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July 2015

5 personal goals for August

5 personal goals for August

by Clare Mansell

Today is the start of summer leave for this family. It’s Theo’s last day of regular scheduled nursery and also coincidentally Jim’s last day working in London. The two of them have between now and 7th September at home which means a month together as a family and a great chance to get a few projects done. As well as a boring list of DIY jobs I also have a list of projects for us over the summer and I thought by sharing them in a post with you there might be more of a chance of us actually focusing on getting them done…


(1) Painting… everything!

I could almost write an entire post just about the painting projects we have lined up to do, but I’ll try and condense them into one point! There are two chest of drawers and one wardrobe which need to be made over with Annie Sloan paint (a job I really enjoy.) Our kitchen needs to be completely repainted (a very long overdue job as it’s the only room in the house that hasn’t been done) an outside wall by the garage needs a makeover and if we have time I’d like to repaint my cabin in the garden which we white washed the inside of last year.

Morris Traveller in Old English white

(2) Getting Maggie on the road

We take delivery of our new car next week, which sounds rather grand, but she’s actually a 46 year-old Morris Traveller. Although we are now her legal owners, Jim and I have actually never seen her in the flesh and had to rely on my parents to give her the once over. Apparently she’s basically in good condition, but needs a bit of tuning after being off the road for six months and a few modifications like the addition of seat belts on the back seats. My dad has a good knowledge of cars and will be teaching Jim and I how to maintain Maggie (as she’s known!) so we can keep her on the road.


(3) Booking a last minute holiday

I’m sure we aren’t the only ones desperately looking round for a bargain last minute trip? The weather over the last few weeks has made me feel like we are in danger of missing out on summer entirely, so we are on the quest to find an uncomplicated sunshine break. Somewhere a short flight away with a pool, a beach and some sunshine would suit us perfectly. If you are looking for similar and find somewhere before we do, please let me know!


(4) Creating a beautiful lawn

Our garden is still looking a little sad after the building work last year and the turf we planted in the spring. We’ve got lots of weeds and bald patches in the lawn. I know from past experience that it wouldn’t take a huge amount of time to make a big difference so we’ll be getting out the lawn seed, compost, feeder and moss killer to try and transform our grass before Theo’s 4th birthday party at the end of the month.

solids quilt

(5) Working on quilts

I’ve got two quilt projects on the go, both of which are for me for once! I’d love to spend some time finishing them during in August without rushing. I’m going to try out a new method of basting the first one which will save me from crawling around on the floor (not good when you are six months pregnant!) and I think I will spend some money having the second one long-arm quilted. I’ve only gone down that route twice before, but I think it’s worth the investment for quilts that you intend to use a lot.

(6) PS…

A sixth August project was born whilst I was in the middle of writing this post and it’s something for everyone to get involved in. I’ll reveal more about it tomorrow….


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Living Arrows 30/52

Living Arrows 30/52

by Clare Mansell

I think it’s fair to say this is not the summer any of us had hoped for weather wise. We probably jinxed it when we bought an annual car park pass to West Wittering earlier in the year anticipating a long lazy summer of picnics and sandcastles, but really I didn’t expect to be spending quite so much of July indoors!


Normally this is one of the easiest times of the year to capturing images for Living Arrows with the verdant natural backdrops, lingering summer sunsets and relaxed tanned children, but it has not been the case for a while!

I’m keeping everything crossed that the weather cheers up a little as we had big plans for August and a long list of places we wanted to visit whilst Jim is off work and before Theo starts school, but failing that we are scouring the web in search of a last minute holiday deal (I’m sure we are not alone with this!) Anywhere within a couple of hours flying time, with a pool and some sunshine will do us nicely…

Living Arrows
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What we wore to the wedding

What we wore to the wedding

by Clare Mansell

So I think this will be my last wedding related post, but I did just want to finish up by sharing what we wore on the day and in particular Theo’s “alternative pageboy” outfit.

As I have already mentioned we did buy him a suit from eBay, but we suspected he wouldn’t wear it. So after a joint shopping trip I managed to get him to agree to wear a shirt and shorts combination which amazingly fitted in with the loose theme of the wedding (the Groom is a keen cyclist) As you can see he even managed to work his own twist on a buttonhole adding a dandelion to his rose.

He didn’t walk down the aisle with the bride, but he did at least consent to wear an outfit that didn’t involve a tie-dye t-shirt, so that is something!

alternative pageboy outfit

Bicycle shorts : Joules (in the sale, £16.95) / Bicycle shirt : Joules (in the sale, £13.95) / Chipmunks Noah Sandal : Boogaloo (in the sale £20)

For my own wedding outfit, I had been planning to wear my Isbaella Oliver maxi dress, but at the last minute I decided running around and taking photos might be easier in a shorter dress so my ASOS Premier next day delivery came to the rescue!

The dress I wore was a typical ASOS bargain but really shapeless without a belt. If I’d had time to return it, I think I would have sized down to get a slightly better fit.

asos wedding guest outfit

Maternity midi skater dress : ASOS (£28) / Belt : ASOS (Part of two pack £8) / Flower : Rosadior

The Phase Eight jacket was borrowed from my mum who wore it to my wedding 8 years ago and I also wore some silver sandals (not in the pic) which were about 10 years old. The flower was a gift from the lovely Sam at Rosadior who makes amazing floral headpieces and is doing a flash sale till tonight (Sunday) I strongly advise you go and have a look at her creations…



Linking up with…

Style Me Sunday
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photographing wedding hair and make-up

Last weekend my sister-in-law asked me to take on the role of photographing her wedding preparations before the official photographer started his job at the church. Photographing an event like this with the weight of someone else’s expectations can be quite daunting, but on this occasion I really enjoyed it and was pleased with the results, so I wanted to write a post about the experience, the mistakes I made and the photographic discoveries along the way.

photographing wedding hair and make-up

This was the first proper outing for my new Nikon D600 since I upgraded last month and also my first chance to use the Sigma 24-70 lens that my sister had bought only a couple of weeks before. The place where Zoe and her bridesmaids were doing their preparations was the sitting room of her aunt’s house which is quite compact, full of furniture and doesn’t have a huge amount of natural light. If you look at wedding prep pictures on somewhere like Pinterest they all tend to be shot in very minimal bright hotel rooms, so working in this sort of environment was my first challenge!

One of the ways I chose to minimise the scene was to convert about half of the photos to black and white. My lovely friend Em at Snowing Indoors had just released a free Lightroom preset for just this purpose and it did the job perfectly. Along with converting to black and white, her particular preset flattens the blacks to give a lovely matte look to the images which particularly suits wedding photography as it gives it a timeless quality.

However I wanted to give the Bride some colour images too and most of them had a colour cast caused by the tungsten lighting in the house.

Removing a colour cast caused by tungsten lighting

It was so invasive that no amount of white balance correction could lift it, so my sister suggested using Lightroom to desaturate the yellow in the images. It worked brilliantly. If you look at the before and after image above you will clearly see the huge difference it made to the wall colour at the top centre of the image (and of course throughout the photo) allowing the full range of colours and true skin tones to shine out in the photos.


Fortunately the two make-up artists wanted natural light as much as I did and so had done a brilliant job of lining the girls up to face what little was available, giving me the chance to get some great photos with catch-lights in their eyes.


One of the things I found the D600 was particularly good at was capturing detail in images whilst blowing out backgrounds. This photo of Zoe and her dad is one of my favourites because Zoe is lit by a halo of light from the window behind. I’ve mentioned it before but this is a good example of how full frames seem to be so much better at soaking up light. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to take this kind of photo on my D7100.


One of my unexpected stumbling blocks lay with my sister’s Sigma lens. Although I’ve only had my new full frame set-up for a few weeks, I have already got really used to shooting with just one fixed length lens (the f/1.8 50mm) and I found that although I had a zoom for the day (and a very nice one at that!) I kept forgetting about it and instead trying to contort myself (and my 6 month pregnant bump) into corners of the room instead of zooming out. This did mean that a couple of the images I took are unnecessarily cropped.

Cropping of images when using the Sigma 24-70

The other problem I encountered during the day was the D600’s reduced maximum shutter speed. With the D7100 the maximum shutter speed is 1/8000, but upgrading to the D600 has meant a trade off for full frame capability and a reduced maximum shutter speed of 1/4000. Whilst this isn’t a problem when you are shooting indoors, once you go outside it can really catch you out of you have left your ISO set too high.

At the reception I was still taking photos and moving between a marquee and the outdoors. I was aware of the risk of over-exposing outside so kept the ISO low, but forgot to switch it in the marquee. As a result a lot of the images I shot there on semi-auto were at 1/30 shutter speed which is slower than the ideal, but I got away with it… just!


The last thing I learned was that despite a (£1000) full-frame SLR and a £600 lens, there is always another bit of kit you wish you had and ultimately this is why you bring the pros in! Zoe asked me to photograph her engagement ring and I spent quite a bit of time attempting to do it, but it is unavoidably a specialist job for a macro lens. The Sigma 24-70 just cannot pick up the necessary detail in something this small whether you use manual focus or automatic. The 105mm macro lens is another £400 to add to your arsenal – gulp!


Last but not least I wanted to share one of my personal favourite photos from the preparations. In the photo I took just before this one my body had cast a shadow across Zoe’s face, so I stepped to the right and got down lower and at the same time she looked to her right. I love how she is lit so well by the natural light from the window, the excitement that is captured in her face and also the subtle shape of her bridesmaid Emily in the background waiting in the doorway.


I’ve always said I have no aspirations to photograph weddings because I couldn’t bear the stress and worry involved, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed being a witness to the day through my lens and I’d actually really love to try it again under the right circumstances…

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Zoe & Ian’s wedding quilt

Zoe & Ian’s wedding quilt

by Clare Mansell

As I mentioned in my previous post we spent last weekend in East Sussex for Jim’s sister’s wedding. She was engaged for about a year before the big day and right from the start I planned to make her a quilt as a wedding present. So over the last 12 months I’ve done a lot of thinking about making her a quilt and quite a few sample blocks of quilts that I abandoned. Then a fortnight ago I announced to my husband that it just wasn’t going to happen and we’d have to buy her something from her wedding list instead, news that he took completely in his stride.

The day after I told him that I walked in to the Eternal Maker, saw a fabric that was perfect made firm and bold decisions about accompanying solids and the design I was going to do and walked out with everything I needed to make the quilt.

So then I had two weeks to make a quilt that I could have started 50 weeks previously. Gahhh!

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