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.

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/

A New Place To Roam.

There aren’t many things that fill me with as much joy as finding new photography locations. This past week I have managed to find not one but two! The variety of wildlife at both of these locations will give me plenty to capture as the year goes on.

The first location was a relatively local set of ponds, covered with reeds, it housed plenty of ducks, moorhens and even the odd brown rat. Its a place I am more than certain I will return to regularly.

I love feeding the ducks. I would assume most peoples first encounter with wildlife would be feeding the ducks or swans as a youngster. It is something that I will never grow out of, the only difference these days is that I don’t feed them bread, I take seed which the ducks still guzzle down enthusiastically.

At the pond there were plenty of new life, baby ducklings, moorhen chicks and young rats. I really hope to see how these families progress as time moves on.

The second location was a circular walk along the River Avon. Along the river side there were plenty of dragon flies, damsel flies, butterflies and swallows, whizzing past to catch the midges over the water. I had hoped to potentially see kingfishers, so I had favored my longest lens, leaving my macro at home, a decision I would regret with the amount of mini beasts around. Again, as with the ponds, I am very eager to return.

The swallows were fascinating to watch, catching their query along the river, I tried numerous times to get in flight shots but they were just so quick. I did discover that there were a few nesting pairs beneath a railway bridge and managed to capture a shot of a single Swallow perched on one of the steels. They are beautiful birds when you can study them and are not just a blur.

I also saw my first Sedge Warbler, a flit of movement in the reed bed across the river caught my eye. It took a long while to locate the source and even then the picture isn’t the clearest. I am relativity new to birding really, apart from watching garden birds. There are many firsts to be had even with abundant varieties, I look forward to what I manage to capture in the future.

Since the lockdown restrictions have started to ease, I have been trying to look for walks that would not be too busy, for ease of social distancing. I need to be in green space, there is something about being out in nature that just calms my mind. I have struggled this week with extremes of highs and lows, but when I am out feeding ducks or walking along a field, I am level.

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

The Not So Secret Garden.

In all the years I have lived where I do, I don’t think I have ever spent as much time in the garden as I have recently. The garden even though very basic in design, has become a sanctuary for my well being, aided by the weather being so reasonable.

The garden, regrettably, has been neglected for years. With it being my only green space at present, lockdown has provided the perfect opportunity to try and rejuvenate this sparse bit of land.

I would be going against everything I love if I didn’t try to create a wildlife friendly garden. Ideally I would like lots of flowers for pollinating bugs, alongside habitat for them to make this garden their home e.g a log pile, a small wildlife pond and eventually some form of native tree to encourage more birds to the garden.

The first port of call was to create a flower bed. This was quite tough to dig out as the ground in the garden is made up of very hard clay. It was really hard work and eventually I managed to get it to a stage where I was able to sow some seeds. I chose a native wildflower mix, I am trying to keep the planting scheme loose as I am not a very experienced gardener, I would definitely struggle with thinking up structured planting schemes and knowing what plants grow well alongside each other.

I have to say having a new project has really kept my spirits high and my mind active. I am sure that this project will be ongoing for some time, there is no real need to rush. I can take my time to think of what the garden requires and allow me time to gather the resources, at present a lot of gardening supplies are quite hard to acquire.

Over the coming weeks I will document my garden transformation and may even provide some visual evidence.

The only flora currently growing within the garden would be labeled as weeds by some people. These plants especially in a garden lacking from any other flowers are vital to those pollinators who have awoken this springtime.

Each “weed” holds a certain charm and are often some of the first plants you learn the names to growing up. Early memories which include these plants are summers where I would make daisy chains or picking dandelions to blow the seed heads to make wishes. I am very keen for these to stay within the garden and for my own children to experience the same pleasures I had.

Another positive from the week, more birds have been visiting the feeder. Regardless of their type I am just so happy to be shooting birds again. This does not mean my macro photography has been forgotten, that spark is still ignited. I was extremely pleased with myself as I managed to capture a jumping spider catching their lunch.

My motivation appears to be full steam ahead at the moment and I am very keen for this to continue, especially as lock down continues to be enforced. I am always very grateful for these times when my mental health is in a stable position, I am feeling positive going into the new week.

I really hope that your week has been a good one and that you are all managing to keep safe. Until next time, take care.

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.

Weekly Watch

12th – 18th August 2019

From the lack of photography last week; this week has been distinctly better. Hooray!!

One of the reasons for this; I have finally been able to make the jump to a full framed DSLR. I am aware that this may not mean much to some. In Layman’s term; it’s a much improved camera.

Disclaimer: that is not to say my photos will be distinctly better (I am very much an amateur) I’ve been getting used to using it and there has been a lot of experimenting with settings (I won’t bore you with the technicalities, as I’d probably get it wrong anyway!).

So there has been lots of practising, whenever I get the chance to. I continue to focus on the bird feeder for my subjects.

My hope for the near future; once I’m confident with the new kit is to scout out a few nature spots near me to one; vary the content for you the viewer and two; push myself out of my comfort zone, which in turn should help me improve! Fingers crossed!

There have been a couple of comedic shots, my personal favourite is the Juvenile Robin seemingly getting told off by the Great tit. I hope you enjoy this weeks weekly.

Weekly Watch

When first thinking about what content I wanted to add to my blog, a gallery of what I’d seen around my area each week was top of the list.

It combines my photography passion and being able to share and discuss what I had seen. I’ll always try to name what any species shot and where they had been located; more often than not in the garden.

22nd-29th July 2019

This past week has been excellent for garden wildlife visits. Whether this has anything to do with the warmer weather; I am unsure. There have been many first-time visitors to the garden, the biggest surprises were the Field Vole and Nuthatch.

I posted the Vole photograph initially to my Instagram feed; I had identified it as a mouse. It never would have crossed my mind that it could be anything different. I was asked “is it a mouse?” which made me start to dig a little more into its identity. I had a small mammal with an identity crisis!! With a bit of help from the comment section and google lens, we got the identity in the end. I mean I still would have been happy if it was a mouse, but I don’t think I’ve seen a Vole in the flesh until then which adds to the enjoyment of getting the pic.

The Nuthatch was another lovely surprise, I’ve never seen one in the garden before let alone at the feeder. At first glance I thought it was another Blue Tit, but something made me give it a second look. I’m so very glad I did! It was glorious, it didn’t stay long, and I almost missed the shot, I must have had a bit of luck on my side.

Enjoy!