Monthly Archives: January 2016
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The 365 project continues and I have managed to keep it up for three weeks now. I always think that the first week is the hardest, as it is so easy to just give up stop after just a few days, not feeling like you have lost much, but once I have completed at least a week then I know I can get myself into a bit of a routine, and the rest seems much easier to achieve, and there is obviously more to lose if I just stop. Not that I’d want to stop, this year is going to be pretty significant in Vokes history, as our family expands from 3 people to 4 people. The ensuing chaos is going to make for some interesting photos and stories no doubt!
Day 19 I got to take the car to work, and came out of the house just in time to see the morning sky turn a lovely colour, but only had enough time for a quick snap before having to jump in the car and race off to join the morning rush hour traffic, so I could curse, shake my head and wish I’d cycled into work! SO, the whole “red sky in the morning” thing, is it true? Well, it would appear so, this gorgeous sky soon disappeared behind grey clouds and turned into rain. Lovely!
Day 20 was a little uninspiring, so I felt something a little abstract coming on. If nothing else, you can count on some macro photography to make something out of nothing.
Day 21 and as I leave work in the car, one thing stands out to me… its not dark any more! The skyline of Birmingham city centre is still clearly visible, and this bodes well for my journey home when this cough has gone and I can climb back on my bike! Those few weeks over the middle of December when its pitch black before I even get on my bike to ride home, are pretty miserable. Its cold, dark, windy and frequently wet, so you can’t even see the potholes, and even if you could, no car driver wants to give you the space to steer around them! So bring on the brighter evenings, and if we’re not going to have any frost or snow, then at least give us some sunshine to cheer everyone up a bit! Isn’t January miserable?!
With the arrival of your first baby comes a wave of chaos, the great unknown, self doubt being exaggerated by a lack of sleep and rational thought. Your world turns upside down in mere minutes and is never to be the same again.
Then somehow you seem to find a bit of confidence along the way, you start getting your shiz together and life starts to gain a little bit of order… only a little bit mind, you have created a mini monster that is somehow under the impression that they are somehow running the show, no matter how much you attempt to convince them otherwise! A Saturday morning lie in is still nothing but a mere fantasy at the moment, and getting out of the house till doesn’t seem to have got any quicker, in fact probably quite the opposite!
Regardless, there does seem to be a certain element of order and routine to life… and then suddenly number two arrives!
Now anyone who knows us or has been reading this will know that our new number two isn’t actually here yet. If all goes according to plan then we are about a week out, and trying to prepare ourselves for it. What changes can we expect from not just having a newborn in the house again, but having a newborn AND two year old in the house? How will they interact? How will they get on? What if the new one is the exact opposite and never sleeps or always cries, or both? What if our first becomes insanely jealous and turns into a mini terrorist? What if we find we didn’t actually have good parenting skills the first time around and we just got lucky, and we’re actually rubbish parents who’ve successfully managed to wing it so far? I guess time will tell.
The preparation is almost complete now, after initially becoming a little complacent and not realising how little time we had left before we began to get anything ready. We have bottles and milk ready, the car seat and pram is also ready. We have clothes and nappies ready and waiting, and also some appropriately coloured clothing ready that we are keeping well hidden. We’ve kept the sex hidden for all this time, and if anyone found out before my mother, I can imagine that I suddenly wouldn’t be very popular any more.
It is nice to know that we can still use so much stuff again for a second time, as a lot of it doesn’t seem to get much use the first time around, and it is so easy to part with a small fortune if you are not prepared, simply haven’t done your research, or are so happy to part with your cash that you will literally buy anything and everything that you are told to, by every supplier who tries to convince you that their equipment is simply “must have, if you truly love your child”! When we were preparing for our first we really had to give ourselves a bit of a reality check now and again to make sure we were both in agreement of what we did or didn’t need. Some things seemed instantly appealing, but pausing for a moment and thinking ” do we REALLY need that?” or “when are we actually likely to use that?” meant we didn’t end up buying a ton of junk that we a) didn’t need and b) didn’t have room for. I think the majority of people like us realise that it’s nice to have new things along the way for your new little one, but there is no point breaking the bank, or putting yourself into debt for flashy stuff you simply do not need. So using some of things we bought for our first child again makes them seem even better value for money and even justified some of the stuff we purchased new. I was speaking to a friend only recently who spent more on just the pushchair/travel system alone than we spent on absolutely everything we bought for our daughter, including bedroom furniture and clothing. It comes as no surprise that in hindsight they are now regretting it considering how little use it got, but it is still so easily done. In fact when we were looking into buying ours I nearly fell over when I saw some of the price tags, and could not see a reason that justified the extra cost of some of them, other than a brand name!
In reality, having a new baby doesn’t need you to remortgage the house or take up drug dealing to finance it, it can be done in a modest budget. We didn’t spend a fortune, and could certainly have done it even cheaper than we did.
What do you regret throwing money at when you shopped for your baby?
The big countdown has well and truly begun now. We have an actual date for the arrival of our new baby, the wife is booked in for a c-section next week, and after our first child being 15 days late, I can’t see this one turning up early! So we know the latest possible date for absolute certainty, which makes planning things a whole lot easier.
It is fair to say though, that we have been a little complacent in the planning of this. Being parents already and having the confidence of experience and knowing what to expect can make you a little too relaxed. Part of the anxiety for first time parents is the fear of the unknown, having never gone through the emotional roller coaster of bringing a child into the world before. It doesn’t make it any less exciting the second time round, I am equally as excited as I was the first time around, I am just a little more relaxed about it this time. We had to give ourselves a kick up the ass to start writing a list though, and had to remind ourselves that our due date was getting closer and closer before we started packing bags and bringing all the stuff down from the loft that we needed. The fact that christmas also got in the way was a bit of a distraction, as once it was over and all the decorations came down, we realised that we only had about 4 weeks left to go!
Thankfully so much of the stuff we used the first time around is still in such good condition. Babies don’t generally wear much out when they are tiny and only rolling around on the floor. We also have the benefit of most of Olivia’s stuff being neutral in colour as we didn’t know if she was going to be a boy or a girl until the actual birth. This time we have found out the sex, and keeping it a secret has been a big challenge, but thankfully all the gender neutral clothes means we can happily wash it, have it ready and give nothing away to anyone! I will be glad when we can finally do the big reveal as keeping this secret does not get any easier as time goes on, people are still pestering me even now, with just over a week to go!!
Its going to be an interesting year to do a 365 project, and the first ever year I did one was the year my daughter was born, so I think bringing number two into the world and watching the two of them interact will be an extra exciting journey to capture!
Here are days 14-18…
On day 14 I got home from work to a very excited little girl who had barely let “hello daddy” pass her lips before almost shouting at me “PAINTING!”. Out came the paints, paper, brushes and apron. I had the foresight around 6 months or so ago, to buy her a plastic table and chair to do drawing, play doh and painting on, and it has been a blessing! It doesn’t matter how much paint she gets on it, it just wipes off. So painting sessions are fairly stress free, as there aren’t any nearby surfaces that aren’t wipe clean! Good planning on our part!
Day 15 was a day where there just didn’t seem time to pick up the camera, and I was running low on inspiration. When you set out in the dark and arrive home in the dark, you have to start getting a little bit creative. As it happens, I was feeling all minioned out, after the recent marathon viewings of Despicable Me 1 & 2 and the Minions movie. My daughters little minion looked like a willing model just waiting to jump in front of the camera!
Day 16 I was quite keen to get outside, and as the nights get lighter and lighter, with the sun setting a few minutes later each evening, I was taunted with the possibility of being able to do something outdoors, especially as I had got home slightly early. It doesn’t always work out that way though. It was eventually starting to get dark and my daughter found the push light we use for the cupboard under the stairs, and I loved the way it lit up her face!
On day 17 the weekend had finally landed, and on walking out of the front door in the morning, one of the first things I noticed was life had begun to appear in the front garden. Crocuses had started to pop up and show their colours, and as most of us know, the crocus is typically one of the first signs of spring. Seeing anything growing this early is quite unusual though, as we are several weeks away from where we’d usually expect to see this happening. The tell tale signs of a ridiculously mild winter with very little frost. A stark contrast to the snow storms happening on the other side of the atlantic at the moment!
Day 18 was a day of cancelled plans. Our little one had been up most of the night not feeling well, with a temperature too. Things didn’t improve much in the morning and we were resigned to the sofa watching movies. That was until we discovered ibuprofen for children, and an hour after taking it she was jumping up and down on the sofa, rather than lying on it! Kids, eh!
The project continues with more photos, and already we are on days 9 to 13, which isn’t bad going in my opinion, as the first few days of a project like this are always the toughest. Trying to commit to taking a photo each and every single day for a whole year doesn’t sound especially difficult, but when you actually begin to do it you become aware of the logistics of time, locations, constantly carrying a camera around with you, and not only remembering to take a photo but to always be remembering to look for something different each time so you are not always photographing the same thing. People do 365 projects for many different reasons, but I always think that they are a great opportunity to learn more about your camera, more about light and more about composition and generally see your photography improve through no other reason than using your camera more.
This photo was taken as I was on my way to bed, a real “I am exhausted but I need to take a picture today or I’ve failed already” moment! Plus they are my brand new glasses and I am really pleased with them!
This next photo was taken on the Saturday, we had to visit Mothercare to exchange a christmas present for Olivia and took the opportunity to let her spend some time on their new in-store soft play centre. Unlike most soft play equipment, its the perfect size for a toddler and she loves it!
Sunday was a day of miserable weather, and few chances to use my camera as I had taken Olivia swimming in the morning and my friends little boy in the afternoon. These berries stood out as being quite symbolic of winter, which is very much how the day felt.
On Monday we all sat down for dinner and Olivia was in another funny mood, causing much entertainment for us. Having had so many photos taken in her first two years, she was fairly familiar with just saying “cheese” to the camera, whether she was looking at it or not. This usually involves a big toothy grin and so on this occasion I told her to close her mouth. The end result pout was not what I expected!
The classic baby bump. We had taken several when the wife was pregnant with Olivia, but had so far taken none of this bump and thought we really should do, for both the memory and so we wouldn’t have one of them jealous in years to come. I had tried a few lighting set ups, but liked this one, especially in black and white.
So here we are with a mini blog to keep the 365 project updated with days 6, 7 & 8.
Day 6 I was still off work sick, and feeling very unwell, the weather outside was miserable, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much whilst stuck in the house. As the afternoon began to draw to a close, suddenly the clouds parted, and let an orange burst of light from the setting sun through, and straight away a beautiful rainbow lit up behind us. They never last long, so I quickly grabbed my nearby camera and took a shot.
Day 7 I was up early after yet another terrible nights sleep, and after almost a week it was beginning to take its toll on my sanity! Its no secret that I am a real sucker for the beautiful of nature, and being up that early I stuck my head out of the window to see what the weather was going to throw at us, and was presented with the most glorious sunrise. It didn’t stop me feeling ill, but it did put a smile on my face!
Day 8 feeling more human and so time to get back to work. A tough time for the 365, when the only daylight hours are whilst you are at work. You leave in the dark and get home in the dark, it doesn’t give you much chance to get many outdoor shots, unless they are pre-planned. On my previous 365 projects, I had already decided that my shots would be a mix of arty shots and documentary style shots. The arty shots are just for me to try out different techniques, stuff I haven’t necessarily done before or had much chance to practise, which is fun to do but takes time and planning. They are nice to look back on, but don’t always create the best memories when you look back on your year. So tonight when Olivia requested a banana and we had run out, I figured a quick trip to the supermarket would be fun. It wasn’t long after getting there before bananas moved down the lists of priorities!
Somehow it seems unavoidable that at least once each year I get sick, and I’m frankly sick of it! Its always the same thing, a flu type virus. It comes on in a couple of hours and usually knocks me off my feet for a couple of days at least, everything hurts and I will often wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat.
Right now, I am sick yet again. The virus that came on Thursday started to subside over the weekend, and left me with actual hope for a quick recovery, but soon gave way to what is to date, the single most painful throat infection I have ever had! I had my fair share of throat infections in my late teens/ early twenties, at least once a year for about seven years. I am not sure what I am doing wrong to keep getting them time after time, but this week has been horrible. I’ll be glad to actually get back to work!
So here I am, stuck at home. Refusing to put the tv on, even though the wife is out and the daughter is at nursery. Yes I’d have my pick of channels, but daytime tv is truly dreadful, so I’ll only be putting it on later if I can find a good film to watch. The wife can’t seem to function without the to being on, even if she isn’t watching it, but I actually enjoy it when I’m at home and my own and I can leave the tv off.
One thing that I have decided to restart this week, although its proving a little tricky whilst being stuck in the house, is my project 365 photo series! It proved fairly popular last time around, and I had a lot of fun doing it, even though it took a huge amount of commitment. The first time around I posted a picture each day along with an explanation of the photo, which turned into a daily blog post and proved to be quite difficult to keep up for the duration. This time I won’t be doing another full blog each day to go with it, as even though I knew people were reading it, it was far more of a commitment than I had time for.
I truly believe that a 365 project (ie where you take a photo a day, every day, for a year), is a great way for people who are interested in photography to get to know their camera better, and I honestly think that everyone who wants to learn more about their camera, build their skills and find inspiration everywhere needs to do one. Its not just for the novice, maybe you love photography and consider yourself reasonably good, but never seem to pick it up. Or maybe you always end up shooting the same thing and want to try and find something different to shoot. The beauty of the 365 is that its YOUR 365, so there is no right or wrong way to do it, there are no right or wrong shots to take, it could literally be 365 days of learning, so what does it matter if you have 365 photos that you aren’t thrilled with, if you have learnt something at the end of it? For me, the first year was a great opportunity to try new things and even buy props for some of the photos. It was wonderful to walk down the street and find beauty in the most mundane of things. These were two such posts from my first year…
It doesn’t even matter what day you start your 365 on, as long as you finish it on the same day and try to stick to it by taking at least one photo a day.
So here, as we move onto day 1, a simple self portrait to get the ball rolling. The first few weeks are always a little tricky if you start in January, as there is only a few hours of daylight during the winter, and generally you will be going to work in the dark and coming home from work in the dark, so you have no choice but to get a little creative.Day two was a little easier, with some flowers sitting around the house, that happened to be near to the front window as the sun came streaming through. Day three, and I was still stuck in the house as I was feeling quite unwell by this point, but we had some more lovely sunshine pouring through the window creating some lovely contrast on my daughters face. She is at a wonderful age where she will actually look at the camera for a photo now. Day four was a simple snapshot, something I’ll look back on in the future and smile about. Our daughter can completely zone out when she is watching something on tv. This doesn’t happen all the time, and often she will be watching something, get distracted and start running around or playing with toys. Every now and again you will totally lose her though. The almighty power of the tv has such a hold that repeatedly calling her name has no impact, and either turning the tv off or shouting her name are often the only things that will get her attention. Day 5 and I hadn’t given much thought to the days photo until I looked out of the window, as it was getting dark, and I noticed the new moon hovering just above the rooftops surrounded by the silhouettes of clouds, trees and rooftops before it soon disappeared. So thats it for the first five days, I feel like I have made a strong start now. It is going to be a very busy year, in no more than four weeks our second little arrival will be here, and the juggling act begins. A household with one child changes the lives of a couple in a big way, but having two children feels like a significantly bigger step up. It will be nice to see how Olivia steps up into her big sister role, will the two of them get on, or will they fight like so many siblings? I guess we will find out soon enough. These last few weeks are definitely the slowest, they just seem to drag on and on as you wait to meet the new addition. Then, and only then, can we reveal if it is a pink or blue one. Most people seem to be guessing in favour of blue, with just a few pink guesses. What do you think?
Take a look around you… what do you see? What is it that you hold dear to you?
I’m not talking about the shiny new 2 litre turbo diesel car on your drive, or the brand new top spec iPhone, and I am not concerned if your surround sound Blu Ray player has bluetooth or wifi connectivity. None of this stuff really matters in the grand scheme of things. These things fade, and they are easily and often very quickly replaced. What matters is the people around you, how much you care about them, and how much of a difference you can make in their lives. There is a famous and very important quote from the recently deceased Maya Angelou, who said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How true this is, and how we need to remember it. I am always mindful around my daughter that she doesn’t see me on my phone too much, I never want her thinking that I am not paying attention, or that my phone is more important than her. I know my wife does far more around the house than I do, and I like to say thank you from time to time, just to let her know that I do appreciate these things, even if she thinks I haven’t noticed.
So, what do I hold dear? These two people…
This last week has just made me reflect on things a little, as I guess many people have. The recent massacres of Paris, and the less media covered deadly attacks in Lebanon, and of course the almost overlooked somali attacks in Kenya earlier in the year that left 147 university students dead, that for some reason just didn’t get the same media coverage that Paris did. All of these events were tragic and brutal, the logic behind them almost seems unfathomable, but we must not lose sight of the good that comes out of people who just want to help in those moments, in the forms of people risking and even losing their own lives to help, save and protect others. The security guard in Beirut, for example, that stood up and prevented a suicide bomber from entering a football stadium and killing hundreds of innocent people, and of course the name of a real hero that no-one should forget… Adel Termos, who made a split second decision to let go of his daughters hand and tackle a suicide bomber to the ground, and ended up losing his life in that brief moment, along with the life of the suicide bomber, and in doing so saving the lives of tens, if not hundreds of people who can live to see another day because of his sacrifice, and his family’s loss.
So what do you see around you? Do you have people who you would do anything for? Do you have friends and family that you love? Do you make the effort to keep in contact and call them? I think its a fairly accepted trait that none of us really keep in contact as much as we should do, or would like to, and yet keep bouncing around that same old excuse “but I’ve been so busy…”
Really? So busy with what? Are we all that busy that we can’t pick up the phone and make a call to someone that we haven’t seen in a while? Or are we suddenly facing the fact that due to how ingrained social media has become with our lives, we are now in contact with more friends than we’ve ever been used to talking to? I have a good circle of friends, and could maybe fire off twenty or so names without even thinking about it, even though I may not see some of these people for several months at a time.
Yet now with the likes of facebook, I suddenly have almost 400 people on my friend list. 400 people! How do you keep in touch with 400 people? Well, the simple fact is, I don’t. They may ‘like’ one of the many photos I put on of my daughter, and if I’m lucky I may even get a “happy birthday” once a year, but in reality I haven’t seen a lot of these people for years, if not decades, and possibly may never even see them in person again, yet I don’t have the heart to break the connection and ‘unfriend’ them.
I do like to consider myself one of those people who makes the effort though, and when the months begin to slip by, I will send out messages or make calls and try to arrange a get together of some kind, or a night out, especially as they seem to happen so rarely these days now that most of our friends, like us, have children. Children do make a wonderful distraction, but every now and again you have to relax, connect with people and remember who the person is behind the parent mask. It is still one of the best jobs I will ever have, being a parent to my wonderful daughter who continues to inspire me, and make me so proud and happy.