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May 2014

The Isle Of Wight…

The Isle Of Wight…

by Clare Mansell

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We are back home after a wonderful few days on the Isle Of Wight. It was just what we needed after 3 months of living on top of each other surrounded by building chaos. Booking for half-term was not deliberate, but nowhere was over-run and we found the whole island reasonably priced, low key and a little old-fashioned. A really pleasant surprise.

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Godshill Model village which I have wanted to visit for so many years lived up to expectations. The buildings are copies of the full size ones that surround them in Godshill, including a model of the model village itself. Which means there is a full size church, a 1/10th scale one, a model of the model and a model of the model of the model. It confuses me just writing that.

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We stayed at the Priory Bay Hotel in Seaview. We had ajoining rooms and Theo’s was decorated beautifully in a nautical theme. It was the first time he’d slept in a proper big bed and he took to it immediately.

The hotel has a lovely private beach right on the Solent. Although the weather let us down a bit, it was still a great place to spend time looking for shells and climbing on washed up tree trunks. With the greenery coming right down to the sand, it reminded me very much of the wild parts of Vancouver Island.

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The food was amazing. You have to try the afternoon tea if you visit…

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We visited the garlic farm, where there were chickens, hamsters and some visiting owls to keep Theo entertained. Lunch had come highly recommended and although we couldn’t get a table in the main restaurant, we had delicious soup and a roll in front of a log burner in their cafe. Lunch and free entertainment for under a tenner – that’s my kind of day!

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And then finally we spent a great morning walking (and cycling) the three miles between Shanklin & Sandown on the seafront, past the beach huts at Small Hope Beach.

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The sun even shone briefly when we walked along Sandown pier. I do love a proper British seaside town…

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Our three days on the island exceeded our expectations. Good food, good activities and easy to get to. The hotel was fab and staffed by lovely people. I hope we’ll be back.

Theo loved the whole experience too as you can tell from the tired sulky face on the ferry on the way home. He would have been quite happy to stay for the whole week…

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More local posts…

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Living Arrows : 21/52

Living Arrows : 21/52

by Clare Mansell
Words

I’ve started a little photo project with Theo this week. He’s at the age where he’s starting to have little trademark phrases that he says over and over. I could write them down in a book, but instead I’ve decided to record them in photographs with the aid of a blackboard, that way they won’t get lost and I’ll also have a visual record of the age he was when he said them too.

So this is the first. It refers to the morning at nursery where he stays an extra hour for lunch (at a price of £9.20 – so you see why it’s just the one day!) If you make any reference to Wednesday, this is what he parrots back immediately, usually in a rather excited voice.

Of course the mantra about “working with children” remains true. He struggled a bit with the concept of holding the blackboard up at first…

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5 things I wish I had known when I bought a DSLR

1. That my cheapest lens would also be my favourite

When I got my first DSLR I rushed out and bought a huge expensive zoom lens for it, because zooming in and out is really cool! 6 years later I don’t own that zoom and most of the time when I take photos I use one of two lenses, the 50mm I bought 5 years ago (which has outlasted all my camera kit) and my 35mm. The 50mm cost me £90 but because of its aperture range it is wonderful for photos of food and people.

2. Joining a Camera Club teaches you more than doing a course

There are camera clubs up and down the country and they are a goldmine of knowledge. Joining one will introduce you to people who have a huge and varied knowledge of photography that you can access weekly for free (well for the price of membership at least) it will get you involved in club competitions which will push you to improve your photography and allow you to have your work critiqued rather than just having nice things said about it, which is hard at first but invaluable if you want to improve.

3. Shoot in RAW even before you know why you need to

RAW files are a form of digital negative which give you the flexibility to edit your photos in a non-destructive way. It can save an under or over-exposed picture and correct white balance. I spent months being (politely) nagged by friends to switch to shooting in RAW until I finally got it. Now I go back to old images and want to weep that I don’t have the RAW files to alter. If you are taking important images (birthdays, portraits, one off experiences) change your camera to “RAW + JPEG” and tuck the RAW files away, one day you will be grateful!

4. That great images (mostly) don’t come straight from camera

When I first got an SLR I was really disappointed that the images it took often appeared quite dull. I eventually learned that most photos can be improved with some subtle tweaks to exposure or saturation and a little sharpening and some can be improved by radical changes. Taking the picture is really only half the job. There are loads of software options around, I personally use Lightroom & Photoshop,  but Photoshop Elements is brilliant for beginners.

5. That light can make or break a photo

Many amateurs (me included a while ago) wrongly assume that full sunlight is “good” (you often hear people cooing “oh look and the sun has come out too!” as a photo is taken.) The truth is full sun is flattering to no one and nothing, the easy option is to seek out the even cover of shade, but my big leap was understanding that you can achieve beautiful images if you shoot with the sun behind your subject (and their face in the shade) providing it is low enough in the sky.

So, what do you wish you had known when you bought your DSLR?

PS –  I am over at Iheartsnapping.com today as part of their My Best Photos feature.

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Living Arrows : 20/52

Living Arrows : 20/52

by Clare Mansell
ISO 220, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/50
We taught Theo the phrase “cool dude” this week. Now he says “No big boy. Theo cool dude” and I try really hard o keep a straight face. 
The glasses are (were) mine, another thing he has stolen from me and is carrying off with far greater aplomb. I just need to capture him wearing one of my necklaces at the same time so I can complete the embarassing photo collection for when he’s older.
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#MorningStories with belVita

#MorningStories with belVita

by Clare Mansell
Since March mornings in our house have started rather differently than most. We have no need for an alarm any more. The day starts at about 7:20am with the sound of the outside tap being turned on as the builders fill the kettle to make their morning cup of tea.
I stay in our temporary bedroom for a little longer until finally admitting defeat and creeping across the patio and in to the house for a shower, hoping I won’t be spotted in my PJs by the builders.
Then after the shower it’s time to feed the dogs, get the boy up, get the breakfast out, stop the dogs stealing food from the boy and usually sometime before we leave the house, there is a knock on the kitchen door and some sort of question…
“Can you move the car?”
“Did you find out when the shower tray is coming?”
“Can I ask you something about the radiators?”
“Did you decide what type of timber you want for the porch?”
With 5 builders, two dogs, a toddler, a husband (when he’s not working away) and me, mornings are always busy! Our only deadline is 8:50am when we have to leave to take Theo to nursery, three mornings a week, but even that sometimes proves a challenge too far! So when Britmums offered us a chance to try belVita breakfast biscuits we thought they might be just the thing for those mornings when we are running late.

We tried a pack each of Yoghurt Crunch, Fruit & Fibre & Milk & Cereals. I loved the wholegrain taste of Fruit & Fibre whilst Theo was intrigued by the combination of chocolate biscuit and yoghurty filling in the Yoghurt Crunch. The biscuits also proved handy to keep in the cupboard not just for late-running mornings, but also for snacks to throw in the bag on days out.

Update >> I have just tried the Milk & Cereals flavour which fall into the category of “things I find so addictive I can’t safely keep them in the house” – You have been warned!

This post is an entry for the #MorningStories Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at www.facebook.com/belVitaUK

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