Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Manic Shoot

Rachel had the idea of doing a completely random and impromptu photo-shoot with as many models as she could get. I think she managed to organise and arrange all of this in just over a week and we had a whole afternoon taking pictures at Orgasmic in York (which we're told will soon become part of Revolution which is next door).

There was three of us taking pictures that day, Rachel herself (also doing make-up, styling, organising, etc, etc), Jo doing fantastic photography and helping me out (and lending me lenses), and me. I should make it very, very, very, clear that Rachel and Jo have been doing this quite a while and they are both amazingly accomplished, experienced, and confident photographers. None of these adjectives apply to me!

Taking pictures in this kind of situation is hard, really, really, hard work and takes an immense amount of skill and expertise. Having a flashy (no pun intended) camera and a few good pics will not get you through this. You have to know what you are doing, have an aim to achieve and a good idea of how to get there. It is thinking and acting under pressure. Rachel and Jo can do this without much apparent effort, I am not there yet (and may never be).

However, it was a good learning experience for me and, at least looking back, a fun, enjoyablem, and rewarding way to spend an afternoon and I'm really unbelievably thankful to Rachel and Jo and the models who were there; Holly, Richard, Suzanne and Sarah. I only hope the pictures do them justice!

I've yet to process all of the images (and am going to spend a long time getting them looking as good as I possibly can) but for now, here are three of the ones I liked the best (this doesn't mean they are good by any means).

We were taking turns photographing each model and I started working with Suzanne who was so lovely and friendly and looked absolutely stunning. She's modelled before and frankly she was helping me out so much in terms of just ideas and poses, I had no idea what to ask her to do but that was fine as she already knew. There is a large mirror on the way to the toilets and I really wanted to get a nice shot with that but it was really difficult given the lighting and angles available.

Next was Holly who Rachel has photographed a few times before. Apparently she has never done professional modelling before and so far has only worked with Rachel. I have to say I think she is a natural! She's also fantastically nice and wonderful to chat with. We decided to do some pictures outside but had so much 'fun' with the rather strong wind and the sun that kept changing it's mind - it's hard enough for me to get the exposure settings right once let alone having to muck around as the light fades and then increases again. Anyway, Holly was very helpful and patient and the pictures do seem to have come out quite well.

Last, but by no means least, was Richard and Sarah. I think by this point we were all quite tired and I just wanted to do something silly. Rachel got MUCH better pictures and certainly more stylish ones of both Richard and Sarah but I like this one as it was the expression that I'd wanted to capture, and that was so elusive due to someone having a fit of the giggles.

So, overall it was a good day and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun. I definitely learnt alot including the fact that there is so much more for me to learn! I'll update this post with links to all of the pictures once I've processed them.

[ UPDATE: The processed images have now been posted on my website, see this page for links to the three galleries that I've produced. Warning the pictures are quite big! The full sized versions of the best of these still need uploading to deviantART, will do that tomorrow ]

York Wander

On Saturday I decided to enjoy the fantastic weather (while we had it!) and wander out into York to get my York card (free admission to certain attractions, discounts, library etc) and also a Minster pass (again free entry).

I took quite a few pictures on my little outing and will link to these when I've got them all processed (even going to try doing some HDR images). When I got into town I was drawn to York Camera Mart to see if there were any lenses I could dream about being able to afford. Big mistake! They had a 2nd hand 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 lens in the window for only £99!

The big problem with owning a 5D is that I can't use the cheaper EF-S lenses that fit the crop-sensor cameras from Canon, e.g. my old 350D or the 550D, 50D, etc. I need to get the full-frame lenses that fit EF mounts. In simple terms - I have to get lenses with a red dot on them instead of the white dot!

This lens had the red dot! It goes without saying that I bought it; shouldn't have but took the opportunity of getting a cheap lense to fill in the range that I have (now have 50mm prime, 80-200mm zoom, and this 28-105mm). Felt a bit bad about spending more money and really need to get control of my money.

Anyway, it took me a while to get use to using this lens - in particular I've not done much in the way of scenary shots since getting the 5D but now at 28mm I'm able to get a wide-angle picture and the image above seemed to come out quite well. I feel a little less bad about spending the money given the results but I really need to stop getting more now!

Fashion Event

This is the last event that Rachel intended to run for now as it takes quite alot of effort and she is so busy with more pressing matters anyway.

We had quite a few people turn up this time and I'd like to say that I managed to capture it all in photographs, but I didn't. Instead I spend the time before everyone arrived taking pictures of Rachel in the, only slightly extreme for her, make-up she applied for the night.

Anyway, I had a fantastic time, it was nice to meet new people and catch up with friends such as Freya who was modeling some of the clothes on the night. And I have to say that Stonegate Yard is a fantastic venue and does really nice food as well.

Catching Up

The problem with taking lots of pictures and having a fairly busy social (and work) life that presents many opportunities to practice my photography, means that I don't seem to have much time to sit down and process the images that I've captured so that I can blog about them or even get prints!

I guess I could make things a little easier on myself by not taking pictures in RAW mode but the advantage of doing that is that it's then possible to correct for colour, contrast, or carry out other tweaks before producing the final picture, if you go straight to JPEG that's not as easy to do as you've lost alot of the information that the camera captured.

Since I have a bit of a back-log of events and pictures I'm going to blog with place-holder entries to keep everything in order and then update each entry when I've got the whole set of images done so I can refer to the location on my website or deviantART where I've uploaded the pictures!

Monday, 29 March 2010


I now live in a completely different town and have a job where no-one I work with knew me before my transition. No history, no old memories of how I looked and the only name I have used is "Fiona". It's fantastic. The right name, the right pronouns, no baggage.

So it's been a while since I've had to deal with a blatant error in terms of my gender so it was a bit of a shock when, on a night out last week, someone referred to me as "he" in the context of me waving a camera around: "he's trying to take pictures of us" or words to that affect. The person concerned immediately apologised and I, of course repeatedly said "oh, it's fine, don't worry".

But the truth is that it wasn't fine at all. In fact it bothered me for a few days and really quite upset me. Eventually I decided that the thing that bothered me the most was that I hadn't been more firm in correcting the mistake and actually made it clear that I *AM* female - in fact I've got the paperwork to prove it! [ Slightly flippant but true]

It bothers me that, when introduced, as me, that this person, and some of her friends I guess, have made the smug assumption that they can tell I'm not quite 'normal' and that in some way gives them a right to file me under the incorrect gender. I suppose in some ways I can't condemn people for jumping to conclusions and pigeon-holing me, I certainly did it to the person who made this mistake.

I think to make matters worse some friends of this person turned up later and there was some ill-disguised pointing and whispering going on which was just frankly rude and totally unnecessary, at least I have the decency to discuss someone's faults afterwards and so they are unaware (yes, still mean but at least more polite).

Really, I guess it's just the shock of, for the first time in a long while, being faced with people who aren't like the usual type I encounter: those that are intelligent, understanding or compassionate enough to 'get' it or at least be polite. Sadly not everyone is like that it would seem.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Money Grabbing B******

I'm generally a very calm and chilled out person but, possibly as other blog posts have illustrated, sometimes certain things do get me very annoyed, upset, angry and stressed. I think generally I'm in need of letting off some steam or spleen-venting so I'll indulge myself with a little rant about two such things now.

First of there are the banks, or in my case, the Nationwide Building Society. There has been a recent court case over the legality of bank charges and whether these are fair. From what I understand this has now collapsed and the banks are claiming a victory. No matter what the charges are still unfair - lawyers may be able to argue that black is white but it still won't change the facts.

I have an ongoing issue with Nationwide where they charged me for cheques accidentally written against the wrong joint account. The first incident was refunded the second not. They then continued to add charges to the account (as it was now overdrawn - no overdraft on it) but the only reason it was in this state was because of the charges they continued to apply, £20 each time. I did finally get some refund and was about to close the account when, yep, you guessed it, another charge.

Charging someone who has a regular income is annoying, greedy, etc ... when you are dealing with someone who is in the process of trying to sort out their finances and a bank, Nationwide again, slap on £90 for direct debits and refuse to refund them, that's when you start to wonder whether the charges are fair at all. It seems even more exorbitant when you remember that these are automated transactions; it would have actually not cost the bank anything to reject them, it would have just been done by a computer.

Obviously I'm being naive; the reason I can get a good rate of in-credit interest and the other services I enjoy is because the bank I choose is ripping off those less fortunate with bank charges and inflated interest rates. I guess that is how things work and I shouldn't complain too much. Then again I think I'd be happier with the whole situation if the banks would just be honest and not try and say that the charges are justified and that customers should be more responsible with their money. In reality they want you to be irresponsible!

And now we come to parking charges. What is the justification for these? Are they a deterrent? Punishment? Or simply a revenue stream? A case in point is the charge that York City Council slapped on me for parking on a residential street when they were carrying out regular cleaning. First of all I wasn't aware this was happening (not a resident of that street or York at the time) and second, the only sign I would have passed was likely obscured by parked cars or at the very least not in my line of sight when I was concentrating on driving, at night, safely down a road flanked on both sides by said vehicles.

Explaining all of this doesn't seem to have made a difference and it's now getting to the point where they are trying to recover the money having gone to the DVLA to get my address to send me various charge/penalty notices. Leaving aside that potential invasion of privacy and the dubious arrangement whereby councils and private parking enforcement companies can just get your personal details without you having committed any crime (so without any oversight), what do they hope to achieve by pursing people in this way? Is it to upset and stress their victims? It's not nice getting letters detailing dire consequences for not paying in large, unfriendly, letters!

The only conclusion I can come to in both of these cases is that the organisations concerned are just basically trying to grab money with little thought for how people feel. These places don't care about "fairness" or looking after customers. residents or visitors, no, it's just about squeezing every last penny out of them. Yes, I know there will always be charges of some kind but I think in many areas now it has long ago past the point where these were in any way justifiable, now it just seems to be common practice to try and penalise anything possible with some kind of fee, penalty or other money-grabbing scheme.

Why I bought a Canon 5D mk II

Okay, there isn't much justification for buying a new camera but pictures like the one above are a start! This was actually captured on my camera with a 70-700 f4 lens I borrowed from my friend Jo (who is a fantastic source of photographic information ... as well as lenses and other kit). The original is on my deviantART page (where you can download the full resolution version) and the full set of images from the afternoon out are on my website.

I need to do alot more photography to really make the purchase of the camera worth it and hopefully have a chance with an event this week, photoshoots at the weekend and then there are also holidays and days out where I can keep practicing. I even started taking pictures of things around the house to get different shots and effects! Might need to start getting a little more organised and disiplined about what I shoot otherwise I'm just going to have loads of images to process (which is the most time-consuming bit).

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Envy and Pride

Last week I had an appointment with the GIC in Leeds. Technically most of my treatment and progress so far has been due to taking the 'private' route but I do get medication on prescription and, as my whole transition is a fairly big deal, I've always thought it's worth getting any help that is available, hence why I'm also progressing down the NHS care pathway as well.

This appointment with the specialist forms one of the six sessions I must attend before I can be referred to an endocrinologist, yes, I know it is rather late for that given I've been on hormones for over a year now but that is the process that has to be followed. In fairness the specialist did acknowledge that, while steps can't be skipped, they can be shortened. It was quite nice being told that I was somewhat ahead in terms of progress, which is one of the reasons to mention pride.

Before going into pride a little more I think I should cover envy. There was another TS woman there, in the waiting room, just before I went into see the specialist, and I also saw her when I left, she was outside smoking. We didn't talk so I've no idea what her situation was or what she thought of me but I did notice that she looked me up and down when we passed on my way out. I thought at the time that is was a rather jealous look, I was further ahead on my transition that she was, I was wandering around without any apparent problem in my 'new' gender.

I guess the problem with me assuming someone is envious of me, particularly for trans reasons is that, not only am I judging them to be, in ways in need of being jealous of me, but that I'm in some way so much better. And I think that's the scary thing, if you are too proud you're at risk of a big fall ("pride goeth before a fall") but you almost have to be to believe that you are making progress.

I think it's a fine line between confidence and self-assurance and simply being too proud and looking down on others. I can't say that I've got the balance right myself and I suspect that it down to my own lack of confidence and lingering insecurities. There is maybe less for me to be proud of, but also less for anyone else to be jealous of as well.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Devious Deviant

I've got round to uploading some of my pictures to deviantART in full resolution. There are only four there from the 5d (the ones of Lizzie), the rest are from the 350D but are the best of the bunch and mainly taken with the 50mm lens so very sharp.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Missing Being Interrupted

The mountain bikes got a much needed clean today; I don't think I've done that since I bought them about three years ago so it was a rather time-consuming, and messy process. I stayed outside for a good 2hrs while I cleaned and checked the bikes and, when it finally started to get dark I'd managed to get the moving parts free of accumulated dirt and oil and had everything working well.

And that was it. I just did that job, put the bikes away again and then went in. No-one came to ask me how I was doing or when I'd be finished or if they could help*, I had no interruptions at all.

That's when it hit me that doing these kind of jobs is something I use to do quite alot of in my former life and, in fact those interruptions were actually something precious. I really felt quite alone once I realised I much I miss that and much about things before.

I thought about this more when I came in and came to the conclusion that I feel happier as the 'new' me, I'm more comfortable and at ease with myself. But I'm really beginning to miss lots of the little things that I now realise meant something quite big. I guess again that this is one of those lessons about life; you really need to appreciate even the littlest things, even the interruptions, they might be the things you miss the most.

[ * - I should say that I'm not having a go at Rachel here, she was very busy doing image processing and many other jobs. ]

More Photography

It's been a rather hectic week, and in fact I can't believe so much has been squeezed into it. Mainly work-related activities for me and that seems to have been taking alot of my concentration and time, but Rachel had her interview with Blackpool for a place on the photography degree course and I'm sure there were other things going on aswell (I must *try* and keep this blog up to date then I have a record of what has been happening in my life).

This weekend was equally packed with two photoshoots on Saturday in York. One of these was to give Rachel's new sword an outing and the other to get some images for the webzine. Of course both were intended to be fun, and they were, both models, Freya, and Lizzie were fabulous to photograph, they both look amazing and are so friendly, chatty, and just wonderful to work with.

I should say that I don't have anything to do with organising the shoots or the styling on the day; all of that is down to Rachel; she sets everything up for the shot and I'm just so lucky to be there at the time to be able to take advantage of the opportunity and get take my own pictures! Really, I have such a long way to go with this, but it's so much good fun that it's worth doing all the practice necessary to get better.

I need to do more practice now since I went and purchased an upgrade to my existing camera (a Canon 350D) I've now got a Canon 5d which is going to take me a while to get to grips with. Rachel got some amazing pictures with it on Saturday afternoon and I also managed to take some of Lizzie which I'm very happy with.

Here's links to the latest pictures I've taken

Monday, 8 March 2010

New Website

I've finally got round to setting up my website at www.fionasboots.com and I've even got around to putting from content on there as well! For now it's just a storage place for my pictures but I'll maybe try and get some more words on there sooner or later.

For anyone who is interested in the technical aspect of the website, it's using Mambo CMS (Content Management System) with a template I hacked from one of the provided ones. The images are rendered using the Simple Gallery plugin (the free one) which makes use of LightBox for the actual full size display. I need to get some of the images onto DeviantART as well when I get round to it!

Friday, 5 March 2010

I'm Famous ...

... well, not quite, but for the first time someone, other than my friends, has re-published a post from my blog which I'm really quite pleased about, their version actually looks better than the one hosted on blogger here!

The post in question is Empowerment Through Style and can be found here on the Directory of York website. The screen shot below shows my entry on their blog page:

Now, if only I could get my website to look half as good as that I might be on to something!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Spring has Sprung

The gorgeous, clear, and sunny weather that we've had over the past two days has really lifted my mood, not that I was particularly down but I definitely was in a winter, rather than summer mind-set. So today I decided not to waste this fantastic weather and took a few photos on the walk from the office to Heslington. I've just been processing them now and I'm really, really, pleased with the sharpness and colour - all this with some random compositions and standard lens.

I really want to do more photos this week (subject to weather) and again, I'm really going to have to get my image gallery sorted so I can host all these (might have to use deviant Art in the meantime).

Hen Do!

Well, hen "dos" would be more appropriate as we were out on Friday night and then again on Saturday! I should state for the record that I wasn't drinking a drop of alcohol for the second outing as frankly I'd got an absolutely stinking hangover from the previously nights ridiculous excesses! No sympathy please, it was totally self-inflicted.

Thankfully I did manage to get some good photos (Rachel got some amazing ones) and I wasn't drunk enough that I lost or broke my camera either! The image above is one of quite a few that turned out beautifully clear, sharp in such vibrant colours (helped by the "wig" theme for the night). I'll update this blog post when I've uploaded all of the pictures to my website, I really do need to get the image galleries sorted ASAP.

The pictures from Saturday night weren't anywhere near as good in terms of colour and clarity which is surprising given that the lighting should have been better as we were at someone's house. I think I'll put that down to fatigue on the part of myself and Rachel!

York Photos

Rachel and I hadn't been out for a walk around York for quite some time so we finally managed to get ourselves into town to take some pictures, get some exercise and spend some time together. Sadly didn't get much in the way of good photos, still think I need to work on focus, composition and probably even post-processing. I guess I could use the excuse that it was a little flat in terms of light (well, so Rachel said). Anyway, we did have a nice walk, and lovely cream tea and cakes at Betty Tea room so, all in all a pretty good day.

London by Night and Day

It's taken me a while to get round to updating my blog and I'm trying to catch up with all the pictures I've taken. Eventually I hope to get something setup on my own website where I can host the galleries of images properly but until then I'll just post the (hopefully) best of the pictures here.

While I was down in London with work I was lucky enough to end up in a room on the 11th floor of the Danubius hotel which gave me amazing views over the city - I have no idea what I was looking at but it was impressive nonetheless.
What I don't like about this picture (and the next one) is that they aren't quite pin-sharp. If you zoom in on this image you will see pixelation which is only to be expected on the JPEG version, however it's still a little blurry on the RAW one as well. I'm told that there isn't much I can do about this given the length of exposure, zoom, position, lighting etc but I really want to try and get clearer shots. I think this is a huge problem with more practice (and expensive lenses); you start to expect the same clarity all the time!

This one took a bit of tweaking to get the colours right. After some research (Google and DP Review) it seems that white balance on Canon cameras is a known problem. In natural light they are fine but incandescent and fluorescent lighting mucks things up - I guess the same will apply to dawn. I'm told that a shot like this may have been better captured with a 10-22mm lens though I'm a little reluctant to invest in one of those as, for a start it's £600 (£669 from Jessops and £625 from Amazon) and also it can really distort the image if you don't know what you are doing with it!

More practising at pictures I think ... and presumably more staying in really tall hotels!