Thursday 5 December 2013

Photo of the Week: Cartmel

In September we went on holiday to Cartmel in the Lake District.  It's one of those picture perfect places with bags of history and character.  For an Instagram addict like myself this place is ace and I took lots of photos.

A couple of months later the Cumbrian Instagram community called IgersCumbria ran a competition for the best examples of Cumbrian buildings.  Needless to say I tagged all my photos and hoped for the best.

The photo below of the National Trust Tower in Cartmel.  This was chosen as a runner up in the competition.  They said of my entry:

"If there is one IgersCumbria member with a passion for buildings it's @angelickittycat.  Anne-Marie's technicolour gallery takes ordinary daily life and makes it extraordinary."

I was so pleased to be a runner up and being recognised for making "ordinary daily life and make it extraordinary."  Not only is it a brilliant compliment, but also wonderfully articulates what I aim to do on Instagram.  Thank you IgersCumbria for recognising my work!

If you want to see more examples of my work on Instagram my username is @angelickittycat.

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013

All images are the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Friday 22 November 2013

Monthly Challenges: September 2013

Coursera has become my new favourite website and during September I undertook at course in Creativity, Innovation and Change with Penn State.  I was really looking forward to this course, surprisingly I found it a disappointment.  It is hard to pin point the reason why, but I found the videos were too short for my liking as they seemed like some MTV video soundbite and I didn't warm to the presenters either.  It simply didn't grab me like the Introduction to Art course.

That said the one idea I did like was the concept of Intelligent Fast Fail.  It really helps to counteract that perfectionist streak that can cripple people (and me) with inaction.  Basically you try stuff, fail quickly, learn from the experience and repeat.  Eventually you can succeed, but failure is an important part of the process which we should embrace as a positive experience.

Due to time constraints I didn't do the advanced course and I may have had a better experience, but somehow I managed to get 100% on the statement of achievement.  Bizarrely I have found the more I hate I course the higher the marks I get.  Still, I did get something out of it.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Photo of the Week: Salt Mills at Saltaire

We make visits to northern towns as part of the Life in Northern Towns blog and we revisited Saltaire outside Bradford in West Yorkshire recently.  The place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is a beautiful place in a Victorian urban model village way.

This photo is what I call a happy accident.  We were in the Salt Mills at Saltaire, which is part Hockney art gallery, part shopping and part food experience.  As we were walking down the stairs I looked out the window and spotted this view.  With the magic of Instagram and the Sutro setting I turned the raw picture into this glorious Italian influenced image.  Maybe it is the perspective, maybe it's the colour palette or maybe it's the distressed nature of the photo, but I absolutely love this image.

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

Every time I go back to Instagram I spend time looking at this picture thinking 'Wow, how lucky was I to get this?'.  I took other fab pictures of Saltaire which can be found at Pinterest.  If you love taking pictures of Victorian architecture and like visiting model villages Saltaire is the perfect place for you.  I will certainly go back.

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Photo of the Week: The Royal Exchange Building, Manchester

I do like to pop to Manchester on a Sunday afternoon.  Often I take a snap with my iPhone and most of the time nothing comes of it.  Last Sunday as I was walking down Cross Street and turned onto Market Street I looked up at Marks and Spencers windows. What I found was an amazing reflection of the Royal Exchange Building in the windows.

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

I almost didn't take the picture, but at the last minute I thought I might as well take a snap.  After a play about on Instagram I came up with this lovely shot.  It almost made up for the fact I drained my car battery that afternoon (left on car lights) and had to get jump started by my Dad.

For more examples of my photography go to Instagram and search for the user name - angelickittycat.  Or go to my Pinterest page Life in Northern Towns.

All images are the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Photos of the Week: Maryport

We've just been to the Lake District for the week and whilst we were there we took a trip to Maryport.  The Cumbrian coastline doesn't seem to be a major tourist destination unlike the Lake District itself.  This is in part is due to how long it takes to get to the coast on the A roads and there is no major resort like Blackpool.  I somehow think Sellafield might have something to do with that. 

Maryport was our final destination for the day.  It is a sleepy seaside town and it was overcast that day so I couldn't take any pictures of the Solway Firth.  Instead I took some photos of the Marina and town centre.  As much as I prefer taking pictures on a clear, blue sky day, sometimes cloudy days can add real atmospherics to a picture. Here are some examples of what I found.

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

More pictures of Maryport can be found on my Pinterest Page - here is the link.

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Photos of the Week: London

This week I've gone plural with three photos of the week.  A couple of weeks ago we headed to London to meet my Canadian Cousins.  This was their first visit to London and they were keen to see the sights.  We tagged along and I took lots of photos.  The weather wasn't brilliant, however the clouds were fabulous to photograph which really added drama to the photos.

Here are my top three favourite pictures:

1. Tower Bridge

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013
Tower Bridge is an iconic structure in London.  It's known throughout the world and naturally my Cousins wanted to see it.  In all my time visiting London I have never walked across it let alone take a picture of it.  I like this shot as the clouds and the lighting make it look rather imposing.

2. A view of the River Thames near City Hall

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 
This picture to me looks like an oil painting.  Again the clouds make the picture look really dramatic and the people give the photo a dynamic.  My eye always gets drawn to the guy sitting on the wall with his back to the Thames.  There is almost a story in his pose - is he a beggar asking for money, a busker or a weary tourist resting his feet?

3. Menier's Chocolate Factory now Theatre and Café
©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 
I captured this image on top of a tour bus.  This is a wonderful building full of Victorian character, with cream coloured accents on the window arches and roof edges and the wheat coloured brick tainted with the chocolate coloured soot. The great thing about tour buses is that they take you places you would not normally go on foot.  It was quite breezy on the top deck, but you can't fault the photo opportunities the bus allows you. 

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Monthly Challenges - November 2012 to August 2013

A year ago I read "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin where she did month long projects for a whole year to increase her happiness.  It was an enjoyable read and I really liked the idea of monthly projects.  So last November I started my first monthly project. 

November 2012 - Writing

The aim of November was to write 500 words a day on any subject.  It could be blogging, journalling, writing stories - anything really.  Apart from one day, where I fell asleep early, I completed it.  I really enjoyed it as writing is my thing and it gave me a wonderful buzz.  This month I found that writing regularly really perked up my spirits.

December 2012 - Life in Northern Towns Blog

I've been writing my travel blog , Life in Northern Towns, since April 2009 and really enjoy doing it.  In November 2012 I had an invite to a blogging event in Manchester at Carat, a media company.  It was an inspiring event and I learnt more things about blogging in those couple of hours than I had done in three years of blogging.  So December became blogging month.   By the end of the month I manage to triple my traffic, I SEO'd my blog and generally smartened up my blog with photos and links.  This month managed to rejuvenated my passion for my blog.

January 2013 - Exercise

A New Year often brings health resolutions and I was no different to the rest of the world.  Like the rest of the world I fell of the rails half way through the month.  I chose this challenge for the wrong reason - I thought I 'should' get healthy rather than I 'really want' to get healthy.  That mindset set me up for failure, however it was a great lesson to me to go with the 'wants' rather than the 'shoulds'.

February 2013 - Craft

In order to make up for the failure of January's challenge, I chose to do craft month.  I love crafts.  There is nothing more satisfying than making something beautiful out of some scraps of wool and fabric.  I did some embroidery. I made a pin board with the aid of an old canvas, scrap fabric, ribbons and a trusty staple gun.  However most importantly I finished my mammoth knitted blanket made from chunky wool, 10mm needles and lots of determination.  I love the blanket, it's big, colourful and really warm.  On the downside I did give myself I hand injury and I've been unable to knit since.  In fact it's led to a series of medical tests to get to the bottom of the problem.  I learnt from this month that you don't half feel ridiculous to admit to a Consultant that you caused a hand injury due by having a bad knitting technique.

March 2013 - The Novel

Everyone is supposed to have a novel within them and I've been toying with an idea for years.  So I thought this month I would have a crack at it.  I had a dedicated notebook for the purpose and each day I noted ideas down for the grand novel.  I didn't get as far as I thought I would.  Part of me thinks I'm not quite ready for it.  On the plus point I did get lots of ideas for it.  I can't say I succeeded with this month's challenge, but it gave me food for thought.

April 2013 - Reading

I've always loved reading, but recently I've had a problem finishing books.  This month I promised to complete four books.  I actually finished seven.  This month reminded me how books are an important part of my life and how much joy I get from them.  A very successful month indeed.

May 2013 - Money & the Internet

I've always been a bit crap with money and stuff.  This month I decided to get a bit better about it.  I read a book called "Ausperity" by Lucy Tobin about how to be more savvy about money.  I signed up to Quidco to get cashback on purchases (I did get some cash back - not much but it's better in my pocket than somebody else).  I did on line surveys for cash or prizes (too time consuming for what you get).  My blog is now on Kindle (no takers though).  Got a bit more sorted with vouchers for shopping trips (it does actually save money).  Sorted out Adsense on my blog (not sure that works really).  In fact I signed up for a start up course with Enterprise Nation (very interesting).  Middling success.

June to August 2013 - Coursera

Someone on Facebook mentioned you could do free on line courses with top universities.  I love learning so I ended up browsing the Coursera course list and signed up for a few courses.  Unfortunately these courses don't cover convenient month length blocks, so this challenge stretched over 3 months instead.

The first course was an Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques by Penn State.  I chose art because I really enjoy it and get real kick out of it.  The course I really liked although I didn't end up doing as much art as I wanted to.  There was a lot of collage within the course, but the videos were really well made and I learnt more about art.  I got a Distinction with 91%.

The second course was Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health.  I did it as I thought it would be useful for work.  Unfortunately I found this course rather boring.  How I got a Distinction and 95.5% is a miracle.  My dogged determination came to the fore on this course to get through it.  This was a definite 'should' challenge.

I've signed up to three more courses to the end of the year.  I heartly recommend them if you want to find out about stuff in an interactive fashion.

What I have learnt?

Here are the five things I learnt doing these month challenges:

  1. Do challenges you want to do, rather than what you think you should do.  You will stick to the challenge by going with your interests.
  2. Creative challenges rock my world.
  3. I love learning - I swear it's part of my DNA.
  4. These challenges help to embed new habits, give different perspectives on life and open your eyes to new ideas.
  5. Most importantly, having a monthly challenge is good for the soul.

Saturday 31 August 2013

Photo of the Week: The Cornerhouse in Manchester

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

I have a long history with The Cornerhouse in Manchester.  Years ago I used to work at the Palace Theatre across the road from The Cornerhouse.  Sometimes, when I was working a matinee and an evening show, I used to pop across for a soup and a salad for tea.  Before the Internet they used to have a really good noticeboard for all the cultural activities in Manchester.  Now it's just a white painted wall opposite the toilets.  I still think it would still be good to have.  I also used to wander around the art gallery as well as go to see the odd independent film at the Cinema.  Admittedly never any of the foreign films as I hate reading subtitles and end up missing the action. Weirdly I'd rather watch a foreign film dubbed rather than subtitled so I can focus on the images and action.

This place is a stalwart of the Manchester cultural scene with it's cinemas and galleries.  It's really worth checking out the cinema listings regularly as they sometimes have after show Q&A's with the film makers.  We've been to a couple and they are really good.  They also run cinema and arts courses, which are worth having a look at.

It has a great little shop that sells books, magazines and cards.  Definitely the place to pick up that obscure arts magazine that WHSmiths don't stock.  I think they would do well if they sold some interesting sweets for the cinema goers.  This is the only cinema I know that doesn't have a confectionery stall.  Admittedly there is a little Sainsbury's opposite so there isn't far to walk to get stuff.

The bar is good and stocks interesting beers and upstairs is a relaxed restaurant.  I haven't tried the restaurant in recent years, but the cakes look delicious.  You also get fab views of Oxford Street from there, so it's good place to people watch.

I've struggled to get a decent picture of The Cornerhouse.  You practically have to stand in the middle of the road to get one.  Not wanting to get hit by a car (done that before - not recommended) I managed to get this shot outside the Palace Theatre leaning over the traffic barrier.  On Instagram someone pointed out my photos tend to be moody.  I never realised this, but it's because I like to have cloudy skies as they give added interest to the pictures.

The Cornerhouse will be moving in a few years as there is a new arts centre being built off Whitworth Street West on First Street.  I hope they can do justice to The Cornerhouse as I think this place is wonderful as it is.

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Photo of the Week: Imperial War Museum North and the Media City Footbridge

Salford Quays has become an excellent place to take architectural photography.  20 years ago these docks were a wasteland, now they have been radically transformed into an architects playground.

The Imperial War Museum North is an amazing building inside and out.  I love how it stands on the edge of the Quays looking like a ship resting in dock. Inside they have some of the most effective exhibitions about war - I never leave the place with a dry eye.

As part of the Media City redevelopment a new footbridge was built, imaginatively called the Media City Footbridge.  I love the sleek design and believe it or not, but it's also a swing bridge.  So beautiful and yet so practical.

The bridge designers had an inspired moment designing this bridge.  I swear they were standing where I took this picture and thought an asymmetric, cable bridge would be wonderfully offset by the museum.  To me these two structures transform into modern day clipper ship in this picture.

I got lucky with the weather this day as the clouds add drama to the photo.  It was also a windy day and so the Quays were quite choppy, which adds texture to the water.

This picture was processed via Instagram.  I double filtered it - I'm not sure which ones, but probably X-Pro II and Lo-fi.

Salford Quays is one of the best places to visit in Salford with plenty of photo opportunities.  So take your camera, but remember take a jacket as it always seems to be windy.

Monday 5 August 2013

Photo of the Week: A view of Victoria Bridge from Trinity Bridge, Manchester

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 
This is a view of Victoria Bridge over the River Irwell, taken from Trinity Bridge on the border of Manchester and Salford.  This to me is a pretty epic shot, not in terms of view, but in terms of colour and reflection.  The shot has been triple filtered through Instagram.  It's a mix of lo-fi and hefe.

Most Sundays I go to Manchester to have a wander around the shops and have coffee either in Starbucks St Ann's Square or Caffe Nero on Deansgate.  I park on the Salford side of the River Irwell near the Lowry Hotel as there is free parking.  As a result I cross over Trinity Bridge nearly every week and always end up taking a photo or ten. 

This place has become a muse to me as there seems to be lots of photographic opportunities here.  The Sunday I took this I noticed there was a really good reflection on the River Irwell of the sky and surrounding buildings so I took a shot. 

The triple filtering was an accident, a happy one at that.  I forgot to hash tag my second shot so I thought 'What the hell' and filtered it again.  What I've noticed with Instagram, when you get to the triple filter stage you tend to get a painterly effect and the colours really intensify.  I really love strong colour in photos, even if it's used sparingly.

My favourite living artist is David Hockney and he has an amazing use of colour.  In his latest works of the East Yorkshire countryside there is a colour intensity which is thrilling.  He seems to see colours that most of us don't notice.  Using colour intensity effects like lo-fi and hefe brings out those hints of colours.  The yellow, oranges, greens, blues and indigo just zing out of this picture.  Whilst in reality this view can be considered a little pedestrian, I think these filters really transform the view into something else. 

Whilst I think the purpose of photography is to capture a moment of reality in time, photography has the purpose to transform something ordinary into something special.  I hope I did this here.

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Photo of the Week: A view of Blackpool from the North Pier

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 
This is one of my favourite photos.  I took it on a wet and windy day in June 2013 on a trip to Blackpool.  It was blowing a gale and walking down the North Pier wasn't a pleasant stroll, but a test of endurance.  On the way back down the pier I took this picture. 

I double filtered it with Lo-fi.  The thing I like about Lo-fi is the way it intensifies the colour.  Whilst this picture's colour palette is predominantly blue, grey and black, I love how the red rubbish bin pops out of the picture.  The rainwater on the wooden pier helps to reflect the light, which makes the picture brighter that it would normally be.  I also like how some elements like the lamp posts, dome and church are almost in silhouette. The brooding darkness of the clouds completes this dramatic photo.

I just love this picture!

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Photo of the Week: Leyland United Reform Church

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

This week as part of the Life in Northern Towns blog we look a trip into Lancashire and went to Leyland.  This picture is what I call a happy accident.  The original picture was not very exciting until I whizzed it twice through Instagram - I think I probably used Amaro to lighten detail of the church and then lo-fi to intensify the colour.  I love how the sky is really dramatic and almost biblical in tone.  In addition I like how the red really pops out of the picture.  I'm quite a fan of almost monochromatic pictures which are punctured with a dash of primary colour.  If you want to follow on me on Instagram search for my user name: angelickittycat.  This is also the same name I use for Twitter.

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Friday 12 July 2013

Photo of the Week: The Manchester Civil Justice Centre

©Anne-Marie Marshall 2013 

One of my favourite hobbies as a teenager was photography.  I got my first half decent camera when I was 15 and when I was 22 I got a Canon SLR.  Sometimes hobbies fade in and out of your life and it certainly faded out of my life for the past 10 years or so.  So when I got my iPhone 4S at last I had something I could carry everywhere that took decent pictures.  Then I found the Instagram app - I was well and truly hooked again.

If you are on Instagram you can find my growing gallery by searching for the user name Angelickittycat.  Or if you want to see my Life in Northern Towns page on Pinterest where I post all my pictures of towns follow this link.  I can even be found on Instacanvas too.

The image above is of the Manchester Civil Justice Centre.  It's one of Manchester's most original and striking buildings built in the past ten years.  I truly love this building and how it changes in the Manchester light.  This was took on a sunny June evening and I double filtered it through Instagram with added brightness.  I really need to remember what I used - probably lo-fi and hefe, which are my usual suspects when filtering.

All images the work of Anne-Marie Marshall.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Hello world!!!

I've been writing Life in Northern Towns for over four years now and I really enjoy writing it.  However as it's a travel blog and I want to keep it that way.  That means I need another outlet for my off topic blogging.  So I've set up as a place for my thoughts, ideas, projects, photos and links to my other web stuff.  I really love writing and expressing myself, so I hope you enjoy the blog as much as I enjoy doing it.