Introduction to Digital Photography: Week 3

I struggled with this class.

I struggled to get out of bed. I struggled to get to the class. And once I was there I was so dazed I’m not sure how much I took in. I was so hungover that I couldn’t focus. Literally. And it was a mostly practical class that day so there was very little sitting down…

Week 3 was all about light – how to use it, how to make the most of it, how to create it. We went out into the practice area and the instructor stood in the doorway which led to the outdoor area. She told us to take a photo of her – it would be a silhouette because of the bright daylight behind her.


Ways to get around this are:

  • use the Auto-Exposure (AE) lock on your camera (on a Canon camera, this is the button marked with an asterisk) – focus on something mid-grey that is close to you, press your shutter button halfway down to take a light reading, then press the AE lock button. A star will appear in the bottom left of the view finder but only for a short while so you need to take the picture quickly. It’s also a good idea to step closer to the subject so that the background isn’t completely white;
  • use the metering button on the camera. There are four modes – matrix/evaluative metering (the camera is automatically set to this), centre-weighted average metering (the camera gives extra weight to the centre), partial metering (measures approximately 8% of the frame) and spot metering (measures about 2% of the frame);
  • override the camera’s settings and deliberately under- or over-expose the image (exposure compensation). This is where the button with the +/- comes in. Once you press the button and turn the dial, the light meter moves to the right or the left, making the picture brighter or darker, respectively.


We also talked about auto-exposure bracketing, which I’m still trying to get my head round. This enables you to take three photos at different exposure values. Depending on the chosen settings, one will be under-exposed, one will be whatever the camera is set to, and the third will be over-exposed. 

We talked about white balance. I had seen the WB button on the camera but had no idea what it meant or what it did. It removes unrealistic colour casts so that objects which appear white in person remain white in the photo. The WB needs to be matched to the kind of light you’re shooting in. These photos were all taken within a minute, using the different settings. The results are astonishing!


We also looked at histograms and how they can help assess your exposure. They’re bar graphs visible on the camera’s screen when viewing pictures in playback mode. 

We were split into groups and told to take photos of our chosen object, using light from different angles, and using the different WB settings on our cameras. Again, such different results from changing a setting or two, and the direction of the light:


We had some fun at the end by playing around with the shutter speed and the torch. We set our shutter speed to 4 seconds. The instructor then switched all the lights off and shone her torch on the three object on the ledge. All three captured the light…


She then tried something else. She shone the torch on her face and moved around while our cameras were taking the picture (a shutter speed of 4 seconds again). The results were quite eerie!


It was an interesting class, but I just wish I’d been a bit more alert!

Read about Weeks 1, 2 and 4


10 kilos by Easter? Week 3

I had another killer session with Rama on Sunday morning. It started with a 5-minute warm-up on the cross-trainer. And then the circuit began. It consisted of:

  • Push-ups for 30 seconds
  • Walking lunges for 30 seconds
  • Bench press for 30 seconds
  • Squats for 30 seconds
  • Abs using the Swiss ball for 30 seconds
  • Tricep dips for 30 seconds
  • Rest

It doesn’t sound that hard, does it? The first round wasn’t too bad – I could do it. The second round was tougher – I struggled. By the third round, I was ready to give up and go home. 

When I’d recovered from that, I did three minutes on the bike and then we went to the stairwell. The gym is on the sixth floor. Rama told me to walk down to the fourth floor and then back up again. When I got back up to the sixth floor he told me to walk up to the seventh floor and then come back down again. As I got back to the sixth floor he told me to go back down to the fourth floor and come back up (again). I was supposed to do this three times but could only manage it twice. 

We went back into the gym and did some lower body floor work followed by crunches and some other stomach exercises. I was supposed to finish off with a 90-second plank, but it finished me off in about 30 seconds. I was done.

On Monday I woke up sore all over – my triceps, shoulders and abs in particular. I went to the gym and did the cardio circuit Rama suggested in week 2. A 5-minute warm-up, 15 minutes on the cross-trainer, and then alternating 2 minutes on the treadmill and stepping machine five times. I was at the end of the third circuit and was ready to pack it in when ‘Don’t Give Up’ started playing on the iPod. I laughed out loud. My mum wondered what I could possibly find so funny while on the stepping machine (she decided to come to the gym with me for the first time), but she wouldn’t have understood.

I didn’t work out on Tuesday as I had to go to Sharjah with my parents. 

On Wednesday morning I had my first yoga class at home. A friend of mine had arranged for a teacher to teach the two of us and three other friends (who I didn’t know) at my home. We were supposed to start at 10am. The yoga teacher was the first to arrive – he came in and I noticed he was wearing trousers and a shirt. Not your typical yoga gear – he was dressed to go to the office. He also didn’t have a yoga mat which I thought was very odd. I asked him whether he had a mat? ‘I’ll just use a bedsheet,’ he replied. ‘Oh, so you’ll be wanting to use one of my bedsheets then?’ ‘Yes, please.’ Tut. Every time he’d say something in Hindi, I’d reply in English. Eventually I told him that my Hindi wasn’t very good and could he please speak in English? We waited and waited for the others to arrive – by 10.20 we decided to start and the others could join us when they arrived.

It was weird doing yoga with a different teacher. I suppose every teacher has their own style and you get used to a certain person. He did do one thing that REALLY pissed me off though – in one pose, he told me I could stretch further. I told him that actually, no, I couldn’t. He then hooked his ankle over mine and pulled my leg further. I shouted at him because it hurt. And I was annoyed for the rest of the class. And when I thought about it later, I got annoyed again.

Anyway – only two of the girls showed up, the other two couldn’t make it. There was a bit of confusion over whether we were going to continue with the teacher as the timing/location didn’t suit everyone – and in the end they decided against it. Yes, I do want to continue practising yoga, but I’m not sure this is the right teacher for me! I’ve been given the number for another teacher and will give him a call.

On Thursday I had a session with Rama – I was finished by the end of it. I started with a warm-up on the cross-trainer. Then there was some lower body and abs floor work – crunches, sideways planks, and other horrible things. After that we did the circuit from a few days ago but rather than focus on x amount of push-ups, x amount of squats, and so on, he told me I would spend 30 seconds doing each exercise. And so it began:

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Star jumps
  • Bicycle
  • Wall squat
  • Burpees
  • Crunches
  • Plank
  • Leg-switching things (still no idea what they’re called)
  • Bear crawl
  • Tricep dips
  • Punching – holding 3-kg weights

I’m sure I’ve missed one but I can’t remember what it was. It was tougher than the same circuit the week before – I was a wreck by the end of it. 

After that there were two sets of walking lunges and two sets of a tricep exercise which involved me putting my hands on the edge of the treadmill (while it was stationary, of course) and then putting one hand on the floor and then the other, and then putting the first hand back on the treadmill and then the other. Yes, exhausting. But the torture still wasn’t over.

Then there were more squats and two sets of another upper body exercise. And finally a cool-down on the treadmill and some stretching. I was so ready to get back into bed after all that!

I didn’t go to the gym on Friday – I was hungover after my night out with the British expat group – and I struggled to go to photography too. 

On Saturday morning, the doorbell rang at 10am. I was still in bed when my mum came into my room and told me that the yoga teacher had shown up. WTF? I texted my friend and told her he was at my house. ‘Oh crap, I forgot to tell him!’ I went out to meet him – I don’t know who was more shocked: me to see him at my house (still in his office clothes) or him to see me still in my pajamas. She spoke to him and told him we were still debating what to do and she’d get back to him. He left (muttering ‘Sorry for the botherings’) and I went to the gym. I wasn’t really in the mood – I did a 5-minute warm-up on the bike, 10 minutes on the cross-trainer and then another 25 minutes on the bike. I couldn’t deal with 2 minutes on each machine and just wanted to get it over with!

The eating part of it is going OK, I think. It’s so much easier telling someone what you want to eat than having to prepare it yourself! I’m definitely eating more fresh salad every day than I did in London – usually at lunch and dinner here. The one thing I do need to eat more of is breakfast – I don’t think I had breakfast all week! Something to focus on next week… 


Read more updates here.

Your week ahead (29 January – 4 February)

Have a great week, everyone!



The High Priestess – staying non-active – withdrawing from involvement, becoming calm, waiting patiently; accessing the unconscious – using your intuition, trusting your inner voice, being aware of a larger reality; seeing the potential – understanding the possibilities, seeing your hidden talents, letting what there is flower; sensing the mystery – looking beyond the obvious, opening to the unknown, remembering something important



4 of Cups – being self-absorbed – concentrating on your own feelings, giving out little, ignoring gifts and blessings; feeling apathetic – passively accepting, feeling disengaged, feeling little desire; going within – being introspective, meditating, getting lost in reverie



The Empress – mothering – giving birth, nourishing life, expressing tenderness; welcoming abundance – luxuriating in plenty, having more than enough, feeling rich; experiencing the senses – giving and receiving pleasure, focusing on the body, doing physical activity; responding to Nature – embracing the natural, feeling connected to the Earth, going outdoors



10 of Cups – feeling joy – embracing happiness, having a sense of wellbeing, counting your blessings; enjoying peace – doing away with hostilities, feeling contented and at ease, reducing stress and tension; looking to the family – working for peace in the home, supporting a relative in need, forgiving someone in the family



The Emperor – fathering – establishing a family line, setting direction and tone, guiding growth; emphasising structure – creating order out of chaos, providing shape and form, applying reason; exercising authority – taking a leadership role, representing the establishment, commanding; regulating – establishing law and order, working within the legal system, following a regimen



5 of Swords – acting in your own self-interest – thinking of your own needs, going for the win-lose result, gloating; experiencing discord – choosing to battle, creating ill will, feeling people are set against each other; witnessing open dishonour – losing your moral compass, sacrificing integrity, knowing of criminal activity



10 of Swords – bottoming out – knowing it’s darkest before dawn, preparing for an upturn, feeling things can’t get worse; feeling like a victim – feeling powerless, feeling self-pity, being on the receiving end; being a martyr – being self-deprecating, letting others go first, putting your own interests last



The Lovers – relating to others – establishing a bond, feeling love, getting closer; being sexual – seeking union, experiencing desire, responding with passion; establishing personal beliefs – staying true to yourself, going by your own standards, figuring out where you stand; determining values – refusing to let ends justify means, finding out what you care about, staying true to yourself



Knight of Cups – finding a balance between being romantic/over-emotional – emphasising feelings and often being jealous, idealising love and lacking self-restraint; a balance between being imaginative and fanciful – being visionary and shading the truth; a balance between being sensitive and temperamental – being aware of moods and feelings and being prone to mood swings; being refined and over-refined – appreciating beauty in all forms and leaving dirty work to others; being introspective and introverted – seeking self-improvement and exaggerating personal failings



Knight of Pentacles – finding a balance between being unwavering and stubborn – staying fixed to a chosen course and refusing to listen to reason; being cautious and unadventurous – checking/double-checking and being too conservative; being thorough and obsessive – being meticulous and being too picky; being realistic and pessimistic – predicting problems in advance and dooming a project from the start; being hard-working and grinding – being tireless and unflagging and forgetting life should be fun



7 of Swords – running away – shirking responsibility, avoiding obligations, hiding from the truth; being a lone wolf – wanting independence, feeling you don’t need anyone else, wanting to go it alone; choosing hidden dishonour – being two-faced, avoiding a shameful secret, lying or stealing



Strength – showing strength – knowing you can endure, having stamina, feeling an unshakable resolve; being patient – taking time, maintaining composure, refusing to get angry; being compassionate – tolerating, forgiving imperfection, accepting; achieving soft control – guiding indirectly, being able to influence, demonstrating the strength of love

For previous readings, see Notes by Nectar.

Review: Starter for Ten


I read One Day by David Nicholls in the first half of 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed it (apart from the end). Before I left for Dubai a friend told me she was reading Starter for Ten by the same author and that it was hilarious. I’d already started reading Game of Thrones but needed to swap it for something light and easy so I could hit my 20 books in 2011 (which I missed by one book). I didn’t know it was published in 2003 and I didn’t know it was already a movie.

I was laughing from the very beginning of the book. It’s 1985 and Brian is a working-class Essex boy who starts his first term at university. He’s obsessed with Kate Bush, a student called Alice, and getting on University Challenge (which is where the title of the novel comes from). Brian is such a nerd and so socially awkward that he finds himself in the most ridiculous situations, saying the most cringe-worthy things. For example:

“‘Well…’ says Alice ‘…we had some friends round, like we always do on Boxing Day, and we were playing charades, and it was my turn, and I was trying to do ‘Last Year At Marienbad’ for Mummy, and she was getting so frantic and over-excited, and shouting so hard, that her cap popped out and landed right in our next-door neighbour’s glass of wine!’ 
And everyone’s laughing, even Mr Harbinson, and the atmosphere is so funny and adult and amusing and irreverent that I say, ‘You mean you weren’t wearing any underwear?!?’ 
Everyone is silent. 
‘I’m sorry?’ asks Rose. 
‘Your cap. When it popped out. How did it get past your… underpants?’ 
Mr Harbinson puts down his knife and fork, swallows his mouthful, turns to me and says, very slowly, ‘Actually, Brian, I think Alice was referring to her mother’s dental cap.'”

Mortifying, isn’t it? It’s one situation after the other and I laughed all the way through. Yes, Brian is annoying at times – but nobody’s perfect. Are they? 

I thought One Day was better written, more refined, but this was much funnier. The Understudy is definitely going to be on my list for 2012. And… I’ve just bought a ticket to see David Nicholls at the Emirates Festival of Literature in March, here in Dubai!

Anyway, that’s the first of my 20 books in 2012! I think my next review might be a few weeks away. I need to start reading more! At this rate I won’t even get to 10 books in 2012. I’ve gone back to reading Game of Thrones which is taking me forever (but then I do only read one chapter each night).  


Dubai: Days 21-24

A busy week: lunches, dinners, drinks, and work when I can fit it in!

I spent most of Saturday at home – my mum and sister were out shopping and there was no way I was going to join them. That evening my sister and I went back to The Meat Co. for a steak dinner. We’d been there a couple of weeks before and this time we didn’t order any starters, just our steaks and salad, and no dessert. Our table was booked for 9pm and we were home by 10.30!

On Sunday morning I had a session with Rama, my trainer. After that my cousin hosted a girls’ ‘welcome’ lunch for me at the Fairmont – there were seven or eight of us. It was a nice group of people – me, my sister, my cousin, and some other cousins and friends who used to live in Lagos and London but now live in Dubai. It was an early lunch because most of them had kids that needed picking up from school from 2pm onwards. School on a Sunday? That’s just wrong.

On Monday afternoon, we were invited over to someone’s house for tea. Five of us (my mum, sister, nephew, his nanny and me) went over to their place in the Lakes. I met another cousin who lives here – and while chatting about where to go for various things (massages, facials, etc.) she gave me numbers for various people and places. It was like speaking to the Yellow Pages. Useful!

On Tuesday evening I went out to Calabar at The Address for some drinks with the girls – it was a very random group of people but it was nice to get out of the house. It wasn’t a very late or heavy night as I had a session with Rama at 9am the following morning. As we were saying our goodbyes in the lobby of the hotel, I heard someone call my name. ‘Who the hell knows me here?’ I thought to myself. It was someone I knew from London! ‘What are you doing here?’ she asked. ‘Er. I live here now.’ (Even as I said it out loud, I still didn’t believe it.)

See more Dubai updates here.

Introduction to Digital Photography: Week 2

In Week 1, we covered focus modes, depth of field, ISO and aperture, and we had a practice session. 

Week 2 began with our tutor going through our homework assignment and people talking about some of the photos they’d taken during the week. Our assignment was to take photos showing examples of ‘framing’ and upload them to the Facebook page. The week went by so quickly that I woke up on Friday morning thinking ‘Shit – I haven’t charged my battery and I haven’t done my homework.’ I charged the battery and started thinking about ‘framing’. I didn’t have very much to work with so I took some photos of Vinay instead:


At the beginning of the class, we went through photos that some people had taken during the week. I think I’m going to have to take my camera with me whenever I leave the house because there’s not a lot to take photos of at home!

After that, our tutor started talking to us about shutter speed and how to use it – when to use a fast shutter speed and when to use a slower one. Some of the photos she showed us were incredible. One in particular was taken in the desert at night and the movement of the stars could be seen in the picture – they looked like comets. She said it was pitch black, there was no moon, and the shutter speed she used was 30 minutes. THIRTY MINUTES. The result was a red Martian-looking landscape with streaks in the sky. Stunning. 

We went outside, set up our tripods, and experimented with different shutter speeds. We were divided into two groups – one group taking photos and the other being the subjects. One person in the subject group had to stand still while the others walked around behind him.

This was taken at 1/60:


This was taken at 1/15:


This was taken at 1/5:


This was taken at 1″:


See how the people in the background get more and more blurry?

We then experimented with what happens when you turn the zoom as you take a photo. I didn’t even know you could do that! The effect is quite interesting:


In the second half of the class, we had to put our chairs in a circle and each choose a book from a pile in the middle. We then had to go through our chosen book and find one photo that stood out for us and explain to everyone else why we liked it and how we thought they achieved it. Contrast, depth of focus, capture of movement, balance, exposure – it all came into the discussion. 

And then it was 6pm. My mum, sister and Vinay were at the mall so we took a cab home together. Thankfully there was no conversation with the driver.

When we got home I took a few more photos of Vinay. There is a bit of ‘noise’ (‘grain’) in the photos as I had to use a high ISO due to the lighting rather than use the flash:


I’m getting there – slowly!

Read about weeks 1, 3 and 4.