Wales Wedding Venue West Usk Lighthouse

West Usk Lighthouse

West Usk Lighthouse offers the perfect choice for those seeking a secluded and intimate South Wales Wedding location to host their special day. With attentive and personal service from hosts Frank and Danielle, this grade II listed building offers a wonderful setting for you and your guests..

West Usk Lighthouse Wales Wedding Venue

This really is a wonderfully quirky venue for a wedding. On the outskirts of Newport, South Wales, West Usk Lighthouse is the perfect setting for the couple that want stunning backdrops to their wedding photography and a wedding venue with real character.

West Usk Lighthouse: personal service guaranteed

Frank and Danielle, who own and run West Usk Lighthouse are charming and delightful hosts who take great care to make sure the wedding arrangements all come together on the day. This is a perfect venue for smaller and more intimate parties, it easily coped with a party of fifteen, although I’m told they can host up to 25 guests. Paul and Tracy had booked the lighthouse for the whole weekend which made the whole wedding much less pressured than one can find with some venues where other couples are waiting and time windows are tight

Frank uses his prized Rolls Royce to collect the registrars and bring them to the venue in style. He has an eclectic taste and you’ll also find a Dalek and a Tardis among the curios in his collection. Frank described how they bought the lighthouse back in 1987 but it needed much work doing on it and have lovingly restored the building over a period of some years – including restoring the stunning lantern room which offers fabulous views of the Usk estuary.
Wedding Venue Lighthouse Usk

The wedding of Paul & Tracy on May 21st 2016:

Looking at my BBC Weather app the night before, we;d been warned of heavy rain and oh boy, did it rain! The ceremony was scheduled for 3pm so having done some bridal prep images, it was a case of shooting mostly indoors as people gathered for the ceremony. With the formal part passing off smoothly, I was keen to get some couple portraits, particularly with such a beautiful venue. We did a few shots in the rain, but with the promise of it easing off by the early evening I arranged to return later. Patience was rewarded with a really stunning sunset and some great images.

wedding photography west usk lighthouse

South Wales Wedding Venue: West Usk Lighthouse

The West Usk Lighthouse operates as a Bed & Breakfast hotel when not being used to host weddings.

West Usk Lighthouse at night

Wedding photography for a small party at a venue like this is typically around £495 – for more info and a quotation for your wedding photography please contact me via my contact form

Diva_Couple_offer

DIVA magazine reader special offer

I’m pleased to be involved once again with the Diva Magazine wedding special so to tie in with my advert, I’m offering special deals to DIVA magazine readers looking for a UK destination wedding photographer who cares about their work and, being part of the LGBT community and active in LGBT human rights work, will bring a positive approach to a same-sex wedding.

Choosing a wedding photographer is an important consideration and finding a good fit with a person you feel comfortable with is key. Any decent wedding photographer will have a good portfolio to offer, but the best images come from a good rapport between subject and photographer. And I pride myself on being able to put subjects at ease.

I have examples of work here on this website and on my grrlAlex photography facebook page.

I have a documentary style of wedding photography, catching people in natural ways when they look at their most relaxed and natural. When people want to have group shots I’m happy to accommodate that – but often those moments happen naturally so it’s less fussy than traditional formal group photography. A key part of a wedding package are the bridal and couple portraits and here I like to work with the couple to create beautiful images that you will treasure. I have a particular specialism with lighting techniques to make the most of your venue.

Here is a short video slideshow of a wedding I shot in december at a local wedding venue, The St Pierre Hotel near Chepstow.

Here is a guy couple who’s wedding was in London in December, again you’ll see the combination of candid and documentary style with some couple and group portraits.

I cover weddings in any UK destination, if you’d like me to quote for your wedding photography please contact me on the contact form

ag4

Selfridges Agender – genderqueer fashion

22nd March 2015:
Flying visit to London yesterday for the ‘Beyond The Rainbow’ conference so took an hour to go see what all the fuss was about over at Selfridges, where last week they launched the Agenda project – a new concept to finally de-gender, or genderqueer fashion.

Launched on March 16th, this bold new initiative by the retailer, really is seeking to push the boundaries of fashion in the 21st century, blurring distinctions between genders when it comes to clothing.

genderqueer fashion at Selfridges

Genderqueer Fashion – a bold new world is coming

Agender is an exciting concept project. But never have I felt so intimidated by a shop. In fairness the staff were lovely, many of the clothes were lovely … but ….
a….
lot…
of…..
money.

The collection is very avant garde and very fashiony – these are designer pieces so mostly around a grand. The clothes in the edit collection are mostly in paper bags which adds to the mystique they are creating. I did spot a lush jacket by Faye Twogood (£500) and a couple of pieces by Yohji Yamamoto (£800 a piece) … nope, didn’t come home with them. But, if I needed something formal they had distinct possibility.

Genderless fashion at Selfridges

The collection is hosted in two sections on floors 1 & 2 – floor 1 is younger, more street – sweatshirts and t-shirts with snazzy graphics, crop jackets, stuff like that. On floor 2 a more mature collection, older, wiser, more formal. Some of the designers featured in the edit are also on the main floors with their own sections.

selfridges agenda project

The display is a little confusing at first – the clothes are hidden in paper covers. The assistant explained: “Presenting the clothes in paper bags with only a glimpse initially visible is part of the philosophy of being drawn to colour, fabric and feature before making an assumption about gender.”

genderqueer fashion at selfridges
For me it was slightly off-putting – it was part of what I found intimidating but from a ‘concept/arty/designery’ perspective I see what they were intending. The assistants are helpful though so if rummaging through the bags puts you off the staff can lead you to the useful places on the racks.

Rad Hourani jacket This jacket comes from the Rad Hourani unisex collection.

Selfridges Agenda project is an exciting concept because a main stream fashion outlet really is blurring the gender lines and has got new design talent which will hopefully filter down to the high street collections. And what was particularly lovely was several of the shop assistants working on that section are androgynous/genderqueer themselves.

So, yes this is designer fashion. Yes it feels scary expensive. Yes it is beyond most of our means. However – for those of us facing a formal event later in the year and stressing about how to look smart and not compromise gender/idendity, or for those who are fortunate enough to be able to buy one or two key pieces as a treat I’d say its worth a visit if you’re in London (or indeed Manchester as I’m told the collection is there too). For the rest of us, take heart in the idea that a blurring of gender lines in fashion has been a long time coming but a new zeitgeist is now finally emerging.

As Generation X increasingly embraces a more fluid approach to sexuality and gender, it feels like the visibility and acceptability of non-binary and genderqueer identities will increasingly become much more mainstream:

I think Selfridges could be on to something.

Watch the concept promo video here:

planning a wedding: top tips

Planning a Wedding: useful links and tips

Congratulations: you’ve got engaged and now the fun begins!

Planning a wedding: useful links and resources

In this article I’ll offer some useful links and information to help you on the journey of planning your wedding. First up I’ll post some links for the impatient among you, then I’ll write some stuff below mostly about the photography bit which is what I do.

Pinterest: When I find cool stuff my clients might find helpful I like to pin it on my pinterest board

Off-beat Bride: This is a cool website and blog for alternative, creative and geeky couples

Photography: How to choose a wedding photographer

Vintage Tea: Bridal parties and weddings in Wales see also: this blog post on bridal tea parties

Venues: Llechwen Hall above Pontypridd and Manor Parc Hotel in Cardiff.

Planning your wedding should be a really fun and creative journey. Although it can get stressful at times, the important thing to remember is that the day is for you and your partner. And the day should be one you both enjoy. Here are some helpful tips, including things to look for when choosing a photographer.

Planning a wedding: getting started

So – first things first: start assembling your mood boards. Details make a difference when it comes to weddings, so go through magazines, websites, catalogues and collect ideas and images that inspire you. It can help to have a scrap book for the stuff you tear out of magazines, but for webstuff you really need to get in to pinterest. It’s easy to use – once you have set up an account you start creating boards to ‘pin’ your images on. When you find images on the internet you can copy the image to your pinterest board, add notes about what appealed and it will automatically create a link back to the source so you can find the vendor when you need.

Planning a wedding: choosing the venue

The choice of venue will have as much impact on your wedding photos as the choice of dress. When you are looking at venues, look at their website for wedding photography and then google “[venue-name] weddings”. Obviously, stunning country houses make for some great photos but some of the more modest boutique hotels offer really beautiful backdrops to your wedding and can be very cost effective. If you are having a wedding in a 1980’s brick built hotel in the town centre it may make really beautiful group and couple shots difficult. A good venue will offer a combination of affordability, nice surroundings and good service.

Planning a wedding: choosing the photographer

With the market flooded in cheap DSLR cameras, everyone thinks they are a wedding photographer – but there is more to wedding photography than simply ‘taking snaps’. Learning how to take good quality photographs takes time and practice and there is a skill in knowing how to work with a couple and the wedding party to get people at their best. There are subtle but important considerations when it comes to posing that will flatter you and your partner – simply asking you to lift your arm slightly or turn slightly can have a massive effect on how you look, and the job of the photographer is to catch you at your best.

When most people take a photograph they snap the camera and download the image. When a professional wedding photographer takes an image we will spend several minutes with each image making small adjustments to create the best toning and composition possible: the images a professional photographer produces should not look like the ones you take – they should look like the ones you can’t take – that’s what you are paying the money for.

Wedding Photography: Photoshop is your friend

Modern digital cameras capture images to such high resolution that every imperfection becomes apparent. Its important that your images show you at your best, and as people see you. when we look at a person, we don’t scan the skin for imperfections or focus on the dark circles under the eyes – we just take in the person as an overview. The amount of correction I will apply depends on the model and the use of the image. In the image below, which was part of a fashion shoot, the processing is a little more than I generally use on a wedding but you’ll see how light skin corrections help bring the natural beauty of the model to the fore.
planning a wedding - choosing the photograher

If you look through my wedding photography portfolio you’ll see the standard I produce my wedding photography to.

For more on choosing a wedding photographer as part of your wedding planning, here’s another link to my article How to choose a wedding photographer I cover some of the key considerations.

Cardiff Pride March 2014

Cardiff Pride

[Alex Drummond is lead photographer for GrrlAlex & Associates: weddings, portrait and commercial photography.]

I’m really proud to be invited back as the official event photographer for Pride Cymru 2015. It will be the third time I’ve photographed the Cardiff Gay Pride event. (You can click this link to read about Cardiff Pride ‘Mardi Gras’ 2013). Here’s my report on the 2014 event and upcoming news on 2015.

Gay Pride march Cardiff 2014

Cardiff Pride News: Pride Cymru 2015

Update: Date announced for Cardiff Pride 2015: Saturday August 15th 2015 (so bookmark the date in your diary!) More information to follow soon. You can visit the Pride Cymru Webiste via this link.

Cardiff Pride 2014

Pride Cymru: Cardiff Mardi Gras 2014

Cardiff Pride (formerly known as Cardiff Mardi Gras) is the signature event of the year for the Pride Cymru team. It’s a celebratory parade through Cardiff city centre and festival event in Coopers Field, celebrating LGBT+ identities here in Wales.

Although the Pride Cymru team work throughout the year, campaigning for LGBT equality and putting on various LGBT events, the August Pride event is the focal point for many. With a range of artists and performers, the Coopers Field event is designed to have broad appeal, but with an emphasis on creating a positive and safe space for people who identify as LGBT+. Pride Cymru’s party in the park is a chance to celebrate being out and proud (and enjoy a day of entertainment).

Pride Cymru: Cardiff Pride 2014 crowd

Cardiff Pride Parade

Now establishing itself as key part of the Cardiff Pride celebrations, the Pride Parade this year involved over three thousand people. By 10:30am, the parade had started to assemble. Gathering at the top of town on Churchill Way (by the Capitol Shopping Centre): Samba bands; dancers; performers; LGBT community groups; supporters of the LGBT community and various others from across the LGBT spectrum processed through the city centre, making this quite a spectacle. The parade route leads off from Churchill Way, down Queen Street and then across towards the Hayes before heading down St Mary St. to the Castle Street entrance to the park and then on to Coopers Field.

Pride Cymru location Coopers Field map

Cardiff Pride: Video of the 2014 highlights

I was delighted to secure the contract to be the official event photographer for Pride Cymru (Cardiff Pride) 2014. It’s a long but enjoyable day for me and my assistant, but helped this year by good weather and great crowd. 2014 was probably the most successful pride event to date so here, I’ve assembled a collection of images and short video clips to give you a feel for the event – especially helpful if you’ve never been before.

Cardiff Pride: A varied program of events

As well as the main stage acts, a variety of smaller stages and events are placed throughout the field. There’s also a children’s play area; silent disco; stalls; and fairground rides. Various community support groups offer advice and guidance available for a range of issues relevant to LGBT+ lives.

silent disco pride cymru 2014

See you in Coopers Field for the 2015 Pride Event – Saturday August 15th!

wedding show wales Cardiff

Wedding Show Wales 2015

Had the opportunity to do some events photography for JR Events for the big Wedding Show Wales event held once again in the Cardiff City Hall

The show was held on Sunday 18th January 2015 and brought together a wide selection of vendors. Many of my friends were there -gotta give a mention to my pal Sharron of LoveDub Weddings, Noel of Champagne Wedding Cars, and Alicia of Llechwen Hall: (a fab wedding venue on the hilltops above Pontypridd)

Wedding show Wales storm trooper

Wedding Show Wales: Catwalk show

The catwalk is one of the real highlights of this wedding show and once again we saw a great selection of Bridal Wear, Menswear, and Mother of the bride outfits. For me the Catwalk show is the thing that distinguishes the Wedding Show Wales above the majority of wedding fayres held throughout the year. I’d shot the event last year and it was good to see familiar faces on the runway. There is an album of the set below, but first, here’s a presentation video I produced of the show:

Bridal Wear vendors featured in the catwalk show were:

Laura May Bridal – Click this link to visit Laura May Bridal website
All About Eve – Click this link to visit the All About Eve website
Timeless Elegance – Click this link to the Timeless Elegance Bridal wear website

Menswear vendors featured in the catwalk show were:
Slaters – Click this link to visit the Slaters Menswear website
Moss Bross – Click this link to visit the Moss Bross website
Dyfed Menswear – Click this link to visit the Dyfed menswear website

Attendance figures were healthy and the whole event had a good buzz about it. Getting married remains as popular as ever!

The video has a short selction of images from the shoot – below you’ll find a full set of images form the set I posted on my facebook page:

This is the second time I’ve done event photography at the Wedding Show Wales – for those of you interested in seeing some of the images from the 2014 show, here’s a link to my event photography from the Wedding Show Wales 2014

All credit to Jessica & Jamie of JR Events for putting together a really excellent show.
Wedding Show Wales by JR Events

Buying Bespoke engagement rings

Buying an engagement ring

How to buy an engagement ring

With Valentine’s day one of the most popular times to propose marriage, I thought I’d get my friend Orit Adiri-Niemogha of H&D Diamonds to offer some top tips on how to buy an engagement ring. Orit is a professional diamond grader who has worked for many years in the diamond trade: she now heads H&D diamonds who offer custom made and bespoke diamond jewellery.

Buying an engagement ring: how to choose the right one

Jewellery is a very personal thing. And the safest way of ensuring you are buying an engagement ring your partner will like is to take them with you!

However, if you are set on the idea of handing over a ring in a box when you propose you could be well advised to use a ‘Promise Ring’ as this shows you are considering your partner’s choice when it comes to selecting the actual engagement ring (which, lets face it we intend them to have for the rest of their lives).
buying-an-engagement-ring-promise-rings

If you are set on going for the big one first time, hopefully your partner has taken you window shopping and been pointing out the sort of engagement rings they like. Or it may be they have a Pinterest board of cool stuff you can raid for inspiration. Either way, it’s worth making sure you get one they love. And this takes us on to the next bit.

Buying an engagement ring: choosing the metal

Most people who wear jewellery will either suit silver or gold – skin tone makes the difference here, so if your partner doesn’t have gold jewellery you might want to consider platinum or white gold for the band. On some skin, gold doesn’t look right. And this leads us to the stone: over to you Orit:

diamond-grader

How To Choose A Diamond Engagement Ring

If you are considering buying an engagement ring then learning a bit about diamonds can help you make a sound purchase. Diamonds have for a long time been associated with engagement rings and for good reason. Diamond is the hardest gemstone known, and asides from looking beautiful, it will always be there to symbolise the strength of your relationship and the love you share with one another.

Buying an engagement ring: So how can you choose a diamond ring?

As Alex has written above, when buying an engagement ring, you should think not only at what you like but also what you think your partner would like. Have a look at other jewellery they have and see if there is any hint to help you choose. You can also browse together at celebrities rings in a magazine and make comments together on which one you like or dislike. An important consideration is to decide on the cut (or shape) of the diamond that will be the centre-piece of the ring.

buying-an-engagement-ring-types

As the image above shows, there are a variety of shapes of diamond available (if you click on the image you can visit my website to find out more about each type). Having identified the cut of the diamond there are some more things to think about. Once you have a general idea of the look of the ring get into the smaller details and think about the style of ring you want. Will it be a solitaire or would you rather have a multi stone ring? Would you consider a cluster ring? Take time to browse shops together to understand what you both like.

Buying Diamonds: the four C’s

There are four things to look for in a diamond: Colour; Clarity; Carat and Cut. A diamond is forever so doing a little research on what to look for can help you make a wise choice. The most obvious quality to note in a diamond is for it to be bright in colour and have a ‘life’ or the sparkle we all associate when we think of a diamond. If you choose for a solitaire and not sure on how you should judge the diamond you buy you can pay a little extra for a ‘certified diamond’.

Certified diamonds are diamonds that have been graded in a laboratory and been given a certificate stating all the information about that diamond. You can compare it to a passport or identity card of that specific diamond. The reason people choose to buy a certified diamond is as a reassurance that they know what they get.

If you or your partner prefer to have colour in the ring you can have a mixture of diamonds and semi precious stone on a ring. This will substantially reduce the total cost of the ring.

Buying an Engagement Ring: Bespoke and custom options

But what if you already have a really good idea about the ring you want but so far haven’t seen it anywhere? It could be a combination of several rings all combined with one, as often happens. In that case, you might want to consider a bespoke ring. Buying a bespoke ring means you can have something very personal and unique to you as a couple. If you are not sure and feel you can benefit from a free consultation with a diamond expert please contact us on 0845 600 5557.

To find out more about diamonds click on the image below:

orit-diamonds

H&D Diamonds is an online diamond jewellery shop that offers bespoke services by a Bond Street jeweller. Based in the North West but operates all over the UK.

See also “How to choose a wedding photographer”

National Gay Wedding Show Manchester

National Gay Wedding Show – Manchester 2015

National Gay Wedding Show 2015

Had a great day at the National Gay Wedding Show in Manchester on January 10th. There were over a hundred and twenty exhibitors and after a slow start the event quickly picked up and numbers felt good from late morning onward.

Here’s the video I made for event organisers UKFE

[Event photography by grrlAlex]

Gay Wedding Show

Your chance to meet and commission LGBT friendly wedding vendors

The show presented a good selection of wedding vendors covering everything you’d need for your wedding. Importantly, all the vendors had chosen to specifically attend a gay wedding show, showing their commitment to supporting marriage equality and providing a good service to same-sex couples. (If you check out my twitter feed you’ll see I have a long history of campaigning for LGBT equality issues).

gay photographer grrlAlex

National Gay Wedding Show: Manchester 2015 highlights

Here’s my facebook album from the event:

Gay Wedding Shows: A good way to find LGBT friendly vendors:

This link will take you to the exhibitor list for the National Gay Wedding Show 2015

When choosing a supplier for your big day it’s important to feel a good rapport with them. This is especially so when it comes to choosing a wedding photographer. I’m surprised at how many people book a wedding photographer on the strength of images on a website and won’t have met the actual person until the big day. To me, that would feel like a big risk to take, not least because you might not actually like them. And, more worryingly, Offbeat bride website reports some photographers are stealing images to put on their websites, in a trend they call fraudography. Every professional photographer will have developed a ‘style’ that will distinguish their work, the images on their website should carry that clear style, and it’s worth asking to see other work they have done to be really confident that the person you commission really can deliver the quality you are expecting.

I certainly prefer to meet couples in advance of the big day, either in person or via skype. For me, it’s nice to get to know you a little, and it gives us a chance to properly discuss the arrangements. Many couples like to have a pre-wedding shoot which is a great chance to get confident with the photographer and to have some beautiful images to use for the invites and on the day.

Given that you’ll be comparing photographers while at the show, here’s a few pointers to look out for:

Did you like them?
Do you like their work?
Are they available?
Does their price-point match your budget?

*Read more on my “how to choose a wedding photographer” page*

Wedding Photography Cost – how much should you pay?

Gay Wedding Photography - quality is worth extra

There’s an old addage – buy cheap, get cheap. And this is very true of wedding photography. Good quality wedding photography should typically cost £200-£300 per hour, and whilst there are people out there doing shoot-and-burn for peanuts, you simply won’t get good quality images. In my article “Wedding Photography Prices” I explain some of the factors that make up a wedding photography package price.

A good rule of thumb, is to budget 10-15% of the total cost for the wedding photography

National Gay Wedding Show: Special Offer

I don’t often do wedding fairs but I’ve made an exception for the National Gay Wedding Show and was offering show-deals on wedding photography packages. For those of you that came to see me on the day or who took one of the flyers the special offers will still hold so contact me here and I’ll be happy to quote for your wedding photography.

Mumsnet Newport november image

Mumsnet Newport & Monmouth: November image

Mumsnet Newport november image

Mumsnet Newport & Mon: Autumn image

There is as ever a slightly abstract rationale behind this image. As a creative photographer I like to find images that move outside the conventional, help us see things with a new perspective. Here’s the story of how I came to choose this image.

Autumn is mostly about dark evenings and colourful leaves and I wanted to capture that in an image that also drew on the idea of finding pleasure in simple things. I’d gone out looking for inspiration for this month’s image on a theme of autumn, and found it all to easy to think in terms of seeking out dramatic tree-scapes or big mountain views to shoot. But soon I realised as I walked up the mountain path, that I was oblivious to the many wonders on the footpath around me. The deep red leaves of a bramble caught my eye and this was the image I settled on.

Dark evenings shorten our days, and with the shorter hours of daylight, nature takes its cue to bed down for winter. And it’s this combination of colder nights and reduced light that gifts us the stunning colours of autumn, as the green chlorophyll in the leaves subsides and we are left with the oranges and reds of residual sugars that have been feeding the plant.

In this image I wanted to symbolise those elements: dark evenings, nature; colour; and finding beauty in simple things: in this case spotting a bramble on the verge of a mountain path just above Risca. Soon it will be winter but for the next few weeks at least the chance is there to go outdoors and marvel at the wondrous colours of autumn.

The image will be the feature image for Mumsnet Newport and Monmouthshire region for November – here’s a link to their homepage

Walking back to the car, I paused to shoot a view of the Risca Valley.
mumsnet-newport-image

And then, collecting my gear together and continuing down the hill I saw a young couple with a dog on a lead walking towards me. As we passed, some four feet or so between us, and we smiled at each other in acknowledgement of the joy of a late autumn morning, suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spotted the dog launch for my arm. And so it was that I spent the rest of the afternoon in casualty waiting to have the wound sorted and a tetanus jab.

Thankfully, only a surface wound but a sobering moment for a couple who struck me as otherwise responsible dog owners.

Llangynidr location shoot

Location Photography: with Ancestor Leathercrafts

Game Of Thrones style shoot featuring Ancestor Leathercrafts

models wearing ancestor leathercrafts costuming

South Wales offers some great location photography opportunities for fashion shoots and styled or themed shoots. Friend and fellow creative James Minahan (professional makeup artist) suggested the initial concept – something primitive, rugged, a highlander meets game of thrones style shoot. Sourcing costume and props meant putting a call out on our networks. TipTop Photography kindly loaned me the sword, and custom body armour and costume maker Ancestor Leathercrafts provided much of the costuming.
models in costume by ancestor leathercrafts

For the location I wanted wild open countryside and the hillsides around Blaenavon and Brynmawr offered some useful possibilities. Driving through Beaufort though towards Llangynidr found me the perfect spot with pretty much 360 degree views.

actor with sword in brynmawr

Outdoor shoots are always a risk with the weather and although thankfully the threatened rain held of most of the day, we didn’t get to use my fire-torches in the dark as by 5pm the wind had picked up, the skies darkened and we were only just packed up when the heavens opened.
fire sticks on location shoot

Here are some more images from the shoot.

 

For fashion photography and location shoots in South Wales contact GrrlAlex using the contact form here

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For more info about Jez Hunt at Ancestor Leathercrafts visit http://www.ancestorleathercrafts.co.uk/

For more info about James Minahan professional make-up artist providing Bridal Make-up; Special Occasion Make-up; Beauty, TV, theatrical and special effects make-up just click this link to visit his website