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.

To Be Brief.

This past week has been full of extremes. I must admit, its been a struggle to get to a point where I am motivated to do anything. Thankfully the situation seems to be leveling out at this point, I really hope it continues.

The week started really well, a brief camping trip to Alton and a visit to Thors Cave in the glorious sunshine, gave me no reason to worry. I didn’t take many pictures, I was just enjoying the family time and the break away. As with many people this year our first planned family holiday had to be canceled, so we compromised in what we could achieve for time together.

Returning home, again things seemed fine. A walk along the riverside in my home city was thoroughly enjoyed, even with the brief rain showers, they didn’t dampen my spirits. I took a handful of images featured here, I’m not relatively happy with them but I am still learning with landscapes.

Then as though someone had flipped a switch in my mind, my entire mood and demeanor span 180′. I was completely floored. I didn’t eat, drink, or move from my bed for a good 48 hours. Its embarrassing to say out loud, but my hope is in writing my experience, it lifts the same feelings of guilt or shame in someone else, they are last emotions you should be feeling when you are struggling.

I am a nightmare to live with, my poor family has to put up with these days where the world moves through me and I am numb to it all. All thoughts fixated on the negative, seeing no quality anywhere. This of course isn’t true, but its a hard mindset to break. I am thankful this period did not last long, currently I am ok. Another episode over.

I am hopeful for next week to be a better week all round, for my photography (which has been greatly neglected), for my mood and for the blog.

Wishing you all a great week, 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 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 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.

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.