Behind the Lens: Photography Blog Interview

Welcome to my latest post… an interview about my photography blog!

A couple of weeks ago marked my two year anniversary with WordPress. There has been much to celebrate along the way, including my new look website launched in November; a feature on earlier in the year which generated 1,000 hits in a week; a couple of magazine features emerging from my blog; and, most importantly, my improved writing style. Now, thanks to Dan Mclaughlan at Stray Dog Strut, I have something else to celebrate – my first blogging award!

Liebster Award Image

The Liebster Award dates from 2011 and aims to provide support within the WordPress community, particularly for new or less well known sites, as it is awarded by bloggers to their peers. Receiving the award isn’t the end of the story. Here are the rules that accompany the nomination, should the nominee choose to accept it:


I gladly accept Dan’s nomination and shall get started without further ado! By the way, if you haven’t previously visited Dan’s blog, Stray Dogs Strut, I recommend you check out his essays, poems, screenplays, short stories, reviews, drawings, animations, travel tips and grueling fundraising challenges.

Dan posed eleven insightful questions for me to answer. So, here goes…

On Blogging / Writing

Why did you start blogging/writing?

I had a bit of a meltdown when I moved to the Highlands in 2013. I felt that, at the age of 27, I’d achieved a major life goal and, bizarrely, instead of feeling happy about it, I kept wondering what direction to head in next, now that I was no longer working towards this ambition. After a few months of feeling sorry for myself, I gave myself a good talking to, set myself some new challenges, embraced the ‘Bucket List’ concept and tried to find the motivation to get out and about with my camera again.

As I explained in one of my first posts, ‘Adventures – Large and Small’, the film ‘Julie and Julia’ gave me the final impetus I needed to start blogging. This movie tells the true story of two cooks-come-writers. The American icon Julia Child rose to fame after studying at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris in the late 1940s. She initially struggled to get published but eventually her books became bestsellers and Julia herself became the States’ first ‘celebrity chef’.

In the early 2000s, New Yorker Julie Powell, uninspired by her day job, decided to embrace her passion for food by cooking her way through Julia Child’s tome ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ in the space of a year, blogging about the experience along the way. Julie Powell started off with only one reader – her mother – but her blog eventually became an online hit, then a book and, finally, one of my favourite films. You just never know where an idea might end up.

DSCN2073 Mile 117 The end of the Fife Coastal Path Edited Re-Sized
The Fife Coastal Path – one of my first Bucket List adventures on my blog

“You just never know where an idea might end up.”

Where do you find inspiration?

In a nutshell, Scotland’s spectacular landscapes. However, I’m also inspired by books and articles that I’ve read, quotes I’ve stumbled across and conversations I’ve had. Sometimes I’ll sit down at my desk in search of my muse. Other times inspiration strikes when I’m driving the car or lying in bed and I have to either pull over and speak into a dictaphone or put the light on and frantically scribble on a notepad. One of my main sources of frustration is not having more time to read as I’m sure my bookcase is bursting with untapped ideas.

Which of your posts are you most proud of?

There are a few. I was thrilled when ‘Seabirds and Lighthouses Galore’ was featured on Thanks to the exposure, it became my most popular post but it isn’t my best work. ‘The Weight of Time’ felt like a turning point when I stopped writing along the lines of “I went here, I saw such-and-such and here are my photographs”. Instead, I started to embrace themes, often with some welcome inspiration from the weekly photographic challenge. This has made me a better writer, culminating in such posts as ‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’, ‘North to the Future’ and ‘The A-Z of the Scottish Islands’. Producing the latter in the space of a week was a huge challenge but an immensely enjoyable one.

On Experiences

Overlooking the Forbidden City, Beijing
Overlooking the Forbidden City, Beijing

What one thing are you most excited about this year?

I make sure I always have things in my calendar to look forward to, whether it’s a coffee with a friend, a concert, a day trip or a holiday. 2016 has been a pretty exciting year so far, thanks to a couple of charity fundraising adventures, two trips to the Isle of May (post to follow on this shortly!) and an action-packed week spent in Beijing with my family. 

My partner Mark and I are going to Barra in August. I’m looking forward to exploring another Scottish island which I’ve wanted to visit for many years and doing lots of cycling, photography, boat trips and wildlife watching, all the while thinking about the end result on my blog when I return home at the end of the week.

“I can think of two truly euphoric moments in my life.”

What has been the happiest moment in your life so far?

I can think of two truly euphoric moments in my life. The first was when I found out that four years of hard work at university had paid off when I was told my degree result. Mark and I had just driven over the Bealach na Bà, a road on the Applecross peninsula in the north west Highlands which boasts the greatest ascent of any road in Britain, rising from sea level to 626m (2,054ft) and now part of the NC 500 route). My mobile phone rang and I pulled over to answer a call from my parents who’d checked the results on my behalf. I squealed down the phone and sobbed with relief, celebrated over dinner in Gairloch, and spent the next few days on cloud nine.

Another defining moment was when it hit me that Mark and I were moving to the Black Isle, as described in ‘North to the Future’.

Is there something you dream of doing but have yet to work up the courage?

Turning pro. As much as I enjoy my day job, I would love nothing more than to be my own boss and earn a living from photography. I’ve only found the courage relatively recently. I have a plan of action and now I need to put it into practice, but it won’t happen overnight. As the late great Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” I would hate to give into fear and not at least try to fulfill this long-held ambition.

P.S. I became a professional photographer in April 2017, less than a year after this interview. You can check out my photography services website here…


“I would hate to give into fear.”

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and who would you take with you?

I’m quite easily pleased. I’d go to the Isle of Harris with my partner, Mark. The landscapes and culture of this stunningly beautiful island in the Outer Hebrides speak very deeply to us. The photographs below show us paddling in the sea at Luskentyre on the west coast of Harris in 2008. Happy memories.

On Surroundings

What does ‘home’ mean to you?

Funnily enough, I was thinking about this concept last week and have been mulling over a possible post on it. I think ‘home’ can mean many things. I was in England last month and felt a real sense of homecoming as I crossed the border back into Scotland, even although I was still 250 miles from my house.

‘Home’ means the places I’ve lived – Perth, Edinburgh and the Black Isle – but also the places that I have a special connection with, such as Dornoch, Wester Ross, the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Harris. More than anything, it means my house and that of my parents, as well as the house I grew up in and the caravan my parents, brother and I toured Scotland in over the course of the 1990s. It also means the people that matter the most to me – my partner, parents, brother and grandparents. I felt at home in Beijing because I had my family with me.

Home is where the heart is.

“Home means the places I’ve lived but also the places that I have a special connection with.”

What does the space where you do your blogging look / smell / sound / feel like?

I recently moved my study into a larger room in my house. I’ve sacrificed my view of the Cromarty Firth but have gained a view over the garden and neighbouring barley field. It feels professional without being sterile. I now have heaps of space in a bright, airy room and the lack of physical clutter (compared with my previous much smaller study) and the ability to move around has helped to free up my mind and boost my creativity. My sense of smell isn’t great but I can assure you it’s clean!

My study - blogging central!
My study – blogging central!

On People

If you could tell a special person in your life how much they mean to you, what would you say?

Funnily enough, I’ve left answering the ‘people’ questions to last, which must say something about me in itself. I guess I would thank my parents for giving me the best possible start in life or thank my other half for sticking with me during the highs and lows of the last eleven years together.

When was the last time you helped someone?

I called my next door neighbour recently to tell her that her husband had left his car lights on. I didn’t want him to wake up to a flat battery!

11 Facts About Me

1. I want to live to be 100.
2. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 14. It’s now 16 years later and I’ve never looked back.
3. I’ve also been wearing contact lenses since I was 14. I’m as blind as a bat without them. I hate wearing glasses and am too scared to get laser eye surgery, so I will be poking myself in the eye on a daily basis for a long time to come.
4. As much as I enjoy the company of family and friends, I’m a bit of a lone wolf.
5. The best advice I’ve ever been given is “whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”. This has been my mantra since I was a child.
6. I was bullied at school (points 4 and 5 may have contributed to this!).

DSCN1132_Processed JPEG Screen Re-Sized 1050

7. I’m madly in love with my gorgeous guinea pigs, Bubble and Squeak, pictured here.
8. I have an outrageous number of cuddly toys.
9. I didn’t venture abroad until I was 20 when I went to Amsterdam on a university field trip.
10. I suffer from a rare neurological condition called Mal de Debarquement Syndrome. I continue to feel motion days or weeks after a flight or a boat trip, although I have only been travel sick once in my life.
11. If I had one day left to live, I would take the Bella Jane boat to Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye then watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (and eat a cheesecake).

My Nominations for the Liebster Award

It’s my pleasure to nominate the following bloggers whose work I always enjoy:

1. 12 Months in Warsaw
2. Fife Photos & Art
3. Northumbrian Light
4. Breath of Green Air
5. A Little Bit Out of Focus
6. Mairi Poems
7. Chai & Biscuits
8. Wandering Dawgs
9. Walking Woman
10. Rsbensedotcom
11. Tess Blogs

Here are my questions for my nominees:

1. What inspired you to start blogging?
2. Tell me about a topic that you would like to blog about which you haven’t previously posted on.
3. How do you go about writing a post?
4. What’s your favourite quote?
5. What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a blog?
6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given in life?
7. What’s the most special place you’ve ever visited?
8. What does happiness mean to you?
9. What would you do if you had one day left to live?
10. Tell me three things that are on your Bucket List.
11. What’s the best adventure you’ve ever had?

Thanks for reading!


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32 thoughts

  1. Beautifully written 🙂 when I got the pop up I didn’t expect me listed in the nominee list.. And congratulations Karen on The anniversary… waiting for an amazing write up…. keep writing 🙂


      1. Most of the time I turn down this award.. but this time I will do it.. cuz I got nominated by Karen … one of the person inspires me through her blogs!! Thank you Karen 🙂

  2. I loved this piece of writing, It was good to find out a bit more about you and you come across as honest and such as down to earth person. I love that many places in Scotland and in the Highlands and Islands feature in making you happy and your experiences. Wishing you all the best for the future and look forward to seeing you realise your dream of becoming a professional photographer! Your study is much cleaner and nicer than mine!

    1. Thank you Kelly! I’d been thinking an interview would be a good format for a post, so this opportunity presented itself at just the right time. I’ll confess I had to spend a few minutes tidying up the study before getting the camera out and there is a pile of magazines just out of the shot! 🙂

      1. I would have to spend a lot longer than a few minutes tidying up my study! My stuff from my study also tends to creep out into the living room as well.

  3. I was just enjoying your lovely Liebster Award blog when I noticed towards the end that you have nominated my blog for the next batch of nominations. Did I read that correctly? Shock, horror, gasp……I will give it a go though. I’m in the middle of packing to move house in 10 days time, so it may take me a few days. Curiously, I had just been thinking about winding my blog down for a while, so receiving the nomination today felt really nice. and has encouraged me to continue. Thank you Karen.

    1. Hi Mairi. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. You read it correctly!! There’s no pressure or time constraint but I’m glad the nomination has encouraged you to keep blogging. I hope the house move goes well and maybe even inspires a poem or two! 🙂

  4. Ah what a lovely write up Karen and thank you for accepting 🙂 I know these awards aren’t to everyone’s tastes and wouldn’t fit everyone’s blog format so I wouldn’t have been offended if you declined, but your peek at the person behind the lens here works well. As always, a pleasure to read – I love your enthusiasm 🙂 I’ll be checking out your nominations too.

    Bubble and Squeak are CUTE!

    1. Thanks very much Dan! The questions were just perfect for my blog and I really enjoyed answering them. Have fun checking out my nominations. Yes, the piggies are super cute (and equally mischievous!) and brighten up every day. 🙂

  5. As always I was riveted by your writing, and the insights into your life and your world, so beautifully presented. And then I saw what looked like my blog address in your nominations. I had to click on it to make sure it was really me, and then I cried! Thank you. Your nomination makes me very happy, because I admire your blogging so much. I settled down straight away to write, and I have a draft that needs to percolate for a few days.

  6. This is a cool idea and your answers to questions provided incite to your process…neat to see pics of you as a child and then adult. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks Becky. I enjoyed reflecting on my process. I’ve had great fun scanning my childhood photographs and am always looking for an excuse to drop them into my blog!

  7. I arrived via Meg because I wanted to see ‘which’ Karen had inspired her. 🙂 I admire your contentment in the isles and wish I could develop a little more of my own. 🙂 Those bluer than blue pics you’ve posted can’t be everyday reality, can they? Who’d ever leave? You seem to be pursuing a goal with real conviction and that is half the battle I think. Good luck to you, Karen.

    1. Thank you, Jo. Lovely to hear from you. I confess I have a tendency to be a fair weather photographer and sadly the islands don’t always look quite as idyllic as that! In the Hebrides the saying goes “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!” They get more than their fair share of rain, wind and midges but there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be on a sunny day. I’m thrilled to see that Meg has added the Western Isles to her Bucket List! 🙂

    1. Thank you Jess for your kind words. Blogging central isn’t always this tidy but I try my best! 🙂 My blog has been a little bit neglected these past few months but I’m hoping to catch up and publish some new posts soon. I hope you’ll enjoy them when the time comes!

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