Tuesday, 31 May 2011

I'm taking over the running of the Birmingham Social Media Cafe!

I am delighted to announce to that I will be taking over the running of the Birmingham Social Media Cafe!

It is an honour to be passed the baton by Chris Unitt and Ian Ravenscroft who have been doing a fabulous job of running the Cafe for the last 18 months or so after being handed the reigns by founder Joanna Geary. Thank you to Joanna, Chris and Ian for doing such a great job with the event!

You may be asking "What is the Birmingham Social Media Cafe?"

From the website: The Birmingham Social Media Cafe is a place for people interested in social media to gather, get acquainted, chat, plot, scheme, and share. If you’re interested in the future of media, how we organise, share, produce and enjoy it, then come along. If you’re an artist, film maker, geek, marketer, academic, musician, designer, writer, photographer, or anything close or related, then please come along.

It is held on the last Friday of every month from 10am until around midday, or longer if you are busy meeting and chatting! The venue can vary a little, but recent venues have included Birmingham Town Hall, Cafe Blend and the Coffee Lounge so keep an eye on the website or twitter for the latest update

I remember the first time I attended the Social Media Cafe about 3 years ago. I was just making my first steps into the online/social media world and making online connections with people in Birmingham. Attending the cafe was a great opportunity to meet those online connections face to face and say hello.

As mentioned above, it's open for anyone to attend so if you haven't been before, don't be shy, come along! You are guaranteed to meet a friendly and interesting group of people. If it's your first time, just give me a shout and I'll introduce you to folks.

You can follow the Birmingham Social Media Cafe on twitter: @birminghamsmc and you can find me @karenstrunks

See you there! :)

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Time for a social media profile change. New portrait photos!

Since losing 50lbs, I thought it was high time for a new profile photo to reflect the new and improved me. I wanted a strong, colourful image for all my social media sites (youtube, twitter, blogs, website, facebook etc etc...).

Here's a bonus before and after comparison! The image on the right was my old social media profile photo.

What a difference!

And...HELLO COLLAR BONES! I must admit to being quite fascinated with my newly emerged collar bones. When I check myself in the mirror, its not my hair, make up or clothes that I'm eyes are drawn to, it's those collar bones. It's quite a novelty I guess.

I set up the tripod and camera at home and decided to DIY the photo shoot. Well, I am a photographer after all. It would be a shame if I didn't get the benefit of my own skills!

I have a shutter release cable, so it was just a matter of click, click, clicking away. To be honest, it might have been easier to get someone else to do it all, but I was impatient and wanted new pics NOW.

A change of outfit. I love this dress and wear it fairly often. It was a fairly close fit when I bought it a 2/3 months ago, but it feels lose on me already.

After comparing each outfit I decided to go with my dress with the red in it as red is my favourite colour.

I've got my best friend arriving to stay this weekend (sooo excited!!) and we've said if the weather is good on Saturday we'll go out and do a portrait shoot together, so there could be some more photos coming soon! :)

Friday, 20 May 2011

Weight maintenance update & answering weight loss email - your weight loss choices

It's been three weeks since I reached my 50lb weight loss goal. 3 weeks? Is that all? For some reason it feels like longer!

So, three weeks into my weight loss maintenance and what do the scales say today....?

I've practically stayed the same as last week (which I didn't blog). 137.8lbs. Yay!! Looks like I'm getting the balance between eating more (than I was doing when losing weight), but not too much (so I put weight on). At least for this week!

So the little red arrow on the left (below) is the 140lb mark. I want to stay just under it at around 138lb mark (arrow on right).

I bought a new black lacey dress recently. You can't see the detail very well but it's ever so pretty!

I did a fairly big food shop today. I thought I'd share with you some of the items I bought. A couple of 'treats' like chocolate mints and a couple of desserts, some gluten free crispbread (I've still got to figure out if I am gluten/wheat intolerant). I only buy Marks & Spencer sausages as they are gluten free and 97% meat. BUT the good news is I am 99% sure I am not allergic to dairy!! I've been testing myself out on cream (a little), yoghurt and sour cream. I bought some cheese today, so will try that next (I haven't had cheese for 8 months, since I suspected I had developed a diary allergy) but so far no bad reaction to dairy!         


And of course, a big fruit and veg haul (mainly from the Bullring Market - so many bargains & beats supermarket prices every time!). I might not eat ALL of this in the coming week. Some things will keep well in the fridge until next week such as the oranges, lemons, chinese pears and potatoes, but I'll make a good dent in them!

When I imagined reaching my goal, I knew that when I got there I couldn't go back to my old eating habits, but it's just really sinking in now, that maintaining my new weight is going to take just as much of a commitment as losing weight has.

I can't be all free and easy with food like I was this time last year just because I'm at my goal weight.
Luckily I have accepted this new way of eating (and exercise) easily enough. As I have said many times before, my taste buds have changed, I don't have the same cravings, I am satisfied with less, (now I can just have one chocolate and leave the rest for example), I have more will power, I listen to my body more and eat instinctively. It's a whole new way, but it's all good.

And I've really enjoyed the process - bonus!

But, if I don't want to go back to square one, I'm going to have to remain aware of what I'm eating every day. Even every meal time. Every snack. All the big, and just as importantly, the small decisions I make will be the determining factor in staying at my goal weight.

I just want to mention a lady that got in touch, asking for some weight loss help. I mentioned that I was working on a blog post draft that would address her enquiry, so it's great that it was able to help someone in advance!

This lady basically asked for a kick up the bum! I obliged, in a good way I hope! She wants to lose weight, but found finding the motivation hard. I sent her my draft post by email. Here it is...

You have choices.

Choice 1. Don't lose weight! Stay as you are. I was happy when I was overweight (but I'm much happier now).

Accept the way you are. You might need to work on that, but you would be removing the pressure you are putting yourself under now to lose weight.

What's the consequence of staying as you are? How would you feel if you accepted it?

Choice 2. Lose weight and get healthy & fit.

Get curious. Challenge yourself and your body. See what happens!

Getting started is often the hardest part, but I haven't heard anyone say they regret getting started/losing weight/getting active! What's stopping you?

Imagine how you would feel if you took a step in that direction. And then you start to see the results and rewards that follow.

Why do you want to lose weight? We all have our own personal reasons/goals to doing this. Think about what yours are. Write them down & put them up where you can see them. You only need one reason.

You can't lose weight for anyone else but yourself, but once YOU have made the decision, there is nothing stopping you.

Become accountable, tell someone, make it public (blog/twitter)! Or keep your own diary. It's proven that people who write down (any) goals/dreams stand a much better chance of succeeding.

Plan HOW you are going to do it. We know what works, and there's plenty of help online about healthy choices.

Food wise, try new healthier alternatives, ditch the processed foods as much as you can. Give your taste buds a chance to change (mine have). If you don't buy it, you can't eat it! Cravings come but they go away too. And besides you know already know what cake/crisps/fatty/processed food tastes like, what's new?!

Be patient. See the 'bigger' picture and the longer term. It's taken me 9 months to get to my goal weight, but I broke down my goals all the way along. The first 7lbs, 10lbs, 14lbs etc.

Remember the benefits you will feel! More energy, sense of achievement and pride. Boost to confidence. Clothes looking and feeling better. It's all good!

Don't be a slave to the scales! Monitor weight but certainly no more than once a week. Listen to how your body feels (it will thank you for making these changes!). Take body measurements once a month & keep track. Don't be discouraged if you gain weight (I've lost count at the amount of weeks that I have gained or stayed the same over the last 9 months) The important thing is to keeping going and set your sights on your goals. Nothing and no-one stop you.

So, there are my words of wisdom! I hope they help.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me karenstrunks@hotmail.co.uk or send me a tweet!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Attending & speaking at the National Photography Symposium in Liverpool

Last weekend was ALL about photography!

The build up to me attending and speaking at the National Photography Symposium began a few weeks earlier when Paul Herrman from Redeye Photography Network called me and ask me to speak about the 4am Project. Redeye organise the LOOK photography festival and as part of that umbrella, the National Photography Symposium (NPS).

Of course I would! Speaking at a Redeye event had been one of my goals for the last couple of years! I hadn't actively done anything about arranging it, but it had been on my must-do list, so when the call came in, I just had to do it.

What a weekend. I am all photography inspired.

I arrived in Liverpool on Friday afternoon with time to check into my hotel before reaching the Bluecoat for the opening of the LOOK11 festival. Even just listening to the opening speeches, I just knew it was going to be a good couple of days.

On Friday night I had the chance to have dinner with other attendees and speakers at the NPS. We talked about our work and inspirations and whipped out our iphones to look at one another's photo galleries. In such prestigious company I found myself wondering what these wonderful photographers would think of my work.

It was a 9.30 start to the day on the Saturday. The first event I went to was a talk by photographer, artist and Professor of Photography at the University of Ulster, Paul Seawright. He talked about documenting the conflicts in Northern Ireland, showing us his photographs and the story behind each one. This is something I could really relate to. Having lived in NI (Derry, Coleraine & Kilkeel) from about 1978-86 I am all too familiar with the troubles. (Perhaps I'll tell you about that sometime).


Paul also talked about his photography missions to Africa  for his project Invisible Cities and also the USA for his current project Volunteer.

The next event I attended was called: The Future is Now: Photographers and their archives.

I thought this would be good to go to due to the huge 6000+ digital archive of 4am Project photographs.

This was led by Paul Hill from The Photographers Place. Paul has a very impressive photography history! He is also a former Birmingham Post & Mail photographer (we swapped a few stories as that's where I first cut my photography teeth!).

Paul Hill from the Photographers Place

The debate of archiving was opened up to the attendees. Some things that were discussed....

Never delete a photo
Film vs Digital
Storing prints/negatives (laminating seems to work well but not recommended!)
Using meta data on digital images
How everyone with a camera is a photographer (a good thing in my book!)
How with the digital age, it's hard to spot talent as there are so many photographers & photographs (I argued against that!)

All good stuff!

The next talk was: Imagining the photograph centre of the future.

This session asked.... What should or might be the role of a centre of photography?
What form should it take?
Should it be physical or virtual?
Who is it aimed at?

It talked about recent attempts in the Scotland, Wales and England to set up centres of photography, and compares this to the experiences of other countries and disciplines.

I must admit to leaving this before it ended. My session was coming up and I wanted to get a chance to go over the notes of my talk and make sure the room was set up ok.


My talk!!

I was a little worried that not many people would come. I guess that's not such an unusual worry for someone giving a talk. I had been tweeting about my talk and using the #nps3 hash tag to promote and tell people about it.

I needn't have worried though. It was almost a full house!

I talked about how the 4am Project began, how I used social media to garner support and spread the word about the project world wide, how I received funding and sponsorship. who takes part and why and my plans to take it forward.

I had 20 minutes to deliver my talk, and I pretty much was dead on with the timing with just a few minutes spare to answer any questions.

I made a video of my talk. I hope you enjoy it.

There was so much more to the weekend than the few things I have mentioned. There were photo exhibitions on the subject of Confined.  Some particular favourites were:

Juergen Chill - Confined

John Darwell - Dogs in cages
Ben Graville - Prisoners in police vans

David Moore - 28 Days

How the weekend has inspired me.

I got so much out of the weekend. I met some great people and wonderful photographers.

It made me realise that practically all the photography I do at the moment is for clients. That's not a bad thing in itself! It's just that I have left myself with no time to play, to imagine new projects, to do my own thing exactly how I want to. So, to rectify this, I have schedule Photography Project days in to my calendar for the next few months. Just one day a month or so, but at least it will give me time to exercise my creativity and imagination, and I can't wait.

I've also realised I haven't really been looking at other people's photography very much, and the photography I have been looking at is kind of the same genre. I would like to open my viewing platform and appreciate other styles and genres.

Some other quick thoughts, which I can work with in my viewing other photography work and my own photo project(s)...
  • So what if the image is blurred - it's still an image, there to give thought to
  • So what if there's camera flash shadow - I'm always at pains to avoid that in my professional photos
  • You CAN crop square! Again, this is something I have avoided for ages...
I just feel that, oddly, what I saw and heard at the weekend has almost given me permission to go and do 'my thing' with photography, whatever that might be. We shall see!

Thank you to all involved for a great weekend, for allowing me to achive one of my goals and for all the photography inspiration.

If you get a chance to go to the next LOOK festival, I can highly recommend it!

Say Hello on twitter! @karenstrunks :)

Thursday, 12 May 2011

I'm attending the Look 11 Launch & speaking at the National Photography Symposium this weekend!

I've got a busy, but exciting, couple of days coming up!

Tomorrow I'm off to Liverpool to attend the launch of the Look photography festival, and on Saturday I'll be attending the National Photography Symposium and also giving a talk there!

I'll be speaking about the 4am Project on Saturday at 3.45pm in the Garden Room. I'll be covering how the project started and captured people's imagination world wide, how I have garnered support for the project using social media, and my plans to take it forward.

I'm really looking forward to learning at lot, and meeting fellow photographers. It's going to be a packed two days. If you are going too, be sure to say hello! :)

Tweet me @karenstrunks

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Pecha Kucha Night in Birmingham 18th May - Volume 4

Upcoming speaking engagement!

Pecha Kucha Night - 18th May 
7.30pm - 10.30pm
Victoria Pub, John Bright Steet, Birmingham

What is Pecha Kucha?

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public.

It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat", it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It's a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.

I've been meaning to do a Pecha Kucha night for AGES! Time hasn't been on my side. Until now!

And now the date is approaching, I'm getting a little bit 'eeek!' about it! I thought of a subject: Heartache. I think. Though I do have another subject idea, but I had better make my mind up soon! The topic of Heartache may sound a bit depressing, but I'm hoping to suprise you ;)

I'll be speaking along with 8 other folks, all with a story to tell and entertain you with! And it's not just happening in Birmingham - events are taking place in 100's of cities across the world too.

Tickets for the event are £5 and you can buy them on Eventbrite. Pecha Kucha are donating the money to Japan earthquake relief.

See you there! :)

Say hello on twitter @karenstrunks

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Weight loss report & the battle of mind over body!

It's been about a week since I reached my 50lb weight loss goal and when I weighed-in this week it showed a 1lb loss which I was a little bit surprised about because I've actually made a point of eating a bit more than I normally do now that I am trying to maintain my current weight.

You can never tell what your body is going to do so I'm just going to continue eating a little bit more than I was doing when I was losing weight and hopefully things will even themselves out. I don't really want to lose more weight. Although at times I a little bit curious about how I would look and feel if I lost a few more pounds, but not so curious as to actually try and do that.

I had probably one of my worst runs today and have learned a few lessons.  I've actually come back from this run feeling quite grumpy when normally after a run, even if it gets a bit tough during the run, I feel great afterwards. Not so today though.

I was really in the mood for a run today and decided to do a 4 mile tempo run which consists of walking, running & running faster, just mixing up the pace a bit. This can runs a bit more interesting and I've enjoyed this type of run before.

Now, I've been having a few twinges in my left leg for a couple of days. Nothing painful, but I'm aware that something is not quite right. Regardless, I went ahead with my run and once I'd done a good walk up walk, I broke into a slow run. After that I mixed it up with different speed/effort.

Every step felt like a effort today. I checked my watch too many times. Before I had even run a mile I considered abandoning the idea. I had a argument going on in my mind..

"yeah, but your leg isn't quite right. It's ok not to run you know"

"why are you doing this? You are not enjoying it today!"

"look how slowly the time is going, it's going to be ages before you hit the 4 miles"


"I've done 4 miles before. I can do it again. It's only about 40 minutes of effort"

"Look how far you have come this year! From struggling to run/walk a mile to a six miler last weekend in a great time!"

"Look at all the people that struggle to walk or can't run, and you have two good legs, use them! Be grateful for the body you have"

And so this continued for 4 miles. And I did those 4 miles through mixed emotions ranging from determination, to almost wanting to quit, to feeling tearful, to getting angry. 

BUT (hindsight!) I should have listened to my body. Those twinges in my left leg? I'm now limping. LESSON LEARNT!

I could have done some other exercise today. A walk, some hula hooping, perhaps some biking which although uses legs(!) isn't an 'impact' type of exercise.

Since I took up running in January I've run about 150miles (I haven't tracked quite all of them) over countless runs, so to have one bad run over these months isn't bad going really.

I'm now going to rest my leg as much as I can and only run when it's better again. Hopefully soon. I really don't want to take a break from running! I'm just going to have to adapt in the meantime.

There's a busy week ahead with two trips to Liverpool. I'm delivering some social media training with Talk About Local tomorrow, and I'm attending the Red Eye event, National Photography Symposium, on Friday and Saturday. On the Saturday I'll be giving a talk about the 4am Project. Give me a shout if you are going! :)

And now, as it's Me Day Sunday, I'm going to chill out, have a lovely Sunday Roast, catch up on a film or two, and have a bit of beauty pampering!

Say hello on twitter @karenstrunks :)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Acknowledging the amazingness of this week!

This last week has been very busy and when I finally had time to sit down and let my mind wander I realised it's been a pretty awesome week! So I'm going to acknowledge it and make a note of the highlights.

Weight Loss

I celebrated reaching my 50lb weight loss goal. A big acheivement that fills me with a sense of pride. I actually did it! After years of resisting losing weight I am now 50lbs slimmer!


I ran my LONGEST run! SIX miles! PLUS a 3 mile walk. I did the run in 64 minutes which was a nice surprise too. My best friend (ever in the whole wide world hehee) is coming to stay at the end of this month so I am planning to do my first 7 miler with her then.

Wedding Photography

I did my second wedding photography shoot of the year! It went really well. I did a lot of planning for it, story boarding and checked out the venues before hand. My planning paid off as did my timings (being where I was meant to be at the right time!). The newly weds were great and I can only wish future wedding photography clients are as ace!

I'm looking forward to editing the pics and can't wait for the couple to see them.

On the subject of wedding photography, I had another enquiry this week about a booking for next year! Usually with other photography, bookings might be made a month in advance but usually with a lot less notice. I guess with wedddings I'm going to have to get used to planning much further in advance!

4am Project

The 4am Project event last Sunday went amazingly well! A great turn out, lots of fab feedback and it made all the preparation worth while.

Speaking Engagements

Talking of the 4am Project, I'm going to be speaking about it at a Red Eye event on 14th May in Liverpool called the National Photography Symposium. Are you going? Come and say hello! I'll be there from the Friday evening until late Saturday afternoon.

I also had another request to speak at a photography festival. I'm just waiting to get some more details about that one first, but it's always nice to be asked!

MORE on the 4am Project!

I received approaches from two companies (one from the UK, one from the USA) showing an interest in the 4am Project. It's very early days and maybe nothing will come of it, but it's great that companies are showing an interest. Whatever comes out of it (if anything - keeping my feet on the ground!), I've got to make sure that if a company gets involved it's got to be the right fit for the project and I won't be rushing into anything or making hasty decisions.


Kathryn Ashcroft meme'd me and said some nice things on her blog about me too! Like most people, meme's don't hold much interest to me, but I've had a quick scan of the questions and I think they'll fit in nicely with this 'a bit more....' blog. I might do it in a video form, but it probably won't be for a few weeks yet.

Chilling with friends

I had a lovely night with my friends Sas and Marty and other friends at their Chilli night! I played games with the kids and then we all did karaoke (and I NEVER do karaoke). Thankfully I don't think anyone audio boo'd it. Thanks for a great night guys! I'll be round again soon!

Burning Man

Friends Fiona Cullinan and Pete Ashton invited me to their Burning Man party. Pete had been busy cutting down trees and was burning them and a party built up around that!

"We're also inviting people to bring an effigy to burn. This can be a representation of a person, institution or idea that you'd like you remove from your life. You can make a detailed doll or just scribble on a piece of paper. It's all about the catharsis"


I nearly didn't make it after doing 9 miles on my feet earlier in the day and was wiped out in the afternoon, but managed to get a second wind.

With the invitation to burn something, I cut out '50lbs' and 'NO'. Of course the 50lbs represents the weight I have lost and I wanted to say goodbye to it! The NO was to represent negativity (N) and saying NO to negativity and negative people. I don't want any negativity in my life (who does) and I'm lucky I'm surrounded by a great group of friends. I don't have much negativity in my life (as it's banned!) but just to make sure, I wanted to burn it too!

Thank you to my friend Sas for taking the pics!

So April ended and May started on a high! I can't wait to see what the rest of this month brings!

Oh, I know! I'm partaking in Birmingham's Pecha Kucha night on 18th May. I've been meaning to take part for ages now, so I'm pleased to have finally set a date. I think I'm going to be talking about heart ache! haha. Hopefully it won't be as depressing as it sounds! See you there?

And to top the month of May off, as I mentioned before, my best friend is coming to stay! To say I can't wait to see her is an understatement. I am soooo excited. I know we are going to have a ton of fun and silliness all weekend! Also, she hasn't seen me since I've lost weight, so she is going to get a big surprise.

Right, I'm going to chill for the rest of the day. I had a shock when I looked at my diary for this month and realised I haven't got one free day in it, except for Sunday Me Days where I don't make any plans. I'm going to need those days this month especially.

Okay, here's to a cracking May!
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