Sunday, 15 November 2015

Nature close to home

A cobweb found on a parked car - Nottinghamshire, UK

“a challenge remains to overcome the polar distinction between what is urban and what is natural…We have tended to see the most significant forms of nature as occurring somewhere else-often hundreds of miles away from where most people actually live”. 

Timothy Beatley, professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia; quoted in Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with a wildlife photography enthusiast who lamented to me the great expense of wildlife photography.  At first I thought he was talking about the expense of the camera equipment itself, but no, he was talking about the cost of travel – ‘I can only really afford to go to Africa once a year’ he told me, ‘so my equipment stays in the cupboard for the rest of the year’. 

I have encountered this (stupid) attitude a great deal over the year, and I always find it deeply sad.  Is this a sign that we have lost touch with the natural world so greatly, that we think that nature and its wildlife is something that exists only far away?  

The truth is that the wonders of nature are here (rather than there) for everyone who has the curiosity to look for them. 

I found this cobweb on a neighbour’s car one morning (strung between the wing mirror and the driver’s door) as I was walking up the road where I live – the most telling fact is that I was returning from my morning nature walk in the local woods, but I actually made my favourite image of the day not from tramping around in the wilds, but simply by looking carefully closer to home.

The curiosity to see the nature living all around us is all we need to stop the lament, and to revive and awaken within us the reason we are all arrived here in the first place.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Autumn Cobwebs

My morning nature walks in the woods with baby Benny have become an important ritual in daily life over the last few weeks.  I feel the bond grow between us each day during those special hours, and the contact with nature on a daily basis is also a greatly enriching experience. 

During these early hours in the day, cobwebs always provide a great visual feast.  I can remember as a young boy myself being fascinated and intrigued by the patterns of cobwebs, the intricacy of the design which their builder brought together entirely by instinct (when did they ever learn to do that?), and by the glassiness of the dew drops that weighed so heavily upon their strings – strings which were so carefully knitted together that they never threatened to break beneath the strain, despite being so microscopically thin.

The closer you look at the world, the more you see – just as long as you’re prepared to have your mind blown!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The swirl of autumn

It's always good to get out in the fallen autumn leaves and fling them around (and to fling yourself around in them). And I love taking these swirly pictures while I'm at it – I take them a lot with my mobile phone: you can just twist the phone around quickly in your hands and take a picture halfway through the twist.  The part of the picture that’s in the centre of your spin remains relatively clear, while the part on the outside of the picture spins faster and blurs more.  Elementary physics, but the effect can be both intricate and magical.

It's only since mastering the technique on my phone that I've also started to do it with my SLR camera too, which offers all sorts of possibilities.  Here's one I made earlier with my SLR, using the prominent sycamore leaf as a centre-point for my spin.

The colours of autumn do make me all dizzy and giddy with excitement every year..  Abstract photos can be very good for communicating this sense and the emotion that goes with it,

It works for me.  Personally, I wish it could be autumn every day. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

A week of nature walks with baby Benny.

I’m only a week and a bit into being a dad, but already I’ve felt a huge feeling of reawakening to the world around me, and to the things in life I love.  Every day starts in a similar way.  I get up early and take Benny out on one of our little nature walks for an hour or two.  This gives me some good quality time with my son at the beginning of each day, and allows Katherine to take some time off and rest by herself at home.  

It’s difficult to know what, if anything, Benny takes in from our nature walks so early in his life; but I hope that being out in the woods at dawn, listening to the birds singing, will also start to rub off on him and become a comforting part of his life.  

There’s a great deal of woodland and farmland around where we live, so all our walks are in relatively quiet, misty places – and so I take photos in these places every day too.  Having a baby strapped to your chest also makes a walk a more outwardly sociable affair.  All the dog walkers we meet stop and want to know all about him and see his face, which is otherwise tucked up against my chest. 

Maybe Benny will grow to love the outdoors, but for now it's a good opportunity for him to love sleeping as he's tucked up tight against the warmth of my chest.  All my rocking back and forth, trying to find the best angle, lining the snails up against the right colour in the background, or the right chink of light, helps soothe him in his slumber.

He mostly sleeps throughout the walks at the moment, and my style of photography helps with this.  I hardly ever use tripods, so I’m constantly rocking back and forth with him strapped to me, I’m finding an angle and he’s being soothed off to sleep as I feel him kicking, learning, breathing and hiccupping gently against me.

We get home and it’s time for breakfast and piano practice.  Sometimes the carrying harness stays on, and I play with him strapped to me; sometimes I just play with him lying across my lap. 

Life is being enriched by his presence every day, and as I get his senses going to the world around him, I’m also spending much more time doing the things that make life great.  I think we’re good for each other.