Sunsets, Sandwell and Galls

Another quiet week this end, with getting ready for the kids to go back to school and my own struggles with creative motivation, photography has taken a bit of a back seat recently. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to just shoot anything for the sake of it, I love photography and I would hate for it to feel become a chore.

There are so many avenues with photography, I’m just at a bit of a crossroads in where to go next. Inspiration is much needed.

The menagerie of images this week come from my home, RSPB Sandwell Valley, Malvern Hills and a local woods.

The first image is of the stunning sunset that generated beautiful hues over the county last week, which was unexpected. It was hard to resist, snapping a quick phone phone shot of the colours that adorned the sky. Autumn and winter sunsets when the conditions are just right are very hard to beat.

Next, a lovely walk was just the right start to the weekend that was much needed. RSPB Sandwell Valley has been on my location list for a while, its a lovely urban green space in Birmingham. Although quite busy with people, as I was walked around, I didn’t feel on top of others out for their dose of fresh air.

I managed to see two Herons on the walk round the reserve, one in flight and the other on the water side, not hunting, just watching the passersby very carefully.

Herons always remind me of The Animals of Farthing Wood cartoon I remember watching as a child. For those who aren’t aware of the show/books (written by Colin Dann) the story revolves around a collective of animals dislodged from their homes because of a housing development being built, thus destroying Farthing woods. They are all on the search for a new home. It was quite harrowing t.v. for a child, I remember characters dealing with death and homelessness, not all doom and gloom though the show/book also illuminated the need for good friends and looking out for each other.

Following on from the other evening, I couldn’t resist an outing to the Malvern Hills, to hopefully catch a colourful sunset. I always marvel at the views from the hills, scenery that seems to stretch out endlessly. I was lucky, although not the hues of the previous evening, the sunset glowed with golden light and I am happy with the shots I did take.

The last find was on a local walk, while taking the dog out. The brown galls made from the Silk-Button Gall Wasp caught my eye, from the underneath of an oak leaf just above my head.

Reading into the gall wasp is fasinating. They have two generations per year. One being asexual and the other agamic (all female and needs no male to reproduce).

The “silk button” galls pictured, are caused by the asexual generation of the gall wasp. Each button contains a single wasp larva. They can be seen on the leaves from August to October, until the leaves fall in autumn. The wasp larva will mature in August but remain in the gall on the ground throughout the winter, emerging the following year from February to April.

Small world nature has really pushed me to look deeper into the world around us, there is so much activity happening all the time that I am oblivious to. Knowing more about the environment around me, I learn to have a better appreciation of each plants, animals, insects, etc role in the ecosystem, and thinking of how I can help e.g having wildlife garden.

I hope the past week has found you well, until next time, take care.

One Year old!

Its my one year blogging anniversary!! I have now had this blog space for a whole year! Over that year this blog has changed quite a bit. From only logging my weekly wildlife sightings to my more recent journal like approach covering days out, mental health and still (hopefully) any wildlife seen.

I would like to thank all those that have taken the time to read my ramblings and peruse my photographs over the past year. I really appreciate all the support I have had so far.

My aim for the future of the blog; is to keep improving my writing, run a tighter blogging schedule to posting new blogs (although this has already improved greatly since last year) and to hopefully provide content you will all continue to enjoy.

I have had a little break since my last blog, still overwhelmed by my new camera and a few bad days mentally, I made the decision to not rush back to writing as I needed space to collect my thoughts. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your own sanity is to say no or take a step back to reclaim yourself a little.

I am now very ready and mentally prepared to move forward and let you know exactly what I have been up to in those 2 weeks off.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinder-edale-and-the-dark-peak/trails/mam-tor-circular-walk

The first big visit was the famous Mam Tor (mother hill) in the Peak District near Castleton. I had never been to the peaks before and boy! did it win my heart, I did not not want to leave!

As soon as you enter Derbyshire the landscape grabs you, views over peaks and valleys, lush and green as far as the eye could see. It was truly awe inspiring.

Mam Tor has a walking trail by the National Trust. you can either just walk to the top of Mam tor or continue on the ridge walk to Losehill. I did the latter. Its not hard to see why this destination is so popular.

I will admit, the day I visited was quite busy, fortunately Mam tor is big enough to accommodate everyone and be able to socially distance!

I really hope from my photos you get just a tiny sense of how beautiful it was from there.

My next day out was a seaside day to Burnham on sea, this quiet seaside resort offers a great alternative to the bigger more touristy resorts around the UK. The day I visited the beach was quiet, people were spaced out easily. This is a great place to visit if you just want a beach day, no gimmicks.

I happened to visit on the hottest day of the year, but the cool sea wind made the heat bearable. I love being by the coast, I always have. There is just something about being next to the sea which is so calming.

The final visit to end the last 2 weeks was to Carding Mill and the Long Mynd in shropshire.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carding-mill-valley-and-the-long-mynd

Shropshire being another part of the country I have never ventured to before. I have felt guilty with these visits that I am so under traveled around the UK. There some absolute treasures around this fair isle, I have recently made the purchase of a tent to hopefully be able to venture to more locations and be able to give them more time, to appreciate their character.

Back to Carding Mill, another absolutely stunning landscape, I walked the moderate trail that leads to view the light sprout waterfall. I don’t think I saw even a tenth of the location. It gives me a great excuse to return. (I have a huge list of places to return to, I really really hope this is one I get around to revisiting).

One thing about all these hill walks; it has shown me I really need to improve my fitness! Has anyone else struggled with keeping fitness motivation and activity up during the lockdown?

Lastly a word on the glorious sunsets we have been experiencing recently, they really crept up on me one evening. I missed one evening out shooting the sunset as I had noticed too late the brilliant colours of the setting sun. I sulked that on that evening extremely determined to get out the next night, which I achieved.

The locations are random, chasing the light in the car stopping by fields where I felt the view was good enough. The resulting images show a sky that looks like it is on fire. No sulking that evening, I love a good sunset, but then again who doesn’t?

I will end with another big THANK YOU! for all the support, comments, likes, subs and generally just taking the time to read my blog. Here’s to the next year!

Until next time, Take care.

Look Up To The Sky.

So that’s it; week one of social distancing completed. I would be lying if I said it has been easy, although I’m sure I am not alone in this sentiment and this is the case for most people.

The disruption to daily life has led to the creation of new routines. For myself, keeping to a routine has helped keep me sane. I have tried to fill my days with at least one activity whether that be baking, drawing, gaming etc. Its amazing how something so simple can help ease an anxious mind that could wander to darker thoughts.

One thing I do miss the most (so far) is being able to freely go out to green space. I am unlucky in regards to what I have local and I have to say I am envious of people who have the countryside on their doorstep, I really hope they appreciate it. I have joked to an acquaintance that once normality has resumed I will be running along the Malvern hills like Maria in the sound of music.

I am very aware of why we are doing this and remind myself often of the bigger picture. It is quite easy to internalise when you suddenly have lots of time.

The clap for carers event that occurred this week was a joyous occasion that rang out around our neighborhood and lifted my spirits no end. It was a stark reminder of why we are doing this and that we are not alone. I found the experience a little emotive as people came together to say thanks, banging pots, shouting gratitude’s and even fireworks were heard from my area.

I will take this moment to say my own THANK YOU! to the brilliant NHS staff, cleaners, maintenance staff, store workers, police, fire brigade and many others that are out there working throughout these turbulent times. I really hope that they are recognised and rewarded for their tireless efforts throughout all of this. THANK YOU!

Looking to the skies, particularly at sunset, has offered stunning sights and although the views from my house are not exactly beautiful, the skies have offered hope. Nature continues regardless and will be there when all this is over.

Has anyone else noticed an increase in activity with wildlife around them while lock down is enforced? In my garden alone I have noticed many more bird visitors, although the brighter weather could also be a contributing factor.

The night skies have been brilliantly clear this past week too. I have managed one lunar capture of the waxing crescent phase, or as I will always refer to it as; a Cheshire cat smile moon.

I plan for the coming weeks to practice my astro-photography as long as the night skies are clear. So hopefully I will have some interesting shots to offer in future posts.

How are you coping with these current times? What tips would you share that help get you through the day? Is there anything you are hoping to do now that time is no obstacle? I’d love to hear from you.

I wish you all a great week, until next time.

Who Doesn’t Love A Robin?

This weeks blog post returns to how my photography journal began; garden birds with a few floral shots thrown in for good measure.

It amazing on how a few colourful blooms displaying in a once bare patch of land, can brighten the spirits.

The Grape hyacinths are in full bloom at present and it’s hard to resist not to shoot them. I’ve have fun playing around with the edits of these shots, making these already striking flowers front and centre.

Having returned to garden photography this past week, bird captures are usually my main aim to capture and you can always guarantee a Robin to appear.

These fiesty little birds are not generally thrown by my presence. Sometimes it seems as if they do not mind posing for a snap. They are a bird for all seasons and it’s been lovely seeing their red breast against the spring greens which are starting to emerge.

And who doesn’t love a Robin? On various feeds where Robin shots have been displayed they are generally well recieved. My own Robin pictures are some of my most liked content. It’s easy to see why, they definitely hold a charm even though they are quite boisterous.

The beginning of this week I decided to visit a local nature reserve. Upton Warren: it’s managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and is a fantastic place for birdwatching.

Unfortunately I can only display 3 photographs for this location, as at present my laptop is inactive. I am slightly worried that at this point my laptop will not be able to be fixed, which means any recent shoots I have done will be lost. I do try to transfer my images each month either to a cloud service or external hard drive as I hate losing content.

I am trying to stay positive that this is not the case but my anxiety is making it hard. I hope you enjoy what I am able to provide this week and wish you all a good week.

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.