Spanish Serenity

On a recent visit to Spain we decided to take a trip out to see the beautiful coastal town of Altea.

It was beautiful; a lovely beach, cobbled streets filled with shops and restaurants – and we only saw a small part of what they have to offer, I later found out it is a bit of a cultural capital.

We had been told about the church of the Virgin del Consuelo and that was really what we had come to see.

We took the bus into Altea and found ourselves at the sea front.

Without a map to hand we thought there was only really one direction we could go in to find a church … up!


And up it was. Quite a long and steep walk, but such wonderful scenery.


The above photo was taken at about the halfway point, you can see the mountains in the distance. It would have been our coffee stop, but the restaurant was closed (!) so on we went.

As we wound our way nearer to the top the cobbled streets changed into a more patterned affair (sorry I don’t have a photo). As my friend said, you could tell you were getting close to the church as the last part of the street leading up to it had ‘gone all posh’.


Finally we arrived outside the church. There was quite a bustling little town square and after a quick picnic sitting on the wall (and a rest from our climb) we went inside.



So You Want To Learn About Photography?

I love photography. I don’t claim to be a professional and I am far from an expert. But, what I lack in skills and talent I make up for in enthusiasm.

Here are my Photography 101: Myths and Truths

Myth #1:
I’m going to need an expensive camera to take better pictures.

This is FALSE. There are artists who take photos with the iPhones. Sure, a better camera has better optics, but these aren’t going to matter right away. A camera is like a computer – it only does what you tell it do it. So, you can’t buy an expensive camera, point it at someone, click the shutter button and end up with a beautiful timeless photos of gallery quality. No, you have to control everything that you can to achieve the shot you want. This requires skill, knowledge and practice. There’s more to good photography than an expensive camera.

Myth #2
I can easily start up a business with Photography.

This too my friends is false. If you’re looking to make a load of money – forget it. I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but now-a-days, photography is tough business. The digital age allows folks to have access to cheaper technology to reproduce your photos whether you like it or not. Photographers used to make money on prints – not anymore. Also, like I said, the digital age allows novice users to take average photos, plop them into their photo editors, manipulate them for hours and wind up with a knock ‘em dead photo. You must learn to shoot as well as you can SOOC (straight out of the camera) first, because if you’re spending hours manipulating every last photo, this isn’t going to help you keep up with a busy wedding season. You’ll have angry brides calling you wondering where their photos are. My friend also taught me (he was a videographer and lighting director) that there’s two things people hate: 1. their voice and 2. how they look. Your job as a photographer is to make people look good…and you bet they have expectations.

Myth #3
I need a camera with HUGE Megapixels to get crisp clear shots

Ugh. People. Get real. Unless you plan on blowing up a picture to the size of a football field, don’t worry about it. NO NO NO. Sharpness and crisp images has to deal with how steady you have the camera and how well you take the shot. You can get a Blackberry photo as good as a 12MP camera if you’re good! This goes back to the whole notion that expensive cameras can take bad photos too! Why waste your money and use a professional grade camera like a point-and-shoot? You can have the extra cash to travel, go to concerts or feed your children.

Myth #4
Photoshop will fix all my errors

Sure, Photoshop can do anything. Feed 3rd world countries, cure AIDS and more. Seriously? Even BAD photos can’t always be saved by the angel that Photoshop is. I believe that a good photographer can shoot a great shot SOOC by knowing their equipment. Sure, it’s fine to crop, adjust some colors and what not – but don’t rely on Photoshop to give you that amazing shot. It’s cheap (the action of editing a photo in Photoshop to achieve great photographer status, not the program itself). Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s perfectly okay to use Photoshop to make beautiful art – but you’re not a photographer then, you’re a Photoshop artist.

Myth #5
Good Photographers are evil people and will judge me as a person and my work

Okay, so I’m sure I come across as a bitter “photographer”. This is not true. Many true photographers are more than happy to help you learn, and share tricks and techniques. If you see a photo that you like in a message board or Flickr – ASK. ASK how they got that shot. Join a MeetUp in your area, read a blog or a photography class. The more you learn, the more you’ll have to go out and practice with. There’s more to getting a good shot than an expensive camera and aiming it at something pretty. There are hundreds of blogs dedicated to the topic and I suggest you read them, because they do good stuff – and better than me.

Your Band Name

This was too funny not to post.

  1. Go to the “Random Article” link on Wikipedia. Write down the title of the article. This is the name of your band.
  2. Go to “Random Quotations” and the last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.
  3. Go to Flickr and click on “Explore the Last Seven Days”. The third picture will be your album cover.

This is genuinely what I got :


Not bad for my first album 😉

A Visit To Stonehenge

stonehenge01I had always wanted to visit Stonehenge. Looking at a picture of bold boulders standing in a circle in an ancient configuration shrouded with mysteries comparable to the how, whys and whens of other wonders of the world such as the Pyramids of Egypt.

I knew I had to do it.

I made all the necessary preparations including extensive online research on Stonehenge and decided on date to make my maiden visit to this global icon. I decided to make the trip late last June as I wanted to try to have a sunrise or a sunset experience of the site. “Carry your camera and be ready for great shots” that is how every guide that I checkedseemed to conclude. I made arrangements with my friends and we decided to have an experience together.

stonehenge02The journey

We decided to go by car. This world heritage mystery is allocated 70 miles southwest of LHR airport. Travelling from London, I had to take the M3 and A303 to Amesbury. Amesbury was our spot for food and accommodation. We could see the Stonehenge and Woodhenge sign posts clearly from Amesbury. You cannot get lost while you are Amesbury.

What it really is

There is a lot to Stonehenge other than the wonderful site and the exciting sunset. There is no other site in Europe that is comparable to this location when it comes to archeological richness. Visiting Stonehenge is more than just looking at a circle of stones, there are also other artifacts and exhibitions which can be viewed including re-created houses closely based on Neolithic houses dating to around 2,500 BC (which was around the time the large sarsen stones were being put up at Stonehenge) the remains of which were discovered just over a mile away during excavations in 2006/2007.

The experience

The stones stood above the ground dwarfing us. We could see the stones from the car park but once we were close to them, the view was different and the experience exciting. We took an audio guide that would take us through the tunnel and under the road to the site. We could not get as close as we desired initially because of the guided rope pathways and arranged for an early morning view of the sunrise.

The huge mysterious monuments clouded the weak yet golden bleakness of the sun. As the sky turned from blue, to black, to grey and gold, the shadows became longer and longer. Then the first sunrays got a peak through the stones and cameras began to click. It was a truly beautiful sight spiced by long history of man’s civilization.

I grasped the fresh air that came from the pure unaltered land. The breeze was smooth to the face and gentle to the skin. All this is as a result of the preserved chalk grassland. The landscape is just majestic. There are a number of rolling hills and dry river valleys on the site. We walked and enjoyed the fresh air in the upcountry environment. Rummaging through interesting terrains, we were taken thousands of years back.

There is also a lot of flora and fauna at this prestigious site and the surrounding countryside. It was my first time to see the Knapweeds and yellow rattle. Then there were the blue butterflies. I was told they are called the Adonis Blue butterflies. We also noticed a skylark.

At dusk, we headed to our camping site outside Old Sarum in Salisbury. Nobody is allowed to camp within the Stonehenge. However, we were told camping near Shrewton would have given us a closer view of the stones.

Lessons in Edible Landscaping

garden-vegetablesEdible landscaping is an easy concept to grasp, but can seem difficult to achieve. My large yard (which is only a quarter acre) is the reason I bought my dilapidated house. It took a year to fix up the house to where it’s a home, and I am now trying “landscaping” to extend my home into the outdoors. But, if I am going to go to all the work of watering, weeding, and caring for plants, then I might as well be able to eat them. Landscapers in my area seem to have no real concept of edible landscaping, except to throw in some fruit trees. They still prefer barren evergreens in the front of the yard and sterile shade trees in the back yard. So, I’m learning how to do it on my own. These are the things I have learned:

Lesson #1: Map out your yard.

Plants all take varying degrees of sun/shade and many take different types of soils. Take out some good old paper and make generalized areas of where the sun lasts for more than 6 hours a day, from 3-6 hours a day, or for less than 3 hours a day. These three areas will be labeled “full sun”, “partial sun”, and “full shade”. This will help out greatly in designing your landscape. If you’re going to have blueberries or other acid-loving plants, try to congregate them in one area and label “acid-loving” on your map as well.

Lesson #2: Think of irrigation.

I have a good friend who has a very small yard. In her yard, she has raspberries, strawberries, grape vines, an herb garden, mulberry tree, pear tree, and a highly prolific peach tree. The yard has no underwater sprinkler system. However, my problem solving friend put together a long drip irrigation hose that is always attached to the house. It winds around the outside of her fence (and above the gate) to water all but the trees. She steps out back, turns on the faucet, and sets a timer. This makes for very easy watering! Think about how much effort you want to put into watering your garden and how you are going to achieve your goals.

Lesson #3: Try to have harvest year-round.

People of the past have put edible plants in their yard out of necessity of calories or financial future. In Chapter 7 of “Ten Acres Enough”, peach trees, raspberries, and strawberries were interwoven throughout. The thought was that the strawberries would produce during early spring/summer, the raspberries would be harvested in the middle of summer, and the peach trees at the end of summer. The author was also looking to have some sort of fruit to harvest in the autumn. This concept is a good one—especially if you’re looking to have a harvest most, if not all, of the year.

Lesson #4: Preserve.

You’re already trying to have a year-round harvest, but this is not possible in most locations. So, preserving is necessary. Invest in a dehydrator, a freezer, or canner. My grandparents chose the canner when they had a very large harvest of onions 5 years ago and are still enjoying that bounty. I’m starting light with a dehydrator and freezer. Vegetables can be cut up and frozen for future cooking. If you want to preserve some fruit, blanching or sugar combined with the freezer works well. Some fruit dries well, but not all. Do a test run before you get too fruit-heavy in the dehydrator. I was disappointed in how the raspberries turned out in the dehydrator, but the kiwi was divine!

Lesson #5: Working on beautifying the landscape.

This is the least important, but still important if you live in a neighborhood or smaller acreage. Perhaps the landscapers in my area are correct and we do need sterile evergreens in the front of the house. But I would rather try some more ornate edibles. There are small weeping mulberry trees or twisted mulberry trees, which bear fruit, but still look amazing. The flowering blossoms of the almond tree are exquisite. There are a few evergreens that do bear fruit or you can turn into tea, but research would have to be done. One option is to hire a landscaper, who will probably draw out a barren, but beautiful, landscape. Then you take that drawing and swap out plants for similar edibles, matching height and sun requirements.

whitemulberrytreeWhite Mulberry tree on a summers day

In conclusion, edible landscaping can be fun, but it initially takes some research if you want it to look like the professionally done sterile landscape down the street.