Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Happy New Year! from Spudgirl Daisy - my latest Spudpeeps character for children

Happy New Year!—this message brought to you by...

Spudgirl Daisy


I'm pleased to introduce you to Spudgirl Daisy. She is the official artist of the potato patch and is always busy with banners, pamphlets for tourists, t-shirts and so on - she does them all! Spudgirl Daisy likes flowers and bright colours. Do you see the red and yellow daisy she's wearing?

See the kids gear and gifts she appears on over on my Zazzle Store

I'd love to hear what you think of her....

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Another Spudpeep - meet Bounce!


Spudpeep Bounce


Here's another of the Spudpeeps folk that live in the potato patch. Spudpeep Bounce is lots of fun and likes to bounce everywhere. If you can't get there by bouncing, Spudpeep Bounce just might not turn up! And being so bouncey, a special tumble-proof hat is a must. Do you see it?



See the kids gear and gifts he appears on over on my Zazzle Store

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my readers!
Have a really great time and here's hoping for a prosperous New Year to you.

Spudman Yeehaw

My new character comes from a series I have planned, called the Spudpeeps of the Potato Patch. And he says "Happy Christmas", too!


I've been drawing these characters for years, mainly for personal amusement. Back at school and college I used to sneak into empty classrooms and draw them on the chalk / whiteboards. I've even been known to do it in meeting rooms in my business life! Ever the child, hehe!

Spudman Yeehaw is a delightfully friendly chap. He loves horses and wants to ride one someday. He runs around all the time pretending to be a cowboy and being very helpful in a clumsy sort of way. Sometimes things end up in more of a pickle after he's been helping!

He even features on some of my cards and gifts over at my Zazzle Store

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Desiderata Poster - love it or hate it?

This just goes to show...

I Have Time

I took this picture ages ago now and returning to it recently, I wondered why it's not proved more popular. My artistic intent was to use it to portray a sense of facing the future, one with portent and hazard but with a feeling of being in control of your own destiny.

A serene horizon shows the outlook is potentially good but the overhead clouds curling down, almost reaching for you (the pillar), acts as an omen, warning of the potential danger that lies all round.

I processed it with that in mind, going for heavy contrast and lots of grainy, dirty noise in the sky. Maybe it was lacking something else? This is the one:

I Have Time


As I said, its not done so well in views, comments or with real-world galleries. But I was confident in its 'worth' as an image so I scratched around in my head for ideas and Desiderata (that great verse, starting "Go placidly amidst the noise and haste...") came to mind.

It's a wonderful verse, imparting great wisdom from a father to his son. Written in the 1920s it was, and still is to this day, great guidance for any teenager.

There's such a great fit between my artistic intent for the image and the verse, that I put the two together for a poster in my Zazzle store ...and a couple of days later I sold two!
Here it is with the verse in place.


Yaay for me!

The lesson? Don't give up on an image that you feel is great. All you have to do is find the right venue and audience. Like that's easy! lol, but at least you know where to put your effort.

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Photgraphic Aspect - Mark Alan Meader

Short and sweet this time...

Mark Alan Meander

...has produced a stunning bw image: In The Twilight Zone, which you can see on his blog

It's a beautiful quality of light and there's so much interest in the shot. The lead-in and leading lines take your eyes through a journey of gorgeous texture, contrast, light and shade. Exquisite!

I've seen so much that is good but, sadly, not astonishing, lately that it's kind of deflated the creative urge in me. But this image from Mark has picked me right up again. Thanks Mark!

comments always welcome :)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Another verse, Gothic this time...

Well, I don't know if I'm any good at this 'ere poetry, but needs must when the devil drives!

Folley's Dream

I created a poster that felt like it needed a verse. I was feeling a bit gothic and came up with:
In fright she fled
From love foreseen.

The fears she felt,
The tears she shed
- blood red! My heart!

In flight from Folly's Dream
Copyright © Highton-Ridley 2009

Here's the poster
Folly's Dream poster with verse print
Folly's Dream poster with verse by HightonRidley
Shop the other artwork at zazzle.co.uk

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

New Zazzle Promo Panels and more poetry

I'm finding the Google Gadget I called Zazzlit! very useful in my publicity drive and I've been trying my hand at more poetry with another verse, for a Christmas Card this time.

New Zazzle Promos

As promised to my Zazzle community, I've just added another three panels, one for Christmas (HRXms), one for Hanukkah (HRHnk) and one for New Year (HRNyr) gear.

Christmas Card and Verse


Here's the verse:
In lowly manger gathered they,
Who, led by star to holy crib,
Brought gifts of Olibanum,
Gold and Myrrh

And, joining feather, hide and wool,
Gave praise to God for our Lord Jesus
Born to save us all
Copyright © Highton-Ridley 2009


comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

More poetry - well, a card verse...

I actually did this a couple of days ago but haven't found the time to post about it. Giving you plenty of time to recover from my last verse! Hehe!

Another card verse

I wanted to do some Thinking Of You cards for my Zazzle store. Again I had to write a short verse for the sentiment. What do you think, is it up to scratch?
It's been too long since last we met
Since strolling where
our feet would lead
And chatting all the while

So, friend of mine, here's hoping soon
Our paths again will cross, and
Once again we'll chew the cud
Until the time to part
Copyright © 2009 Highton Ridley

Here are the cards that the verse is in:
create & buy custom products at Zazzle

So, what do you think of my little ditty? I'd love to get some feedback...

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 6 December 2009

To Zazzle store owners...

Find out how to promote your Zazzle store's gear more widely

Getting greater exposure

No, not in the camera sense of the word! I've written a promo page on my site specifically for featuring the best of the best designs on t-shirts, cards an more, by some fantastic artists and funny folk in the Zazzle community.




Good luck promoting!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Saturday, 5 December 2009

I tried some Card Sentiment poetry

I've been a busy chap, juggling various activities...

This evening, I'm a poet...

...maybe :)

For my Zazzle store I thought I'd do a couple of thankyou cards with a poem for the sentiment. Hmm, not quite sure, what do you think? Does it catch the sentiment ok or should I think about changing it?
Thank you for being you
For always being there
For shielding me from all the hurts
When thoughts became despair
But most of all you have my thanks
The answer to my prayers
But due the most, are thanks for being
An answer to my prayers
Copyright © 2009 Highton Ridley


create & buy custom products at Zazzle

Don't be shy, I'd love to hear what you think—yes, you blokes as well!!

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Another from the digital darkroom pile

I've just about finished the backlog in my digital darkroom. This one came from my visit earlier in the year to the Dartmoor Miniature Pony Centre.

Here's lookin' at you


Miniature Pony At Rest


Patiently waiting for the last of the visitors to leave, s/he was perfectly happy to pose for me, not minding at all the movement as I tried out different positions. You can tell s/he's resting and quite relaxed—you can just see the cocked rear leg if you look closely.

I might be spending some time around Potter's Bar in the next few months and am looking forward to a new area to take my camera around :)

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

I made some sales at Zazzle!

I know some of you are thinking about joining Zazzle so I thought I'd report back on recent progress.

Sales made

Dog Rose - notelet / card card
Sold 2: Dog Rose - notelet / card by HightonRidley
Browse more of my Cards


Grazing Pony - postcard postcard
Sold 1: Grazing Pony - postcard by HightonRidley
Browse more of my Postcards



Products designed

I've laid my designs on 425 products from 40 images so far. The most popular fine art ones are shown in the panel:

make custom gifts at Zazzle

How easy is it to have and manage a Zazzle store?

In a word, relatively straightforward. I created my store on 11th Nov, so I'm three weeks into it (not many sales yet - but that's to be expected for such a new store) and haven't found anything that irks too much.

Like with any new arena, it takes a little while to orientate yourself to their way of thinking but once you've done that all works well.

The basic principles are:

Zazzle is..

...a Print on Demand store. Your designs get put on their product blanks and when they sell them, you get a royalty payment.
You don't even have to have any designs yourself, you can promote others' work and still earn a goodly commission from it.

Store Setup

  • There are no setup fees or running costs. When an order comes in and they fill it, you get a royalty fee, based on a commission you set
  • You create a store, choose a template / theme  and give it a name. Your store is located at www.zazzle.com/your_store_name
  • It's also mirrored at .co.uk .au .ca and others, with all prices displayed in the local currency

Making products

  • You place your uploaded images onto the various product blanks that Zazzle stocks
  • You fine-tune your design for a product using a pretty neat design tool, sizing and placing the image. You can also add text with a huge number of typefaces / fonts to choose from.
  • You give the product a title, description and a bunch of tags
  • They have a Marketplace where you can put your stuff for sale, or you can keep your gear private
    (once in the marketplace, you can't change the image of a product)

Managing and promoting your store

  • You get to create category folders and can have nested subcategories. You put the products in them and it's up to you how you organise this.
  • They make it dead easy to promote your store or individual products, with the same sort of sharing facilities you see all over the web. They give you html for pasting into blogs and emails and generally make it easy to show off your stuff in places other than Zazzle
  • I've used some of their promotion facilities in this post—all I had to do was copy and paste.
  • They give you a Zazzle blog panel for putting in your blog sidebar though I find it a bit limiting. Instead I use Zazzlit! a Google gadget I created for the purpose. Look over in my sidebar at the top. See a tutorial on using it.
  • Most blogging platforms are supported
  • If you're feeling brave and aren't too afraid of changing CSS and HTML, they have a store builder and you can then control all aspects of your store layout
  • ...and, no, I haven't been brave enough yet!
Most of my followers are other artists so I'm guessing you're one too? If you are, why not give Zazzle a go for your artwork?

If you decide to have a go, let me know so we can hook up on Zazzle :)

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Dartmoor Farm Granite

It's been a while since I posted a photo, having been focusing all my energy on marketing. It's amazing how quickly time slips by...

Granite and lichen

This one was partially processed in the digital darkroom and I bumped into it today while having a tidy up (and there's another one on the way).


Dartmoor Farm Granite

On a grass verge bordering the car park for the Dartmoor Miniature Pony Centre, the function of this and the other granite boulders must be to stop cars parking where they shouldn't.

I'm not sure what the hollowed out granite was originally used for but it's now home to some wild grasses and what looks like chickweed. It's completely covered in lichen so I guess it's been many tens of years, maybe more than a hundred, since last used for its original purpose.

comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Tutorial on using my new Zazzlit Gadget on your blog or web site

After something like five or six intense days, I've finished both my Zazzlit Gadget and the tutorial on adding and using it.

What is it?

Regular readers will know that I've recently opened a Zazzle shop (basically they make it dead easy to get your images onto products. No set-up fees.)

In these tough economic times, sales of my work through my web site have dropped off. People aren't really spending on fine art the way they used to. Not mine, anyway (and I keep hearing the same story from other artists).

The shop is a way to offer my work, albeit in a different way, at a much more affordable price. And it's starting to work.

So what is the Zazzlit Gadget? It's a way for Zazzle storekeepers to display just the products they want, in a small gadget in their blogger side panel or on their web site. Zazzle provide a couple of brilliant panels but they don't allow you to narrow down the products displayed.

But my Zazzlit does! I had to write it because I couldn't find one anywhere that did the job half decently, one that any shopkeeper could use. The thing about the Zazzlit Gadget is that I can put one on each of my sites / blogs and get them to display the type of gear most suitable to the folks who visit those places.

Tutorial - a piece of cake

My tutorial shows you in 5 easy-to-follow steps, with live working examples, how to point and click a Zazzlit onto your blogger blog.

Another revenue trickle / stream is always good...

I'd encourage any of the serious artists who follow me to sign up for a Zazzle shop - apart from the effort in uploading images and applying them to products, any sales made are pure profit. If you do, get things moving by using Zazzlit.

I'm not saying this is an instant earner but if you already sell your work and have a good handful or two of regular followers, then with Zazzlit you should see some additional revenue.

As usual, I'm after your feedback. What I want to know is, was the tutorial easy to follow and understand or did it frighten you?!

Secondly would you/will you use Zazzlit on your Zazzle store or does it have any drawbacks that need fixing?

comments / feedback always welcome :)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

I fought Google Gadgets and won!

[UPDATE: 22 Nov. This brief tutorial is now out of date. Please see the new, full-blown tutorial at its new location.]
-------------------------------------------------------
[UPDATE:] There was a flaw: clicked links opened the product page in the gadget window. Now fixed to open in a new window / tab. 
New filename is v1_1 (full name: http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/100521288542998786592/zazzle-by-highton-ridley-v1_1.xml)
-------------------------------------------------------
It's been a long eleven hours! ([update: now 25!!]

Google gadget for Zazzle

I couldn't find a way of displaying search results from my Zazzle store in a small panel, suitable for my blog.

So I wrote my own - which other zazzle storekeepers can use too.

The key things it does are:
  • Searches your store for the tags you decide
  • displays the products, matching the search
  • Make sure you use your associate id in the config (see below) so you get the credit for referrals 
  • clicking the picture takes you to that item in your store
See it  in action at the top of my right hand panel (I can't get it to work in posts).

The really great thing is that you can have lots of them, each for a different search. Wouldn't it be great if you could put all your fun products on a page you've got which is to do with humour?

Simple, use the gadget with a search for all your products that are tagged with "fun". Do the same for your page about your favourite band. The list goes on...

So exactly how do you do this? Well, read on...

Blogger Blog

To get it onto your Blogger blog, from dashboard, choose "layout" and "add a gadget". In the window that pops up to let you choose your gadget, choose "add your own" and give it the following url
http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/100521288542998786592/zazzle-by-highton-ridley-v1_1.xml
You then get a chance to configure it. The settings you'll want are
  • Title: Whatever you want.
  • Height: 220 (or, I guess, a multiple of 220 [Update: two require 434]
  • Show Dates: (go on, you can guess this time!)
  • Number of entries: 99
  • Zazzle rss feed. This deserves a few words. Look at mine
  • http://www.zazzle.com/HightonRidley/rss?qs=fun&at=238582202591969585
  • "fun" is the search query - all your tags are searched. If you want the tag "fine art", use fine+art
  • the number at the end is your associate id. Get it from your store.
    Then you'll get the credit from any referrals
  • Note: When you change the Zazzle rss feed (including the query string etc), the preview won't show the changes. You'll only see them once you've completed adding the gadget (grrr!)
    • Box colour: Each product returned is surrounded by an outline. Set the colour here.

    Ordinary webpage

    (or an FTP blogger blog)

    Here's the code I use: Copy and replace the relevant bits and put on your page or in your blogger (classic) template sidebar:
    <div style="width: 200px;">
    <script src="http://www.gmodules.com/ig/ifr?url=http://hosting.gmodules.com/ig/gadgets/file/100521288542998786592/zazzle-by-highton-ridley-v1_1.xml&amp;up_show_date=1&amp;up_num_entries=99&amp;up_MyZazzleFeed=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.zazzle.com%2FHightonRidley%2Frss%3Fqs%3Dfine%2Bart%26at%3D238582202591969585&amp;up_ItemBoxColour=96%2C96%2C96&amp;synd=open&amp;w=200&amp;h=220&amp;title=My+Zazzle&amp;border=%23ffffff%7C3px%2C1px+solid+%23999999&amp;output=js"></script></div>
    The relevant bits are:
    • HightonRidley: change to your own store name
    • qs%3Dfine%2Bart: change to qs%3Dyour_search_query%26
      (this does a search for fine+art, note that %2B is used in place of the "+" symbol)
    • 238582202591969585 change to your_associate_id
    • &amp;title=My+Zazzle change to the title you want.
      Note the + is used in place of a space here
    • ItemBoxColour=96%2C96%2C96 change to ItemBoxColour=red_value%2Cgreen_value%2Cblue_value
    Whew! Well, that's it. If you have any questions, I'll try and answer them but remember that I'm not techy. I know just enough to be dangerous! hehe!

    If you use the gadget, drop off a link to your page / blog in the comments, I'd love to see how you use it :)
    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Tuesday, 17 November 2009

    Christmas prize draw

    I can't quite call this a freebie draw because it's only open to those who have made a purchase from my zazzle store.

    What's up for grabs?

    Win a mounted, signed fine art print, your choice of print. They sell for around £75 ($125) in the galleries where I have work. Imagine it, you buy something from my shop as a Christmas present for someone else and you could win the print of your choice for yourself!

    As usual, there will be three winners (if enough folks enter) selected from The Hat of Wonder And Hope.

    Rules

    [Update] Ends 14th December
    • Buy something from my zazzle shop (see panel below)
    • Make a post about it on your own blog
    • In your post, link to my shop using http:zazzle.co.ukhightonridley* as the destination url (note the asterisk on the end)
    • Comment on this post to let me know you're in and what you bought. Or if you prefer, email me at highton dot ridley (at) gmail.com to tell me instead.
    Just think, with three prizes an' all, if I only make a few sales, you're almost bound to win!

    There's funny, romantic and inspirational cards and wares available here:

    Doh!

    I had a Doh! moment when I sent out my occasional mailing earlier. I mentioned that you, my great followers, with all your interaction, have helped me to become a Gooogle-recommended example site -- yay! \o/

    And I forgot to give a link to it! So without further ado, here it is, Google's page of example sites that are using Friend Connect effectively.

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Sunday, 15 November 2009

    My first Zazzle award!

    As you know, I've just opened a zazzle shop (I think US folks have to use the US version of my shop to see the prices in dollars—let me know if otherwise, please.)

    Lucky day for some...

    Well on Friday 13th I happened to notice I was getting postings on my zazzle wall from peeps congratulating me on my "TBA". As I'm a complete zazzle newbie, I had no idea what this was. Some digging around later and I see it's quite an accolade—a Todays Best Award.

    The product was a greetings / note card featuring my barbican steps image.

    How exciting!

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Friday, 13 November 2009

    Funny or not?

    Well, I thought I'd share this one with you... it made me laugh!

    New poster for sale

    I think you might like this one... freshly added to my Zazzle shop.
    i iz snoozin poster print
    i iz snoozin poster by HightonRidley
    See other posters from zazzle

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    About my new shop's products

    I thought I'd better explain why I've gone for a Zazzle shop and the difference between the products there and those on my website.

    In a nutshell, if you don't want hand-processed, signed prints then they are much more affordable via Zazzle.

    I don't make that many sales via my website—hand-processed limited edition prints of my artwork are relatively expensive (especially in today's economic climate) and are beyond the reach of most of my followers. However, I know that most really like my work, judging by the comments left and if you're one of them, it's now much more affordable to buy...

    Products on my Website are...

    • Hand printed on the finest quality paper
    • Hand mounted using archival quality material
    • Signed, dated and titled by hand
    • Available as limited edition prints as standard
    • For framed options I use a local professional framing service

    Products in my Zazzle shop are...

    • Much more varied, with mugs, t-shirts (to come), cards and more
    • Printed on demand using a high quality process
    • Customisable
    • Much cheaper than the hand-processed prints on my website
    See for yourself. In the panel below you can see my current range of cards and notelets (or if you choose, you can see all products).

    With the Christmas holidays approaching, tell someone you care by sending them one of my fine art prints. What are the chances they'll ever get such a unique card from someone else?

    make custom gifts at Zazzle

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    My shiny new Zazzle store

    I've been searching for a while for a print-on-demand shop and now I've found one.

    Zazzle.co.uk

    Shops at zazzle are free to run—no setup or placement fees. Immediate appeal to a Scotsman! So I've spent the last couple of days setting mine up and I'm pleased to announce it's now open for business.


    What's really cool is the level of customisation you can do to your products. You can even set some items, such as a card's inside message, as a template item. You provide the initial message but a customer can change or personalise it.

    On top of that you can earn commission when folks follow your link and buy from other people's shops. Not bad.

    The only drawback I found was initially getting used to the way you do things there, especially with the way you create products. But once you're used to it, it's really quite easy.

    I know there's quite a few cat fanciers that follow my blog, so how about this:
    Nedda postcard
    Nedda by cunningba
    Create Full colour postcards online at zazzle

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Wednesday, 11 November 2009

    Photography composition tips

    As promised a while ago, here are some rules on composition you need to know about. As usual, half the skill comes in knowing when to apply them and when to turn a blind eye.

    The rule of thirds

    ..is a useful one. It says that you divide the image into a grid, jut like the one below. Then, when you're composing your shot, you place significant items along / up any of those lines. Horizons are easy, place on the lower line for an airy feel, on the upper line for a more closed-in feel.

    Put your main subject somewhere where two lines cross and you'll boost its power, its dominance in the shot. Have a look at the following images.

    In Firefox (others?), you can drag the grid and slide it on top of the images here (let go and it'll pop back). Look at what it tells you about where I've placed the various elements in these compositions. You'll notice things don't have to be exact—near the lines / crossing-points works too, I think you'll agree.






    Lead-in lines

    As it says on the tin... lines that lead the eye in and guide the viewer to your main subject. It can be a hit-you-in-the-face, straight shooting line like here (and in the piccies above) or it can be a meandering line that takes you to various points in the image, before continuing to the next.



    Foreground interest


    If you have a shot that takes in a lot of distance that also includes the foreground, then you need something to initially grab the viewer's interest and bring them into the rest of the shot. And that's what foreground interest is. Without that bundle of paper, or the post on the beach, those shots would lose a lot of power.

    Distractions

    Well, I haven't got any examples from my work for this heading! I'm always very careful with distractions (a bit of a pedant actually!). So what do I mean? Well there's a couple of things that fit here. (I'm assuming here you're past the point of shooting people with telegraph poles sticking out their heads!)

    First Contrasting areas near the edge of the frame. For example, if you have mainly dark borders with a light blob next to the image edge, then the viewer's eyes will be pulled right to that blob and then likely right out the picture. Even if they're looking in the body of the image, as soon as their eyes get anywhere near that blob, bang, they'll be drawn right to it. Or maybe it's a tree branch sticking its nose in, or some other distraction intruding into the frame.

    Second For example, one or two birds that are just dots in the sky (or maybe there's one or to spots of chewing gum on the pavement in a street scene). If the sky is uniform and those dots contrast against it, again the viewer's eyes will notice. But once their attention is drawn, there's nothing but dirty smudges to see. Sorry, they've got to go. A stray crisp bag, one corner poking into the scene from under a bush?—get rid of it.

    Simplicity

    If there's no good reason to include something in your shot, don't! Of course, when you're shooting from the hip because there's lots going on, well, the finer points go right out the window then anyway.

    For other situations, those where you have more time and control, simplify, simplify and simplify again. Ok, again these are extreme examples, but they serve to illustrate.



    Another example, say you're taking a macro (close-up) shot of some mushrooms under a tree. Remove any stray twigs, leaves or other detritus—it's mushrooms you're photographing after all!

    Height

    Don't always shoot standing up. Varying the height from which you shoot can have a huge impact on the final shot. Shooting kids / pets? Get down to their eye level, get below it if you can. Shoot a worm's eye view of a scene, getting as close to the ground as you can. Jump up on a wall to introduce foreshortening or just to get interesting lines.



    In a nutshell

    Place important elements along those powerful thirds' lines / intersections. Consider how to bring the viewer's eye into the picture, look for what can serve as lead in lines and / or foreground interest. Have a quick glance around for distractions and watch out for areas of high contrast along the frame edges.

    Next steps

    Use and abuse these rules the next time you get the chance. Try to get a feel for which compositional approach suits each scene you take a fancy to. Walk a few steps in each direction from the first viewpoint you naturally gravitate towards. See how any possible lead-in lines change their relationship with the scene as you move. Crouch down, step up high, look for foreground interest.

    ...and let me know how you get on, post a link in the comments. I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on.


    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Tuesday, 10 November 2009

    Main site galleries updated with new images

    I've spent some of today updating my main site

    New images

    I've mainly been adding all my recent and new images but I've also simplified / de-cluttered my home page a little. If you like, have a critical look at it and let me have your honest feedback. You might have something to say about the following:
    • Is it easy to find your way around? Did you notice the tabs at the top?
    • Was site search easy to spot and use?
    • Are you ok with the level of interaction via the Friend Connect stuff?
    • Should I have some of my more popular images on the page?
    If you have time, I'd love to get your feedback.

    Have a great week all :)

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Monday, 9 November 2009

    A shot on the juggle

    In between ferrying a friend around while he dropped of his car for his wife (long story...) and us visiting a friend in hospital, I managed this opportunistic shot...

    Dodging the traffic

    ..well, not quite. There were only a few cars around and I was stood in the cross-hatchings in the middle of the road. I did have to seek the pavement (sidewalk) a couple of times for safety while I was looking for the best viewpoint. It happened to be outside the rear car-entrance to Plymouth's Charles Cross police station and I got a lovely smile from a woman police driver who saw what I was up to as she turned into it.

    It just so happened that the only parking space I could find near to the Uni was just opposite this spot and as I got out the car to stretch my legs while I was waiting, The first view I had of it was from this angle and, as it turned out, it was the best viewpoint—I only had to get closer to fill the frame.


    Sanity's Edge


    Ok, I've given it a bit of a film-noir treatment, as that's how it spoke to me, but what really grabbed my attention was the way that the glassless window-opening framed the stairwell and its lovely bold shapes—patterns framed by patterns.

    Well, it appealed to me anyway!

    In answer to a comment a little earlier by Donna I said to watch out for my next post. I hope it was worth it! It's certainly turned out better than I'd dare hope. What do you think? Does it do anything for you?

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Saturday, 7 November 2009

    Trawling the digital darkroom

    Here's another from Felixstowe I finally got round to processing...

    Huddled together


    Beach Huts At Felixstowe Seafront

    Just like penguins huddled together for warmth, these beach huts hunker down, over-wintering and dreaming of the summer to come.

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Thursday, 5 November 2009

    Printing, framing, prize winners and new gadgets

    A busy few days... nice busy :)

    Gallery prep

    The frames arrived today so it's been a good few hours of printing, mounting and framing—mostly framing as I'd already printed and mounted most of them. Even so I'm glad that's done and now it's just a case of delivering them to the Gallery Guest House in the morning.

    £5 of each sale will go to the Poppy Appeal, which is very appropriate as the owners are ex-service folks.

    October prize winners

    Two of the prize winners from my October draw have been in touch, just waiting on the last one now. Where are you, Betty Manousos?

    Slew of new gadgets

    The Gooogle Friend Connect team have been busy! They've released some cool new gadgets, have introduced a way of making newsletters available and have made wholesale changes to the way you interact with the member / follower gadgets.I'm sure most of you will already have noticed some of these.

    It'll take me a few days to get my head around them all before I work out which are most useful for my site and blog. Watch this space!

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Monday, 2 November 2009

    Winners of my October freebie prize draw

    [Update: Doh! forgot to change the title from September to October. Done now.]
    Did you win? Read on...

    Hat of Wonder and Hope

    So, who won the three prizes? You'll have to click the image and see!

    If your name was one of the three out of the hat, now's the time to claim your prize. Just email me highton.ridley [@] gmail.com and confirm which piccy you'd like to get as a signed mounted print. Don't forget to include the full postal address where you'd like it delivered.

    To the unlucky folk—better luck next time!

    Watch out for the announcement of the October November [double Doh!] freebie prize draw.

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Sunday, 1 November 2009

    Making the draw and other bits 'n bobs

    So, a big day today—the day you've all been waiting for...

    October giveaway...

    So a little later I'll be drawing the winner from the Hat Of Wonder And Hope. Come back this evening (uk time) to see if you won. Good luck to all who took part!

    Gadgets...

    I also spent a little time this morning maintaining my blog, updating the template. Nothing huge—I added the top 10 Member Visits gadget, replacing the Member Links gadget. The links one had to go, as it didn't respect the blocked members and allowed anyone to leave spam links.

    On a similar note, I had to block one member who was a bit zealous (i.e. spam-and-run) in leaving proselytising statements about his brand of Christianity. I don't have a problem with the various forms of religion, it's just forcing them down folks' throats that I find off-putting.

    Similarly I've blocked another couple of followers with no interest in my blog but who were just spam-following (i.e. hoping folks will click their heads and then click the link to their dubious / mucky / commercial sites).

    A social week...

    I've had good friends staying as house guests this week while they were visiting their eldest son who has just started at Plymouth University.

    Their young daughter had great fun seeing and playing with him again. Of course she misses him a lot, even though she skypes him almost every night from back home.

    On Friday they all went to the circus in Ivybridge and had a great time and on Saturday we went to Mansour's for them all to try their hands at throwing pots. Everyone got messy with clay and had huge amounts of fun.

    The rest of Saturday was spent getting my house back in order after their visit. It's a real joy to have the house filled with gurgling laughter and the to-ing and fro-ing of growing kids, relived as you go around tidying up after they've left.

    ..And now I can get back to catching up on all your blogs, which will be nice!


    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Tuesday, 27 October 2009

    Start of winter on Dartmoor

    We've been having a bit of an Indian summer here recently, meaning the weather has been sunnier and warmer than usual for this time of year.

    On the day the clocks go back


    Start Of Winter On Dartmoor

    The clocks went back for winter at the end of the 25th / start of the 26th October and this day was quite typical of the recent good weather. I was passing through Dartmoor on a visit to the Duchy Square gallery and saw this. I just had to stop off and capture the wonderful sky that was blanketing the view, looking west towards Tavistock and Gunnislake.

    Oh, and the trip to the gallery went well, delivering the pony triptych (print) and Fencing In The Dunes (40x26inch canvas). I met a really interesting lady working there called Sarah, who did her fine art degree in London. I'm hoping to be able to have a chat about her experiences and thoughts about what makes art fine etc.

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Monday, 26 October 2009

    Answer to the bit of fun

    Here's the answer to the bit of fun I posted yesterday

    Title explained

    The object was a bench (obvious now!) and the title, "Poocher Assere", was an instruction:

    Put Yer Ass Here

    Thanks to everyone who had a larf taking part :) I know I did in putting it together for you!

    Out of interest, the version I'll take forward into my site's gallery will be this one:


    ...and I think I'll continue with the title I've already chosen, "Poocher Assere"

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Sunday, 25 October 2009

    Respect Festival - only shot so far...

    I just couldn't get inspired enough to fight for space amongst the other photographers at the Respect Festival earlier today (well, yesterday now)—but I did get this shot.

    An abstract name?

    ...for a semi-abstract shot.

    Poocher Assere

    No prizes for guessing what it is (did it take you long or was it instant for you?) but do you fancy explaining the title? Just for fun, leave a comment if you think you know—and leave a comment admitting defeat if you don't! Now, you will be honest, won't you... ;)

    Whatever you think about the title, how does the image grab you? Or doesn't it?

    (@ Martin Bush - what do you think? Note the cunning way I put your name there so you'd get this as a Google Alert!!)

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome and actively encouraged :)

    Thursday, 22 October 2009

    Curve Of The Neck published by the BBC

    Part of my ongoing publicity push...

    Getting published by the BBC

    I regularly submit to the BBC News, In Pictures site—Your Pictures section.

    This time I submitted a selection of my shots to the "minimal" category and they published Curve Of The Neck, one of the favourites amongst the followers here.

    Curve Of The Neck

    I guess it's limited to UK folks, but anyway, you can see the upcoming set themes and details of how to submit on their Viewfinder Blog. The themes over the next four weeks are:
    • Autumn
    • Seven
    • Sparkle
    • Grey
    If you enter, good luck!

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Tuesday, 20 October 2009

    Seeking New Horizons

    Another from the "promising" pile in the digital darkroom that I finally found the time to process.

    "Devon Expressway" approaching Plymouth


    Seeking New Horizons

    Driving westwards down the A38... as an aside, calling it the "Devon Expressway" was far cheaper than turning it from an "A" road to a motorway—that's the way the powers that be think down this way sometimes! ..so, as I was saying, I was driving along, watching the sky "improve" as the weather worsened and threatened to get real bad.

    It got good enough to deserve a stop and a capture, and I was lucky enough for a lay-by to turn up at the right time. I really liked the overpowering dark clouds in the middle distance, with beautiful skies beyond on the promising horizon. The progression of low, scudding clouds that seem to be sharing the same journey, adds to the overall feel of an exodus to the hope of new beginnings.

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Monday, 19 October 2009

    Plymouth Respect Festival 2009

    Celebrating cultural diversity and bringing communities together

    A local event

    Once again my good friends Dan and Katie Thompson have organised the Plymouth Respect Festival, starting this coming weekend, Sat 24th October, 11:00am at the Civic Centre Piazza and finishing on Sunday around 4:30pm

    As luck would have it their normal website is down so you can find all the details of what's happening, where and when on their myspace page: Respect Festival [Update: 20th October] The proper Respect Festival site is up and running again.

    I'll be there on and off with my camera, if you see me, say "hi"!

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Char needs...

    two more followers...

    Back to two hundred...

    Char over at Ramblins was delighted to reach 200 followers—but then a couple left. She's a lovely lady with a great eye for composition and a gorgeous and appealing style to the photos she takes.. ...and her writing is from the heart.

    So get on over there and follow her! Let's see if we can get her up to 225 followers, as she deserves a boost :D

    ..and I'm back from Rambunctious

    ...where Lee loved the projected vid (see my last post) and has asked if he can use it over the next few weeks. (Yes, of course the answer was "yes"!)

    Unfortunately there weren't that many folk there—actually anywhere—I don't know why but everywhere I passed tonight was dead. Plymouth is much more of a university city than it ever was but you wouldn't have thought it!

    So anyone from Plymouth—let's meet up at Rambunctious next Sunday evening (around 10:00pm).

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Sunday, 18 October 2009

    Off to rambunctious...

    Lee, who helps / organises this night of poetry, comedy, video art and general frivolity, has been after showing something of mine for a while now.

    Showing The New Consonance / Urban Ugly

    I burnt a dvd of the vid of my photo essay that Gordon Charlton (Beat Frequency) put together (leaving out the menu, you'll be glad to hear, Gordon, Valerie, Imac and Melania!) and Lee will be showing it tonight at rambunctious social club.

    So I'm just posting this before setting off with some give-away dvds and flyers. Wish me luck for a great reception down there :)

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Friday, 16 October 2009

    A reminder about my October freebie prize draw

    ...just a prod, as I know some of you have said you want in but haven't yet said you've done it..

    Entering the draw / letting me know...

    Rather than repeat things here and risk confusing everyone (me especially!) you can see the rules—and also let me know you're taking part—by looking at the post October freebie prize draw now open! and leaving me a comment. Don't worry, it's all explained there.

    I've placed a link to it over there in the right hand column to make it easy for you to find in future.

    There are six entrants so far and with three prizes, heck, you're almost bound to win!

    These aren't cheap and cheerful prizes, they're all quality fine art prints on fantastic paper and professional, archival mounts—as other prize winners have already said—deep blacks, rich tones and bright, whites.

    If you previous winners want to leave a comment here to confirm the quality of the prints you've received, that would be real helpful :)

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Getting ready for display at Gallery Guest House

    an evening of...

    Printing, signing and mounting

    Over at the Gallery Guest House, Karen has been putting together a list of my pictures she wants for display there. I got her email a couple of days ago and its now got to the top of the "attention" pile ;)

    So it's been an evening of printing, spraying, cutting & sticking, preparing the first batch—five down, fifteen to go! Actually, twenty may end up being too big for the space, so I intend to take the first batch along, before framing, just to check it all out.

    [Note to self: Must get on the phone first thing and order up some more 16x12in mounts!]

    A question for my regulars: I've always used glass in my frames and now I'm wondering about the plastic / acrylic glass I see used as standard on some of the online framing sites. They say it's 100% uv-protective. What do folks think about it?

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Thursday, 15 October 2009

    If things go wrong in threes...

    ..then why were there four on Tueday? Uh-oh... does that mean there's two more to come? Ulp!

    Duchy Square Centre & Gallery

    I took the triptych and a huge canvas of Fencing In The Dunes as the owner had said she wanted to see it. Before going in, I gave the pony triptych a quick flick down and noticed a small fleck next to one of the pony muzzles. Darn, it was under the glass not on top. So I stressed briefly about it (I'm a virgoan, so it's always a bit of a battle trying not to be a perfectionist!) before ignoring it and taking it in.

    I pointed it out to Philippa and we were about to decide to go with it, when we spotted a small piece of bluetac under the glass. Ok, that was the decider—and in a way I was relieved.

    So, on with the canvas. Philippa loved it right away and we filled out the paperwork for it on the spot. Embarrassment number two (and a lesson for us all - check everything before taking to the gallery for hanging!): she called me back and pointed out some dark markings on the white canvas border.

    It was pristine when I hung it at Park Art and it's been in bubble-wrap ever since. How those marks got there, I can't figure. One of the other artists in the centre (thanks Amanda, lovely lady!) dug out some putty-eraser and we tried that but to no avail.



    Later, when I got it back to base, I found that a damp white cloth gently applied, cleaned off whatever it was on the canvas border. There's a tip I'll never forget!

    So, that's two of the four things that went wrong.

    I won my own prize

    ..or that's the way it seemed! A prize from my September draw that I posted to Melania a few days ago was delivered back to me.

    I'm a canny Scotsman (we have a reputation for being "careful" with money) and this combines well with being green... so I re-use packing material when I can. On the back of the parcel was my delivery address, all printed and barcoded - with a big cross through the lot before I posted it. On the front was the right address, postage stamp, customs declaration etc.

    I guess a post-office scanning machine was still able to read the barcode on my crossed out address, so promptly had it delivered to me! So, lesson two learned: obliterate any barcodes from previous address labels still showing on the parcel). Anyway, it's re-posted now (sorry Melania!)

    And number four

    I've sorted out burning DVDs with the youtube video that my friend Gordon put together. I've even worked out how to avoid creating the dreadful DVD menu that I put on the first few DVDs.

    So I spent ages designing some graphics for a label for the DVD and then getting it to align with the cutouts on the DVD labels for my inkjet.

    So I burnt the first couple of DVDs, checked they were ok and then cracked on with the rest (18), printing and sticking the labels onto the DVDs. OK, so I'm new to the DVD burning s/w and didn't realise I'd changed a setting after the first two. When the last one was done, I popped it back in to check, just for belt and braces. I'm glad I did!

    The last 18 were all weird files and not actual DVD videos. Aaaaaargh! and I'd used up all the labels—double aaaaargh!!

    Still, looking at the positive, at least two were ok!

    On a brighter note

    ...I went to an evening event in aid of breast cancer at Martin Bush's Studio Gallery in Royal William Yard. I was really pleased to again meet Eliot Siegel, a well-known photographer, who had donated his time to taking portraits of anyone willing to hand over some readies for the charity. I seem to remember offering to be his gofer in return for some tips on lighting! Two glasses of pink (sorry, rosé) wine and I'm anyone's!

    A delightful young lady (doing a degree at Plymouth College of Art) and her boyfriend were helping Eliot and she said she loved my work and did I need any assistance? I was flattered and gave her my card. Let's see if that turns into something concrete.

    There was a fair amount of interest in my work amongst the guests and I answered questions and had some interesting discussions with a number of them. "Thank you, ladies (and gents!) for stopping by and chatting."

    One lady had her first posting as a new WPC at the Court House when it was a police station and she gave me an idea of where things like the scenes of crime room etc were, also how they used a very early version of video conferencing for their area updates, before the term was coined. See, we're ground-breakers in using new technology here in relaxed Devon.



    And for my part, I donated Caught By The Surf for the raffle and one delighted winner and husband went home over the moon.






    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Sunday, 11 October 2009

    A lakeside scene - in colour!

    Unusually for me, this one seemed best in colour.

    Lakeside Rest

    I took this at the same time as my recent pony shots at the Miniature Pony Centre on Dartmoor.
     

    Lakeside Rest

    A simple scene, a bench overlooking a small lake complete with duck-house on stilts. It looked so restful, I was determined to give it a try but my god-daughter wanted to get back to petting the ponies instead. I'm glad she did because it was then that I took the pony shots that turned out so successfully—the ones I turned into a triptych.

    So, does this pass muster for a colour shot? Are the colours lifelike? Are their any 'colour' rules of thumb I don't know about that I've heinously broken?

    Regular readers will know I don't really do colour so I really am after some feedback :) Thanks!

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Friday, 9 October 2009

    Mugs, Magnets, Note cards and coasters

    I've just started a shop over at CafePress especially for various wares with my photo art work printed on it.

    Free version of shop

    I've set up a free version of my shop, which allows for one of each type of product. So for Walking The Dogs I've set up a mug, a fridge magnet, a pack (20) of note cards and a coaster.


    Walking The Dogs

    If all goes well and I make a few sales, I'll upgrade to a premium, unlimited-product shop.

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Thursday, 8 October 2009

    Get your pony mug here!

    I thought I'd try something a little different... here are my triptych pony shots on a mug.

    Pony Mug


    If you like my work and want to own a piece but mounted / framed prints aren't your style or are too expensive for your budget, you might like to get a pony mug via my CafePress shop, Mayflowersteps instead.

    What do you think? Will people like them enough to buy one?

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Using your blog as an online shop

    Hand-holding a blog virgin

    Regular readers will know I've been spending a good chunk of time recently helping a just-computer-literate friend with his blog.

    He wanted to test the waters out at selling his stuff on line. As we were pretty much starting with a clean sheet, we've been able to bend the blog to make it serve as the online shop (using paypal as the payment processor), as well as being a normal blog.

    (Once he makes a few more ordinary postings - i.e. ones not selling a pot - we'll use the label "journal" on them to separate them out. Oh, and provide a link for that label in the navigation area at the top.)

    As well as helping him with the blog, I've done all his product shots for it. You can see all those uploaded so far over on Mans' blog under the for sale label.

    Advantages of a blog as an online shop

    The main advantages of having your blog as your online shop are
    • No listing / placement fees!
    • You don't have to worry about being lost amongst the listings from your competitors
    • You only pay (in this case Paypal's) transaction fees
    • You have full control over
      • any ads placed (and of course you get the revenue from them, too!)
      • all links where you're making your pitch (and you can make sure external links open in a new tab so folks don't leave your site completely)
      • Easier to establish your brand
    • A much more personal interaction with buyers
    • Not at the mercy of changing shop rules like you get with ebay and others
    • Black-hat competitors can't ruin your seller-rating - again like can happen at most dedicated shopping sites
    • If you want to socialise your site even more, you can (Friend Connect / JS-Kit and others)

    Disadvantages

    The main disadvantages of using your blog as an online shop are few but still need to be considered
    • It's not completely automatic; if someone buys a pot, Mans has to update the labels against the posting for that item, to show it is now sold. He can also change the text and the button to allow someone to place a special order for one similar to the one shown.
    • People go to dedicated shopping sites in a buying frame of mind, but not really with a blog
    • You have to have a way of taking on-line payments, dedicated online shops will do that for you
    • No dedicated rating system of you as a seller or others as buyers - being a blog, people can leave comments, so it's the second one that might be of more concern
    • A much more personal interaction with buyers
    Did I miss anything major out do you think? Let me know in the comments if I did, or if you want to add anything else...

    Requirements-driven shop design

    So how did we set about it? Well, my trade is helping people focus on what they need before worrying about how to achieve it. Also, KISS—keep it simple, stupid!

    So we sat down and brainstormed for a while, teasing out stuff to come up with a list of main requirements. Examples: be able to take online payment, be able to see only products for sale, only those sold, same for all the major categories. Another: Easy to maintain and add new items for sale & be able to withdraw items from sale.

    ..and so on.

    Designing a solution to the requirements

    We acknowledged that various dedicated online shops could be used but their disadvantages were too great for what Mans wanted. Then we considered how / if Blogger could be used, noting any requirements that couldn't be met and hoping we wouldn't bump into any show-stoppers—we didn't :)

    The key to being able to list items in different ways is to use labels carefully and in a sort of structured way. We spent ages deciding how to categorise and name each major type of ceramic / glaze / treatment, and being totally consistent in our approach. We finally settled on a scheme that worked and this also gave us a way of naming each pot and giving it a stock code.

    And having a name for each, naturally gave us the title for each post (i.e. each new item for sale). Also, because we've been as descriptive as possible in our choice of titles / names / categories / labels, the blog will score highly with the search engines for those keywords (a good SEO tip).

    Another tip here; before we uploaded each product shot, we named the jpg file using the same naming convention as above, reinforcing the tastiness to the search engine spiders. As an aside, note that the first time you publish a particular post, the post page will use a filename consisting of a good part of the post heading you used. So, for SEO purposes, make sure your title is both meaningful and helpful to your readers AND keyword-rich for the spiders, before you first post it.

    Anyway, on with the solution design...

    For simplicity, we decided to put a unique number on the end of each item, so no matter what type of ceramic was being posted as a new item for sale, the last number used would have one added to it and that would be the new number. Nice and simple :) And you can't forget, if you do, you just need to look at the blog!

    One requirement that couldn't be met by Blogger (at least not with my skills!) was that Mans wanted visitors to be able to put together a wish list—like on Amazon and others. He told me that this wasn't a show stopper—-anyway, there might be a solution out there (but where do we look?). It would also have been nice to be able to automatically change the label on an item from "for sale" to "sold" when a transaction completes but Mans is ok about doing that by hand.

    Everything else he needed his shop to do has now been set up on his blog. If you want proof, go browse for something you like and buy it! Maybe a Copper Matt Raku thrown pot—my personal favourites, although the Lustre Raku stretch pots are fabulous too!

    Putting it into practice

    To make it easy to add new items for sale, we cobbled together the first posting for an item for sale, including the code for the paypal button, with me doing any tricky html stuff (tricky for me, anyway!). Once we'd got that right, we copied the html and pasted it into his blog settings - the place where you can put a mini template / boiler-plate text to be used on subsequent posts.

    The only thing Mans now needs to get his hands dirty with is changing the part of the button html code where it needs a unique item code, a price and a description. I sat with him the first few times he did this to make sure he knew what to do—and more importantly what not to do—and even more importantly, how to back out any changes if he did!!



    Well, that's about it, it wasn't supposed to turn into such a long and detailed posting, but you know how it goes when the ideas just flow!

    So I gotta ask, are you thinking now about using your blog as an online shop?

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Monday, 5 October 2009

    Resist the Machine

    I was going through the "promising" pile in the digital darkroom and ended up playing around with this.
    [Image updated: 7th Oct; v. slight crop to remove distractions at lh frame edge]

    Resist The Machine

    ...while being constrained by convention


    Resist The Machine

    I was at a friend's house and paid attention to the walls for the first time. A Devon bricklaying style—and probably used in other places, too. Come to think of it, I've seen fireplaces with stonework like this as well.

    Anyway, I think my subconscious must have noticed them on my regular visits and has probably been screaming silently about them for ages.

    I love the shapes and the strong horizontal flow. The overall feel is almost "Mondrian", with lovely textures in the natural stone. I chose this framing as it 'felt' right—a good selection of larger bricks, nicely lit by the mid-afternoon sun. At this time, the sun is still quite high and the resulting harsher shadows emphasised the horizontals.

    In some sense I chose it because I can equate to what it's saying. We're all being forced into uniformity in many aspects of our lives but even so, we can still retain much of our individuality while still fitting in together. It's when the verticals all start to line up as well that we've got to watch out for, because then we all become little boxes.

    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Saturday, 3 October 2009

    Some blogs of interest to photographers and...

    Well, not just photographers :)

    Useful / interesting...

    The Galloping Gardener
    ...visits English gardens and those further afield. As a place to go just to enjoy and relax, you can't beat an English garden. But if you take your camera, you can practice close-ups, macros, pretty scenes and more. One good thing, the flowers and plants tend to be very well kept and the photo opportunities aren't so often spoiled by things past their best.

    Quite often they are pretty good at labeling the plants so you know what it is you're photographing. If you see them on your visit, snap the name after you've finished your shots - it's a handy way of making sure you don't forget what they're called.

    The History and Language of Flowers
    Have you ever wondered what you're saying when you buy a bunch of flowers from the garage for your loved one? This handy site tells you the almost-lost meanings of each flower. Now when you hear the phrase "say it with flowers" it actually means what it says!

    So next time you buy flowers, you'll be able to compose you're own message. Never mind tweets, txts or emails, do it the old-fashioned romantic way :)

    The Royal Photographic Society
    If you're serious about photography you'll want seriously to consider joining. There are hurdles to jump to get entry but that keeps the quality high (I haven't applied yet, but it's on the list!). Open to UK and overseas membership.

    Converting colour to black and white
    A really good article to give you a grounding in converting black and white to colour. It has hover-over effects so you can see how, for example, red, green and blue filters affect a colour image. It also discusses the basics of using Photoshop in different ways to carry out your conversions.

    How to Create a Product Box in Photoshop
    A cool little tutorial.


    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Another shortlisted for Photographer of the Year 2009

    Haystack And Tracks

    I posted earlier about Walking The Dogs being shortlisted for possible selection by the Editors in this year's Photographer of the Year competition. Well they've now chosen Haystack And Tracks too! Which is nice :)

    Let's hope that the editors like them enough to shortlist them into the final :)



    Haystack And Tracks

    Here is the entry on the competition web site.


    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Friday, 2 October 2009

    October freebie prize draw now open!

    Make sure you read these—they're slightly different to September's (only slightly, though).

    Three signed, mounted prints up for grabs

    Previous winners will tell you just how high quality these mounted prints are. I use heavy photo rag paper, specialised black and white inks and a professional printer, profiled specifically to black and white printing.

    And that all shows in the final print, with deep, rich blacks and gorgeous tonal representation, on a textured surface that subtly enriches the contrast. (The archival-standard materials I use ensure a lifetime of 150years plus). Finally, I write the name and sign the margin of each print in pencil, same on the mount... all this taken together lets you know it's a work of art when you stand in front of it.

    Winning is as easy as...

    The freebie prize draw is open to all blog or site owners who are followers of this blog and also my friend. There will be another three winners this month (assuming I get at least three participants!)
    • to let me know you want in, you'll need to leave a comment on this announcement post
    • make a post on your own blog announcing my draw and encouraging your visitors to enter. Your post is to link both to my main site (http://www.highton-ridley.co.uk) and also to this announcement
      (url is http://www.highton-ridley.co.uk/blog/2009/10/october-freebie-prize-draw-now-open.html)
    • visit the galleries on my main site and find which image you'd like if you win
    • click the "Recommend it" button you'll find under the image (on the image page, not the thumbnails page). If you've already done that previously, you won't be able to do it to the same image again. So instead, fill in the review gadget on the same page. And if you've done that before (thanks!), instead choose another to recommend. Don't worry, if you win, you'll get the chance to confirm which one you want then.
    • finally—and this you don't have to do—spread the word about my work; share, digg, tweet, stumbleit!
    By recommending in this way you'll be helping other followers and visitors. That's because the most recommended ones then bubble up to the top of the Your Top Choices gadget (see the right hand column).

    Good Luck for October!


    comments / critique / feedback always welcome :)

    Thursday, 1 October 2009

    Winners of my September freebie prize draw

    Did you win? Read on...

    Hat of Wonder and Hope

    So, who won the three prizes? You'll have to click the image and see!

    The first two, Melania and Valerie007 have now been in touch. And imac , the other winner, is now back from his hols and has been in touch. Well done to the winners! Commiserations to the rest!

    If your name was one of the three out of the hat and you haven't yet been in touch, now's the time to claim your prize. Just email me highton.ridley [@] gmail.com and confirm which piccy you'd like to get as a signed mounted print. Don't forget to include the full postal address where you'd like it delivered.

    To the unlucky folk—better luck next time!

    Watch out for the announcement of the October freebie prize draw. Probably tomorrow or Saturday.

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Product Shots - pottery blog

    As I said in my last post, I'd post details about what I've been working on and let you see the results of the product shots.

    Mansour Eskandary

    Mansour—Mans for short—is a well known potter, based just outside of Plymouth. He's had a blog for a while but was waiting until he could offer his work for sale there before developing it.

    I've been helping him with that, working out a scheme to use the blog for that purpose, as well as the more normal uses. I've also been doing the product shots, as I spoke about in my last post.

    Have a look at his blog, there's only two products for sale so far. But now that we've broken the back of the approach, it shouldn't take long to upload the product shots and do the blurb for the rest of this batch of 24.

    By the way, the "scheme" I'm on about is the way we've decided to use labels very carefully so that we could use a simple list of links at the top to allow visitors to quickly see, for example, all the sold work, or all the raku, etc. We also spent a lot of time coming up with a convention to name each product.

    I think we need one more column of links to cover
    • normal posts (all will be labelled "journal" or something like it)
    • terms and conditions
    • the privacy policy
    Did I leave any out? Anyway, what did you think of the product shots?



    comments / feedback always welcome :)

    Tuesday, 29 September 2009

    Busy, busy, busy...

    The madness continues, it seems there's not been a breathing space for ages. I've managed to visit and comment against a few of the blogs I follow but I've not been able to be as active doing that as I'd have liked.

    Product photography

    I've been spending quite a bit of time learning how to do product photography in the last two weeks—I'm helping a friend with turning his blog into a way to sell his work, and getting decent product shots was the first step.

    It's been an interesting journey and a steep learning curve. What I've learned is that, with my level of knowledge (low!), not having the right kit makes it a bit of a trial and error process. And even once it works, making it repeatable I found to be no mean feat.

    Because of my poor control over lighting / lack of experience to get it right in-camera, I shot in RAW throughout. That meant I could change the exposure and white balance in the digital darkroom and 'rescue' what otherwise could have ended up in that bit-bucket in the sky.

    All the shots are now taken and we're working on the blog template. Once it's ready, I'll put a post together with links to it.

    Duchy Square Gallery

    I drove to the gallery in Princetown (map) for a meeting with the lovely Philippa on Monday. Great result, she took 4 prints for immediate display and ordered a pony triptych, ready for the exhibition starting in November.

    September draw update

    There are 9 successful entries so far. If  you're not one of them and you want in, please see the rules. Closing date is midnight, 30th September, UK time. The successful entrants so far are:

    With three prizes the odds of one of these winning are high... if you like these odds, make sure you enter. But you'd better hurry up!

    comments / feedback always welcome :)

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