My Divine Comedy

Throughout these past few weeks I have made no secret on how I have been emotionally stuck in a state of limbo. A purgatory of neither feeling up of down as I drifted through my days. I had wrongfully thought/hoped it would lead to a good phase in my mental health.

Instead of an ascent, I crashed. I had really hoped the blog would be in a more positive vain this time around, I hate feeling like all I do is moan on here. To not include it though would be fraudulent. I hope you can bear with me til more buoyant times.

In regards to the title, for those who are unaware of Dantes great work here is a brief background.

Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, his long narrative poem, between the years of 1308- 1320 where he describes his travels from hell (inferno) to purgatory (purgatorio) then finally to heaven (paradiso).

For me there was no reaching paradiso this time, I returned to hell. I wish I knew what the trigger was, all I can express is how I feel.

Imposter syndrome has returned with feelings of inadequacy, thoughts filled with self doubt, that people see quality in me that is just not there. Self love is a church I do not attend.

Its scary just how easily it becomes for me to picture myself out of the frame, so to speak. A default I fear, one I hate to linger in.

The struggles for the day to day routines return, even with writing, words escape me and i’m chasing sentences it seems. I have to force myself to get though it all, its too easy to just give up. I hope others find comfort in me sharing these hard times. It can be very alienating feeling this way.

I’ll admit I find it hard to reach out on a personal level, but to carry the weight of anxiety/depression alone is worse. Sometimes the hardest actions are the most rewarding.

I hope if you’re struggling you manage to reach out to someone be it family, friends or an external source e.g. Samaritans.

Photography, like last week has taken a back seat. I’ve still managed a few macro shots in the garden. With the cooler weather looking set to start this week I am wandering where this will leave me and my photography. Macro season draws to a close and I am unsure of what I would like to try over the colder months.

A quick update on the big garden makeover, the garden boundary is now finished and the fun of planning planting schemes begins.

I hope the past week has found you in brighter spirits than myself. Until next time, take care.

Stuck In The Doldrums

I had really hoped that with another week gone I would be sat here typing about how good things had been over the past week. That even with it being another quiet week, I could say my mood was bright and I felt well. Unfortunately I just cannot seem to shift this cloud from above my head.

Its really hard trying to explain how I am currently feeling, its not a low as such, I am carrying on with day to day life, but it is definitely void of feeling good. Just stuck in the doldrums.

The weekend I was out painting the garden fences a lovely charcoal grey (the colour of the moment I feel). Although I must say I splashed a lot of the paint on myself, I looked like a knock off Jackson Pollock painting!

With the weather staying fair, we have decided to renovate the back garden. I had previously mentioned in earlier blog posts how I had dug over new flower beds to encourage wildlife into the garden, these proved very successful. The wildflowers providing a much needed habitat for small world nature, that had been previously been lacking from the garden.

With all the boundary looking smart, our next aim is to hopefully create a wildlife garden. I would like to introduce more wildflowers and more colour to this once drab piece of land. Before I set that plan into action there are a couple of books I would like to research to get the best achievable plan possible for the garden. (Rewild your garden by Frances Tophill and Wild your garden by Jim and Joel Ashton, for those interested on what books I mean)

Photography has once again taken a back seat for me this past week. Just snapping bits here and there.

I was out in Worcester woods with a friend during the week and noticed that fungi are starting to make their presence known. I only had my phone camera but am pleased with what I was able to capture. I will always try and ID what I find but I will warn you its not the greatest, any corrections are greatly appreciated. I am more than happy to learn from my mistakes.

I have always (wrongfully) associated fungi exclusively with Autumn, its amazing isn’t it; once I started to take a real keen interest in nature, I’ve noticed so much more of what is happening around me throughout the year. Autumn, I believe, provides us with a more bountiful variety of fungi which leads to the assumption of it being fungi season. I hope as with last year I am able to discover new varieties and old favourites as the season goes on.

With the current garden renovations, I have had my dslr camera to hand on a couple of occasions, capturing the mini beasts I have disturbed. I do feel bad about changing the garden in a way, as I have displaced homes and habitats for the mini beasts. I just hope that they can forgive me, that when the garden is finished and they have their habitat returned, they too will return.

I hope the week has been good to you all, until next time. Take Care.

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 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.

I Am A Work In Progress

Another break from the blog last week, again another mental health stumble. Oh! how I wish for consistency.

The tone of each blog post, I am well aware see-saw from high to low and in truth that is how it has been from day to day. One day I am motivated, eager and happy the next low, no energy, no confidence etc…

I am fighting hard to stay on top of the extremes, my photography has been a great focus and even on an off day I’ve sat out in the garden with the camera.

It’s strange how others view your work, I constantly doubt what I put out there. I never see any quality in my captures, in all honesty I feel like a fraud when I am given positive feedback. I have started to wonder why I keep putting pictures out there as every time I do, I have a little breakdown about not feeling good enough.

I am very critical of my pictures, I only ever see their faults. I wish I could build myself up the way I am more than happy to do for others.

I started sharing my work as I love photography. I don’t make money or seek fame for my snaps. I have to remind myself I do it for the love of the craft. My creative outlet, does it really matter if my image isn’t pin sharp, if I like the image, why isn’t that good enough?

Of course I would like others to appreciate my work, I just hope one day I am able to appreciate them too.

This doesn’t just apply to my photography, I doubt my looks, my personality, my roles etc.. Lack of self esteem mixed with anxiety is a mixture that creates a mindset where I feel like an inconvenience to everyone.

I am constantly a work in progress. I hope for the coming weeks my mentality will plateau.

It was World Bee Day last week, watching the bees in the garden over the past weeks, I’m quite envious of how they just get on with things. They don’t question what they do, they don’t worry about whether they are doing enough, they just do it.

I observed one bee fight against the blustery wind we have been experiencing recently, holding on to the bell flower for dear life until the wind had died down to just move onto the next bloom to continue their pollinating.

An update on the garden, the seedlings have started to get bigger, I have to remember to keep them watered as the warm, dry weather continues. I am looking forward to seeing what wildflowers flourish in the flower beds. I am hoping they will attract butterflies as the garden is lacking their presence.

I hope you are all keeping well, 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.

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.