3 Things I Learnt in 2017

Well, hello everyone and welcome to my new looking blog/website.

Seeing that another new year is upon us, I thought for once it would be nice to just go with the whole, ‘New Year, New Website’ vibe. Yes, I decided to tidy up this place so that I could share my work side by side on the same platform as my blog.

Also, this year, I have decided that I will not have any resolutions. Instead, I will focus on just getting things done. Which brings me to the “3 Things I Learnt in 2017”.

Lesson #1 – Don’t Start What You Cannot Finish

This one for me is like kicking myself. I am always starting things and never finish. For example, this time last year, I started a photography challenge that would see me take a picture a week for a whole year. By now, I would have 52 photographs that I would be looking back on and reflecting on a job well done.

BUT WAIT…How far did I get with that one? I hear you ask.

Well, two weeks. I only lasted a measly TWO WEEKS. Yes, January was not even halfway and I already failed to literally commit to the challenge.

To be honest, the reason I started that challenge in the first place was to distract myself from doing my dissertation. I soon realised that it would not write itself and I just had to dig deep, stop procrastinating and get to it. By the time I finished with my paper, I was too bored/lazy to continue on with the challenge. So I shelved that idea.

Looking back, I have soon realised that I should not commit to anything unless I intend to see it to the end. And if this means saying no to anything that comes my way that will have an effect on this outcome, then so be it.

Which brings me to…

Lesson #2 – It is OK to say NO!

I am slowly realising that saying NO is necessarily not a bad thing. You may upset people along the way who may not like your answer, but at the end of the day, it is your decision and choice whether you want to honour someone’s request or not (within reason of course). Being a creative, I have reached a point in my life that I can’t keep saying yes to assignments/jobs just because I need to make ends meet. Most of the time, my heart and soul is not even there and I end up feeling terrible after the fact and end up doing something just because. JUST BECAUSE is not a good way to do something and you may end up not do it to the best of your ability. So, I just made it my mission to only do something that I know I can do and I will enjoy doing. No point wasting my time and yours if my heart is not in it and we all know, time is money.

ek13_photos best nine

Lesson #3 – Never Stop Learning

In this day and age of the internet and social media, we are fortunate enough to have an abundance of resources to learn something new every day. Being a parent, I am also learning new things through my kids on a daily basis. So in essence, this is one aspect of life we cannot avoid, but as humans, we have the perchance to ignore it especially when it matters the most. So, if I see something I am totally interested in and don’t know how to do it or need more practice, I will ask someone to teach me or use the internet to know how. And, if relevant to what I am trying to do here on my blog/website, I will give back by sharing what I have learnt. I know by doing so, I will help someone come unstuck and grow.

Moving forward, I would like this year and the years to come to be my chance of self-improvement and investment so I can have a worthy result that I am happy and content with.

What lessons have you learnt in 2017 that you will take with you into 2018 and beyond?

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Tips on How I Archive My Work

My Western Digital hard drives

As a digital photographer, you will always end up with loads of photographs and videos over the years and in my case, around 8+ years worth. Unfortunately, one of my computers, an iMac, decided to call it a day and I cannot retrieve a whole library of my work, most of which wasn’t backed up. Yes, I can feel you cringing from way over there. That is a blog post for another day.

In this post, I am going to share a few tips on how I archive my work. A system that works for me, but might be helpful to someone out there. My methods may not be perfect, but it works and I can find my folders/files easily.

Tip #1 – External Hard Drives

Now that I haven’t got a desktop anymore, I work mostly on my MacBook Pro. My laptop hasn’t got much storage at 250GB with only 26GB left at the time of writing this. I try very hard not to let it drop below 20GB as it tends to slow down my machine. It’s an old laptop as well.

I digress.

Anyway, I have invested in hard drives. My favourite brand being Western Digital ‘My Passport’ hard drives. The key is to have several small capacity hard drives than saving all of your work in one large capacity hard drive. I tend to save my work on the current one that I am using and have another one to backup my work in. I am still looking for that third option to store my work as we all know how expensive it can be to invest in hard drives, cloud and data loss. So far, the best one I have come across in BackBlaze, which is a Cloud type of storage.

Tip #2 – USB Sticks / iCloud

I always have a pair of USBs with me in case I forget my hard drive, it gets full or simply stops working. This way I have an option readily available to save my work when out and about.

Current pair of USB sticks

For my phone, as I take a lot of images using my iPhone, I have invested in iCloud especially for storage for my images and videos. The thought of losing photographs of my children is just too painful.

I am now looking to go much further and invest in Backblaze Cloud storage solution I mentioned above. The peace of mind that your data is safe in case your computer is lost or stolen just makes it a worthy investment. And in the case this happens, they send you an encrypted hard drive of your backed up computer to restore depending on where you are in the world. This is at a cost of course. You can read all about it here.

Tip #3 – Creating Folders

For as long as I can remember, I have been creating folders for all my assignments, projects, etc. and I have always put them in a Master Folder. I have one for images and another for video.

The more I photograph, I have come to a realisation that I now need to categorise my folders into years and then months that I have now started dating my folders so when I decide to ‘spring clean’ my computer, I know exactly which folder goes where.

Tip #4 – Naming the Folders

For anyone, this is no brainer. You name your folder according to what the images or videos are. As mentioned in Tip #3, I have now started putting dates on my folders, e.g. EK13 Filmscans 010317 – my brand, what is in the folder and the date (day month year). And in the folder, I have an original folder for the DNG files and then a Final folder for finished edits. Depending on the project/job, I will have additional folders for Photoshop, Web, Social Media all in the ‘master’ folder for the particular project/job.

Tip #5 – Online Platforms

My current choice is Flickr, but this has turned out to be my final thought when I want to archive my pictures. With it changing over the years and the threat of it being discontinued, makes me not make it my priority to store my images, but worth a mention as I have some photographs that I lost from my desktop saved on Flickr. There are others out there like Picasa, but I am yet to try them.

Well, there you have it. My tips or should I say, ‘insider’ information on how I archive my images.

Care to share other ways I might want to look at when it comes to archiving or backing up data.

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Five Years On and the Lessons Learnt


Technically, less than five, but who is counting, right?

Anyway, back in 2012, someone somewhere gave the bright idea that I should go to university to learn some more stuff. If you haven’t caught on, I was talking about myself…😁😆 (lame, I know)

Fast forward to 2017 (hence the five-year remark), I have come out the other side, well, better educated than I went in, overwhelmed, slightly traumatised, but with a sense of achievement and that I still have loads to learn. Looking back, I am really glad that I did go to Uni. Although, towards the few weeks/months leading up to my final assignment deadline, I wasn’t too sure why I put myself through it all. Writing my dissertation was a nightmare. I was on the verge of asking for an extension and at one point I almost quit, but none of those was an option. I was determined to see it through. After all, I deferred half of my final year so I could have more time to pace myself and this also meant graduating a year later. Getting an extension would just prolong the ‘trauma’ of writing my 10k and quitting would mean I would not graduate with honours. So, I soldiered on and made sure I submitted, beating the deadline with a few hours to spare….YAH ME!!


Here is the thing, I started my university journey when my eldest was 2 years old. By the time I was in my second year, I was pregnant with my second child and instead of taking time off, I went back to uni in my third year when she was around 4 months old. Hence my determination to see it through and why I split my final year credits in half. As much as the course was part-time (4 years), it didn’t feel like it when you are also juggling family life and freelancing. It was not easy that I decided going back to employment was not an option anymore until I graduated, as I was already stretched thin. So, during my maternity leave, I made the easiest yet difficult decision to quit my job.

And here we are, recovering from the dissertation writing nightmare that kept me from this blog (asking myself why I couldn’t wait until now to revive it). You can also tell by now how much I have mentioned I hate writing and yet, here I am filling this blog entry with more words than pictures. Writing a blog is not the same as writing an academic paper and I find writing them a bore, disliking it with a passion. In other words, it is not me/personal or an exciting read. It is one of the things I didn’t enjoy throughout my university experience, but more on this on my list. Having said that, I did learn a lot and I am going to share my TOP FIVE lessons…now…

Lesson 1 – Time Flies

I remember when I got my student card in 2012 and it had, July 2016 on it (later changed to July 2017). It really looked like an eternity. Look, here we are in 2017 and I came out the other side unscathed and better for it. If there is anything to learn here, as always, time waits for no man. Knuckle down and get busy as it will be over before you know it.

Lesson 2 – Deadlines Cannot Be Ignored

Deadline dates are given at the beginning of every semester/module and cannot be ignored. You think you have all the time in the world (see lesson 1) and before you know it, you are rushing towards the end to finish that practice project that needs access to the darkrooms/studios or in my case literally sleeping in the library to finish my essays with hours to deadline. Thank goodness for 24 hr library access.

Lesson 3 – Abundance of Resources

In order to make your journey as a student much more pleasant, the university is full of resources that are easily accessible. This may not be apparent when you start out, but the more you start working on your projects, you will find most of what you need on campus. Well stocked libraries, access to darkrooms, photographic studios/equipment, workshops, lunchtime lectures, etc. Sometimes, though, some of these resources are accessed when it is too late to make any real use of them. Having said that, when I was researching for my dissertation, I found that most of the books I needed were not available. Let’s just say, my topic of choice hardly has any theory behind it. So I had to make due.


Lesson 4 – Photography Books are Doorstops

The moment you are given a reading list by your lecture and venture into the library, you soon realise that your backpack just won’t cut it to carry the books home. You will have to invest in a suitcase or spend a lot of time in the library. A typical reading list will consist of at least 10 texts (books) and most of them are as thick as bibles and quite heavy. And if it is published with a hard cover, be assured that the library will purchase those over softcovered ones for the longevity of the book. Let’s just say as I wrote my dissertation, my bag of choice was a bag with wheels to ferry my research books back and forth. It got to a point I just purchased the ones I wanted to add into my collection to avoid carrying them around. Yah for African Photography books.


Lesson 5 – Having Support Helps

Be it at home, at work or on campus, having that support helps you get through it all. University is not for everyone as it is not easy, but if you decide to go, having people encourage you along the way gives your something to look forward to when it all ends. In my case, I had two young children and my family and friends have been a tremendous help physically and emotionally. I haven’t seen or spoken to most of my friends for months, but their words of encouragement helped me through it. When I was deferring my credits, my personal tutor helped me through it. Even having support from my peers really helped as we kept encouraging each other when times were getting tough and deadlines getting the better of us. In campus especially, there was always someone available to help you through any struggles you were experiencing as a student.

I know I have left loads out, but I don’t want to be a bore. So, I will leave it there and just say, follow your own heart and path. You are the master of your own destiny. Mine was to go to university and see it through and I did. Now for the next chapter.

Let me conclude this post by sharing with you a personal story.

One day, I called my mum in Kenya and she happened to be visiting my grandmother (may she rest in peace). My grandmother kept asking why I don’t call my mum so often and I had to explain to her I was busy with school amongst other things. She went on to ask what I did and I mentioned that I was studying photography. Now, here is the thing with my grandmother’s generation, learning anything creative doesn’t need a university degree or constitute one to be in an educational establishment. In her eyes, I was wasting my time and money. She thought I would end up being a street photographer like those found outside KICC or used to roam the residential estates photographing house helps/maids if ever I was to practice my photography in Kenya (truth be told, I would as a project – sorry Cucu). She sounded disappointed and it broke my heart. I had to ask mum to explain it to her and that I wasn’t wasting my time and money. My mum did try, but bless my Cucu. She just could not see past it.

A few months later, I visited Kenya and as part of my trip, I went to see my grandmother. On this visit, I had my camera with me and the pictures I took of her were the first and last since I started my photography degree. They may not be the best photographs of my Cucu, but they are the most precious. I suppose being there and her seeing me taking her photograph, kind of made her understand. I could see she was proud of me even though she still did not understand. I left Kenya not knowing that I would be back four months later for her funeral.


And this is one of the reasons I wanted some sort of foundation in Photography. The appreciation of capturing memories, to educate me and others, networking and most importantly, prove to myself you just have to try something once even if it is just for the experience and better understanding of the world around us. If anything, whatever photographs I take will be part of my story and legacy.

My undergraduate journey will come to an end in July. It has been a long and arduous journey, but well worth it.

It is the beginning of the end.

Are you contemplating going to university/college? Let me know if there is something you would like to know in the comments below and I will answer where I can.

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All images © Elsie Kibue / EK13 Photography