Mother Nature, the nature and photographic diary blog of Croydon-based blogging enthusiast Alex Smithson, has marked five years of being online this past week.
Alex has been a long term friend and supporter of HEM News Agency for the past four years, from when it was called the Half-Eaten Mind Blog. Based in the suburban town of Croydon, just south of London, Alex first started working on Mother Nature (under its former simpler title, ‘Photography – Nature’) on the 6th of June, 2013 when he uploaded a number of photography projects taken with a Samsung ST200F camera he carried around with him.
Alex began to use the new blog to explore his passions of gaming, technology and nature photography and show his imagery to a steadily growing audience.
Five years on, Mother Nature has gone from strength to strength, chronicling Alex’s pictorial journey around his hometown, his commencement of an A-Level photography course at a local college and even him getting to grips with the graphic design software, GIMP.
While the design and look of Alex’s blog has shifted much over the years, he still uses Mother Nature as a creative venue for his photos of colourful flowers and wildlife. For Alex, photography is a stimulating vocation that has motivated him in the hard work of maintaining his website and keeping the interest flowing.
In addition to his photography and writing work, Alex Smithson has also taken on the mantle of mental health advocate, publicising various issues and neurological conditions, such as autism, mental health stigma and the impact of social media on youngsters’ minds. The blogger had lent his support to various mental health charities like Depression Alliance, the Samaritans, Mind and others. His advocacy for mental health and neuro-diversity has already won him praise from actor Oli Regan, who collaborated with Alex on one of his articles. Alex plans to further his campaigning for mental health issues through the medium of photography as part of his blog’s fifth anniversary celebrations.
The Half-Eaten Mind, East London’s leading (and paywall-free) news and features blog, is pleased to announce that we have been kindly nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award by photographer and blogger Alex Smithson of Mother Nature – life at the touch of a button.
Alex was nominated himself on the 31st of March, 2016, by fellow blogger Brooke in recognition of services to blogging, so we at HEM feel we have been honoured with a very special legacy.
As with many blogging awards, there are some simple rules to follow and nominations to be made. The rules are as follows:
Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to your blog
Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to.
My blog started four years ago here on WordPress. I am a journalism graduate who has always been passionate about current affairs and the world around me since I was a small child. Sadly, although I was unable to secure the career of my dreams, I decided to keep my news reporting and writing skills fresh by writing and rewriting news myself on a blog. The name for the blog came from an expression my ex-fiance used when we used to talk for hours on messaging services. She would say she was ‘eating my mind’ when she thought she was taking up the whole of my attention when we were conversing. I was inspired by her to set up the blog, and even discussed naming it with her. She originally suggested the name “Vijay’s Blog”, but I wanted something more memorable and ‘exciting’. I remembered her mind-eating expression and from this, the name Half-Eaten Mind stuck.
My two bits of advice to new bloggers is firstly to acquaint yourself with social media, because it is one of the best ways to promote your blog and work. Don’t just involve yourself with the big social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but also look for niche ones too that are applicable to what you blog about. I have had one post here shared more than 500 times on Facebook and I know of bloggers who have reached millions of shares, retweets etc.
Secondly, always keep at it. Blogging is fun, but it can take time too, whether building up a following and readership, or at the micro level, setting aside an hour a day to plan out and cook up a post. Some new bloggers sadly find blogging becomes a chore and abandon their blog to the internet scrapyard. Just don’t. Stick with it and blog because you love it and want to nurture your talents.
I would like to give a hearty thanks to my good friend and supporter Alex Smithson over at Mother Nature. He blogs on a lot of interesting things, such as photography, his college experiences, graphic design and gaming, and he is a ‘top lad’ as we Londoners say. I’d highly recommend checking his blog out. You can start with his nomination article for the BRA (Blogger Recognition Award) at this link.
As always it is not a massive deal if you cannot or wish not to accept the award. However, I chose you as I feel your blogging deserves to be recognised….and to those who didn’t make the list, please don’t think that I value your work any less. If the BRA rules allowed me, I’d nominate every one of you.
Alex Smithson, the blogger behind news, photography and music blog“Mother Nature“ has now celebrated nearly a month since the successful launch of his latest published photography project, a book entitled “My Journey Through A Lens”. It is the third such book created by the Croydon College photography student, a firm supporter of the Half-Eaten Mind, and follows the success of his earlier works “My Journey Through Photography” and “A Year in Photography”.
Alex’s third book of his amazing nature and scenery photography had been many months in the making, combining both pictures and articles published on the Mother Nature site, as well as external projects Alex worked on in his free time and also as part of his photography and art course at Croydon College, a further education institute located just south of the UK capital, London.
By March 2015, Alex was already putting the final touches to My Journey Through A Lens, a book chronicling his career as a budding photographer and graphic designer. Like any author, Alex spent much time ironing out spelling and grammar mistakes as he sought to make his third book just ripe for the picking and reading, as well as tackling the inevitable umm and aahs of getting a suitable set of photographs prepared. He also spent considerable time designing the front and back covers of My Journey. He at first went for a simple and minimalistic, yet visually powerful format in design, with his favourite nature photo taking pride of place. Alex prepared two such designs, one featuring plants silhouetted in a sunset sky and the other depicting exploding fireworks taken over the New Year period of 2014-2015. Alex however decided to fire up his graphic design skills for the final choice of cover concept, dispensing with the photography altogether. Alex’s final design is a proud homage to his proficiency with the open source graphical software GIMP. Reflecting a recent re-haul of Mother Nature, Alex chose to adopt the blog’s new colour scheme for the final front and back covers, opting for bold squares of blue and bright orange bordering a white square with the book’s title in bold black capitals. The new cubed logo of Mother Nature, with its slogan ‘Life at the touch of a button’ neatly tucked into one side, also makes an appearance.
By March 2015, Alex had crossed the 400-page barrier and was excited at getting the book up-and-running, offering it for free download via cloud service Dropbox. Not only would My Journey showcase Alex’s photography, but also case studies he wrote on key personalities in British history, such as the once prime minister Winston Churchill and notoriously oft married monarch Henry VIII, and musical tributes to Madonna, a favourite singer of Alex and to Ben Haenow, a fellow Croydon resident, who had won the final of UK musical talent show The X Factor in 2014.
By the beginning of this month (July 2015) and after nine months of groundwork and editing, My Journey was ready to hit the virtual bookshelves. In a blog article on Mother Nature, Alex narrates how he was ‘extremely pleased’ to be finally launching the book on July the 4th, American Independence Day. He had originally planned to launch his third book in May, but demands from college studies and exam revision for his GCSE finals put paid to that, forcing Alex to reschedule. By then, the young blogger had now included six historical case studies for educational purposes, detailing historical icons from the 1500s onwards, as well as additional information of Alex’s learning experiences as a fresh-faced A-Level student on his career journey to becoming a professional shutterbug.
On the 4th July, as our cousins across the Pond exploded fireworks, waved the red, white and blue, and generally made merry, My Journey Through A Lens was officially launched at 6:00 pm London time and made available completely free of charge on Alex’s website along with his previous editions. To celebrate the special occasion, Alex published an elated blogpost sharing the good news with subscribers and visitors. In this book, Alex celebrates historical icons such as Henry VIII, Queen Victoria, Guy Fawkes, Mary Queen of Scots, Winston Churchill and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the assassinated US President. Alex also paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, former South African president, humanitarian icon and victor against government-sponsored racism and hatred, who tragically passed away from illness last year. Alex also penned tributes to Croydon lad Ben Haenow, along with musical legend Madonna, the Italian-American ‘Queen of Pop’ whose top slot career in the charts has been going strong since the 1980s and had recently released songs and albums, including ‘Rebel Heart’, ‘Living for Love’, ‘Ghosttown’ and ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’.
Alex certainly has not run out of steam with his sideline hobby of creating and marketing his work as a ‘indie author’ and aspiring professional photographer. On the day of his third book’s release, Alex also hinted that he will be working on a fourth title, although he has not yet revealed any further details at this early stage. While his third instalment will be made available as an e-book, Alex also teamed up with book printers DoxDirect to release a limited run of physical copies of My Journey, which he tweeted.
Alex dedicated his third book to some very special people in his life who have supported and influenced him along the way. The dedications, which appear on the back cover, include a tribute to Ajay Mody. Living in Mumbai, Mody was a passionate member of the WordPress community under the nickname ‘Ajaytao’. Like Alex, he also photographed the natural and bustling side of his hometown, India’s cultural and commercial capital, and was a keen blogger. He sadly passed away on the 10th August 2014, after a cardiac arrest and declining health. Tributes were also paid to actor and presenter Lynda Bellingham, the UK’s much beloved ‘OXO Mum’ who died in October of that year from colon cancer and to cricketer Philip Hughes who passed away after being struck by a ball during play on the 27th November 2014.
Alex also pens a dedication to this blog’s writer, a close friend and supporter, who in Alex’s own words, has “guided me along the way since I began my blogging journey”.
If you would like to obtain a copy of My Journey Through A Lens, or any of Alex Smithson’s previous titles, please visit https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/ and scroll down to the ‘Free Books’ section on the blog’s sidebar on your screen’s right, directly underneath the social media and contact buttons. You will see the title pages of the books and clicking on them will take you direct to the download site.
Photographer and blogger Alex Smithson is soon to release his third book detailing his blogging and photography skills and experience with his blog “Mother Nature”.
The Croydon based blogger is now in the final stages of preparing his new publication, entitled “My Journey Through a Lens“, the third instalment in his highly informative series of self-authored and published e-books made available via his blog.
Alex, whose previous titles were “My Journey Through Photography” and “A Year in Photography“, is currently putting the finishing touches to his latest work, which is slated for release during either this month or in May. A definite date is not yet available, as Alex is having to fit the book writing in between college studies and his blogging on WordPress, but he is already beyond 50,000 words into the manuscript for My Journey Through a Lens, which will weigh in at 303 pages, Alex’s biggest entrance in the e-book world to date. The books chronicle Alex’s experiences and lessons as a blogger showcasing local scenic photography, news stories, historical facts and popular music culture, as well as his experiences in further education.
Indeed the book is set to be Alex’s loftiest project yet, as he will not only include the best articles from Mother Nature over the past year, but will also bring a whole new range of articles from outside the blog, including possibly photography projects from his A-Level course at Croydon College, of which he is currently a first-year student on their Photography course.
In addition to his wide ranging nature and scenery portfolio, My Journey Through a Lens will also feature case studies of famous British historical figures such as Winston Churchill and King Henry VIII, as well as his homages to modern music, most notably his special write-ups on evergreen pop songstress Madonna, and fellow Croydonian and X Factor winner Ben Haenow.
As with his previous titles, Alex Smithson plans to make the e-book free of charge to blog visitors via the online cloud site Dropbox, along with the earlier books in his blogging career. The cover of the book is also designed by Alex, who is a formidable graphic designer in his own right, and incorporates his new blog logo, a black cube with the blog’s initials and slogan in thick chunky white and orange letters.
Exclusively on the Half-Eaten Mind, Alex has supplied some artwork for My Journey Through a Lens. His conceptions for the front and back covers of the e-book, with sharp lines and solid colour influenced by the Mother Nature blog’s design can be seen below, along with a composite image showing the development of the front cover as Alex got the book together. The back cover features several dedications to people that have influenced Alex, include the editor of this very blog. You can visit Alex’s site at the blue-coloured link below and subscribe via email for further updates on his brand new e-book. WordPress bloggers also have the option of clicking on the follow button on the black menu bar at the top of the site in their browser window to follow Mother Nature in their Readers.
Front cover – depicting the new MN logo.
Back cover – includes special mentions.
Side-by-side composite image of Alex’s temporary book cover designs alongside his final draft.
Ladies and gentleman, yours truly the Half-Eaten Mind has come into another great blogging award this Easter/April. On the 31st March 2015, keen young photographer and college student, Alex Smithson, who runs the Mother Nature blog out from nearby Croydon, has kindly nominated us for the Liebster Award.
Alex was himself nominated by Chey from the blog Socially Awkward Chey, and it is his second blog awardnomination for 2015. The first one was awarded by little old me 😀 !!!. Like other awards in the blogging community, the Liebster, whose name is derived from the German word ‘liebe‘ (love) is an award designed to promote connections and love between bloggers and strengthen our special community.
As part of Alex’s nomination, he has fielded ten questions to all nominees, which I’m now going to answer, once I can find my thinking cap which seems to have found itself lodged behind one of those god-awful ugly black leather sofas downstairs.
Without further ado, here are the questions….
Alex’s Liebster Questions
1. What made you want to take up this hobby?
I took up news-writing as a hobby for this blog, as I am a big fan of news, views and current affairs. From my childhood days when I used to sit with the parents in the living room and watch Moira Stewart and John Sissons (I think his name was) presenting the Six O’Clock News, I had a fascination with the world around me. Add to that a well enhanced vocabulary and a degree in journalism, and I knew my ideal destiny was in the media. It is because of this dream I set up this blog, so I could practice being a reporter and use this as a step-up into that highly competitive career path.
2. Who inspired you to set up your blog/website and why?
The original idea for a blog came from a university classmate named Kshitij, but who was usually called Mike. We kept in contact after I graduated, and while discussing our future plans, he suggested I set up a blog to showcase my talents. This was way back in 2007, and due to certain difficulties back then, I couldn’t get the blog ball rolling. It wasn’t until 2012, when I was in a relationship with a girl in India whom I was planning to marry, that I started the blog formally. I was very happy to be in a relationship at last, and was buoyed up by my new confidence. I told her I wanted to start a blog while talking with her on Skype. In fact the name of the blog comes from an expression she used to use every time we talked, and that was that she was disturbing me by “eating my mind”. Sadly the blog outlived the relationship, but blogging is still my passion.
3. What do you love the most about life?
I love my family because they bring so much happiness, I love God, I love seeing beautiful things (and people), and discovering new experiences. I cherish the diversity and opportunities that life can bring and that there are many good and decent people in this world that help negate the more dark and painful experiences that everyone has to go through. I adore my friends and supporters, both inside and outside the blogging world.
4. If there is one thing you could do in life, what would it be?
I suppose now in this point in time, it would be to get married, settle down and have a family. That is my number one priority now in life.
5. What is your blog/website about?
My blog is an news site covering news stories and features for London, the U.K. and the world. Think of it being like an online newspaper but with less political bias and no pressure from advertisers *laughs*. I also write personal articles, often relating to stuff concerning the blog but not always. I also feature contributions from readers and clients and sometimes use the blog to show off my photography and graphic design skills.
6. Are you the kind of person who loves to go for opportunities whilst they’re still available?
There is this one saying that I sometimes quote. It goes: “when opportunity knocks, open the damn door!“. Sometimes you have to seize the moment, because it may never come round again. So, yes, generally I will take the opportunity if the time and situation is right. You never know what could happen, and if it doesn’t work out then that’s a learning experience for you.
7. If there was something you wanted to do other than what you currently do now, what would it be?
I would love to travel the world. Career-wise, it would be to work as a journalist. I’m currently doing a data entry/admin job.
8. What is your most favourite quote of all time?
“Rise above it all” – I can’t remember who created the quote, but it’s sort of a good metaphor for my life.
9. Do you like writing or reading books?
I like both, although reading books expends less effort and you’re less at risk of succumbing to that dreaded ‘writer’s cramp’. I haven’t read a book in a while though. Writing is definitely a passion of mine too.
10. Did you like being nominated for the Liebster Award? If so, has it made your blog/website become stronger?
I thought it was a nice gesture from Alex. Although I have received the exact badge before, this gives me an opportunity to work up those creative skills and create my own interpretation, which you find below. Being a Liebster nominee will hopefully gain me some new followers and put a smile on my face as my own nominees receive a nice little pingback-flavoured surprise.
In no particular order, here are the 10 nominees I have chosen to receive the Liebster Award:
Here are my own ten questions for the above nominees:
1. What inspired you to first start blogging?
2. What has been your best blogging moment of 2015 so far?
3. What ambitions for your blog do you have for the rest of 2015?
4. What is the one thing that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face?
5. What three things are you most passionate about?
6. What three things do you love most in life?
7. Which blogger has made the biggest impression on you this year?
8. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
9. Do you have any blogging routines, rituals or quirks. If you do, what are they?
10. If I was a first-time visitor to your blog and you were giving me a virtual guided tour, what would be the first thing you’d show me?
As befitting the nature and meaning of the Liebster Award, I’m offering you two badges to choose from, the original and also a special Half-Eaten Mind edition, created by myself.
As always, you are free to accept or decline the nomination as you wish and you can accept this award at any time, no pressures or worries.
Many, many thanks to my good friend Alex for considering me, especially given the intensity of his college coursework. I’m pleased and honoured that he has taken time out of a busy schedule to make this kind gesture. Also, a big congratulations to the ten Half-Eaten Mind nominees who all richly deserve this lovely Liebster.
You can see Alex’s original Liebster article here.
Croydon-based photo-blogger and good friend Alex Smithson announced yesterday night (Saturday 31 August 2014) that he has now introduced a revamped ‘Directories’ page for his blog, Mother Nature. The new page comes hot on the heels of a raft of changes and improvement Alex has brought to his blog, including a name change, two photography book, and adding a new self-designed logo and theme to maximise presentation and usability.
The changes are low-key and the page is still in development, but already two links are live. One is to the Big Blog Collection, a blog that serves as a directory itself of different bloggers according to categories. The second link is to the Half-Eaten Mind, the news magazine and personal blog of Vijay Shah. A badge issued by the Big Blog Collection sits in the centre top of the page and underneath a special badge/banner designed by Alex especially for the Half-Eaten Mind. He created this badge using GIMP, an open-source graphic design software that is free of charge to the public. Alex’s HEM badge, which only took around five minutes to put together, features Woodsy the Owl, Seventies’ children’s mascot of the US Forestry Service and also the HEM ‘unofficial’ mascot. Alongside Woodsy, there is a ‘signboard’ carrying this blog’s name and slogan in white on a brown and green colour-shift background – the colours of the mascot.
The new directory page also features a host of sharing buttons for readers to share the page with their friends and family. Services to choose from include WordPress (the blogging service that hosts both Mother Nature and the Half-Eaten Mind), Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr. There is also a preset ‘like button’ for WordPress bloggers to show their appreciation and a comments box for further feedback.
You can see the new Directories page at this link.
Of course, a big thanks to Alex for producing this lovely badge for the HEM on his blog. If the proportions are right, then I may use it as a header for the Half-Eaten Mind itself. It would become our third banner in use.
A screenshot of the new ‘Directories’ page of Alex’s Mother Nature photography blog prepared on the 31st August 2014.
Another screenshot of the old “Directory(s) page before the changes, captured here from the Internet Archive showing Mother Nature as it was on the 20th August 2014.
The HEM banner and badge which links to our blog from Mother Nature’s directories page. The colour scheme is influenced by the dominant hues of the HEM mascot Woodsy the Owl. Alex created this on his home computer using an open-source imaging program.
My friend and fellow blogger Alex Smithson, the awesome talent behind the blog “Mother Nature” has asked me to produce this special article promoting his upcoming e-book entitled “A Year in Photography“, which charts Alex’s budding career as a photographer chronicling the wildlife and scenery of south London and beyond.
The title was originally pencilled in for release this month, but was delayed following the untimely death of mutual friend and photographer/blogger maestro Ajay Mody, who passed away after an illness on the 10th August. Production delays and necessary improvements were also a factor, as well as exam revision, which Alex passed with flying colours. A Year in Photography is now scheduled for release on the 1st September 2014.
This will be Alex’s second published work detailing his budding photography career. In January of this year, he announced the first in the series, called “My Journey Through Photography” which he made available via Dropbox on his blog, completely free of charge. In this publication, Alex charted the best and worst parts of that journey, including excursions he made to nearby Kelsey Park and Battersea as part of photo projects he self-undertook.
At the moment, Alex is keeping the exact content and photos he will be using firmly under wraps, but he has kindly tweeted exclusively to the Half-Eaten Mind an image depicting the earlier and final cover designs that the e-book will carry.
The final cover depicts key moments from both Alex’s blog and his schooldays, which have recently come to end as he prepares himself for taking a course in photography at a local sixth-form college. Carrying the distinctive cuboid Mother Nature logo, the cover shows various snapshots of Alex colourfully and happily posing with school friends complemented with a striking image of a Canada goose, a commonplace migratory fowl in British parks and open spaces. The goose also has pride of place as the Gravatar icon Alex uses when he communicates with others in the blogging community. Alex’s original book design features the right wing of a butterfly, celebrating the admiration of nature’s beauty which has been a significant theme in his photography from the earliest days.
To celebrate the forthcoming release of Alex’s e-book “A Year of Photography” for free download on September the 1st, the Half-Eaten Mind has selected its personal favourites from the dozens of photos Alex has released worldwide since he began blogging in June 2013.
All photographs copyright of Alex Smithson and the Mother Nature blog.
The Half-Eaten Mind previously reported (last weekend) on the return of fellow blogger Alex Smithson, who runs photography and news blog “Mother Nature”.
As mentioned previously, Alex had taken five months’ break from blogging due to important exams and was planning to return to blogging activities on the 1st of July, 2014.
Yesterday night, I was informed by Alex that a sudden change has been made to the plan. Mother Nature will now be restarted on the 25th of June, 2014, which is around three weeks from now. The 1st July will instead mark a massive redesign of Mother Nature, which regularly adopts new themes provided by WordPress, its blogging technology supplier.
Alex has expressed considerably joy at his forthcoming return to blogging, adding in our conversation that he was “actually excited about blogging again, I’ve missed it a lot“. As part of the redesign, Alex will be releasing a brand new header image which will go live in July. He ultimately is keeping the secrets firmly sealed as he wishes to keep this blog’s writer, other bloggers and the blog’s visitors firmly guessing as to what he has planned for Mother Nature.
In an answer to a request from the one-man editorial staff at the Half-Eaten Mind offices in Plaistow, in London’s eastern reaches, Alex has kindly supplied some graphics for the big launch this July. The image pack, picked up via his Twitter feed includes the website’s new logo, designed by the young Croydon nature aficionado himself. In addition to the rebranding, Alex also plans to move beyond his blog’s original remit as a photography site and begin reporting news on the hour. Before his temporary break, Alex had honed his journalism skills covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
About five months ago, a leading light in the HEM Community, young blogger and avid photographer Alex Smithson took an extended hiatus from blogging to concentrate on revising/preparations for his GCSEs. These are all-important end-of-school examinations taken by students in the UK as they approach their 16th birthday.
Now with exams finally out of the way and stress finally out of the system,Croydon–based Alex will be making a long-awaited return to blogging and taking amazing views of the world through his blog “Mother Nature” http://asterisk15.wordpress.com/.
Alex will be returning to full time blogging on the July 1st, 2014, just as the British summer really begins to kick in, affording ample opportunities for Alex to add to his repertoire of pictures on his blog, much of which involves detailed depictions of local wildlife and urban locations, including much photography in the botanical vein.
He has released some promotional materials that being a good friend and fellow blogger, I have shared these with you all as a congratulations for Alex on his comeback and to help him promote his blog to a wider audience.
Using the open-source GIMPgraphics software, Alex even created this cool “Under Construction” sign as he will soon be selecting a new theme to mark the refurbishment of Mother Nature.
This is Alex’s website as it is now (May 2014) before his refurbishment and new theme kicks into action. I prepared this image using the Snipping Tool feature which I have recently learnt to use on Windows computers and then uploaded to the blog’s image gallery and server from WordPress.