Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!

And it looks like ‘being beside the seaside’ is set to become an altogether more enjoyable experience very soon!

The Dome in Whitley Bay is an iconic structure being originally completed in 1910 but sadly over the years fell into disrepair.

After massive investment and almost 18 years after it finally closed it’s doors for the last time – it is almost ready to be re-opened in magnificent style!

North Tyneside Council and the construction Group Robertson’s’ have been working on  regenerating the Spanish City Dome at Whitley Bay in North Tyneside.

The Council have invested £4m, secured £3.47m of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as a Coastal Communities Fund grant of more than £2.5m – bringing the total investment to a whopping £10m. So far the project is on budget and on time – can’t ask for more than that!

Work is currently underway and includes the restoration and repair of many previously lost original features and the addition of modern extensions. Much of the inside was rotten (as you can see from the picture above) – but features have been faithfully restored as far as possible by local companies and people.

The ceiling of the central space has also been removed from the ground floor, so visitors will see the dome in all its glory from inside for the first time in over 100 years – a floor to ceiling view from the Rotunda.

Seaward-facing full height windows have also been fitted in keeping with the original Spanish City, revealing incredible views of the coast and St Mary’s Island.

I was lucky to be selected from over 1,000 applicants to view the progress being made last week in advance of it’s completion in Spring 2018 and opening to the public in late spring/early summer 2018.

I took a few 🙂 photos whilst I was there and as the tour programme is now closed – the next ones I’ll be taking are when it’s fully open to the public – I can’t wait!

If you are in the North East next summer be sure to come and have a look – there will be restaurants, tea shops and an ice cream parlour, plus of course (wouldn’t be complete without one) …. a fish and chip shop! More info on the progress can be found here.

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Lights, Camera, Action!

I would love my own photo studio at home, but I live in a terraced house that just doesn’t have the space to allow that little luxury unfortunately.

That’s why most of my portrait shoots tend to be ‘outdoor’ photo shoots. I like to connect my subjects to a place that they love – the park, the beach… wherever is special to them.

If I lived somewhere warm – I could do outdoor portrait shoots throughout the entire year!

The North of England – a mile from the beach, can start to get pretty chilly from November – April. Coats and hats need to be put on, taken off, put back on again and I have to be really quick on the shoot…… Mind ‘Northerners’ are pretty tough cookies and are often seen without coats on a night out in Newcastle!

 

A dining room tends to be my preferred ‘go to’ spot for re-arranging if I want to do an indoor shoot during the colder months. It takes a bit of re-arranging of furniture, but it can be done.

I tend to just use one Studio light with a white umbrella that I shoot through and it gets a really nice effect. Here’s a few that I took recently.

 

If you fancy a mini photo shoot in your own home – all I need is something like 4-5ft behind the subject (with less clutter the better) plus about 4-5ft in front of the subject, something for the subject to sit on and finally maybe you’d like to add a few props (a book, cuddly toy etc) and then away we go!

To book – please email info@alisonspedding.co.uk

Take a look at my website for prices.

 

A Walk in the Park

Autumn is a fabulous time of year for family photo shoots – wonderful colours and backgrounds make the perfect setting for some lovely photographs.

 

Once a photo shoot has been booked, a question that I get asked time and time again is “What should we wear?”

Deciding what everyone should wear can be pretty stressful. Let’s face it, it’s normally tricky enough getting the whole family out of the house clean and presentable let alone in co-ordinating outfits!

I always think about the location and background when suggesting what a client should wear.

I went scouting for new locations last week in North Shields/Tynemouth area, and found this wonderful spot in a local park for my next few photo shoots. A great colour palette to choose for shoots at this time of year are earthy colours (brown, mustard, beige, yellow) as they look so good with the beautiful autumnal colours around…. or a nice white top and blue jeans with boots would also look great.

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I have three separate photo shoots booked in for next week in this location – all will have a different feel to them (a young girl in a Disney character outfit, a young woman with two small dogs and finally, an elderly couple). Within a few hundred yards there are some beautiful spots to capture some unique and personal shots.

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Here are just a few suggestions and pointers from me on “what to wear” …….

· Wear what’s comfortable for your body because being comfortable in what you’re wearing will have a huge positive impact on how happy you look in your photos. However, if the photo shoot is on grass or sand I wouldn’t recommend that you wear high heeled shoes!

· Wear something that reflects who you are because you want to be able to look back on your photos and recognize yourself.

· Bring along accessories to add variety to the shots e.g. a scarf, pashmina, sunglasses.

. Wear solid coloured clothing so that we see all everybodys face and no one person stands out (unless of course you specifically want one person to stand out). If you wear stripes or strong patterns, you will stand out from the rest of your group.

· Families or other groups might want to think about co-ordinated colours. Choosing clothes with same or similar colours unifies a picture and keeps the focus on the people in the picture rather than on all of the different patterns on shirts/blouses.

· As an example, a group could all wear a simple white top and jeans, although some people might regard this as clichéd, whilst I really like the look and would prefer to describe it as “classic”.

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. Rather than trying to think of everyone at once, I find it helps to think of a patterned outfit that one family member could wear, then pick out colours from that pattern for everyone else. Then hey presto, everyone is in co-ordinated outfits without being too similar.

· Co-ordinated outfits are lovely and is best achieved by choosing a colour palette and everybody varying the shades. As in this photograph, I was really lucky the group had somebody who took charge of this and organised everybody! Blue was very cool for this family photo shoot and worked really well with the background.

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So …. all that said, I really wouldn’t want to stress anybody out by saying “Don’t wear this – or don’t wear that!” … at the end of the day It’s your photo shoot so wear whatever you want to wear and above all, wear something that you feel comfortable in!”

If you fancy a ‘walk in the park’ for a one hour local portrait shoot – please get in touch!

I’ve become a bit of a flasher!

Before you get the wrong idea …. I mean using flash photography !

Until very recently I have avoided using a flash when taking photographs like the plague – I have dabbled with it, but generally the results haven’t been that pleasing to be honest.

Rabbits in headlight and harsh shadows are generally what spring to mind when people mention flash photography – so I have stuck to natural light on the whole.

When I ‘broke free’ from full time 9-5 work almost a year ago, my colleagues bought me a snazzy Canon flash as a leaving gift. I initially thought that I would make great use of it photographing a steel sculpture that was being made by Ray Lonsdale in his workshop.

The workshop was pretty dark and had some challenging light conditions to overcome. Tungsten light mixed with natural light coming through the doors mixed with harsh sunlight streaming through the roof lights, mixed with the sculptor welding. Adding flash to the mix was just a step too far for me to be honest! The ISO went up a bit, I used a tripod and the aperture was widened – it worked.

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So the snazzy flash has been pretty much in its box for 9 months …. until recently that is.

Way back in the spring I was asked to photograph a joint 50th ‘cowboy’ style private birthday party which was being held in a local civic centre theatre, in the evening, in September with very low level lighting…. and not only that …. the light that there was just happened to be a mixture of red and green spotlights 😦

There would be zero opportunity for natural light photos – flash was a must. So after a lot of background reading on my friend ‘Mr Google’ plus several practice shots with my hubby and a friend, I felt confident that I could do it and wouldn’t end up having to convert them to black and white …. *sigh of failure to get a decent image*

The client (and me) were over the moon with the end results.

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Flush from the success of 4 hours of flash photograph and 175 images later, like this guest I “wanted” more 🙂

I thought I’d try outdoor flash photography mixed with natural light… in the form of an after school photo shoot at the beach.

I usually rely on my hubby wielding a reflector to get catch lights in a clients eyes, or if I’m doing a studio style portrait, the studio lights adding them. Otherwise the eyes look a bit ‘dead’…..

 

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With the after school shoot, trying to ‘direct’ two children and not ending up with the reflector in the sea, I opted for my snazzy flash again.

And boy was I chuffed with the results – it gave a real ‘pop’ to the shot – and I will deffo use it again on future photo shoots.

If you would like a photo shoot, pop over to my website for prices

To book one – my email address is info@alisonspedding.co.uk

I also do vouchers, which last for 6 months if you fancy buying one for a gift 🙂

Christmas is coming 🙂

www.alisonspedding.co.uk/portraits

Are you a hot ‘Domestic Goddess’?

Before we start … just to set the record straight …. I am not a hot domestic goddess… but I do like cooking and always … well usually… actually sometimes – eat healthily!

I have a Grade A at ‘O’ Level in Food and Nutrition from circa 1975 (if that means anything at all to anybody …. it probably doesn’t)…. but that’s by-the-by.

On a wet and miserable Wednesday afternoon, I thought that I might try something a little bit different. A cookery blog (with a few photos of course 🙂 !)

Today’s food blog extravaganza will be ….

Sweet Potato, Chick Pea and Spinach Curry (with rice)

This is low in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar…. win-win!

And yes…. you have probably sussed out that I am a veggie (and have been one since 2001 thank you to the Foot and Mouth outbreak in Great Britain)….. don’t give up on the recipe though it will be nice (honest)!

And I suppose if you are meat eater you could proabably add meat (but I don’t know what that would do to the “low in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar claim”.)

It ‘must’ be nice because it’s from the British Heart Foundation Healthy recipes

What I NEVER do is follow a recipe to the letter (because where is the fun in that?) – so I have adapted it slightly.

It’s a practice run – because I have some friends coming over to dinner next week…. and it’s never good to practice a new recipe on the night is it – I’d probably end up ordering a take away!

“Practice makes perfect” – so here we go….

Ingredients (enough for 2-3 people)

3/4 mug of long grain rice (washed thoroughly with cold water) and 1.5 mugs of cold water to cook

1 sweet potato (about 250g/9oz total/unprepared weight), peeled and cut into small chunks

2 teaspoons Olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (it’s the seeds that are the really hot bit… so I always leave a few in 🙂 )

1cm (1/2in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon medium or hot curry powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

227g (8oz) can chopped tomatoes

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) vegetable stock

215g (7 1/2oz) can chick peas, rinsed and drained

115g (4oz) frozen spinach (which you need to boil pe instructions on the packet)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander

After about 15 minutes of chopping it should look something like this – this obviously took me longer because I took a few photos along the way 🙂 :-

  1. Wash the long grain rice thoroughly until the water runs clear. Pop it in a pan and then add twice the amount of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer until all the water has been absorbed by the rice. Turn the heat off and allow to continue to cook in its own heat. This takes about 30-40 minutes. Make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the pan but don’t keep stirring the rice otherwise it will be a big globby mess.
  2. Cook sweet potato chunks in a pan of boiling water for about 7 minutes or until tender. Drain well; set aside.
  3. Boil the frozen spinach per the instructions on the packet.
  4. Heat olive oil in a non-stick saucepan; add onion and cook gently for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, chilli and ginger; cook gently for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in ground spices; cook gently for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, stock, chick peas and sweet potato chunks. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the pre-cooked spinach, cover and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Stir in chopped coriander (if using); serve with cooked hot rice.

There… that was easy wasn’t it!

All you have to do now is tidy up the complete mess of a kitchen that you have created and eat the delicious results of the fruits of your labour! Not necessarily in that order…

Ta da….

p.s Serve with wine 🙂

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Almost there…

A week today and it will just about be over!

Almost two years of volunteering with the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project (NSFHP) to raise £75,000 for a memorial to fishermen lost at sea from the port of North Shields is drawing to a close. The memorial will be unveiled on Sunday 24th September.

NSFHP raised the money in about 10 months of serious fundraising – it’s been a roller coaster of a ride!

At the end of the Project I had planned to write a book about it, with lots of photographs of the memorial being made. I went to the sculptors workshop 15 times to photograph it’s development (at my own cost – nothing was claimed from NSFHP as expenses).

Charlie (another member of NSFHP) has been writing a book about the project for several months now. I haven’t had a chance to even made a start yet on my ‘book’. 😦

Charlie is essentially a historian, so his book would have been poles apart from what I had planned to publish. I think there would have been ‘space’ for two books because we would have been approaching it from entirely different perspectives.

I have however spoken to another author on the mechanics of getting a book published (and the cost of it)  – after an hour of chatting to him, I decided that it probably wasn’t for me! I have already spent a small fortune putting together the photographs and organising a Q&A with the sculptor.

What I have decided to do instead …. is to write a blog – no cost to me – infinitely better!

I hope that you will read it over the coming months. It will be of particular interest to anybody considering becoming a volunteer in a project. I have plenty of learning tips, pitfalls to avoid, as well as the odd amusing story!

The photograph above is of Rt Hon Alan Campbell MP for Tynemouth, Ray Lonsdale (Sculptor) and Elected Mayor of North Tyneside Norma Redfearn at my Q&A. Behind them is the site for the memorial in the very early stages of being prepared.

The Island of Lost Souls

Actually that should read The Island of Lost Soles – because we found an awful lot of them on the beach clean today! There must be a whole bunch of people running around with no shoes on somewhere…..

Anyhow – this was only my second beach clean – but I plan on doing more.

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This one was organised by Linda Lambert who I met in the Low Lights Tavern last weekend. We got chatting and next thing you know, Keith and I are signed up to join her beach clean at 8:15am the following Saturday.. very persuasive lass.

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Yeah, a little bit on the early side – but driven by the tides – we needed to be able to walk on the beach. I recruited my friend and neighbour Katie with her dog Tara – it was a glorious day and we met some lovely people.

 

Safety info brief by Linda out of the way, followed by the obligatory “Group Shot” before we set off – even got one this time with me in it – not many of those around ….

“Spot the difference quiz” – guess which one is me!

Linda billed this event as it was actually “a pretty clean beach” – and on first impressions, it did look fairly clean ….  till we started to look a bit harder!

A few more of Linda’s friend’s arrived – and we realised we knew two of them – Cat and Melvyn – the latter clearly not wanting his photo taken….. spoil sport Melvyn…

Cat had been on a different beach close by – and manged to bag herself the “find of the day” – the biggest pair of mens underpants in the world! We took her word for it though, as nobody wanted to confirm her claim!

Nobody escapes me – I caught Melvyn later showing Keith stuff he planned on keeping!

Everybody got stuck in – the rocks were the place where most of the litter was – the risk of rats didn’t stop us … well, didn’t stop the blokes – they were right in there!

The ‘sniffer’ dogs helped out too!

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For a small, “clean beach” we sure collected a lot of rubbish!

Totally shocked to read from the Surfers against Sewage leaflet when I got home that marine litter kills 100,000 marine mammals and a million sea birds each year.

Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 – I think we did our little bit to make it a cleaner one in 2017.

Well done Linda for organising this one on the North Shields Fish Quay sands!

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On your marks!

I wasn’t actually at the start line of the annual North Tyneside 10k – as I didn’t enter it this year…. but at the last minute I decided to take a quick walk down to the fish quay area with my camera and take a few shots instead!

I literally just made it when the lead runners hove into view – grabbed my camera out of it’s bag and began.

The runners were through in less than 20 minutes – I probably wouldn’t stand quite so close to the start next time as it really didn’t give me much of a chance to get many shots. They were coming through thick and fast. Far easier to photograph runners as they approach the end of the run as they are spaced out more.

Most looked pretty good though as they still had ‘fresh legs’ – some even gave me the ‘thumbs up’ or a little wave as they passed.

One “cheeky little devil” – who I shall refer to simply as “John McG” from Ponteland Runners went one step further ….. 🙂 Clearly a little bit giddy at the thought of the steep incline up to Tynemouth Priory that he was about to hit!

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It was great to see so many having fun as they did it – “almost” made me want to sign up for next year …. but so far I have resisted the urge!

I only saw one fella – Kevin – who appeared to have had a bit of a tumble – but seemed to be continuing on regardless – that would have been my cue to pack in to be honest! What a trooper!

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One shot did make me laugh mind – all the runners giving the guy running for “Vegan Runners” a really wide birth! They didn’t seem to want to catch him in a hurry! Too many brussel sprouts perhaps?!

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Hey ho – Feet up until next year! 🙂

 

Wow! A ‘Free’ lunch…

Well you all know “There’s no such thing as a free lunch right?”

Apparently not … the promise of a free lunch and a glass of wine in Newcastle was all my hubby needed to get him to don a white shirt, his suit trousers and frock coat.

Little did he know I had an ulterior motive …

Before he got his “free lunch” he had to pose (his words not mine) “at an endless number of locations” (*sigh) that I had secretly jotted down on a scrap of paper several days before.

My reason for wanting to frog march him (wasn’t just because I was pretty hungry too!) around Newcastle city centre was basically to scout out some suitable locations for an up-coming photo shoot.

I met Clare and Richard Talbot-Jones of Talbot Jones Risk Solutions a while back and they very kindly put me in touch with a firm of Independent Financial Advisors who wanted some “Meet the team” photos for their website.

Strange how having left the world of ‘finance’ and dealing with IFA enquiries, one of my first photographic assignments would be … for an IFA… Serendipity perhaps?

I needed a backdrop that would ‘fit’ with the IFA’s website – so off we went in search….

It was a pretty cold day in Newcastle and the hubster’s nose was starting to turn just a ‘little’ on the pink side by the time we got to the High Level Bridge…. so we moved quickly on…

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After a brief pause outside the Laing Art Gallery … where you’ll notice he’s put his gloves and cardy on… (“Bless” … and yet calls himself a ‘Geordie’???)

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… we headed across the road and indoors to Newcastle library. I wasn’t sure if they allowed photography, but having checked … phew .. they did!

Waaaarmth…. my lucky day!!

And so many great spots for a photo too … result!

… and then off to Café Rouge we marched for his “free” lunch (and wine)!

And for those of you counting – that was just three locations – men do exaggerate!

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