Category Archives: Freelance Work

Refresh — Regroup — Relaunch

You may have noticed a significant absence of posts for the last three months — and that’s because Mark has been working away like a busy little bee over in the 1400s house. And I’ve been carefully building a base of clients for my writing and editing business.

We took a much-needed weekend escape at the end of February — over to the far western side of Normandy in beachside Brehal. We didn’t do a lot — ate, slept, read, watched movies, and had a few outings in the icy cold weather. But it was a good break and we came back feeling refreshed.

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

Mark looking out to sea in Brehal, Normandy, France

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

A moules (mussels) farm at the seaside in Normandy, France.

On an afternoon drive along the seacoast, we stumbled upon this medieval chateau ruin from the 14th Century in Regneville sur Mer and had a quick walk around. It’s a tiny but very pretty village facing the sea.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

The corner of a 14th Century chateau ruin in the seaside village of Regneville sur Mer, Normandy, France.

What was meant to be a short hop back over to England for Mark’s parents’ 40th anniversary party ended up being a two week visit instead. It’s always wonderful to visit with them and see all of the other assorted family and friends, but everyone in the house ended up sick as could be with whatever lurghi was hanging around England at the time and I ended up in A&E getting meds for a chest infection when our local GP couldn’t see me. Aarrgghh!

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

Margaret & Brian Harmes at 40th Anniversary Party

We arrived back in France exactly 4 weeks after our icy cold visit to the seaside in Brehal — and everything here at the farmhouse in Notre Dame de Fresnay had burst into bloom!

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

View of the Normandy countryside through the bedroom window in Notre Dame de Fresnay.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Daffodils beside the old well.

Down by the duck pond.

Down by the duck pond.

We’re preparing to move on from here in three very compressed weeks. But we’re headed to the OTHER large house belonging to the owners of this house — and we’ll be there for 6 weeks whilst Mark does renovation work on it. I’ll send pictures of that project as it progresses.

The REGROUP and RELAUNCH part of the title refers to us regrouping, going over to England for several weeks at the end of June, and trying to decide if we want to settle down or continue to work and travel for awhile longer. That’s a longer stand-alone post about the turbulent social and political factors at play here in Europe right now, so we’ll save that for another time.

I have to be truthful, it’s one of those things that sneaks up on you a bit as you get older — the mental cushion of a home base. And right now our ‘home base’ is a huge storage unit full of our possessions in England — one we refer to far too often when we reach for something and then realise that it’s in the $%^&£@! storage unit!

In the next couple of months, we will be relaunching ourselves away from here. And I have ALSO just relaunched my personal website — but I’ll leave that for a follow-up post.

Back soonish!

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Being Brave and Bouncing Back

Global turmoil and sudden economic instability are beginning to feel less like out-of-the-blue events and more like a set of ongoing challenges to deal with in perpetuity.

To look specifically at the UK and realise that the ‘architects of destruction’ — Cameron, Gove, Johnson, and Farage — have ALL resigned in the two weeks since they schemed and plotted to unravel the decades old alliance with Europe — who could have even imagined such a thing? No matter who ends up inheriting the reins of power as the successors to BREXIT, they will need to have carefully considered solutions ready to implement without delay.

Enough of politics for now…

After our ‘body-blow and mental angst’ reaction to BREXIT — my husband Mark thought he was prepared to just summon up a stiff upper lip and stay in Australia even if it wasn’t our first choice. But then, after two or three days of feeling shell-shocked by that decision, he told me that he hadn’t realised how badly he was going to feel if Europe was totally off the table as an option. That was an interesting admission from the sort of man who usually just gets on with things without whinging. I’m going to be honest — we were both wandering around in a fog and deeply depressed.

We’ve had a variety of ups and downs and rapid changes in our 22 and 1/2 years together, so it isn’t surprising that we were able to brush ourselves off, infuse ourselves with some bravery, and bounce back. It is clear now that whether or not BREXIT is ever actually enacted — there are going to be several years of transition. And during that transition period, we still have a chance to get back to Europe, get back ‘in the system’ in one country or another, and sink our roots into a part of the world that brings us joy.

I called our previously chosen real estate agent, he came over on Tuesday night and we signed our listing papers, and on Wednesday he brought the staff of his office through on a brief tour so that they knew what the house looked like and what the pertinent features were.

In the weeks ahead, I plan to keep you apprised of our progress as we hopefully sell quickly because the market is simply plummeting right now. Brexit didn’t just knock the stuffings out of the financial markets in the UK — it bounced half way around the world and punched us in the gut, too. The value of our tiny pensions have dipped, the banks are suddenly tightening up the money supply, and according to our real estate agent — the values of houses here in our town are a stunning 16% lower than they were a mere six months ago. The time to go is now — not a few years from now.

Wish us luck — seriously! Good vibes add to the energy of success and we need to summon up as much of that as possible. And where are we heading? First stop — back to our beloved France!

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

And perhaps Mark will be watching the Tour de France LIVE again next year instead of on television. He would love that.

Allons-y!

Copyright ©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
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Rediscovered Treasure

It happens that way sometimes. You open up an image file (or set of files in my case!) and discover that you have somehow managed to not ever get around to editing it! We were travelling so much from the years 2010 through half of 2013 that it was bound to happen. But it’s fun to discover new things to upload to my NEW SITE (link coming soon) that I am setting up right now. 150 images up so far and hundreds more to go!

By the way, if you notice that the watermark on the photo is larger again, that’s because someone tried to use one of my pictures for their website without paying for it and frankly, I am not putting up with that nonsense! (cough-cough-SCUMBAGS!) Please do note that all of my work is STRICTLY copyrighted.

Until the next time — enjoy this shot from Portsmouth’s historic docks in England.

 

ActionStationsPortsmouthDocks

 

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Please respect the words and images on this page.
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Nothing like a challenge — or TEN!

You know I’ve given myself a challenge with the novel writing deadlines — but now I am adding to that.

There has been a “Coming Soon” over in the right side column where it says PHOTOS TO PURCHASE for the last couple of years? In the spirit of better late than never, I am putting up an online store that will go live in a couple of weeks. You’ll be able to purchase everything from prints of your favourite pictures or canvas wraps that are ready to hang on the wall, mugs, t-shirts, aprons, and lots more. And since I am outsourcing all of this, you can use your credit card on that site and I won’t have the stress-wrangling of dealing with a shopping cart installation on this site. Whew!

The new photo site will have images broken down into galleries from each of the 12 countries we’ve travelled to over the last 5 years, so it will be easy to work your way through the premium images from all of the tens of thousands that I have shot. Not everything will be on the new photo site — just the best artistic or stock-type images. But if you have a particular image from a past story that is not included, just drop me an email and I will create a custom link for you.

I continue to find funny images like this one below that I never got around to editing. So look forward to the new launch quite soon!

 

Jack wants some lunch, too!

Jack wants some lunch, too!


 

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Sad, Bad Changes To ‘The Good Old Days’ of Photography

Once upon a time in the land of photography and photojournalism, there were these amazing things called JOBS and proper PAYCHECKS for people who had a trained eye and a degree in the arts or journalism. Those are practically non-existent in media now unless you are a fresh-faced intern straight out of university and willing to work for slave wages or you are in a specialty category such a sports.

Is there still a market for glorious human interest photos or breaking news shots? Not unless the digital or print news publishers can get them for free or practically free!

Several years ago, when we were still living in the small Central Victorian town of Clunes, an hour and a half north of Melbourne, I had a very informative afternoon coffee break with a charming man who had been an award winning photographer for The Age — Melbourne’s big daily newspaper. We laughed and talked about ‘the good old days’ when you’d get your assignment, do the shoot, and then even do the darkroom work on occasion.

All of that is gone now as the newspapers around the world have phased out full time photojournalists and frequently rely on everyday people who take shots with their camera phones and upload them (for free!) to a newspaper so that they can say, “Wow! I’ve been published!” Newspaper publishers also use stock photo agencies who have stringers, freelance photographers, who send them images from around the world each day which get sold on to daily newspapers for mere pennies.

Finishing our coffee and our commiserations about the state of the industry, we both agreed that the ever-improving digital cameras that were sold to every Tom, Dick, and Harriette had been the death of a huge segment of the photographic industry since everyone fancied that they were able to shoot equally as well as the pros. In some cases they were correct since some of the more expensive Nikon and Canon cameras were practically goof-proof for things like scenic shots. And scenic shots still sell well, but cheaply, to stock agencies for calendars and greeting cards.

There are still large companies who pay a professional photographer to come shoot their annual report images and yes, wedding photographers are still out there fighting for every dollar. But even wedding photographers have been eliminated at times by a family friend with a decent camera and the lack of expertise and inspiration truly does show in the final results.

As my loyal readers know, we’ve recently returned to Australia from living in Europe for several years and I have profiled weekend markets in quite a few countries. These weekend markets are always awash with simply beautiful photos, lovingly matted and placed in clear plastic protectors, stacked in a display area or perched on small easels. And those photography booths are walked by again and again as you hear the passers-by saying, “Well I could take that same image with my camera. Why should I pay for that?” Back when we all worked with film and we printed our work in the darkroom on various types of specialty papers, fine art photography seemed to be regarded as more interesting and valuable than today’s digital products.

Along came another death knell in the form of microstock agencies who sold images uploaded by the Tom, Dick, and Harriette brigade for those previously mentioned pennies per image. And here’s an example of how deadly that was to professional photographers. If I had a premium image at a premium agency that was listed for several hundred dollars for one time use with copyright restrictions and a microstock agency had Harriette’s similar-yet-not-perfect image for sale for lifetime use for a $3.00 download, just GUESS which one an advertising agency would pick? Right you are! Harriette’s image gets chosen more and more often in this day of cheap-cheap-cheap or free-free-free.

I’ve been registered with several agencies for several years and up until recently, I was making a decent side income from that. Unfortunately, the state of the industry now is in such shambles that even formerly reputable agencies are selling off images in ‘package deals’ to their larger clients and leaving the poor (and getting poorer every day!) photographer with a handful of dollars for a hell of a lot of work! For that reason, I have de-registered with all but two agencies and both of them are in the UK. They are still full service agencies that sell images for premium prices. But I’m not holding my breath about the revenue stream from them since they too are in crisis as more and more of their work slides away to the cheapened ethic of using $3.00 microstock downloads.

Somewhere on my List Of Things To Do will be creating an online database of images so that I can sell my OWN stock images at a fair and reasonable price — not a giveaway price. And I guess I’ll have to go back to actually pitching story and photo packages directly to publications. What a pain in the patoot!

However, the bottom line is that we do no credit to ourselves as self-employed artists if we allow our work to be so devalued by the big commercial agencies who toss a few pennies our way and then rake in the profits for themselves. And it certainly doesn’t help when behemoth media corporations continue to put their smaller scale competition out of business altogether by buying them out and then systematically lowering the commissions to photographers.

Our costs of running a business go up each year — not down. And I’ve been reading some of the professional members on one of my LinkedIn groups who have, after 30 years on average in the industry, actually given up trying to make a living from photography altogether. We’re all in a state of mourning for the way we used to work and the income that we formerly could depend on. And truly, isn’t it a sad state of affairs when iPhone pictures sent to the Internet via Instagram are now considered to be professional. (sigh!)

I’m a Lady Dinosaur and I’ll admit it. But gads, my dears, I do miss the ‘good old days’ when art and creativity and a level of craft were actually things that were valued and respected.

Ah well — end of rant…

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Dogged Determination Followed By Patience

Honestly, patience has never been my strong suit and today (and perhaps Monday as well!) are going to be the kind of days that try me to the limit. I am maintaining the stance of this little dog that I passed on the street the other day — trying to maintain my composure, but showing just a WEE BIT of teeth in a semi-growly look.

It has been weeks since our burglary and we are still waiting for the insurance company to pay us. We’ve been reliably informed that it’s ‘in the pipeline’ and Mark will be able to purchase his replacement bikes fairly soon. We could have had all of this resolved by last week, but that would have meant accepting their replacement package of bikes that were NOT the same brand as what was stolen. But I was doggedly determined and I insisted that a replacement policy meant that they would be giving us like-for-like, not like-ish. We had to go and source another batch of quotes for ourselves, submit them, and then wait. But now we’ve been approved for the ‘real deal’ and it’s simply a matter of having the funds actually arrive.

In the meantime, I’ll join the cute little white dog and sit here (kinda-sorta) patiently as I do a HUGE batch of photo editing and send them off to my favorite agencies.

Come back soon!

 

Small white dog waits patiently for his owner to return from the cafe.

Small white dog waits patiently for his owner to return from the cafe.


 

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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The New Reality of European Economic Life

We are certainly betwixt and between right now and we’re in a rather large boatload of people with the same issues. Just as it happened in France AFTER we had arrived, felt keenly optimistic, and were ready to settle in, things are changing rapidly in England as well.

In France, after President Holland was elected and by the beginning of the new year, it was the hideous tax changes and pensions changes that forced not only us but also many other English speaking expats out of the country. The much-discussed ‘French lifestyle’ allows you to enjoy a less stressful lifestyle than the zoom-zoom patterns in many countries — but with a caveat about making a living. There is a distinct lack of encouragement about entrepreneurial initiative, you are expected to conform to the socialist agenda of poor-but-equal, and even large businesses frequently incur the wrath of multi-nationals who cannot understand why there is not a stronger work ethic or higher productivity as noted in this article in the Telegraph.

Here in England, (and literally in the weeks since we have arrived!) we are watching as the costs of living are going up-up-up every single week whilst the wages are dropping. I have placed quite a few links within this article, so do click on them for a more thorough explanation of the current state of affairs here. Consumers have been warned that their energy bills are about to rocket skyward. And the BBC afternoon news told their viewers that the price to fill up the tanks of their vehicles was about to edge upward again in the coming weeks.

After sending out well over over 40 CVs (resumes) and cover letters in the last three weeks, Mark finally had a job interview yesterday and if it had been a good fit, it might have allowed us to settle down here in Norfolk, a part of England that we dearly love. But what the foreman of the construction company offered was ONE-FIFTH of what Mark made in Australia. It wouldn’t even provide us with enough annual income to meet the requirements for me to get residency. Any extra income that I might produce in the UK would also be on hold for a minimum of 6 months until I got (1) the UK Resident ID Card, (2) the UK tax number, and (3) the UK driving license.

Whereas in France there were no minimum income requirements for me to obtain residency, here (effective January 2013 JUST as we were leaving France!) the UK citizen (my husband Mark) who is bringing in a non-UK citizen (me!) has to make a minimum of £27,500 per annum which is about $40,000 AU per year and even that figure is ridiculously less than what Mark was earning when we left on this gap-year-plus adventure. What the man offered him at the interview was HALF of the minimum required for my immigration status to be completed! And he had so many job applications that Mark said to me later (even knowing that he would never take that job) that he was one of the ‘lucky few’ who got a call for a face-to-face interview.

It’s only going to get worse and I think this ‘new reality’ extends to most of Europe. Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Ireland are awash with unemployed and increasingly homeless people — but is the UK headed in that same direction? There is this odd going-down-with-the-ship feeling right now — and at the end of the year the flood gates are going to open again when Romanians and the Bulgarians are allowed free entry into the UK job market. Why? There are already too many people on this island and there are far too few jobs for the ones that are here. The wages will plunge yet again since many of these people are willing to work for minimum wage — £6.19 an hour. Here’s an article that explains why. We’re certainly in that ‘incomer’ category to some extent, but Mark is actually British although he has lived in Australia or New Zealand for most of his life. We are thanking our lucky stars that we have choices.

This is not the upbeat England that we knew when we lived here in the late-1980s or early-to-mid 1990s. It feels like everyone is hanging on by their fingernails — the same sensation that we had in the south of France. And it is distinctly uncomfortable. In another blow to people who are struggling as wages actually go down instead of up, it must be horrifying to think that you have the deposit money for a house and then you are unable to buy one because the banks and formerly customer-friendly building societies are shifting their lending practices more toward buy-to-let (rent) landlords who are scooping up investment properties than they do toward people who are trying to get onto the housing ladder. This is both madness and incredibly unfair. England will end up as a nation comprised predominantly of renters.

Seriously, we knew to never say never, but unless something truly amazing presents itself in Newcastle or Scotland in the next few weeks, it looks like we might be going back to Australia. And that is not making us happy little campers on any front except the future-economic one. Yes we love Australia dearly, yes we love all of our friends back there, but yes also — this part of the world has the culture and art and history and architecture that makes our hearts sing. We left Australia over two years ago totally debt free, with perfect credit, and with a deposit for a house still safely tucked away in the bank. But these life changes in Europe have really eaten into the ‘extras’ part of the bank account.

We certainly loved France, embraced it fully with all of the lovely quirks involved, and felt safe sending for all of our household goods to be shipped over from Australia. Then the Monsieur Holland saga arrived and the financial aspect of the country began to shift dramatically within a very few months. We could never have anticipated those events and frankly it’s unnerving to think that we will have to ship everything back across the world, pay for that expense, AND buy a new vehicle in Australia where the costs are half again as much as what vehicles cost in Europe or the UK. We have a storage unit (that is costing us a fortune to rent!) full of packed things that we will have to sort through and sell off some of the items like washing machine and refrigerator and armchairs etc. What a mess! After all of that, we will somehow have to figure out how to incorporate the costs of a trip to the USA to see my family over there on the way back to Australia.

I do understand, we both do, that this is no failure on our fault since we are not responsible for global changes and we have NO REGRETS about the things we have seen and done for the last two-plus years! But here we were, ready to settle down, buy a house, get involved in a community, and get on with our lives and the ground beneath us is shifting as fast as we are making plans. It is truly, truly eerie and stomach churning to watch it unfold.

You might wonder why I am sharing distinctly non-upbeat news on this site. But I am a life-long journalist as much as a photographer and I can be a mirror of the unfolding world — eyes and ears ‘on the ground’ so to speak. The sands are certainly shifting in every part of the world and it is worth staying apprised of the trends from country to country. No matter how hard things might seem at this very moment, other people are in much more dire situation and we do continue to consider ourselves to be amazingly blessed. We’ll remake our lives somewhere new and it will be wonderful once the stressful part of it is over and done with.

I will keep everyone posted on the unfolding ‘adventure’ in the coming weeks. We are leaving Norfolk at the beginning of the week for a short work assignment in Newcastle and then perhaps another one in Scotland as we try to wrap our heads around the best way to proceed.

Wish us well!