Apologies… I moved house.

We now have a small army of Pusheens taking care of menial tasks, such as holding doors open.

It’s been well over a year since I last wrote anything on here. We moved house towards the end of 2017, and the joys of home ownership have been all-consuming ever since.

Although I was pretty sure I’ve been up to nothing interesting, or creative for the past year, I had a quick look through my Google Photos account, (which handily backs up every image that passes through my phone) and I’ve actually been up to more than I thought.

Here’s a handy recap of everything some of it, partially as I’ll probably revisit some things, and maybe take others further.

I cured/smoked some salmon.

I’ve been toying with the idea of curing meat and fish for a long while, so last Christmas I bought a couple of sides of salmon and cured them overnight in a mixture of sugar and salt. One I baked in the oven, and the other I tried hot smoking. The oven-baked one was delicious, the smokey one was less successful.

I became a dab-hand at DIY.

Who knew that driveways actually need to be wide enough to fit a car on? Or that your electrics actually need to have the earth connected to something? Or that live wires shouldn’t really be left dangling out of the walls? I’ve had more floorboards up this year than ever previously. I’ve demolished a wall, and I’ve built more shelves than I care to keep count of. As a result, our house is slowly becoming a home. Special first prize goes to water pipe that was leaking. The pipe was poorly installed and put together, but what really astounded me was that the previous occupants of this house thought that PVA glue would make a suitable substance for sealing leaky joints on this plastic pipe. Yes, that’s water-based adhesive, used to hold contain water. Clever.

I did lots of decorating.

This year, when we had got on top of the stuff that was obviously dangerous, (like sparky electrics, with no earth and leaky pipes sealed with PVA) we started to make progress on the decor of the house. Being short of cash, this meant trying to make walls that really needed re-skimming as smooth as possible with more Polyfilla than you could imagine before painting. We also brightened up the garden by painting the grim-looking pebble-dash, (it’s actually spar-dash, because it’s cheap) with white masonry paint, pressure-washing the paving and building planters, I also renovated some old pine drawers to a reasonable standard, and made a laser-cut acrylic number for our house. the laser cut number was my handwriting, overlaid with Jenny’s handwriting. I also built shelves from some reclaimed decking, left over from a project at Jenny’s brother’s house. These are now painted pink and house a potted plant nursery, of sorts.

I made some stuff at work.

A couple of things I made, trying to learn new skills while helping students at work are worth a mention. I made a laser-etched light to show someone how the etching could be displayed differently. I had a go at using the multi-head embroidery machine, and associated software and made an embroidery of Tony, our cat-faced member of the family and I also made a photo-digitiser, using Photoshop, to allow students to digitise their own patterns. I may expand on how I made the digitiser in another post, if time allows.

I revisited old haunts.

Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed posting snippets from my archive of images to my Instagram profile. I collected together a selection of interesting, or memorable images and sorted them into alphabetical order to post each Thursday. So far I’m up to ‘C’ in the alphabet, so there’ll be plenty more to keep me going for a year or two yet. Also, I photographed Tramlines festival for the last time. The festival has new owners and a new venue, and everything is a bit more corporate/professional then it ever was, so that means the new owners want the photographers they know already, which is fair enough.

I got my barbecue on.

A benefit of the new home is that we now have a garden. This is a novelty that will take a long time to wear off, especially as all my adult life has been lived in places with no outside space, Unless you count the mouse-infested scrub that was behind the house I lived in once on Sharrowvale Road). I enjoy cooking, so garden, plus cooking, equals barbecue. Successes include pork and beef ribs, pre-prepped in a home made chilli/barbecue sauce and pressure-cooked until tender, before searing on the grill. Tandoori chicken is another barbecue go-to, which is simple to prepare and yields delicious results. Something that requires further exploration is stuffed bream, or bass. I only had one go at this, which was reasonably successful.

We began growing and preserving food.

Putting the garden to work, we’ve grown Courgettes, Tomatoes, Aubergines, Chillis, Peppers and herbs of all different types. The chilli and pepper plants have been moved indoors for the winter, so we can hopefully get another crop from those over the next year too. I used some birthday money to buy a dehydrator, which we’ve used to make apple crisps, dried tomatoes and dried chillies. I look forward to growing more, and preserving more in the coming year.

and finally…

I made steps towards reigniting my passion for photography.

Amongst other things, I bought a new camera. A new camera for fun, not for work.

I’ve toyed with the idea of trying to take more images, but ever since I finished working as a photographer, it’s been difficult to find the impetus to just take images for the hell of it.

For the past few years, I’ve helped with the set-up of student exhibitions at New Designers, held at the Business Design Centre in London. It’s a really good opportunity for students from the courses I support to showcase their work to employers, and the wider public. I’d be lying if I said this event isn’t stressful normally, so this year I made an extra-special effort to make sure all the planning and preparation I could do, was done and we managed to get the exhibition up in record time. This left about half an hour, which I used to document some of the work the students had done, (there really was some interesting and visually exciting stuff this year!) and how it looked in the exhibition setting. It was the first time in ages I can honestly say I really enjoyed taking some pictures, even though it was with my crappy snaps camera, which I’d packed just in case.

More recently, I was asked to support a workshop for a gathering of researchers and students interested in the relationship between architecture and textiles called ArcInTex. I was asked to take some pictures to document some sculptural forms the students were making from knitted textiles. It was a really fun project, which gave me the opportunity to push the photography and make it into something of a technical challenge for me, especially as a quick turnaround of images was required. I had fun playing with wireless lighting from my ancient Nikon Speedlights, and processing the images in Capture One quickly, just like I used to if I were working at an event. I think the images surprised those involved, and I was quite pleased with how they came together too. Some examples can be seen below…

Jenny and I booked ourselves on a photo-walk around Park Hill Flats, which was organised by Sheffield Modernist Society. This was a fun day, with a tour by a very knowledgeable guide and it was great to just take some pictures for the fun of it. I was quite pleased with the images I came away with too.

Since then, I’ve been making an effort to use any spare time i have to continue taking images, playing and trying to keep the interest going. I revisited using the microscope lenses I was experimenting with, but managed to push the technique a little further. I got some images I was pleased with of onion skin and garlic, using the 40x magnification lens I’d not managed to get anything decent out of before.

I’ve also been trying to explore the area local to where we have moved. There is actually quite a lot of countryside tucked away in-between the industrial and housing estates. The first time I went for a walk for this purpose, I headed to Treeton Dyke with my Sony snaps camera.

I soon realised that if I’m to enjoy taking pictures, I need a camera I enjoy using. Luckily I found a great deal on a refurbished Fujifilm X-E2 with an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens and took that for a walk around Woodhouse Washlands Nature Reserve.

I’m currently waiting on some adapters and old lenses, purchased from eBay to try with the new camera.

Oh… and I made a trifle.

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