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.

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.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

After a very brief break from blog writing, I’m back with what I hope you find a great variety of captures. The opportunities for photography in the garden recently has been fantastic.

The bird feeder has started to attract a great variety of birds and the mini beasts have been out in force during the warmer weather we have been lucky to have experienced recently.

I have been setting myself goals each day for what I would hope to snap each session. Of course nature is very unpredictable and I have to be flexible as to what is available to shoot.

Generally, I will start by choosing which lens I will be using for that day ( a choice between my 150-600mm or macro 105mm lens). This determines what I will be trying to shoot, e.g macro lens for mini beasts or flora.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to mix my photography up in this way. It has allowed me the focus on a particular subject each day rather than trying to capture absolutely everything, which could result with me missing photographic opportunities and more than likely leave me frustrated.

An update on the garden, another small flower bed had been dug over and more wildflowers have been sown. The flower bed I mentioned in my previous post has now sprung to life, small seedlings are beginning to poke their heads out through the soil. These are very exciting times.

I am unsure as to what project I will next kick start for the garden, a wildlife pond maybe? or more flower beds? I will keep you updated.

Spirits have continued to remain high during the brief writing break, I repeat myself often when I say this; but I am very grateful for times when this is the case for my mental well being. I have been keeping myself active with other small activities that have helped tremendously. Activities as simple as, baking a loaf of bread with a very established and active sourdough starter I started (RuRu), gives me a sense of achievement.

I hope you are all managing to remain positive as lock down continues, if not please, please reach out. We are in this together! 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.

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.