Saal Digital Professional Line Photobook

So, I designed and created a 30×30 photobook using Saal Digital’s downloadable creation tool and a bunch of my own pictures. In truth i was wary of quite how this might turn out, having been forced to use some older pictures from the ancient Canon 350d and equally archaic Medion X44088 MD 86888 as my Olympus camera is still nowhere to be seen several weeks after ordering (thank you Currys, and especially UPS for losing it!) a new one.

Designing was reasonably simple, as there were offers to build the thing intuitively by just importing your pictures to the interface and allowing it to do it for you, as well as fully customisable options so as to add and create to suit your own needs. There were a few glitches along the way, and I found that often when editing myself the interface would switch images so that the layouts were not as I wanted them, and required adjustment.

The images themselves are well produced, apart from one, the only portrait which I’d included, which was far too dark and was pretty much useless. The plates feel premium, rather than cheap, which in truth for a photobook costing £100 they absolutely should do! The editor for the design seemed to be trying to push me to use gatefold images (crossing the two pages) and so trusting this I took a couple of chances with somewhat mixed results.

Because of the glossy pages, unless you’re in constant light it’s actually quite hard to display a picture in gatefold without the light interfering with the viewing, which as you can see on the hooded crow picture, renders it almost 3D but with huge loss of colouration on the left side. This is not due to the image quality at all, purely the nature of the face of the page.

Colour representation though on the starling was fantastic, looking exactly as desired. Contrastingly though San Francisco’s famous bridge seems to just not look right at all. Perhaps the vibrancy of the first picture makes the latter struggle. Either way it was a little disappointing.

There was quite a lot to like about the process though. The ability to change the background from white to black meant that photographs transitioned nicely from one to another, hiding the fold n the centre nicely. I’m still not sure I’d recommend gatefold pictures though, but as you can see, the robin worked well.

Is it worth £100? I guess that’s subjective. You can produce something similar from Google’s photos own designer at a fraction of the price, but I’d not expect it to be at this level of quality. The same too in most print shops in town if you go in armed with your SD card. However, the plethora of options and the binding (my invoice claims the binding constituted 50% of the retail value!) again will not be of this standard. As someone who’s photographed many things I’d have no problem using Saal to produce something I’d then be good with giving to a customer. However, I’m not sure I’d make much of a profit from it! I’m not comfortable with the pricetag, and would suggest its true value being something closer to 20%-30% off, however… this is a German company, and after having seen how expensive things are while living in Holland for several years I would have no problem imagining that the price there would be of the same ilk.

Sadly, this whole experience was ruined by Saal’s inability to actually get this product to me. Having incorrectly addressed the product the first time, and subsequently having to reproduce it back in Germany while the original resides who knows where, they subsequently incorrectly addressed it again. Does this detract from the quality of the product? Of course not, but if like me, you took time off your day job to collect a parcel which didn’t arrive, while also promising to exhibit this as a precursor to a wedding photography job booking.. I think you can see where an issue might occur. Add onto that two emails asking me quite why I’d not written this review yet for a product which I literally hadn’t had in my hands to view myself, let alone write about, and it’s safe to say that the customer experience is not something I would like to go through again.

The photobook IS a decent thing. Made well, looks like it will stand the test of time, and will display your work well. The portrait glitch was annoying, the gatefold pics were a little hit and miss, and the customer experience… is obviously something that is not likely to be happening to everyone. Saal regularly have discount vouchers on their products, and with those applied I do think that the products are viable, for a gift, or for someone like myself producing things to then use as part of a portfolio or to sell on as part of a service, used to aid the production of photographs to the consumer. Assuming your experience will not be the same as mine, they come with my recommendation.

Android Emulator

It’s been a while since I threw a tech tip out there but, I was checking my security on Google play and spied a new device that’s been using my account. Specifically a OnePlus ONEPLUS A3010! Now… I don’t use one of these, I have an Honor 8x (which incidentally shows up as a HUAWEI JSN-L21!?!) and so.. i duly began to investigate.

It turns out that, if you download an android emulator, and then log in to your account so as to get apps (I was attempting to install KiK on my laptop as much like WhatsApp it would save me inordinate amounts of faffing), the emulator is acknowledged as being a ONEPLUS A3010! Well…. it is if you use BlueStacks as your emulator anyway.

Panic over! And hopefully your issue which brought you hear is now solved and you too can rest easy. Happy days!

As a side note.. I deleted Bluestack within 10 minutes as, it logs you out on your phone each time you log in on the laptop! Am I glad WhatsApp isn’t so annoying.

Progress.

It’s the end of the whole Mental Health awareness thing and so I thought I’d share a few thoughts:

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a tough old cookie. I’ve been through a lot.. the *insert your own prefix* abuse while growing up, (or possibly while not growing up haha) marriage, divorce, a few messy break ups, the loss of family and friends (physically and otherwise), the enforced absence of being able to be a father, brief homelessness (twice!), twice emigrating to foreign soils and leaving my world behind for a relationship which eventually died, and not to mention the probability of loitering on the extremely high functioning autistic scale.

But through all of this.. to the outside world, the appearance of being “ok” has maintained to a point that, what’s cooking underneath isn’t even considered.
And I’ve considered that a win! Until now.

I think I changed a lot in February. There was a break up. A first proper relationship since being married where I’d been able to shout it from the rooftops that yes.. I was with someone, and then I had to call it off due to principles, which i then stupidly went back on. The details of that are no longer important, nor the failure of subsequent attempt to rekindle it, but what is, is that people noticed.

People hugged me. People messaged and asked if I was ok. People sympathised, nay… empathised with me, big men, small men, and people who I’d seen as only on my periphery of social interaction put their arms around me! I was noticeably distraught and that’s just not something I’d ever shown before. When I divorced my ex wife, not a soul knew in our social circle. No one had a clue that all was not well, and that I was really not well at all. I daily battled with suicide while everyone believed my life across there was nothing short of idyllic for me. Beautiful (and busty, let’s not deny it!) wife, no need to work, nice flat, lots of travel etc. All things that to the outside sound marvellous, but from the inside were actually vapid, devoid of any depth (apart from the bosom haha!) and meaning because for years that sensation of not belonging clung to me, ate at me, devoured me until there was nothing left of me. And no-one saw. Not even the wife, the person I was closest too. So when it came to the end, simply no one could understand how this came about.

And thus.. there was no help offered because no one knew I needed it. I moved back to Wolves and buried myself in work and music, a cathartic drowning of pain ensued facilitated by Guinness and Crabbies and John hammering out Stargazer and Dominion (Mother Russia!) every Saturday. And still to the outside world I was fine. I’d survived, maintained my normal demeanor (playful when engaged but generally just outside the circle), and again I took this as a win!

However, man…. did I struggle! I can come off as the most carefree guy around but inside the struggle was as titanic as what ensues after 5 hours when a guy with IBS gives in to the temptation of a vindaloo! I look back now and have no clue how I am still here. In truth a fortuitous meeting with a friend probably saved my life in Jan 2018 and from then on my stability in terms of where I’m living, and subsequently workwise too, levelled out. And so… with that in mind, it was almost exactly 2 years to the day that I moved in to my place that this change became apparent.

What happened? What changed? Honestly I’m unsure. I think perhaps I’d just about accepted who I was again over the preceding weeks. I’d travelled in November and had an amazing time there.. shared Xmas and Burns night with friends.. and..there was a lass on my arm who I’d fallen for quite hard. I’d genuinely changed into no longer having this protective wall up that I’d needed for years in order to survive. Or rather… I’d thought I’d needed it. But.. I’d let people in! People had got past the aloof guy at the bar… all reticence and puns.. and seen me as a person.

I started this with “Anyone who knows me” and.. I realise that in truth there’s not very many that do. “The Wall” by P Floyd resonates with me so much because, I’ve actively kept people at bay, but also those walls put there from my childhood were given to me looong before that. My mental health has been under attack from as long as I can remember because of daemons haunting me and I’ve used writing as an outlet for years. Probably also as a veiled cry for help too at times, although this was more than likely too subtly done for anyone unsuspecting to notice.

And the point to all this? It’s simple. And hugely important. Especially now. Please, I implore you, if you’re struggling, know that others are too, and they’re also there for you too. I’ve struggled, and i’m the stubbornest sod I know. As someone once said to me “It’s not easy banging your head against some mad bugger’s wall… and you’re the maddest bugger I know!” (I miss you Julia ). And yet, I shed tears with friends in February! Me! I … allowed that! I’ve changed. And I’ve stopped carrying everything myself. And you know what, i thought I was strong doing it myself, but what was stronger, was letting others help!

Here’s a pic to illustrate how I’ve changed in 5 years. On the left is me in Leiden where I was probably at my lowest… the right.. a couple of days ago!

It was mental health week. Let’s make it mental health strong instead!

Lock down Schmock down!

Where does a boy begin? It’s been a long few months!

So, I’m alive, all is good, and frankly very little has changed since my last check in! Well… that’s not strictly true. Much had changed, but has now pretty much gone back to normal. Albeit there’s a distinct absence of pub in my world for some reason. I came back from San Franthingy and embarked on a relationship thing with a lass who, was initially lovely, then turned into something else entirely, reverted back to lovely and then in true “Wiseman’s picked another one” fashion.. well… you can guess where that went! Actually we had a brilliant New Year… and I even went so far as to introduce her to my brother and nephew.

But hey.. things don’t always go as planned and aforementioned relationship went sideways. There’s things even I won’t tolerate and thus, I called it a day but if nothing else I got to dress up on New Year’s eve and drink whisky on Burns Night with company. This is a good photo and I’m happy to have that as the reminder in years to come as to how time passed for a while.

Dottyspanners
NyE

In terms of the whole lockdown thing… I pretty much trained for this in all the years I was in The Netherlands. It’s easy to deal with. There’s no pubs, so I am simply saving money! I don’t like drinking in the house.. so the liver is saying “Holy Crap…. what’s happening?” and suddenly feels 18 again! I’ve acquired a new pair of yellow bars, which is nice, grown my hair, which is semi behaving, and generally life is sort of ok.

I saw the Mission again! And.. quite probably picked up Corona virus there. I was dying for a few days.. but recovered reasonably quickly after the temperature subsided. It seems after the whole pneumonia thing in Holland that whenever I get sick now… it properly knocks me around. However, the Mission were brilliant. Probably their best gig that I’ve been to and I’ve been to a few! I also saw the dude from Drowning Pool, Ryan McCombs, across in The Robin 2, our local venue, and his version of More the Worthless will stay with me for a long time.

I also had my contract finally sorted. I’m now permanent at work, which is some nice security. I’m not sure where the last two years have gone but.. gone they have, and somehow I’ve managed to not walk out in a fit of temper! I’m getting older and wiser it seems! I’ve been commissioned to review another Saal Digital product too.. so that should be interesting assuming I can actually get around to sorting the amount of files needed to create what they need me to.

I was due to be finding a new place to live, but there’s been a hitch or nine and thus, I still remain in the hovel I’ve called home for 2 years. It’s become something I no longer notice now, but serves as an embarrassment at times and a reminder as to what was. But… it’s not like I can invite people round for a while. I’m specifically not going down the whole Covid rant route… but let’s just say that… if you’re in a car crash and you get mown down by a VW Golf but you happen to have traces of CV19,you’re classed as a Corona death rather than an overdose of german metal … well that explains the numbers then! No Wiseman. Leave it alone!

So.. yeah.. anyway. Much like Pearl Jam love to assert… I’m still alive. So… here’s a mugshot cos… it’s been a while.

Alistair Wiseman

Just a couple of pictures

Well, the States looked after me again. I do like it there although San Francisco is much more expensive than Vegas… but it was prettier in some respects and now there’s another place I can see on the gogglebox and go “I’ve been there!” loudly and irritatingly to all who’ll listen. The overtime pretty much paid for the whole thing and having timed it for a 5 week month I’ve come back to a bank account with basically the same as I had to go out with in it! Happy days!

Anyway… a couple of pictures…

View from Mount Diablo CA
The dark triangle.. is the shadow of the mountain!

Yes I know it’s a little stylised but.. it really captures how pretty it was there… and it wouldn’t be a SF entry without…

It needs no introduction

And finally… because it’s iconic too…

San Francisco here I come.

So, I know I know I’ve been neglecting this blog. I’ve been far too busy working. It’s been overtimes’r’us but, there’s a reward awaiting me. It seems my jaunt to Vienna and Prague has set off the whole want to travel thing and so this time I’ve decided to go further afield. I suspect by the title you can guess where is calling me. Yes… the city by the bay which was or was not depending on how much faith you put in Starship, “built on Rock and Roll”. Prague and Vienna were brilliant incidentally, and one thing especially to note was hearing Clawfinger’s version of Vienna, played in a pub in Vienna, while I was wearing a Clawfinger shirt! BrIlliant!! Anyway, I digress…. I’d spent 2 months looking at San Francisco costs… and mentally beating myself up over spending that much money on myself and then thought “Sod it”, and so bought the flights.

In truth there was more than that to the hesitation. My situation at work has been precarious for months now. My year contract ended, half the staff were made redundant, and my own contract is being renewed on a monthly basis giving me no security whatsoever. My hours have changed also, from 2-10 to 12-8 meaning much more interaction with people I’d rather not be interacting with. I specifically wanted the 2-10 shift as it was going to save me money due to the antisocial hours (I.E. keeping me out of the pub haha) but also keeping the amount of people I worked with to a minimum! I know me. I have very little in common with most people and while I can bluff it to a point, to not have to is much less of a mental strain. The 12-8 shift means… people are rubbing me up the wrong way and I’m struggling not to bite.. and doubtless vice versa. I’m aware of several who see me as “different” (damn right I am! haha) and then react negatively to me, but also there are now people who know I dislike what they are too. It makes for a volatile place mentally to be at times.

Today was one such day. Someone decided to complain that I smelt bad!! In truth there may have been a whiff (did you see what I did there? *groans*) of reason behind it which was that… yes I sweat while I’m at work because it’s stupidly hot (something I’ve complained about incessantly) .. but in general the only thing I smell of is Hugo Boss! But.. I suspect it was simply a malicious way to try and have a dig at me, which duly then went all round the office. Entertainingly the people who actually work with me closely (as in .. in close proximity) all disagreed re: the smell but hey, the power of suggestion to those who don’t really know me, or do know the people who take issue with and favour them over me…. or indeed a neutral… that power is massively strong. Anyone being told I whiff… would then automatically project it onto me irrespective of anything else. It’s then pointless attempting to dissuade them because.. cognitive dissonance… they’ve made their choice and contrary evidence would then cause them to doubt themselves. I could of course cite the Pamela Dalton study : “two groups of people were given the same thing to smell. One group was told it was a chemical solvent, the other — a rain forest plant. After 15 minutes of smelling the odor, the group that thought they were smelling a chemical reported feeling sick. The group that thought it was a plant felt relaxed and even rejuvenated.”, but … like I say… once someone has been exposed to a negative cognitive stimuli.. there’s basically no point. Plus… why would I possibly know about such things… it’s not like I’ve ever studied cognitive behav….. oh wait!! However…. It’s entirely possible that the person who complained may well have been under the influence of someone else.. thus they’re not the responsible … or perhaps… it was just one of those things and I did whiff a little? Who knows? All I know is… it wasn’t a fun day at all! And I’m using too many “…”s!

So yes, it’s not been an easy ride since coming back from Prague. But, I’ve slung in the hours, and now I should at least for a few days be able to relax in some sun before coming back to the hovel I call home. Every now and again i think of things I probably shouldn’t. I recall my father telling me “You’ll never go nowhere and you’ll never do nothing” (yes I know… HOW many negatives?) but also I think about what might have been had the ex wife actually come across here in an attempt to save the marriage, and the lifestyle we could’ve had with us both earning. I worry at times that things like a trip abroad are nothing more than my mentally sticking up two fingers at them both as if to say “Screw you!”. Am I spending money as a form of metaphorical vitriolic spite, when instead I should be attempting to make the aforementioned hovel something more emotionally resembling a home? Does even the act of asking myself that question answer it? I do think at times it’s certainly a part of me, the whole “Screw you” thing… but I’d like to think that the majority is purely because I love the travel, the new experiences, and the taking of pictures while there. The bitter, contrasts nicely with the savory version of me, and I think serves a purpose of its own, which is to keep me alert to where I am mentally in my head. The bitter makes the the savory react and control it. Anger is a gift but it’s also an addictive one. That dopamine release needs to be controlled as it’s addictive. In Holland I used to bob back to the UK as a way to fight the pernicious insidious creeping of depression and desperation there, and it worked to a point. It kept me sane. I think here, over these last few months, I’ve spent too much time at work within time parameters which I didn’t originally agree to as a base, and it’s altered how I’ve coped with it. Watching things happen that I’m not ok with has messed with my ability to walk away from it at the end of the day and detach. But, things have changed again now and hopefully that will ease for the next few months. It’ll be May before I get a permanent contract, so I’m told though, so that sword of Damocles will linger for a few months longer. Such is life.

So, while I know it’s not been long since I last gallivanted, I think this time it’s a different thing. There’s not the stress of not knowing the language, and while I’ve not been specifically to SF before… I’ve done enough of the USA to know how it works. I’ll come back with jeans, probably trainers, and memories. Hopefully refreshed and back to my usual bouncy self. Until then I’ll leave you with a very sad picture of me in Vienna, still with hair, and a daft hat because…. it was 40c there! Where I come from that’s a bra size not a temperature!


Alistair Wiseman

Travel bug bit me again.

Well… there’s still no news as to if I’m one of the 50% of people who are about to find themselves redundant at my ever jolly place of work and so, while I have the opportunity, it’s time to jump on a plane again. I’ve always wanted to see Prague, so I’m off and away in a few days time. With a day in Vienna added in to boot! That will mean I’ve done new countries and 4 new capitals within the space of a year. I’m quietly pleased with that. I know my abode is grim but, what I’ve not spent on home comforts has allowed me to simply spend time away from it, and experience new and different things. As i see it, it’s a fair compromise and one that rewards more than it takes. I’ve worked for it, so grab it while it’s there. If only I had a decent camera still but hey ho. And on that note.. here’s a Goldfinch! He sits on the ariel next to my window and poses for me .. right up until I point the camera at him and then he’s gone. I’ve had 3 attempts to get a decent pic of him.. and this is the best I’ve got so far

Goldfinch
Morning alarm clock. Cheep and cheerful ..?

All Work and No Play!

Well I’ve hammered in the overtime over the last few weeks and have left myself a tad shattered. Yesterday was the worst I guess, 2-10 on Friday, followed by a swift pint and then 6-1 Saturday. There’s not much left of me at all now! It seems I’ll be likely out of a job come August as there’s going to be a 50% reduction in staff which, given there’s only 83 in our depo means I’m reasonably certain I’ll be one to go as I’m the last one in. Not looking forward to the whole drag of finding and starting something new again.

I’m tired mentally too though it seems. Someone decided to mail me that my old best mate is still in contact with my ex wife, and asserted that she’s trying to lure him over there using my old DVDs as bait. I dismissed it as someone with a wooden spoon but it’s dwelt more on my mind than it should do. It’s well over 3 years since I spoke to either so it’s irked me that the brain is letting it slop around my head. Until then I barely gave the ex a thought save for Facebook throwing up memories here and there (and lest we forget, there’s only half the amount as she deleted all of hers) and frankly I’d not care if she were alive or dead but I’ve shared most of my life with my mate and I know he’s vulnerable at the moment.

It’s funny. I stood up at work in a big ole meeting and placed myself in the firing line by attempting to speak that which others might be too scared to say, or unable to articulate, and was thanked for it by about 13 people. I know it left me looking like “Al’s the bad guy” or “Al’s making waves” etc etc, but it was the right thing to do. It’s a theme that’s followed me for years. I do what I think is the right thing to do and suffer the consequences afterwards. I left the UK to do the Jack’s dad thing only to be left with nothing afterwards. I moved to Holland to do the relationship thing… and then left because it was going to cost me my life if I stayed because there was no support for my spiralling into despair there. It was the right thing to do, even though it left me with nothing, and cost me all that I’d put my life into. The lack of understanding of this cost me my mate too. You don’t have to “get” why I needed to leave, you just have to understand that I did and accept it because… you know me and know it’s not something I’d just do on a whim. Hells teeth I survived 9 years there nearly and while it wasn’t all bad, all I need to do is scroll through the “on this days” and various blog entries over the years to see the constant struggle I had to cope there mentally.

I guess a best mate and a wife are who you trust to have an eye out for that. Your mental health, An investment of years surely earns it? But the wife never noticed as I cried daily, sometimes even with my head in her lap, and then later.. my mate sat and told me about how good I’d had it over there after i’d left her. And there’s the thing. From the outside no one even registered that there was an issue. No one looked deeper than the nice shiny surface. Even Esther I suspect! But they should have.

There’s an absolute abundance of memes etc telling stories of how “invisible illnesses are stigmatised because you can’t physically see symptoms” and there’s just as many about mental health issues and how there’s no shame in saying there’s a problem. As the Therapy? song says… “It’s ok not to be ok .. when you’re living through this” and damn was I not ok over there. It wasn’t an illness though. It was a constant mental assault, eating at me. I’d fought for something that the other partner wouldn’t fight for. I’d given all of me while she.. she did nothing. I fed and nourished her and supported her mentally… but I needed that back up too. “You wanted me to be your anchor … but I never realised that meant I had to drown”. And man.. I came so close to drowning. Depression so very nearly had me beaten. But it never progressed to the illness part. I still had the facility to choose to change my environment and thus I won, even if the consequence was the loss of both of those I’d spent such time on. “It’s time wasted on your rose which makes it important,” Ain’t that the truth!

But, I’ve survived. Even prospered. 2 new countries and capital cities. All my bills paid. Hell I’ve even a credit card! But that absence of something I’d had for years makes things that should barely create a noise… they echo now within the void which now exists there. I wonder if it’s a wound that won’t heal?

It seems mental health is not unlike physical. For the most part now I’m fine. But every now and again I ache, be it in the cold wind, or the gust of words that spark reactions. I’ve looked into the void and the void has looked into me. We’ve reached an impasse I suspect.

This is not a piece written in anger. It’s not a blame thing either. It’s just a cathartic release into text of what’s been cooking in my head over the last few days. Written for me. My audience these days is limited anyway. But for now I’m done. The football won’t watch itself! I’ll leave you.. and me.. with this… because it’s such a good tune.

It’s ok not to be ok!