Tuesday, 22 April 2014

iPad Photography

When I was 11, I learned the basics of isiXhosa at school.
(IsiXhosa is the main African language spoken in the Eastern Cape, South Africa)
There I learned that objects all start with the prefix-i: 
isonka=bread, ifestile=window, iruler=ruler, irubber=rubber, ipensile=pencil. (My teacher would be proud)

Now here I am, a lot like that little 11 year old all over again, as I learn about new objects: iPad, iPhone...

Yes, I am now the slightly bashful owner of the iPad mini. Which I have learned gives me access to a whole new world of photography. Photographers everywhere are using this as a tool to place their snaps on Instagram, to show another more spontaneous side to their photography.

So I've been fiddling and playing and stumbling along. And at the big risk of sounding like a granny with her first cellphone, I am writing this post to share my discoveries about iPad Photography, for those of you, who like me are total beginners. (The rest of you aren't allowed to laugh)


Isn't it weird that lens is NOT in the centre of the iPad, as my logic expects, but in the corner. When I photograph from above, the perspective is often skewed, bowls look like they're tilting in the wrong direction. Why? Because I am holding the entire iPad above the subject, rather than just centralising the tiny little corner that holds the camera. My first tip? Remember where the camera is.


Should I zoom in? No, bad idea - I've read. The quality of the image deteriorates when you use the zoom. Rather physically move closer to what you're photographing or crop your photo afterwards.  

The iPad camera is a wide angled camera, which means that a wider viewpoint is included in the shot. I am used to using my 50mm lens or my zoom, where I am able to crop out all the stuff I don't want in the photo, so the wide angle is a real challenge for me. It makes it difficult to isolate things, but it takes wonderful shots of vast scenery and exaggerates a feeling of distance in your photos.


Did I mention my love for the 50mm lens and it's ability to throw everything out of focus, except for a small area? Now I am challenged even further with a device that makes everything pin sharp. So when I photograph the bowl of eggs in my kitchen windowsill, the wide angle includes the entire brick pathway outside the window and every detail is sharp. I have to start thinking in a totally new way! It does mean that the most beautiful details in the photo are sharp. Have a look at the texture of the fabric in the egg shot above.  You just have to change your angle and your expectation of the shot.


This is SO exciting! Fiddling with my new toy, during my recent walk in a field of dandelions, taught me something else! As soon as I could get the yapper, to stop sitting on the dandelions I was trying to photograph, I realised that this toy is an amazing macro camera! AND when you go that close, the background DOES go out of focus. It is really wonderful!


You know when you're aiming to take your shot and that little square appears? Well, wherever you tap on the screen, is where the square moves to, and the focal point moves to. You know that already? Well did you know, it is also where the exposure is measured from. So seeing that almost everything is going to be in focus anyway, if you tap on a very dark spot, near where you want the focal point, your photo will go lighter. If you tap on a bright spot your camera will compensate and make the photo darker. See you have a little more control!


When I take my iPad shots directly onto my Mac, photoshop tells me that the images are about 1,1MB and 18cm wide at 300dpi. That tells me that I should be able to print these shots to around A4 size and get good quality prints.


INSTAGRAM -  Instagram is lovely to browse through images of likeminded photographers that you can choose to follow. It's also a great way for photographers to showcase their skills in a more relaxed and impromptu way. It reminds me of the LIFE Magazine articles, where the images tell stories about the lives of people all around the world.

The best tips I've read for Instagram, is firstly to always take your photos with the iPad camera and not the Instagram camera. This is for better quality and it means that you can be selective with what you post on Instagram. I don't want the whole world to see my kids photos of the Lego constructions they made! (The Privacy settings can also help in this regard.)

I enjoy the CMGlimpse posts. Clickin Moms puts up a weekly challenge, with key words for every day, that anyone can photograph. It pushes you to find an inventive way to represent the word visually. Sometimes I take part, by  adding #cmglimpse, to my comments below, and other times I just browse through the images to see how different people see their world.

These were the key words for the week of 14 - 20 April 2014.

SNAPSEED -  Snapseed is a wonderful FREE photo-editing App! It's available for iPhone, iPad and Android! If you're looking for a little extra control over your images, this is great!You can regulate the strength of the filters, adjust Brightness, Contrast, Focus. Convert images to Black and White. It's really wonderful! With filters and frames. Get it! More info here.

Those are my favourites at this stage. What Apps do you use? Can you recommend some more?

So the iPad is a wonderful toy. I'm still learning, and loving the journey. It'll never replace my Canon, but this is more about having fun.

So did you learn anything new? I'm sure you know more than I do about the subject! Do you have any tips for me? 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Easter Eggs to dye for!

This week's post comes a couple of days early so that you have time to try this! It's Easter and what better opportunity to create something beautiful, and keep those little hands busy, than with Easter Eggs!

I love the fact that dying easter eggs is such an old tradition. I feel like I'm taking part in history whenever I do this. My mom showed me when I was little girl and it's always fascinated me. You don't need to be crazy enough to hold a workshop with 10 squealing girls, like I did, but do try it with your kids! They love seeing the magic happen and so will you!

The one option in this part of Germany, seems to be to boil the eggs, and then dye them and crack them open to eat them. Here, I'm sticking to my version of decorating hollow eggs to keep.


Try and find white eggs, the colours turn out to be so much more vibrant. Brown eggs do work in a similar way, the tones just tend to be more earthy.

  1. Gently wash the eggs in soapy water.
  2. Prick a hole in the top and the bottom of the egg. Carefully prick around the bottom hole to enlarge it slightly.
  3. Insert a thin skewer or long needle into the bigger hole at the bottom of the egg to break the yolk inside the egg.
  4. Blow into the smaller hole. The egg will start to ooze out of the other end of the shell. Keep blowing. Once you can blow easily and you're sufficiently red in the face, all the egg is out.
  5. Dunk the egg in a bowl of soapy water. When bubbles come out of the egg it means that soapy water is going in. Cover the holes with your fingers and shake well, to loosen all the remaining yolk and albumen. Blow out the remaining dirty water.
  6. Dry your eggs in a bowl of kitchen towel.
(Guess what's for supper?)


(Have a roll of kitchen towel handy, you'll be needing it!)
  1. Prepare each colour in a large mug:     
              •  10 ml (2 teaspoons) of food colouring 
              • 1 cup water 
              • 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar.
  2. Create sticker masks to apply to your eggs. You can buy paper sticker dots and stars or cut lines and other shapes out of simple lables. Rub these onto your eggs until they stick firmly. This is a nice exercise that even little fingers can manage.
    1. Dunk your eggs into one colour, with a spoon. Turn them for an even colour. The longer they remain in, the deeper the colour. Then remove the sticker masks (here the little fingers might need some help) and place the the egg into a different colour. Or only dunk one half in another colour. Experiment and have fun.

    Try it!

    Your kids learn the magic of mixing colours and you get to be a kid for a little while too and...aren't they just beautiful?

    See my Pinterest Page for more Easter Egg ideas...

    Thursday, 10 April 2014

    6 Ideas for better Family Holiday Photos

    Holidays soon! Yay! And yes, we are going away, exploring, again!

    I love recording our family memories when we're on holiday, but place a camera in my hands and I start weighing up light, composition, angle... 

    "Mom, can we go now?"
    "Just one more..."

    Know that feeling? Finding the balance between photographer and holiday maker can be challenging. Here are some ways that help me to keep the peace and some ideas on how to take better family holiday photos.

    1. SNAPS vs SHOTS

    I have learned to make peace with the fact that not ALL my photographs need to be artworks. When you're out and about choose which photos are snaps and which are shots.

    Snaps are quick and often quirky records of the moment. When I take a photo of my daughter with chocolate ice-cream dripping down her face, it's not meant to be a perfect picture, we just want to remember how we laughed at her funny face. It's not worth agonising over for hours. Just take a quick snap and grab the serviettes!

    Or - everyone quickly pose, let's get the snap of the kids in front of the leaning tower of Pisa and then find ice-cream! YAY! Smiles all round! It doesn't have to be perfect.

    It depends on time. 
    When we're on the beach, I can sit and take loads of shots, experimenting while my kids play. 
    When you have time, try a different angle, another viewpoint. Lie on the ground or stand on a chair. Zoom in and out to fill your frame, or give your picture breathing space. Don't let all your pictures look the same. Shoot into the light or underexpose or overexpose. Experiment and play.

    When we're walking through a quaint little town, on the other hand and I see a shot worth taking, I sometimes tell the others to go ahead, while I take a little time to get the shot right. But I've also learnt to limit myself. 3 or 4 shots max, then we have to move on and if I didn't get it, I wasn't meant to. I tell myself: It's a family holiday, not a photo-shoot!


    A friend of mine is an expert at this. She always includes small details of where they are, in her holiday photos. It's not just about portraits, landscapes and architectural features. Sometimes the details capture the atmosphere of where you are. Cracks in the dry earth, or a pretty tile, a milkshake or a handful of lucky beans - can tell you more about where you were than a picture of the entire scene. 

    It requires some careful observation. Look out for pretty patterns and find the colour themes that keep repeating themselves - every place has them.

    Next time your family is sick of posing, give them a break and focus on a cactus, or some shells or a sign.


    My girls and I recently went for a walk and came across a field with dandelions. I thought I'd get one or two shots of them blowing the seeds and making their wishes. I stood back a little and zoomed in. (Tip: Then they don't mind the camera as much.) They found one stubborn dandelion that just wouldn't be blown. They kept blowing and I kept photographing their puffed up faces, as they blew and blew together and eventually packed out in laughter! 
    I ended up with a lovely series of images that tell a story of what happened on our walk. 

    Sometimes one image can capture the entire story. 
    I read some great advice which photographer, John Dolan follows: "Don't shoot pictures of what it looks like to be there. Shoot pictures of what it feels like to be there". That would tell the story.
    My daughter drinking from the water fountain, was not just a nice shot because it was a novelty for her, but the overexposed quality reminds us of how bright the glare was that day and the intense heat that reflected up from the stone city, and the relief of the icy cool water of the fountain. 

    4. TIME OF DAY

    One morning in Italy, I woke up just around sunrise, for some strange reason. I'd slept in most mornings, but this time I snuck out on my own. Everyone was still asleep. I was alone, I had time, I had light and I was rewarded with beautiful images of that morning glow, which honestly made my day. 
    Sometimes it's worth getting up earlier or disappearing on a walk just before you have sundowners, to capture that golden hour.  But don't let the midday sun scare you either. Photograph people in the shade, for better portraits, but don't ignore the beauty of the glare, harsh shadows and blue skies, if you're lucky. 

    5. BE THERE
    This one can be hard. And I'm lecturing myself here too!
    Thing is, if you're not in the photos were you actually there? 

    Your family doesn't care, whether you're having a bad hair day. They don't see whether you're overweight or not. All they see is the happiness on your face. They want you to be part of the memory. Get into that photo! Your don't have to make a poster of the shot, just give them a memory of you. One day you won't be there and they'll only have these images to hold onto.

    (And hey, in 20 years time you'll look worse than you do now! Might as well get a good shot of the younger you!)


    You can do it! Hand it over.
    I don't only want to be remembered as the voice behind the little black box. Do you? Be part of the memories, not just the one recording them. Put away the camera, and live a little! Or hand it to one of your kids. It's wonderful to see what they choose to record - See your holiday from their point of view!


    PRINT PRINT PRINT them! I have sworn an oath to make little printed books of each of our recent travels, but still haven't done it! Please be better than me! Catching up is an impossible task, so just start with the next holiday - get back, randomly choose some images and print them! So that you and your family can touch them and look at them and enjoy them! PRINT!

    How do you pacify the family and get good photos, while on a family holiday? Do you have any tips to share?

    Monday, 7 April 2014

    Lemon & Red Onion Chicken - the recipe

    I'm not a foodie, I just love experimenting with and photographing flavour, but seeing that you asked and this one's made it into my recipe book, here goes:

    Some notes: 
    • the original recipe uses oranges - I had lemons, you get to choose what you want to use (Oranges or Lemons - sounds like a song.)
    • The original was for an oven bake - we went for the Weber Braai, no Weber braai? Buy one!!! Or pop it in the oven at 180 degrees for 45 min - 1 hour, uncovered and surrounded by chopped potatoes and carrots and onion and rosemary, covered in olive oil and... I think you have the idea.

    The Weber version: 


    1 x wonderful husband, who prepares and lights 2 piles of coal on either side of a drip tray, puts grid back 
          over the top, and waits for the chicken. (Indirect cooking method)

    1 x large happy chicken (we've made the mistake of explaining Free Range chicken to our daughters -
                                                                                                                 Mom, was this a happy chicken?)

    75g butter

    5ml paprika and some extra

    couple of cloves of garlic, chopped as fine as your patience will allow

    salt & pepper

    Red Onion, peeled

    1 lemon

    some sprigs of fresh rosemary

    olive oil


    • Lightly grate the rind of the lemon. Once you have a couple of teaspoons of zest, collect it in a pretty little blue bowl (or similar).
    • Add in the soft butter, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic. Mix into a paste.
    • Ok, this is the gross part but it IS worth it! Slice some slits into the chicken skin, (randomly all over) and with a teaspoon lift the skin off the meat. Squeeze in lots of paste through these slits, (I use the teaspoon) so that your butter paste sits between the skin and the meat. That's what makes it so yummy!
    • Add some tiny sprigs of rosemary into these slits. 
    • Put whatever garlic, rosemary and paste that you have left into the cavity of your chicken. 
    • Add your red onion and your lemon into the same cavity. I cut the lemon into 2 halves.
    • Pour some olive oil over your chicken and coat it with lots of extra salt, pepper and paprika to make that skin go crispy!
    • The chick's ready! Put her onto the grid, put the lid on and do not even steal a peak for 1 hour!!!
    • Now sit back and pour yourself a glass of wine. Once those mouthwatering smells come out, quickly set the table with your salads or roast veggies and wallah!


    Thursday, 3 April 2014


    Just to let everyone know, I have tried a new format for my Comments and you should now be able to post comments without any more hassles.

    I love hearing from you and so do other readers - Hearing what you like, hearing how you see things, learning about what you've done/read/seen and I like knowing a little more about who I am speaking to in my blog!  So do write to me!

    Keep Well and Keep Creating!


    PS Please do pop out an email to me, if for some bizzarre reason you are still experiencing problems


    On Sunday, I was preparing a chicken to roast on the braai (braai = barbeque =wir wollten grillen), when I saw such wonderful colours and flavours on my chopping board. I was slicing through a beautiful purple and white striped red onion and next to it lay the bright yellow lemon, with garlic cloves, salt and pepper. I found myself at the door about to race off to fetch my camera, when I had to say NO! Stop! It's Sunday. AND if you fetch your camera, nobody will get fed.

    I'm back on the PAUSE - thing. There's just a time to switch off. We can't be creative unless we occasionally stop to breathe.

    We suddenly have a whole lot more technology at home and it's my main means of communication these days, so I'm finding it more and more difficult to do. But there comes a time when you have to switch off the iPads, the iPhones, laptops, TV and even the camera. Not everything needs to be recorded. Not everyone needs to know what you're doing. Even if it is a miracle that you CAN share what life is like here today, with someone on the opposite side of the globe. Sometimes some of it needs to be your little secret.

    Some of it just needs to be savoured and enjoyed. There's also a time when you have to stop cleaning and tidying, even put the book down! Come back to the present moment and just sit together and be. Why is that so hard to do?

    So I finished preparing the food. I went outside. I sat on the bench. I drank a glass of wine with my husband. I admired the tulips I've planted and we watched our girls giggling on the trampoline.

    And it was good.

    And the chicken was good too! (Pop me an email if you'd like me to send you the make-shift recipe.)
    I took these images a couple of days later, when it was work time.
    I'll find the balance again, somehow. And you?

    If you're feeling a need to PAUSE,

    Do what you love is offering a free course called, Zen for Ten. It's a 10 day programme - "to help you slow down, tune in and light up", where you just get inspiring emails sent your inbox.

    They promise: "beautiful imagery, short exercises and inspiring prompts." It starts on Monday, 7 April.

    Sounds like a brilliant way to charge the batteries, clear the mind, take a breath and re-focus on the important stuff. I think I might JFDI, as my husband likes to say. (which roughly translates to Just Do It)