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.

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.

Struggles; I’ve Had A Few.

Another mid-week blog, again for the purpose of processing my thoughts. I have been quite honest about chronicling my mental health in these recent posts. I chose to do this for the purpose of letting anyone else who may be going through similar feelings, know they are not alone.

I must admit I find it hard accepting help for my own struggles, its so much easier to try and help others than it is to unravel the mess in my head. This is not helped by the fact that at times I am “normal”, as in there are no extremes in emotions, I can hold conversations, do activities, maintain a balance in my mood, I’m able to move through my day at a regular pace.

These days make me feel like a fraud when I am hit with anxiety, why is it I can be OK one day and then the next day crash into a wall.

On the bad days I just want to hide, I distance myself from those who I care about, I cannot concentrate on the simplest tasks, my motivation is null and void, I want cry most of the time and at my very worst I usually succumb to a panic attack or two.

My insecurities bubble to the top and provides me with unhealthy thoughts to obsess over. I would not wish this state of mind to anyone.

I am a nightmare to live with, I feel guilty about being the way I am. My family/friends are unconditional with their care and support. If I didn’t have them around I would hate to think of where I would or would not be today.

I had hoped that my this post would of been be a positive one, so within this I will add something that I have started to try and be proactive in these uncertain times.

Myself and a friend were talking about how our photography had been neglected recently and how we were looking for a way to keep creative. We had the brainwave that over on my Facebook page (search: Rucoby) I would set weekly photography challenges.

This is open to absolutely anyone, regardless of where they are in their photography; from the absolute beginner to the seasoned pro. It isn’t just about how good a capture looks, but how well does the snap fit the brief. The challenges are just for a bit of fun, our main aim is to try and give people something to do while they are stuck at home and hopefully to get people thinking creatively.

I hope some of you get involved, as now more than ever we need to come together to make sense of the strangeness going on around the world at present.

The first theme that I announced on Monday was Time, as the challenges are hosted on my page I decided that with the announcements I would post my own interpretation of that weeks theme. This gives me a purpose to shoot, makes me think differently and it makes me be proactive.

As you can see I shot the classic flour bomb shot, to me this displays a brief moment in time, although I am sure others will surely demonstrate to me many other ways to interpret time.

The other photo I have provided is an attempt to shoot the super moon that rose on Tuesday. Unfortunately the clouds had other ideas for me getting a clear picture, however; they did add a moodiness to the shot.

I am trying to remain hopeful that the next post will be in more of a positive vain.

I would also like to urge anyone who is feeling low, anxious or lonely to reach out. Seek help, if you don’t have close friends or family talk to a charity helpline, it is so much better to let these feelings out than it is to hold them in for them to grow and become all consuming.

There are no magic fixes I will confess, but each day you reach the end of is a win. Small achievements mean so much when some days just getting out of bed is a challenge.

Getting help is not a weakness, it means you are ready to heal. I really hope that this helps someone, even in a small way.

Until next time, take care, Rucoby.

Croome

Chasing Otters

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croome

While I attended Camera Club last week, I learnt that a local National Trust property had wild otters living on their site.

One of the very talented club members had given a presentation of the photographs they had taken in the previous year. A couple of which held the invaluable information that has excited me all week.

As the presentation started I had no inkling to what I was about to learn, I have been to Croome on many occasions through the years, it is a very striking property. There are already so many photographic opportunities there, I was completely unaware of their special inhabitants.

It was an easy decision on where I would be heading this weekend. I had to try and see an otter, I have never seen one in the wild. The week was a long one, especially with me counting down to the day I could get to Croome.

With the news full of weather predictions for the weekend looking negative, storm Ciara was on her way. I was worried I would have to wait another week before I could get there, which I realise isn’t the biggest worry I should have but I was just so excited to think I could see otters.

Thankfully Saturday was blessed with sunny skies, I couldn’t have been luckier!

As soon as I had arrived at Croome, I hot footed it to the river that surrounds the grounds. Interesting fact; the river at Croome is not a natural one, it was dug out by hand in the 1760s as part of a water feature.

The location to which I had been informed the otters could be, was south from the court and over the Chinese bridge. I crossed excitedly and once across walked along the bank stopping the opposite side to a holt purpose built for the otters.

I turned my head left then right, checking my surroundings. Suddenly immediately in front of me was an otter! I was in shock I didn’t expect to see one that quickly. They were in the centre of the river, their head was the the only part visible.

I almost thought I was seeing things, as soon as it was noticed it had vanished beneath the water. I loitered for ages hoping for another glimpse and the chance to get a picture for myself.

Unfortunately I didn’t see them again, but I am just so grateful to have seen them in the first place. I know that they are defiantly there and I look forward to trying to spot them again over the year.

Making the most of the great weather and the beautiful surroundings, the rest of my day was spent shooting around the grounds.

The bright conditions offered the right lighting for monotone shots. I am really starting to appreciate monotone edits for some of my pictures, especially the architectural shots, I feel it can enrich texture and really add mood to a shot.

Following on from last weeks post, this week has been markedly more positive. It has helped that I have had something to focus on, a goal to look forward to. Not to say all the week has been easy, but any week where the anxiety/depression is secondary is a win.

I look forward to where the following week will take me, fingers crossed for more new discoveries.

Winter Sun

Since the year began I have had this yearning to go somewhere for a proper good walk, the sort that you could say “it blows the cobwebs out” about. With each new year this has become a sort of tradition (weather permitting).

This past weekend the weather was perfect, a clear frosty morning, with bright blue skies inspired the thought and offered hope of being able to get some beautiful sunset pictures.

The Malvern hills was the chosen location for this, somewhere I have been to on many occasions growing up and could never get bored of, as the views are tremendous. I had never been at sunset, so this offered a new experience to an old location.

With the help of Google, I researched the time the sun would go down that day, I set off very optimistic, excited for what I was about to shoot.

The winter sunsets (and sunrises too) recently have been stunning, full of pinks, purples, oranges and blue hues.

In the photographs I’ve provided I hope they give a sense on how stunning the sky was at that time and how the view looked that evening.

The walk definitely blew the cobwebs out! The fresh air filled my lungs and frost from the morning still clung to the hills. I had brought with me, my tripod (I am getting better at being prepared for shoots) and set it up along different pathways offering different viewpoints.

The problem with sunsets is they don’t ever last as long as you want them too. I made the most of the time available and kept shooting as the light changed with the setting sun.

Something different for this blog too, I have provided some phone snaps, I generally use my phone for photos when I am out on a shoot but they don’t usually measure up to the dslr ones. However; this time with the light being so good, these snaps were just as effective.

I really like the way these photos have turned out. I’ve mentioned numerous times landscapes isn’t a particularly strong photography genre of mine, but I am definitely gaining more confidence and learning from each shoot.

The next day, along with the frost came a light mist, hard to resist I set out again to get more landscape shots. As before I took the pictures with my phone, and same again, I was quite happy with the outcome.

I really hope this winter sun continues for the coming weeks, offering more picturesque skies. I am currently unsure on where the next week will take me, but I looking forward to it.