Love At First Sight

Kicking off this post with a huge positive from the past couple of weeks, I managed to see my very first Redwing!

These birds at the time of writing this are classified as red on the UK conservation status lists, with only a few pairs choosing to nest in the UK. These small thrushes are a winter visitor from Iceland and Scandinavia.

The Ivy bushes; now laden with berries, have attracted Blackbirds, Pigeons and other garden birds to feast on their bounty for weeks, because of this when I first saw the Redwings I mistook them for another bird. It took me a while to twig I had seen a Redwing at all.

I was so excited, not only had I seen this truly beautiful bird they were in my local area. There were three Redwings in total, who I saw at the Ivy Bush, I couldn’t of hoped for more. I have seen them on only 2 other occasions since the first time, very briefly. I really hope they are going to stick around until they have to migrate back to their nesting grounds. Fingers crossed for another chance to see them.

From new sightings to old familiar friends, the garden has been a haven for what seems like an abundance of small birds lately. Last week was national nestbox week, where if you can, you are encouraged to put a nestbox in whatever outdoor space you have available. I had put on up in the garden weeks beforehand and at present have seen a couple of birds investigate it but none looking to move in just yet.

I really enjoy treating the garden as a mini nature reserve, giving nature a helping hand is so important. From feeding the birds, having bug hotels, planting native wildflowers and having nestboxes it all make a big difference, not only for existing visitors but it could also aide in encouraging new ones to your space. With habitat loss being one of the biggest threats to nature, anything, no matter how big or small can make a real impact. What things do you already do to give your local nature/wildlife a helping hand?

On a more personal level, since the last post my mental health has not been in the best of places, even with the moments of joy at seeing the Redwings; my mood, self esteem and self worth refuse to stay buoyant. I don’t want to come across as severely negative all the time, I am really trying to keep my head afloat and focus on getting through each day as it comes, which I will admit is harder on some days than others.

My consultation for the next stage in my mental health referral has been booked, I have a goal to focus on and I am within range of getting the help I am very aware I need.

To end on another positive, Yeti, my pet jumping spider has successfully gone through his first molt with me. I had been prepared for this happening as he had made a very dense sling to retreat into. I went a week and a half not seeing anything of him. I did start to get a little worried but he eventually emerged, bigger and looking fantastic. He has fed since the molt and has been super active in his enclosure which is a great sign.

I really hope you are all keeping well and feeling hopeful for the upcoming spring months. I look forward to the macro season resuming properly and potentially finding new mini beasts to capture, research and exhibit in my future blogs. Is there anything in the spring you are looking forward to?

Until next time, take care.

A (Diss)Appointment

Apologies for the brief hiatus, I will admit I have not been feeling well over these last few weeks. A combination of disappointment, health related issues and my inability to cope with anything has made for a difficult time, one I am still trying to move on from.

For those of you that has followed the blog for a while, you may be aware that last year I sought professional assistance for my mental health as it had declined rapidly and to dangerous lows I had not felt in a long while. Presently, mental health services are under a massive strain, probably more so since the outbreak of Covid, with a rise of health related anxiety, depression from isolation/loneliness.

With the increases of demand I had to wait longer than usual for my first assessment consultation, completely understandable, I had an appointment that was all that mattered, it gave me hope, I was on the right path to get help.

That is until the date of the appointment came, these consultations are carried out over the phone at present due to the pandemic. I was allocated a time, pre-filled the questionnaire you are given beforehand and just had to wait for the call. The call came…..but not one I had expected. Ten minutes after my consultation time was due to start, I was told my appointment had been cancelled due to lack of staff.

I was told to expect more communication for another appointment and that was that. I was devastated. I know that the person on the other end of the line is not at fault, I know that these services are doing the very best they can sometimes on very little support, but for me personally this was a massive blow. I had geared myself up for this appointment, having to keep myself calm as I knew that I would be going through all the gritty details of my mental health. It completely winded me that it was not going to happen. In my unbalanced mind I blamed myself, perhaps I do not deserve the help.

This is nonsense, I see that now but at the time my anxiety was heightened and the irrational sets in. I hope with the increased need for the mental health services comes a new appreciation for them too. That they receive the funding and support they need to run efficiently.

It did make me wander how a cancellation could effect someone who does have the support of people around them. To sound dramatic, I had held on for my original appointment, when I was feeling particularly low in the back of my head was the reminder I had reached out, I was on the right track. I was lucky when the effect of the cancellation knocked me for six, I had family around me who supported me through it.

A brief suggestion, if you haven’t spoken to someone in a while maybe just check in on them with a message or a call, or if you’ve been feeling despondent/low/unmotivated reach out, I know that is easier said than done, but honestly it could be the difference between feeling low for months or just a few days.

I did receive my consultation recently and am hopefully now on track to be seen by the right people, there may be more waiting but for the moment I feel heard and grateful for the chance to get help.

To end the post on something more positive, although some of you may debate of it is a positive. I got a pet jumping spider, a Phidippus Regius to be exact. A beautiful male I have named Yeti.

As a little girl growing up, if you had told me that as an adult I would have a pet spider I would of definitely thought you were lying. I never had a strong aversion to them like some people do, but equally I did not appreciate them from a young age.

I do sometimes wander if the original lockdown had never occurred would I still have found my love of macro? Would I have thought to research spiders? The answers are probably not, or it would of taken me years to get there. I will always be grateful for coming to macro through the lockdown. It is a firm passion, I get so excited when I find new spiders and mini beasts.

Anyway I digress, back to Yeti, I am absolutely smitten. I did some research about the Phidippus Reguis also known as the regal jumping spider, being the responsible spider owner I am, I’ll share some of what I’ve learnt already.

Jumping spiders when they want to propel themselves, they suddenly change the blood flow in their bodies, increasing the blood flow to special muscles, which fully extends the legs and causes the spider to leap. Apparently some jumping spiders can jump up to 50 x its body length!

Even though jumping spiders don’t make webs to catch prey like the orb weaver family, they do use their web string as bungees, in case they fail a landing after jumping or to make their own hammock to sleep in. These spiders are diurnal (active during the daytime and inactive at night).

Jumping spiders have four sets of eyes, they have some of the best vision among arthropods (an invertebrate with an exoskeleton, a segmented body and jointed appendages). Their field of view is a staggering 360°.

I hope you’ve found these snippets as interesting as I do. I hope in the past couple of weeks you have all been in good spirits and keeping well. Until next time, take care.

Garden Birdwatch

From the 29th-31st January the RSPB will be holding its annual Big Garden Birdwatch, ones of the worlds largest bird surveys. To get involved all you need to do is pick one hour over the three days, could be day or night and count the birds you see visiting your garden/whatever you can see from your window (not counting birds in flight). Then to submit your results to rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

The results collected from these surveys are really important, for the past 40 years that this survey has occurred, they have been able to note what birds are in decline or on the rise visiting our local patches, e.g the Song Thrush was noted to decline in visiting numbers by 76% from 1979 to 2019. It helps identify what birds need help and what birds are thriving.

As you may of guessed I will be taking part, there aren’t many days anyway where I am not looking out into the garden to see what birds are there. One of my biggest aims with the new garden was to encourage more birds/wildlife to visit.

So far it has been successful. Offering a variety of bird food, from nuts, fat balls, fruit to seed has seen a flourish of new visitors to the garden.

A great activity I would recommend, something I have made very recently is my own bird feeder using pine cones. All you need is lard (do not use butter/margarine as this has a negative effect for the birds), bird seed mix, pine cones and twine. Letting the lard come up to room temperature mix in the seed and cover the pine cone (I would suggest tying the twine around the cone before doing this). Once covered, refrigerate the cones until the lard has hardened again. Now tie the feeder up somewhere in the garden and hopefully it should entice birds to visit.

If you are currently homeschooling this could be a great natural science activity, getting children involved in noticing the natural world and having fun getting messy mixing the seed with the lard (the best way is hand mixing!)

One of the newest visitors that I have managed to capture this week was the elusive Jay, for their size and their beautiful colouring they can be extremely difficult to spot. Only breaking cover to visit the ground feeder, they are very shy birds. I used my pop up hide to be able to get a snap of them, sat in the hide it took a while for them to get used to me being there and brave visiting, I could only just about see them as they hovered around the garden border in cover.

I was absolutely thrilled to see them into the garden and be able to document it with the picture. I really hope that they become regulars. Other newcomers have included a Greater spotted Woodpecker, Blackcaps, Green Finch, Chaffinch and Goldcrest. I have not been able to decent snaps of these but again I am hopeful they will return.

I have been trying to get out into the garden as much as I can, especially as this past week my mental health has been all over the place. I have mentioned on numerous posts how soothing being out in nature for me, its not a fix but it is a stop gap for my mind, to focus on something outwardly rather than being stuck within my own negative thoughts.

I have been trying to make a real effort in not being so self critical recently. To try and ignore the voice at the back of my head that tells me no-one likes me, I am not good enough and that I am doing everything wrong. This is easier said than done, I fail at it a lot but I am going to keep trying for my own sanity.

I hope that you are all managing to keep your spirits up or if not that you are able to recoop and talk it out. Until next time, take care.

Winter Macro

One evening last week, all of a sudden, I had the crazy idea to go out into the garden with my macro set up and see what I could find in the dark. I cannot explain why I felt compelled to go out at that particular time of day, I am just very grateful I did. I surprised myself with what I managed to capture.

The weather was mild and dry for a January evening. Taking a torch, I scanned along the garden boundary. It didn’t take me long to find spiders, busy building webs in the dark. It was fascinating to watch as the spider handled the thread it had produced, scaling along one piece of thread to move forward, while placing another thread behind.

You can see why in Greek mythology the first spider was attributed to a weaver.

Arachne was an incredibly talented weaver who challenged the goddess Athena to a weaving contest. Athena crafted a tapestry depicting the Greek Gods as heroes, full of majesty, Arachne choosing to illustrate the many injustices the Greek Gods had carried out. Arachnes skill was undeniable but the subject matter enraged Athena who destroyed the tapestry woven by Arachne and transformed her into the spider.

Venturing further in the garden I came across two varieties of spider I have not knowingly come across before. My new spider field guide coming in extremely useful in identifying them.

The Walnut Orb spider, although quite a common spider, hide away during the day and emerge at night being the first of the new finds. Followed by Anyphaena Accentuata, also known as buzzing spiders (named due to the way the males vibrate their abdomen against the surface of leaves to attract a female). Managing to capture both of these filled me with such delight.

It is no secret how much I miss macro, so getting results in the colder season just fills me with such joy.

Another surprise discovery was finding a pair of moths in the gravel, procreating. I have not been unable to positively identify them as of yet. I am not sure if this behavior is out of season or expected. If I am able to find out I will provide the information in a later post. I find the more I learn about the natural world, the more interested I am in it and become more eager to learn all I can.

I look forward to more night time macro adventures during the year (regardless of lockdown) to see what else I can discover and learn.

How have you all been coping with the latest lockdown?

I have to admit my mental health has had a bit of a lull recently. New routines and being confined to the house has taken its toll. Although, doing something different, as simple as taking the camera out in the garden at a different time of day, made such a difference to break up the monotony.

Is there anything you have found helps you when you start to feel low?

I recently caught up on the series A Perfect Planet (BBC IPlayer) which I would highly recommend viewing. Some parts are not an easy watch, in particular where the effects of climate change and our part in it is discussed/demonstrated, which, in truth, should be uncomfortable to watch. Hopefully it will change peoples attitude and aide them in making better decisions in the future regarding the environment. Its not all doom and gloom though, the rain frog being a personal highlight.

Getting cosy, with a cup of tea and watching something like this really helps to calm me, especially if I cannot concentrate my mind on reading. Winterwatch (BBC) has returned to our screens this week and is another nature series where I know I can watch, learn and be calmed by. Its comfort watching. Are there any series’ or films you turn to when you need comforting?

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

A Touch of Frost

There is something rather magical about a frosty landscape.

Trees, berries and flora, who once were dull, bare and rather sad looking due to the season are suddenly encased in ice, that glistens white, to create an ethereal setting that puts me in the mind of Narnia at the time of the Snow Queens reign.

This past week we were treated to such a scene, a hard frost that lasted throughout the day.

Out into the garden I ventured to observe how the ice had changed the landscape. Formations of ice, known as soft rime ice, caused by water droplets freezing in light fog/mist to outer surfaces, in this case branches, leaves etc…generally in the appearance of white needles/scales covered virtually all of the garden.

I wanted to dedicate my photography to the changes these formations made to the smaller landscape, rather than the bigger picture, so I decided upon my macro lens (Sigma 105mm).

Simply shaped leaves now surrounded by delicate, spiky ice, Holly bushes with frosted berries and their leaves given white outlines all drew my attention.

One of my favourite finds were spider webs vacated by their maker and given an icy makeover. Their intricate designs highlighted by the frost.

Even without the frost, the garden has been a great solace for me. Birds visiting the feeders are a great source of entertainment. Since the beginning of the year I have been keeping a list of birds/animals that have visited the garden. It will be interesting to see how this evolves during the year.

Unfortunately, I do not have any birding pictures for this week, but the sightings I have noted have given me a great aim for upcoming posts to try and capture. I will not spoil the surprise of what sightings I have made, I am hoping to be able to show you!

I hope you are all bearing up during the lockdown, I sometimes wander what I would be doing to keep my sanity if I didn’t have photography. What has helped you so far during these times?

A great symbol of hope that I was able to snap this past week, was the humble snowdrop. Seen as a signal of the upcoming spring, this bloom is a welcome sight in the garden. I love looking for markers of each season, for the past 3 years I have owned an almanac to aid me in what to look out for in each month of the year.

I would highly recommend The Almanac created by Lia Leendertz, not only a beautiful looking book full of gorgeous illustrations, it is jammed packed with pages of what to look out for each month, what to be working on in the garden, folklore relating to the month plus much more.

This year I have also purchased The Night sky Almanac by Storm Dunlop and Will Tirion, apart from my moon pictures I would like to give astro-photography a proper try this year (weather permitting).

Before Christmas we were treated to “The Star of Bethlehem” where Jupiter and Saturn were aligned to appear as one star, last occurring in 1623. Sadly the evening when the great conjunction happened, a cloudy sky prevented it being seen from here, although the previous and latter evenings they could be clearly seen in the sky extremely close together. Did you manage to see the alignment?

Again, no photographic evidence was collected for the event, I am hoping that with the Night sky almanac I can prepare and research how to capture different astro occasions, helped by the fact I should be aware of them in ample time. Fingers Crossed!

I hope the past week has been a good one for you all, I wish you all the best, until next time, take care.

2021

Since my last post: we have entered a new year, commenced a new lockdown and have been given hope in the form of a new vaccine.

Firstly, I would like to begin by wishing you all a very happy new year, I really hope the festive season has been kind to you all and the new year has started well despite the new measures that have recently been put into place.

As if the festive season was not hectic enough, I added a house move to the mix. A lot of my mental health was tested with packing, unpacking and adjusting to the change.

One of the huge positives from the move is the new garden, which houses an abundance of nature that is well established, I have been reading on ways to potentially attracting more too. A goal for the year. I look forward to seeing if I manage this.

Nature has always been a great remedy for me, if I am feeling anxious, watching the birds at the feeder can be a great distraction. It may not take my worries away, but it allows me time to settle my thoughts, calm and focus.

So in-between of unpacking and settling in, I have been out in all weathers to sit in garden with the camera.

Even out in snow! Which was a very welcome surprise, it generally misses the area where I live, usually favoring higher regions. I find snow so enchanting, I just adore it, almost as much as my pooch. Its the first time Lance has encountered snow and he absolutely loved it, bounding around like a puppy, it was a struggle getting him back into the house.

Bird watching has been a big focus while out with the camera, top of my wishlist for the future is a pop up hide, there have been Jays who I have seen visit, who I am desperate to capture but are too shy to enter the garden with me in view.

A completely new sighting for me which I did manage to get a quick snap of, who is also the UKs smallest bird (alongside the Firecrest) is a Goldcrest. This bird is perpetually in motion, a blur of movement between branches, I was surprised to get any shot that was in focus. I am very excited to say that I have noticed it in the garden a few times, I am hopeful that this will remain the case for the coming months.

Macro was my savior during the original lockdown, unfortunately it will take a back seat due to the colder months. Although I did manage to get a snowflake shot, which is just as difficult as shooting a jumping spider! Bird, wildlife and nature will be my aim to shoot this time around.

How is everyone feeling about the new lockdown?

I have to say personally I am relieved. With the numbers of positive tests and hospital admittance’s on the rise, it makes sense for there to be more restrictions on daily life for the present moment.

There is hope in the form of a vaccine, which over the coming months with be administered to the most vulnerable in society. These times are hopefully temporary. A necessity to overcome these surreal times.

I know the thought of another lockdown can be scary, I can only hope that with the restrictions in place and the jab being rolled out we are on the final, hardest stretch before we can return to a type of normality.

If you do find yourself struggling with your mental health, I can only implore you to reach out, to family, friends, charities. We need to support each other more than ever.

I shall leave you with the shots I took throughout December. As you can see, Robins are a prominent feature. These feisty little birds have been a regular to the garden and have been serenading me since I moved in (nothing to do with defining territories, or attracting a mate).

I wish you all the best, until next time, take care.

A Year.

2020, without a doubt, has been the most surreal year I have every lived through. I think it is fair to say that this will be a universal truth for everybody.

Reflecting over the past year it strikes me just how quickly this year has gone, it doesn’t seem that long ago we were preparing for the original lock-down in March. I cannot believe that in a matter of weeks we will be welcoming in a brand new year.

Personally I have really struggled this year. My mental health has been affected severely by the uncertainty of the year, not only by the world wide pandemic but insidious battles I had thought I had previously won, which have raised their ugly head to add to an already vulnerable year.

At present I am still struggling with the day to day, the self abuse and lack of motivation continues, still feeling withdrawn from friends and family, I keep dwelling on reasons on why I don’t belong here. I apologise for being very blunt with my mindset, I am hopeful that the fact I am very self aware of these symptoms means I am starting the road to recovery. (I hope that makes sense)

I thought to try and focus on something good, I would look back at my year in regards to my photography. So in the gallery of this post are my personal favourites of the year, in no particular order.

This year has definitely been the year of macro!

This genre of photography has really taken my heart. It was my saving grace during the 1st lock-down, giving me a goal each day. I loved spending days in the garden, finding whatever mini beasts I could, trying not to scare them off, while trying to get close and trying to get a decent snap.

I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of macro. I get such a sense of achievement with my macro work, more so than any other genre.

Who would have ever thought, that by the end of this year I would absolutely, without a doubt, love spiders and wasps!

I am usually one of those people that like the colder months, the colours of Autumn , the festive season with cosy evenings in but I am hankering for the warmer months just for the macro season.

One of my aims regarding my macro shooting in the new year, is to source a better diffuser for my flash gun to take my shots to another level. Its a genre I desperately want to improve in.

One of the things I have learnt this year, is how little I knew about insects, bugs and spiders.

Everytime I shot something new it was so exciting finding out what they were, how they lived, giving me a new found appreciation for this small world that we live so closely to but have very little knowledge of (in my case for sure).

A great example of this was my post on the subject of wasps, a creature you think you know. Its such a common insect and usually very disliked by people. The more I researched them the more I realised how needed they are in the ecosystem and what amazing insects they truly were. I wander what under appreciated creature I will learn about next year?

In the times where travel was permitted, I am extremely grateful to have been to some absolutely gorgeous locations. Top of the list for me was the very popular Mam Tor. I had never been to the Peak District before this visit, the views were absolutely glorious, awe inspiring really. I am hoping if we are able to next year, to find plenty more locations in the Peaks, its an area I am keen to explore in more detail.

This year nature and wildlife has reined supreme for me. The natural world never ceases to amaze me and I am never bored with what it offers. This I am certain will continue not only into the new year but always.

I will now take this moment to Thank all of you for supporting the blog this year. From putting up with all my moaning and my mental health roller coaster ride, I truly appreciate the fact you take the time to read my posts. I love writing and I really hope that comes across with the blog, it helps me think differently and try (try) not to always focus on the negative.

THANK YOU SO MUCH! It means the absolute world to me.

I really wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I hope the New Year finds you happy, healthy and prosperous!

Have you got any aims for the new year? Do you have any favourites shots from the year? I would love to hear from you.

I will probably not blog now until the new year, I am taking time out to get better and start afresh in the new year hopefully motivated and feeling creative.

Until next time, take care.

Guilty

Over the past year this blog has contained a whole heap of content regarding my mental health, those posts serving as a way for me to vent about what I am feeling.

In previous posts I talk frankly about the importance of speaking up, reaching out and getting help.

I am a fraud.

Do not mistake me, I thoroughly believe that talking can help, it has saved me in the past, you can only start a real journey to recovery if you seek support. I am a fraud in the sense that I have not done this for myself recently.

This blog has made it very easy for me to talk about what is ailing me but negates me having any real conversations about the situation.

I find it extremely difficult to ask for help. I constantly feel like an inconvenience to everyone. Even writing this down, the voice in the back of my head is saying…..for gods sake they don’t need to read another mental health blog.

So why am I writing it?

Firstly, to out myself as a fraud for not sticking by my own words, I do not practice what I preach. I feel immensely guilty for it. I want to help others but how can I do that when I am all words and no action.

Secondly, I cannot be the only person that does this, so eager to help everyone else but when it comes to themselves are neglectful. I am human, I make mistakes, I sometimes say one thing and do the other, but I also want to be better.

I hope in my admittance others may recognise the same trait in themselves to then hopefully move forward to actually get the help they need and deserve.

My mental health has been slipping since the end of September. I am getting very good at pretending to others that everything is fine. Interactions to others recently would probably look no different to times when I am well.

There are a few tell tale signs though, I am self abusing, I am binge eating constantly it feels, trying to fill a void that food will not touch. I am scratching myself at my worst points, dragging fingernails over imaginary itches. I am sleeping a lot, I have not had any motivation for anything.

Inside I feel like I am drowning. I am not coping at all. I have started to feel removed from myself, like an outer body experience, I am operating in auto.

Its one of the hardest things, I am not going to lie, to admit you are struggling to anyone. I hate talking about myself and when I do it is almost always in a negative vein.

So what comes next……

I need to have proper conversations with the people around me, I need to be responsible for myself no matter how hard it is. I need professional help, I need a better way to manage when things get bad. I need help.

Not just meaningless words, I need to take action. To no longer be the fraud I feel I am.

I hope you are all well and if not I hope you are able/prepared to reach out. Its not easy, hence why I’ve probably avoided it so far.

Nothing worth having is easily achieved.

Pictures included are from a previous weekend and are not related to the post, thought I would still share.

Until next time, take care

Here We Go Again….

The original plan for this weeks blog post was for me to be writing about the great time I recently had visiting Cotswold Falconry centre (which I still will include, just to a lesser extent), however: I cannot ignore the recent news of the secondary lockdown coming into force in the UK.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about the impending lockdown, I struggled through the last episode with my mental health, at some points I hit lows I had not felt in a long time.

That’s not to say I didn’t have any high points, it was during the last lockdown I discovered my love for macro photography, a love affair that is still burning very brightly. I am already excited about the next “macro season”.

I’m very aware I was not the only person who struggled previously and are again anxious for the future. This time of year is hard enough already for some with the shorter days and the miserable weather setting in.

We all need to be there for each other more than ever: to listen, to encourage and to support.

I know sometimes it’s easier said than done, I am consciously trying to make a greater effort to keep afloat mentally and help those who are in the same boat. We got through it last time, we can do it again.

I’ve been preparing myself mentally and being realistic, I know this time it will be harder, I won’t have macro as a crutch during these colder/darker times. Where this leaves my photography I am unsure…watch this space.

As always when I talk about mental health, I remind you all, if you start to feel low, reach out. Talking may take some of the weight off and help you see things more clearly.

Moving onto a more positive subject, the previous weekend brought with it a visit to Cotswold Falconry centre. The centre boasts a great variety of birds of prey, to which the staff are very passionate and knowledgeable about.

I would highly recommend visiting, especially to watch one of the flight displays. The staff do extremely well to demonstrate as best they can the natural behavior of each bird they fly.

On this occasion visiting the centre, in my opinion, I managed to capture some of my best bird portrait shots. It is very rare where I feel happy about what I have captured, I am always quick to point out flaws. Always my own biggest critic.

The Bateleur eagle portraits in particular are some of my absolute favourites, I looked at them in camera at the centre and knew then I had something special. I look at them now and they don’t even feel like my work, I love them.

I hope your week has been a good one, until next time, take care.

https://www.cotswold-falconry.co.uk/

Better Call SAAL

This weeks blog is going to be a little different.

I will admit I have no new photographs to share, the headaches I suffered the previous week, which had started to subside, returned with a vengeance after last weekend and just knocked me for six. I have not had the camera out or been anywhere all week, which is the first time in ages. I am missing it dearly.

So, instead of having a break week I am going to talk about a photo album I recently tested. This isn’t an ad, I hope this comes across as me being authentic and just giving credit where credit is due.

Background: Since I started my Instagram page I had seen SAAL Digitals sponsored posts asking for people to apply to test their photo books. The premise being you apply to be a tester and you receive a £100 voucher to create a professional line photo book.

I avoided it, it looked to good to be true. I can be quite cynical about these things (which isn’t a bad thing, as for every genuine offer there’s probably 100’s of scam ones). So when I saw a few other Instagram pages I follow (people who I respect for their craft and opinion) review the books and say that it was legitimate, I thought I would give it a go.

So I applied and was accepted.

I have thousands of photos that I have never printed. To be honest, the world of printing is another art form in itself. If I were to ever sell my pictures I would not know where to look for quality prints. I had nothing to lose by testing SAALs product.

I decided upon creating a macro focused portfolio book. Throughout all the recent lock down and surreal times it has been my macro photography that has been my saving grace. It is the photography I am most fond of, also something that I don’t usually say about myself, it is the genre I feel I have most improved in.

Down to the technical, to create a SAAL photobook you need to install their software which is easily found on their website : https://www.saal-digital.co.uk/

It was pretty easy to create the pages, the hardest part for me was picking what pictures I wanted to use.

A feature I really appreciated when creating the book was when you added an image to the book creator it would state what the image quality would be like for printing. This meant I could ensure all the images would be the absolute best quality and that the sizing of the images was correct.

You can get quite creative with layouts, backgrounds, adding text or patterns. I kept things quite simple.

All done and ordered (for full clarity my photo book was a 30″ x 21″ Professional Line XT, with matte photo paper, 20 pages which was cost at £94.99 for which I used my voucher, I paid for delivery) I just had to wait to for my creation to be made, dispatched and delivered. It was not a long wait, I received it within a week.

I love it!

It makes my photographs look professional (which I guess it should for a professional line photo book). I have included a flick through video to show how nice this album looks. The print quality is amazing, the pages are thick which I like personally as it feels more durable.

I will say if your looking for a standard photo book for family pictures then you probably wouldn’t go for the professional line book I got, SAAl do sell standard photo books, prints and other products but I can only comment on what I tested, if your looking for a company to create wedding/special occasion albums, or portfolio books for your work then I cannot recommended them highly enough.

So thank you to SAAL Digital for the voucher and a chance to test the product (I will add I would absolutely love to test any other of their products, my shameless plea).

I now own a fantastic portfolio of my macro work, I have to say I am proud of myself when I look through it. It’s a reminder of the effort and excitement I got when I captured those images. It is something to look at when I am lacking confidence, to show how far I’ve come in my skills and what I have achieved so far.

So in the theme of giving credit where credit is due, what products would you recommend to me?

Next week I am hoping for things to return to the status quo with my health and photography. I hope you don’t mind the slightly different blog post this week. I hope you are all well, until next time, take care.

Look at my photo book