Snapshots #37 CSO Centre Equestre du Val de Sienne Rain Edition

Check out my last snapshot post here!


A small peak into my day out with the team in Gavray, Manche. For another competition, but this time we were not blessed with great weather.

I will post a more comprehensive post on the basics of Equestrian photography, find my other posts on the topic here!

Equipment

Canon 6Dmarkii
Canon 6D
Canon 70-200mm f/4.0
Canon L 24-105mm f/4.0

Settings

If you have a basic understanding of the Exposure Triangle, you will know that outdoor photography is very much weather-dependent.

November mist, rain, sun, and deluge really test the patience. Lucky with my weather-sealed and weather-proofed equipment, I was ready for whatever the sky wanted to throw at me. This does mean moving on from Manual (M) mode to Shutter Priority (Tv or S) to ensure I could move with the ever-changing lighting.

ISO limited 2000
f/4.0
1/800-1/1250

I am currently taking bookings for shoots local to me (up to 80km) so feel free to get in touch for information!

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Ultimate Dressage Equestrian Photography Presets

Looking for free presets to enhance your photos?
Check out my free last free preset post and The Cosy Beach Preset


My last set of Equestrian presets are seeming to be super popular, so I have created a new pack full of different presets to enhance Dressage images. These can be used in all Equine sports, but be aware these are designed specifically with the discipline of dressage in mind.

These are a set of Ultimate Dressage Equestrian presets – available on my Etsy store.

To add presets to your lightroom library, simply exact the zip folder and Import the presets via File>Import Develop Profiles and Presets…

For extracting the zip folder on an iPad, you will need to download an app for this capability or extract it on a computer to move back over to your tablet.

Et voila! You have your presets ready to go!

The presets are made with the different colour coats in mind, from greys, chestnuts, bays, blacks and more!

For examples of this preset see my latest Equestrian themed posts:

With this set of presets, I have included adjustments of exposure on each one making it even easier to edit your photos with Adobe Lightroom.

Examples of photos with the presets applied

Please note that all the images are edited from canon raw files and exported to jpeg. Results for jpeg images may vary.

If you are looking for more presets, find my other sets here:

Equestrian Freebies

The Ultimate Equestrian Presets

Cosy Beach

Vintage Presets

Summer Presets

To get these presets and more, click the link below!


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Snapshots #36 CSO Centre Equestre du Val de Sienne

Check out my last snapshot post here!


A small peak into my day out with the team in Gavray, Manche. A good day all round, fine weather, happy horses and two first places.

I will post a more comprehensive post on the basics of Equestrian photography, find my other posts on the topic here!

Equipment

Canon 6Dmarkii
Canon 6D
Sigma 150-600mm f/5.6
Canon L 24-105mm f/4.0

Settings

If you have a basic understanding of the Exposure Triangle, you will know that outdoor photography is very much weather-dependent.

November is always tricky, from clouds to blue skies in the blink of an eye. With an early morning start, it was great to get some golden hour moments.

ISO 400
f/5.6 -6.0
1/1250-1/2500

I am currently taking bookings for shoots local to me (up to 80km) so feel free to get in touch for information!

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Snapshots #35 Normandie Dressage Saint Lô

Check out my last snapshot post here!



“𝘙𝘪𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘩𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢 𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘣𝘣𝘺, 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘱𝘪𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘶𝘱 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘥 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘨𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘳𝘦. 𝘐𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯. 𝘐𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘪𝘻𝘦𝘴 𝘢 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥, 𝘰𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘪𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘥𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘴𝘰, 𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘱𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘥.”

Dressage is an equestrian sport that is often looked down upon. There are no fearless displays of bravery in leaping over obstacles of various shape and stature, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effortless.

I will post a more comprehensive post on the basics of Equestrian photography, find my other posts on the topic here!

Equipment

Canon 6Dmarkii
Canon 6D
Sigma 150-600mm f/5.6
Canon L 24-105mm f/4.0

Settings

If you have a basic understanding of the Exposure Triangle, you will know that outdoor photography is very much weather-dependent.

November is always tricky, from clouds to blue skies in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, the lighting was good and the sky remained a flat palette of blue and grey. Using the Big Sigma lens has its own challenges of balancing not just physically with the weight, but with the exposure triangle.

ISO 800
f/5.6 -6.0
1/800-1/1250

I am currently taking bookings for shoots local to me (up to 80km) so feel free to get in touch for information!

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Living in Normandy #9: What Not To Do Brocanting!

Looking for a quick introduction, check out my previous brocanting post here!


Now that the vide grenier season is calming down, I’d like to share some observations of what not to do on your brocanting trips, from my own experience as well as observing others.

Vide Grenier? Brocanting? What’s that?

Vide Grenier is what would be referred to as a car boot sale or a fleamarket, and brocanting is antiquing. The french version of these are usually full of exciting and interesting items!

The best discoveries often take time to find, which makes searching for them all the more fun. Now that it is getting cooler, the “thrill of the chase” so to speak on finding exciting, interesting, and aesthetic items to spruce up your home, is getting a little more difficult to leave the cosy interior for.

With the changing of the seasons, there is a changing in aesthetics and trends. Autumn/Fall vintage trends for 2022 are heading to be earthy and more muted natural tones, some fun oaty whites and beiges, as well as the warmth of dark orange and green. Along with natural colours, natural forms are also coming into fashion with raw wood furniture, wicker, bamboo and natural wood decoration, and hints of copper and gold embellishments.

To help you on your little French brocanting adventures, here are some handy tips on what NOT to do out and about…

Inside a depot-vente

Do not come Empty-Handed

I am sure this one is a given, but you would be surprised how many people I’ve seen not bring bags or boxes to put their wares in. Vendors are highly unlikely to have bags, so bringing your own is a must! Usually, for more fragile items they will offer to wrap them up in newspaper, but I have found bringing a scarf or using a cardigan also works as a last-minute buffer better for fragile breakables and heavier solid objects. This one does apply to brocantes and depot ventes too, as they may only have cardboard crates for carrying your wares.

Larger objects or more awkward objects can be put on hold until you can bring your car closer, or have assistance for moving it.

Bring Small Change

There is nothing worse than paying big bills. The item is under 10 euros and your wallet is stuffed with 50 euro notes. Not a good look and is sure to annoy the people around you! Especially if you have bartered a price down to a couple of euros.

But also know that offering a handful of 1, 2, and 5 cents is equally not a good look!

Learn the Appropriate French

Here’s today’s little french lesson, on phrases that will help you out at a sale:

FrenchEnglish
Combien?How Much?
Faire une bonne/mauvaise affaireMake a good/bad deal
C’est VenduIt’s Sold
Je regardI am looking
Discuter les prixDiscuss the price
Payer en liquide/espèce To pay in cash
Payer en chequeTo pay by check
Quel est votre prix?What is your best price?
Combine pour les deux, trois…?How much for the two, three…
C’est de quelle période?How old is it?

Talk to the Vendor

The vendor is probably the most knowledgeable of his wares and probably bored from sitting at a table all day. If you feel like a challenge, use the opportunity to practise your French with a bit of conversation, or say hello!

One thing I have noticed in my walk around several flea markets is people arguing with the vendors, saying that they know better than the vendor and that they can get it cheaper elsewhere, or cheaper in the UK. This goes down like a lead balloon for sure in terms of price negotiation!

Remember Your Manners

Politesse, formalities and etiquette, are highly regarded in French culture and go a very long way. Don’t be just another foreigner in France, and remember to say Bonjour et Au Revoir, and maybe even through in a Bonne Journée! If you are really going for the full politesse, make sure you use vous instead of tu!

antique shop window display

That’s all I have for now and hope to share with you more hauls showing off the excting items I have found… but until then, happy hunting!!


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Ultimate Equestrian Photography Presets

Looking for free presets to enhance your photos?
Check out my free last free preset post and The Cosy Beach Preset


In my last Equine Edits post, I gave you dear reader a set of free presets, some basic artsy presets to add a little more drama to your horse pictures. Now I have increased the quality and the quantity to give you the ultimate package!

These are a set of Ultimate Equestrian presets – available on my Etsy store.

To add presets to your lightroom library, simply exact the zip folder and Import the presets via File>Import Develop Profiles and Presets…

For extracting the zip folder on an iPad, you will need to download an app for this capability or extract it on a computer to move back over to your tablet.

Et voila! You have your presets ready to go!

The presets are made with the different colour coats in mind, from greys, chestnuts, bays, blacks and more!

For examples of this preset see my lastest Equestrian themed posts:

With this set of presets, I have included adjustments of exposure on each one making it even easier to edit your photos with Adobe Lightroom.

Examples of photos with the presets applied

Please note that all the images are edited from canon raw files and exported to jpeg. Results for jpeg images may vary.

If you are looking for more presets, find my other sets here:

Equestrian Freebies

Cosy Beach

Vintage Presets

Summer Presets

To get these presets and more, click the link below!


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Fun Photo Prompts for Autumn

Keeping up with the Autumn/Fall theme I present to you the Autumn Photo Challenge, or fun photo prompts for autumn. It’s a little list to keep you inspired to take photos, as I’m sure you (my dear reader) also suffer from artistic slumps where there is zero to minimum effort in your creative brain.

The format for this is no particular order and no set time frames. Try one a day, two a day, one a week… the timing is up to you! If you are inspired by any of these hints and want to share, use the hashtag: FallPhotoBMB22, and let’s share our inspo!

autumn photography challenge
Pin me for later!

The prompts:

Cosy

Change

Orange

Fall

Spooky

Leaf

A Good Book

Soup

Sweater Weather

Long Exposure

Mystery

Autumn Drink

Bokeh

Blur

Apples

Black and White

Leaves

Hike

Brown

Cloudy

Yellow


Take as many or as few photos as you like! Have a great autumn.

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Cosy Mystery Series Perfect For Fall

My taste in books changes with the seasons. I admit last autumn/winter I read far too many murder mystery and thriller books that I could probably write my own! Anyway seeing as my post on the top ten equestrian books proved popular, I decided to go ahead and give you another list of ten books, this time Cosy Mystery series!


Cosy Mystery is as it sounds, a murder mystery series that is a fun read, a little bit of romance, a little bit of drama and of course a mysterious murder! To tick the cosy box, the books have to be short and easily consumed in a cafe with a nice comfortable vanilla cappuccino or spiced latte, or in my case in front of the fire under a pile of blankets. Onto the list!

These I have ranked in no particular order, and would love to hear if I’ve missed any!

  1. Lady Katherine Regency Matchmaker by Leighann Dobbs
  2. Posie Parker Mysteries by L. B. Hathaway
  3. Vampire Knitting Club by Nancy Warren
  4. Lady Hardcastle Mystery by T. E. Kinsey
  5. Ginger Gold Mysteries by Lee Strauss
  6. Cherringham by Mathew Costello
  7. High Society Lady Detective by Sara Rosset
  8. Bunburry by Helena Marchmont

Lady Katherine Regency Matchmaker by Leighann Dobbs

Lady Katherine Regency Matchmaker by Leighann Dobbs

Lady Katherine took the matchmaking job under sufferance – but knew it would make a good cover story while she followed her true passion as an amateur sleuth.

An Invitation to Murder is the first in the Lady Katherine Regency Matchmaker series and a wonderfully entertaining introduction to the characters, the themes and the overall series. With plenty of action, and of course, Regency-era swooning ladies and arrogant lords in the mix, plus Emma, Katherine’s adorable pug, this historical cosy mystery series has a lot to offer fans of the genre.

The overall rating for the series 3.5/5

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Posie Parker Mysteries by L. B. Hathaway

Posie Parker Mysteries by L. B. Hathaway

The Golden Age of Crime, 1920s England upper class full of drama, art, music and high society. Think if Downton Abbey was inspired by Agatha Christie and you have the general atmosphere for this series.

Murder Offstage is the first of the series, and in my opinion, the worst, as they only get better! This is a book to not take too seriously, it doesn’t follow the language tropes of the 1920s and has pretty much every crime in the book, but its fun and fanciful and has a nice bit of escapism.

Keep at the series as they do get better. My favourite is Murder on the White Cliff. Looking forward to seeing what Posie gets up to next…

The overall rating for the series is 3/5

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Vampire Knitting Club by Nancy Warren

Vampire Knitting Club by Nancy Warren

Vampires who knit
A troublemaking witch
Who killed Granny — and is she really dead?

This is not a series to take seriously. It’s fun as heck, full of supernatural, wool and mystery fun. s the series continues so do the characters, with hints of romance…

This series is short, fun, and cute but not sickly. A feel-good read without the suspense and drama that may make you spill your tea on your knitting.

The overall rating for the series is 4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lady Hardcastle Mystery by T. E. Kinsey

Lady Hardcastle Mystery by T. E. Kinsey

Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life. This synopsis is enough for me to be completely obsessed with this series. A quiet life in the country is all I aspire to have in life so the title alone appeals.

I love the dynamic between the characters in this book. Lady Hardcastle and her tiny maid are wonderful. It is a period piece that is quirky and fun.

The overall rating for the series is 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Ginger Gold Mysteries by Lee Strauss

Ginger Gold Mysteries by Lee Strauss

We start in the year 1923, Ginger Gold, an unfortunate war widow, is traveling across the Atlantic from Boston to her home in London to settle her father’s estate. Murder on the SS Rosa is the prequel to the series, so is a nice short start to introduce you to the characters, how they met and the first time they interact together in a murder situation.

I have a dog called Boss so love this series as Ginger also has a dog called Boss. That and the characters are very likable and develop in a steady and predictable way. I love how the mysteries aren’t too cliche and vary.

The overall rating for the series is 3/5

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Cherringham by Mathew Costello

Cherringham by Mathew Costello

Very short murder mystery series with over 40 episodes. I say episodes as I can see this easily being a TV series like Midsomer Murders. This is a digital series available as e-books or audiobooks. I like it as a podcast-esque listen.

Cherringham is a quiet and peaceful town set in the rural area of the Cotswolds. Like most sleepy southern towns, time moves slowly here, and nothing out of the ordinary ever happens. Our main characters are Sarah Edwards, who has just returned to Cherringham with her two children following the breakdown of her marriage, and former NYPD homicide detective Jack Brennan, who has retired to Cherringham hoping for a quiet life after the passing of his wife. Following the murder of Sarah’s friend, Sarah and Jack, unlikely partners in crime-solving, band together to solve not just one murder… but many mysteries…

The overall rating for the series is 3/5

Rating: 3 out of 5.

High Society Lady Detective by Sara Rosset

High Society Lady Detective by Sara Rosset

Another cosy mystery series set in the Golde Age of Crime. Starting in 1923, the high society lady detective series is well-researched and uses a wealth of language appropriate to the era, and references many of the time fads.

Olive Belgrave, our protagonist, didn’t plan to become a detective. But she needed a job, and when asked to look into the background of her cousin’s fiancé, Alfred, she can’t refuse. Before she can really delve into his history the man falls to his death at a party right before her eyes. She knew for sure there was someone else on the balcony, so now her investigation is expanded into looking for a killer. Everyone at the party is now a suspect and the murderer is determined to get away scot-free…

The overall rating for the series is 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Bunburry by Helena Marchmont

Bunburry by Helena Marchmont

Another episode-based cosy mysteries that are short reads of 90-120 pages. They are fun and varied with lots of relatable characters.

Miss Marple meets Oscar Wilde in this new series of cosy mysteries set in the picturesque Cotswolds village of Bunburry. Here, fudge-making and quaffing real ale in the local pub are matched by an undercurrent of passion, jealousy, hatred, and murder – laced with a welcome dose of humour.

The overall rating for the series is 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Mysteries not your jam? See my last post on spooky books here!

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Snapshots #34 Le Manoir de la Guérinière

Check out my last snapshot post here of Equestrian Vaulting and the latest Equestrian Photoshoot.


This year has been a year of snapshots and I am so happy there has been such a variety so far. To change it up yet again, this post showcases photos from my last concert and visit at Le Manoir de la Guérinière.

Based in Passais Villages of the Orne department (61), Le Manoir de la Guérinière is a building dating from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. The building first came about when the English left Normandy in the 1600s. The initial edifice was constructed out of red granite.

The Manoir is privately owned and available for tours on an appointment basis.

Equipment

Canon 6Dmarkii
Canon 70-200mm f/4.0
Canon L 24-105mm f/4.0

I am currently taking bookings for shoots local to me (up to 80km) so feel free to get in touch for information!

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Snapshots #33 Equestrian Photoshoot

Check out my last snapshot post here of Equestrian Vaulting! I love equine photography, it is the main reason I started this blog way back in 2016, so sharing little Equestrian photography snippets is a little nostalgic to when the blog was horseandsport!


Had a very short little shoot with these two after a display of liberty dressage. It’s so nice to see such a wonderful connection between horse and rider!

The editing process of this I have made into presets as part of my Ultimate Equine Preset package available for purchase on my Etsy store here.

Due to time constraints, it was difficult to get the kind of shots I wanted, as well as Fantine, was restless after working so hard on the display. This lovely mare still managed to get her ears forward for the camera for a split second.

I will post a more comprehensive post on the basics of Equestrian photography, find my other posts on the topic here!

Equipment

Canon 6Dmarkii
Canon 6D
Canon 70-200mm f/4.0
Canon L 24-105mm f/4.0

Settings

If you have a basic understanding of the Exposure Triangle, you will know that outdoor photography is very much weather-dependent.

I was lucky to have a bright sunny day with blue skies, meaning I could use an Automated ISO setting with a limited range of 100-800, a constant aperture of f/4.0, and a variable shutter. To get crisp action shots I prefer to have a higher shutter speed – the minimum being 1/1250.

ISO 100-800
f/5.6
1/1250-1/2000

I am currently taking bookings for shoots local to me (up to 80km) so feel free to get in touch for information!

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Books to Get You Ready for Spooky Season

Coffee, check, comfy sweater, check, and a good book? Looking for something to get you ready for the spooky season? Look no further as I have some fun suggestions for you! Book preference always boils down to personal preference and taste so if you disagree or think I missed something out, let me know! I am always looking for more suggestions – the creepier, the better.

In my latest post, I talk about getting all cosy and comfy ready for the colder months, and a good book to accompany this is paramount to my autumnal experience. The list here is all of the books I have read so can actually suggest them. Hopefully, I have a few books on the way to add to this list for next year…

I have put a mixture of modern and classics, so hopefully, there is something on the list for everyone! I couldn’t resist the last one, who does not love Colleen Hoover?

  1. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
  2. A Flicker in The Dark by Stacey Willingham
  3. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  4. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
  5. Small Angels by Lauren Owen
  6. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  7. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson
  8. Verity by Colleen Hoover

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Synopsis:

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.
For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbits. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, and recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, and speaking her mind.

Review:

If you are looking for a short chilling read that will make you have reading paralysis this is the book. This one. Right here. Truly chilling for me. It holds tension and an impending sense of doom well. The main character is someone you root for and want to help, but know there is nothing you can do. Be warned this book does contain domestic abuse so only read if you are comfortable with that theme.

The book is set over the course of a couple of days. The main character, Silvie is with her parents who are professors of anthropology, in an experimental anthropological experience in Northumberland. While the students of the course can sleep in tents, Silvie’s controlling and obsessive father forces his family to sleep in the most authentic period huts. Silvie latches onto the sole female student while trying not to make her father angry, and fails as he is always angry with something she does.

Any longer and this book would have been too much, as the way it is written is amazing in the way it is so harrowing and grim.


A Flicker in The Dark by Stacey Willingham

Synopsis:

When Chloe Davis was twelve, six teenage girls went missing in her small Louisiana town. By the end of the summer, Chloe’s father had been arrested as a serial killer and promptly put in prison. Chloe and the rest of her family were left to grapple with the truth and try to move forward while dealing with the aftermath.

Now 20 years later, Dr. Chloe Davis has her own private practice as a psychologist in Baton Rouge and getting ready for her wedding. She has found herself in somewhat normal life, away from her traumatic past, even making plans to get married. However, this mask sometimes slips as she relives her own past through her younger female patients. Then a local teenager goes missing in a familiar way; then another… Has the past caught up with her?

Review:

Serial Killer Copy Cat Murder Mystery that will have you glancing over your shoulder and thinking hmmm. To be honest, I was skeptical at first about the portrayal of our main character Chloe, but as the story went on, I seemed to understand her a little more. The book is not a description heavy, you don’t waste time on appearances or how things look unless they are of importance. This is something I didn’t pick up on at first but it made it so much easier to read so quickly.

If you are looking for a murder mystery thriller that has a good pace and enough twists to get you dizzy then add this to your bookshelf. I thought I had this book figured out by page 60, only to doubt myself, question everything, and then be rewarded with the reality of the novel.


And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

“Ten little boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little boys traveling in Devon; One said he’d stay there then there were seven. Seven little boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in half and then there were six. Six little boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five. Five little boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four. Four little boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three. Three little boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two. Two little boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one. One little boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.”

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

Synopsis:

First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. Each has been marked for murder.

Review:

This book will leave you restless for answers. There is not a safe moment when reading, no time to feel comfortable, quintessentially making this the indelible arcane horror it is not meant to be.

It is very Christie in the writing style so if this is your first book read by her, be warned of the 1930s language and style used, as it is not the same as watching Poirot on TV.


The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Synopsis:

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.
But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

Review:

Dark with comedic relief in just the right places. I did buy this book initially with the thought that it would be a bit like True Blood but Sookie is a bit older and likes reading, and to some extent, the first part of this book sets it up that it’s all stereotypical southern ladies. (From what I know from the books). It then takes a deep dark dive.

It’s a mix of social commentary, anxiety, comedy, and the idea of what if my mum and her friends had to deal with a vampire problem, so if that is something you’d like… voila!


Small Angels by Lauren Owen

Synopsis:

As a teenager, Kate found a safe harbor from her parents’ constant fighting in the company of the four Gonne sisters, who lived with their strict grandparents next to Small Angels, a church on the edge of dense green woods. The first outsider to ever get close to the sisters, Kate eventually learned the family’s secret: The woods are home to a capricious, menacing ghost whom generations of Gonnes had been charged with stopping from venturing into the village itself.
But as the sisters grew older, braver, and more independent, bucking against the family’s burden, the bulwark began to crack, culminating in a horrifying act of violence that drove a terrible wedge between the sisters and Kate.
Chloe has been planning her dream wedding for months. She has the dress, the flowers, and the perfect venue: Small Angels, a charming old church in the village where her fiancé, Sam, and his sister, Kate, grew up. But days before the ceremony, Chloe starts to hear unsettling stories about Small Angels–and worse, she begins to see, smell, and hear things that couldn’t possibly be real.
Now Kate is returning home for the first time in years, for Sam and Chloe’s wedding. But the woods are coming alive again, and Kate must reconnect with Lucia, the most troubled of the sisters and her first love, to protect Chloe, the village, and herself. An unforgettable novel about the memories that hold us back and those that show us the way forward–this is storytelling at its most magical. Enter Small Angels, if you dare.
(synopsis from Goodreads)

Review:

Tricky to get into, but worth the fight as it is full of intrigue suspense, fantasy, gothic themes, and basically everything you want out of a book to get ready for Halloween.

The main takeaway from this one for me is that stories define us and what are memories except for stories? The land we live on, the woods and rivers remember if it likes the story enough. While we may grow up believing the stories told to us, letting them define who we are, we can change the story anytime we like. We don’t have to be defined by what other people believe. That intermingled with the Gothic tropes and supernatural fantasy that is woven in the novel makes it a complex but interesting spooky read.


The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

“In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white”

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

Synopsis:

Walter Hartright is a young art teacher, who encounters a mysterious and distressed woman dressed entirely in white, while he is out on a rainy day in London. Later finding out the woman has escaped an asylum. Walter takes a new position as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, in doing so, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse.

Review:

The book that in my opinion defines the Victorian Gothic Genre. It’s not modern-day horror to say, but it has psychological traits and eerie passages that really show the start of what is a multi-million genre nowadays. Woman in White will teach you things you never dreamed of with its witty archaic writing.

DISCLAIMER: This is a victorian 600-page book that requires patience and willingness or else it will be started and left to collect dust in the DNF pile of doom.


The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson

Synopsis:

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden. In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies.” Young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…
(synopsis from Goodreads)

Review:

Creepy, horror, and quite believable – which for me is the scariest bit. The premise is an interview with Maya, a survivor of the garden. We learn about her life before, how she was captured, and her time in the garden. In doing so we are slowly shown this twisted world, exposed to the raw emotions of Maya and peeling back her layers of trauma. It’s not a book that will make you paranoid, but a book that will make you horrified.


Verity by Colleen Hoover

verity by colleen hoover

Synopsis:

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, the husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.
(synopsis from Goodreads)

Review:

I am not 100% sure how I feel about this book. To quote others, crying, screaming, smiling… this is a book I can describe as “much”

As always I am obsessed with the writing style which is why I could not put it down. I knew what was coming and enjoyed it but still… spoiler time.

The concept of Verity, the esteemed author, being in a coma and needing a literal ghost writer is a great concept. Of course, the husband is everything our ghostwriter is attracted to in a man so 1+1=2, etc. However, however; he is bland, there’s no oo interesting quirk he has. And I don’t quite understand the romance between the two. Still enjoyed the book so recommend it to people who are also in a CoHo chokehold.


That’s all I plan on recommending, for now, so please let me know if I missed any books let me know in the comments below!

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Photography A-Z

Let’s see how much camera vocabulary I can fit into the alphabet. The answer is way too much so I have cut it down to the basic words and their meanings. I do reach a little with X and Y, fall flat at Q and make interesting choices all over.

What words would you have chosen in your photog alphabet? Leave me a comment below!


a-z photography for beginners graphic with camera and yellow star flash

A

Aperture
The opening in the camera lens, that controls how much light enters the camera and how much of your image will be in focus.

Aspect Ratio
The proportional difference between width and height. Typically 35mm film is 3:2.

Av
Aperture Priority setting on a DSLR, sometimes written as A

B

Bokeh
This is a technique using the aperture setting to create deliberate out-of-focus parts. Known to describe the quality of the out-of-focus parts. Learn how to do it here!

Bracketing
This is where several shots are taken in short succession with various settings of the same subject. Usually, this is different shutters or apertures to create dynamic images.

C

Crop Sensor
If you have a crop sensor camera, it means that the digital sensor is smaller than a full frame. The photos will be more zoomed in than images taken at the same focal length in a full frame.

Canon
A brand that makes camera apparel.

D

Depth of Field
Relates to the focus of the aperture.

DSLR
Digital Single Lens Reflex. What most digital cameras with a mirror in are referred to as.

Dynamic Range
The ratio between the largest and smallest values that a certain quantity can assume, such as light and dark, white and black.

E

Exposure
How bright or dark an image is, refers to the combination of Aperture, Shutterspeed, and ISO.

F

Filters
Used on the end of a lens to add effects or help with certain photography techniques.

Flash
An external light source is used to add fullness and depth to a subject or assist in lighting.

Focal Length
The distance is measured in millimeters (mm) between the optical centre of the lens and the sensor of the camera when it is focused at infinity.

F-stop
This is what Aperture is measured in

Full frame
Digital equivalent of the standard film size of 35mm.

G

Grain
Originally grain was added during the developing process of the film with the silver solution, now an effect that can be added in editing.

Golden Ratio
Refers to a composition guide to make a picture desirable. It is a mathematical ratio – two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities.

H

HDR
High Dynamic Range. This can be achieved when using bracketing high and low values together.

Histogram
A graph tool that shows tonal and exposure distrubution of pixels in an image.

I

ISO
The sensitivity of the digital sensor

J

JPEG
A file format of high compression that can be used to store images.

K

Kelvin
The temperature measurement light is measured within the White Balance.

L

Leica
A brand of lenses that are perfect for mirrorless 4:3.

Lumix
A brand under Panasonic that creates camera apparel.

M

Macro
Close-up photography of subjects that make them larger than life-size.

N

Nikon
A brand that makes camera apparel.

Noise
Distortions in an image made up of small dots

ND
Neutral Density filters can be used in long-exposure photography, as well as in HDR bracketing.

O

Optical body
This is what a camera lens is.

P

Prime Lens
A lens with a fixed focal length. Common Prime lenses are 50mm, 85mm, and 400mm.

Q

The Impossible letter – I have nothing for this one sorry!

R

RAW files
A file type that most photographers shoot in. It allows a large storage of data without losing quality in compression.

Rule of Thirds
Read more about this rule here!

S

Shutterspeed
How fast the shutter of the camera opens and closes to capture an image. This is measured in fractions of seconds.

T

Telephoto
The name for a lens with a longer focal length.

Tripod
An essential piece of kit for photographers who want to avoid hand shake in long exposure or portraits.

Tv
The short setting for shutter speed priority is also written as S on some cameras.

U

UV filter
A filter is used to protect lenses from the sun. This doesn’t change an image at all, just protects your lens!

V

Videography
Not photography… A recording of moving visual images, it uses the same base principles as photography with addition of movement and sound.

W

White Balance
The camera setting that adjusts how colors are rendered in an image. A white balance setting is measued in Kelvin, but more commonly, white balance presets are used which denote their ideal lighting, such as daylight, cloudy, flash, or various indoor lighting scenarios.

X

X-offset
This one is reaching. When editing an image in post-prodution, you can use the vertical and horizontal axis of the image to fix distortion. The X-offset refers to the horizontal rotation of the x-axis.

Y

Y – offset

Like the X-offset the Y-offset refers to the rotation axis to fix distortion of an image i post-production.

Z

Zoom lens
The name some people call a telephoto lens with variable focal lengths.


pin with camera background, a-z beginners guide to photography

26 letters later and we made it! If you want to read more about basic photography, feel free to browse my photography tips here!

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Living in Normandy #8: When Summer Becomes Autumn

Be sure to check out my other Living in Normandy posts here!


The Equinox has passed, and the weather is returning to its temperamental state of clouds, rain, sunshine, and gusts of bracing winds. Autumn has really made itself at home now that September is turning into October. Where did the time go?

If you are like me, I adore autumn – fall for those in America – the transitional season of colour, harvest, and of course Halloween. This summer’s passing has been pretty brutal in terms of relentless hot days causing drought and crops to fail, so this autumn there is an expectance of less in terms of harvest. But even with this doom and gloom, there are some things to look forward to here in Normandy and I have made a handy dandy list to make it easier!

Quick list:

  1. Apples!
  2. Getting Cosy
  3. Festivals
  4. Playing Local Tourist
  5. Brocanting

Apples!

red apples on a tree branch in early autumn

In the heart of apple country, trailers laden with hundreds and thousands of apples bouncing along country roads are a very familiar sight. Trees bowing heavily under the weight of apples and pears, for eating, cooking and pressing for cider and calvados, litter the countryside. In my garden alone we have 5 such trees, dropping fruit like rain. As Normandy is France’s Apple region, there are around 800 variants grown here across the departments.

Now we don’t have thousands of apples in our garden, but just enough to be overwhelmed with what to do. I plan on writing a separate post about apple goodies. For now, I encourage you to try everything apple based. Food and drink. (Of course, with alcohol make sure you drink responsibly!)

Apple products to try:

  • Tarte Normande
  • Patte de Loup (apple croissant-esque pastry)
  • Calvados (apple brandy around 40%+)
  • Pommeau (apple liquor around 20%)
  • Cidre (cider)
  • Poire (pear cider)
  • Trou Normand
  • Norman bourdelot

Be sure to keep an eye out for local apple festivals to try the local varieties!

Getting Cosy

cup of coffee on a plaid blanket with pine cones and dead leaves

To summarise, here is the heating situation in most stone houses around here… The central heating in our stone farmhouse is run by oil (le fuel) so it can get very pricey! To compensate we also use kerosine (paraffin) heaters in the kitchen and lounge. A big bottle of paraffin (cost between 18-40 euros thanks to the oil crisis!) lasts a good period of time and is much more cost-effective for heating individual rooms.

It is something you do get used to fairly quickly, living in 4 jumpers on the colder days and becoming very familiar with different types of heaters during the winter. It does mean in summer that the house stays refreshing and cool, an oasis in the days when Normandy takes a trip down to the south of France.

Along with cosy wood burner time, it is also the perfect time to get comfy with a good spiced latte or apple and cinnamon tea. Nothing brings me more joy than being in front of the fire with a golden milk latte and a good book, while the weather decides to blow rain and cold wind at the winds.

Festivals

view of mortain from neufbourg in normandy france.
View of Mortain in late September

Summer may be officially over, but festivals are not! There are not as many festivals due to schools being back and people returning to work, but be sure to see each weekend packed with activities.

As it is apple season in the apple capital there are a plethora of festivals celebrating this. As I mentioned a little earlier in the post, local producers will be showcasing their products at such festivals and also in the local markets.

Along with apple festivities, there are seafood festivals along the coast. Being in the Manche department (50) the department is dominated by a beautiful and bountiful coastline. Conchyliculture or shellfish farming is one of the main aqua-farming that takes place not just in the Manche, but in the neighbouring Norman department of Calvados (14). Be sure to visit port towns such as Port-en-Bessin to see the scallop farming in action, and Granville to discover the local produce of the mussel and oyster beds in the coastal region.

Playing Local Tourist

oyster beds on a cloudy day in Brehal, normandy
Oyster Beds at Brèhal (50) in November

October is the perfect season to play the local tourist. It may be colder, but it is also (normally) more rainy, so a day out to a museum or two is perfect. Skip the queues of summer tourists and have a museum basically to yourself.

Personally, I recommend UNESCO heritage site the Bayeux Tapestry, to enjoy this incredible museum at your own pace and not have the constant movement of people hustling you along. Whilst in Bayeux, you can buy a 3-for-1 ticket to see the art museum and war museum, both within walking distance and equally fascinating.

Mont-Saint-Michel is also wonderful at this time of year, and even more rewarding to walk to as you can reward yourself with a delicious hot drink!

Other than museums, head to the beach! The D-Day beaches are usually swarming with holiday goers in summer making it pretty difficult to understand the historical importance of the places. (Although it is wonderful to see that the beaches can be used as beaches without the constant remembrance of the atrocities that happened there.) Beaches like Omaha, Gold and Sword are absolutely stunning locations, and great places to walk, reflect and enjoy. Even in the rain, if you are like me and actually enjoy rainy walks!


Brocanting

man looking at books for sale
Autumnal sales

Summer Vide Greniers may be over, but brocanting season is far from over. Now that visitors have left, vide grenier and braderie sales are continuing for local residents. Keep an eye out for depot vente sales (house sale clearances) and vide greniers that are indoors as well as outdoors.

Many of these sales do have restauration en place (food on site) including my favourite Normandy gallettes not to be confused with Breton! And the favourites of coffee and kir Normand!


What do you like most about Autumn / Fall where you are?

Let me know in the comments!

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My September 2022 In Books

My Ambitious TBR pile for September has been particularly ignored until the last couple of weeks I have to be honest with you. After having a mega book hangover from the last Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, it has been a month of starting books and not getting into them easily.

So we have a huge mix of genres here this month, and hopefully now in the right mindset for all the spooky books I have lined up for October!

I will be sharing my past recs for great books to get you ready for the colder weather and the spooky season. I am always looking for more books in any genre, especially horror and mystery so please drop your recs below!

If you missed last month’s list…click here!

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This month I have read: 3 books amounting to 1225 pages. Not a bad contribution to my 2022 reading challenge! If you want to stay updated on my progress, add me on Goodreads!

The Books

The Soulmate Equation

Lauren Christina

Sally Rooney's book Beautiful world, where are you

Genre:  Romance
Length: 416 pages
First Published: 2021

Synopsis:

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. After all, her father was never around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before her daughter was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely. But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

Review:

Cute, adorable romance. It is one of those warm fluffy romance books that make you feel good and is super easy to get into. None of that awkward thinking, will this book speed up please, which is something I am having a lot of trouble with lately. Of course, there are the tropes in romance books you can never avoid, this one pinning down the “tall man whose tallness is a personality trait” archetype to a t. But that is why we read these romance books!

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As Good As Dead

Holly Jackson

Holly Jackson's a Good Girl's Guide t Murder

Genre:  Young Adult, Mystery
Length: 459 pages
First Published: 2021

Synopsis:

The third and final book of this rollercoaster series. Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

Review:

I can see how people can dislike this book but in my opinion, they are wrong. The plot twist in this one is so farfetched and so well done. Obsessed with this book while reading it? Totally. If you want to lose track of time and be completely engrossed in a thriller, or murder mystery then you need to add this three-part series to your TBR list.

I appreciate that this is a trilogy and not trying to be one of those exhaustive murder mystery series that rinse and repeats ideas time and time again as it would lose the whole uniqueness of the characters. Definitely adding Holly Jackson to my instant buy author list!

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Dead In The Water

Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis's Dead in the Water

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery
Length: 350 pages
First Published: 2022

Synopsis:

Summer, 1942. The Second World War rages on but Britain now faces the Nazi threat with America at its side. In a bombed-out London swarming with gangsters and spies, DCI Frank Merlin continues his battle against rampant wartime crime. A mangled body is found in the Thames just as some items of priceless art go mysteriously missing. What sinister connection links the two? (Synopsis from Goodreads)

Review:

I received a copy of Dead In The Water in exchange for an honest review

Let’s get straight to the point. This is the 5th installment of DCI Frank Merlin, and as a reader who has not read the previous books, I am happy with how everything is (re)introduced and set up. It makes it easy to transition back into the series, or in my case, pick up any of the books and get right to it.

The story is well researched and historically plausible so that gives an instant 5 star in my eyes as I am so tired of reading books that are set in the world wars that have little to no research and romanticize the period. However, as an academic in the history field, I found the writing and the constant explanations and almost mansplaining of certain laws and topics very tiring. Saying this, I can see how someone without in-depth knowledge of the period can appreciate this and learn from it too. (Only problem is that Holland was swept in 1940 not 1941, but can see this is an editorial error).

In terms of structure, the book does jump around a bit too much for me, it was a bit much and took a lot of effort to get into the book and finish it. By the end, it is worth the read due to how everything just links together nicely, but up until that point, there is little reward for the reader.

The attention to detail in the storytelling of the different events, and the criminal activity that was rife during the war, are good. There are many characters introduced that can add to the overwhelmingness of the book.

In terms of thriller/mystery, this book does tick the boxes. I had no idea who was the murderer until the revel and normally I have some vague idea, so thanks for that!

I will be reading the others in the series.

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I am still accepting collaborations visit my contact page for more info here.

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Autumn Fall Presets!

Looking for free presets to enhance your photos?
Check out my free last free preset post and The Cosy Beach Preset


Summer turns to Autumn, or Fall for the people across the pond. This means aesthetic coffee pics, selfies with maple trees, pumpkin carving, and fresh morning walks. Share your autumn with an added punch of orange or some spooky Black and White vibes!

These are a set of 9 Autumnal, Halloween inspired presets – available on my Etsy store for 1.20 (euro).

To add presets to your lightroom library, simply exact the zip folder and Import the presets via File>Import Develop Profiles and Presets…

For extracting the zip folder on an iPad, you will need to download an app for this capability or extract it on a computer to move back over to your tablet.

Et voila! You have your presets ready to go!

I will be sharing all my hot drink experiments as well as all the goodies my garden has grown this year. Even though there has been an awful drought, we have an abundance of apples, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes. So I am looking forward to all the recipes that come with the veggies. Of course this did inspire my preset collection. Along with retro halloween posters and prints courtesy of pintrest. I would be lost without it!

With this set of presets, I have included adjustments of exposure on each one making it even easier to edit your photos with Adobe Lightroom.

Try out this freebie before you commit to buying!

examples of the preset
Examples of photos with the presets applied

Please note that all the images are edited from canon raw files and exported to jpeg. Results for jpeg images may vary.

If you are looking for more presets, find my other sets here:

Equestrian Freebies

Cosy Beach

Vintage Presets

Summer Presets

To get these presets and more, click the link below!


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Snapshots #32 Equestrian Vaulting

Check out my last snapshot post here of Fosse Arthour!


Vaulting is described by the FEI (Fédération Équestre Internationale) as “a harmonious bond between horse and athlete that creates awe-inspiring acrobatic displays of skill and precision.” Simply, gymnastics on horseback.

Horse riding is difficult in general and then adding the skill of gymnastics on top is even more so! Lucky for me I am just a photographer so enjoy this selection of shots from the Haras des Perchers Vaulting display!

I will post a more comprehensive post on the basics of Equestrian photography, find my other posts on the topic here!

Equipment

Canon 6Dmarkii
Canon 6D
Canon 70-200mm f/4.0
Canon L 24-105mm f/4.0

Settings

If you have a basic understanding of the Exposure Triangle, you will know that outdoor photography is very much weather-dependent.

I was lucky to have a bright sunny day with blue skies, meaning I could use an Automated ISO setting with a limited range of 100-800, a constant aperture of f/4.0, and a variable shutter. To get crisp action shots I prefer to have a higher shutter speed – the minimum being 1/1250.

ISO 100-800
f/5.6
1/1250-1/2000

I am currently taking bookings for shoots local to me (up to 80km) so feel free to get in touch for information!

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My August 2022 In Books

August again has gone by so fast! Maybe it is the fact that I had a concussion and I have genuinely forgotten two weeks, or this year is flying by. I set a challenge to read a little more this month seeing as this summer has proven to be all work and illness, so hopefully, I am on track to reaching my 60 book goal…

I am trying to read more varied genres is proving difficult. But I have found some really great books in the process. Revisiting the classics, branching out to YA fiction, and trying literary fiction again.

After reading Tropic of Cancer I have started to organise my classics into my TBR pile, making September the month of dystopian fiction and existentialism.

If you missed last month’s list…click here!

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This month I have read: 5 books amounting to 1812 pages. Not a bad contribution to my 2022 reading challenge! If you want to stay updated on my progress, add me on Goodreads!

The Books

Tropic of Cancer

Henry Miller

tropic of cancer by henry miller

Genre: Classic
Length:  318 pages
First Published: 1934

Synopsis:

Tropic of Cancer is a combination autobiographical fictional work where Miller explores his life as a struggling writer in “bohemian squalor” in 1920s and 30s Paris. Some chapters follow incidents involving Miller’s real life friends and acquaintances, while other chapters are written in a stream-of-consciousness style. 

Review:

I love a good dry commentary on the bland reality of existentialism. A commentary of how life actually is in terms of juxtapositioning, human nature against societal virtue. For that, this book itched my brain in the best way. It is raw and reckless in some places, disjointed and overwhelming – but that’s what I love about it. It is not everyone’s cup of tea for sure so bare that in mind if this is on your read list.

After reading this book I can see how his writing has influenced other writers of the twentieth century, including one of my top 5 writers, George Orwell. The uncensored stream-of-consciousness style of writing really drags the reader into the character’s very thoughts. Personally, I love it. I can understand how this book does not reach expectations, however with many classics and older books there is a certain expectation built around them, even before you open the front cover. That in itself is another blog topic!

“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought I was an artist. I no longer think about it. I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.”

Henry Miller | Tropic of Cancer

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Midnight Library

Matt Haig

The Midight library by matt haig

Genre:  Fantasy
Length: 288 pages
First Published: 2020

Synopsis:

Nora’s life has been going from bad to worse. Then at the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth, she finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived.

Review:


Good old existentialism in a beautifully created novel. The concept is genius and the execution is fantastic. I love how it varies in chapter lengths and how by the end of the book it makes you feel like you were actually reading books from the midnight library!

Nora has a very relatable character for me. She has so much potential to do so much, but there is something always holding her back. From her environment to the people in her life – she has excuses to stop herself from committing to anything really great. I think that is why she works so well as the protagonist in this story as her library is overwhelmingly full of potential.

The only way to learn is to live

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Beautiful World, Where Are You

Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney's book Beautiful world, where are you

Genre:  Romance, Contemporary Literature
Length: 356 pages
First Published: 2021

Synopsis:

Alice is a novelist. She meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a breakup and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, and they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, and they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

Review:

This book took me maybe 4 months to actually finish. It is one of the books that you can put down and forget.

Contemporary fiction loses me 80% of the time and I had high hopes this one would not lose me…Unfortunately, it did make me lose interest and I did find myself avoiding finishing the book for a while. I do like writing. The characters lack some imagination and I stopped caring by the epilogue.

The formatting of this book worked well. The use of emails to tell what’s happening for the characters is a little bit modern-day “Pride and Prejudice” vibes, but in the context of the book being a modern-day commentary it works for both writer and reader.

I am getting a little tired of reading books with a romantic angle that dramatises or capitalises on toxic traits and red flags. Yes, a healthy relationship does not sell books – we as readers seem to devour the weird and downright abusive relationship romances. Take for instance 50 shades of grey, many of Collen Hoover’s books to name a couple of examples there. The fact that this is in a book that is supposed to be a commentary on real life with real people is in essence normalising the fact that relationships are not healthy and that is totally acceptable.

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Holly Jackson

Holly Jackson's a Good Girl's Guide t Murder

Genre:  Young Adult, Mystery
Length: 433 pages
First Published: 2019

Synopsis:

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

Review:

The book started off bad. Not going to lie here it was not good, it was pretentious, and the characters were unlikable, but then it picked up. The second half went from a 3 star to a 5 star. Pip becomes more likable and seems to settle as a character, her friends actually become independent personalities too. This book is worth the read if you can get past the awkward start.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Good Girl, Bad Blood

Holly Jackson

Holly Jackson's a Good Girl's Guide t Murder

Genre:  Young Adult, Mystery
Length: 417 pages
First Published: 2020

Synopsis:

After her EPQ project podcast goes viral, Pip finds herself sought after for mysteries and cold cases. One of her best friend’s brothers goes missing – the police are not concerned but his family is beside themselves. Pip decides she will help them leading to unraveling more secrets, lies, and scandals in her small sleepy village.

Review:

So good. In comparison to the previous series, this book is 5-star. It moves on in a very natural way and still has the same standard of thrill and character development. The ending is quite shocking and actually feels more realistic than many other thrillers.

It is nice to read a thriller/mystery where the protagonist is very much affected by what she has witnessed. It feels real in the way that it has not been played to extremes which is what we usually see. Really enjoyable, and very sensibly written, and can’t wait to read the next one!

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Free Jumping Your Horse

I love jumping and I would love it if my horses did too, so I make sure to allow them as much fun with free jumping as possible! If you missed my last horsey post – click here!


2 year old kwpn jumping
My 2 year old mare jumping

Trot Poles Are Not Scary!

Allow your horse to investigate and discover poles and jump wings in their own time. All horses are different – some do not care they exist while others think that they may indeed be the cause of their demise.

Lead them up to the poles, and walk over them yourself before asking the horse to follow. And remember for lots of scratches and treats to reward them!

Setting Ground Poles

Generally speaking, ground poles should be set to your horse’s stride so there is no exact science behind setting out poles for groundwork. It also depends on what work you are wanting to do with them, lengthening or shortening strides, or even seeing strides for jumps.

In the jumping context, it’s best to lay out ground poles under jumps as well as a loping stride (canter) before to help the horse with gauging distance and ultimately clearing the jump.

Here is the generalisation of distances for horse height that I have found works for trotting:

Height of HorseDistance of Poles
up to 13hh (125cm)1m (3ft6)
up to 14.2hh (145cm)1.20m (4ft)
up to 16.2hh (165cm)1.35cm (4ft6)
16.2hh -18.2hh (165-185cm)1.50cm (5ft)

For cantering, anything between 2.75m – 3.35m (9ft-11ft) works well to help stop rushing.

Setting Free Jumps

graphic of how to set out poles for pole work
A simple guide to setting out free jumps

Allow the horse to learn and respond to what you are asking from them!

Jump set out #1

Start with no raised poles to get the horse used to the area.

The first jump used should be a simple cross vertical.

Then ask for a straight vertical

Jump set out #2

The first ground pole may be raised to a small cross vertical.

The second is an oxer or spread to encourage the horse to stretch over the jump.

KwPN mare jumping a 1.30m oxer in an indoor school
My mare Streep showing off her scope

Personally, I don’t like to jump my young horses often – but I will have small jumps set out when working liberty as I know they enjoy it!

What do you want to see next from my blog? Let me know in the comments.

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