Big and Small

Its been a funny old week really, from eerie storms, to waterfalls and back to my mini beasts. Its hard to know where to begin, the best place probably being the first event that kick-started it all.

Weather reports had been threatening thunder storms since the beginning of July, it was very easy to assume they would never happen, as none of the previous predictions had been fulfilled.

Until one silent evening last week. There were no loud claps of thunder, no rumbling to make the ground vibrate, just enormous, looming clouds filled with lightning. There was no accompanying rain, no sound, it was quite eerie but a fascinating spectacle to observe.

Of course, I made a dash out with the camera, this was an opportunity not to be missed. I had to wing the settings, recalling on my own memory for any information I may have read about regarding capturing lightning.

I went with the long exposure method, in hopes to catch a few strikes in one shot, unfortunately due to lack of experience I left my ISO too low. I still managed to capture a few shots I am pleased with, I cannot be too hard on myself, this is the first time shooting anything like this. Next time I will be more prepared.

The storm lasted a good hour, all the time silent with glorious bursts of light. Such a change from the usual thunder and lightning, I wander with the continued hot weather, if these electrical storms will become more prevalent?

It went quiet the next couple of days, returning to my macro in the garden. Small world nature has really taken my interest, there is so much that happens in the garden that you don’t realise until you stop and really take notice.

I had the privilege to see a robber fly hunt. There had been some small flies feeding on the yellow daisies in the flower bed. I noticed something that at first I mistook for a hover fly, circling the same flowers. I originally thought it wouldn’t land as these flies were feeding, eventually I saw this “hover fly” was not interested in the free flowers, instead it would lock onto a fly, hover almost vertically above and then dive onto the fly.

I had managed to capture a video of this behavior as I saw it happen a few times as the “hover fly” had been unsuccessful each dive. Thankfully, I have a friend who helps me with IDs, who I had sent the vide to and they said that it looked like a robber fly.

Unfortunately I no longer have this footage, I would have loved to share it with you but I managed to delete it. Even I don’t know how?

It just goes to show how much of our nature we are not aware about. Another case from my week; I photographed a bee, I had no idea what family group it belonged to. I post most of my wildlife/nature pics on INaturalist (an app to document wildlife/nature), this usually helps with IDs before I pester my friend.

The app at this time was not helpful, so again I went to “bug” my friend, who helpfully pointed me to the lasioglossum bee family. Before macro I just thought (naively) bees were just bees, wasps were just the yellow and black variety and flies and such were boring, I was very, very wrong. There is so much to discover and learn about. Its such a shame that I have neglected it previously, I’m doing my best to make up for lost time though.

The weekend brought with it a visit to Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfalls in Wales. This place was beautiful, the falls looked as though Tolkien had written it off the page, that elves or hobbits would be found getting water.

I was lucky to get there when it wasn’t busy, I could appreciate the falls on its own basis. I am still working on my landscape shots, hopefully getting better each time.

The final set of macro is from a walk at Wilden Marsh, a Worcestershire Wildlife trust reserve. This place is untouched and a hard find if you didn’t know where to look. This all adds to its charm, a proper place to get back to nature. This is a place I will try to revisit often, to see what else it has to offer.

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

A New Appreciation

Since I began macro photography, I have surprised myself enormously about what I now get excited about capturing in the garden, or what I really hope to shoot in the future. From discovering the joy of jumping spiders to this weeks “buzz” in achieving a wasp portrait.

Wasps, often seen as useless, dangerous and annoying are massively underappreciated. Ashamedly, in the past, I have not always been the wasps biggest fan, until recently that is.

Public perception of this much maligned insect needs to be changed, you don’t have to love them just know they aren’t as useless as they are perceived.

I can understand why these so called pests have been given such a bad press, who wants to get stung? Unlike its close relative the Honeybee, who also packs a powerful sting but provides us with honey, there is no physical trade off for a wasp sting.

Wasps (social or solitary) are great at pest control, either killing insects for feeding their larvae in a nest or using them as a host for their eggs. Who needs pesticides when the wasp is an apex pest predator, they are the gardeners friend!

Wasps also pollinate, although not rightfully credited. I recently learnt that figs are reliant on the aptly named fig wasp, one without the other cannot complete their life cycle, that’s just one example of many specialist plant/wasp relationships, where without each other they would cease to exist.

Other wasps inadvertently pollinate by transferring pollen flower to flower when collecting nectar, making them amazing general pollinators.

As you may well tell I am completely converted to appreciating these fascinating creatures. The more you read about their role in the ecosystem its hard not to. I hope that in the small snippets of what I have written here I have piqued your interest to maybe rethink your own perception of the wasp.

I was ecstatic when I managed to get the wasp portrait, they were busy drinking water off some plant leaves, I was calm and approached slowly without disturbing them. As long as the wasp does not feel threatened then you are not likely to be stung, they sting to protect themselves. As you can see in my pictures, I managed to get quite close.

The rest of my macro shots are all varieties of insects/bugs that I have managed to shoot before, but that does not lessen the joy they give me. I was very happy to discover how shield bugs eat while out snapping them, sucking up sap from plants, in one of my pic if you look closely you may notice a shield bug tongue ready to eat!

I hope your week has been as joyful as mine with my mini beasts. Until next time, take care.

A New Era

Last week, as mentioned in my previous blog, I was left bereft of my camera, as my Canon 5D Mark ii had broken. I was absolutely devastated, in my last post I spoke on how I did not have the available funds to fix or buy again, I did not see what the future would hold photography wise.

Only a few days on from posting that blog, I was extremely fortunate to have family come together to purchase me a new camera (Canon 6D Mark ii). I am beyond words to express how grateful I am for them doing such an amazing thing; for ME!

I had been planning on this weeks blog being full of phone snaps and explaining how I had got on without my camera. I just cannot fathom what I have done to deserve such an immense gesture. I must also mention the dear friend who also messaged after my post to offer me a loaner camera, their kindness was very touching.

It all completely overwhelmed me, so at a time where you would be expecting me to be excited to play with my new toy, was spent in an anxious state because I couldn’t process my emotions. The mind is a funny organ.

I eventually was able to hold myself together to get started. My first port of call was of course; the garden. Macro photography has fast become one of my favourite photography genres during lockdown.

There are so many things I have learnt from shooting small world wildlife, from watching shield bugs from 1st Instar (the beginning of their growth/moulting stages) to hard working bees whose endless work is fascinating to watch.

The shield bugs, I must mention are not far off adulthood, I will be quite sad to see them go when they are able to fly off to pastures new. I really hope to get a shot of one of them with their wings before they leave. Fingers crossed!

In regards to my shots this weeks, I will say in my view I still need to work on my focusing with my new camera, this one is quite modern compared to my previous one. Over the coming weeks I look forward to getting the best out of this new kit.

A fleeting visit to Broadway tower over the weekend as the weather was glorious. Unfortunately, a lot of other people had the same idea, a quick walk around the grounds and back home was the sensible choice. I managed a few snaps, I love seeing the deer at the tower, the stag in particular is looking quite regal at this time.

So this week in conclusion has been a reaffirming, overwhelming and grateful time. I wish to say a huge THANK YOU! for any message of support and to those that saved me from uncertainty, I will never be able to repay your generosity back fully.

I hope you all have had a great week, until next time, take care.

A Menagerie.

This past week has offered an abundant amount of photographic opportunities, from garden macro to poppy field and old gravel pit visits. A collection of all sorts to suit most tastes.

I had never visited a poppy field before, but I had recently seen my fair share of amazing poppy captures across all my social media feeds, from first light illuminating a sea of vibrant red to soft, delicate shots of single stems.

Poppies have long been one of my favourite blooms, as I am sure they are with others. I always feel that their season is all to fleeting, but their impact, everlasting.

As soon as I approached the field in Condicote, Gloucestershire, the first thing that struck me was the colour. Poppies always stand out no matter where they grow but seeing them en masse was stunning.

Whenever I visit a location that has been snapped and shared copious times before, I go with the view to try and take shots my way, to try and not copy what has been done before.

That being said trying to get a new perspective on a poppy is like teaching my dog to speak. I’ve tried to take photos that are true to my style. I have even edited (with my newly acquired photoshop skills) a floral portrait; not only with a poppy but with other flowers that have grown in the garden, to elaborate on their beauty without any distraction.

Speaking of the garden, from the bare mud that was dug over about 6 weeks ago, now contain some florals (Californian poppies and orange daisy’s) but mostly green vegetatian still growing to flourish soon.

I am so relieved that the seeds I scattered have since grown, it fills me with such joy. I now have many varieties of hover flies, bees and bugs visit the garden. Not all are tolerant of me trying to get their picture but I hope I can capture the majority.

From bugs to birds another new location to my ever growing list of places I now love was Grimley Gravel pits. This wetland of old flooded gravel pits housed lapwings, redshanks, oyster catchers and the usual water bird suspects (swans, geese and ducks). I hadn’t been bird watching properly since Upton Warren, just before the lockdown was initiated.

The walk around the pits was a lovely quiet event with no-one else around, you are unable to access the gravel pits directly, the walk around offers a good vantage point as not to disturb the birds. I feel this is a location I will return to regularly. I have in no way seen all that this beautiful place has to offer.

As with most weeks my mental health has been on a roller coaster ride. I do find that after I have been out either walking or in the garden watching mini beasts I generally feel brighter (if not better), I would definitely endorse nature therapy as a prescriptive therapy.

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

Finding the words

I apologise for the lack of posts recently, in truth I just haven’t been able to find the words. There have been so much to process over the past couple of weeks, it felt frivolous for me to jump onto here to write as if everything was “normal”

This year from the get go has been one trauma to the next. In my recollection there hasn’t been another year like this before. I don’t really talk about news events in these posts, concentrating instead on the photography and even more recently mental health (in hopes of helping others).

So in that same vain of wanting to help others; I am going to add my voice to plead with those who haven’t yet to support Black Lives Matter. Sign the petitions for justice for those who are no longer able to speak, donate (if you are able to), for white people (myself included) to educate yourselves and to have those difficult conversations with those around you about our privilege and what ways we need to be more receptive to learn and move forward as allys, it is up to us to do better.

There are so many heartbreaking and anger inducing situations that should never have happened. From the murders by people who are paid to protect their citizens to birders being reported to the police and having their colour weaponised when politley asking for someone to put a lead on their dog in an area that dogs should be on lead.

I am not qualified to lecture on how these affected their communities, as a white woman I can never fully understand how it feels to be judged, discriminated against because my skin colour/religion/ethnicity is different. When will ignorant people learn that different is not dangerous.

This isn’t a trend, when the news dies down and the next big story break, I urge you to continue to seek out and learn from diverse voices, support diverse companies, look at how you can help to move forward and create an equal footing for all.

I’ve started by talking to my own children about these horrendous acts, it doesn’t matter what age they are, you are never too young/old to learn about (in)justice, equality and privilege.

I will leave links for a few of the petitions I hope you add your name to:

https://www.change.org/p/andy-beshear-justice-for-breonna-taylor

https://www.change.org/p/minneapolis-police-department-justice-for-george-floyd

https://www.change.org/p/suspend-uk-export-of-tear-gas-rubber-bullets-and-riot-shields-to-usa?source_location=petitions_browse

https://www.change.org/p/the-school-system-petition-for-changes-to-be-made-to-the-school-system-to-address-racial-issues-in-the-uk

Nature is a therapy for me, it should be inclusive for all. When I go out with the camera, yeah …I may worry my equipment might get damaged or stolen at worst. I’ve never had to explain to others about my nature watching, or worry others may discriminate while I am out because of the colour of my skin.

I hope we can move forward to a place where can never be the case again, its an uncomfortable journey for us white people, it should be. I am willing to learn and I hope other white people reading this too are to.

Below I have still provided my most recent pictures, I still chose to share them in this post as questioning and learning about racial inequality and how to change behaviors to aid those who most need it should be the new normal and is not separate from my everyday.

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

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

After a very brief break from blog writing, I’m back with what I hope you find a great variety of captures. The opportunities for photography in the garden recently has been fantastic.

The bird feeder has started to attract a great variety of birds and the mini beasts have been out in force during the warmer weather we have been lucky to have experienced recently.

I have been setting myself goals each day for what I would hope to snap each session. Of course nature is very unpredictable and I have to be flexible as to what is available to shoot.

Generally, I will start by choosing which lens I will be using for that day ( a choice between my 150-600mm or macro 105mm lens). This determines what I will be trying to shoot, e.g macro lens for mini beasts or flora.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to mix my photography up in this way. It has allowed me the focus on a particular subject each day rather than trying to capture absolutely everything, which could result with me missing photographic opportunities and more than likely leave me frustrated.

An update on the garden, another small flower bed had been dug over and more wildflowers have been sown. The flower bed I mentioned in my previous post has now sprung to life, small seedlings are beginning to poke their heads out through the soil. These are very exciting times.

I am unsure as to what project I will next kick start for the garden, a wildlife pond maybe? or more flower beds? I will keep you updated.

Spirits have continued to remain high during the brief writing break, I repeat myself often when I say this; but I am very grateful for times when this is the case for my mental well being. I have been keeping myself active with other small activities that have helped tremendously. Activities as simple as, baking a loaf of bread with a very established and active sourdough starter I started (RuRu), gives me a sense of achievement.

I hope you are all managing to remain positive as lock down continues, if not please, please reach out. We are in this together! Until next time, take care.