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.

Predictable

Well it wouldn’t be a normal month if my mental health didn’t take a nose dive after a run of good days. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t still struggling to find balance for my mental health.

Its exhausting to keep fighting off the same lows, I seem to get to a point where I can get on with my days without the anxiety/depression to then suddenly be back at the start.

It feels at times there is a physical weight on chest, normal activities become strained, added to guilt of not being able to function normally. If people could see the weight maybe attitudes would change towards mental health. Although I have found that the worst judge of my mental state is myself.

Self loathing is a big part of my guilt. I blame myself for everything that goes wrong, I feel like I’m being punished for being lazy, pathetic etc…. These feelings rationally are redundant, they serve no purpose other than to add to my poor mental health, I just wish that when I am at my lowest I could remind myself that these thoughts bear no meaning.

Self doubt comes along for the ride too. Every photograph I have ever taken gets scrutinised to a point where I cannot see any quality in them. I criticise my posts where my opinion of my own writing is just bland and repetitive.

It may sound like I am giving up, some days I do feel like this. I haven’t yet mainly due to family, friends and photography. There is no way that I would get through my low episodes without all of these, left to my own devices I very much doubt I would still be here.

I am a huge advocate for reaching out, not only to those around you but to professional help, charities where you can speak freely. There are days where I don’t talk about how I am feeling to anyone and these are always the worst days.

Opening up doesn’t remove the problem but it makes it more bearable, it helps to see the bigger picture which could be the difference to feeling hopeless to hopeful. I’ve included some links which may be of interest if you are not able to open up to those around you or if your worried about someone who may be struggling.

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/

https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/if-youre-having-difficult-time/signs-you-may-be-struggling-cope/

I may not be in a great position at present but I have the right support to remind me this is all temporary and hopefully when this passes the length of time between each low moment will extend.

Below are the macro shots I have continued to take from the garden even when my motivation is lacking. Concentrating on the set up of a shot, what settings I will use it allows me some calm, a distraction to the noise within.

I don’t want this entire post to be negative so I will include positive moment/action from the week. I have started a photoshop course on skillshare (the link below allows for 2 months free for anyone that would like to check it out, there are courses for photography, graphic design, painting, all sorts).

https://skl.sh/2YVW2gv

I’ve always been curious about photoshop, I am never going to manipulate my nature shots to be unrealistic but I would like to utilise the app to enhance what I am shooting.

So far the course has been engaging and I’ve learnt a lot, I hope the information sticks. I would definitely recommend Skillshare. I hope you are all having a great week and 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.

For The Love of Macro.

Another week in lock down completed and my love affair with the macro world is still burning as brightly as it previously had. I never, ever, ever thought I would get excited about snapping spiders, flies, snails etc but here we are.

If someone had said to me a month ago, that I would have a favourite spider, I probably would of laughed, I also would of been very wrong to. The zebra spider (a variety of jumping spider) has very quickly crept up into my affections.

How can a spider be this cute? It has got to be something to do with those big eyes. To me it appears like they are wearing goggles (a steampunk spider?). I actually squealed with delight when I got my first decent shot of one.

They are not the easiest subject to shoot, they move very quickly and unlike some other spiders they just don’t seem to stop at all. Their jerky movements and tremendous jump makes them quite unpredictable, so the fact I have been able to get any pictures makes me very pleased.

I am never one to beam over my own pictures but the jumping spider photographs are some of my favourites I have ever taken. Whether this due to my mood recently becoming quite buoyant, so to my confidence follows? or that the subject matter has become a new passion or it could be all of the above.

I am proud of what I have been able to produce these past couple of weeks and that isn’t really the done thing for me.

I have been extremely lucky this week to be able to access a local woodland for my allotted exercise time, this is the first time I have been out to any decent green space in a month. It was very much needed, I have spoken in past posts regarding the restorative power of nature.

The bluebells are currently out in full display and with the bright sunny weather we have been experiencing lately, the woodland offered plenty of exquisite dappled light.

One of my hopes for after lock down is for people to appreciate their green spaces more. The old saying of “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone”, I knew I missed my nature walks, but being able to walk around those woods, selfishly, I wished I could be there everyday.

I am not sure when I will be able to get back out there, I am just so grateful for being able to at all.

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

Beauty And The Mini-Beasts.

So it would appear that this weekend, I have been bitten by the macro photography bug. I’ll apologise now to those that dislike insects/arachnids, as there are a few contained within this post, I have to admit I find them just as fascinating as any other wildlife.

The more bugs I snap, the more I’ve come to appreciate them and their world. I am aware that other people would not class them as conventionally beautiful but each mini beast, in their own way holds a charm.

To those who do not agree with the above sentiment, I have provided some more conventionally beautiful shots of flora.

Its been great and a slight relief to be excited about my photography again. I’ve loved being able to get my nature fix again, even if its not the wildlife I would of originally thought to rekindle my inspiration. It’s helped in keeping at bay, any more negativity I have recently been feeling.

This Easter weekend has not been without its hardship, as I am sure has been the case for many others. Another occasion where we are unable to visit family/friends at a time notorious for getting together. There is going to be a lot to make up for, when normality begins to resume.

I want to wish you all a very Happy Easter, I hope you are all able to make the best of a strange situation.

To remind those who may be interested, over on my Facebook page (search: Rucoby) I will be setting another photography challenge on Monday evening. The challenges are open to anyone, at any skill level. They are just a bit of fun to serve as a distraction for anyone who may be starting to feel despondent during lock-down, by getting you to think creatively and focus on something other than the current climate.

It was lovely seeing what others had made of last weeks theme (time). There were literal takes on the theme e.g pictures of watches, pictures for demonstrating what time has taken away and even a comical take with rosemary and thy(i)me. The photos are still on my Facebook page, so go and check them out. I hope they inspire more people to get involved.

Personally, I really enjoyed setting the previous challenge, it allows me an outlet to try and help others without putting anyone at risk. It has given me motivation to keep socially active, especially at a time where it would be quite easy to slink off and wallow in my low mood.

At present I am in a much better place emotionally than I was when I posted my last blog post. I really hope that this continues for the foreseeable future. I am desperately trying hard to stay positive and not put extra pressure on myself if I do have a low day. I really want to break the cycle of beating myself up for needing to recharge and making myself feel worse.

I again would like to wish you all a Happy Easter, until next time, take care.