Friday, November 27, 2009

Free Prize Draw – FAQ

UPDATE: Draw now closed. Winner will be selected within the next 24 hours


I now have half a dozen entries into the free prize draw to have your photo enhanced.

What has become clear is there are all sorts of things I just took for granted, as I knew what I was offering and what I was capable of, but not everyone has the same level of knowledge of what’s going on in my head.

Maggie and I have a babysitter lined up and are going away for 2 night on our own (back Sunday). We can’t remember the last time we had 2 nights together without kids, but suspect it might be 12 years or more.

So for everyone outside my head (and I’m guessing that’s probably everyone) I thought I’d do a few FAQs to help, as I won’t be on hand to answer emails for a couple of days

1. What Prize Draw? What are you talking about Kim?
Please visit the original post – Prize Draw for the Gifty Season for an explanation

2. Is it going to cost me anything?
No, it’s free to enter. One entry per person.

3. Can I use any image I find?
It has to be yours, or one you can be reasonably sure you have permission to use. In other words, photos of you or your friends/family or taken by you friends/family. Please don’t send images you picked off the Internet somewhere as the copyright will inevitably belong to someone else

4. Where do I send my image to?
My email address is on my profile, but if you’re prepared to piece it together, it’s kimayres and I’m at

5. How big should the image be?
If you will only ever use it on your blog, it can be as small as 600 pixels wide. But if you will want to print it – either on paper to make a card or to frame it, or to put on some merchandise thing like a mug, t-shirt or mouse mat, then it needs to be much larger.

Printed photos are usually done at 300 dpi (dots per inch). So an image 600 pixels wide would only be 2 inches when printed. So if you want it 10 inches wide, it needs to be at least 3,000 pixels across.

6. If I win, will my photo be displayed on your blog?
Yes. So if you really don’t want an image to be displayed here, for whatever reason, please don’t enter it

7. What kinds of things can you do?
Glamour, Fantasy, Restoration etc - please visit the original post – Prize Draw for the Gifty Season  for suggestions, although I am open to ideas you might want to explore

8. How will you pick the winner
Using an online random selector

9. When is the deadline for entries?
9am UK time Tuesday 1st December

10. What if I have more than one image, or have images I would like enhanced even if I don’t win?
I have a photo enhancing service – for more details visit or email me

Have a good weekend :)


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Did I mention the Prize Draw is Free?

After 36 hours I've been rather surprised that no one has entered an image for me to enhance.

Not a single one




My inbox is in danger of a tumbleweed blowing across it.

To say this is a bit of a surprise is an understatement, so I've been trying to work out why there has been no response to something plenty of people seem to have expressed an interest in before.

So either no one is bothered at all, or something is causing people to feel reluctant. After wracking my brains I can only think of 2 possibilities for hesitation.

1. everyone is still busy looking for an image to send and it's just a matter of time before I'm inundated; or

2. people might be unsure if they have to pay anything if they enter and don't win.

So, just in case it's the latter, please let me clarify:

It is a FREE prize draw. No payment required and no obligation to use my services.

Just email me your image with an outline of what you'd like done to it. And I will randomly choose a winner.

But in order to win, you have to enter. And at the moment, if you are the only person to enter, you win - which has to be pretty good odds...


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Prize Draw in time for the Gifty Season

Following on from the recent blog post, The camera never lies..., I was emailed by a couple of different friends saying here was an opportunity to use my Photoshop skills to spruce up other people’s photos.

So if someone has an image of themselves or a loved one they would like enhanced – perhaps as a gift for the coming gifty season - if it is emailed to me, for a very reasonable fee I can make any adjustments and email it back.

Ideas include:
Glamourising images – removing or reducing spots, wrinkles grey and stray hairs; changing hair and/or eye colour; softening skin; and straightening and whitening teeth

Fantasy images – turning people into elves, trolls, space aliens, cartoons, vampires, Japanese manga, etc

Photo Restoration – cleaning up old photos – removing creases or stains, giving faded tones more depth, and the like.

The final image can then be printed out and framed, uploaded to your favourite social networking sites, printed onto a mug or a t-shirt, or even turned into a jigsaw puzzle

I’ve put up a page on my Photography Website going into a bit more detail.

However, as a promotional act, I thought I could do a prize draw here on the blog.

So, if you have an image you’d like adjusted, enhanced or restored, then email it to me at kimayres – squiggly AT symbol – with an outline of what you’d like done to it, and “Prize Draw” in the subject bar.

The draw will be closed at 9am on Tuesday 30th November (or sooner if I get hit by too many requests to keep up with), after which I will randomly select a name using an online generator such as this one.

Once I have completed the adjustments I will email the image to the winner, and put before & after copies on the blog.

With this in mind, please make sure:
a) for copyright purposes, the image is yours or you have permission to use it
b) for decency purposes, you don’t send any images that are illegal, pornographic, or distasteful (“risqué” is a matter of interpretation, but do you want your image displayed on my blog? – think carefully before you send it)
c) for effective use afterwards, the image is high resolution (but please not more than 10Mb big)
d) only one entry per person - however, you can use the service at my Photography Website for as many images as you like.

So, dig out an image of yourself, your loved one, or an old pic you’d like restored, and email it to me with instructions on what adjustments you'd like done to it.

A few examples

Japanese Manga Style

The Joker


The square-jawed hero

Adding 20 years

We come in peace...

I have no idea whether I will be swamped with entries, or left twiddling my thumbs. Guess I'll find out soon enough...

Sunday, November 22, 2009


The latter part of this past week saw some pretty torrential rain in this corner of the country. In fact, just across the Solway Firth in Cumbria, towns have been flooded, bridges have been washed away and lives have been lost.

Locally, Loch Ken - the loch just a couple of miles north of here - burst its banks to a level not seen in many years. The roads running up either side of it were blocked on Friday, as I discovered when I decided to go up and take some photos.

Oddly enough, it was extremely difficult to take some decent flood photos. The water levels were so high, there were no fence posts breaking the surface, they were all under it. Consequently, the loch just looked big, rather than the fields looking flooded.

You can click on any of the following images for larger versions

These 2 photos show the top of a wall (dry stane dyke - not so dry here...) usually separating 2 fields, which themeselves are usually a fair distance from the edge of the loch

This gate by the side of the road gives an indication of the depth of water too.

At the point I could go no further along the road, I saw this lorry stuck across this flooded area. But on the other side of the rise he was parked on the water was even deeper, so he was well and truly stuck until the levels subsided

On Saturday morning, the levels of Loch Ken had dropped by at least 3 feet, meaning the road was passable again, so I went out with the camera in the morning. With hedgerows and fences now more clearly visible protruding from the water, the potential was there for much better photos.

Unfortunately the heavy, horizontal rain started up again, so I still wasn't able to get out and about much as I'm not entirely sure how waterproof the camera is, but I did manage a couple.

This one in particular looks good when enlarged:


Thursday, November 19, 2009


With severe weather warnings across the region, and the rain hurtling horizontally past the window this morning, I drove the kids to their schools.

This is only the 2nd time I’ve done this in the 4½ years we’ve lived here, as both the primary and the high school are less than half a mile away (although in opposite directions). But with Rogan and Meg still recovering from the last effects of possible swine flu, it didn’t seem like a good idea to allow them to get drenched on the walk to school, then have to sit around in wet clothes all day.

On the drive back, watching the steady stream of kids walking singly, in pairs and in groups along the pavement, it suddenly occurred to me how the hood on a school kid’s coat is a never-used, pointless accessory.

It is designed purely to appease the sensibilities of responsible parents who haven’t realised that even in the most extreme weathers it will be removed the moment the child is out of sight.

As my thoughts prepared themselves for a rant about “kids today,” and it “not being like that in my day,” etc, I remembered it was actually no different in my day.

And at least some of these kids had their jackets fastened.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

19 Years

19 years ago today, Maggie and I started going out with each other, became an item, began our relationship, or whatever other phrase you care to mention. Somehow I can't bring myself to say we started "dating" as it's an expression we just don't use on this side of the Atlantic, no matter how many US films and TV shows are imported.

Whenever I ponder how my life might have gone if I hadn't met Maggie, I can so easily imagine being swamped by depression and a lack of direction in life. And with each passing year if feels more impossible I would have survived without her.

Maggie is my love, my heart, my soul.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The camera never lies...

It is said the camera never lies. This is, of course, complete bollocks.

A far more accurate statement would be, the camera never tells the truth.

From the moment we choose to select this angle rather than that angle, use this lighting over that lighting, to include these elements instead of those elements, we have set about manipulating the final interpretation of the image.

And this is before we begin any post-production editing.

A photograph would be far more accurately described as a story than a representation of reality.

So with this in mind, I decided to explore three different narrative options in Photoshop this morning, with the following result (have the volume on if you wish to hear my dulcet tones):


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who said trouble always comes in threes?

The right side of my jaw, cheek and lips are itchy and tingly. Unfortunately the skin is still numb, so I can’t scratch them with any effect. Hopefully in another hour or so the injection from my visit to the dentist this morning, and subsequent filling, will have worn off.

Of course, when it does, I’ll then discover just how much damage I’ve done to my lower lip when I accidentally bit it, and the inside of my cheek, which I realised I’d been chewing for a while, assuming it was a piece of bread I was eating with the soup I had for lunch.

It’s been a bit of a hectic morning as we’ve had the senior nurse practitioner from the health centre out to see Meg, who is feeling very unwell and has probably gone down with whatever Rogan has had. Fortunately Rogan now seems to be in slightly better spirits and we’re pretty certain the worst has passed of his illness, swine flu or not.

We’ve also had the landlord visiting with his toolbox as last night the toilet flush stopped working, and a tap which has been dripping for quite some time decided just to gush and not allow anyone to be able to turn it off at all.

I’ve got a slightly tickly cough a mild over-all achiness in my body and am hoping it doesn’t develop into anything worse. Likewise Maggie’s general cold-like symptoms.

They say trouble always comes in 3s. I’ve never understood that: in my experience it always comes in 17s

Friday, November 06, 2009

Rogan has Swine Flu. Probably

Thursday lunchtime we got a phone call from the high school saying my 14 year old son, Rogan, wasn't feeling well and to go and collect him. He certainly seemed a bit under the weather and an irritiating cough he's had for weeks took a definite turn for the worse.

Last night he slept really badly and spent most of today on the couch feeling miserable. By late this afternoon he was complaining of quite a bad headache and seemed to have a bit of a temperature.

Given the terrifying ordeal Attila the Mom has been going through as her son has been hospitalised over the past 2 weeks with swine flu, and the fact that 9 miles down the road, Kirkcudbright High School has had 1/3 of pupils off school because of it, we thought it time to call the doctor.

I was told to take Rogan up to the Health Centre, but not take him in until I had alerted the receptionist who would make sure an isolation room was set up for him to be seen in.

I wondered if I should start panicking, but thought I should at least wait until the doctor had seen him, just in case Rogan was over reacting and making a lot of fuss about nothing (something, I should say, he denies ever having done).

It seemed odd seeing the doctor wearing a plastic apron, rubber gloves and a face mask, but he didn't seem to be panicking.

Rogan's temperature was taken, chest was listened to and throat was peered down.

"It looks like he's probably got Swine Flu," said the doctor, "with secondary infections in the throat and chest." He said it all straight faced (as far as I could tell behind the mask) but he still didn't seem to be panicking.

I wasn't sure if I should start panicking now. I felt it would only be right if someone started panicking, but Rogan seemed quite calm about the whole thing too. In fact I thought I detected a slight air of "I told you so" smugness about him.

As the doctor typed into the computer then printed off a couple of prescriptions, I thought I should at least find out whether we should be locking ourselves in our house for a month and painting a red cross on the door.

"How long should we expect him to be off school?" I asked.

"Probably until the middle or end of next week, although if he gets any worse, give us a call."

This seemed a bit odd to me. I thought we would be given strict instructions to isolate ourselves, but apparently it's too late for that. According to the doctor it's so widespread that it would be a case of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

Apparently 50% of people who have swine flu exhibit no symptoms whatsoever; about 5% will get hit hard by it and the rest are on a sliding scale in between. Despite the high publicity, deaths are still very rare.

The doctor did admit Rogan might not even have it, but he was showing enough of the symptoms to be given the drugs to combat it. The only real way of knowing for definite would be to have tests done, but by the time the results came back the damage would be done, so the official procedure is to play it safe.

So, we're home; Rogan has his various pills to take and an inhaler for when his breathing becomes difficult; and he's to keep drinking plenty of water.

And I'm still not sure if I should start panicking yet.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Last of the Autumn Leaves

"Excuse me, do you mind if I ask what you're up to?"

"Oh, er, yes, er, I'm just, er, filming leaves."


"Yes. I was waiting for my wife who's in visiting her father and I was sitting in the car just watching the leaves blowing on the trees and about the car park and was thinking about how hypnotic it all looked and perhaps it would make a nice wee film and... why, does it look a bit odd?"

The manager of the nursing home and her assistant laughed in a tension releasing sort of way.

"That's OK - we just saw you with a camera and wondered what you were up to."

They left me to get on with it, clearly relieved they didn't have to call the police to remove some nutter with a camera, or their lawyers in case I was a journalist trying to do some kind of exposée on their establishment.

Back home I remembered a piece of music I did with a friend back when I was in my early 20s, which I thought might go quite well with the images and would mean I wouldn't have to worry about copyright using someone elses soundtrack.