Archive for January, 2013


A Lego Penguin

It’s been a while since I’ve posted some Lego love, so here’s a cute Penguin. I would have preferred it to be less flatter, but seeing as I didn’t make it, I can’t  be too fussy.

Pingu would be proud.

20121214_175423

Artist Adam S. Doyle uses what seems like just a compass and a wet paint brush to create these beautifully intense images of birds, which looked beautifully inked yet delicate in every detail. While initially the paintings seem to be made of swirls, the colours are blended artfully and carefully, and the more you look at the birds, the more detail that seems to be in it, right down to the feathers and the talons. I like that these are almost like an optical illusion, everytime you look at the paint-strokes, you see another detail peeping out at you, and always there’s an intense flash of colour.

You can see more of his images here (I particularly love one he did of a dragon, which looks very vivid and beautiful!)

Images belong to Adam S. Doyle

When it comes to my photography, I try not to tamper with the natural colours of the image (and most of the pictures you see on my blog are unaltered…except the Instagram ones of course. Those are over-exposed and warped beyond the original just to make them super funky, as the Instagram Overlords intended.) Following on from my post about lighting, I thought I’d show the difference between an unedited image and it’s colours, and play with colours to enhance them without ruining them.

There are a lot of programmes and software out there to edit, like Photoshop which is a popular one, but personally I tend to use Picasa editor, which is simpler to use, and which offer different ways to edit without over-complication. It’s also a good programme for beginners, as it very easy to find your way around it.

My own rule when it comes to colour is to take pictures in as natural light as possible, or in not that, then clean, white light. While this isn’t always possible (goodness knows how many times I’ve sworn at the yellow-ish lightbulbs which make me feel half blind in my house), it’s easier to see what the colour of an object or landscape is meant to look like when the light is as clean as possible. In cases where you can’t get a good light or the colours come up funny, then you can try to edit it to get there instead.

#1. Making a picture warmer can make all the difference in making it ‘pop’. This is an image of some bright orange flowers I took in a park sometime last summer, which looked a lot more vibrant in real life that they did on my camera. While I managed to get the focus on the flower at the front, the colour looked too faded and dull in the original image. I enhanced the colours slightly to make it a richer, warmer orange, which had the automatic effect of making the flower at the forefront appear sharper, more vivid and defined, while the flowers at the back added to the composition so that the image looked summery. The difference in the images below is quite striking, I love how by doing one simple thing to the image, it looks very different and gives a much more professional look – the orange in this just looks almost unrealistic (and that was the real-life colour of the flowers!)

IMAG3204

#2. Alternatively, an image can be too bright and may need to be toned down. I sometimes play around with different looks and colours to see what effect I may get.  I took this image on a really sunny afternoon, which really lit up the flowers in my mum’s garden, but then also had the effect of making the colours look almost neon and unrealistic. By toning it down a bit, and adding some shadow , the flowers look a bit more intense, and the sky is less painfully blue on the eye! To be honest, I rarely have to tone down or darken my images, because I like my photographs to be bright and colourful (I’m a bit blind, like that) and also because it’s not often that I get decent colours on a photograph unless I’m standing under a sun beam. But it’s nice to go for an arty look though – the edited version below reminds me of something Andy Warhol-ish, for some reason.

IMAG0760

#3. This is another flower picture I took, which I really liked because of how clean the outline of the flower looks, and how sharp the petals seem. I decided to brighten up only sections of the image, mainly the grass at the back and portions of the petals, to make the image feel more vivid, and the difference is quite notice-able. The grass looks beautifully  (almost edible!) green, and the petals look slightly whiter – although I tried to keep as much of the purple rims on the petals as possible. In hindsight, I think the petals should be less power-white-bright (for example, you can’t see the water droplets in the second image), but it still looks quite effective in the second, edited image, compared to the duller-whites and lilac tones of the petals in the original image.

daisyorig

#4. Then there’s the over-saturation, which you have to be quite careful of. Sometimes enhancing the colours of a photo can make it look too obviously edited, and has the opposite effect – the colours can look a bit too crude and bright, and the focus of the image feels a bit messy. I edited the image below to make the blue-ness of the sky more vivid, which it certainly did, but it also looks very unnatural and garish. The original image has softer colours and the outline of the buildings against it complements the images – in the edited photo, the buildings look slightly comic-like, and the softness of it is completely lost.

IMAG0005

#5. Here’s a mix of colour-editing I did to show the various differences you could get from the same image. The first photo (1.) is the original picture, which I wanted to jazz up as it looked a bit dull. Image 2. has a very bright, fiery look, but it also looks very over-saturated in colour and there is no focus of the image – because the colours are so bright, they all seem to blend into each other, so that nothing ends up standing out. Image 3. is the opposite, by dulling the image even more, the details of the bangles in the tray and way it has been put together becomes finer. If I had turned the image into a black and white one, the details would look even more striking, but of course, colour-wise, the beauty of the colours would be lost. Image 4. was my final edit, and what I thought was the best enhancement of the original picture – it was slightly warmer so the colours jumped out a little more, but not too much that the finer details and the ‘real-life’ colours were not lost. To me, this is the most flattering and realistic tone, and it also shows me to be wary in editing colours – in these kinds of cases, sometimes little is more.

DSC_0837

So while I’m a big fan of keeping your editing to a minimum, it’s also easy to see why sometimes the photograph may need a slight helping hand. I would definitely recommend playing around with colours, and even trying out different effects (sepia doesn’t sound that attractive, but it’s always worth a look at least once!) And these days, there’s plenty of mobile phone apps to do half the work for you (I already have about twelve on my phone) which are always worth trying.

And sometimes, you may get lucky and not need to play around with colours at all – below is a photo I took at Hever Castle a few months ago on a rare sunny day. The angle, lighting and intensity of the sun were all perfect in getting the colours of this image just perfect, it’s one of my favourite shots of that day and it looks like something that could be right out of a travel magazine!

DSC_0957

I love things like this (these are actually my niece’s rubbers, but shhhh!!) little quirky doll things in with colourful, wig-like bobs. And they’re tiny too, which is just even better.

Now, to find some Russinan Dolls which have my face on them…

20130127_002520

Weekend Pretty…Rainbow M&Ms

This was from a couple of months back, but it still looks pretty now. Pity I don’t really like M&Ms, but if I did then half of those jars would be empty by the time I left the shop. I’m still waiting for a giant Jelly Belly shop so I can put that into action : D

CameraZOOM-20120321161528230

IMAG0553

CameraZOOM-20120321160638872

IMAG0554

They left out The Emperor’s New Groove (vain, materialistic and wants to look prettier than you), but I think this is pretty good idea of the consequences of Disney films! (I should really do one like this about Bollywood films too!)

dismen

After the first series of Star Wars-Disney mashups and mockery of the news that Disney has bought out the Star Wars franchise, the memes are still going, and I’m loving how artistic some of the images are. So here’s a few more to enjoy, and maybe some to help you decide whether you’re Team StarWars or Team Disney. Or just Team Meme. (I also love this series of Lego Star Wars campaign, which was cute!)

Disney-Empire

d1

d2

d3

d4

d5

d4

s1 s2
s3
s4d6Images taken from here, here, here, there, here and here

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? – J. B. Priestley

Snowbombardment! Rules are,  you build a snow fort and split into two teams, and snowball to the last man. Okay, I completely made that up, but you know you want to play too!

In the meantime, here’s a some pictures from the last few days where we’ve been frolicking in the snow. Yes, it some random pictures of trees again, I’ve been wandering around like a weirdo holding my camera up in the sky while passer-bys wonder why I’m going all Lion King on it. Thank god the snow is beginning to melt, although the snow lump in our garden is probably not going anywhere after we packed it and packed it into a snowman. (Isn’t our snowman a cutie? I kinda preferred it without the nose, must be the airbrusher in me!)

2013-01-21 12.57.12

20130120_175857

DSC_0787

DSC_0804

DSC_0807

DSC_0814

DSC_0835

Hijabi, who me?

After 21 years of being cap-less, why I decided to wear my hijab, and have never looked back since.

I like to think of myself as quite a standard, British-Pakistani Muslim woman, waist-deep in Western Culture, the other half of me in Middle Eastern and Pakistani idioms.  Like many, I’ve been to high school, college, university. I’ve watched the popular American tv series, the dry-wit British stand-up shows and the thought-provoking Islamic lectures and Ted Talks. Not to mention all the Lollywood and Bollywood films you can think of, which certainly added a spice of my cultural awareness. Unlike the generation before me (my eldest sister included), I DIDN’T have as much of the cultural struggle and internal conflict that they did – probably because they fought a lot of it out for us. I grew up quite sheltered and protected by siblings and parents alike – and in all truth,  never realised it until my adult years.

My family is not like those families you may sometimes hear about. My parents never tried to take us on ‘holiday’ to Pakistan and get us married, although they did express their preferences that we marry someone they approve of, and wouldn’t have minded a cousin either. They never tried to force religious beliefs on us, although they raised us strictly in our faith, and tried to prevent us from veering away from it. They never stopped us from educating ourselves (although we did hear of parents who didn’t see the point in getting their daughters educated, and some of them did question our parents allowing us to go university) – nor did they take us out of school to work/clean the house/look after kids.

They did, however, do all the other things you hear Asian parents doing. We used to put foil on our cooker for years (we made our mum stop doing it after a certain point because it got too embarrassing!). We used to keep the plastic on our remote control until it fell off. We had the plastic sheeting on our carpet for years, which was normal because every other house down the road did the same thing, and we used to all come and look at each other’s furniture and buy the same thing if our parents liked it. But that’s a post in itself, and one for another day. Think Goodness Gracious Me, that was us.

My sisters and I, as young Muslim girls, had a fair amount of freedom (which comes with curfew, obviously), which meant we could socialise to some extent, as well as making our own decisions about careers and marriages (although I’ve never heard the end of my decision not to become a doctor-mathematician-accountant!) While our parents made it clear what they expected from us and what they saw as our duty, we were never forcibly made to practise certain things Islam requires; rather they nagged us a bit, taught us its relevance, then left us to it. Wearing hijab was one of those things.

I’ve been wearing hijab for about five years now, something which I have never regretted since. And even now, I find it really strange that someone may refer to me as a ‘hijabi’, a term which I feel oddly dis-associated from. Logically, yes, I am a person who wears  hijab. But as someone who spent most of my life trying to define myself as funny, pretty, popular, as a writer, a drawer, a painter, a reader, a film buff, a sister, a daughter, an internet troll, a student, a teacher of sorts, a friend, a quirky person, a feminist and a traditionalist, English and also Pakistani – I then find it very strange that the first word used to describe me by some people is ‘hijabi’. As in, “Oh that hijabi over there in the pink scarf”. We’re all conscious of our first impressions on people, and it’s nice to be able to try to control it. I’ve heard a lot of descriptions of myself, but ‘hijabi’ isn’t the first one which comes to my mind.

Perhaps this is because I tend to forget that I am one. My decision to wear a scarf was not a spectacular religious relevation, nor did I have an epiphany one day and decide that ‘the sky is blue, the sun is shining, I must wear hijab or the world will end!’. My decision was gradual, and thankfully enough, it wasn’t as superficial as it could have been.

I’d always intended to wear hijab One Day. I remember thinking this all the way through high school, sixth form and university, safe in my guilt-free promise that on an ambiguous One Day, I’d do what I’d promised to my younger self. In university especially, I felt most conflicted – I envied the respect that scarf-clad sisters got from all the guys, but I didn’t want to get sister-zoned by them. My view was that I’d have a bit of fun with my hair-styles first (I know it sounds shallow, but my hair was my best asset, it’s waist length, naturally straight and deep black); find a guy to marry that my parents would happy with, then I’d wear a hijab somewhere in-between and all would be happy. As it turns out, I only knew two hair-styles which I used and re-used, guys in university are too immature and the hijab issue would require a bit more thinking. The last thing I wanted was to start wearing it, then regret it and want to take it off, especially if I compared myself to other girls with lovely hair my ages, who looked (in my eyes) more beautiful than I ever could be. To me that would have made a mockery of the concept of hijab, better to get it out of my system first and then get on with it.

My turning point came after three years at university, which made me feel a little disillusioned about being a young teenaged Muslim. It was easy to say that I was young, that there was plenty of time to enjoy myself; that I should look great, feel great, measure myself by how good-looking or girly other people thought I was. The feminist in me was fed up of it, and so was the Muslim. I’d been taught for years, that a precious thing like a woman should be covered, that if I wanted respect then I should stop looking for it with skinny jeans and fitted tops, and that perhaps I’d need a bit more than extravagant eyeliner.

By the time I had my 21st birthday, I’d made my mind up. I remember having a realisation that one could not tell I was a Muslim by looking at me – I could have been Sikh, Christian, Muslim or Hindu or Jedi and no one would be any wiser just from looking at me. I’d always meant to wear hijab, but now it was more than just covering my head – it was an act of symbolism for me. Sounds cheesy, but it really is genuine. Also, in my little Emo way, I was a little fed-up of the (what I saw as) hypocritical behaviour of my peers around me, and decided to act on my feelings. True, I did celebrate by having a massive fancy dress party in a hired penthouse in true-blowout style, but at least I can say that I ended my hair-years with a bang.

The following day I met up with my friends (we actually had to go and clean up the pent-house, I didn’t get to stay over but some of my friends did, as we’re hired it for the night), and wore a planned outfit which included my hijab. A grey dress, silk green scarf, black jeans and green shoes. (Even now I still have a tendency to match my shoes to my scarf. People make fun out of me for it, but I know that’s just jealousy talking). And the hijabaliciousness went onwards from there.

When I’d announced the decision to wear a hijab, my mum praised the news and proudly told a few of her friends (my dad was a bit more skeptic admittedly, he kept waiting for me to throw it off for a short while). Most of my friends were quite accepting and understood, it was more than just a decision to wear a scarf, it was also about shaping how I wanted to be seen and how I wanted to lead my lifestyle.

I did get a few negative comments here and there, and surprisingly they were from a few young Muslim girls and a couple of Muslim men. It was also strange that the non-Muslim friends understood why I wanted to wear hijab, and the idea of wanting to do something meaningful, as I’d expected a lot of questions from them. From the small group of Asian girls who were slightly disparaging (“But it looks ugly”, “But you don’t even NEED to”, and best of all the clichéd “So what, you’ve become religious now?’) I wasn’t put off, although slightly surprised. I assume their negativity was due to their own feelings of guilt or insecurity, or perhaps it was just something they didn’t understand.

I also remember one young man whom a friend had introduced me to, who spent the whole day joking pretending to pull my hijab off and making statements like ‘I don’t think women should wear hijab. It’s just pointless’ and even ruder, ‘Take it off. Just take it off’. Needless to say I never saw him again, although I did develop thicker skin after that! (I did hear he is married now. Good on him.)

Wearing a hijab has the effect of making your face feel magnified, and also makes your feel very self-conscious, particularly when you first  begin wearing it. No matter how confident or pretty you feel, wearing a hijab can have the effect of making you feel ugly or dowdy, which was something I certainly found. On the other hand, I also found that I received new-found respect from men, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I remember marvelling at this also, the fact that without knowing me or my achievements, a piece of fabric could change someone’s world-view of me. Where in the past, I’d sometimes get ignored, now I’d get a quick ‘salaam’ from passer-bys, or I’d get kind men offering to help me with bags, with getting on trains and generally having a more respectful manner. I’m also a lot more likely to get free food or a bigger portion too when I’m in a deli or food shop. Thank you Ambala!

And yes, I have in some cases, effectively been sister-zoned. If anything, that’s probably a good thing, with some of the male friends I’ve gained. And the weirdos I’ve avoided.

I’m lucky that I live in a diverse city: London is full of Muslim men and women, and in general London’s inhabitants are quite accepting of different cultures. I’ve also been lucky that I haven’t received a lot of abuse (like some sisters who have told me stories of hair pulling and being spat on), and that I’m able to play with my ‘hijab-style’ with colours, styles and accessories without being judged by others.

At the end of all of this, I remain convinced though, that hijab itself is more than just a piece of fabric worn on the head. This is why I also have an issue with the term ‘hijabi’, not because of it’s blanket expression, but because it ignores all other aspects of us. Hijab for me, is an expression of our faith, but it does not mean that it automatically is enough, or that you can judge someone by the way they look. I’ve met scarf-clad girls who rap, body-pop and sport heavy gold chains, I’ve met niqabi girls who have minds like gutters (and I’m so proud of them!) and I’ve met burqa-fied women who look like typical Asian women until they open their mouths and tell you about their business plans, or spout poetry, or heck, tell you about their ambitions to be ballerinas. And then, there are the girls who don’t wear hijab and still have amazing minds without veering away from their faiths, be it Islam, Christianity or Jedi-ism.

For me, hijab is in the heart. It is a desire to be compassionate, to want to better yourself, and to want to follow your faith. I chose to wear hijab because it symbolised a change for me, both religiously and as an adult – and it’s something I’ve never regretted. What I do regret though, is not scaring people enough with my loud zebra print scarves 😉

horcrux

Image Source

Weekly Men-in-Skirts Links

It’s an exciting weekend this week, it’s been snowing non-stop and better still, there’ll be plenty o’ train disruptions tomorrow! So snuggle in with these links.

Always trust your instinct. Heeheehee. Also, this one made me laugh too.

Some tips for online-daters. I’d like to add another tip to the list: Don’t let your husband know you’ve joined the site, worse, let him join and troll using your account :/

Football goals are always celebrated by the footballers in weird ways. This Youtuber took advantages of their moves and made them more interesting.

I just don’t even know what to say about this one, except I hope any Highlanders reading don’t take offence. Thoughts on androgynous dressing. I did like the ‘Slutty Pirate Steals A Hospital Gown And Attempts Surgery’ look though.

Gameboy street art. We need one of these in my street (it’d only get stolen for scrap metal, but still, it’d be fun while we had it.)

I was never a big fan of My Little Pony as a girl (I was a Barbie girl, shame on me, I know), but if the Ponies had been more like these, I would’ve been a bigger fan.

No idea if these are real. Strange but very cute.

I’ve got to has me one of these. All I need now is a giant pencil to loop the tape back in too!

Meantimes, I’m gonna go watch people fall over in the snow and laugh in the warm safety of my radiator-toasty-warm living room. Enjoy the slushy times!

monday