Beating the Credit Crunch for Students Part 2

Apologies for the rather short second part but if I don’t post it as it is I never will.

Car

Insurance

Shop around for your car insurance although be wary of very cheap companies as the quoted price could be for a 10 month contract or the company may be hard to get money out of if you do have an accident. Checkinsurance review sites after you get your quotes to find out what the company is really like.  Some companies will offer low insurance but you will be liable to pay more if you do have an accident so make sure you know what you are getting into.

When you get your yearly renewal quote, shop around and then go back to your original insurer with any cheaper quotes. If the terms are the same they will probably beat lower quotes to keep you as a customer, if not go elsewhere.

Fuel

Only drive if you need to, I won’t drive anywhere in Belfast I can walk to in 45mins and in Belfast that’s most places. Drive efficiently and you could gain up to 30% extra millage between refuels.

If you find you are driving friends around a lot, consider charging them for fuel or getting them to pay for some of your groceries. If you are really mean you could charge them according to weight.
Another useful article from HowStuffWorks.

Rent/Accommodation

This is assuming you are not living at home with you parents were no doubt you will be living for free.
Rent is a tough one as it varies a lot from city to city, In Edinburgh you can expect to pay at twice what you would pay in Belfast.
Also location in the city will affect cost as a house close to the city centre will cost a lot more than one in the suburbs.

My advice would be  don’t look for the best you can afford instead look for the worst you will put up with. After all if you go home at weekends and Holidays you could be spending as little as 6 months a year in a house you are paying a years rent for.

On that note, look out for shorter term renting, some landlords will do 8 month contracts for students.

Beating the Credit Crunch for students Part 1

Coins, not just for throwing off tall buildings.

Coins, not just for throwing off tall buildings.

This is part 1 of Beating the Credit Crunch for Students.

With scary SEO keywords such as “Credit Crunch“, “Recession” and “We’re all doomed” being thrown about lately, it probably wasn’t the best time to give up my secure part-time job and strike out on my own freelancing.

Well not totally on my own, I just have to survive until Jan 5th when that great establishment The Student Loans company pours free money upon my skull.

Ok so it’s not free money, I will have to pay it back some day but for now it’s better for my sanity to pretend it’s free.

 

Anyway I have learnt a fair bit about managing finances over the past few years of living away from home, albeit some of it has taken a long time to sink in and I am still prone to the odd impulse buy. 500 glow-sticks anyone?

So from my own personal experience here are my top money saving tips. (No doubt my more business and financially minded peers will correct me if I’m wrong)

This is mostly aimed at students who are trying to survive on very limited finances i.e just the student loan.
Due to varying living costs in different cities some of this may not be relevant to you personally but hopefully the principles will be the same.

Banking/Student Loan

Student Accounts

I think student bank accounts are of the devil. Perhaps thats being harsh but I really don’t think the banks are doing students favours offering them interest free overdrafts of up to £3000 (Halifax).

Students are not going to view this as “oh good I’m covered if I get into difficulty” instead this is viewed as “wooooooooooo free money”.

The result of this being that the £3000 “free money” is spent the first year of University and the student spends the rest of University hovering just above the banking fees line, which believe me is not pretty. I lost £100 in fees after making a number of small payments totalling around £30 after I went over my overdraft limit. 

I have no doubt there are students who are perfectly sensible with their finances but I suspect they are in the minority.

Look on down the page to see “With our student bank account, you can keep your interest-free overdraft for the length of your course – that’s up to five years – plus an extra year after you graduate.”

Sounds good at first glance, but do you really want to wind up trying to pay back £3000 to a bank the year after you graduate. You may not have a job yet and this time the student loans company isn’t there to fill the void.

My advice on this is, if possible avoid using an overdraft unless you really really need to. In my case I went into my overdraft in first year and have been trying to get out since. Also I’m with Nationwide who don’t do student accounts which means I pay interest on my overdraft. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it is quite a low rate and it means I don’t view my overdraft as free money (anymore).

If you have online banking use it regularly to keep a check on how much you are spending and what you have left so over expenditure doesn’t sneak up on you.

Student Loan

As for the student loan, don’t waste it buying stuff you don’t need. If you don’t need it to survive either don’t take one out or consider investing it.

Savings

Savings tends to be one of the last things that most students consider while at University and until very recently I was the same, mainly because I never saved for purchases and simply bought things on impluse.
It’s so much more rewarding to buy something with money you have saved up over time for that purpose than to buy it with money you don’t have. Even if you have very limited finances you should at least save a small amount of money. I am currently saving in a couple of ways.

Using my online banking I set up an online saving account with my building society (most banks/building societies have some form of online savings).  I have set up a standing order from my current account to my savings account for £10 a month, it’s not a lot but it’s £120 a year I would spent on something I dont need otherwise. 

Once my finances improve (when I get a paid placement next year) I will increase this.  The account has a fairly high rate of interest and money has to be transferred to my current account before I can withdraw it. 

My other savings method is a more traditional approach, I have a big glass jar into which I throw any 50p coins and the odd £1 coin that I get in my change. This can build up surprisingly quick and I am using it to save towards upgrading my computer at some later date.  Although Louise would like to debate it’s usage.

Spending

Food

Check your bank statement and you will probably find your largest expense is food, I was spending up to£300 a month on food at one point. That’s nearly twice what I’m currently paying for rent.

That’s about £70 a week and roughly added up as follows:

Weekly Groceries:£25

Take Away/Eating out: £15-£25

Snacks: £7-10

Soft drinks:£10

I’m currently spending £15-£20 a week on food, that’s £80 a month which is £220 less than I was spending.  Just to clarify, like a lot of students I go home at the weekends where I am fed by my mother ( ah bless). While I’m home I raid the cupboards for any “spare” food, although this would rarely total more than about £5 in cost.

Weekly Groceries:

 

  • Never ever shop on an empty stomach, you will buy lots of nice expensive extras that you will regret later.
  • WRITE A LIST! And stick to it.
  • Only bring enough cash for what you intend to buy at the shop, leave your cards at home. You are most likely to impulse buy while grocery shopping.
  • Shop less, if you are well organised only go grocery shopping every couple of weeks. You will save on fuel as well.
  • Learn how to cook from first principles i.e buy ingredients and follow recipes don’t buy ready meals.
  • Learn to love the spud, potatoes are cheap.
  • If you are not squeamish buy a whole chicken at the supermarket and butcher it yourself. You get two fillets, two legs and two wings for about the price of two pre-packed fillets.
  • Make friends with the local butcher and bulk buy meat at discounted prices.
  • Spread the cost of items such as milk, sugar, coffee etc with the whole house.
  • Chopped tomatoes are your friend, you can make pretty much any tomato based sauce using the right spices and herbs.
  • Spices and herbs are expensive initially but will last you ages.
  • If you go home at the weekends, raid the cupboards (with permission of course) for items much as beans, tuna, sweetcorn, eggs or anything else your parents may stockpile in the wash house (or maybe thats just my parents).

I’ll finish this section with a simple recipe of my own devising, although I’m sure its been done before.

Place a chicken leg in a roasting dish, stab some holes in it,  coat it in honey, throw in some chopped onion and roast at 180oC for about 40mins or until it goes brown and crispy. Serve with boiled baby potatoes and some form of veg. Simple.

Take Away/Eating out

Don’t.

Unless you have lost the power of your hands there is no valid reason not to cook your own meals. It’s cheaper, rewarding and a lot healthier than carryout.  Of course I wouldn’t invite everyone round to mine for spag bol on special occasions but the less you eat out the more you will appreciate it (well that’s what my mum always says).

Snacks and softdrinks

Again don’t.

Fill up on decent meals at mealtimes and you won’t need to snack. I have sensitive teeth so I cant really eat sweets that much anyway (not that im recommending you get sensitive teeth). As for softdrinks, whats wrong with re-filling a bottle with tap water. If you must then bulk buy when they are on offer in supermarkets and DONT DRINK THEM ALL AT ONCE Mr Boyd.

 

End of part one.

If you agree/disagree or have any other points related to this post please comment.

In the next part I will cover transport, accomodation, mobile phones and whatever else I can think of.

Web Design Project

I have just finished a website I was working on for a client, the client in question  being Hillside Community Church in Ballymena. This is my girlfriend Louise’s church and she was the official person I had to deal with to develop the site. Talk about nightmare clients She was a great client, very efficient at pointing out things that needed fixing and emailing me seven pages of changes. Seriously though she was very good at getting me the content for the site in really good time, which helped a lot. (@Louise happy now? I have mentioned you by name in my blog)

As well as the site design I had to go one Sunday during a service to get some generic photographs for the site, people milling around, praise, outside etc.

Anyway the point is go and have a wee look and tell me what you think, I’m hoping to use the experience from this to help with a larger project I have coming up soon.

People with no interest in web design look away now.

I was mostly given free reign with the design of the site and designed the site from a blank page up. I find this allows for more creative designs as you are not limiting yourself by technology.

Developed initial idea
Developed initial idea

From the drawings, the site was then built up in Adobe Illustrator to create high quality mock-ups to show the client.

High quaility mockup to show the client.
High quality mock-up to show the client.

Once the design was finalized it was split into individual images and marked up in Dreamweaver CS3, hand coding XHTML and CSS.

I used Dreamweaver as it has built in FTP and can update links globally if pages are moved around, although I find it doesn’t display CSS layouts properly.
PHP includes were used for the navigation and the site was tested using Wamp server and tested in Firefox 3, Opera 9, Google Chrome, IE7 and IE 6. I didn’t test for Safari as I don’t have a mac (yet) although if it works in Firefox it will work in Safari.

I am aware that some of the pages don’t validate on the W3C validator, I will fix this if I have time. Though as the problems don’t affect the sites performance or appearance I may or may not fix it. The CSS validates though.

Freshers Fayre

So I went along, as usual to the Freshers Fayre at Uni to see what free goodies I could get my hands on.
Heres the spoils of the day.

I managed to get my hands on:

  • Academic dairy.
  • Scribble pad.
  • Two sets of earplugs.
  • Microsoft branded mints.
  • Microsoft branded highlight.
  • Stress ball from MDS Pharma Services.
  • Keyring from the students union.
  • Tea bag from Christain AID.
  • Five headed highlighter.
  • Tin of beans from the Church of Ireland chaplaincy.
  • Tin of beans from some bank.
  • Mini Nutty Crust loaf of bread.
  • Packet of Bikers.
  • Jelly Beans.
  • Energy drink.

Not bad for being free.

In other news the cable for the electric window in my car broke as I was driving home from Uni on Tuesday and the window slid down into the door as I sailed down the motorway at 70MPH.
Had a major headache by the time I got back home with the wind blowing in.
Ripped off the door panel and temporarily fixed the window up with a USB cable until I can get it fixed properly.

Crawling Back

Right I am finally bored enough to update this poor neglected blog, guess I better fill you in on my Summer from about July onwards.

To be honest my summer this year was pretty rubbish as far as summers go, I worked every single week and the nearest I got to a Holiday was going to Swansae for two days. I am very much glad to be back at Uni so I can get a break.

We got our house in Belfast sorted on charming Donegal Avenue or as I like to call the neighbourhood “The Murder Zone” oh and Chopper is a Tout as is Jamsie but I digress.

Living with me this year are William Barr who is working as an Animator at a production in Belfast,  Andrew Boyd who is working as a programmer for a software company, Adam Turtle who is going into final year in Interactive Multimedia Design and Lee Kilfedder who studies computer science and works part time for a software company.

So a right house of geeks.

Should be good.

We had a BBQ last night and at the end I poured some out of date milk onto the BBQ to put it out. Gagged on the fumes and fled inside the house to watch the foul steam rise.

Later Lee went into his room to discover the stinky steam had floated in his window.

His room now has the distinctive smell of burnt pungent cheese.

HeHe :p

After getting the house in Belfast I decided to try and get a job in Belfast and live in the house as otherwise it would be a waste of money. Dandered into Jessops in Belfast on the off chance that they had jobs going. I was offered a 30hour contract on the spot as it turned out they were losing nearly half their staff that week. So that worked out alright.
I left Spar and have been in Jessops for the past seven weeks. It took about a week to get re-used to the hecticness (that a word?) of the place.
Now I’m back at Uni and have cut my hours down to six a week on a Wednesday because I want to concentrate on building up a portfolio in my spare time.

I don’t know how much I will enjoy Uni this semester as we have a stupid Visual Basic module again. I really don’t understand why they think it is any use to teach us a ten year old program when they could easily upgrade.

Anyway that’s pretty much my summer, I shall try and keep this blog better updated.

Oh and I’m off coffee, again.

Belfast Colour



Belfast Colour, originally uploaded by stevieni.

I shall update this soon with a longer post about what I have been up to lately. In the meanwhile I’m testing Flickrs “post to blog” feature, here is the view out the back of my house in Belfast. Its four images stitched together, going to sit out some day and do it again with the train.

My Ambition in Life- A Response

This post is a response to a post on Harrison’s blog titled “What is your ambition in life?” go read it to get the whole picture, although this quote mostly sums up what it is about.

“I may be on my own on this but does anyone else feel that ambition is sometimes lacking in the Christian community? Not publicly in sermons or from preachers rhetoric but by individuals in their own unique situation. It can produce thoughts of climbing ladders, reaching above your means, trampling on people and putting yourself first. Do these thoughts have to go hand in hand with ambition?”

Rather than try and argue a particular thought, I am responding with an example from my own life in which I guess I “discovered” my ambition, or at least a rough direction I would like my life to go career wise.

Never being someone who plans (or wants to plan) too far ahead I’ve found that usually when my life needs to take a different direction I’ve received fairly clear guidiance at the points I need it.

The biggest example of this is the story behind whhy I am not currently about to go into final year of Technology with Design, instead I am now doing IMD (Interactive Multimedia Design).

In some ways it is a bit of a Jonah story because at one point I knew what way I needed to go but through a combination of, just not seeing the point in a lot of school work (call it laziness if you want) and a not so helpful careers department at school, I picked what I thought was easier. But ended up back were I was meant to be anyway, kinda funny.

That doesn’t makes much sense, so here’s what I thought would be the brief story behind it.

From getting my first computer till about fourth and fifth year in school I developed an interest in a number of things.

Websites, helped by Harrison (remember the old camp sites Harrison?.

Image manipulation (remember the spoof B-Movies posters from teen camp?)

Animation-I painstakingly created a 2 min stop motion animation instead of doing G.C.S.E revision.

Flash- Did a terrible splash page animation for a desktop wallpapers website I made.

Illustration and graphic design- I made loads of desktop wallpapers and designed posters for the Butchers I worked in at the time.

Photography- I got my first digital camera and developed an interest in Photography.

3D Modelling- Taught myself basic use of a 3D package.

Now all of the above are taught in my current course IMD, so how the heck did I end up doing Technology with Design at Uni, a subject which had about one module a year that I actually was any good at and scraping 40s in every single exam.

I think it was a combination of things really.
Firstly I wasn’t aware that a course existed that allowed you do do all of the above. I thought it was just Web Design, or just Animation, I blame the careers department for this. So I decided that Computer Science was the way forward.

Also due to the snobby attitude in my school towards the more vocational University of Ulster and people who went there, I didn’t even go to the open day.
After all at this point I wanted to go a real University like Queens and do computer science.
One Queens Computer Science department tour later and I decided in no way was it for me.

Doing ICT for A-level further put me off doing any computer based course as it was two boring years of learning Microsoft Office.
In fact I hated it so much I did no work in upper sixth, instead played flash games in every class.
I ended up submitting my coursework from the year previous as my A-level work, just changed the title.
How I even got a C I have no idea.

When it came to picking courses for University I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do and just made choices that matched my A-level subjects (which I had picked because they were the subjects I enjoyed the most at G.C.S.E).

Biology (which I enjoyed but wasn’t that good at)
ICT (because it was fun at G.C.S.E and I got a A* in it.
Technology and Design (which I enjoyed and thought I was good at)

From these I applied for Computer Science, Business Information Technology, Technology with Design, Zoology, Primary school teaching, Secondary School teaching Technology.

Yes I was so confused I even toyed with being a teacher, even did two days work shadowing in  my old primary school were I was told I was “born to be a teacher”.

Ironicly I was the most use during this work shadowing when I was designing worksheets for the kids on the class computer.
A terrible interview at Stranmillis (teaching college),  put an end to that notion.

Eventually I just picked Technology with Design because it was the easiest to get into, requiring CC at A-Level.

A year of not doing much work later and I was on my way to University of Ulster, Jordanstown campus having convinced myself that Technology was the course for me.

Convincing myself was something I did a lot the year and a half I did the course and it was partially the realisation that I was deceiving myself that led me to rethink things.

Anyway in first year I lived in a student flat about two kilometers from the University. A combination of not getting sleep, general apathy, a lack of transport and lots of rain meant that I missed a lot of classes and made the course seem harder as a result.
As I was finding it tough I really didn’t enjoy the course but convinced myself that the only reason I wasn’t enjoying it was because I had missed too much of the course and convinced myself that second year would be better. (breath)

Second year came and I was in a house in Belfast with friends and had no excuse for not enjoying the course but this time I hated it. The maths stuff went straight over my head, I hated the precise manufacturing drawings, the electrical and mechanical engineering and did rubbish in all the modules, this time even failing some.
One of the guys I was living with was the guitar welding, ginger haired Mr Adam Turtle who was studying Interactive Multimedia Design (IMD) at Jordanstown.  All though the year I started to realise that I would have been much better suited to do IMD.

However a year and a half into a degree is a bad time to realise you made the wrong choice and for a while convinced myself Technology would get better. That and I knew my parents would be pretty upset if I changed course, they did take some convincing in the end.

Technology didn’t get better and I got more miserable (yes I know I complain a lot).
Eventually I started praying about it and reading my bible more, which to be honest was something I should have done three years previous when deciding my University courses.

At the same time I started to investigate the possibility of switching courses so late in the day. Several phone calls and emails later and I had a rough idea of how to go about changing the course.

Although at this stage I still wasn’t sure that I was wanting to go through with it, a part of me was wanting to avoid the hassle of changing course and besides I might not enjoy IMD anyway.
One night while I was really tying to decided to go ahead with it or not I came across the verse,

Proverbs 16:3 (New Living Translation)

3 Commit your actions to the Lord,
and your plans will succeed.

Although I know that Proverbs should be taking in context as just good advice, this verse just jumped out at me and my heart was pounding (honestly was, not just saying that to be dramatic).
To me that verse was Gods promise that I was doing the right thing to change course. I stopped worrying and made the decision to go ahead and didn’t look back.

It wasn’t easy to change course at the time I did, to even get into the course I had to prove myself as my A-level grades were not high enough so I spent about two months doing about a years worth of IMD coursework on my own using notes off the IMD university website.

Thankfully the portfolio impressed the interviewers and they let me in.

My other problem was money as the student loans company didn’t look favourably on me and withdrew my last loan installment. This meant that four months of house rent had to come out of an ever increasing overdraft, which I’m still trying to pay off.
This year they gave me a smaller loan and made me pay fees out of it which meant I had to live at home for a year and work 20 hours a week in a part-time job to afford to be able to run a car to drive to Uni. (Public transport wasn’t an option as there just isn’t a good enough network from home, would never have made it to 9am classes).
Thankfully everything financial should be back to normal next year but I’m going to owe a fortune, lets hope I get a well paid placement.

A year on and I’ve finished first year of IMD and got the best results I’ve seen since my G.C.S.Es, only one result was under 70.

Areas covered in first year of my course include:

Websites- We had to keep a blog website of all our work throughout the year as well as design a CV website.

Image manipulation-We did a module in Photoshop and designed posters for Translink, these posters were entered into a (PR stunt) competition by Translink out of which I came third.

Animation-I animated some characters for the flash project as well as some 3D .

Flash- We had to create a flash website for a movie, mine was on Spongebob Squarepants.

Illustration and graphic design- I had a module at the Art college in Belfast entitled “An Introduction to Communication design” and I hand drew all the artwork for the Spongebob website.

Photography- We did a photography module at the art college second semester, where at the group critique my work received the comment “some of the best photographs I’ve seen in three years of this module” . Which for me was a huge boost as I rarely did any praiseworthy work while in school.

3D Modelling- I re-created the end of the first Starwars movie using 3D text for a typography video project for my design module. YouTube link to the video.

Yes I did just copy and paste the section from the top of the post and edit it.

Un flipping believable, still kicking myself when I realise how much of a directional black-hole the last two years of school became for me.
If you had asked me in fifth year what I wanted to do, I would have listed off the above but somehow I lost the will to work and didn’t really care about what I ended up doing.
But regardless, that’s what I ended up doing.

God does indeed have a sense of ironic humour.

One thought that comes back to me is that perhaps I was too immature to be going in the right direction and I needed two years of harsh reality to wise me up a bit. Because there’s no way I would have worked very hard in first year of IMD had I started it in 2005.
On the ambition side of things (to get back on topic) I have found myself wanting to work and wanting to do really well and succeed, to the point of making sure I was in at least the top ten in the year in all the modules (there’s about eighty five students in the course).

Its a new experience for me to be doing something I really enjoy and am good at, that drive was sorely lacking in most of my subjects at school.
I’m not trying to boast, just saying how I now feel about things and if I’m honest I could have done better in a few modules.

I feel that God has given me a second chance at this career thing, he has guided me to a place were I am actually using the gifts I have been given.
I feel that I seriously owe him to do well at it.
Could that be a bad thing?
I dunno, maybe if it gets to the point were I am making my own decisions again without looking for guidance first.

As for my ambitions for the future, I hope to get a placement in the Industry in 2009 in Northern Ireland, graduate in 2011 with a good result.
After that I hope to get a job in a design company for a few years learning the ropes, and would like someday to go out on my own starting my own design company with friends.

Or course it all depends if that’s what God wants for me, if it isn’t I’ll either find out the easy way by making sure my relationship with God is in good shape.

Or if I start to think I can do it on my own, then I’ve no doubt I’ll get a wake up call to bring me back again.

As for how I can serve God with my career ambitions, there’s no end of possibilities as far as multimedia goes. In fact a certain animator friend has plans to be involved in creating short videos for kids with a Christian message. I would love to be involved in something like that.

But we shall see won’t we.

Another verse in Proverbs 16 really sums up how I feel about ambition.

Proverbs 16:9 (New Living Translation)

9 We can make our plans,

but the Lord determines our steps.

This is probably a good point to thank all my friends to whom I constantly moaned to and complained while trying to make up my mind what to do.  So thanks guys you have no idea how helpful you were.
Especially big thanks to my girlfriend Louise who had troubles of her own to deal with while all this was going on, she was a major support.

Hmm well this is my official first proper pretentious serious post, its also nearly 2500 words long, think I deserve a medal.

Spar Fun

I was so bored at work the other night that I got a pen, a piece of
paper and a box of porridge to lean on and walked around the shop
writing out a list.

:-p

After that I went and stocked out the ultimate product.

ALL HAIL SUPREME PEAS!

Pity the blind ones though.

Oh and speaking of which.

After
Harrison suggested that I use a potato as Calvins best friend, what
should I find at work but an oddly shaped potato that was just asking
for some fancy graphical enhancement.

This
adorable chap has since been adopted by the hot-food counter cook
Linda,  who hadn’t the heart to peel him and named him Wilson.
However
this has caused some concern among the staff as she can regularly be
heard talking to Wilson and referring to him as “my only friend”. We
fear it is just a matter of time before he rots or is lost at sea and
when those chips are down, someone will indeed be saying “sorry” to
Wilson.

Do you hate going to the loo at work?  Because I sure do.

It’s
cramped, cold, the hot water never works, you occasionally get locked
in by the old trolley under the door handle ploy and the one occasion
when you have irritable bowels this happens.

Stock Photography

I have decided to make an attempt at stock photography, that is producing images with a general theme that could be used by people on websites or on publications or where ever else generic images are required.

Sites such as istockphoto or bigstockphoto allow you to set up an account through which you can sell your images.

Every time an image is downloaded you get paid between a few pence to a couple of quid depending on the image size required. So a decent stock of images, which would require some initial work would then stay on the site making you money.

That said, it’s actually quite hard to get your images onto these sites as they are quite specific about what sorts of images they will use.
Most of the photographs on my Flickr would not be considered useful for stock images so this is new ground for me.

Corporate images as well as images on clean white backgrounds are popular and as I am not going to go hire models for corporate images the latter is what I am going for.

To this end I have build myself a miniature studio complete with an off camera flash setup and two lamps.

I built this in the garden shed from scrap bits of wood that were lying around.I cut a piece of chipboard in half and glued and screwed it together to form the base and back.
Two pieces of plywood were used for the sides and the joins all taped over with masking tape so that they wouldn’t show in images.
A block of wood with a slit in it was attached to the top for holding a basic reflector made from a cereal box and tin foil.
The inside of the box was sprayed with multiple layers of white paint.
The lamps I bought in Poundstrechers for £3.49 each and each has a 60watt bulb, I also made diffusers for these with grease paper.
The off camera flash is a old vivitar flash I had lying around and is triggered by a weak flash from the camera using a photo slave cell (basically a wee box that clips onto the flash which makes it fire when it detects another flash).

The whole setup cost me less than £15 to make.

I haven’t experimented with the lamps setup much yet but using the Flash with the the “studio” allows me to take nearly shadowless images of objects or ones with nice soft shadows.

This is pretty much the image out of the camera with the colours adjusted slightly.

My next step is to learn how to use this set up well to produce images that people will want to buy , get them uploaded and hopefully watch the money trickle in.
I see this as more of a benefit to me than trying to make money from selling big prints of landscapes or portraits as I will be able to add “Stock Photographer” to my CV when trying to get a job in multimedia.

Any ideas for good images are very very welcome as that is the hardest part, read this for what sort of images are required .

Please note that I am not limiting myself to only images shot within my mini studio so I am open to a wide range of ideas. Oh and thanks to Louise for her list.

Here is my list of ideas so far to give you an idea:

  • Butterfly.
  • Hands.
  • Keyboard.
  • Sihouettes.
  • Bullseye.
  • Wet spider web.
  • Marbles.
  • Whistle.
  • Dice and counters.
  • Paperclips.
  • Sugar Cubes.
  • Pasta.
  • Fruit.

Happy Birthday to me.

Well it is in about 10 days time anyway.

But of course not being one with a lot of patience I went and got my birthday present early and am hoping that my family and friends all give me a little something towards it because otherwise I cant really justify buying it. Especially after weeks of me constantly complaining about being broke.

<–well what did you buy num nuts?–>

Oh right yeah, sorry.

I bought myself an Olympus E-420 digital SLR, as a dual lens kit with a 14-42mm lens and a 40-150mm lens. (For those into photography that gives me in 35mm terms 28-300mm coverage)

I have been following the progress of this particular model for some months now. One of the things that had been stopping me from buying a D-SLR before, apart from cost, was the fact that they tended to be big and heavy. This camera on the other hand is the worlds smallest digital SLR, using a special system designed for digital that allows it to have much smaller lenses than used by other brands.

At some point I hope to get the 25mm f2.8 prime lens that Olympus released with the camera as this lens makes it small enough to fit in a pocket.

Now thats sexy.

<–you find a camera sexy? think there’s a phrase for that, “electrophile” or something–>

Heres a couple of pics I snapped with my new camera.

Daisys out in our front garden. (warning technical stuff)  Shot this with a standard wide-angle zoom lens using a close-up adaptor.
This meant I was able to focus closer but still have the wide-angle of the lens allowing me to capture more background detail. Unlike using a macro lens which would have limited the field of view. Shot it in RAW converted to TIFF in Olympus Studio and edited in Photoshop(technical stuff over). Thanks to Practical Photography mag for the idea.

Another cat pic, I would take more pictures of our dog but its near impossible to get her to stay in the one place.

Need to make me a reflector.

Keep checking out my Flickr page as now I have an SLR I intend to dabble in a wider range of photography areas.

Anyway  back to my non photography world.

I finished Uniabout six weeks ago and since then have been working in Spar over thirty hours a week and thanks to some annoying five hour shifts and a lot of evening shifts I have had very few completely free days. Thankfully last week and next week to rota is better with me working full shifts the days I’m on, which gave me a couple of full days off.

Discovered that I am surprisingly better at the early morning shifts (7am-3pm) which being a night person surprised me.

In the free time I have over the summer I have a few projects I hope to work on.

  • Three possible websites, one of these being a revamp of my SteveDesign site as I dont really like it.
  • Learning to use Joomla, an open source Content Management System (CMS).
  • Learn Visual Basic 6 as I sure didn’t learn it in the module we did this year and its one of our first modules next year and I’d like to know what I’m doing this time.
  • Improve my photography and perhaps figure out a way of actually making money from it.
  • Create an online comic using photography in the style of Violent Veg.

So far I have created one character, and thats Calvin the blind pea, although he will have a good friend called John who is yet to be invented.

Well I’m off to work in jolly old Spar.