Emperor tamarin drinking

A day out at the zoo

I’d only been to London Zoo once before. It was for Zoo Lates. I turned up very, very late. So late in fact that most of the animals had gone to bed. All I managed see were the penguins. When a friend of mine suggested we should go to zoo, I jumped at the chance at trying to shoot the animals. I made the rookie mistake of not charging my battery which promptly ran the butterfly enclosure and alas, I did not have a spare. I did, however, have my Samsung phone and with a bit of Instagram magic; ta-da:

As an animal lover, I have mixed feelings about zoos. On one hand, I much prefer them in the wild, however, zoos can be the only place where we can conserve them and rescue those back from the brink of extinction. It is believed that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year. Although this may not seem a lot, we all depend on the world around us to survive. For example, if krill (tiny crustaceans that whales and penguins eat) were to become extinct then the animals which the krill support will die, and so it goes up the food chain. Add climate change and the destruction of habitats, we are now on the verge of the sixth extinction crisis.

London Zoo, like may zoos across the world, run conservation programmes to protect and preserve many of our endangered species. This is why I didn’t have a problem going to this zoo. Not only do they show the animal kingdom to us in a way so we don’t become tiger food, they teach us about the destruction we are creating and the steps we can take to limit this.





Harbour Bridge

Going to The Land Down Under

I didn’t mean to go to Australia for the third time. As a general rule, I don’t go back to countries that I’ve already visited. The exception is Salzburg, Austria – not to be confused with Australia – of course. I lived there for a semester (Austria that is) while I was at university. I haven’t been back since 2002 but I have been meaning too. Australia, however, seems to have an invisible pull that I didn’t realise was there.

The first time I went to Oz was when I was 19, my first backpacking experience. Let lose and fancy free, I drunk my around the country. I first started in Perth, Greyhound bussed it to Adelaide before hopping on the green Oz Experience bus that took me up through the middle and then down the well trodden route of the East Coast.

The second time was when I was 24, which was my stop off point to make some money before continuing through New Zealand then South America before heading home. I was on a round-the-world trip that started in Moscow, Russia and ending in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I ended up living in Melbourne because of U2. The tickets to their gig were sold out in Sydney, but weren’t sold out in Melbourne. So off I went on the Greyhound bus, saw the gig, got a job at a bar and stayed there until I had to leave the country. Melbourne quickly became, and continues to be, my favourite city in the world.

Which brings me onto my most recent trip to the Land Down Under. It was the first proper grown-up holiday I’ve had i.e no hostels, was with my Significant Other Half and less alcohol. Due to my job working at a travel agent, I was lucky enough to stay at a five-star ecolodge that was nestled in the Daintree Rainforest and overlooked the Coral Sea. After chilling out for a few days, we travelled down the East Coast to Fraser Island on the, you’ve guessed it, the Greyhound bus. We joined a tour and was one of the oldest one’s there. Frightening thought considering we’re only in our early 30’s. Still, I enjoyed being with the other backpackers, but soon we were on our way down to Sydney and back to five-star luxury.

We stumbled on the I’m Free Tours, run by the very knowledgeable Justine. I’m not one to over-enthuse about products or services, but I throughly recommend doing one of their walking tours if you’re in the city. You pay what you think the tour is worth. We only had four days in the Sydney and was a great introduction to the sights and history of the city.

Despite visiting Australia for the third time, I’ve yet to travel the West Coast and the Northern Territory. Maybe next time.

Photos taken on my Lumix GX 7.

Cat and acrylic pendant

Syd the cat

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I haven’t taken any photos of note. I’ve dug back into my archives and found these pictures of my mother’s cat – the adorable but ferocious little madam that is Syd.

My mother took Syd in when her owner went back to Australia. A very loved pet, the owner wanted to make sure that Syd was going to be well-looked after. She couldn’t have picked a more giving person. That cat is spoilt! But we all love her even if she can’t use the cat flap to get back into the house (much preferring to sit outside in all weathers until someone i.e my mother opens the back door), screeches at other cats, yet placidly looks at seagulls and only goes out when it’s dark.

Photos taken on my Lumix GX 7.

Oh my Goat!

It was a wet and cold Chinese New Year in London today. Grey the city may be, but Chinatown was awash with the traditional colours of red and gold. The one thing about the rain is that it tends to put people off. That’s not to say it wasn’t busy. It was. Outside of China, London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest.

It’s also a noisy time. Children throw bangers on the ground while the constant thud of drums and cymbals help the lions dance and chase away bad sprits and bring good luck. The Chinese are very superstitious. Before the new year starts, houses must be cleaned from top to bottom. If you clean your house for the first few days of the new year, you’ll sweep away all the new luck.

Chinese New Year is a time for families to get together and eat lots and lots of food, mainly dumplings which is thought top bring prosperity. It’s also a prosperous time for children as they receive ang pows – red enevelopes containing cash – from their relatives. I still do even though I’m a fully grown adult! Red and gold are auspicious colours with red symbolising luck and joy and gold for wealth and prosperity.

So gong hey fat choi to one and all. Happy New Year. I hope the Year of the Goat will be a happy, healthy and prosperous one.

Photos taken on the Panasonic GX7.

Big Ben overlooking the Thames

Houses of Parliament and the London Eye

My Dad has a keen interest in politics and had never visited the Houses of Parliament before. He was up in London to look at my new flat (and gave his seal of approval) so we decided to take the tour. We didn’t realise the tour only runs on the weekend and during recess but could watch a debate on cancer care. Here I was at the heart of democracy and in the very place where the laws of the land are made, where scandals and secrets of outrageous proportions are hushed up and where a king was nearly blown skywards.

On the way to debate we passed through St Stephen’s Hall where the House of Commons used to sit until a fire destroyed the royal chapel in 1834. It’s around the same size of the original chapel (29mx9m) and a lot smaller than the current Chamber where the debates are held. After this point, I wasn’t allowed to take any photos. The general public can come and go as they please and it’s free. We stayed for about an hour.

We rounded off the day with a trip to the London Eye. It’s one of those things to do when in London – I’d been before but not at night. It takes about 30 mins. As we went on a very cold Thursday neither the Houses of Parliament nor the London Eye were very busy so we didn’t have to queue for very long. Our capsule for the Eye wasn’t very full either which meant we had space to walk around (apart from the young Spanish couple snogging heavily which ruined the view a bit).

On a side note – don’t forget to register to vote. We have a collective chance to get our voices heard.

Photos taken on my Lumix GX 7.

Man outside Portrait Gallery playing the bagpipes. Photo by Sarah Rajabalee

Trip into Central London

Last week’s positive response made me pick up my camera and shoot. I’d forgotten how it felt just wandering around with just my camera. I had given myself the assignment of ‘London’ – a wide scope and something easy. I wandered from the West End down to the Portrait Gallery (where I stopped in and had a look at the Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize. Well worth my £3 entry fee) and onto Trafalgar Square.

By the time I had left the Portrait Gallery, it has stopped raining. Photographing after it rained meant I could include the reflections which, for me, makes it more interesting.

Photos taken with the Lumix GX7. 14-42mm lens.

A Decision

It was on the bus tonight that I decided to write something. I thought it would be a bit odd to publish a photo after all this time and I am well aware that I’ve lost most of my followers. No matter. The most important thing for me tonight it to actually publish something.

It has been a very long time since I have written online (barring, of course, Facebook and the odd tweet). In the year and a half-ish since I’ve left, things have changed considerably. WordPress has this new fancy two-step authentication which will let me back onto WordPress if I ever lose my phone. I’ve only half finished as I don’t have a printer. I better not lose my phone!

The other thing that has changed is that I stopped taking photos. I stopped writing. I stopped doing everything that I loved doing. Why? I didn’t know if I enjoyed doing it anymore. I was burnt out and very stressed. I needed to step away. Anxiety sapped my love of anything.

My lack of confidence has plagued my life but not to the point where it has disrupted nearly every aspect of my being. I felt I was a huge failure. For a very long time I thought I was a failure and I carried that every single day which pushed me further down the spiral of negativity. I found that very hard to live with. It paralysed me. I could find no joy in life.

I sought help and I am in the process of putting myself back together again. I’ve wanted to write for a while but it’s hard to put pen to paper – or rather type on WordPress. I’m not sure if I’m ready for the commitment of blogging again but I have the urge to take photos and I believe that if you take photos, it needs to be shared, not locked away on a hardrive. When I mean shared, I mean printed to put into an album, wall or online – somewhere that people or even if it’s just yourself can look at and appreciate the picture

Flicking back through my photos I’ve realised that, actually, they’re not bad. I’m not claiming to be the world’s best photographer, but neither am I the world’s worst photographer. In fact, I decided to print off a huge canvas of this photo and hang it in my new flat to remind me that I can actually take some decent photos.

Burnt down West Pier in Brighton
West Pier, Brighton. Lomo camera. Lomo Redscale film

I was having a look around my other blog that I used to write alongside this photography blog when I rediscovered an old post about turning 30+1. I ended with saying that you should do the things that scare you. So here I am. It is with trepidation that I return to blogging and photography.