone with spring water cascading from twelve fountains. It’s filled with koi and the remains of offerings float on the surface. After making the offering at the temple, the bathers immerse themselves and pray. Some collect holy water to take home to their own temples. It’s a beautiful to watch and to listen to the cries of shock and laughter from children as young as 18 months.

Visitors are required to wear sarongs and may hire them at the entrance, we had our own sarongs and of course our cameras. The bathers were open and relaxed about being photographed, some of the families also had cameras. We could have (and should have, in the interests of really good images) have gone into the water. I realise that truly immersing myself in a scene, whatever it takes, is the way to really connect with the people you are photographing. Next time!!

More images from my Bali trip are being loaded to my galleries each week.

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Source of information:

Time flies even if I don’t …

We’re more than halfway through the year, time flies so fast! Not as much travel for me recently, although hopping up and down to Scotland (still the same country thank goodness) by plane does count …!

I was musing on my good fortune at having freedom to choose what I do with my time, where I spend it and with whom. I posted on Facebook the importance of making the most of every minute we have and my post struck a chord with many of my friends; after all who knows how many more moments there are?

The recent air tragedies, the war and hatred we’re witnessing (as it ever was, but seemingly more and more vicious) reveal a dangerous world for everyone and for most of us the only response is to fully immerse ourselves in our own opportunities. To value ourselves, our time with friends and families and to strive to overcome personal challenges.

We can offer help to others through donations of time or money, if we have either or both, especially when a cause touches our hearts. But often we feel impotent in the face of overwhelming need and sorrow. As I grow older, my belief in the importance of making every day a day to remember for all the right reasons grows daily. This is not selfish, it’s about celebrating life and what it offers. It’s harder some days than others, but rewarding and nourishing for the soul.

I try find opportunities to use my photography for good (as implied in my blog name!) and below are images of three inspiring people I’ve met in my day to day life and had the privilege of photographing. I’ll tell you more about them in the next few posts …

Emily Wright has her head shaved in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support

Emily Wright has her head shaved by Paula of Hair Essentials in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support

Barry "Bazza" West, mouth painter, exhibiting at Uckfield Art Trail

Barry “Bazza” West, mouth painter, exhibiting at Uckfield Art Trail

Ann Chapman, my best friend climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Cornerstone

Ann Chapman, my best friend, is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Cornerstone


Uckfield Art Trail 2014

The Art Trail is in its ninth year …. from a tiny acorn planted in 2005 has grown a very well attended exhibition, filled with art of all types, glasswork, photography, crafts and workshops at the Civic Centre in Uckfield. After five years of being involved in the organisation, I took a break and returned last year as an exhibitor. So much less stressful but still a fair amount of work selecting and preparing your work. What to share?! Last year I exhibited images from my non-profit work in South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand. Visitors were fascinated to hear about the organisations I’d worked with and why I’d decided to get involved. This year I just wasn’t sure.

Eventually I chose a selection from trips to Nepal, Bali and Cambodia, landscapes from the US, work from Brighton Pride and a macro shot of a tulip, photographed at home … I’m not always away you know! I was aiming to show variety in my work as I’m interested in so many aspects of life and photography.

It was a lovely experience. The pleasure in meeting old friends and seeing how their work has developed is immense, as is encountering new artists and new ideas. It was so busy I felt sometimes visitors couldn’t see our work properly but some returned when it was quieter and there was more time to enjoy the experience.  Below is one of my personal favourites, followed by a selection of images from the weekend – I was the “official” photographer as well!


My image of a Cambodian girl near Tonle Sap Lake was one of the most popular and I love it!

Uckfield Art Trail 2014

Uckfield Art Trail 2014

Uckfield Art Trail 2014

English seaside jaunt …

We do try to explore this country as well as foreign parts and I was taken to Kent for a belated birthday trip … Sandwich, Deal, Folkstone, Dover, Hastings and Rye. Sounds a bit twee (I thought) but it was charming. Beautiful weather helped and of course we had cameras …

Travelling in Kent and East SussexPortrait blogKent Landscape