Leaf love

Leaf | Wolves in LondonLeaf | Wolves in LondonGod, but this endless rain is grim, isn’t it? I’ve been rained in for the past three days; I really need to invest in some proper waterproof clothing and shoes this year. (A lament that I make every November and then fail to act on in any way. This year, surely, will be the year I purchase some proper leather boots that don’t let the rain in, so I don’t need to get my wellies out every time it drizzles and then end up with blisters from walking too far in them…)

Apart from moaning about the wet weather, I’ve been spending lots of time recently snapping photos for my sister’s Instagram feed. Regulars will probably remember that my youngest sister has a really beautiful Letterpress stationery company, called Wolf & Ink, where she designs and hand prints loads of beautiful things.

I’m giving her a hand on promoting all of her Christmas cards this year (so, firstly, go and visit! Wolf & Ink Christmas cards) and I’ve got a fabulous box of her work that I delve into and grab something to photograph most days.

Yesterday, after dropping the sprogs off at nursery, I took walk to all the good Autumn foliage trees of the neighbourhood and helped myself to a few leaves to put together a rather nice collage (if I do say so myself, ha ha).

Leaf | Wolves in LondonBut I think my macro lens and plants is turning into a bit of an addiction for me, because I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera and taking a few close up shots as well. Just because.

So, you lucky things, here they are! Glorious Autumnal leaves in wonderful colours.

Leaf | Wolves in Londonyellow leafIn other news, I really do have every intention of writing about something that’s not just gardens / gardening / visiting gardens / garden design / photographing gardens sometime soon. Those who started following me when I was purely a crafts blog are probably heartily sick of all this gardening chat (or have stopped following, of course, in which case I suppose I needn’t worry…)

The combo of a big deadline for my garden design course in a few weeks, along with these bits and pieces I’m doing for my sister has rather put paid to my Thursday blogging time that I was enjoying earlier in the Autumn. But I’ll be back in force before Christmas, I promise, with a range of different articles, just as soon as I have time to write up and photograph all of the trillions of ideas percolating in my brain.

‘Til then, I’m afraid you’re probably going to have to put up with a few more photos of wet trees…

Defining your Signature Style: a few photos

When I first moved from print to online journalism about, oooh, 15 years ago now, everyone was abuzz with the “immediacy of the web.”

Print is dead, they raved. (Okay, I might have raved a little bit as well…) Gone are the days of waiting to hear the news the day after it happens in the newspapers. We can read stuff now immediately on the shiny new internet.

Well, here I am today to show you the complete opposite; writing not about something that happened this very morning, but, erm, almost three months ago.

Hydrangea | Wolves in London

Yes, the not-so-shiny-new internet is still as fast as anything, but this old human dolt can still move as slow as can be.

Back at the start of November, I went on a photography and moodboarding weekend workshop, with Emily Quinton (of Makelight) and Gudy Herder (of Eclectic Trends).

The course was all about defining your signature style visually – through your photos and through moodboards.

It’s something I’ve thought about quite a lot when it comes to this blog. My photography is slowly starting to improve but I’d love to get to a point where you could look at a photo taken by me and think, “oh yes, that’s a Wolves in London photo”…

bowl and ribbon | Wolves in London

The first day of the course was focused on photography. We looked at three distinct photographic styles (minimalism, moody, and bright/colourful) and talked about how to take that sort of photo.

I was drawn most to minimalism: all white backgrounds, clean lines, simple arrangements and so forth. (I’ve got a few newly-discovered instagram accounts to share with you another time as well, for some gorgeous inspiration…)

vase | Wolves in London

So, off I went to practise and took a few nice minimalist(ish) photos and then, with the sun going behind the clouds, I took a few moody ones as well just for good measure.

Some of the pics I was more happy with are scattered through this post for your delectation.

Rosemary | Wolves in London

The following day was all about moodboarding with Gudy, which was really fascinating to me, since I didn’t – if I’m totally honest – even really understand what moodboarding was before. (Well, you know, it’s that thing they do in the Great Interior Design Challenge, of course, but I hadn’t thought of it in a wider context than that…)

Gudy showed us lots of examples of different types of moodboard, which I discovered needn’t just be the obvious such as pictures stuck to a background, but could also be collections of objects arranged on the floor, or even 3D moodboards including bits of furniture / paintings / vases of flowers and so on. I got loads of inspiration for things I might try and incorporate on the blog at some point in the future.

Then, in the afternoon, we made our own moodboard for our blog (or website, brand, whatever). For some reason, I completely neglected to photograph mine, but you can see it — along with everyone else’s — over on Gudy’s blog here: a workshop review.

Shells | Wolves in London

All-in-all, a really fun weekend, where, as is so often the case I find, one of the most enjoyable parts was meeting all the other people on the course and seeing the really creative things everyone else got up to.

If you fancy going yourself, Emily and Gudy are running another day next summer. You can find out more info as well as reading a (much more detailed) overview of the day on Emily’s blog here: Moodboarding and photography.

Photographing trees

Earlier this year I resolved to spend lots of time this summer photographing (and identifying) trees for my Instagram feed. (See A love of trees for more.)

Now, if you follow me on instagram you can’t fail to have been struck by a simple fact: you haven’t remotely been spammed with hundreds and hundreds of tree pictures.

Why not? It turns out it’s really tough to photograph a tree; decent camera on your phone or not.

Myoung Ho Lee trees
© Myoung Ho Lee

Recently, I came across a wonderful South Korean photographer called Myoung Ho Lee who manages exactly what I couldn’t succeed in doing and I had to share these images with you.

He takes the most awe-inspiring photos, each tree with a simple white sheet hung behind it.

Myoung Ho Lee trees
© Myoung Ho Lee

I never fail to be impressed by trees. Of course, flowers are really great too. They’re pretty and you can arrange them in a vase and suddenly even the dingiest most hovel-like room in your house is transformed into a place of beauty. But there’s something about the immense majesty of trees – their sturdy immovability, great age and refusal to be brought indoors – that makes them my plant of choice every time.

Myoung Ho Lee trees
© Myoung Ho Lee

If ever I’m feeling glum, or bored, or just out-of-sorts for whatever reason, a short walk to the park and a stroll under the canopy of ancient trees always, but always, brings a spring back to my step.

I think that’s why I love these photos so very much. They seem to say: Here it is,  just a tree, on a white background.

Who needs more than that?

All photographs copyright Myoung Ho Lee. See the website of the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York for more photos from the series.

On the mantel: September

September mantel
A little glimpse at my sitting room mantelpiece…

You may recall that our house is in a near permanent state of being done upness. (I’m pretty sure that’s the official term that all property developers / architects / interior designers use…)

We have little flurries of activity here and there, but fundamentally progress is slooooow.

The last few weeks, however, have been one of those rather wonderful periods of flurry. Brought about, as is usually the case, by having booked a tradesperson to come and do some work, which necessitates us getting of our lazy behinds and doing a lot of work beforehand…

In this instance, it was an excellent carpenter (female!) who came and built shelves and a lovely cabinet in the alcoves of our sitting room. Necessitating us to actually get round to painting the sitting room first. (I may be lazy, but there is no way I am going to risk spilling paint on some exceedingly expensive bespoke shelves by painting the walls after they’ve gone in…)

So, as I sit here writing this on the sofa, I am looking not at bare plaster walls, with a bare pine mantelpiece and a load of boxes all around me, but at some beautiful grey walls, lovely books on even nicer shelves and… …well, the mantelpiece is primed, though still needing its final coats of paint.

For the first time since we’ve lived here, this room is starting to feel like a home I would actually choose to spend time in.

Rather fortuitously, just as I was thinking about how nice it will be to arrange things on the mantelpiece, I came across a wonderfully evocative piece on Gillian’s blog, Tales from a Happy Home, with some pictures of her September mantelpiece. Did anyone else fancy joining in? she asked. I was already feeling tempted but was completely won over as I went on to read:

“It’s not about styling or making things looks beautiful necessarily (although that is fun). It’s more about the meaning behind beloved objects and pictures, and the place nature has in our lives, and the way we humans like to surround ourselves with treasures and memories throughout the year.”

So here I am, a whole load of wittering at the top of the article first, but finally ready to begin what will hopefully become a new monthly series showing you what’s on my mantelpiece.

September is an auspicious month to start. Perhaps because it’s the month of my birthday it’s always been one of my favourite times of the year. The flowers on the right of the picture were a birthday bouquet from the hubby, stuck in my favourite flower arranging vestibule: an Ikea jug. (The same jug of fame from my post about attempts at styling…)


Bouquet | Wolves in London
Lovely birthday flowers

You can see the hubby himself in miniature form next to the flowers. This little peg doll version of us was painted by him for the top of our wedding cake. This month is also that of our first wedding anniversary and the card behind was from the hubby to me on that auspicious occasion. We first met out in the Philippines on a marine conservation expedition five years ago and hit it off straight away. But it was upon discovering a mutual love of lindy hop (swing dancing) that we really connected. Though, realising that we went to the same class in London (me in beginners, him an hour later in intermediate) was temporarily so freaky that it actually put me off a bit, ha ha.

Wedding cake toppers | Wolves in London
Diddy me, diddy him

The bowl with the lion on has recently come out of storage as we’ve finally put up some shelves in the kitchen for all our crockery. It was part of our wedding crockery and is a mighty fine holder for conkers as well.

Conkers in soup bowl | Wolves in London
This is the first year the sproglet has really enjoyed conkers. It feels like a rather momentous childhood occasion…

The picture behind it was a present from sister for my birthday last year. As we’ve not had a decorated house since then, this is the first time it’s come out into the open air. I love it. A lot.

Wolves in London mantelpiece
My sister knows me well, I don’t think you could get a picture more up my street…

The huge bronze urn belonged to my Granny. When she moved into a home a few years ago, she left everything in her house and I went round one evening with my Dad, collecting a few things that I liked. I adore the urn, but am not entirely sure about keeping it on the mantelpiece – I think it looks a little bit as if we have someone’s ashes in there, no?

Urn | Wolves in London
Beautiful but a little sinister in that position I think. Must find it somewhere else to sit…

Underneath it, a selection of poetry books. I am currently absolutely addicted to the website The Book People (www.thebookpeople.co.uk). Have you come across it? When I worked in the communications department of a giant corporate bank they used to come and do book sales outside the canteen once a month, but I’ve only just realised they also sell online. There’s a huge amount of commercial tat, as you’d expect from a large discount bookseller, but you can pick up some absolute gems for next-to-nothing as well. These beautiful books cost me a few pounds I think. It’s pretty great for birthday presents, especially for children. (Lots of Julia Donaldson on there too…)

Poetry books | Wolves in London
Oh these just look far too beautiful not to be on display

(Yes, yes, I know I shouldn’t be buying books on the cheap from a website, but should instead be putting money into my local independent and absolutely wonderful bookshop, it’s just I am so fricking skint right now, I can only really afford books if they’re massively discounted in the first place.)

(Even as I write that, it sounds like a bad argument to me, so, hmmm, perhaps I should stop using the Book People and just buy fewer books at a normal price.)

But anyway, onwards…

The fireplace below is glorious isn’t it? When we moved in, the original fireplace had been removed and instead we had a 1960s electric fire, which looked as if it might be about to set the whole house alight while we slept. We ripped it out and got this original one in its place (bought from the wonderful Blue Mantle on the Old Kent Road for anyone interested and local…)

Oh, and finally, the clock is just our clock. No story there, ha ha…

So, that’s it, the September mantelpiece. Come and have another look in October will you? Hopefully by next month I will have painted it properly as well… And thanks so much to Gillian for inspiring me to join in.

Garden moodboard: September

It’s quite possible, looking at this month’s moodboard, that my love for white flowers might be getting a little out-of-hand. But what white flowers they are!

September garden moodboard | Wolves in London
September delights from the garden

Along the bottom row there is a white cosmos (‘Purity’), with a small daisyish flower next to it, followed by Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus, a current obsession of mine). Above them in the top left is a glorious anemone, just below that is a nicotiana and to the right and slightly above, a self-seeded snapdragon.

Oh yeah, there are some other non-white flowers too, but really, who cares so much about them???

Anemone Honorine Jobert | Wolves in London
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

I think this stunning anemone is my favourite of all. I planted it a few years ago in the front garden, back when we removed the giant cactus. It has a little struggle at the start of the summer each year, when I think it’s not going to make it against its battle with the slugs and snails, and I see everyone else’s anemones in full flower, while mine looks a little sickly but then, a few weeks later, tentative little shoots and buds appear and around now the flowers are looking wonderful.

Hesperantha coccinea | Wolves in London
Same flower, new name

I’ve shown you this Hesperantha coccinea before, but it’s changed its name since then. It used to be called Schizostylis coccinea, but for some reason unknown to me, that changed. A rose by any other name, etc etc… I’ve only had a few of these by the pond so far this year, last year there was a veritable forest of them, so we’ll wait and see what happens later in the season.

Rosa rugosa rose hips | Wolves in London
Hip to be a rose…

Also autumnally-coloured, these are the rose hips from my new Rosa rugosa hedge. I think rugosa hips are good for eating, so I shall definitely be trying some culinary experimentations with these later on this year. (Not these actual hips in the photograph, of course. I don’t think they would last that long…)

Nigella | Wolves in London
So frothy!

Along with a mass of seed heads (on the bottom right of the main picture) my nigella has also put out a few more tiny little flowers in the last week. It’s nice to have a little bit more blue out there. On the left of this photo is some campanula, which has struggled on throughout the summer, producing the odd flower here and there. I really need to figure out something else to plant alongside it to cover up its rather unattractive leggy stems. (And, be still my beating heart, the lovely Erigeron is on the right of this pic again…)

Nicotiana | Wolves in London
Yeah, okay, it’s a looking a little blotchy

This photo doesn’t do my nicotiana any real favours (especially with those odd brown blotchy bits on the flower) but I’ve not photographed it yet this summer, despite its almost constant flowering. It wilts almost immediately after being picked (and often throughout the day on hot days) but looks and smells utterly wonderful around twilight. I don’t know what type of nicotiana this is (it looks just like ‘Lime green’ except for the fact it’s not, obviously, lime green) so if anyone knows, do drop me a comment. I bought five plants from the garden centre back at the start of the summer and they’ve just kept on going ever since…

Salvia seascape | Wolves in London
Salvia seascape

Finally, woohooo, a little bit of new colour. I grew some of these salvia seascapes from seed this year. They’re mixed colours and actually all the other plants are white, but this one is just starting to put out some blue flowers. In retrospect, I slightly regret cutting it down just to take its photo — but I think there were a few more flower spikes coming up on the same plant.

So there we have it, the joys of September. I’m thinking this might be one of my last monthly garden moodboards; for the time being at least. I feel as if I might be reaching the end of my range-of-plants-photographed-against-white-background capabilities. I’ve been joining in with Karin and Asa for just over a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed watching my little garden progress, but, at least until I do a major planting session anyway, I feel as if I’m now getting to a point of repetition in plant photography… Anyway, I’m not making any definite decisions, but we’ll see how the mood takes me in October. It may well be time for pastures new though. (Pastures such as Grow, forage, cook for example!)

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August break 2014: the last week

August break week 4 | Wolves in London
Prompts, top to bottom, left to right: memory, nature, lines, love, small, adornment, morning, something new, nature (again)

So, a whole month has passed, just like that. *Clicks fingers*

Much as I love participating in projects like the August break, or my monthly garden moodboards, I am often put off by the side effect of an increasing awareness of time passing.

You start out thinking, oh yes, a photo a day for August, how lovely! And before you know it, you’re writing about the very last photo, August 31st, and the month has gone, poof, disappeared in a puff of smoke, and you’re sure you barely had time to get out of bed and brush your teeth.

Perhaps it’s something about marching, inexorably, towards my 40s that makes me rather reluctant to notice the passing of the days / weeks / months, but prefer to just live in them.

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this August break.

I’m fairly proud of a few of my photos. I’m slightly embarrassed I posted a couple of them (two proved to be slightly out of focus when I looked at them on my computer screen rather than my phone). I struggled to think of a decent interpretation for a few of the prompts. And I’m constantly surprised by which ones prove the most popular on instagram.

(Of all the photos I took, the one from the first week, of my feet on my bathroom floor was the most popular. A great photo? Erm, probably not. Just some very lovely tiles. All credit for which surely is due to Fired Earth for making nice tiles and not to me, photographer and feet owner. Ah well…)

And so on, into the first day of September and I am already missing a daily prompt to make me think, take a few minutes to decide on my interpretation and head out there, armed with my little phone, to try and get a snap of something.

Related articles:

  • It’s all over for this year, but you can read all about it (and get ready to join in next year?) on Susannah Conway’s blog: the August Break 2014
  • And, of course, I’ll still be sharing pictures on instagram, so do follow me there if you fancy

August break 2014: week three

August break photo collage | Wolves in London
Prompts, left to right, top to bottom: bookshelf; black and white; treasures; peaceful; shadow (twice)

Well, another week over and another weekend reached. Tick, result, breathe…

It’s started to feel a bit like that as I’ve been battling not only toddler daytime meltdowns but toddler and baby lack-of-nighttime-sleeping this week.

I just keep trying to remind myself that one day I will look back on this time and remember only the cute adorable bits, completely forgetting the sheer exhaustion of sleep deprivation and the frustrations of dealing with someone too little to understand reason who would really like to jump on top of his baby brother right now, irrespective of said baby’s need for a nap. (Cue one hour meltdowns all round…)

Anyway, the phone was about somewhere during it all and I managed to snap a few pics for the August break. Not my finest, for sure, and I missed a day for the first time too (the prompt was “jump” and nobody I spent the day with can do that yet!)

Here’s the montage from the last week. As ever, if you want to see anything larger, just click on the pics and zoom in…

Already feeling more relaxed, half way through the bank holiday weekend. If only every week had three days respite at the end!

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August break 2014: week two

The photos continue…

August break photos | Wolves in London
Prompts, left to right, top to bottom: hands; guilty pleasure; drink; blue; look down; in my bag; look down (again); look down (and again!); handwriting

Phew, this has been a tough week.

The hubby was back at work on Monday after a five week hol between jobs. Of course, in that time, the sprog and the babe had become completely used to having him around all the time (as, for that matter, had I) so it’s been a shock to all our systems to be back to a one parent unit during the daytimes.

Having said, last week, that I was finding it a great joy taking a photo every day, this week it has definitely been more of a struggle to find even a spare minute to snap something. But I did, somehow, manage it on every day.

Here are my pics from the last week, for your delectation. (By the way, if you want to see any of them bigger, just click on the image and zoom in…)

{The August Break is a photography project of Susannah Conway’s, where you take a photo every day following prompts. See more about my participation in my post last week, or more about the whole thing on Susannah’s blog: August break 2014.}

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August Break 2014: lots of photos

Well, 31 photos to be precise. These are the first nine…

August break week 1
Left to right, top to bottom, the prompts were: orange; pattern; selfie; lunch; today is…; three; reflection; pattern (again!); window

Last year, I took part in Susannah Conway’s August Break for the first time.

It’s a brilliant (and brilliantly simple) idea. For the month of August, you take a photo every day and publish it on your blog or share on Instagram (or Facebook or wherever…)

There are prompts to follow every day, if you choose, or you can just take whatever photo you like.

It’s called a “break” because the idea is you stop bothering with blogging your usual posts, but just take a lovely photo and share that instead.

Last year, it absolutely stressed me out beyond belief. It was the most exhausting month of blogging I’ve ever had since starting the blog.

Even though I didn’t follow the prompts or insist to myself that the photo I posted was one I had actually taken on that day, I found it utterly draining finding a decent photo to publish every day. (I wrote a bit more about it on August 31st last year, if you want to hear more specific moans!)

This year, I’ve got a phone with a decent camera so I’m over on Instagram instead of the blog and, let me tell you, I am loving it!

I’m doing it properly. Following all the prompts. Taking the photo on the actual day. And yet, somehow, I’m not finding it loads of extra effort. I’m just finding it a joy to take a picture each and every day.

I thought at the end of each week I’d round up my pics over here too, in case anyone who isn’t on Instagram is interested in seeing them.

If you want to join in too, you can find out all the info on Susannah’s blog: August Break 2014.

Check out everyone else’s photos over on Instagram by searching #augustbreak2014.

And you can follow me on instagram if you’d like to see the day-by-day shots as they occur: @wolvesinlondon.

Come and play too, it’s really fun!

Related articles:

  • I’m sure that a big part of the reason I’m finding this so much more fun this year is thanks to the bloggers’ photography course I took with Emily Quinton last year. You can read more about that here: Makelight workshop.

Styled: an Ikea jug

Last year I took a blogger’s photography course with Emily Quinton (you can read more about it here: Make light photography workshop).

Last month, Emily set all her past students a challenge to take an object and style it three ways.

It was a challenge I really wanted to take part in: styling is the thing I find absolutely the most utterly difficult in photography (especially photography for my blog) and the area in which I really want to improve.

I mulled it over for a few weeks, thinking of various different things I could style and then dismissing them again as I imagined the disappointing photographs I would take.

Then I saw A Quiet Style’s amazing photos for the same challenge and I almost threw in the towel then and there, so beautiful were her shots.

But not wanting to fall before I’d even reached the first hurdle, I looked myself in the mirror and had a stern word.

“Come on, Sabrina”,  I said, jumping up and down and making little motivational jab shots towards my own reflection, “you might as well at least try. Practice makes perfect and so on. Why don’t you take a few photos and if they’re heinously awful then you don’t have to put them on the blog or even admit to anyone else that it ever happened…”

So, safe in the knowledge my reputation would remain unbesmirched whatever the results, I settled on photographing a humble Ikea jug in three different ways. These are the results.

Firstly: the lazy option

I was photographing my July garden moodboard, when I saw the jug and decided to just stick it onto the backdrop and take a photo.

Jug and leaves | Wolves in London
No, there is no rhyme or reason to this photo

One of the very few things I know about styling is that you’re meant to tell a story with your vignette or wotnot. What on earth this story would be, I just don’t know. Milkmaid is on her way to milk cow, but stops to pick some herbs and accidentally leaves her jug behind with the discarded herbs on a pristine piece of paper?

Verdict: okay, definitely failing in the whole story telling stakes, but I quite like the simplicity of the white background with the white jug and the reflections of the green foliage on the jug’s sides.

Secondly, the ‘is it actually there?’ photo

I picked some of my delicious-smelling sweet peas and put them into the jug. (Y’know, in my real life, rather than my pretend styled life.)

And I think it was about two days before it actually occurred to me to take a photo of them. Ha.

Sweet peas | Wolves in London
Look carefully and you can just about make it out…

When I did, I got a bit carried away with the delicate sweet pea veins, which you can’t really make out unless you have quite a close up shot. So the jug becomes nothing more than a tiny background accent.

Verdict: nice sweet peas. Irrelevant jug.

Finally, number three, some actual styling

Okay, please don’t laugh that I call this styling because what is in this photo? A jug. Sitting on a tea towel.

Jug on tea towel | Wolves in London
Styling is all about napkins and tea towels, right?!

But, I have to confess that this took me almost 30 photos to get something I was even a little bit happy with.

I took my jug upstairs to the wooden floorboards (something Emily taught me in the last class, this one: wooden floorboards look nice in photos!) Then I took a nice (unused and still actually clean) tea towel and spent the best part of 15 minutes farting around trying to get a nice fold on it and wondering whether or not the jug should sit on the tea towel or next to the tea towel…

But, finally, I was actually pleased (or, at least, not displeased) with this shot.

Verdict: even things that apparently look really simple can take a bit of time to get right!

So, what do you reckon? I don’t think my phone is going to ring off the hook anytime soon with people begging me to style things for them, but a definite improvement along the way there…

I already have plans to try and style some other things in three ways. Watch this space for more agonising!

NB Can I just let you know how hard it was to resist calling this post, “Jugs.” But resist I did. Some acknowledgement due, surely?

Related articles:

  • I had another mini fight with my lack of styling instincts when I was doing a Blogging your way course last year. That time, the subject was some carrot jam