Struggles; I’ve Had A Few.

Another mid-week blog, again for the purpose of processing my thoughts. I have been quite honest about chronicling my mental health in these recent posts. I chose to do this for the purpose of letting anyone else who may be going through similar feelings, know they are not alone.

I must admit I find it hard accepting help for my own struggles, its so much easier to try and help others than it is to unravel the mess in my head. This is not helped by the fact that at times I am “normal”, as in there are no extremes in emotions, I can hold conversations, do activities, maintain a balance in my mood, I’m able to move through my day at a regular pace.

These days make me feel like a fraud when I am hit with anxiety, why is it I can be OK one day and then the next day crash into a wall.

On the bad days I just want to hide, I distance myself from those who I care about, I cannot concentrate on the simplest tasks, my motivation is null and void, I want cry most of the time and at my very worst I usually succumb to a panic attack or two.

My insecurities bubble to the top and provides me with unhealthy thoughts to obsess over. I would not wish this state of mind to anyone.

I am a nightmare to live with, I feel guilty about being the way I am. My family/friends are unconditional with their care and support. If I didn’t have them around I would hate to think of where I would or would not be today.

I had hoped that my this post would of been be a positive one, so within this I will add something that I have started to try and be proactive in these uncertain times.

Myself and a friend were talking about how our photography had been neglected recently and how we were looking for a way to keep creative. We had the brainwave that over on my Facebook page (search: Rucoby) I would set weekly photography challenges.

This is open to absolutely anyone, regardless of where they are in their photography; from the absolute beginner to the seasoned pro. It isn’t just about how good a capture looks, but how well does the snap fit the brief. The challenges are just for a bit of fun, our main aim is to try and give people something to do while they are stuck at home and hopefully to get people thinking creatively.

I hope some of you get involved, as now more than ever we need to come together to make sense of the strangeness going on around the world at present.

The first theme that I announced on Monday was Time, as the challenges are hosted on my page I decided that with the announcements I would post my own interpretation of that weeks theme. This gives me a purpose to shoot, makes me think differently and it makes me be proactive.

As you can see I shot the classic flour bomb shot, to me this displays a brief moment in time, although I am sure others will surely demonstrate to me many other ways to interpret time.

The other photo I have provided is an attempt to shoot the super moon that rose on Tuesday. Unfortunately the clouds had other ideas for me getting a clear picture, however; they did add a moodiness to the shot.

I am trying to remain hopeful that the next post will be in more of a positive vain.

I would also like to urge anyone who is feeling low, anxious or lonely to reach out. Seek help, if you don’t have close friends or family talk to a charity helpline, it is so much better to let these feelings out than it is to hold them in for them to grow and become all consuming.

There are no magic fixes I will confess, but each day you reach the end of is a win. Small achievements mean so much when some days just getting out of bed is a challenge.

Getting help is not a weakness, it means you are ready to heal. I really hope that this helps someone, even in a small way.

Until next time, take care, Rucoby.

Motivation

What motivates you? I’ve asked myself this question numerous times this past week. What drives me to keep going, when the urge to sink into my anxiety/depression becomes stronger?

One of the biggest factors for my resilience so far is my family/friends. From the family I am currently cooped up with, to the family members and friends that check in with phone calls and text messages, all contribute greatly in helping to keep me positive.

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t suffered times where my motivation has been lacking, where the pull of spending the day in bed was an enticing option as I couldn’t see the point of seeing the day through. Somehow, I have resisted the temptation.

There have been small actions that I’ve dedicated time to each day to keep me active and my keep my focus away from negativity. Feeding my sourdough starter (which has now been christened as RuRu), baking (the favourite recipe for the moment being chocolate crinkle cookies, found on the BBC Goodfood website) and listening to my favourite music playlists are just a few examples.

I’d love to hear from yourselves about what is helping you get through these strange days.

There is still a distinct lack of photography this week, with the bird feeder yet to fulfill my nature fix, I am still hopeful that I’ll get some visitors to the garden soon. There are always starlings, pigeons, blue tits, robins and even goldfinch that I’ve spotted flying past the house, they just need to find the feeder!

The one time I did manage to get my camera out was for the first quarter moon. This shot was achieved by stacking images together in Lightroom. I have never tried this editing tool before and although the image isn’t pin sharp I am pleased with the resulting picture.

The other shot I have provided is of another glorious sunset, taken with my phone camera. Isn’t it just the way, that the weather has been mild and bright while we have all been told to stay home.

I really hope you are all keeping well, take care until next time.

Perspective

This is unusual for me; I am aware. I don’t usually post more than once a week, but having recently being granted copious amounts of time I needed an outlet to process my thoughts.

This week I have hit the proverbial wall, my anxiety is at a high and I can feel the low ebb of depression creeping in. No amount of routine or activity can shift it.

I’ve reached out to others and am very supported emotionally, there is no issue there. Its the guilt of feeling so low when all I have been asked to do is to stay home.

I don’t live in a war torn country and regardless of the panic buying I am not without food, I have help if needed to get supplies or to bend an ear but I still cannot shake my low mood.

I know I am not alone in these low feelings to varying degrees. The feeling of being stuck for an uncertain amount of time is daunting. Not being able to see family or friends is heartbreaking.

I am persistently trying to keep perspective with the current situation, thinking of the bigger picture as to why we have all been asked to do this.

The problem with anxiety/depression is how insidious it is. For myself, I know I have it easy compared to others, to which I beat myself up for feeling so bad. Guilt overrides rational thoughts.

You should never compare your own mental health to others, I’ve said it numerous times to others, but when it comes to heeding my own advice it falls on deaf ears. I repeat to myself that I am not weak for being like this, and I hope one day I will believe it.

I continue to try to keep to a loose routine in the week and there have been a few fleeting positives that have kept my thoughts buoyant.

I’ve regained a passion for baking, from starting a sourdough starter to using leftover bread for bread pudding. It might be a small action but its something I find achievable when I cannot concentrate on reading or television shows.

I am desperately missing photography and as I have mentioned previously I am not close enough to any proper green space to recuperate.

I have installed a new bird feeder to the garden and in the coming days I really hope it attracts birds into the garden. Something which to others may seem mundane fills me with some hope of getting my nature fix.

I am really trying hard to stay afloat and keep my head, the thought of reaching new lows to be honest, scares me. I will continue to communicate my feelings as much as I am able to.

If you suffer with the same afflictions and you haven’t opened up to anyone, please do, knowing I am not alone does help ease some of the burden. If you feel like you cannot do that, phone a helpline e.g. the Samaritans, write your feelings down; don’t hold them in.

From experience having support to give you a leg up out of the depths of poor mental health can be a life saver. I don’t say that lightly, its not a magic fix but it can be the difference to having the weight of the world on your shoulders to sharing the load so its more manageable.

I apologise for the lack of photography with this post. I shall look to remedy this for the next post.

Take care. Rucoby.

Look Up To The Sky.

So that’s it; week one of social distancing completed. I would be lying if I said it has been easy, although I’m sure I am not alone in this sentiment and this is the case for most people.

The disruption to daily life has led to the creation of new routines. For myself, keeping to a routine has helped keep me sane. I have tried to fill my days with at least one activity whether that be baking, drawing, gaming etc. Its amazing how something so simple can help ease an anxious mind that could wander to darker thoughts.

One thing I do miss the most (so far) is being able to freely go out to green space. I am unlucky in regards to what I have local and I have to say I am envious of people who have the countryside on their doorstep, I really hope they appreciate it. I have joked to an acquaintance that once normality has resumed I will be running along the Malvern hills like Maria in the sound of music.

I am very aware of why we are doing this and remind myself often of the bigger picture. It is quite easy to internalise when you suddenly have lots of time.

The clap for carers event that occurred this week was a joyous occasion that rang out around our neighborhood and lifted my spirits no end. It was a stark reminder of why we are doing this and that we are not alone. I found the experience a little emotive as people came together to say thanks, banging pots, shouting gratitude’s and even fireworks were heard from my area.

I will take this moment to say my own THANK YOU! to the brilliant NHS staff, cleaners, maintenance staff, store workers, police, fire brigade and many others that are out there working throughout these turbulent times. I really hope that they are recognised and rewarded for their tireless efforts throughout all of this. THANK YOU!

Looking to the skies, particularly at sunset, has offered stunning sights and although the views from my house are not exactly beautiful, the skies have offered hope. Nature continues regardless and will be there when all this is over.

Has anyone else noticed an increase in activity with wildlife around them while lock down is enforced? In my garden alone I have noticed many more bird visitors, although the brighter weather could also be a contributing factor.

The night skies have been brilliantly clear this past week too. I have managed one lunar capture of the waxing crescent phase, or as I will always refer to it as; a Cheshire cat smile moon.

I plan for the coming weeks to practice my astro-photography as long as the night skies are clear. So hopefully I will have some interesting shots to offer in future posts.

How are you coping with these current times? What tips would you share that help get you through the day? Is there anything you are hoping to do now that time is no obstacle? I’d love to hear from you.

I wish you all a great week, until next time.

Strange Times

I have to admit I have purposely been avoiding mentioning the current situation that we are facing in the UK at present. There are already so many voices on this subject and in truth I don’t feel qualified enough to give any real opinions on the matter.

These are strange and uncertain times that we are living through, schools have been shut, people are panic buying (without the real need to) and if you speak to anyone it is in the forefront of their minds.

Each passing day there is an unease as to what measures will be brought in next. How long will the isolating have to go on for? Will we be in full lock down soon?

I am at present following the current Government advice and isolating. I am trying to stay positive, the old adage of trying to make the best of a bad situation. Although I have to admit I am daunted by the thought of having to stay home.

I have spoken in the past about how soothing nature is for me and my recovery, but this isn’t just about me. Its about protecting those who are most vulnerable.

Plus the more that people take heed to the advice and do their part then hopefully the shorter this will continue for.

There are rays of hope throughout this whole scenario, I have seen Facebook groups set up with the aim to deliver supplies and ensure that those in need aren’t left without, many creators on the web have set up live shows to keep people entertained and keep spirits high. The blitz spirit lives on, even if we are not physically able to come together.

I look forward to when some sort of normality is resumed, I will definitely appreciate getting out and about with the camera a lot more.

My hopes throughout isolation is to try to be creative in other ways; practice drawing, learn new editing skills, read more etc.. I am looking at this as a time to reset not as wasted time (trying to negate the negativity I could feel)

I wish I had some pictures to add to this post but as I mentioned in my last post my laptop is currently out of action (I will admit, I spilled coffee over it and at present it is dead). I am not sure when this will be remedied but I will continue to write each week. I hope you still enjoy what I create and I wish you all a good week.

Who Doesn’t Love A Robin?

This weeks blog post returns to how my photography journal began; garden birds with a few floral shots thrown in for good measure.

It amazing on how a few colourful blooms displaying in a once bare patch of land, can brighten the spirits.

The Grape hyacinths are in full bloom at present and it’s hard to resist not to shoot them. I’ve have fun playing around with the edits of these shots, making these already striking flowers front and centre.

Having returned to garden photography this past week, bird captures are usually my main aim to capture and you can always guarantee a Robin to appear.

These fiesty little birds are not generally thrown by my presence. Sometimes it seems as if they do not mind posing for a snap. They are a bird for all seasons and it’s been lovely seeing their red breast against the spring greens which are starting to emerge.

And who doesn’t love a Robin? On various feeds where Robin shots have been displayed they are generally well recieved. My own Robin pictures are some of my most liked content. It’s easy to see why, they definitely hold a charm even though they are quite boisterous.

The beginning of this week I decided to visit a local nature reserve. Upton Warren: it’s managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and is a fantastic place for birdwatching.

Unfortunately I can only display 3 photographs for this location, as at present my laptop is inactive. I am slightly worried that at this point my laptop will not be able to be fixed, which means any recent shoots I have done will be lost. I do try to transfer my images each month either to a cloud service or external hard drive as I hate losing content.

I am trying to stay positive that this is not the case but my anxiety is making it hard. I hope you enjoy what I am able to provide this week and wish you all a good week.

Love at first sightings.

https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge/

https://www.redditchbc.gov.uk/things-to-do/parks-and-outdoors/arrow-valley-country-park.aspx

I love watching wildlife, whether it be blue tits visiting the feeders or bees pollinating flowers, I take great enjoyment and relaxation from it all. I may not have been a serious “watcher” until this blog but I have always appreciated the experiences I have had. This can mean my knowledge is sometimes lacking e.g. identification but part of the fun is learning new things.

I have a bucket list of the British wildlife that I would love to see and hopefully photograph; Otters, foxes, badgers, red squirrel, kingfishers, herons, adders, voles, harvest mice….etc. I could carry on naming copious amounts of wildlife but I’m sure you get the idea.

I was lucky enough to briefly see a wild otter at Croome, which took one off my list, fingers crossed I can get a shot of them next time! I didn’t really have a plan for the next animal I would be aiming to hopefully see.

That is, until one Instagram post from WWT Slimbridge peaked my interest. Kingfisher breeding season had begun. That was it, my mind was set.

I always enjoy visiting Slimbridge, over the years I have lost count of the amount of times I have visited. It was just the excuse I needed to make my first visit of the year.

Setting off early, I was very excited at the thought of potentially seeing a wild kingfisher in the flesh. Like the otter it is an animal I have seen in print but never with my own eyes.

As soon as I entered Slimbridge I headed straight to the kingfisher hide. Immediately, directly in front of the hide, across a pond there was the most striking blue and orange little bird. I was not expecting to see them so quickly. I was enchanted.

If you are to visit Slimbridge in hopes of catching a glimpse of them yourself, be mindful that the hide windows are currently screwed shut as not to disturb the breeding pairs. A volunteer had informed me this was due to people previously scaring the kingfishers, who in turn then abandoned the nest site.

I took a few shots through the window, but mostly I was happy to just sit and watch. I was lucky to see a male and female kingfisher who kindly demonstrated what the breeding season was. They stayed for about 40 mins before moving on.

I lingered a little longer with hopes they would return to which they did not. I did, however, manage to see a field vole emerge from their hole near the hide and grab a quick shot. Eventually I decided to visit the other hides dotted around the site.

One of these is named the Willow hide, which is placed in front of feeders. There were the usual tits, sparrows and pigeons who were making the most of the provided fayre.

At the time of visiting this particular hide, the volunteer I had previously mentioned was present and very kindly pointed my gaze past the feeders and towards a clearing in some thicket, a bird I had never seen before appeared. A water Rail I was informed.

Moving on to another hide more firsts; a curlew and a lapwing. You may be wondering “if you had visited Slimbridge so many times in the past, then why haven’t you seen these all before?” The answer is simple I have never took the time to utilise the hides properly.

I look forward to future visits where I can again make the most of the hides and try and spot more new (to me) wildlife.

The following day on a whim I took a trip to Redditch to visit Arrow Valley Country Park. The skies were mostly clear and bright, it would of been a shame to waste it indoors.

The park is beautiful with a huge lake and I can see myself revisiting regularly. I could of happily sat on the side of the lake and shot away all day. There is a great diversity on the lake, from the usual swans and ducks to canada geese, cormorants and grebe.

One of the highlights from that day was seeing a Heron on their nest. I have seen Herons in the wild before but always as a singularity never as a pair and never on a nest. I was ecstatic to find that the pictures I had taken were clear.

As you may imagine, this weekend has filled me with no end of joy, it has provided me with a boost in motivation to seek out other locations where I can observe more wildlife; either to make new discoveries or to just enjoy old favourites.

I hope you enjoy this weeks images, and I wish you a great week until next time.

Always Ready For The Fall.

What goes up must come down.

For the past couple of weeks my mental health has been in quite a positive state, I’ve been feeling confident with my photography, putting effort into improving my editing and outside of photography my mood has been buoyant and bright.

Then comes the fall, I am always grateful for the times when my mental health is secondary to everything else, I always try to make the most of these periods because I am aware that it might not last.

I know this could be construed as a counter productive way to think, but being aware of when my mental health is starting to flag can really help deter a full breakdown.

It’s so frustrating knowing that just over a week ago I was feeling proud of what I had been producing; to then have this week doubting everything I have ever done in photography.

Self doubt has always been a common thread in these blog posts and it isn’t an exclusive feeling to my photography.

I doubt myself all the time, I constantly worry about silly things e.g. my instagram profile picture gets changed regularly because I worry how people perceive my face. It’s not something I do to others and I don’t understand why I think others would do that to me. There isn’t any rationality to an anxious mind.

I am taking steps for self care, currently I am able to look for small positives from each day and hopefully this low ebb will just be a blip.

Getting outdoors is so important for my recovery, so at the weekend I made a real effort to get out. The Japanese have a practise called shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) taking the time to appreciate nature is a recommended therapy in Japan to help improve health, I have to agree. I always feel better when I’ve been on one of my walks, even if it’s only a slight improvement it’s better than none.

First stop was Crickley Hill country park, offering stunning views over Gloucestershire. The weather was clear, with stunning blue skies (that reminded me of the old screen picture from Microsoft XP). The only downside was the wind, at times it was so strong it took my breath away.

On the way home, took a slight detour to shoot Dunstall Castle, Earls Croome, Worcestershire. This folly has been a location I have been past many times, I had never thought to shoot it before.

The following day with no other plans, which is unusual for a sunday, off I went to Trimpley reservoir. Its strange finding local destinations from web searches, as I feel bad for not knowing about them sooner.

The Severn Valley railway runs past this location and I managed to capture one of the trains that pass through, along with one of the many boats that were on the water that day. I really felt for those who were sailing as the weather was very eclectic, sunny one moment to hailing the next.

Unlike last week, the shots I have provided on this post I don’t feel so positive about (at the moment anyway), I am hoping that in the coming days/weeks I can return to these and feel different about them.

I hope you enjoy what I have shared, and i’m wishing for a more uplifting post next week.

Snap Happy

With all the bad weather we have been having lately, it would have been quite easy for me to want to hibernate and not venture out to shoot. In truth; the reality has been the complete opposite. The photography muses must have been with me this week.

In between the downpours and the worst of the blustery winds, I have been out in the garden with the camera. Displays of vivid greens and resilient blooms have inspired the majority of my pictures.

Around the feeders, the hedgerow has been a hive of activity. Like myself, the birds have been making the most of the breaks in the weather. Fights over territory and food have been commonplace. I have been quite surprised to see how bolshy Blue Tits can be, they are not phased in taking on the bigger birds.

Moving away from the garden, I took a trip to Kinver Edge and Rock houses at the weekend. I must admit I was completely unaware of this location beforehand, it’s an absolute gem.

Scrolling through the National Trust site I knew I wanted to stay local. Stumbling upon this location it looked very intriguing and offered something different to the standard stately homes or parks.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinver-edge-and-the-rock-houses

There is plenty of interest as you walk around, from the striking red sandstone to the views from the Edge, the pretty gorse flowering on the hillside and of course the Rock houses themselves.

I feel bad for not knowing about this site sooner, it is a definite recommendation from me; not only for photography opportunities. The surrounding area offers lots of different walks and I look forward to returning and taking different routes.

As I write this post the bad weather, for the time being, has subsided and there are even sunny spells. I’m feeling positive moving into the new week and hopeful my photography motivation holds fast.

It’s a Phase…. I think

Feeling Creative

I was very fortunate this week to be treated to a trip to London, specifically with the purpose of visiting the Tutankhamun exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery. I’ve provided the link to the exhibit below if it peaks your interest. (Pre Booking tickets is advised)

https://www.saatchigallery.com/art/tutankhamun.php

I have been desperate to visit this exhibit from the moment I had learnt it was happening. These artifacts once they have completed their tour (they have already been displayed in Los Angeles and Paris) will rightfully return home to Egypt to remain there indefinitely.

The exhibit commemorates the 100th anniversary of Howard Carter’s discovery; Tutankhamun’s tomb.

It is astounding to think how old these treasures are, even encased within the glass cabinets you get a real sense of the opulence and craftsmanship these items possess.

Heading there, I knew I didn’t just want to take pictures to catalogue the items I had seen that day, I can buy postcards or guide books for that. I wanted my shots to be more creative than that, to try and encapsulate the feeling the objects held rather than the details.

I had prepared and packed my DSLR the previous evening, checking that the batteries were charged, that the lens were clean and that the flash card was empty. I was optimistic that all my pictures would come off this camera.

As you may of guessed from my tone, this was far from truth, I didn’t even take it out of my bag.

The exhibit, as you may well imagine, is quite a busy one. With the amount of people around it just made way more sense to shoot with my phone. I was still able to shoot what I wanted, how I wanted and the quality (in my opinion) wasn’t compromised.

I have to admit to not taking many pictures, at times I was just so in awe of these treasures that I wanted to immerse myself in the experience rather than worry about what shot I was going to try and take next.

This allowed me to;

A) Only take the shots I wanted to take.

B) Enjoy the exhibit without worrying I was missing out on information because I would be wrapped up in getting lots of shots.

I also have to say because these exhibits are dealing with death, even if it was thousands of years ago, I still felt taking photos of the more personal items within the collection was disrespectful.

Referring to the title of my post this week; it’s a phase. Currently I am really appreciating the aesthetic monotone gives to the photos I have been taking. I have found that while I am editing I have leaned heavily towards the monotones, I’ve just loved the feel and sense of story it adds to each shot.

Another weekend and another storm, this time Storm Dennis. I have not braved the elements and haven’t ventured out this weekend, although I had been itching to use the camera.

In a break from the rain I did manage to get outside and take a couple of shots in the garden. I knew I definitely wanted to get a daffodil picture, if I couldn’t take one then I was worried they would be flattened by the high winds that have continued to pass through the region.

Again the resulting photograph is monotone, it really gives emphasis to the shape of the petals and how delicate they are. I am not sure if this love of monotonal edits will continue for long but I am loving them at present. I hope you enjoy them too.