Photographer of Families, Small People and Delightful Places, Travel and Lifestyle Writer and Blogger, Lives in Newcastle, Loves the North, Often Accompanied By A Beagle Named Holly Bobbins

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The day we paid 14 euros for a bottle of water, welcome to the South of France!

Nice at Sunset, south of France, the day we paid 14 euros for water, mandy charlton, photographer blogger, writer

Don't get me wrong, the Côte d'Azur is beautiful, it's almost like heaven with azure turquoise seas which you can't believe haven't just been painted into the scene before you but when it comes to paying around 14 euros for a litre of sparkling water I have to question how likely I am to  consider it as a regular holiday destination!!
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

When I asked Abigail earlier in the year where she wanted to go for her holiday this year she said "France" it then unfolded that specifically she'd like to go to the French Riviera, I've since come to think that if someone had told her that it was going to be over 25c every single day she may have rethought that idea and gone somewhere less hot being that she hates the heat, in hindsight she probably would have chosen somewhere less hilly being that she also hates walking long distances up steep hills, retrospect is such a wonderful thing isn't it?
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

On the Monday nearing the end of our first week we hung out at a beach club at Juan de Pins, after paying 40 euros just to lie on a lounger she removed her T-shirt for 10 minutes, let's just say that pale vampiric teens aren't meant for the sun and she still started to burn despite the factor 50, it's no wonder that next year we've booked to go to Norway where it perpetually rains and occasionally reaches 20c.
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

Apart from the hills which were too big, the sun which was too hot, the costs which were too expensive and the breakfasts which meant she had to grace the dining room by 10am in the morning the sunsets were also too late and this meant I was extra demanding wanting to try and catch the golden hour for photography purposes each day, I caught 3 of them during our weeklong stay and that was only after a considerable period of begging.  Parents of teens, if yours is anything like Abigail, don't go to the south of France for your holidays!
Nice, south of France, expensive, French Riviera with a teen, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger

I must say though that despite the 3 hours of not speaking after we had a row and the disagreements which were often we did have times which were as close to wonderful as I've ever imagined, we had a meal down by the harbour in Villefranche sur Mer which was divine, the sun was shining, the food was amazing and for a short while we were best buddies, this was also the day which descended into the 3 hour period of stomping and silence (mostly mine) but hey, when the memories fade I'll always remember that day as the day I finally went to the place where An Affair To Remember was shot.

Abigail and I are vastly different people and because she lives with dad when we spend intense periods of time together we have to learn over and over about how to spend those times together, Abigail is actually one of my favourite people to travel with because she's just so very interested in absorbing all of the culture, she came back disappointed from not having enough French conversations whilst I watched in awe as she navigated her way through southern France whilst I sometimes had no clue what she was talking to the locals about and once or twice they shared jokes about just how bad her mothers French was!

I think it's wrong to expect that every holiday you ever have will be the best holiday ever, it's a lot to live up to and for me, if I'm completely honest, my favourite holiday this year was a bargain break to Mallorca, I'd go back there in an instant, actually I'd go back to Antibes tomorrow if it wasn't so expensive just to live every day, it's no wonder I've been furiously working each hour God sends since I've come back just to try and restore some order to my bank account.  All I brought back with me was a fridge magnet from Monaco because it was just so costly to live every day, almost certainly, it would have been cheaper if I'd favoured wine over water but as many of you know, if I have 1 glass of wine a month I'm somewhat living on the edge.

I've sworn off France for the near future, firstly because I prefer Spain and secondly because I've decided my next few trips will be to places like Poland and Estonia, oh and perhaps Croatia where you can live like a queen for a week on next to nothing!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

When did I start looking like an old man?

Me, fugly, I'm turning into Ernie, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger, ageing, parenting
This image has had skin smoothing applied for your own protection, it was far too crinkly beforehand!

So you've probably ascertained from the lack of posts that I'm super busy at the moment, either that or I've fun away to sell cupcakes to koalas on a deserted island (I wish)...

No, for shame, between travelling, planning more travel and working 23.5 hours per day, I know, I'm a rebel, half an hour of sleep, I'm such a slacker! (those hours may be an exaggeration but still...)

I don't know what's going on with me exactly at the moment but I can tell you this, every time I look in the mirror (or run past quickly) I see my face and wonder how I became to look so much like a fugly old man, yeah, not even a woman, I'm clearly becoming Bert in my old age.  I'm also getting wider and don't even get me started on the ratio of grey to not grey hair.  I think it's probably best that I just cover up all of the mirrors and if anyone asks I'll just say it's because I'm a vampire.  I mused earlier that it doesn't matter because I'm going to be single until I die so what I look like is unimportant and yet I think to myself, how can I have gotten to this point where I hate my body/face/hair so much.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for sympathy and mentally I'm actually in a really good place and love the person I am on the inside, it's just the outside I'm at war with.

So here's the thing, I noticed that on dating sites with most men the ageing process really kicked in once they were past the age of 42 and I think that's what happened to me, it was all going pretty well and then 43 hit and now I'm Bert, or Ernie, I haven't decided my old rotund man name yet.

I do feel like it's time to cut the carbs again, I just wish I didn't like food which tastes nice or cake, I mean, why even invent cake, it's just unfair.

In other matters I'm planning for Looby's great home ed adventure, so far I've worked out we're doing projects on Poland in September including a cultural trip, we're then going to do something around farming and agriculture and hopefully we'll go stay on a working farm and then in December we'll be doing Christmas around the world and visiting some Christmas markets.  I think this next year is just as exciting for me as it is for Looby, I mean, who gets the opportunity to spend a whole year with their teen daughter?  It's like the biggest adventure ever and I'm wholeheartedly embracing it, now don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are times when we'll argue and not speak, that's just par for the course when you have teenagers though.  Mostly I think what I'm trying to say is that it doesn't matter that I am turning into a rotund old man, I'm also getting the chance to live and breathe and travel and explore with my youngest daughter who I love dearly, things will most definitely never be the same again in that respect.

Work feels so good to me right now, I love what I do so much and yes, I see work as part of the journey because it's my life as a photographer and a writer which has lead me to the point of being able to facilitate this great adventure, I may work on average 16 hours a day at weekends but mostly I get the week to do whatever I want.  This week I have a couple of weddings to edit and then I'm caught right up to date, I have plans with Looby to go to Beamish, to decorate and hide pebbles around the North East as part of the Tyneside Rocks group on Facebook (it's seriously a cool treasure hunt and creative activity which costs practically nothing) we're also having a Caribbean street party for Looby and her friends and if there's any time left we are starting on turning her bedroom into the bedroom of her dreams, she's got some brilliant ideas and it's going to be a room she can sleep in, socialise with friends in and somewhere she can work and chill, I guess like a giant den and place where you can feel safe and as one, we all need a little zen space!

And so, back I go to working again, just a few more hours tonight and only 1 photo shoot tomorrow, oh and just in case you're wondering, I'll be taking time off in between to cover up all those mirrors...

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Worst Thing You Can Do At A Photo Shoot

the worst thing you can do at a photo shoot, advice for parents, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, photography Newcastle

Everyone knows that the worst thing about coming home after a holiday (apart from the washing) is the return to work and even for me, someone who loves what they do, the getting back into routine is always a little hard.

This morning after being back at work proper with 2 photo shoots which both contained lots of smiles and occasional melt-downs (pretty much the norm) I'm feeling absolutely exhausted and in need of a decent afternoon nap.

This weekend, I have 14 photo shoots spread over 2 days, it's probably my biggest portrait weekend of the year so far, let's just presume I'll be ordering takeaway and having the earliest nights possible and on Monday I fully expect to wake up exhausted.

My job isn't really physically tiring but let me tell you, entertaining 14 sets of small people and trying to avoid the inevitable tantrums by singing 12 rounds of Let It Go accompanied by back to back repeat performances of "I've got this feeling" and you end up with a brain which is much like Swiss cheese at the end of the working day.  I love what I do of course and at least I can say my ability to sing has come in useful, some days I feel like a walking children's jukebox I know so many Disney songs, singing generally is how I make it through the day though and I love it, there's just a chance that if you asked me my secret to success I would tell you that it's knowing many variations of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat'. I actually learn new verses all the time to, go me!!

Another talent I possess is having an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of Paw Patrol without ever having watched a whole episode, you could say that everything I know comes from photographing 3 year olds and certainly if you ever want to learn about Dinosaurs, just speak to a 5 year old boy, it's their specialist subject you know!

My favourite part of working with children over the last 10 years is that I genuinely don't know what's going to happen next, I've long discarded the idea of going into a family session with a plan because, well you know, the best laid plans...

If there's 1 thing I could tell parents before I photograph them all, it's probably, please don't have expectations, the best results come from just having fun and relaxing, once you start expecting certain things from your kids, well it's a hiding to nothing, it's also true that whilst you can photograph some kids in 30 minutes, some take a little longer and if it doesn't work the first time, well that's okay too, you'll never get great results if small people feel pressured or indeed if you are tense and worrying about what you want to get out of the session.

I've made a 10 year career of photographing families and not ever having a plan, the times when I did set myself unrealistic expectations were the times I came away disappointed but as the years have moved on I've just learnt to go and enjoy myself and have fun knowing that each session is going to be just a little bit different and you might get completely different results from 2 sessions even if they're on the same day just an hour apart.

I think as a parent, particularly if you haven't met me before you have the same worries as your children, who am I?  What am I going to make you do?  Am I some kind of crazy woman?  (well yes but only in the best kind of way).

My best advice is just to come along, to relax and to have fun knowing that I don't have a plan but I can guide you along the way because I'm good at what I do, because I've shot thousands of sessions over the last 10 years and because I believe each family and the love and relationships they have is so precious and special, it's also unique and that's why your photos might not look anything like your friends families photos, try not to worry though, I won't let you down, I've got this!

You can currently book a better than half priced session for just £35 instead of £75, just follow my link!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Why I don't mind a complaining teenager

Abigail, my complaining teenager, why I don't mind, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, parenting, teens, life, travel

I'm sitting here in departures at Nice Côte d'Azur airport after spending a week enjoying all that the beautiful french riviera has to offer.  It's been a week of ups and downs, mainly it's been good, I think my teen enjoyed herself but it has to be said, there's been 1 or two complaints.  I've marched her up hills she didn't want to climb, I've made her walk one too many random walks, I guess you could say that every complaint has been completely legitimate if you're her and that's okay.  

I can't ever remember complaining about family holidays to Scotland or Wales, I think I was just happy to be there, maybe my travel bug came from those soggy days spent covered in that funny rain which sticks to your skin when you're wandering around the southwest coast of Scotland, actually it hadn't rained for 27 weeks until we set foot there and then it didn't stop for 2 whole weeks if I remember correctly, perhaps an early sign of my rainmaking!  I digress though, let's get back to the subject in hand!

You see, I've always encouraged my children to tell me how they're feeling and to express their emotions, I never want them to feel they can't tell me what's on their mind, especially during those tricky teenage years it's so difficult to navigate your way through.  Part of that is accepting that teenagers complain, they complain a lot, it's not that they're completely self obsessed, it's just that to them, everything in the world affects them, it takes many years to see the bigger picture and in fact some people, well they never really do.

I myself am grateful for every single experience I have, particularly when it comes to travel but then I  love walking up big hills, I love going on random walks never knowing if I might end up getting lost, to me it's a big adventure, never mind the fact that each time I do it, it's another kick in the face for agoraphobia, I can barely remember the days when I wouldn't go past my own back gate alone.  If you look at it from a teens perspective, it's probably me that's being selfish and self obsessed, always off on my own agenda making choices I think we'll all enjoy and going off on walks with no idea of where we'll end up, mostly on the promise that there'll be a good viewing platform along the way, give me a good viewing platform and some "yumptuous" lighting and I'm a happy bunny.  My daughters laugh at this and I can't say I blame them but the photographer in me is always looking for the best view I've ever seen in the best light I've ever experienced.  It could be worse I suppose, I could threaten them with getting up for sunrise as well as staying out until the sun has set, thing is though, I'm rubbish in the mornings!!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I'm a nightmare to travel with

I'm a nightmare to travel with, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, travel, france, nice, travel photographer

It's Saturday morning, just after nine on the beautiful Côte d'Azur and I'm having breakfast on my own at our hotel, Abigail is still fast asleep after begging for a lie in because she's exhausted and I'm wondering just how long I'll actually have to stay still.   To me if you're not up and out pre 9am when you are travelling then you are wasting precious seconds, it's no wonder that I'm pretty much seen as a nightmare to travel with!

The thing is you see, I've always been someone who believes that you have to grab life by the neck, that you should go out there and not stop until you have extracted the very last drop of juice from that fresh orange that we call our existence.

I have a blister on the bottom of my foot, yesterday evening after climbing every possible hill for the best view in Villefranche-sur-Mer I decided that once we'd got back to Nice on the tourist bus that we should walk the length of the Promenade des Anglais back to our hotel, the promenade of course starts at number 1, we're around 450 (ish) or maybe 6 or 7k, I can't be sure but I know when we got back to our room yesterday we'd walked over 22k, not that much, you might think, well try it in 34c heat.

I'd say that it was the straw that had broken the camels back but we'd already argued before that point, Abigail likes to know what's going to happen and although I like to have a guiding schedule, it's not quite moment to moment and I do tend to wander and dander just a little too much.

This morning I promised that she could not only stay in bed but that the first half of the day would be a pool day, this is my actual idea of hell, I can manage a pool half hour but then I get a little stir crazy and want to be out exploring so that I feel I've gotten every last moment of the travel experience whilst we're here.  When you go to a destination you only have a few days, a week, if you're really lucky, a fortnight but what if you never go there again?  What if you miss the best thing you'll never see?  I don't want to be that person and yes, I can understand how this makes me the person you'd least like to travel with.  I'm sure if you asked Harriet, she'd tell you exactly how it is, that I have an inability to stay still in one place for more than 20 minutes, when we went to Barcelona I actually enjoyed our mid afternoon pool hours but that's all they were, I don't think I ever managed any longer before I wanted to be out there experiencing life and other cultures and capturing each experience so that I can not only hold it in my mind but so that I can share it with the people who read my blog or watch my vlog, oh and that's another thing, my usb and camera aren't speaking to each other which means my daily vlogs are pretty much trapped in my camera until we get home next week, it's a good thing I suppose as it forces me to not worry about working for several hours each night editing the masses of video I've captured.

Yesterday I didn't take my big camera, I thought I'd just take my small one, the pains in my back and neck had been bothering me and I thought I would get to see more if I just took along my vlogging camera and the result?  I'm disappointed with the images I did capture, to me they're not authentic or professional enough, I probably won't share them, or very few of them will make the cut and so part of my experience of Villefranche-sur-Mer will be lost forever.  You know, I waited my whole life to visit there, I'd fallen in love with the place after watching "An Affair To Remember" one too many times, when Nickie visits Grandmere Jalou at her little house at the top of the mountain of Villefranche-sur-Mer, even in the late 50's it looked like the most beautiful place in the whole of the world, and it was, it really was.  It's vast curving bay with an azure sea, we lunched on the edge of the harbour wall, our only views were the small yachts bobbing up and down with the gentle currents of the mediterranean sea, bougainvillea lined the walls of the old town, it's fragrant purple flowers smiling at us as we explored (although with me, it's more of a forthright march) and climbed to find the best vistas.  This pretty village will always remain in the corners of my mind, a place I dreamt of seeing and I finally got to fulfil my wish.

In all of the years that I have been a single parent, first with just me and Iain as we struggled together against the world and later with all 3 of my fabulous teens, through the dark and turbulent days, through the lean times, the mean times, the barely scraping enough money together to survive times, the one thing which pushed me onward is the thought that one day I would travel, I would travel as much as I possibly could and I would admire the jewels of the earth. For it's these very things that make me feel enriched and whole so I hope you'll excuse, now that I can, my inability to let each moment pass me by, I can't relax, I can't sit still, there's too much to see and next week I'll be back at my desk with only the memories of my time in the sun.  Of course I'll be planning my next chaotic full on trip to somewhere else I've never been, somewhere, no doubt I'll remain a nightmare to travel with!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why I'm removing my 13 year old from school

Why I'm removing my 13 year old from school, why home education is the best way forward, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, Newcastle upon tyne

On Friday Looby and I broke the news to the wider public about our decision to move from traditional schooling into home education, we'd held a BBQ for her closest friends on Monday and the lovely people at Biscuiteers had sent us a party box to help celebrate this monumental decision, if you haven't seen the video of the BBQ or those amazing retro sweet shaped biscuits (they're so, so good) why not have a watch?!

A few people since we've broken the news have asked why we're doing it and also have asked what we'll be concentrating on instead, will we be covering the curriculum, is Looby not going to do GCSE's, am I about to ruin her life? (that was mostly my inner voice) what are we going to do for the next year?....

I thought it might be a good idea to go back to the start, you see when Looby was just reaching school age I first had thoughts that I would love to home educate but I was 10 years younger, just getting better after agoraphobia and I was starting a business, I just didn't know then what I know now.  Fast forward 10 or so years and we've contemplated home ed several times, each time we've thought we'd give school just a little longer but it's been noticeable that Looby just doesn't enjoy or fit into traditional schooling, I call her my unicorn because she's different, she's not the same as all of her peers, it's not so long ago that she mentioned the first signs of bullying and I knew then that we were making the right decision.  Looby has always been a magical girl, she loves deeply, cares deeply and she's retained the wonder of childhood thus far, she's so much younger than Abigail despite there only being 16 months which separate them and whilst Abigail is an academic go getter, Looby cares about other areas so much more.  From the first day Looby could talk, she told me that she wanted to be a farmer, to this day she's focused on working with horses or in agriculture, she rides all day on Sunday's and takes care of the horses in exchange for extra rides, she's passionate about the horses and get's up way earlier than I ever could just so that she can be there to care for them and to help in all aspects because it's the thing that she loves most.

Home ed will allow us to concentrate more on the areas she loves and less on the subjects she doesn't care about but is made to study in a traditional curriculum lead environment.  In our home ed environment Looby will study what she wants to study with the exception of English, math and science, we are subscribing to Ed Place for those subjects and she will keep studying towards having those GCSE's as she and I both know, they're necessary not just for farming but for life in general.

We plan to travel as much as possible and that's going to take care of culture, geography and history, she's going to blog and vlog, taking care of art and IT, don't underestimate the skills needed to take the photos and to edit the video required for those two things.  We also think it's important to study a language and you know what, I don't possess that skill either so we're going to learn French together, I stopped learning French at the age of 13 and I'm determined to have that as a second language, isn't it always easier when you have someone to learn with.

Looby is a social child, she has friends from many factions of her life, not just school so I know that she's not going to lose out on any social activities, in fact, in home ed there are plenty of meet ups and chances to gain new friends who are also home ed.

Home ed will let Looby develop at the speed in which she should develop, it will help her hold onto childhood for as long as she wants whilst she'll develop into a young lady at the speed it's really supposed to happen instead of being forced into it by peer group pressure.

For Looby and I, a world without boundaries, uniforms and pages of rules and regulations is exciting, a world where we can wear fairy wings on Tuesday or even just not have to worry about the fact that her pencil case is fashionable instead of black!  At the moment our plan is that Looby will go to Newcastle College for year 10, it's much more relaxed, no uniforms, smaller class sizes and it still gives the chance to do GCSE's. She may however decide that she wants to stick with home ed and that's fine with me, most colleges and universities have home ed streams where you don't even need traditional qualifications to enter into further education.

I asked Looby last night what it felt like to know she was free, she said "exciting mammy, exciting" and you know what, that's the very best thing of all, my girl, my unicorn is finally free.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why I don't blog every day anymore

Why I don't blog anymore, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, blogging, writing, why I'm taking some time off

It's Sunday night, it's late (ish) and I'm yawning, yes that kind of tired, I've felt overwhelmingly exhausted since mid afternoon and I can't even put my finger on the reason why.  I now have that "I should have worked this afternoon" type of guilt but the truth is that I haven't achieved very much at all.

So I wanted to take a moment just to address the fact that I'm barely blogging once or twice a week at the moment.  Now historically if you have followed my blog over the years you'll know that summer tends to be busy, well technically spring through to midwinter but hey, busy is good!  I was just saying today how I love what I do so much, I'm driven to work, to achieve, to beat targets, I don't work because I have to, I work because I want to, I need that challenge, it's the thing which has kept me sane for the last 10 years and as long as I can find a way to make an income from photography and writing then I'll continue to.

At the moment life is pretty manic, I'm working 20 hours a day and it doesn't leave very much time to blog, plus I'm also working on my vlog and in establishing that I find it hard to do both things at the same time, I think it's probably a factor that I don't want to bore people with the same voice, even though I think, my Youtube channel is more like my immediate thoughts, I grab the camera whenever I have a moment, with blogging I guess my thoughts are more considered, this will always be the first place that I share images because I just think they work better in blogs.  

Since winning Portrait Photographer of the Year and then the next week being named as one of Lux International Magazines best wedding photographers of 2017 business has become even busier and that is such a good thing, I haven't done any major PR and you're not likely to see any from me directly as I just don't feel the need to, it's not something that's going to change me and I certainly didn't seek the validation, I'll always strive to do my very best and if anything it's just proved that I am doing exactly the right things.  I'm not planning on massively raising my prices, I charge less now than I did in 2007 and to be honest, I wasn't even 10% as good as I am now, I still plan to be 100% better and more accomplished in 10 years time though.

I would like to think that having achieved these titles may open some new doors and lead me to places I haven't been before but I guess we'll have to see what happens in that area.  With regards to travel writing and blogging I'm most definitely still on a path to achieve more with that but it's only really been a couple of years that I've been working on that aspect of my business, I know there are fantastic things I'm going to achieve so that's one of those "watch this space" items.

In truth I just don't know if I'm likely to get back to daily blogs anytime soon, do you know if I was dating I would have many more readers, I've lost around 10k readers since I decided that I was quite happy to remain on my own for the foreseeable, of course it's always there in the back of my mind that I might happen upon someone in an unexpected moment but if it does happen then that's almost certainly the way it will happen because I am not all, I mean, have you seen my schedule?  I've always maintained that long distance would be lovely, someone low maintenance who has their own life and ambitions who just wants to share the best parts of life together in short bubbles of happiness, I think it's a low expectation really when you think about it.  Full on, full time....whoah, no thanks, been there, done that!

I'm sure the people who are out there still reading my sporadic mind dumps are the only people I care about anyway because you've been with me through thick and thin and you're not just hear for the sensationalised stuff (even if it was kind of fun for a while).

So that's me, super, crazy busy, mostly chasing my tail, working for a better future not just for me but for my fabulous kids and my menagerie of animals, life is good and it's getting better all the time, not everything is about boys you know!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

3 Days In Madrid, travel photography!

3 days in Madrid and Toledo, Travel Photography by Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

I have to admit that when I booked for Harriet and I to go to Madrid it was because we'd been to Barcelona, loved that and Madrid was a bargain when I looked on

According to Harriet Madrid is like the Spanish version of New York, they even have their own version of Time Square, I can't confirm my thoughts as I've never been to New York, somewhere to put on my list of places to visit!

I would say that Madrid reminded me of London in places, it's large city parks, it's high rise buildings, it's bustling cosmopolitan atmosphere, it's so different to Barcelona and if I'm honest, I do prefer Barcelona but that doesn't mean you shouldn't visit Madrid because it has so very much to offer.  Whilst we were there it was World Pride 2017, the universal festival of love and acceptance is something I am completely on board with and their slogan "Whoever you love, Madrid loves you" filled my heart with joy!

Now I should have published this blog a couple of weeks ago but life and work has gotten kind of crazy, after being named as portrait photographer of the year, an international magazine named me as one of their top photographers of 2017, and all the while I'm still beavering away at my desk trying to meet deadlines and launching my Youtube channel, well I say launching, I've had it for 11 years, it's just that I'm getting around to posting stuff without fear finally!

I'm going to be a lazy blogger and just fill this post with beautiful photos, well I am a photographer after all!

I think for me I've done Madrid, I loved it but it's not somewhere I'd plan to go back immediately whereas if someone offers me the chance to go to Barcelona again this year then I'd snatch their hand off.

I did fall in love with Toledo though but that deserves a blog post all of it's own so for now, please enjoy the images I captured of Madrid!

I took way more photos but how many can you get away with before you start to bore people?!

next up in my schedule is Nice a week on Tuesday and I'll blogging, vlogging and mostly photographing every single thing!  Yes it's an addiction but what I need to do is get up earlier, stay up later, I want to capture as many sunrises as there are sunsets, I want to grab each day by the throat and take you on a journey with me, I want you to experience the travel with me, I want you to be able to picture in your mind exactly where I am and Madrid was a fail for this because it's over 2 weeks later and I'm only just posting photos of this busy little city in Spain, I say little but I mean in the context of it's cousin Barcelona, you can walk Madrid from one side to the other quite easily, not so much with Barcelona!


Friday, July 07, 2017

Just Do It

Holly Bobbins in cap by Illuminated Apparel from, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger, just do it, motivation

Today I am here with a message for all of you entrepreneurs and aspiring creatives, the message is, as someone once used in a marketing campaign, Just do it!

It doesn't matter your ages, status, education, if you have a dream and you want to do something, go do it.  I'm not saying put yourself at risk or make stupid choices, actually really, there are no bad decisions if you look at everything as a learning curve and let's face it, life, life is a learning curve.

This week after having a Youtube account for 10 years I made my first Vlog, it was pretty bad but could have been much worse I imagine, the fact is that after 10 years of being in business I need to add more things to my portfolio, more income streams, more ways of earning a residual salary which keeps building.  My quest for the future is to be a digital nomad and I want to keep creating things for as long as I possibly can and there's no denying that if you look at the facts out there, video is the biggest emerging way that we as humans consume information.  Watching Youtube is like having your own microcosmic TV channel, you can watch shows about pretty much every subject in existence.  What I found, is there are a lot of guys out there who are photographers, there are a lot of men telling you about what's in their camera kit or delivering pieces to camera about the buttons of the latest camera but there are a lack of women of my age creating videos.

Over the last 10-15 years women have flooded the photography market changing the way portraits and weddings are shot forever, women not only possess immense technical abilities but we're genetically programmed to have empathy, it's not that men don't possess any empathy but in the battle of the sexes, where empathy is concerned, women will always win.

So that's what we do, we take our subject matter and we "add the feels" we can put ourselves in the position of the bride, we can talk to the smaller people like we would our own babies, we have the mother's instinct and I guess the brides too.  We brought a kind of softness to the industry and we added our technical abilities and wildly creative sides as well, I'm not saying we're better than men, we're just different.

So now, I want to do with video what I've done with photography, in 10 years I want to say I've achieved stuff, I want to succeed at Vlogging well and making moving stories of my own, I'm not saying I want to make movies or that I'm about to set up as Newcastle's next big videographer but I have stories to tell and I want to tell them my way.

I read a quote today which said "Just remember, no matter how huge the Youtuber is, they all started with 0 subscribers". That spoke to me, not just in the context of Youtube but I suppose in life too, you see, you have to start somewhere, no one won anything by just sitting back and letting life roll on whilst they took a passive role, no one made their first million by sitting on the couch, you have to go out there and follow your dreams, you have to just do it, do something, do anything, take some risks, what's the worst that can happen, if you fail you dust yourself off and you start again.  I've had so many moments in 10 years when I wanted to give up but I didn't, I pushed on inspire of my mental health or the breakdown of my marriage or being a single parent or having a breakdown.  Somewhere inside me I just found the strength to keep carrying on.

I have a long way to get from the place I am now to the place I want to be but I am not going to let it stop me, on Monday I had 29 subscribers, after publishing just 2 videos I have 40 subscribers and I have only had to lightly beg people!

So, wherever you are now my message to you is to keep pushing on, don't doubt yourself or second guess yourself, just believe in you, believe you can do this and go out there and just do it!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Portrait Photographer of the Year 2017 - I won!!

Portrait photography in Jesmond Dene, Portrait Photographer of the Year 2017, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Writer, Blogger

I wasn't sure whether I was going to mention this and a very kind client offered to do a press release but I didn't want the local press to publish anything again, I hate a big fuss but I do think it's worth celebrating that last week I found out that I'd won Portrait Photographer of the Year in the Lux Wedding Awards.

I think it's even nicer to win it in my 10th year of business, I'm not sure if I truly deserve it but I do work hard and portraiture is one of the greatest loves of my life.  It's true to say that I eat, sleep, breathe photography, not just portraiture, I have a big passion for travel photography but I've only really been actively pursuing that since around 2014 when I bought my first Fuji camera.  Portraiture though I guess is something which just comes naturally and it's really not all about the camera, it's about being an entertainer, I guess it's about charisma (perhaps I have some) and for me, well mostly, I'll let you into a secret, it's about singing to the kids that I photograph, I have the entire Disney playlist inside this strange mind of mine and for the most part the kids love it!

In the years when I had agoraphobia I taught myself photography, mainly by photographing my own children and ask any parent, it's ten times harder to photograph your own children than it is someone else's.

So this is the second award I've won this year, the first being "Inspirational Woman in Photography" in the TMT Media awards so it's lovely to have been honoured twice in less than a year and I still have no idea who nominated me for either award but it's lovely.

It's not going to change me as a person, I'll still have that internal voice telling me that nothing I produce is amazing but it may put an end to my pretender syndrome, something I've suffered from since the very first day.

I remember 10 years ago thinking that one day if I ever made it to 10 years I would feel like a proper photographer, I don't of course, I still feel like the person that everyone is secretly laughing at saying "Look what she's done now, who does she think she is?"

I know there are haters out there, I get trolled on social media a couple of times a month and although I try not to let it bother me, it really does hurt, I'll never understand why people can't just be nice, especially when I am such an honest person who pretty much share's everything, warts and all.

One good thing I've just achieved with my clients help, I found a selection of old images and my clients exchanged donations in return for them and last night I sent a donation to my favourite charity Mind UK, this does feel like a good thing that I've achieved and it's because of photography that I've achieved it.  Mostly of course it's down to my lovely clients and really if you think about it, everything I've ever achieved is because of the wonderful clients I have.

You know what I would love to do now?  I'd like to combine travel and portrait photography, I'd love to be able to set up amazing shoots at awesome locations around the world although even the thought makes me feel like I'm being too big for my boots, you never know though so I'm putting it out there!  Why not fly me to where you are to photograph the people you love?  After all, as one of my lovely clients tells me, "I can always tell when you have taken a photo, it's so unique"

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Travel and Work Focus, How I Make Money Now

Palacio Real, Madrid, Sunset, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger travel, spain
So it's been a while since I last blogged and thats because I have so much going on right now and I didn't take my MacBook with me to Madrid, yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be a digital nomad and therefore should still be doing stuff on the go but the truth is I just wanted to travel, shoot and sleep and that's what I did, averaging 30,000 steps every day with my best friend Harriet, we walked, I shot video and photographs and she put up with me.  From Madrid to Toledo and from one side of the city to the other, we walked and walked and walked...

We went to the Cathedral, we went to the Palace, we watched the sunset at the gardens of temple of Debod, we went to the zoo, we took the train to Toledo and did 30,000 steps there, although I have to tell you that they have escalators to go up and down the side of the mountain, so very cool.

So there's a big but coming here...

I hated the video I shot but hey, it's my very first travel video and I once shot my very first photograph (I was 9, I chopped peoples heads off often, please remember that if you watch it), I wish I'd started shooting video when I was 9 but then again, movie camera's of the 80's, yep, I'll just leave that there!

So, this blog should be loaded with sumptuous delicious images of Madrid, except... I have the biggest list of client sessions and weddings that I need to edit before I can blog my stuff from Madrid so you'll just have to be satisfied with the above morsel until a later date.  You see, even though I am a digital influencer, a writer and travel photographer, first and foremost I am a portrait photographer with a hugely busy and thriving business and I always remember that it's portraiture which pays my bills and to feed my family!

My aim for this year is to build massively on the travel stuff, I am learning to Vlog, I am learning to get better at travel photography, I am focusing on uploading images to stock photography sites.  Currently Shutterstock has major issues with most of my old images but I'm hoping that this is going to improve now that I'm shooting more often with the XT1 and less with the X70 which I still think is an amazing travel camera but it's a compact. Oh and by the way, if you are a photographer it doesn't matter which stock agency you use, just upload some images, Shutterstock is pretty quick if you have already keyword in Lightroom, the point is do it now, don't wait like I did, you might as well earn money for images you've already taken!  I actually prefer Imagebrief as they sold one of my images for $500 but I haven't made anything through them for a while.

I see myself as only working more and more towards being able to spend my time making money from different forms of photography, vlogging and digital influencing, I'll always have a portraiture business and that is my first love but if I work on all of the other things there's just a chance that I'll be able to shoot some portraiture wherever in the world I happen to be.

I'm back at my desk now for the next 3 weeks and then I am going to Nice with Abigail for 7 days, it will be my first weekend off since Christmas and so my plan is to use the next 3 weeks to experiment with vlogging at home and out and about around the North East in between shooting and editing portrait sessions and weddings and I hope that one day everything is just going to work in synergy.  You can be sure you'll be on the journey and I hope that you might come and subscribe to my Youtube Channel which at present has 30 subscribers, I'd like to increase that to my first hundred, hopefully before Christmas!

Friday, June 23, 2017

10 Travel Experiences To Get Excited About

Top 10 travel experiences I'm looking forward to, mandy Charlton, travel blogger, writer, photographer, European travel, cruising

This week, it's been a strange one but overwhelmingly I've tried to focus on the exciting things I have coming up in my life so, currently - 

*3 days until I fly to Madrid
*4 weeks and 4 days until I fly to Nice
*393 days until I depart on a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords

I very much booked all of them on a whim, Madrid because I love Spain and had already been to Barcelona, Nice because Abigail wanted to go there and speak French, and Norway, well that really was on a whim, again Abigail said book it and so I did.

I think I'm probably most excited about the Norwegian Fjords because I know very little about Norway, when we go there'll be 17 hours of daylight every day (thank goodness for an interior cabin), the temps will probably be in the mid to high teens and, yeah, I'm going to have to take a waterproof, Norway didn't get so green and verdant without all of that rain it gets!

I think it's probable for me, as someone who has bipolar to get through the bad days, the sad days, the up and down crap days by focusing on the promise of travel, I love my job and the work that I do and I know I have trips just around the corner, this year I've averaged 1 trip a month and I hope that will continue.  Hopefully by Christmas I'll have the cruise paid for and the best part about cruising is that you don't need a lot of spending money because literally everything is paid for on board, my last cruise with NCL, I think I only spent a couple of hundred pounds for the whole of the trip and that was only because I was bringing home Christmas gifts!

So, whilst I'm focusing on the good stuff, here's my current 10 ten travel experiences I'm looking forward to

  • Getting the train from Nice to Ventimiglia, we're crossing the border to Italy just for lunch one day upon the recommendation of my lovely friend PJ!
  • Going swimming in the pool at the Parc Del Campo in Madrid, it's where the locals go to cool down on those hot summer days, the park is also home to an amusement park and a zoo, it's a big old park!!
  • Going on a cruise through the Fjords as the sun is setting, the whole trip is pretty much a photographers dream and getting to share that with Abigail is going to make it even more special
  • visiting the Oceanographic museum in Monaco, okay so I'm a hug fan of aquariums, you probably already know that if you are a regular reader, this one really does look quite special though.
  • introducing my daughter to my Cotes d'Azur, the place I fell in love with a couple of years, I want to share Cannes with Abigail so it's a special place for both of us.
  • Finding out more about the Norwegian culture, I know very little of Norway, only that it's somewhere I hadn't considered visiting until Abigail mentioned it.
  • Getting on the fast train to visit Toledo from Madrid, a unesco world heritage site, the whole city is steeped in history and I can't wait to explore it.
  • Setting sail on a cruise ship from Southampton, waving goodbye with flags as we leave the port just like on Titanic except with significantly less promise of death.
  • Finally visiting Villefranche-Sur-Mer just like Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in "An Affair to Remember"
  • Watching the sunset over the Cote d'Azur, it really is such an amazing place for sunsets, I've never experienced a sunset like the one I saw when I was on the Norwegian Epic departing Cannes
So it really is going to be an exciting year and that's not even the half of it, none of those travel experiences are with Looby and I hope that I'm going to get to take a couple of trips with her too, she's rather more freeform than Abigail so last minute things always seem to happen when Looby and I plan to go away and of course, we are planning a year of big adventures but more about that in September.

I hope you'll stick around and enjoy the images and articles I share, whilst I'm only ever three steps away from complete insanity, I remind myself often that I'm only ever 2 steps away from my next travel adventure.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm going to have it all and here's why!

Laws of attraction, dream, believe, achieve, mandy Charlton, photographer, writer, blogger,

So after some time floundering around in the chasm that is my own mental health I've picked myself up, brushed myself off and I'm raring to go again with a whole new energy, sometimes I think we need these small dips to examine our own inner self, a period of introspection to really calm the mind and figure out a strategy of what we're going to do to make it to the next level.

Here's the thing, I love what I do, and I want to keep doing it for as long as I possibly can but I know to do that I need to find the following - 

*More paid blog work and writing gigs
*More clients for Mandy Charlton Photography

This is especially true through the summer as I have plans, big plans, I know that there's an abundance and it's on it's way to me, I believe so much in the laws of attraction, just take this example, last week Abigail and I were passing the travel agents when she remarked, we never did book that cruise I replied that since the 2018 summer dates had been released I didn't have the spare cash available to put down large deposits!

Today, I got a message that you could book any cruise through Princess Cruises before the end of today for just £1 per person, so what did we do, we booked for next July to go to the Norwegian Fjords and I cannot wait.

Now you may believe that this is coincidental and certainly Jung would have us believe that it's sinchronisity but let's ignore him for a moment and instead let's go with Einstein who believed very heavily in the laws of attraction, it's all about the concept of Dream, Believe, Achieve and I really do, I sit every morning saying my affirmations and this stuff really works, I'm foolish though because I get into a routine and then all of a sudden I stop believing, I get anxious or worried and that leads to negative thoughts and instead of thinking of an abundance I worry about there being times of great scarcity and then that leads to more thoughts of less and, well it's self fulfilling.  Well can I just say this now, no more, I've seen the proof and I've been using the Laws of Attraction since 2008, remember in 2007 I set up a business just to prove to others that I wasn't "mental" and my business is 10 years old tomorrow and it's successful, I'm successful, I'm good at what I do and I don't think anyone can do things the way that I do them, the same could be said of you of course, yes you, right there, reading this, we're all unique and we all possess talents that no one else has, you too need to dream, believe and achieve.

On my noticeboard above my desk I've written a cheque to myself from the universe as well as my abundance list, things which I have ordered from the universe which will be arriving imminently, I figure if I put these 2 things right in front of me then I'll see them every time I sit at my desk, which, is quite often!!

So, although you may think that this crazy lady has truly lost the plot just watch this space and I'll report back on my progress by the end of July, I know what I'm going to achieve and I can't wait to tell you about it when I've manifested it!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Overwhelm, being surrounded by beautiful people at a time where I can't help myself, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Blogger, Writer, mental health, work, life business, the secret

So, on Sunday I finally caught up to date with all of my outstanding blog posts for brands I've been working with, it's been ages since I've been in this position and I can't begin to tell you what a relief that is.  Just after I'd written my last article I became the most anxious I've been since I had a breakdown in January/February, the feeling of overwhelm and the knot that gathers in your solar plexus felt so hard I thought I would explode, as I sat at my desk and cried I posted to my Facebook friends what was going on, it's rare I reach out or get dramatic on Facebook but for once I just needed to let go and right in that moment, Facebook was the quickest, safest option.  And you know what?  Something wonderful happened?

My Facebook friends are a pretty amazing bunch, all open minded, accepting, caring, lovely people, it takes years to curate a collection of like minded people, we may not all share the same political affiliations but when it comes to purely caring, we're there, a great hive mind, a supportive coalition of the best kind of people.

To be honest, work, life, single parenting, perpetually juggling a million balls and trying to catch each one so it doesn't shatter is hard, and that's without throwing any kind of mental health situation into the picture!

Whilst I can't sort everything out, I have at least spoken to a couple of people who are going to help me with the marketing side of my business, Facebook you see, well they're my personal nemesis, just when I think I have my advertising sorted out with them, they change the goal posts, my successful strategy suddenly stopped working for no apparent reason but you know what?  It's time to get back on track.

I've run a pretty successful business for the last 10 years and I still intend to run one in 10 years from now, my quest to be a weekday digital nomad still stands, I want to travel the world nourishing my soul whilst still running a business which provides for my family and I, I will always photograph kids and their families because my first love is Mandy Charlton Photography and I will always write because I have to, I'm compelled to sit and let the words pour from my inner thoughts, whether of course people want to read that, well that's another thing entirely but I remember the first days of my blog over 11 and a half years ago I didn't care that only 4 or 5 people read my blog, it's quite by accident that over 30,000 ever read my blog in it's most active, salacious and juicy period last year, it's dropped a lot since then but I can still manage 20k on a good month and I guess you, the readers who've stayed with me are the ones who care about my story, not just the juicy dating parts, either that or it's just a random collection of people who accidentally end up here and stay for a while reading the crazy animal lady's scrambled thoughts.

Yesterday I decided was a brand new day, filled with thoughts of positivity, as I sat at my desk knowing that I'd said my affirmations to the universe before I'd even checked one email I decided that it was going to be a truly great Monday, and you know what?  It really was, I achieved so much, I relaxed a lot and gave big sighs of relief knowing that I've got this and everything is going to be okay because I have a team on my side, good people thinking positive thoughts always and I'll do the same for them in their times of need, in fact you know what, I already do, as the affirmation goes "I wish good fortune and happiness for everyone I meet". "I'm ready for my abundance, it really is my time"

Sunday, June 18, 2017

We need to talk about Scotland!

Not so very long ago, Looby, Harriet and I went on holiday to Sundrum Castle near Ayr in Scotland, the way I survive the busyness of my business is by having travel experiences to look forward to, it's the thing that very much keeps me going.  So, half term Monday in heavy rain off we all went, Holly Bobbins too of course looking forward to her very own dog friendly holiday.  I was armed with my Fuji XT1, the 35mm f1.4 lens and the 28mm f2.0, I was also armed with a brand new blue leather camera bag from Mapp of London and also a Samsung S8+ from Three complete with tons of data, essential for staying in a wifi-less caravan in the middle of nowhere but I'll get to the phone in a moment.

Now I should say that depending on which camera's and lenses you are using you can comfortably get 2 cameras in the bag, I have a padded insert in mine which I also find super useful for putting in the bottom of my Osprey bag for when I'm working, the Mapp bag is actually big enough to take along to weddings, mostly because I'm lucky enough to have Stacey who carries the bulk of my equipment so I can just keep batteries, memory cards and spare lenses in this one.  It's a beautiful, well made bag and Emma who runs the company is so devoted to making the best products possible,  a photographer herself she knows that there's a line between functional and pretty and that as a woman although you want something stylish, you essentially want something that actually does the job!

So, back to Scotland, a bargain break in a luxury dog friendly caravan courtesy of Hoseasons and I have to say after staying in both a basic caravan at the Berwick holiday park through Haven and this luxury one, I wouldn't go back to the basic one without the central heating, the lovely van we stayed in was just so spacious but even then, we said if Abigail had come to it would have felt crowded.  The thing is though, we didn't really spend a lot of time in our caravan, it was a place to sleep, and a place to cook breakfast in the mornings and the rest of the time for 4 glorious days we travelled and explored, from the South West of Scotland to the banks of Loch Lomond, there's nothing better in the world than being able to enjoy a holiday with your best friend, your daughter and your dog!!

Oh and before we get to the main part with all of the glorious images, well there's something I need to admit to - 

I'm an Apple fan girl, I have been since 2008 when after purchasing a iPod, I later went out and bought my first iPhone and my first MacBook.  I have at times been tempted in the Samsung way so when Three offered to loan me an S8+ for a month I said I would give it a go and let me tell you, it's a shiny, shiny phone, it looks good, it feels great but I love my Apple products and I just found it too different in lots of weird ways so I gave up soon after trying it out, what I did love though was the Three coverage, one day on the banks of Loch Lomond, in a sleepy village called Balmaha we sat at the Oak Tree Inn having lunch and me trying to catch up on business, checking emails etc, my usual carrier O2 couldn't connect to anything, Harriet's Vodafone also had no signal but Three, wow, we actually got 4G in the Highlands, surrounded by mountains it took me by surprise and I'm so thankful for that.  Three actually do a Sim which gets you unlimited data, 500 minutes of calls and 3000 texts for just £25 and I'm not sure how they provide service in the mountainous regions of Scotland but I shall be sending for my free sim and using it the next time I go to the Highlands!  Well done Three!

So back to the part you really all came for, my glorious break, mostly rainy apart from our day spent travelling around Loch Lomond but we didn't care, in fact we didn't give a fig because we were warriors, we were the best of friends and nothing could dampen our spirits not even the pouring rain, oh and if you're wondering, the bag coped admirably with the rain but then wanting to save the beautiful leather I swapped to my hiking Osprey bag as that was what we did for some of the holiday at least, we climbed over hills and vales and admired the views as we got to the top whilst Harriet and Looby cursed me for wanting to climb yet another mountain path, I can't help it, no matter where I go, I always want to find the highest accessible point because everything looks more splendid when you are up high!

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