Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Weekend Edit: My Camera Kit

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©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk
Let's face it, I'm not the world's greatest photographer but, for this weekend's post, I thought I'd talk you through some of my photography kit. 

I was interested in photography way before I started this blog, so I'd already picked up some skills here and there. My main camera is the Canon 600D DSLR, which I bought last June. Before that, I had the Pentax K-x DSLR, which I got when I was still at Uni.

I love my 600D, I'm not going to lie. Most of my blog photos are taken with it, and my YouTube videos are shot with this too. On offer, it cost me around £450, with the kit lens, an 8GB memory card and a camera bag included. I know that sounds like a pretty hefty amount of money, but if you're an avid photographer, it's definitely a worthwhile investment. DSLRs can be a tad daunting to begin with though. Despite the fact that I've had mine for the best part of a year, I still feel like I'm learning new things about it. There are loads of settings I've yet to fully explore and new effects to try out, but that's all part of the fun!

The 600D is really handy for videos, as the LCD screen on the back can be flipped, making it easy to see yourself whilst filming a piece to the camera! (If you're a budding YouTuber, that is.)
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This week, I finally invested in my first ever prime lens. For the uninitiated, a prime lens is one that's fixed and doesn't zoom. You have to physically move the camera (and yourself) instead of just zooming in, like you do with the kit lens or a zoom lens.

It's 50mm, but as my DSLR is a cropped body camera, it's a bit more like an 85mm; as the body sticks out a little. I have done so much research into different prime lenses over the past few months before I settled on the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8II lens. At £74 from Currys PC World, it's probably the cheapest lens that I've stumbled across.

The main reason that I decided I wanted a prime lens, rather than a zoom one, was because I've become a little obsessed with the bokeh effect (out-of-focus lights in the background) that these lenses are so good at creating. It's so beautiful, honestly. Here's a photo that I've taken while experimenting with this lens over the past couple of days, complete with the bokeh effect:
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For out and about, I've got my Samsung NX100 Smart Camera, which I got at the start of the year for a seriously discounted price, as it'd been discontinued. What I really love about this camera is that it's 20MP and, amazingly, it has wi-fi built in! So, you can send photos you've just taken straight from the camera, without the need of a computer. It's easy to email photos to yourself, edit them on your phone and then upload them straight to Instagram or Twitter with this camera.
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I often keep it in my handbag as it's much lighter than my DSLR, so I can get good quality photographs on-the-go. The photographs in my post on Fresh Ground and a lot of 'This Week' posts were taken with this camera and edited in VSCO Cam.
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With regards to lighting, I don't really have a lot of kit. A pair of softboxes are definitely on my wishlist, but they're expensive and tend to take up a lot of space. I bought this affordable LED ring light from Amazon a few months ago, which just screws onto the end of your lens. I don't tend to use this very often as it's SO bright. Seriously, look into it at your peril. You'll be seeing rings for ages afterwards. So, at the moment, the majority of my blog photos are taken in natural light. I've recently bought a set of 5 reflectors from Amazon, to try and improve the brightness of my images, but they haven't arrived yet! The whole natural light thing is okay at this time of year, but I'm dreading autumn and winter, as I know that there's a pretty small window in which to take relatively decent blog photos in.

To see more photos from me, follow me on Instagram!

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Thursday, 28 May 2015

May: In Pictures


I love this time of year. The sun's out a lot, but it's not too hot or too cold. There are so many beautiful flowers around at the moment too, which I don't think I've ever fully appreciated until now.

I've taken my camera here, there and everywhere to snap away: From Carsington, Alport Heights, or even just to Starbucks. This month I also braved Photoshop for the first time since I was at school and I've been slowly teaching myself how to use it.

And as you can see, I bought a Fitbit and surprised myself about how much walking I actually do each day. It's definitely helping me to stay focused during my 'training' for the Race for Life.

Let's hope June brings even more pretty sights to photograph!

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Monday, 25 May 2015

Mani Monday: Essie Jump In My Jumpsuit

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©Katiewrites.co.uk

Mani Monday is back after a few weeks away! With one of those Essie polishes that I got at a seriously discounted price online. (£2.49 instead of £7.99!) It's part of the Winter 2014 collection, which is probably why it was discounted, but I'm happy to pay so little for a slightly 'outdated' polish.

I love this dark red shade because I think it suits even my deathly pallor. It's such a versatile shade, it'll suit most skin tones. I know it's a tad dark to be a 'summer shade' but it's a great staple red to wear whenever you want.

As with Essie polishes, the quality is high and the chipping is minimal. Pictured is just the one coat, as I was in a rush when doing my nails, but the coverage is still fantastic. Brace yourselves, here comes the catchphrase: As you can see, I'm terrible at painting my nails, but even I found it quite hard to mess up with this polish.

Do you mind if I don't 'Jump in your Jumpsuit' though, Essie? I look silly wearing jumpsuits.

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Sunday, 24 May 2015

I'm Not Finished Yet


Writer's block is a funny thing, isn't it?


Sometimes I feel like I can't stop writing because there's so much in my head that I need to write down immediately. Sometimes I just can't write at all. It's almost debilitating, because you feel like your blog needs a new post publishing now, yet you just can't find the words to say anything.

I'm a perfectionist of the highest order. There, I've said it. Sometimes when one of my blog posts doesn't do truly as well as I expected, or I lose a couple of fickle followers on Bloglovin', it hits me quite hard. I take it personally and blame myself because it just wasn't good enough. I wasn't good enough. 

I always try and second guess what you lovely readers want to read, and I'm not a mind-reader, so I don't always get it right. I very nearly took a break from blogging a few weeks ago because it was all getting a bit too much for me. I can't only write about what's in my head. Doing otherwise doesn't make me happy. Basically: You can only really write about what's true to you, not what you think will please other people.

My publishing schedule has been pretty dire of late, mainly because of the dreaded writer's block. I'm not sure why it's suddenly worse, but stressing about it certainly isn't making it any better. I'm sorry to those of you who enjoy reading Katie Writes*. Please bear with me while I try and find my feet again.

*All three of you.

Blogging is tougher than it looks. It's competitive, and for someone who relentlessly compares herself to others, it's sometimes hard to stand your ground. I'm always striving to be the best I can be, and I hope you can see how far this blog has come in just eleven months. 

But... there's still more to be done. I'm not finished yet.

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Friday, 22 May 2015

Carsington, Again.

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©Katiewrites.co.uk

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©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk

Excuse the picture-heavy post, but I felt like showing off a few photos that I took last night at Carsington Water.

Do you remember when I visited a few weeks ago and made that video? Well, I thought I'd nip back and take a few photos in what's dubbed the 'golden hour'. The hour after sunrise and before sunset where the sun is lower in the sky, creating fantastic conditions for artsy photography.

Whilst there, I discovered that I'm a dab hand at scaring geese away. Who knew? They kept on quietly honking at me as they walked away en masse. In the end, I looked like some weird camera-wielding goose herder. I also very nearly stepped in goose poo on several occasions, which is pretty gross. Although, unlike last time, I didn't get any swans trying to pick a fight with me, thankfully. 

I love the fact that Carsington is only about 20 minutes away in the car and that it's just so stunning. I don't think I'll ever tire of wandering around there with my camera. (Even though the geese might have already tired of me.)

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As usual, the copyright to all photographs belongs to me. Please don't copy them without permission. 
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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Pinteresting.

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Just a little post to tell you that I'm now on that Pinterest thingy.


I feel like such an old lady for failing to grasp what it's all about, but feel free to join me on there nonetheless.

So far all I've really used it for is: Dribbling at pictures of cakes that are probably too complicated for me to bake, and admiring pretty nails that I'd probably mess up if I tried to replicate them. Having said that it's quite fun! Bear with me while I get to grips with it though... #oldlady

Join me, follow me, (or whatever it is you do on there) below!

             Visit Katie's profile on Pinterest.

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

This Week: Arghhhh

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If you read my post about 'Getting Fit', you'll know that I recently signed up to the Race for Life 10k. It's in less than two months now and I'm pretty sure that I only signed up in a momentary lapse of sanity, but it's fine, because I'm doing it now. I'll be okay, right? It's not like I'm going to die walking/jogging (but let's face it, mainly walking) for 6.2 miles, is it? Ha.

This weekend, I received my racing pack. Complete with: my racing number, some temporary tattoos, fundraising advice, and a thing to pin to my back so that I can dedicate the race to someone close to me. I'm pretty sure that's going to be my Popeye. (He was my maternal grandad, but we all called him Popeye because he was in the Navy.) He died of cancer in 1998, when I was six years old, so that horrid disease took him from us far too soon.

My racing number is 400! Is it weird that I like the fact I've not just got an even number, but a lovely round number like that? I'm so odd sometimes.

If you fancy sponsoring me, click here.
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©Katiewrites.co.uk
Aside from 'Getting Fit', I've done some baking. Firstly a chocolate cake from a packet mix, so even I found that hard to mess up! I did attempt to make shortbread too, for the first time ever. Let's just say, it was a bit... 'floury'. Before anyone comments and slates me for being greedy, I only had one small slice of the cake and part of one shortbread biscuit! The rest was eaten by my family. So, I'm being totally healthy... Honest.* 
*(Except for the McDonald's on Thursday...)
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Derby Train Station
This week I also went to visit my friend, Laura-May, in Leicester. If you read my post about New Look Sale Bargains, you'll know that I took a picture of the beautiful fields whilst I was sat on the train. I always like to stare out of the windows, dreaming away and gawping at the scenery, as opposed to listening to music. I'm quite nosy and you never know what you'll find out from earwigging conversations. For instance: the woman in front of me on the train was on the phone, and she said she really liked Flamin' Hot Monster Munch. Would I have heard that gem if I'd been blasting music out? Nope.

Before shopping at Highcross, we went to this lovely little cafe that was tucked away onto a side street, and although the name eludes me now, it was really lovely! They even had this cool machine that makes fresh orange juice right in front of you. I would've taken lots of photos and maybe even written about the cafe in more detail had I not have been too busy nattering away. Whoops.

Back on the train, I had to be that person. I had a seat reservation, but some pesky thief stole it from under my nose. Most people would just leave it and find another seat, right? But not me. I'm a meanie and threw this man out of my seat. Politely, mind. I felt really bad because he had two massive backpacks, a Macbook out and loads of other stuff strewn across the area... He must've been sat there since London. But, the train was busy and I would've struggled to get a seat elsewhere... So, although I was that person, if he'd have looked when he plonked his bum down, he'd have known he was going to be turfed out at Leicester by a little pedantic menace.
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On Friday, it was that horrible, dreaded day that only comes once a year: The day that my Student Loan Statement arrived. That's one big reason to go 'Arghhhhh'. As I'm not paying it off, it's clocking up a hefty amount of interest every month. Since last year, it's nearly £300 more! My debt is getting increasingly closer to £20k, and I'll not lie to you, I don't like having such a big debt hanging over my head. There's not really a lot I can do about it now though, is there? I sincerely hope that my arty farty degree will pay off some day. It'll have to if I want a house that isn't just a cardboard box at the bottom of my parents' garden.
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To end on a positive note: Just how beautiful are these flowers?
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Thursday, 14 May 2015

New Look Sale Bargains!

©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk
Just a little post to tell all you lovely readers about a few bargains I picked up on Tuesday in Leicester, while visiting one of my friends from Uni!

Pictured are: a striped jumper, patterned skirt and a flowery phone case. The jumper cost a mere £7, instead of £12.99. I was quite chuffed with the skirt as it was marked as £9.99, which I thought was a good deal, but when I got to the till it came out as £5! The phone case should've been £4.99, but cost £2! I desperately needed one for my shiny new phone as my Cath Kidston case cracked and I got my finger stuck in it.
(But that's another story...)

The boots were from their online sale last week and only cost £10! You can't beat a good pair of boots, especially when they're so cheap. I think the sale is kind of tailing off now, but there are still some bargains left to be had!
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Just as an aside, I took this photo while on the train there. How pretty does it look? Fields and blue sky stretching for miles and miles. Just ignore the pylon and wires... 

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Monday, 11 May 2015

Getting Fit

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Okay, let's just ignore the fact that the font I chose in the first picture makes it look a bit like I've written 'Getting Tit' instead of 'Getting Fit'. Let's just totally gloss over that, right? This is a beauty and lifestyle blog, not a pickup artist site... 

Anyway, exercise gives me flashbacks to awful PE lessons: wearing stupid shiny shorts that showed off my weird knock-knees, getting pelted with icy rain and being shouted at by competitive girls who couldn't accept that I wasn't as good at sport as them. 

Despite the flashbacks, I thought it's probably time to get out there, get a bit fitter and maybe do something for charity at the same time. My best friend and I did an 18 mile walk for charity in 2011 and we raised nearly £500 and were both fine.* So, 6.2 miles can't be that bad right? 

Ashamedly, when I got my crisp, white trainers back out of their box; they had a cobweb on them. (No, really.) That's how unfit I am right now. These lovely and (very) white trainers had been placed back in their box and shoved in a corner for ages; while I've mainly been eating cake.

I've downloaded the Nike+ Running app onto my phone (pictured), although I've been mainly using it for walking as I'm still lazy at the moment. Having said that, last night I did break into a run twice on my walk; but I was being pulled along by a Jack Russell, so I'm not sure if it still counts. Cookie and I did 1.5 miles and smashed all previous records on the app; and even received a pre-recorded congratulatory message from Paula Radcliffe. Oh yeah, friends in high places now...

To spur myself on and to give myself a lovely warm, charitable feeling, I've signed up for the Cancer Research UK Race for Life. I've got two months to get ready for it, so I don't die of 10k-induced-exhaustion. If you lovely readers have got any spare pennies, you can sponsor me here
(I'll love you forever if you do...)

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*Except for the sad fact that some cigar-smoking chavs on BMX bikes laughed at our charity-branded orange T-shirts just before we got to our finishing point. I mean, really? Talk about ruining the euphoric end to our charitable endeavour.
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Friday, 8 May 2015

Braces.

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Pictured is my Orthodontic Retainer, not actual braces.

Today might be the general election but it also marks a year since I got my braces removed... My brace-iversary?


My teeth first started to go crooked when I was about ten years old. They got worse through my teenage years, but I wasn't really self-conscious about them, so didn't do anything about getting them fixed. Even though I know friends and others around me at school made the odd comment about my teeth not being straight, it still didn't really get to me. 

Now just how crooked were they? Well, when I first had an orthodontic assessment, they got a ruler out. (No, really.) And measured the gap between my top and bottom teeth at the front. It was a whopping 5mm, which doesn't really sound a lot, but it looked quite dramatic. The front five top teeth were raised in a kind of 'half oval' shape. My bottom teeth were fairly straight already though.

I sailed through school, sixth form and a front-facing retail job without feeling bad about my wonky gnashers. However, when I went to Uni, something one of my lecturers said really had an impact. One of the subjects that I studied at Uni was Theatre Studies, and theatre is a really aesthetically-driven industry. Actors and actresses, in particular, have to fit the mould and look a certain way. They have to be thin and they have to look pretty; or else they won't get any work. This lecturer, who was lovely and probably didn't mean anything by it, said:

'If you had gone to drama school instead of University, some of you would've been asked to lose some weight and get your teeth straightened'.

Harsh, right?

Then, I suddenly started to feel really self-conscious about my teeth. I researched into what treatments I'd probably be offered and decided to see my dentist about getting something done. She couldn't fix them herself as she didn't specialise in Orthodontics (the field of dentistry concerned with straightening teeth). It was such a big job that she referred me to the Maxillofacial department at the local hospital for an assessment.

A couple of months later, I went and had a really thorough check-up with an Orthodontic registrar and then they sent me off for three different X-Rays: one of my teeth, and two of my head. When I got back, the Orthodontic consultant looked at my teeth. They both went into the corner together and did a bit of conferring in Orthodontese before coming back to me and telling me I'd need braces and also either: major jaw surgery (concerning breaking my jaw, wiring it back together and feeding me through a tube in hospital for weeks) or some newfangled method of moving your jaw using TADs. TAD stands for: Temporary Anchorage Devices and they're basically small screws placed through the roof of your mouth and into your jawbone. They also said I'd be a bit of a guinea pig as they'd only done if before on a few other patients at Derby.

So, a few more months passed and I had braces put on. Then, months after that, the TADs were inserted. And once the local anaesthetic wore off, I've never been in more pain before! No exaggeration, I was in agony. Although, if you've just had two screws literally screwed through the roof of your mouth into your upper jawbone, whilst awake, with just a couple of batches of local anaesthetic, it's gonna hurt.

©Katiewrites.co.uk
Not for the faint-hearted: The TADs in the roof of my mouth. 
I managed to get the treatment free on the NHS as I was under 19 when I sought treatment and there was a clinical need. (Basically, it wasn't just cosmetic. I would've had jaw problems later in life without getting them straightened). That was back in 2010. I also had to go regularly to the hospital every six to twelve weeks; mainly to have my braces tightened, until last year when they finally came off! Now, I still have to wear a retainer at night to ensure that my teeth don't move back to how they were; but that's definitely a small price to pay.

They said I'd have braces for 'between one and two years', in the end, it was three years and ten months! But I don't really mind... My teeth are straighter than I could ever have imagined and it's nice to be able to smile properly without a pang of self-consciousness hitting me. It might have been a lot of pain and time, but it was definitely worth it.

Do you have any questions about braces? If so, comment below!

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Well done if you made it to the end of this massive post!
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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

April: In Pictures

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April was the month of tech goodies and some freebies. 


It actually started to feel a little like spring; and I was lucky to witness some stunning sunsets. I ended up visiting the beautiful Darley Park in Derby for the first time, which is pretty bad considering it's only down the road. During a trip to Leicester, I received a new, unbroken iPhone, some delicious free coffee & cake from John Lewis and bought a new MAC lipstick too, just because.

To nosy at some more photos like this, follow me on Instagram.

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Sunday, 3 May 2015

April Non-Beauty Favourites!

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©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk
©Katiewrites.co.uk


Pukka Three Mint Tea
If you regularly read my blog, you'll know that I'm a big fan of herbal teas. This is one I recently picked up by chance in Sainsbury's. It contains three different types of mint: Peppermint, Spearmint and field mint. One of the reasons that I was drawn to it is because the packaging is so pretty! When you open the box, there's a lovely design inside too! I'll be honest, I can't remember how much it was, but I don't think it was too pricey. It's definitely worth a try if you want a seriously minty kick to your tea!

The Little Book of Mindfulness
I've been getting quite stressed of late, and this book is great for making me take stock and realise that things aren't quite as bad as they might seem. It's packed full of poignant quotes; as well as breathing and cognitive exercises to help you to be a little more mindful. (Yes, it's technically a self-help book, but let's not get too bogged down in all that...)

It's a really lovely book to read before bed, as I find that it helps to calm my mind down a little and helps me to wind down more easily. You can buy it for a mere £4.79 from Amazon by clicking here.

Mango Handbag
My mum very kindly bought me the handbag that I've been eyeing up on ASOS for quite a while. It was supposed to be £24.99, but was reduced to £14.99 and then £10.50! Look how pretty it is!

Google Chromebook
I know I've already mentioned this here, but I'm really happy with my new Google Chromebook from Acer! The startup is immensely fast and, handily, everything is saved onto Google Drive, so that you can access your documents and photos really easily from any other device. 

The size is perfect. It could easily fit in some of my bigger handbags, so makes travelling and working away quite easy. The best thing, however, is that it cost less than £200!

Fliqlo 
This is a flip clock background that I've downloaded onto my Mac. I've seen quite a few YouTubers with these in the background of their videos. After a bit of searching, I discovered that the one they use is a free background called Fliqlo. You can also download it for Windows too! 

You can download it (for free!) from the website by clicking here.

Father Ted
It's the 20th anniversary of the Irish comedy this April and More4 were showing back-to-back episodes, followed by the documentary Small, Far Away. I have to admit that it's one of my favourite comedies.

Here's a clip from probably my favourite episode of all time:



'Take this lump of sugar baby, you know you want it.'

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Note: This post was not sponsored, just in case that's what you were thinking... 
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