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 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 Wobble

The past week for the most part has been a good one, between the rain showers I had managed to get into the garden to shoot more macro, including my favourite spider ( their charm has definitely not worn off).

Also managed another visit to Grimley gravel pits, where again I had been pleasantly surprised by the diversity of birds residing there.

Things were going well until at Grimely my camera suddenly and without warning became inactive. I have to say this threw my into quite an anxious head space. Those that have read this blog for a while will know the importance photography has been for my mental well being.

My blog began through my passion for photography. Throughout lockdown I cannot say there has been a day where I haven’t been out with the camera. The thought of being without this, in all honesty scares me.

The snapping at Grimley was cut short, luckily at home even with connectivity issues I managed to upload the picture I managed to capture onto my laptop. My camera as it is now isn’t working.

This is such a huge blow to me, unfortunately I am not in a position to fix/ re-buy a camera straight away, this leaves me in a very strange place. To say it hasn’t effected my recent mood would be lying.

It may see silly to get so worked up about an item, but my camera is so much of my sanity, my worth. Its my creative outlet, my focus and without it I am unsure what the future holds.

I endeavor to continue the blog, I will always try to include pictures (phone snaps), I still hope you continue to enjoy what I post.

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

July.

How are we already in July? The most surreal year; I think any of us have ever experienced, has definitely not rested on its laurels. In a way I am grateful for this speed as with each passing month hopefully means a month closer to getting back to some sort of normality.

An attempt to partake in some sort of pre-lockdown activity this week, I visited Croome Court. I knew that once the National trust had reopened Croome I would like to visit. You have to prebook tickets for a set timeslot, you are unable to enter the properties, but this did not phase me as the grounds of Croome court are exquisite,

The walk did not disappoint, I was even lucky enough to see a Heron in the lake hunting, unfortunately they did not manage to make a catch while I was there, although it did aid my photograph snapping; Herons stand so still while they are stalking potential prey.

Another day and another walk, this time on the Malvern hills. Views from the top, over Worcestershire and Herefordshire are breathtaking. Patchwork fields, glittering water sources and of course the hills themselves all offer their charm as you walk further up the hills.

Garden macro photography has continued to be a source of comfort when I am unable to go out. The flower beds are still providing beautiful blooms, this weeks offering being the bright orange of the Calendula.

There are still a good number of flowers yet to bloom and I cannot wait to see what has flourished from the seeds I had previously scattered (a wild flower mix). The wild mustard flowers are currently the main attraction for insects, with various hover flies and bees visiting the delicate yellow flowers.

I hope you have all had a great week, 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.

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.