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.

Croome

Chasing Otters

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

While I attended Camera Club last week, I learnt that a local National Trust property had wild otters living on their site.

One of the very talented club members had given a presentation of the photographs they had taken in the previous year. A couple of which held the invaluable information that has excited me all week.

As the presentation started I had no inkling to what I was about to learn, I have been to Croome on many occasions through the years, it is a very striking property. There are already so many photographic opportunities there, I was completely unaware of their special inhabitants.

It was an easy decision on where I would be heading this weekend. I had to try and see an otter, I have never seen one in the wild. The week was a long one, especially with me counting down to the day I could get to Croome.

With the news full of weather predictions for the weekend looking negative, storm Ciara was on her way. I was worried I would have to wait another week before I could get there, which I realise isn’t the biggest worry I should have but I was just so excited to think I could see otters.

Thankfully Saturday was blessed with sunny skies, I couldn’t have been luckier!

As soon as I had arrived at Croome, I hot footed it to the river that surrounds the grounds. Interesting fact; the river at Croome is not a natural one, it was dug out by hand in the 1760s as part of a water feature.

The location to which I had been informed the otters could be, was south from the court and over the Chinese bridge. I crossed excitedly and once across walked along the bank stopping the opposite side to a holt purpose built for the otters.

I turned my head left then right, checking my surroundings. Suddenly immediately in front of me was an otter! I was in shock I didn’t expect to see one that quickly. They were in the centre of the river, their head was the the only part visible.

I almost thought I was seeing things, as soon as it was noticed it had vanished beneath the water. I loitered for ages hoping for another glimpse and the chance to get a picture for myself.

Unfortunately I didn’t see them again, but I am just so grateful to have seen them in the first place. I know that they are defiantly there and I look forward to trying to spot them again over the year.

Making the most of the great weather and the beautiful surroundings, the rest of my day was spent shooting around the grounds.

The bright conditions offered the right lighting for monotone shots. I am really starting to appreciate monotone edits for some of my pictures, especially the architectural shots, I feel it can enrich texture and really add mood to a shot.

Following on from last weeks post, this week has been markedly more positive. It has helped that I have had something to focus on, a goal to look forward to. Not to say all the week has been easy, but any week where the anxiety/depression is secondary is a win.

I look forward to where the following week will take me, fingers crossed for more new discoveries.

Recovery

It is no secret on this blog how much I struggle with my self esteem, in nearly all of my blogs there is the thread of self doubt about what I am displaying. So i’m assuming if I were to write about my anxiety and depression it wouldn’t really be a surprise for anybody to read.

I’ve ummed and arred for ages about whether to include my mental health on previous blog posts, I am scared that it may put people off reading my posts in the future but leaving out that side of myself makes me a bit of a fraud, I want these blogs to be authentic, a genuine expression of my life, how can I truly manage that if I am hiding a huge section of myself?

I have seriously struggled with anxiety and depression for the past 3 years. At its worse I will have frequent panic attacks, be unable to leave the house, I will withdraw from myself and from those around me, I worry constantly over nothing in particular, it causes me to be forgetful, I am constantly filled with guilt, and on more than one occasion I have come extremely close to feeling like I shouldn’t be around at all.

I am so very lucky to have a great support network around me, they have been there through my worst and I will be eternally grateful that they feel I am worth helping. From the close family that have to put up with my bad days, to the friends that check in, just to see how I am doing, these things can make such a difference when you are feeling detached from everything.

From my own experience; I would honestly recommend if you have anyone in your life that struggles with their mental health, a simple message just to say Hi or a phone call to check in could help enormously.

You may now be wandering what does this have to do with a photography journal?

Photography, for me, alongside my support network is one of my saviours, it’s part of my recovery. Photography gives me a reason/ purpose to get out of the house, when in reality all I want to do is hide.

It allows me a creative outlet, being able to try and share how I’ve seen a scene or the atmosphere from what/where I’d been shooting. I enjoy trying to think of new ways of shooting subjects and it pushes me to experiment.

I love how photography gets me to look at the world, it helps me focus on something other than the anxiety/depression (this is more so when I am in recovery, unfortunately not when I am at my lowest ebb, at that point I am unable to focus on anything).

I took a week off from the blog last week because of my anxiety/depression. Self care is so important and I am getting better at allowing myself time to recuperate, to hopefully negate full breakdowns.

I am realistic; I am always going to struggle with my mental health but I want to try and avoid the worst because I’ve been there before and it’s horrendous getting out of it. Like my self esteem, my mental health is going to be something I am constantly working to improve.

Feeling brighter this past weekend, I visited the Weir Garden, Hereford (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-weir-garden). A beautiful stretch alongside the river Wye, this garden/walkway was laden with snowdrops. Thankfully on the day I visited, we were blessed with winter sunshine and bright blue skies. I did have a few issues with getting my exposures right but overall I am happy with the photos I captured.

There is a bird hide at the weir garden, with feeders set out in front of it. The shot I managed to capture of the squirrel from the hide was my favourite from the day. The squirrel was aware I was in the hide but it didn’t scare them off, they were a very accommodating model, for which I am very grateful for.

I recently became a member of the National trust and look forward to visiting more properties similar to the Weir garden.

Winter Sun

Since the year began I have had this yearning to go somewhere for a proper good walk, the sort that you could say “it blows the cobwebs out” about. With each new year this has become a sort of tradition (weather permitting).

This past weekend the weather was perfect, a clear frosty morning, with bright blue skies inspired the thought and offered hope of being able to get some beautiful sunset pictures.

The Malvern hills was the chosen location for this, somewhere I have been to on many occasions growing up and could never get bored of, as the views are tremendous. I had never been at sunset, so this offered a new experience to an old location.

With the help of Google, I researched the time the sun would go down that day, I set off very optimistic, excited for what I was about to shoot.

The winter sunsets (and sunrises too) recently have been stunning, full of pinks, purples, oranges and blue hues.

In the photographs I’ve provided I hope they give a sense on how stunning the sky was at that time and how the view looked that evening.

The walk definitely blew the cobwebs out! The fresh air filled my lungs and frost from the morning still clung to the hills. I had brought with me, my tripod (I am getting better at being prepared for shoots) and set it up along different pathways offering different viewpoints.

The problem with sunsets is they don’t ever last as long as you want them too. I made the most of the time available and kept shooting as the light changed with the setting sun.

Something different for this blog too, I have provided some phone snaps, I generally use my phone for photos when I am out on a shoot but they don’t usually measure up to the dslr ones. However; this time with the light being so good, these snaps were just as effective.

I really like the way these photos have turned out. I’ve mentioned numerous times landscapes isn’t a particularly strong photography genre of mine, but I am definitely gaining more confidence and learning from each shoot.

The next day, along with the frost came a light mist, hard to resist I set out again to get more landscape shots. As before I took the pictures with my phone, and same again, I was quite happy with the outcome.

I really hope this winter sun continues for the coming weeks, offering more picturesque skies. I am currently unsure on where the next week will take me, but I looking forward to it.

A Quiet Beginning

I hope you are all enjoying a great start to the new year and the return to normality after the festive season has not been too arduous. 2020 is now well and truly underway.

My new year has started quietly, which is in no way a negative thing. It is way too easy to get swept up in the wave of feeling like you have to change dramatically because of a new year.

I am very optimistic with the goals I set myself for the year ahead. I am taking my time to not rush through them, to do them properly. In turn, this should hopefully help negate feelings that I am not achieving enough, or feeling like a failure when more likely than not, a resolution is broken.

Following on from last week, I continued photographing the birds that had visited the garden.

House sparrows have always been a constant visiter, I do sometimes wonder how they feel, now that there is a lot more competition at the feeders.

One of the newest visitors, who I had mentioned in last weeks post; the Long Tailed Tit returned. Thankfully, I had my camera in hand to get more pictures of this cute, round fluff ball.

Moving on from the garden, this week saw me go to a local landmark. I don’t know if this happens to others, but I struggle to photograph landmarks/places I am very familiar with. I am always more comfortable with new destinations.

I wish I could offer a coherent explanation for this, but it has definitely gone onto my list of things to learn upon.

I have provided the only picture of the cathedral I was happy with from that shoot. Maybe later in the year I will try this location out again, to see if I have improved or have overcome the uncomfortableness of shooting locally.

The cathedral is located next to the River Severn, and it provided me with a subject I am more comfortable with. It wouldn’t of felt right if I had left the river without a swan shot.

The week finished as it had began with bird photography. I look forward to seeing what the next week has in store for me.

Back to Nature

It’s such a great feeling to be getting back to the norm after all the festivities of Christmas and the new year. Getting back to routine and being able to blog again is brilliant, the laptop is fixed and with a brand new year; it brings new hopes and new possibilities.

The first few days of this new year I have gone back to one of my joys and to how this blog began, nature photography.

The hedgerow has been a hive of activity; with lots of birds coming to the feeder; laden with mixed seeds and nuts, which at this time of year serves as a lifeline to our resident species.

The visiting Robins have been constantly singing, their song ringing out around the garden, making even the dullest grey day bearable. These brave little birds are always close when I am out shooting, probably waiting to see if I will provide them more food. As they perch in the hedgerow it appears like they are posing for me, and who wouldn’t blame them, they are very striking with their red breast, making them stand out in the bare hedges.

A new visitor to the garden has been the Coal Tit. At first I mistook it for a Great Tit variant, but the more I observed the more I realised this was a new visitor. There has been a lot of fierce competition around the feeder especially when groups of tits (Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and now the Coal Tit) and sparrows are around. The Coal Tits have had no trouble holding their own. I look forward to seeing them return to the garden in the coming year (fingers crossed).

Speaking of other Tit varieties, the Long Tailed Tit has been a regular visitor to the garden since last summer. They are very charismatic tiny birds, they come into the garden all of a sudden, in groups and as soon as they arrive, they leave. They tend to evade me when I have the camera out, until that is, this weekend where I managed to capture two photos with them about to fly.

I am so pleased with the outcome of those photos, going forward, with my nature photography in particular I would like to shoot more birds in flight.

The last picture for this week is the first quarter moon of the year. The sky was really clear and the moon was bright, it was not a hard decision to get the camera out to shoot.

It may be of interest to some to note, the first full moon of the year (wolf moon) will be the 10th January and is meant be a penumbral eclipse (meaning the moon doesn’t pass through the full shadow of the Earth which should hopefully give the moon a pinkish/red shade) so I am wishing the night sky will be just as clear then.