March 11, 2017
The woods breathe. Imperceptible, exhale mist, expel dew, form sparkling crystals on the mossy floor. Cracked and jagged limbs dance still to winter’s brittle rhythm. Half imagined faces in the peeling wooden skin, joyful at the glittering of frost. Listless darkness pierced by shafts of low sun, these alone hold up the sky. A movement out of sight, blur of legs and eyes. Timid deer tread soft and invisible while squirrels thunder unconcerned. Hard ground, cold like a threat, a vessel for future life but for now restrain growth. Everything slows to stasis. Sharp edged shattered stumps, broken bones and crooked teeth. Tea stained lace bracken muddied underfoot. Give in for the year, retreat until spring’s reconciliation. Masts without sails envy still clothed firs, waiting for the new wardrobe of summer. Filigreed leaves now morbid decoration. Branches against the sky form intricate chaotic geometry. Hold tight, move forward with conviction, change will come and we will advance into warmth.
December 10, 2016
Dreams of light bugs. Exploding into life, blur of electric blue. Fading quickly, haze of dissipating sparks.
Light painting with Alexander (and a bit of photoshop).
September 4, 2016
I’ve been kicking through the long grass, ferns and ant battalions of Burnham Beeches recently. Working in Bourne End has it’s positives but the same spaces every day begin to lose their interest and the hard walk up Hedsor Hill which on a good day is bracing becomes a chore when anxiety is tactlessly scratching at my nerves. Work became hectic and I needed an escape so I’ve started driving out to the beeches. It’s not such a trek, and I probably get more use of my time as traveling on foot I lose the first 15 minutes of any journey just getting off the industrial estate and into the countryside.
I had forgotten what a varied and beautiful environment it was and there’s so much of it I’ve never explored. In an hour’s walk I can find meadows, deep woods, beautiful swathes of foxgloves and inquisitive deer, although only the latter on days I forget my camera. My ankles have seen more insect bites over the last couple of months than in a long time but I’ve renewed my love of this tranquil seclusion which I live so near to but rarely visit. If I can keep my focus now that autumn is here I’ll try and spend a couple of hours with the camera and field recorder putting something a bit more involved together.
Here’s a selection of recent shots of the wildlife of Burnham Beeches. Full set is here.
May 27, 2016
Christ I’m behind on blogging, unemployment would make this easier but then who would pay for the electricity?
Back in February I accidentally found a nature reserve in Oxfordshire – Jubilee Meadows near Wootton. I was up visiting a client who has an amazing office round the corner which overlooks a beautiful river (we were watching kingfishers out of their office window). As I tend to do I had turned up far too early and was too awkward to call them and ask if I could come and see them before we had planned so I just wandered round the area for a bit looking for public footpath signs (always a promise of adventure). I’d driven through Wootton and seen an amazing early morning view of mist over a flooded meadow so went back after the meeting (which was lovely) for a lunchtime wander.
Only saw one other person in the couple of hours I spent there, although it was February and quite cold but plenty of rabbits enjoying the peace and casting me begrudging glances for my intrusion into their quiet wilderness.
Here’s a video slideshow with some audio I recorded on the day.
The full set of photos is here. Here are my favourites:
March 28, 2016
I’ve driven past St. James the less in Stubbings (Maidenhead) repeatedly over the last couple of decades but never had the chance to stop and take a look around. I was on my way back from hiking in the Chilterns much earlier than expected and the low winter sun looked phenomenal so stopped to look around.
Unfortunately, because I had spent the day focusing so damn hard on not working one of my clients got to the point of being overwhelmingly trigger happy with the redial button on his phone and I spent about 40 minutes pacing around the car park while hoping to accidentally lose a leg or be struck by a falling tree. I missed the best of the light, I was also too mentally unfocused to try and go inside for fear of having to engage with other humans who may ask difficult questions such as “how are you today?”
Again, it’s been a couple of months since I took the photos so don’t have much recollection of the details aside from pacing round the car park while discussing websites. There was a man playing loud music in an Ocado van out the front but I don’t think he was a permanent fixture. The church is located just down the road from Maidenhead thicket so quite a peaceful surrounding (loud Ocado man notwithstanding). There were quite a few crows, but again I suspect these were not an intended feature.
The church dates back to 1849, and if their website is anything to go by has some decent stained glass windows. My aforementioned horror at possibly human contact prevented my experiencing these. I appreciate my reviews are getting patchy at this point, I’m working towards writing stuff up closer to the date, or just learning to write things down.
March 17, 2016
It’s been a long year already and bought some unexpected changes, some harsh but which have over time worked out for the better. I’ve been putting off writing this for a good few weeks and that’s probably a good thing as I now have a better aspect on everything. A little distance helps the focus.
At the beginning of the year I had a checkup that came with the unpleasant news that my diabetes had become far worse over the previous year. This was particularly shocking as prior to this it had been under control to the extent I had been given the official “sod off, you don’t need our help any more” from my doctor. At the time of the checkup it was worse than when I was first diagnosed and seemingly in decline. Since then I’ve made some severe changes to my lifestyle (which was hardly excessive to start with) which will hopefully have put me back on track, I won’t know for a few months until I next see the doctor.
More importantly (to me), I have been struggling with my mental health. This is not a recent thing, it fluctuates like a wonky LFO in a cheap synth. Over the last few months the lows were getting lower and the highs were not happening, I’m actually grateful for the doctors appointment for the diabetes because it enabled me to bring it up without needing to make a specific appointment, which I wouldn’t have done. In a hilariously understated middle class manner I mentioned I sometimes felt a bit sad (translation: spend a lot of my life crying in car parks) and was there anything he could do. I’ve been referred to a counselling service and am currently doing an initial course of CBT. This is really helping. I’m in no sense ‘fixed’, nor do I expect to be but I am dealing far better with things that I have been previously, I am incredibly relieved to have started this process. At this point I’ve been diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety, I have problems with self esteem (or would do if I had any at all). I’m getting better.
I was initially wary of mentioning my mental health online, especially on this blog which is superficially about my art and photography but I feel it’s important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s had a massive impact on my life and has certainly influenced my creative output to a severe extent, predominantly by crushing it for a long time. Secondly, one of the reasons I finally spoke to my doctor was because I had seen other people publicly discussing their mental health problems and how they deal with them (among others Wil Wheaton, Rob Delaney and John Green). There is a stigma here, one I have felt deeply and they had helped give me the impetus to finally do something to try and fix my situation. While I am not quite at the level of those mentioned above I hope by openly and frankly discussing the subject I can in some small way help the discourse and possibly convince you to seek help if you need to. Seriously, feeling a bit sad on an all to regular basis? Go talk to someone. Always stressed, never sleep? Go talk to someone. Feel trapped in your own body and constantly screaming inside? Go talk to someone? Crying in your car five days a week? Go talk to someone.
It sounds so easy when you’re well “Go talk to someone” but I know it isn’t. If you are already struggling it can seem a massive scary challenge, especially if you are struggling with anxiety or social phobias. But please try, it can get easier. When I first spoke to my doctor I had all these fears about what was going to happen next. Would I be thrown out for wasting time? Would I be made to take terrifying drugs? Would I be laughed at and publicly ridiculed? None of these things happen, instead a very kind, patient and incredibly non-judgemental lady from the NHS talked to me for a while and helped me work out what would happen next. I’ve had nothing but kindness and care from the people who have been dealing with me.
I will talk more about this another time but for now I just want to say again, if you are struggling please talk to someone, it doesn’t have to be your doctor (although that’s a good starting point), just tell someone you can trust, it’s a starting point. It can get better.
There’s a lot of words there for something I was intending to get into one short paragraph, I should probably split this into two separate entries, but I’m not going to, this was intended to be an entry about photography and work/life balance and dammit it’s going to be.
Short break? Here’s a picture of a horse:
One of the biggest causes of woe (as has been chronicled here before) is my work/life balance and the anxiety that comes with it. As I’ve been discovering over the last few weeks this is a difficult and complex relationship which isn’t going to be fixed overnight. Back in January I had this plan (which I’ve since abandoned as bullshit) to work double shifts for a couple of weeks at a time then take an entire day off to go exploring and be alone with my thoughts. The idea being I would get a proper work free, responsibility free break. This was my first attempt.
I planned in advance where to go, Scott had told me about a bit of particularly beautiful forest in the Chilterns (near Turville) where he takes some amazing photographs. Scott even sorted me a map which I left at home because I’m a dick. Because I’m slightly less of a dick I had roughly memorised the route.
I set out at 8am at the starting point (outside St. Mary’s Church in Turville) then immediately panicked because I had my first telephone appointment with my mental health supporter at 9am and there was no phone signal. So I drove round for an hour and eventually made my way halfway home to a car park in Henley which had reasonable signal.
10am tried again. Annoyingly I’d missed the best sunlight and the beautiful frost which had covered the hills had mostly melted away. I did not give up. I followed my route saw some amazing scenery and the first proper moments of calm in a long time. I saw few people but those I happened upon were without fail friendly and welcoming.
After a while it became clear I had got lost. Mostly because I had been walking the circumference of the same field for 30 minutes and had no clue which way I should be going. After explaining this to a disinterested horse (see above) I had a bit of a panic. Initial feeling was to give up, find a car park to cry in then go home. Instead I opted to follow footpaths at random to see where they took me. This was infinitely better than crying in car parks, I strongly recommend it as a course of action.
It was a good day. I checked my email more than is sensible, I checked my voicemail more than is necessary, I thought about work more than I wanted, but I didn’t give in, I didn’t go back to work halfway through the day, I didn’t take any work calls, I took some reasonable photos and I found some personal space. I need to make this part of my regular existence but that’s a battle I still need to fight.
Things I learned:
Here’s some of my favourites:
January 10, 2016
It has a funny name, the promise of naval shenanigans, it’s in the New Forest and we were on holiday. What could go wrong? My child. My child could go wrong. Deciding he HATED it from the moment we got to the car park purely because he wanted to go to Lymington to watch the trains and he had to wait until later in the day.
He hated turning up 10 minutes before it was open, he hated it opening, he hated the museum, he freaked out at the harbour (which I’ll let him off because that was more a bit of fear of water than being an arse), he hated that I refused to buy him a toy boat because he had been an arse all day and he hated having to sit in a field with me to calm down for half an hour.
So my opinion of Buckler’s Hard? Don’t take my child there, he will be a shithead and you’ll leave after 20 minutes having paid for three of you to spend the best part of the day there. It all looked very nice and interesting but lacked any facility in which to deposit a five year old who would do nothing other than shout “I want to goooooooooo”. So we eventually went. We might try again next year. I took a handful of photos in between being whinged at.
They have a website and a facebook page should you wish for more info as there’s very little else I can tell you.
December 29, 2015
We went on holiday in October because I need to be away from computers for a while and because we’re weird and prefer to go away in Autumn. We spent a week in the New Forest which is beautiful and nicely lacking in other people at that time of year, or at least the bits we visited were. I didn’t get too much time to take photos as I had a very excitable five year old with me, and I’d rather spend time with him anyway, I failed to draw anything.
Every time we stay in the New Forest we visit Liberty’s Owl Raptor & Reptile Centre, usually on the first day we are there. It’s a lovely place to spend a couple of hours, although I don’t think we’ve ever managed to make the most of it as while Alexander does love the owls he doesn’t have the attention span to spent more than an hour or so there. You could rush round it in 40 minutes or so but conversely you could take your time and really get the most out of it. There’s a fantastic selection of wildlife with a good amount of information should you wish to learn something rather than having a confusing one sided conversation with a couple of owls. The reptile house is excellent.
It’s not a big budget theme park, it’s an independent animal centre run by people who clearly put a lot of love and care into it. I state this as I have witnessed some crass stupidity in online reviews by people who were clearly expecting to find Legoland with Owls. It is not Legoland with Owls, it’s better than that.
BONUS TINY OWL ACTION….
These little fellows were very excited to see us.
October 17, 2015
Due to a whole bunch of unnecessary nonsense I’m no longer working in Maidenhead but have relocated to Bourne End, which is not so bad. One of the great positives is it’s much closer to assorted agreeable outdoors places including Burnham Beeches. I escaped work a little early the other day to have a wander round and take some photos. I really struggle with photographing forests and am utterly in awe of Scott’s photos of the forest around Stonor so it was good to get in some practice. I was happy with a couple of the landscape shots but overall more satisfied with the forest floor/fungi shots.
I wanted to try some self portraits in the forest, but struggled a little to get the settings right. I’ve not uploaded the results yet, will see how I feel once I’ve gone through them again. The attempts did make me realise I need a decent tripod or some way to easily carry around my ancient and horribly bulky existing tripod.
Complete set is on Flickr here (although mixed in with a bunch of photos from a couple of years ago, new ones are nearer the bottom).
August 5, 2015
I’ve been out practicing with the camera at Braywick Nature Centre on my lunch breaks (also I need to get some exercise before I can no longer fit in any of my clothes and I need some peace and quiet before I explode and take out most of Berkshire). It’s only a ten minute walk from my office in the centre of Maidenhead and it’s usually devoid of anyone other than the occasional dog walker.
There’s a beautiful array of wildflowers at this time of year and if you’re quiet you can see a whole host of wildlife, I’ve spotted herons, kingfishers, several armies of ducks, deer, rabbits, foxes, squirrels, weasels (I think) Green Woodpeckers and all the assorted wild birds and insects you would expect.
I’ve made a video slideshow of some of the pictures I’ve taken there recently along with an audio track recorded on the moorland there.
Here’s a few of the photos, you can see the rest on flickr.
You can read more about Braywick Nature Centre.
You can read about the Save Braywick Park campaign on Facebook.
Incidentally, I’m making more use of my Facebook page now, please pop over and give it a like for semi-regular updates and links to artists I like – Anxious Silence on Facebook.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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