Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

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!
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