I'm sure I'm not the only one who has brought a camera and given up on it for being too complicated. It's taken lockdown to get me to dust off my DSLR and make friends with it. If you have an unused camera I invite you to read on.

In a flurry of optimism back in 2018 I wanted to learn how to take "proper shots", so I brought an Olympus Camera. Though my photography skill levels with my iPhone were not too shabby but as soon as I picked up my new camera I felt like a complete novice, totally lost, as if I had never taken a picture in my life. The shots I took were mostly dreadful. I found the menu confusing, the lens too restrictive and I soon tired of downloading the photos to my phone to edit. I gave up and returned to the comfort zone of my phone camera and VSCO to get the look I liked.

It was just too easy to go back to my phone, it takes amazing shots, is easy to get on with, reliable, undemanding and always there when I needed. What's not to like? Nothing, but for me now it's become a little bit boring.

My phone has been great for learning how to compose shots but now I want to see if I can create different types of shots with a camera and get to know more about the fundamentals of photography.





 


To start I needed to do a bit of background work before picking up the camera again. I fished out my old pile of 'Practical Photography' magazines, 'Read this if you want toTake Great Photographs' book and got a PROPER manual .

When I brought my camera it came with a very basic manual and the option to look up online a fuller version. Using the latter is not easy as you need to skip back and forth from page to page and there are a LOT of pages .

Step forward OTC Manuals . This small company print camera and phone spiral bound manual copies at a reasonable price (around £13). I found it much easier to navigate than the online version . I will share the link to the site at the end of the blog .

My bedtime reading is now sorted .


 

First steps were to remind myself of all the different settings, as well as all the different parts of the camera body .

I found a handy short cut button on far left of the camera to switch in and out of different options when in ART and SCN modes.

I reacquainted myself with the viewfinder adjuster - very handy if you wear glasses to make the display more accessible .

Some recommend beginners to stay on Auto to get familiar with their camera and to use one lens for a year. I liked this idea and "rested" on this option, but it didn't inspire me enough to stop taking shots with my iPhone.



 

Next was to tackle a self portrait. I really hate having my photo taken, I am happiest taking shots of buildings , but to get out of my photography rut I thought I would try something different, a self portrait. I choose to do this via a mirror. That way no Tripod or self timer would be required. Nice and simple .

The bathroom has white walls with an overhead window for light.

I used the SCN Mode and ART Filters.

ART filters are my favourite. I had previously read to dismiss them immediately as they are cr*p , so that's just what I done. I'm really glad I decided to give them a try again as I love them ! It depends why you are taking shots I guess as to whether you think they are relevant to you, or even cr*p, but for fun I would suggest giving them all a try .


Gentle Sepia is soft and really flattering for portraits and gives a great mood for all types of shots.

It creates a high-quality image by drawing out shadows and softening the overall image .

Now I want to take some Architectural Shots with this one to see how it works with bricks instead of faces .


 


The Vintage Filter II is in the above shot, this creates a nice moody shot and would be good for Instagram shots. It a nice cool tone effect and a soft focus . I can imagine coffee shop shots would look really good with these ones .

There are three variations of this filter, each giving everyday shots a nostalgic, vintage tone using printed film discolouration . I like the tones and again the softness of the images makes it a flattering choice for portraits .


 

This is one of the Pin Hole filters. They remind me of 1920's and 1930's movie shots. There are also three variations for this one, the idea is that it creates an image that looks as though it was taken with an old or toy camera by dimming the perimeter . The edge of the mirror adds to this effect.

 

SCN Mode - People. This one is great to use for portraits, it's easy to find and select, and gives a really nice result . I now use this regularly for family shots.

And this one too ...

I was surprised by the detail of the dog's fur from this lens, I wasn't sure if the SCN People option would be good for a dog , but I was pleased with the result.


I used a 45m lens for all shots, except cafe shot which was iPhone.


 

I really have enjoyed shooting with my camera so much more now. I have gained some understanding of how to work with it. If you have a forgotten camera that you gave up on like me, check if you've got a full manual or a basic. If it is just on line you may want to get one printed. For me it has made all the difference to get around the menu system of Olympus which I'm told is notorious for being comprehensive.

There is also a lot of supporting information out there . Olympus Image Space website which has lots of free events, you can even book a free virtual 1-1 hour with an Olympus Guru. I have had one of these one in person when got my camera, it was really informative .

You-Tube is great for free tutorials, I just put my camera or lens into the search bar . Warning though - it's easy to get lost just watching and not shooting. .


 

I am really just at the beginning of learning more about photography and would love to share more with you on this blog as I go, what I find works , and what doesn't, how to get different types of shot from a camera than a phone shot. It takes a bit of time to get around the full menu options, but it's rewarding. I've really liked the results and I've have not done a single edit to any the shots on this blog post which has been really nice as I usually spend a fair bit of time editing shots for Instagram.


 

Useful links ~


Hive is an online seller that gives back to independent book shops. A percentage of each sale goes direct to an Independent Book Shop, you can even choose which from a list .


The link below is for the book I mentioned in this blog post . A good guide to basic photo techniques and settings on any camera.


https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Henry-Carroll/Read-This-if-You-Want-to-Take-Great-Photographs/15349396


Olympus Image Space is a hub for blog, events (lots are free) , photography tips and tricks

https://www.olympus-imagespace.co.uk


Printed Camera Manuals

https://www.camera-manual.com


Olympus shop, watch out for seasonal offers

https://shop.olympus.eu/en_GB/index.html


I was gifted the 45m by Olympus but under no obligation to post anything.

All views are my own and unbiased.

 




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Deal is one of the prettiest towns on the Kent coast and currently a bit of a hotspot attracting day-trippers, staycation holiday makers and homebuyers. It even made it to a Sunday Times feature as one of Best Places to Live in the UK ( March 2020). We took a flying visit last weekend to see why it is so popular .

 
Dog walker on at Deal Beach in Kent with Pier in background.
Day Trip to Deal on the Kent Coast .
 

Arriving early we bagged a great parking spot on the seafront. Parking is £1.30 per hour, alternatively some local roads in offer free parking on Sundays.

https://www.dover.gov.uk/Transport,-Streets--Parking/Parking/Parking-in-Deal.aspx

From London St Pancras fast trains run to Deal taking just 83mins making it a perfect seaside day trip from London.

https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/deal

We considered a walk we had seen on the Discovering Britain website . This free downloadable coastal walk takes in Walmer and Deal Castles. The walk includes most of must see sites in the area and helpfully stops for refreshments along the way .

As we had our 14 year old Bichon in tow we decided to stick to Deal and save the walk for another day.

https://www.discoveringbritain.org/activities/south-east-england/walks/walmer-and-deal.html

 
People taking a walk along Deal Pier, Pastel Buildings, Seagull flying across the blue sky .
Deal Pier

Refreshments in Deal

We were drawn across to Deal Pier as dogs are not permitted on the beach from 9am - 8pm from 1 May - 30th September. This Grand Dame recently celebrated her 60th Birthday and was treated to a £1.1million renovation.

At the end of the pier is the award winning Deal Pier Kitchen. Beware though, it is very popular and there is no booking system . You just need to turn up and queue - I’m advised it is well worth waiting . If you don’t want to wait there is also the newly opened DPK shack offering takeaway home made sausage rolls, ice cream, drinks and cakes.

https://dealpierkitchen.com

https://www.dover.gov.uk/Leisure-Culture-Tourism/Leisure-Facilities/Deal-Pier/History.aspx

Alternatively you may enjoy the cosiness of the Pop Cafe in the High Street. This cute cafe is renowned for great coffee and freshly baked on the premises sour dough bread. Don’t be fooled by the name, this isn't a temporary pop-up, the cafe has just celebrated it’s 8th Birthday !

https://www.popupcafe.co.uk

Or how about some home made Ice Cream? The Sicilian is highly recommended by locals for it’s authentic Sicilian food, brilliant pizza, and delicious gelato.

https://www.facebook.com/thetruetasteofsicily/

No seaside trip is complete without fish and chips. Deal has some great chippies, we had been recommended to The Middle Street Fish Bar, but it is closed on Sundays. The Seaview was open with a long line of hungry people waiting to be served so I am assuming it must also be good too !

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Fish---Chips-Restaurant/Sea-View-Fish-Restaurant-103491324715742/

https://www.yell.com/biz/middle-street-fish-bar-deal-6365526/

 

Historic Deal

Next we headed across to the Conservation Area. This area is very special, the way it has been preserved reminds me very much of Spitalfields in London. Walking through these evocative streets feel as if you are stepping back in time . The area is a filming location and has been seen in Little Dorrit, Ruby Blue and Legacy. Deal featured most recently in the ITV Drama Liar.

 

In 1968 the Middle Street area was designated as Kent’s first conservation area. Boasting 18th century houses and a few timber-framed cottages from the 17th century, it looks much as it did in Nelson’s time. The conservation area has since been extend, there are helpful signs around Deal to guide you while you explore.

The buildings are fortunately still standing having survived threat from war clearance in 1947, modernisation in the 1960's and later a new road . They survive due to local people who fought to save this area from demolition and who now work hard to maintain these historic buildings.

You can find out more from

https://www.thedealsociety.org.uk


 


Pub Life

There are lots of great pubs to discover in Deal, some them offer accommodation.

The Royal Hotel was a favourite of Lord Nelson and Charles Hawtree (remembered by a blue plaque in Middle Street.) The Kings Head is a stunner with an impressive floral facade, and has 14 rooms for bed and breakfast guests .

Perhaps I should consider a future blogpost on the pubs in the area ?

https://www.theroyalhotel.com

http://www.kingsheaddeal.co.uk


The Rose Hotel The Rose Hotel is a former pub in the High Street. It can be seen occasionally on Instagram quietly showing off swoon worthy accommodation. With a former Wallpaper Magazine Design Editor and her Husband at the helm it’s no surprise that this place is so cool . There is now also top notch food with a menu designed by Chiltern Firehouse's Nuno Mendes as seen last weekend in The Sunday TimesMagazine.

This Hotel is truly a hidden gem.

http://www.therosedeal.com/?fbclid=IwAR0_4QoVpd0vx7YkPFIMI_7Eu-WcQ-kS_Sl2BJf1GdlDywYHiwwUkPHsV8E

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-rose-deal-review-kent-mlv72fdzz

 

Shopping

One of the many things that makes the town so special is the award winning Deal High Street with it's independent shops, restaurants and cafes . Currently some have restricted opening hours or maybe shut due to the impact of Covid -19. It is advisable to check opening times before visiting.

September is usually the time for Deal Braderie . This popular annual antiques and collectable Brocant style market stretches along the High Street bringing traders from all over the country. This year due to Covid -19 the market was cancelled, along with the Deal Arts and Music Festival in June .

The Saturday Market is currently still open and is the place where locals meet to stock up with all the usual essentials - fruit, vegetables, flowers and eggs etc. There is also a very popular furniture, bric a brac and antiques section where you may even spot a local celebrity shopping .

https://www.instagram.com/mrs_lang1/?hl=en

https://hoxtonstore.com

https://www.instagram.com/123highstreetdeal/?hl=en

 

I hope you have enjoyed this trip to Deal and maybe even feel inspired to visit yourself one day ?

I plan to return to visit both Walmer Castle and Deal Castle. I will make sure I take a longer walk along the coastline ~ without my elderly dog !

 

Image Credits :

The RoseHotel - Instagram | Deal Seafront - The Sunday Times

Deal Pier - Kent Life Magazine

Deal Pier Kitchen - DPK Instagram | Pop Up Cafe - Pop Up Cafe Instagram

The RoseHotel - Instagram | Deal Pier - Kent Life Magazine | Market - @mrs_lang1

All other images are my own .

Thank you to Mrs Lang for helping with local knowledge for this blogpost .


 



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The Ritz always does such a lovely job of Afternoon Tea and in these difficult times it proved itself once again with world class service, food and hospitality.

The Hotel had only recently reopened after closing doors for the first time in its 114 year history and it has implemented the changes seamlessly to adapt to the rules around social distancing and dining out .

I had recently watched the ITV Documentary on The Ritz, so when I got the chance to go for tea I couldn't say no. This was my first trip back into London since February, I was a bit apprehensive about travelling by public transport , but the train thankfully wasn't busy. All the people travelling on my train wore face masks and kept to the 2m rule.

I noticed immedialty I arrived into London that it had a very different atmosphere, so much quieter, and there seemed to be a lot of building work taking place . On my way to the hotel I passed tourists spots that would usually be packed in August but now were virtually empty .





I was a bit nervous about eating out but reassured immediately as my first sight of The Ritz was of the doorman wearing a face mask and his assistant cleaning the stair rail . I was given a friendly welcome and advised I could decide for myself to wear a face covering or not. Once in the lobby my temperature was taken and full contact details provided. Next I was then asked to use the hand sanitiser before heading into the restaurant area . All staff wore face coverings and the waiters also wore gloves whilst serving guests. There was a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Everything the same as usual, but just very slightly different .



The Palm Court was as beautiful as I remembered. In 1906 Mr Ritz designed the restaurant "with women in mind" and insisted the glass ceilinged room was decorated with pastel colours and the most flattering lighting. He insisted on a peachy pink glow as he thought this would actually help women look more beautiful. It certainly is a very pretty room, and I bet that many men as women have appreciated his thoughtful attention to detail over the years. I noticed that plenty of the guests were taking advantage of the beautiful lighting to take photos of themselves .

Once we were seated we choose our tea from the eighteen on offer. The Ritz Royal Blend, Kenyan, Assam and Ceylon Orange Pekoe, very light and refreshing . Later we tried Sparkling Tea from Copenhagen Organic Sparkling Tea Company . It's a new non alcoholic alternative to champagne , truly delicious, a nice unexpected addition to the afternoon tea menu .

Cakes could not be brought out on an open trolley due to the current situation, so these arrived on a platter. The Victoria sponge with cherry jam was unforgettable ...

Finally time for the scones, jam and cream. My routine is the cream first, I always seem to end up asking for extra jam ! No problem with that here, they happily filled our pot with plenty more. I managed just one scone as I was so full of sandwiches, but no regrets as they were exceptionally good .

After going back on public transport, shopping and eating out I feel much more confident to return to London.

Afternoon Tea is served daily at The Ritz 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm, 5;30pm and 7:30pm .

I was invited to The Ritz by my friend Emma Little London Whispers as her plus one, but I was under no obligation to review or share anything from this experience.

All views are my own and unbiased .


For more information and bookings

https://www.theritzlondon.com/dine-with-us/afternoon-tea/

The Copenhagen Sparkling Tea is available on line from

https://www.fortnumandmason.com/copenhagen-sparkling-tea-gron-5-abv

Emma Little London Whispers Monthly Super Seven list of things to do in London

https://www.littlelondonwhispers.com/category/super-seven/