It’s never easy to find the perfect Christmas present, but it’s a good time to take advantage of the many special offers in the shops and upgrade your digital camera or computer or buy a new gadget or gizmo. In case you need a little inspiration here are a few ideas:-
  • Upgrade an older digital camera to a new DSLR - The Canon 600D from £400 or the 650D from £450 with a multi angle LCD & touch screen technology are both easy to use and eligible for Canon winter cash back of up to £50. 
  • Get  a new perspective with a new lens. Choose a new super zoom such as the Tamron   18-270mm from £270 to get one lens for every moment or for the budding wildlife photographer choose a telephoto lens such as a 70-300mm from £130. Prefer a more compact option?
  • Upgrade to one of the new generation compact cameras,  popular brands such as Panasonic, Olympus, Canon and Sony all offer cameras with fantastic features and zoom capabilities to suit all pockets from £150 to £500 for a premium advanced compact such as the Canon SX40i and the new Sony RX100.
  • Improve comfort with an OpTech Pro neoprene camera strap from £15. A  welcome replacement for an uncomfortable free camera strap.
  • For DSLR owner add  a lens  filter.  Choose a UV filter  to protect the lens and reduce glare & reflection or a polarising filter to get dark blue skies.
  • Add a spare battery, a second battery is a very useful  addition to any camera.
  • A new case to hold the new camera and accessories.  Choose from rucksacks, day bags or a sling shot side bag like the one on the right.
  • Choose  a new fast all-in-one PC, laptop or sleek ultra-book for computing on the  go.  Feature packed, touch screens, TV and more including free windows 8 upgrades. 
  • Upgrade your PC to windows 8 for £25; check out the Microsoft web site for details.  
  • Add an external hard drive to back up your photos and data – 1TB from £65.
  • Subscribe to Cloud services for online backup and access to your photos and documents.
  • Create a personalised canvas,  photo book, calendar or diary online. Check out www.photobox.co.uk or www.albelli.co.uk for some great ideas and
    special offers.
  • Buy an e-reader or tablet for fast browsing and email on the go. Great for accessing data via cloud services and Wi-Fi.  Check out the new Kindle Fire & Nook e-readers or the 10” Samsung Note and 7” Asus Google Nexus Tablet or for Mac lovers the new 7” ipad. 
  • And finally don’t forget an Inspirations Training Gift certificate for a 1 to 1 session, workshop or photo shoot day out to learn how to use your new gift - available from £50. 
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Canon 650D
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Canon 70-300mm
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Op Tech Pro Strap
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Calendar Layout
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Kindle Fire HD
If you’d like some help and advice on choosing a new camera, laptop or accessory or a gift certificate please feel free to contact me by email or phone.
 
September is traditionally a time of new beginnings and with the start of a new academic year people turn their attention to hobbies and interests to occupy the longer evenings. Autumn is a great time to learn new skills or improve existing  ones so why not join a small local class and get to grips with your computer or digital camera in time for Christmas?
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Whether we like it or not, computers are now a part of our increasingly busy lives helping us to stay in touch with family & friends and get the best deals when we want to splash the cash on something new.  Increasingly people are choosing the convenience of faster, light weight modern notebook PC’s that can be used round the home, stored away in a cupboard when not needed or taken with you when you are away.

Whether we like it or not, computers are now a part of our increasingly busy lives helping us to stay in touch with family & friends and get the best deals when we want to splash the cash on something new.  Increasingly people are choosing the convenience of faster, light weight modern notebook PC’s that can be used around the home, stored away in a cupboard when not needed or taken with you when you are away. 
 
Today Windows 7 makes it easier than ever to get started with computing and before you know it, with a little help and guidance, you will have your own email address and be sending and receiving emails, surfing the web and taking advantage of all the great features a modern PC has to offer like built in web cameras to help you keep in touch. Prices start from just £300, of course you can spend a lot more on a feature packed powerful Notebook, extra software, product cover and support but the chances are you won’t need or want many of the extra features you are actually paying for so beware of hidden extras.  
 
If you are thinking of buying a new PC there is a vast choice. Do you want a Windows 7 PC or are you a drawn to the style of the more expensive Apple Mac but really don’t know which to choose? Would a tablet PC or Netbook do everything you want? Are you confused by the sales jargon and features available?   Would you like free impartial advice to help you buy the right PC for your needs? If so call me at Inspirations Training. I can accompany you or buy a laptop for you if you prefer and will setup your new computer and show you how to start using it from just £40. Help and advice on getting online for the first time is also available.

Would you like to learn how to use your computer, research the best deals or your family history online or just learn more about using all those new features?  I am hoping to run a weekly course this autumn for anyone who would like to become more confident in using their PC.   Classes will last 2 ½ hrs with a maximum of 5 people at  special offer price of £75 for 5 sessions including refreshments.  We will cover all the essential skills, and more,   including how to use email; make video calls and free phone calls using  Skype; surf the internet and keep your PC up to date and safe. I already have  few people interested so give me a call to find out more if you would like to join us.

Don’t forget September is also a good time to get out and about with your camera and this year is no exception with the welcome arrival of some long overdue sunny weather, just in time for the children to return to school! 
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Bodiam Castle Kent September 2012
For those of you lucky enough to be able to take advantage of it charge your camera batteries and get out and about taking some photos. It’s the ideal time to visit all those popular locations loved by holiday makers that are usually just too busy in the summer months; quaint picturesque fishing villages; beaches; local attractions and so on. This Indian summer weather provides a good quality of light but remember the best time for photography is always the golden hours, before and  after sunrise or sunset.

 
Following the wettest July on record everyone is hoping for some holiday sun. So whether you have chosen to travel to warmer climates or will be holidaying in the UK here are a few ideas and tips to help you take the right camera with you and have a hassle free time.  
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Nokia Lumia 920
When travelling it makes sense to pack essentials items and with reduced luggage
allowances choosing which gadgets to take with you is more important than ever.  Whether it’s a relaxing holiday or the trip of a lifetime you will want to take  photographs to remind you of the best bits.

The latest smart phones often come with excellent cameras offering a range of settings and options to rival many compact cameras.  They also allow you to take advantage of free Wi-Fi to keep in touch with friends and family whilst travelling and avoid expensive international roaming charges.

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Tamron 18-270mm
If you are taking an SLR camera on holiday make sure it fits into a compact bag, this is essential if you are flying as it will also need to fit in your hand luggage. Start by choosing the right lens, what you intend to photograph will influence your choice, but a wide angel and a decent telephoto lens between 200-300mm will cover most subjects.  An increasingly popular choice for travel photography is a super zoom, this offers the best of both worlds by combining the versatility of  a wide angle with a decent zoom capability allowing you to get in closer, a third party lens such as the Tamron AF 18-270mm is more affordable and a can be a good investment if you travel a lot.

Another option is to upgrade an older compact camera for one that offers 14 to 30 x zoom, canon and Panasonic have an excellent range of high zoom cameras.  If you don’t mind spending more why not consider the increasingly popular travellers choice – a compact system camera with inter-changeable lens.  Smaller and lighter than a traditional SLR with many of the features, but not always a view finder, for the price of an entry level SLR these are available from Panasonic, Olympus and Nikon.  
 
Whichever type of camera you choose remember to pack extra storage cards; a spare battery & the charger; a polarising filter if your camera takes one and your lens hood to help combat reflection & glare.  Remember, it is safer to use several smaller memory cards than one super capacity card. If you only take one card and it is lost or stolen you will also lose all your photos.  Change your card regularly and keep used cards in a separate location to your camera! Don’t forget to check that your camera kit is fully insured before you go and make a record of the serial numbers for your kit if you haven’t already done so.   

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Acer 11.6" Netbook
A Net book can be an excellent travel accessory. You can download, review and  email your photos and even phone home for free using Wi-Fi. Now relatively inexpensive at about £200, they are light weight, have lots of storage space and a proper key board making them far better value than any tablet PC with its limited use and storage.  Check out Asus, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and HP.    
  
Finally remember cameras & gadgets are highly desirable to street thieves, so take care of your camera or someone else will get to enjoy your holiday snaps at your expense.

 
As April approaches it’s time for a little spring cleaning, but not just your home. It’s just as important to tidy up and clean your valuable PC and Camera kit and you will be rewarded by an improvement in both its look and performance.
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Sort email into folders
Let’s start with your PC.  Check out your email’s over crowed inbox.  File important emails, such as receipts or account details in suitable named folders and save any attachments you want to keep, such as photos or documents.  Then delete all those
out of date marketing emails, the jokes you never read and the routine emails  you replied to long ago.  Try  sorting your emails by who they are from so you can select blocks of emails to  delete.  Remember to switch back to sort by date when you have finished.  Now take a look at your contacts and update or delete any that are out of  date or duplicates.  Finally make a  resolution to keep your inbox tidy by deleting messages you don’t need to keep  once you have read them!

Next take a look at the Documents and Pictures folders and tidy up the contents by filing stray items. If you haven’t already got a filing system it’s  as good a time as any to start one. Create folders for different types of documents and try organising your photos by creating main folders for each year.  Don’t forget to tidy the desktop too by deleting unwanted shortcut icons. Also consider uninstalling any software you no  longer use; updating windows and other software and running the disk clean up  and disk defragmenter
tools.  

Daunted by the thought of tackling this alone?  If you would like to find out more about how to organise your PC why not book a one to one session or join a local class or workshop? 

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check your memory cards
Now let’s turn our attention to your camera kit.  Start by checking your memory cards and download any forgotten images and then make sure  ALL your photos are backed up to an external Hard Drive or DVD, it’s all too  easy to forget this vital step.  You can then Format the memory cards in the camera, you’ll find this option on the menu settings.  Next empty your camera case, remove any dust or debris & wipe out with a damp and then remove and clean the camera strap too.  Next clean the camera lens using a lens cloth and suitable lens cleaner, and then the LCD screen.   If you own a DSLR remember to clean all your lenses and remove and clean any lens filters, on both sides. 

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Firmware update screen
Just like your PC your camera runs on software, called firmware, and you should make sure that it is running on the latest version.  Check out the settings menu to find the version details and then visit the support section of the manufacturer’s web site to locate any firmware updates.   You should download them to a memory card and then follow the instructions in the user guide to install the firmware update.

Now give yourself a pat on the back, pick up your camera and get out a take some great spring photos, then enjoy downloading and viewing them on your newly organised PC.

For more help and advice on using your camera or PC why not book an introductory one to one session at the special offer price of just £40 for 2 hours. Alternatively why not reward yourself with a day out at a wild life or spring colour Photo Shoot and improve your camera skills.

 
As the nights draw out the first signs of spring arrive.  Crisp days with clear blue skies filled with billowing white clouds, colourful sun sets and the changing scenery as the landscape is softened by the early spring flowers.  
 
Take a walk in the surrounding Yealmpton woods and you will be greeted with an abundance of snow drops this year. Primroses are beginning to bloom and before you know it the daffodils will soon be cheering us all up.   Local National Trust gardens such as Cothele and Lanhydrock will soon be over flowing with daffodils so why not pay a visit this March and take a stroll round the gardens with your camera.

Spring is the perfect time to perfect your camera skills and learn how to get the most from your camera,   whether it is a fairly new acquisition or one you have had for a while.  Learning more about how to use it will ensure you capture some stunning spring photos.
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Shoot from low angle
For spring colour you need to get up close and personal with the flora and fauna. Many cameras have multi-angle LCD screens making it easier than ever to get the perfect view.  Plants close to the ground look best when shot from the side, rather than from above with you standing over them. So take something to kneel on and get down to plant level to take your shot.  Check out the Macro settings on your camera to get super close-ups of snow drops and other plants.  When shooting close up a steady hand is essential so consider investing in a mini tripod or a bean bag for less than£10 to ensure you get really steady shots.

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A Nuthatch at the feeder
Early spring is a busy time at the bird table, so don’t forget to keep the all day buffet topped up!   You will be rewarded with an abundance of visitors to your table as they prepare for spring and the young  they hope to rear.   To get  the most from your bird table make sure it is sited close a tree or hedge so the birds feel safe and most importantly so you have a clear view from a window. With a few preparations you can then photograph the visiting birds, and squirrels, and stay warm.   

When shooting through glass always remember to clean it inside and out. A compact zoom or SLR camera with a zoom lens is the best choice but if the bird table is close enough you can still get great shots with a compact camera.  If you can shoot in Program mode and select an ISO of 200-400 as this will speed up the exposure and enable you to get clearer shots. Choose single point or small area focusing and focus on the eye or head of the bird.  To get the best shots use a tripod and leave your camera set up ready to go when you have lots of visitors.

If you would like to practice your camera skills and discover how to get better photos why not join a local spring photo shoot to capture spring colour or wildlife and get expert hands on advice on how to get shots that wow.