Sometimes I forget… #WearItOut 

 
Sometimes I forget. I go about my day running around at work, lifting weights at the gym, and planning my holidays and adventures as though I’m the same as everyone else. And why wouldn’t I? I am the same. The same except for one little thing, a glioma.

A glioma is a form of brain tumour that, in my case, sits in my left temporal lobe (the right side of my brain). 

This is the part where I usually jump in and in a loud voice make it clear that everyone knows that…

It’s fine. It’s not cancerous. And it’s just sitting there not doing very much. So no need to worry!

 *Cue big cheesy grin*

Why? Because when you say the words ‘Brain tumour’ it can terrify people. That included me when I first found out.

Six years on from my diagnosis, living with my glioma has been relatively problem free. It’s small and benign or as the doctors say, low-grade. However in 2014, it caused me to develop epilepsy. I was fortunate enough to be given good meds that have allowed me to be seizure free for almost two full years now. Yay! 

So why am I telling you about this now? Well, March is Brain Tumour Awareness month and I’ve joined forces with The Brain Tumour Charity to star in their video for the #WearItOut campaign. Our aim is to raise funds for research into early diagnosis. 

  

That’s me up there 👆🏻 being a poser 💪🏻. 

I am one of the lucky ones who’ve had an early diagnosis. In fact I found out quite by accident about it really. Physically that makes things a lot easier but mentally, as with any condition, it can be well… challenging at times. 

The first few years were filled with moments of “I’m fine” paired with frantic google searches for my life expectancy! Google is great for practical stuff like learning how to tie a bow tie or finding directions to places but medical stuff? Leave that the doctors. They know best. And if they don’t know they’ll do their damndest to work it out. 

Low-grade gliomas like mine can sit pretty for years and years and do nothing at all. They can also grow and change to become high-grade and that’s when things start to get a bit more serious. 

I like to be optimistic and stay focused on the fact that right now it’s low and it will stay that way for as long as possible.

It’s really important for me to be monitored six monthly with MRI scans down at Charing Cross hospital. I have the best doctors there who are not only super reassuring but also keen to learn more about social media from me and keep up to date with my marathon running progress! These MRIs track changes in the tumour. In six years of scans those changes have been minuscule. Hurrah! 

I’m not gonna lie. Travel insurance is expensive now. Where I used to pay £50 for a year it’s more like £200 minimum but that hasn’t held me back. I’m more determined than ever to see the world, run marathons and try all those things that scare me, just because. 

I still get down days now and then thinking about the future. I worry that my health might decline, that things might end abruptly or that I might never have a family of my own. But how is that different to anyone else? We’re all here just one time, so let’s make it a good time!

I choose to live life to the fullest. To live it it so well I #WearItOut! This year alone I’ll be running the London Marathon, exploring Japan, travelling Alaska and who knows what else?!? 

To find out more about Brain Tumours and the great work the charity does visit www.braintumourcharity.org.

You can also be part of Banada Day on 4th March and get a Bandana and #wearitout or maybe even some pretty Brain Tumour awareness braclets from the shop. Or if you’re feeling generous, pop a few £s into my marathon fundraiser pot right here.

Thanks so much for reading! 😘

Ten things to do in Denmark 

Earlier this year I took a trip to Copenhagen in Denmark, one of the safest cities in Europe to travel by yourself. I spent five days exploring the city and venturing up the coast by train and had such a good time I even considered missing my plane to stay a little longer!  

 
If you’ve not yet been to the Nordics and are thinking of taking a trip to the home of one of my childhood heroes, Hans Christian Andersen, I would highly recommend it. 

To find out why, here’s my top ten things to do in Demark in no particular order:

  1. Explore the city on foot – Copenhagen is well known as being a capital full of cyclists and there are plenty of opportunities for you to hire a bike and do the same. It’s quick and easy to get around and perfectly safe but I prefer to go on foot. Why? Well, you have time to stop and take in the sights, you don’t have to worry about where to leave your bike of you want to go in to one of the many museums or cafes and you can walk across the whole of the city in under an hour.   
  2. Catch the sunset from the East Coast, on the manmade beaches. The wind in your hair, cyclists passing by and a great view of the city skyline which is far from overdeveloped. 
  3. Take a canal tour – Yes it’s a tourist trap but after a few days walking around it was a nice change to see the city from a different perspective and relax in the sunshine and learn about its history and the future plans for  the city. Don’t forget to stop and take a walk about Christiana too. The up and coming area of town where I’d choose to love if I had the chance.    
  4. Climb the spiral tower Vor Freslers Kirkeand take in the views of the city form above – It has around 300 steps and low barriers at the top so not one for those with claustrophobia or a fear of heights! 😱   
  5. Go and see the Little Mermaid – She’s not as colourful as depicted in the Disney movie but her poignance, sat quietly on the hard, resonates among locals and tourists who know the her story, created by Hans Christian Andersen.
     
  6. Grab a beer and get caught up in the magic of the tourist trap that is Nyhavn – Lined with boats, cafes, and street permformers. They even have their own love lock bridge 💕. You’ll quickly get in the vibe.
  7. Go up the coast to Louisiana and visit the MOMA and take in the amazing art work from artists around the world including my favourite Kusama! The MOMA is set on the coast line with a sculpture garden that overlooks the clear blue sea and white sands. I could have sat in that garden forever…      
  8. Take in the history and the art  – There are plenty of museums to get lost in and appreciate the works of time gone by. My favourite sculpture was of this shocked Selfie 😱 in Ny Carlsberg Gliptotek. 
  9. Explore the west of the city – With its modern street markets, skate parks, historic buildings and potato row homes there is so much to take in. It feels much more local here and far from the wraps of tourism. A perfect area of the city to relax and enjoy good food too. 
  10. Run along the river in the early  evening – It’s a hotspot for locals, the ducks and geese. Plus it’s clean air makes you appreciate the distinct lack of London smog!   

A few thing that are probably worth missing unless you’re super keen to to see them are: 

  1. Tivoli park and gardens – best enjoyed with kids or on a night when there is concer on the green. Although we did have fun watching the men screaming on the rides like little girls 😂.
  2. A trip to Malmö, Sweden on the train – It’s only a 30 minute journey but it’s a sleepy little town with very little to see and do. I lasted 2 hours before rushing back 
  3. And any of the design museums on a Monday because, as I found out, they are all closed 😊!

Denmark is country I’ll definitely be going back to very soon. A home from home where every corner looked both new and yet familiar. Where I was always treated with respect and offered a smile. And where my passion for nature, design and art set the scene for paths along which I could get out and run in near perfect conditions.

Wanna come with me next time? 😉

Remembering 7/7 

I’d been living in London just a few months and was in the first few weeks of my new job when 7/7 happened.

I took the tube to Victoria from Ealing Common and remember changing train in South Kensignton after a ‘signal failure’. As we waited on the platform it got increasingly busier with little room to move, to the point where I left for fear of being pushed on to the tracks by impatient commuters trying to scramble on to the next train. 
  At the bus stop opposite the station the crowds were growing too. Surely it wasn’t this busy yesterday I thought to myself while I tried to make sense of the ‘Signal failures’ and panicking about being late to the office. 

Buses came and went, full to the brim. After waiting for what felt like an age I took it upon myself to walk to Victoria, in heels and heat I might add. 

It wasn’t until I got right outside the office that I realised what had happened. I got two text messages. One from my mum and one from my dad. Both checking I was okay. At that point I was thinking oh crap, my boss has called my parents because I’m late to work. In actual fact they’d both seen the news there had been a bomb on the underground! 
 No one likes to be the scare fairy but that day it was my job to tell my two colleagues in the office what had happened. In minutes the internet went down, email wasn’t working, and phone lines were playing up. The lines of communication were being freed up for the emergency services and I’d imagine to prevent unwanted communication by the terrorists. 
I remember talking to my boss on the phone who told me to carry on as normal and that I should work until the end of the day. Not something that’s easy to do when your office is next door to Buckingham palace! A prime target for terror!

By 4pm my colleagues and I decided to leave anyway. I walked from Victoria to Clapham Junction, still in heels and the heat, to my friend Suzie’s place. She feed me coco pops and a banana. It’s funny the things you remember on days like these. 

When I heard the buses were back in action by 7pm I took myself home but it was quitea journey. I went towards East Dulwich at first then came back, then via Clapham Junction and Shepherd’s Bush and at that point I broke down. So tired, realising what had happened and just wanting to be home and safe. I called my friend Lydia who calmed me down and got me on the right bus home. 

It was 10pm by that point and all the girls in my flat were home but Carina was worried sick about her boyfriend who hadn’t been in touch all day. Minutes later he turned up without a care in the world telling us he’d witnessed the scene where the bus had been blown up. Luckily he was fine but he did get an ear bashing about not thinking to tell people he was safe.  

 The tragedy that hit London that day made a big impact on all of us and the losses and injuries were just horrible. I can only be thankful I was one of the lucky ones that day. 

It was the commute to work on July 8th that was probably the scariest time for me though. The adrenalin the day before along with some coco pops at Suzie’s had kept me going. The first tube ride into town the day after was so quiet and I remember looking at everyone as they got on at every stop to see who they were or might be. Every coke can left on the floor, newspaper on the seat was a suspicious item. I could see I wasn’t the only one feeling this way but we had to be defiant and stand up for ourselves by being British and just getting in with it. And we did. 
  It’s a day I will never forget and my heartfelt condolences go out to anyone who lost loved ones in the horrific attacks. 

The only pain I suffered was in the form of blisters from my shoes. And for that I’ll be eternally grateful….

I have FOND!

 Do you ever get that feeling that you might not see or do everything you want to in life? That every day you need to fill your time with as many new and interesting things as possible? And if you don’t you get fidgety and restless? Well I do. I call this FOND: Fear of not doing!

I haven’t always been like this. I used to be a ‘waiter’, the one who got invited, the kind of girl that joined in and didn’t lead her life the way she wanted to. A few years ago that started to change. 

When I hit my thirties I experienced the loss of both family members and friends, I got diagnosed with a brain tumour and made the decision to cut off the most significant person in my life, my mum. Each of these had a massive impact on who I am today and inspite of the tragedy in each of them they have shaped and guided my present and my future. 

  In 2010, I got on a plane alone destined for Costa Rica to join a tour around the country. A journey self discovery and finding new and amazing friendships which I value dearly. This was the first of many positive steps that led me to be confident enough to travel entirely on my own to Copenhagen in April this year. 

 In that same year I ran my first half marathon in London. Determined I was going to do what others could not, I pushed on through and carry that with me every time I step out on the road. I’ve not completed two marathons and entered a third. 

When it comes to going out, that one is little more tricky. Social activities need to be just that, social. So you’re bound by schedules, families and interests. To add to this, I’m isually so busy running around I forget to look for cool stuff to do in the now and focus on the big trips. Or I take myself to galleries or parks on my own at the weekends – which I love by the way and would recommend to everyone as what I’ve now recognised as ‘walking mediation’ thanks to my little yoga retreat. Lately I’ve found people in my life that have been open to new things from mosaic classes to immersive theatre. I’m not saying friends weren’t open to things before. They were and I’ve done some incredible things here in London and beyond. It just feels like I’m doing more things that are ‘me’ right now. 

 The trouble is that with all these great things, I have a big issue. When I stop I feel deflated and fidgety. I have an insane need to be doing things and enjoying new experiences. I have FOND. 

FOND is the single most exhausting thing in my life but the most treasured addiction I have. Why? Because without FOND, I’d be sat at home in front of the telly all the time, sleeping, wasting my life and denying myself the opportunity to be me. 

I’m at my best when I’m doing stuff. When I’m living and breathing and experiencing new moments. 

Yes, I admit I’m also an oversharer of those moments via posts on social media but it’s not to boast or show off, its to share my world. Which funnily enough is exactly what I’m doing right now in this blog post and my other blog Project 35. 

So let me ask you now, do you have FOND too? 

Listen to your body, not your mind

A new year, a new you? A promise to go to the gym every day, to eat clean and be awesome? Great! But are you over committing yourself with your resolutions? If these are new ways of living for you then you probably are and sadly, it’s these great intentions that often end in failure. Smart goals are those achievable, they make us feel proud and inspire us to do more. So how can you be sure that you’re setting the right tone for your new health and fitness regime in 2015? Let me share my ideas with you about this in the context of running.

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1) Set yourself achievable goals

Ironically, running is not a race. We are all unique individuals that have different strengths and weaknesses and different abilities. It’s important to measure your training in one way and test in another and find a suitable time to fit your running in.

Measuring your training

I measure my training by setting myself targets of running for a period of time rather than distance. This allows me to run freely and let my body show me what I’m capable of at my own natural pace. If you’re just starting out you may find that 15 minutes jogging or running straight is tough and that’s okay. If you need to run a little and walk a little then do it. Then each time you come back to that same goal you’ll find you will run a bit more, until eventually you can do so without even thinking. Keep a log of all your runs too whether it’s using an app like RunKeeper, a spreadsheet or a notebook, it’s always good to reflect on your progress.

Testing my ability

1463138_10152819749386690_7851465690980154330_nTo test my training I’ve joined the ParkRun community. ParkRuns are locally organised 5km runs which are professionally timed. Each run is supported by local volunteers who are on hand to cheer you on and give you the extra boost of encouragement you need to go that extra mile and push yourself a little bit harder. Plus, I’ve found that through joining a community of runners of all levels I don’t feel the pressure of competing in a ‘race’.

Finding time to run

Each of us have different times of day that we find are optimum for a run. I tend to find mine times vary depending on the day of the week. If it’s a week day I now use my commute home to run part or all of the way. This also helps me save time in the evenings. On the weekends I try to get up early and run so it’s out-of-the-way for the rest of the day and I can feel good about myself, awake and energised.

2) Always finish your training on a high

When you’re out on the road getting your mileage in you’ll find you have good days, bad days and better days. Sometimes you feel like you’re flying without trying and others your legs are like lead, your breathless and sweaty and you just want to home and curl up in bed. Before I tell you the next bit I must make it clear that I’m not a medical professional but I do know from experience that more often than not my body knows me better than my mind.

Good days

On the days that your runs are steady and you’re feeling good I’d strongly encourage you to run a few minutes or kilometres more than planned and reveal in the fact that you surpasses your goal for the day. It feels amazing, even when you only planned to go out for a 15 minute jog or a 5km run.

Not so good days

If you’re having a day where you really don’t feel up to running there are two things to remember:

Firstly, if you’ve just got out of bed and you’re lacking the motivation move  around at home, get something light to eat and drink. Stretch, put on your gym clothes and if you still feel like you’re about to fall over then maybe today is not a good day to get out. If you feel yourself slowly waking up and energised however, get out and show me what you’ve got, even if it’s a baby run.1424289_10152754447696690_4868511456685251405_n

Secondly, if you’re out and on the road already and starting to suffer there are a few things for you to do before you call it a day. Slow your pace a little and try to breathe steadily, spot something on the horizon like a traffic light, a park or a building and tell yourself you need to reach that point. If you can get there and you feel no worse, pick a new point and continue this routine. Quite often what’s making us feel weaker is our mind telling us that we’re not up to it or we’re not really ‘feeling it’ today. To overcome this we need distraction. I have been known to give myself silly games such as naming as many animals I can with the letter B, trying to work out my bills in my head – the idea being that if I find something challenging in my head it keeps me from thinking about the fact that I should stop running.

There are times however when it’s okay to stay in bed cut your run short or stop in your tracks to take a breath and walk home. Why? Because we should try as best as we can to finish our training on a high so our self belief and confidence don’t get knocked and we stay motivated and driven. This brings me nicely on to my next item: Rest!

3) Rest is part of your training regime and burnout sucks

But I have to” are four words that show you’re doing something you probably resent and you’re on track, if you repeat these words, to burning yourself out physically and mentally. On the whole, you know your own body, what it’s capable of and how far you can push yourself without falling down. Yes, it’s fair to say that we all need to push ourselves to get to the next level but we need to think of it more of taking the stairs than the elevator.

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Training everyday is great if you have the energy and ability to do so but you always need to make time to rest too. More often than not we forget that we’re working full-time jobs, looking after kids, running back and forth to the shops or commuting for example. These are all things that keep us fit and active on top of our training regimes.

Earlier this year I was working and training pretty hard, traveling up and down the country to take part in races, running side projects that saw me sleeping a lot less than normal and then it happened… I hit a wall, pretty hard. Matching PBs started to seem impossible, my energy levels were super low and my confidence dropped significantly when it came to my running ability. After a slow and steady Great North Run, a nasty cough and doctors orders, I decided not to take part in the Great South Run – although my whole family were doing it for the first tim – and take a few weeks out of training altogether. It was the best thing I could have done as I smashed three PBs in just three weeks of training once I got back out on the road.

What I’m saying here is that training and life is all about balance. Only you will know what that right balance is and you’ll have to be the one to determine how often you work out, how much you need to rest and, one thing I’ve failed to mention yet which is also vital to your training, how well you eat.

4) Get involved in the social media running community

My final piece of advice to keep you on track is to get involved in communities not only in person at ParkRuns but also online. I’m part of three different kinds of communities at present which I find incredibly helpful, motivating and inspirational.

Running the World

Beer tentA Facebook group with 13,000 members that has been going for about 3 years now, created by the lovely Marc Dobson. It’s purpose is to unite runners from all over the world of all ages and abilities to  share their successes, failures, burning questions and news. Not only do group members actively interact and offer advice and support to each other but they regularly arrange to meet in person at running events around the world. If you’re a runner of any level I highly recommend you join.

#NikePlus

10645213_10152718175041690_8779254744272333584_nI track all my runs with the NikePlus app. I’ve tried lots of others but what I love about this app is that I can request ‘Cheers in my ears’ from anyone who likes my run on Facebook when I’m out and about. I can also track my pace, my progress and see how my friends and family are doing too. The community is two-fold here. The first is within the app where you can set challenges with people you are connected to and chat about your progress. The second is via Instagram and Twitter. On Instagram, I share a photo at the end of each run with the hashtag #NikePlus and I’m acknowledged by runners around the world with a❤ or a ‘Good job’ type comment. It’s particularly rewarding when you’ve had a good run or encouraging if you’ve had an okay kinda day. I also find that the @NikeUK Twitter team are great at spotting my tweets when I’ve been out for a run and often offer their congrats and kind words of support.

#WinterDuel

The #WinterDuel is something I’ve blogged about a few times in my recent posts. What’s great about this is that it invites you to run virtually with a friend or user of the app, so you’re not on your own. It also ranks you on its leaderboard for the challenge in distance and not time so if you’re a beginner who does need to run and walk now and then, you’re not penalised at all.

So what are you waiting for?

Start writing or rewriting those fitness goals for the weeks ahead, not the whole year! Then listen to your body, tell your mind to ‘Shh!’ and work out how to get the right balance for you. That’s you the individual. Not you the person you must be because you read it somewhere or someone told you that you’re not good enough. Deal? Go get ’em!

2014: The year I got fitter, healthier and faster!

Ten years ago, if you’d asked me to run a marathon I would have politely shown you my index and middle fingers and told you where to go. Today, as I write this blog post I’m already three weeks in to my Paris Marathon training plan, smashing my PBs and feeling stronger than ever.

Stretching it out! #ParkRun #nikeplus #running #fitfam #health #yoga #parismarathon

A photo posted by Steph Bennett (@stephsbubble) on

 

Paris will be my second marathon, my first was Brighton earlier this year which I ran with my dad for charity. Shortly after and probably still high on the endorphins and adrenaline the ballot for Paris and London came up and applied hoping that fate would do me the honour of determining what would be. I was delighted when I got the news I had a place and then quickly discovered my brother and sister would be joining me too. This will be the first race we’ll all be running together!

Running hasn’t always been my friend. We’ve been through the good times, the bad times, the battles and the tears but we’ve got to know each other very well. Charity fundraisers were my driving force in the most part until I realised that each time I stopped running my hips and belly promptly expanded and my habits of eating well slipped away. So in 2013, I decided to hold of raising cash for causes and put myself first taking on a personal challenge of three 10kms in May and a 5 mile circuit of Queen Elizabeth Park finishing to the sound of ‘Chariots of fire’ playing in the tunnels and a sprint finish on the track inside the Olympic stadium. I felt great, but old habits soon came back and I saw more of the sofa that the road.

In January 2014, my little sister had to give up a place in the Reading half marathon so I stepped up to the mark and ran a steady and confident 2:32 which I’d trained for in just about 8 weeks and then I saw this little tweet… It was the Brain Tumour Charity asking for runners to take part in the Brighton Marathon in 6 weeks’ time. So I thought, hey, why not? To make life a little easier I enlisted the help of a personal trainer – lavish I know but I don’t go out boozing or partying so this is my guilty pleasure. I ran with my dad and got through in just shy of 6 hours having had the most incredible of experiences.  Don’t get me wrong I walked like a cowboy for about 2 days after but I loved it nonetheless.

#runbennettsrun I did it!

A video posted by Steph Bennett (@stephsbubble) on

 

26.2 miles down, I wasn’t done yet and completed the Bupa 10k, the Nike Women’s 10km, the Gosport Golden mile and 5km and my PBs were dropping all the time. Then although my body was working well my mind thought otherwise and I experienced not one but two epileptic seizures. I ended up in the hospital for a few days and was out of action on the running front for a good few weeks.

Started my app early so this could well be sub 30! #nikeplus

A photo posted by Steph Bennett (@stephsbubble) on

 

My PT was great and got me gently back to strength but I didn’t quite seem to have the same energy as I did before. I ran the Great North in September which was more of an adventure than a PB and once on the run, I had to stop and start all the way round. Not great, right? Next up a nasty, wheezy cough got me! After three weeks, I approached my GP who decided inhalers would be the best way forward. And do you know what? He was so right!

Since picking up training again in October, using my inhalers and focusing on building my total body strength as well as running with a training plan, I’ve broken three PBs, am stronger than ever and now have ‘fit girl problems’ which include having arms and legs with definition that don’t quite fit the high street sizes!

Warming up (them not me)! #ParkRun

A photo posted by Steph Bennett (@stephsbubble) on

 

Running training in the winter can be tough to stay motivated but the weather hasn’t been quite as cold as it was last year, but I swap my tube commute home for the road once a week and I’ve joined my local ParkRun in Gunnersbury Park to get me out of bed on Saturday mornings and having good kit always makes you run faster, stronger and longer. I got myself some thermal leggings and a head band from Sweaty Betty which I love that are perfect for these conditions. However, I was recently approached by the team at Helly Hansen, to try out their LIFA Stay Dry long sleeve running top, and leggings as well as a cute little reversible beanie.  I’ll be reviewing my new kit very soon.

 

Helly Hansen are also doing their bit to keep runners motivated with the #WinterDuel challenge which encourages you to compete with a friend over five weeks to see who can go the distance. Janey and I are currently clocking up about 27km between us over 2 weeks and in 24th position overall. I’ll keep you updated in my tweets, Instagram pics and blog posts that follow as to how we get on. Oh, and if you’re looking for me on the Nike+ App, I’m Steph’s Bubble, obviously.

 

Here’s to a fast, fun, fit, and fashion focused 2015!

Talking about all things photography at #BIRDIE14

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From as early as I can remember I’ve been passionate about photography. The concept and reality of being about to capturing a moment, an expression or a memory and giving people the opportunity to see my world through the lens of a camera have always felt like an incredible privilege and opportunity that I refuse to take for granted. Yes, I may take and share more photos than others care to see at times but through the imprint I’m making on history for current and future generations, I hope that that they’ll be able to understand and enjoy some of my images, and the stories behind them, as much as I do.

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With that in mind, you can imagine how excited I was to hear about BIRDIE 2014 – An event that celebrated the opportunity for photographers to come and share their photography stories and experiences. As Dan Rubin explained, this was not a gallery exhibition or trade show, this was a chance to meet the people behind the photos and learn more about their work, inspiration and motivation. And boy was he right!

Kevin Meredith aka @LomoKev – The change from amateur to professional photographer

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What I loved about @LomoKev, apart from the fact he reminds me of one the coolest dudes I know, @JimmyIcedCoffee was that through his journey from amateur to professional you could see his passion for the craft in everything he’s done. Personal projects have been at the heart of his success story.

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Experimenting with photos of shoes led to a commission from a festival shooting wellington boots in the mud, while playing with image prints to create montages of style icons and families led to an opportunity from O2 to be filmed shooting photos of Brighton, creating a wonderful collage of the city and capturing magical moments on the streets and with the Brighton swimming club down on the beach.

If there’s one thing to take away from Kevin’s talk it would be to do what you love not what you feel you ought to do and don’t work for free unless it’s something you would have done anyway. Wise words!

Tom Seymour interview with photographer, Dan Rubin 

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Editor of fltr, Tom Seymour talked to photographer Dan Rubin, about how instant sharing has changed the photographic community, and the future of photography. With the cost of photography going down all the time, more people have the opportunity to take photos, capture moments and express themselves but what social media has done is enable us to also share these images with a global audience. The biggest impact this has had is on the way we take and consider sharing photos of children. People are afraid of documenting the lives of children for fear of something terrible happening, which is incredibly sad. An entire generation will be documented in a way quite unlike those before.

In terms of technology, Dan touched upon the launch of the iWatch which he feels will have little impact for photographers at this stage, except for the fact it features a remote view finder. The proof of it’s ability to perform however, is yet to be seen.

When Tom, asked what improvements in photo tech, Dan would like to see, he explained that rather than post-production editing tools, he would like to see improvements to camera software to make the devices smarter and help us all take better photos.

Katja Ogrin aka @kogrin – The highs and lows of life in a photo pit

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From intimate gigs with bands you’ve never heard of to renowned festivals, Katja is there with her camera. A seasoned musician herself, Katja came to the decision that she was never follow a career in that direction. Instead she picked up a camera headed out to a sweaty jazz club, where she sat up close to the stage shooting pictures and started to realise where her future was headed.

Music photography can be incredibly challenging with lighting interfering with the quality of the image, artists bouncing around all over the place and security guards standing in the middle of a perfect picture up at the front of the stage. All this aside, Katja loves it but her passion is for the smaller gigs. In fact, one unknown band she photographed in the early days – ‘The Editors’ – have come to be quite a success now which just goes to show, the photos you take are more important that your subjects at the time. My favourite photo from Katja was also from an intimate gig:

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This was probably the first and the last time I would see a singer of a band hanging upside down while performing! – Katja Ogrin

Naomi Korn aka @NKorn – Copyright, photography and the digital age

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Naomi‘s talk was just fascinating. Listening to the intricacies of copyright law and intellectual property and how our legal system simply can’t keep up with the way the internet allows us to share and use photos effortlessly but without ownership rights, somewhat illegally. Is a retweet of an a breach of copyright? Or what about a screenshot of an image for a presentation?

By law, you own the copyright to your photos and can challenge the use by others. However many photographers have now opened up a series of low resolution images to the internet under creative commons laws, offering higher resolution or signed images as reserved rights images which can be bought. This freemium model is working incredibly well.

The recent case of the monkey who took a selfie on a photographer’s camera was a key example of no ownership of copyright. The legal system decided that the neither the photographer or the monkey owned the rights. By what do you think? I’d love to know.

Conor MacNeill aka @thefella – Chasing the night sky

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One beautiful photo, does not a moment take when it comes to night sky photography. Conor MacNeill travels the world to remote and unique locations to capture seas of stars, the aurora and the setting of the moon. He job has taken him to some amazing places including the wilds of the african desert sharing the sands with poisonous snakes! Patience is one of the biggest skills a night sky photographer needs, as you could be waiting for several hours in sub-zero temperatures to get that one perfect shot.

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On the night that Conor took these stunning photos of the Aurora his mind was blown. You could tell by the look on his face these were taken on what will always be a unforgettable evening. With that, he told us all not to wait to put things on our bucket list but instead, get out there and travel. I totally agree. Some of my favourite photos were taken in places like Cambodia, Argentina and Corsica. Don’t get me wrong, I love city photos but there’s something about nature that takes your breathe away.

Stevyn Colgan aka @stevyncolgan, a verified QI Elf – A Quite Interesting alternative history of photography

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It’s not often you get to be in the presence of a verified QI elf is it! Stevyn Colgan is a fascinating and wonderfully funny man who talked to us about the history of photography. Covering everything from the very first photo and selfies to the tales of Victorian babies who’s mother’s would hide under sheets to hold their children still! We often think of Victorians in sepia and black and white but this is simply because that’s the impression we have from the images they’ve left behind. What we learned from Stevyn is that the staid and serious faces were the result of the long exposure times that meant smiling was painful! In the digital age, we’re familiar with the long exposure mostly through the use of panoramic photography were we often see body parts or people missing from pictures as they were moving too much. It was the same back then.

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As a QI elf, Stevyn gets to meet some marvellous people including the likes of Buzz Aldrin who features in one of the most debated images of all time, the moon landing. Looking Buzz in the eye, Stevyn dared to ask if the moon landing and indeed the photo were actually real. Buzz told him that if the US landing hadn’t been real, China and Russia would have been the first ones to shout about it, implying that it did happen. The photo however, is still a mystery. Let’s face it, that image is far to brilliant to have been taken on the moon… or is it?

Agatha A. Nitecka aka @_agatha_a – Film on film

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Many people dream of being on set among celebrities and famous directors. For fine artist photographer Agatha, it’s about capturing the characters and the magical moments, and all this on 35mm film. Unlike the digital photographers that take thousands of photos each day, Agatha takes her time, studies the scene, reads the scripts and takes her photos at exactly the right moment. She reminded me of that wonderful feeling you get when you used to send off you film to be developed and you’ve no idea really, how your photos will look until they are printed. This is feeling many of us have forgotten and lost in the digital age.

Agatha’s recent work includes photographing Wuthering Heights and taking this stunning picture of Sir Ian McKellen. I was lucky enough to walk away with a copy of a print newspaper of her works from Wuthering Heights when I posed a question to her about how she translates her analog works into the digital and social media world. Agatha explained that she now, quite recently, has begun to see the value in sharing work on social media and although it’s not her primary focus she enjoys engaging with her fans and contacts to talk about her photos.

Chris Wild aka @theRetronaut – Holding a smile ’til the sun goes down

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Last but not least was Chris Wild, curator of retronaut.com and the newly released book. All the content is sourced and contributed to showcase photography over time but the one common theme, over 200 years of photos, was that human behaviour when cameras are involved, simply doesn’t change. Photobombs, selfies, silliness, thinking we’re cool are all traits that even from the early days of photography remain the same.

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One set of photos that were recently on his website included those of 90s women in a shopping mall. Big perms, denim jackets, strutting along like they were the bees knees – where does that phrase ‘bees knees’ come from? Answers on a postcard please! The scenarios in shopping malls these days are consistent but fashion has moved on.

We’re just an earlier remix of ourselves – Chris Wild

In conclusion… 

BIRDIE 2014 has to be one of the best conferences I’ve been to in a very long time. White October did a fantastic job of running everything smoothly, Ruth and Dan put together a wonderful line of speakers from a range of different backgrounds with wonderful stories to tell. I think the whole event was best summed up in a single tweet from Javier Arranz yesterday when he said:

Would I go to another BIRDIE event? Of course! Please tell me that I don’t have to wait until next September though!