The new way. Week five.

Saturday 18 April 2020 – London (Again).

It is the small things, the simple pleasures that I am missing the most as I enter week five of lock down.

From August to May weekends in our house are dominated by football. Eleanor is a Spurs season ticket holder and I support bitter rivals Arsenal. Before you ask, yes, we do make it work, though we never watch the North London Derby together. We miss football a lot, it dominates our weekends; our viewing, our conversations and our reading. Over a long weekend like Easter we would watch the games our teams play as well as any other tasty clash, if it is raining then probably other games would get watched as well. Having no football on the tellybox for such a long time is a strange and not enjoyable experience.

I am also missing the pub, we don’t go a lot, our London local at the weekend is always full of families, but I miss not being able to go if I want to. I particularly miss the places we/I visit when we are at the flat in St Leonards. I miss tap beer, even though I often drink wine in the pub.

I miss the flat, obviously. I miss walking down to and along the seafront, I miss walking into Hastings, I miss the galleries and cafes and the bars. I miss being in a less crowded place, I miss the fresh sea air and the constant wind, the sea rattling the pebble beach and how the shape of the beach changes daily. I miss being in my flat, playing records, cooking, reading, hanging out in my own space; with Eleanor or on my own.

Most of all I miss being with friends, sharing the same space at the same time. I look forward to that more than anything else.

Sunday
Sunday started with a Zoom call with family in New Zealand, with the bonus of my son in Australia joining in. This week we had seven participants, including all three of my children. I cannot remember the last time I was on a call with all three at the same time, as well as mum, both sisters and some nephews. It was a treat and I felt so much better for it. Admittedly if felt like half the call was one of us going ‘I cannot hear you’ or ‘it looks like so-and-so has hung’. Symptoms of modern communication, in this family scenario it was verging on amusing.

Late in the afternoon I made cinnamon swirls and a sweet potato and squash tagine for dinner. I listened to Metallica and drank beer while I cooked. It was a bit bogan in the kitchen for a while and Eleanor quite rightly stayed in another room.

Monday
Easter Monday, yet Eleanor and I were up and out the door by 8:00 for a walk around the park. No lie-in, this is not the real me. Yesterday there was a high of 25 degrees in London, today a maximum of 11 was forecast, it was quite cold out and there were significantly less people in the park than there would have been if it was warmer. Yay for that. We also stopped in Tescos which was pretty much back to full stock now, they also had Quorn mince which was great. I took some photos of the amazing spring blossoms in the park.

I spent some time doing some work related things, the guys are still working on covid19 statistics reporting and have been for most of the weekend. The rest of the day I basically wasted, though I ordered a new toilet seat for the downstairs loo. Exciting I know, welcome to lockdown life.

Tuesday
Back to work and a change of scene. Sat in the bedroom at my desk looking out the front window. So different to being downstairs looking out the back.

El had a hospital appointment to review the scan from last week. We already knew nothing was found, but it was good to get expert confirmation. Like last week I dropped her at the hospital and then drove to Hollow Pond for a walk in the sun. I took the Polaroid with me, it has been a while since it was last out. I took four images, the first couple were really faded, not sure why. I am wondering if there is a small light leak? I also took some photos using my phone. It was peaceful and I had a happier stroll than last week.

Work was OK, it took a while to get into the day. Tuesday and Wednesdays are meeting days, always have been, so it is rare to get any meaningful work done. At least it leaves fewer, hopefully no, meetings on the other days.

I exchanged messages with Rich, one of my flat neighbours, I am going to send him my keys and he will check all is well with the flat. The news seems to be that this thing will go on for months so no idea when I will get back there. It is a bit depressing really. He can toss the couple of manky carrots in the fridge out Smile

Smile

I cooked a pasta bake thing made with Quorn mince for dinner and loads of paprika. It was great and I made enough for a lunch later in the week. It is good having fake mince back in the freezer again.

My son asked if I had any old photos as he had lost a lot when he deleted his BookFace, so I uploaded a whole load of family shots from the past 15 years to a Google Drive and shared them with the kids. It was quite a walk down memory lane. I realised that though I have been blogging for nine years now, I doubt my kids have ever looked, so they probably have no idea of what photos I had. It was good to share them. Mind you if all posts were as long as this one I don’t blame them for not reading. I seem to have too much time on my hands these days.

Tim Burgess, who was/is the singer in 90s band The Charlatans has organised a load of ‘listening parties’ on Twitter. We get to play a selected album in our own home, and he and a member of the group tweet about the record as it is played. Tonight was Mogwai’s ‘ Come On Die Young’, one of my favourite bands. I listened to half before falling asleep, though the caught up with the Twitter chat the following morning.

Today was a good day.

Wednesday
Last night I pumped up the tires on the mountain bike and this morning I went for my first ride in months, in possibly over a year. I rode for 40 minutes before work and was pretty broken by the time I got home. I did not realise how unfit I am. It is bad. It was lovely out, I rode up to Highams Park Lake, and visited my favourite, gnarly old tree and looked for bluebells in a patch Eleanor and I walked past a few years ago.

I read today that this event could go on until 2022. Not full time, but with periodic lockdowns as the virus moves through the population, at least until a vaccination is trialled and enough people are immune or vaccinated to allow life to return more fully to normal. It is obvious that with the infection and death rate still rising, albeit more slowly due to the lockdown, that we are not going anywhere soon. We talked about the inevitiableness of having to cancel our 10 day trip from Oslo in Norway back to London in early June. Luckily we have not spent too much, and hopefully travel insurance will cover what has been spent. Who knows, too early to cancel, but I cannot image us going.

I started watching the X-Files from series one, as it is on one of the streaming channels. I am a bit bored with telly, not that I was ever overly reliant on it as form of entertainment. I am very fussy about what I watch, who would have known.

Thursday
Up early this morning, awake well before the alarm; yet again. Feeling less dazed than the rest of the week which is good. I was out the door before 7:30 and on the commuter bike for a ride down to, and around Walthamstow Marshes. It was really nice out again, apart from being knackered and my legs and bum were sore by the end of the 40 minute ride.

I chose to do this ride rather than take the mountain bike back to Epping Forest as I thought I would get to Sainsburys for opening at 8 and grab a few bits and pieces. I arrived just before opening and the queue was already out of sight round the corner. I didn’t wait, we have enough food.

It was another good work day, I am fully in the groove now and working has become easier. I am more self motivated and am doing more interesting things and managing my work better. I also started playing with Power Shell scripts today to script a task our support company fail to do reliably. My end game is to get rid of them, automate them out.

It was announced today that we will have another three weeks of lockdown, to at least 11 May. The only thing that surprised me with the announcement is that it was for only three weeks, though the government had been signalling this since the weekend. We are still missing a prime minister, he is out of hospital now but recovering at his (second) home. Something we are not allowed to do, one rule for them, one for us. We are barely being governed at all, just seem to be rolling on through, and I can continue to be glad that we are (so far) lucky.

Friday
I walked with Eleanor this morning after another lousy sleep and I am just too tired to contemplate getting back on the bike. We walked around the park again, it was really busy, lots of stupid runners, we left by a side exit and walked back up the mostly deserted street, passing some nice fly-tipping on the way.

There is a lot more traffic about this week, seemingly some people are relaxing their social isolation. The government are sending mixed messages, official line is stay home, though there are side messages about relaxing the rules and getting the economy going. This seems to be lulling some folk back to working. I don’t blame them of course, we all need money to live. Being at home 24/7 is hardly a bunch of laughs either.

Work was good and I achieved a lot for the third day this week, hopefully this will roll into next. One of the few pleasures of lock down is artists live streaming ‘gigs’. This weekend in Christchurch, New Zealand there was supposed to the ‘Better Living, Everyone!’ festival. This was cancelled and the artists performed short sets live from home via the internet. Being on the other side of the world, meant I could attend some of the gig and I really enjoyed Jim Nothing live from their garage in Auckland as I worked in the morning.

I had some records I ordered arrive today. I am doing my bit to keep the music industry alive and well.

Last night Eleanor had managed to book a ‘click and collect’ slot for tonight at a Sainsbury’s near Finsbury Park, about 15 minutes away by car. We were both surprised by this, getting an order from any of the big supermarkets is almost impossible. I drove there after work and was surprised to find we did not have to wait, unsurprised at the huge, though socially distant, queue to get in to the supermarket itself.

In the evening we joined friends for another online quiz, Eleanor and I did a lot better this time, coming second. I drank slightly less, though I am not sure if that made a huge difference. It was very good fun though, and it was great seeing friends.

Saturday
Up late, dozed till 9 or so, though I first woke before 6, with a mild red wine hangover. I am drinking more than normal, not every day, and rarely excessively, but definitely more than I usually do. I am surprised I am not putting on weight, though I am eating much less processed food and doing some form of exercise each day. Hopefully this will continue.

Eleanor I walked to Highams Park Lake, as the bluebells are out now. We normally go to a big display on the other side of Epping Forest in Wanstead, but decided to walk to this smaller patch I found when riding. It was really nice walk for a couple of hours, though there were quite a few people out, to be expected I guess. I am wondering if these smaller pockets of forest are attracting more visitors than normal?

I took the Polaroid again and had a happier experience than on Tuesday.

We spent the first half of the afternoon watching the Black Panther movie on the TV. I am still tired so had a lie down before cooking some proper comfort food for dinner; vege sausages, beans and mash. It was very nice.

Another week in lockdown done. How many more?

A sneaky outing to Epping Forest.

Saturday 04 April 2020 – Epping Forest.

It felt like an absolute age since I took in the air of Epping Forest. I had to look back through previous posts to find that it was mid-January, which in this time slowed down period we are going through, was an age ago. Almost a different period of existence, the pre-covid age.

The official guidance says that one can go for a walk for exercise. I know there have been some police districts stopping people from driving to beaches, parks and areas of natural beauty, as well as the usual self-appointed social media guardians moaning about people going outside. However there is no rule or law that says you cannot, so I drove the ten minutes to Epping Forest for a photography session/walk/wellbeing break. I cannot walk the beach, so this is what I need to do for my wellbeing; both physical and mental. I enjoyed it and it worked. I was not happy with the photos I took, but ultimately that was not the point. Being outside and enjoying being outside; being in the sun, the ever-freshening air and the relative peace were the aims of this morning, as well as letting my creative side out to play.

Nature is pretty amazing, how is this tree still going ?

The roads were really quiet at 8:45 on Saturday morning, and it felt like all the traffic lights were green all the way to the small car park near Strawberry Ponds. There were a couple of cars there when I arrived, but it was fairly quiet, only a few runners and dog walkers out this early. I like the section of forest around Lost Pond and Loughton Camp and that was where I headed. Starting with a stroll along the bank of the twisty and turny Loughton Brook.

As soon as I get the chance I leave the main path and walk up the mountain bike tracks and other small paths that meander aimlessly, often ending at no particular destination, from there I just bush crash through open areas between the scrub and trees. Trying to avoid the worst of the holly that is slowing taking over the places where the volunteers have yet to visit.

I took the tripod and the big camera as I wanted to spend some proper time taking photos, rather than just walk and snap; take the opportunity to slow down and let the forest take over my thoughts. I don’t listen to music on these walks, one of the rare places I am not plugged in. So much easier to let the mind wander up, down and sideways when it is disconnected.

I got to Lost Pond after an hour of slow walking and photography. Not wanting to go to the tea huts, even if they were open, I had elected to bring a flask of coffee and a snack. It was so nice in the sun I stopped, pond side and just sat and listened to the birds, and the occasional twat on an over-loud motorbike roaring along the windy and narrow roads. For most of the 15 minutes I sat I was completely alone. It was lovely, and I would have stayed longer but people arrived, and I didn’t want people.

It was the same at Loughton Camp, I arrived and had ten to fifteen minutes of peace and then people arrived. I moved on, walking slowly back through the trees to the car. I love Loughton Camp, the beech trees here are amazing and spacious and the filtered light is just something else.

I took some intentional camera movement photos as I walked. I am trying for the perfect photographic simulation of an impressionist painting, in-camera as they say, without any post-production trickery. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Today was partially successful. 

Like I said I was not particularly happy with my photographic efforts, but as I also said, taking great images was not the point. Walking, as solitary as possible was the point. This was achieved and my morning was all the better for it.

The car park was overfull when I got back, and I could hear lots more people on the main path as I walked the narrow dirt tracks. It was clearly time to leave.

I read the following Monday that people had complained about how many others had driven to the forest to walk so the Epping Forest management people have now closed the car parks. I felt no guilt, but next time I will walk to my local bit of forest, which is not so nice. Best not to be seen as part of the problem.

I hope this was a welcome break from my weekly lock down posts!

Walking home.

14 December 2019 – Epping Forest.

Standing in the kitchen at the flat in St Leonards, I am cooking my new favourite quick comfort food; chorizo and white bean stew, looking at the photos I took almost a month ago in the forest and wondering how and where to start writing. Wondering if I should start writing at all. The photos were not inspired and I am not feeling them or any of the words needed to describe the walk. Perhaps it was too long ago and the joy felt while walking has left me. Perhaps it is dry January. Perhaps I am just bored with it all; the photography, writing and blogging.

I have been trying to find some photographic direction, trying a few different things and been found wanting each time. Maybe I should take a break from photography and writing for a while; maybe I will finish these last few posts and call it quits. The blog lasted longer than I expected and I am not exactly using it for anything more than recording my activities, which have long shifted from the original purpose of the blog; travel. It is not like many would miss me. Enough whining.

Let’s get this done, and see what tomorrow brings.

Soon after my list visit to the forest in November, when El and I walked and took loads of photos of the range of weird and wonderful mushrooms, I bought a second hand Canon 5d Mk2 body to replace the Mk1 I broke in May. I had yet to use the camera for anything more than a couple of test shots so today was its first outing. The main reason for going out was to walk, not take photos, so I didn’t take a tripod. This decision  was partly responsible for the dissatisfaction with the photographic output.

I caught the train to Chingford, and walked home, mostly via a variety of forest paths. It was a glorious day for walking; bright sun, not too cold and not too hot, but a bit of a breeze. Not a good day for photos in a forest. I had a few photographic ideas I wanted to play with, but the conditions and location were not really right for them, possibly contributing to the malaise I feel right now.

I started off on Chingford Plain, walking up to the lodge where I stopped for coffee and cake; carb loading before the walk home.

Warren Pond has some lovely old trees, cleared of undergrowth and saplings, it is a nice open area to start a walk, though the light was incredibly harsh. Too harsh even for some high-key photography which I was hoping to experiment with again, not having played with the technique for quite some time. The trees make up for anything lacking in my ability to take photos of them.

There was smatterings of colour other than green in the trees on the way down to Whitehall Plain. There has been a lot of rain lately and the ground was wet, muddy and occasionally slippery underfoot. I am glad I wore my old trail running shoes with good grip.

Crossing over Whitehall Rd I picked up the River Ching. When I walked through here in summer it was so dry it was non-existent in parts, bone dry. I have never seen it this high in the six or so years I have been walking or riding this strip of forest. Admittedly this has not been a lot lately.

There was even a tiny waterfall and I could hear the water moving, that is unusual!

This section of the walk home passes by the edge of Woodford Golf Club, normally I steer clear and stay under the trees along the side of the river, but today there was no-one on the course. I walked up one of the fairways and took my favourite photo from the walk.

Crossing over Chingford Lane, I entered the section of forest that contains Highams Park Lake. Most of the walk from Chingford is under tree cover, until I get to Forest Rd, which unsurprisingly is not in the forest, it is lined on both sides by houses. The council, or Epping Forest, have put up a load of signs, presumably to make walking to and in the forest less challenging. Not that it is challenging at all; if you don’t mind getting a little misplaced on occasion.

One of my favourite trees is in the part of the forest and today I was fortunate to find a squirrel in it, though the squirrel did not pose for long.

I was really surprised at how few people were out walking round the lake, normally this place is quite busy, maybe everyone is out Christmas shopping? I was not complaining as I walk for the solitude, and the forest is one of very few places I am not playing music through headphones. The lake was looking good under this, almost, clear blue sky.

Crossing over Charter Rd, and then Oak Hill I enter Walthamstow Forest and the last section under the trees before the last mile of road walking home. I like this section of woodland, but have yet to fully explore it. It is not big, but it is on the way to somewhere else, so I only ever pass through. I promised that when it next snows I will come here with the camera and take some photos, before going up to the main forest.

The path crossing over the A406, the dreaded North Circular, though it was flowing nicely today.

Just over the bridge is a narrow strip of trees separating the houses on Beacontree Ave from the motorway, and that is where the tree covered, reasonably quiet and sheltered from the wind walk finishes. The rest is just a downhill schlep along Forest Rd to home. Passing the lovely Peoples Republic of Waltham Forest town hall building.

Fungi

Sunday 03 November 2019 – Epping Forest.

Sunday turned out to be a much better day than Saturday, no stormy weather, no high wind, no rain and very little cloud. It was almost lovely. El and I took the opportunity the weather presented us to take the car up to Chingford and go for an autumnal walk in Epping Forest, hoping to see some colour changing in the trees.

We didn’t really see a lot of tree colour, very early into our walk we took an interest in the fungi that was growing in the damp conditions. This is prime fungi season, though there is a complete picking ban in the forest, which has led to there being a vast amount of fungi, of all different shapes and shades. Wonderful. I took a lot of photos.

We did a fairly short loop, probably only a couple of miles, but it took a good couple of hours to complete, mainly because we walked stooped low, looking at and photographing mushrooms. The variety of colour was quite something.

Though occasional photos of trees were taken.

This log with a massive family of small mushrooms was he highlight for me.

I had brought the new Lumix GX800 camera with me with a fixed 20mm lens. It worked well enough, but looking at the images it was not focusing exactly as I thought on all occasions which was a little disappointing, but overall I was happy with what I captured. This is my favourite photo from the walk.

Once I had uploaded the photos to my laptop and started to edit them in Lightroom I realised how difficult a touch screen is to focus with any precision, especially with stubby fingers. This was the moment I realised that I was not going to be truly happy with this nice little Lumix GX800 camera. It is a nice bit of kit, has great low light and pretty good tone, but it is not as crisp and it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. I went on to eBay and bought myself a second hand Canon 5d Mk2 body to replace the Mk1 I broke. Looking at its Wikipedia entry I see it was announced on my birthday, in 2008. It is hardly a new camera, but it is for me. I am very excited about it. I just need to get a new 50mm lens now 🙂

Back to the forest

07 September 2019 – Epping Forest.

It’s all a bit a green, this forest. Up, down and around, no matter what direction the eyes face, a sea of green. The dark of the dense and wild holly, the light of the highest leaves filtering the sporadically shining sun, the moss on the trees and dense ferneries, the golf course, everything and all. Monochromatic, green.

Late summer is not my favourite time in Epping Forest, it is too close, too narrow, dense, prickly, it can be humid after rain and claustrophobic. It is noisier than I recall, and not good noise either; cars and dogs and too many people, a tannoy from the running club blaring, a jack hammer breaking up something in the distance, planes overhead. I need to visit a few times to learn again to filter these out and the natural sounds, and silences, of the forest dominate. 

It is my first visit to the forest in 11 months, and bloody hell, did I enjoy it.

For most of 2018 I managed to get to the forest at least once a month. It is hardly far from home, I can walk to the fringes in 10 minutes and drive to the middle in 15. There has been no particular reason for not going, obviously St Leonards is taking up most of my spare time, but I am in Walthamstow enough to at least have visited once. The lack of walking has been noticed and really struck home this morning when I pulled my walking trousers on and had to take a few deep breaths to do them up. A baggier t-shirt than normal went on top, cover up the overhang. I am getting fat.

I took the bus to Chingford and walked to The Woodbine Inn to the north; catching a bus, a train and a tube back home. I won’t repeat it. The walk was great, the journey home was expensive, long and a come down from the high of the walk.

I wanted to make this a decent walk so started by walking along the side of the golf course and up to Pole Hill. The path is wide and used heavily by walkers and mountain bikers, the scrub on both sides of the path; one separating the path from the road and the other the golf course, has not been maintained for ages, and it is full of bramble and nettle. Council cuts due to austerity; I bet the golfers hate it, though this is Tory country so austerity is their own fault. I do not sympathise for them.

I tend to not use the formal walking paths, but this is the only option for most of the walk up the ‘hill’; at about 70 meters it is not much, more a large mound than a hill. There is a good view of London city from the top. Though I don’t usually stay, just turn down one of the dirt tracks and head back towards the forest proper.

As I mentioned a post or two ago I bought a new, cheap(ish) mirrorless camera, the Lumix GX800. I had this with me today along with one of the old lenses I had from when I went to Sri Lanka in 2013. The camera is very small and light so I didn’t need the camera bag to carry it. I took the light tripod, though as often happens when I got to the forest I did not use it. One of the very cool features of this new camera is the ability to shoot natively in 16*9 format as well as the traditional 4*3.  16*9 gives a much more landscape look to the image and is great for woodland photography, allowing for more width and less sky. Obviously I could do this crop in Lightroom, but being able to do things ‘in camera’ is much more my style.

Hawkwood, the strip of forest down the side of the golf course is not very wide, and is under some sort of clearance regime at the moment, a lot of undergrowth has been cleared, hopefully this will not mean a mad rush of holly over the autumn and winter. There is quite a line between the cleared and the yet to be cleared.

I really like the walk through Bury Wood and Black Bush Plain, I generally start on one of the mountain bike tracks and then wander off down one of the side tracks, generally heading in a northerly direction, though I don’t really care. I am not going to get lost and this is a lovely, varied bit of forest. Host to a fine stand of hornbeam surrounded by ferns.

This area has been cleared by the Epping Forest Volunteers who have removed the holly and new growth saplings to allow grasses and ferns and more traditional undergrowth to flourish. The ever expanding and ubiquitous (and evil) holly, is a species introduced in the past couple of hundred years. Traditionally self managed by cattle and wildlife, with nothing to curtail it it grows wildly and densely and does not all anything to grow beneath it.

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Heading up through Hill Wood, one of my favourite sections of the forest I followed a lose path up to High Beach.

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I stopped for a coffee and sandwich before carrying on into territory relatively unknown. I have not walked in the section north of High Beach before, I have visited to the north east a few times, but this section was new to me. It was also very busy and I was a little uninspired by it, though I was now following one of the main paths, primarily as I thought I had at least an hour of walking to go. It turned out to only be 45 minutes, which was disappointing, I could have wandered off into the trees and seen a little more, and been a little more alone.

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Crossing Claypit Hill Rd I came across a really nice little downhill mountain bike section with a couple of tasty jumps I would have enjoyed 10 years ago. It was not long, but it looked good. I must get back on to my bike again. The final section I walked through was a flat plain, I think it was Honey Lane Quarters. There were some nice trees and I would like to have taken more photos but the camera had run out of battery! On the fringes of the trees just before the road I spotted three small deer. In truth they spotted me first, and I only saw them as a flash of movement, only realising what they were when they stopped further away. As I turned towards them they ran off and out of sight.

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It was close to my final destination, The Woodbine Inn, so off there I toddled. I have heard good things about the pub, good beer well kept and a welcome place for walkers.

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I did not find it that welcoming, the staff were friendly, but most of the customers seem to be staring at me like I was some sort of alien. I drank my pint, caught the bus to Waltham Cross Station and waited for the outrageously priced train back towards home. A pint in my local was more enjoyable, and I do not feel particularly home there either.

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I loved being out in the forest again, I took a few photos, summer is not my time for photography, but it is a good time to walk.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 6 – June.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 6 – June.

Another crazy month! June passed in a blur of activity and as I sit here writing at the end of July, June just seems so long ago. This year is disappearing too quickly. Some days I find myself mentally looking for the stop button so I can put a temporary halt to life and get some rest, though I can never find the damn thing. As I look forward to August and further beyond I see no respite, I am going to have to plan a weekend of NOTHING. Sticking to it will be the hard part.

A few months ago I started seeing a career coach, Nat. I was looking for advice on how I can transition from my IT job into something different, something I enjoy, can make a basic living from and can carry into those first years of ‘retirement’. I have really enjoyed seeing Nat and over time the sessions have morphed into discussions on a range of things. The last couple have looked at what holds me back from doing things, and tactics to challenge those barriers. One of thing has been a reluctance to do anything with my photography. Another is an inability to take photos when I feel people are watching and perhaps judging me. I miss taking a lot of photos if I feel that I look like some sort of weirdo taking photos of inane or uninteresting objects or scenes. Stupid I know, but this is something that goes on in my head pretty much every time I go out with my camera.

Both of those things are around bravery and confidence. I am not, not have very much of either. I know I did a lot of travelling back when this blog started, that took a massive leap in confidence. Looking back it was still very safe travelling, not that I am disrespecting my travelling and what I achieved with it. It was life changing. Some may say that continuing to write this blog is a challenge to the reluctance to put myself out there. However the blog is pretty anonymous, I would be surprised if many people I know actually know this blog exists. I I do not share the blog widely, rarely is it linked to in FB or Twitter.

I have taken a couple of steps to challenge this lack of confidence. Firstly I talked to Buhler and Co, our local cafe about holding an exhibition there during the e17 Art Trail during June 2019. The art trail is a big event, lots of artists and lots of venues, it has been running for years and is quite popular. Sadly, they already have an artist booked for next year, but they have asked me if I would like to show some photos for two months starting in October. Two months to plan, shoot, frame and hang a number of photos for three walls in a very busy cafe. No challenge then!

Secondly, I decided for the June month of my photo project I would go to the busiest part of Epping Forest, suck up my reluctance, my lack of confidence and my avoidance of any potential embarrassment and take photos of what I wanted, how I wanted and where I wanted.

It was an interesting session, this area of the forest is not the most photogenic in my opinion, and summer is not great for forest photography – it is all too green. 

I was again experimenting with intentional camera movement photography (ICM). Continuing to develop my style within this genre. I was initially proposing using some of these in this exhibition and the cafe were happy with this idea.

I am still pondering using  ICM images, but am tending towards doing a series of close up photos of grass and the plants within them. I have been taking a lot of photos like this lately. This is one of those areas where I feel uncomfortable. Standing in a field with my camera shoved into the grass,  ‘What will people be thinking’ is what goes through my head, not ‘wow this grass is amazing to take photos of’.

I loved this tree and its fungal growth. Sadly none of the photos I took of the fungus were interesting or good enough to share. But I liked the face in the tree and the jaunty cap. I spent a lot of time on this tree, using the tripod, different lenses, and avoiding looking at the people looking at me as they walked past.

It was good to challenge my own fear. I just need to do it every time I pick up a camera!

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 5 – May.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 5 – May.

Reluctant at first I headed down the gentle slope and into trees, uninspired and frustrated at myself for not being able to relax into this morning alone in the forest.

As I descend towards what I suspect will be a small stream the noise from Epping Road slowly recedes, the bird noise becomes prevalent and I start to hear beech nuts and other tree fall crunching under foot. The peace of the surroundings is settling my busy mind and soon enough my footfall is quieter, my march has become a relaxed stroll and my ears and eyes are tuning into the frequency of my environment. I hope to see deer.

Another busy month, another with few opportunities to get to the forest of a weekend. I must try and get up after work some time, battle my way through the late afternoon traffic, or this project will never take place.

For the first time this year I took the mountain bike for a quick ride before El and I went out. I didn’t go far, just to Higham’s Park Lake, though even that was enough for me. The newly arrived adult hay fever has been particularly bad this summer, even with the daily pill I am left sneezing, coughing and streamy of eye on the worst days. It was still great to be out on the bike for the first time in months, though I did suffer for it.

I also found my new favourite tree, so gnarly!

I bought an Epping Forest book the other week, it was mentioned on Twitter and just seemed like the perfect book for me. Written by the naturalist Edward North Buxton in 1884, I found a second edition copy from 1885 on the internet for £17. The book is in fabulous condition and contains the author’s description of the forest and 6 maps, all drawn from his exploration of the forest. Epping Forest have recently released an updated version of their forest map, so it was with great delight I spent some time comparing the two. There were not too many differences, the roads and paths were almost all the same, interestingly Hollow Pond did not exist in Buxton’s book. I looked it up and the pond was only created in 1905 when stone was quarried for the construction of nearby Whipps Cross Hospital.

This morning’s walk was to look at Ambresbury Banks, one of the two ancient earthen forts in the forest; the other being Loughton Fort which I have visited many times in the past. The construction of the earth fort is believed to have commenced around 700BC and the site was occupied until at least 42AD. There is a 6ft tall bank and moat surrounding an area of around 4 hectares.

There is not a lot to see to honest, a bank and some beech trees, some pollarded and some not. It is quite close to Epping Rd and the traffic noise was quite loud, verging on unpleasant. It was not what I needed this morning. I walked the perimeter, where possible I used the top of the wall. Walk in the footsteps of those ancients who created this haven for their families and their livestock. It is more clearly defined than Loughton Fort, but I feel less of it than I do for Loughton, perhaps it was just the nearby road?

Completing the loop of the site I consulted my new map and decided to head towards Theydon. I did not have a huge amount of time this morning, so started walking along one of the mapped pathways, taking the opportunity to experiment further with impressionist photography.

Mapped pathways are not really my thing so spotting a bike trail pointing roughly where I wanted to go I wandered off into the trees. Finding the small stream at the bottom of the valley I could see loads of deer sign in the mud, clearly this place, without a steep bank is where wild life came to drink. I decided to follow what looked to be a well used deer track through the twisted young scrub. No human or cow sized animal could walk though here, it was all very low. I was making so much noise bashing though that I gave up any idea of seeing any wildlife at all.

I followed the stream until it joined with a proper trail and finally I found a scene that was worth spending some time setting up the tripod and getting angles just right. The tripod thing is a whole story in itself, though I am never sure on how to express it, one for another day.

Soon after I found this big old beach, I think it is one that was a coppice (chopped at ground level) which has led to these four separate trunks. I decided to take some time with my camera, walk around the tree, set up some shots and try to make some crisp photos. Then the noisiest man in Epping Forest turned up with a friend and they sat right by the tree I was taking photos of. Talking inanely, he at the loudest possible volume, I quickly lost my happy vibe , took two pictures and stomped off.

Almost back at the car I came across a small open plain area with some lovely tall silver birch on the edge and a wonderful old oak surrounded by fern in the centre. I took a lot of images, though the light was hideous; bright and flat, filtered through low light cloud. I will come back here again when there is some big cloud going on. It is a lovely spot.

These silver birch just screamed out for a bit of panning, so tall and straight.

After a fairly flat and uninspired start to this walk things really did pick up and I was happy with the photos I took, and the time I had outside. My enjoyment increasing the further I moved away from the noise of the traffic; something to add to my mental health toolkit.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 4 – April.

April 2018 – Epping Forest.

April was busy, so I did not get a lot of time to get to the forest. With the New Zealand and Australia trip taking up the second half of the month I only had two weekends free for a wander with the camera. I took a drive up to High Beech Church the first weekend of the month, feeling I had an obligation to myself to do it.

I have not been feeling particularly inspired lately, I am bored with my photography and am going through another low period where I feel every image I take is rubbish, my camera is rubbish, and I cannot believe I am still bothering to take photos. I feel like I should stick to walking the forest and enjoying the images of others more worthy than me.

One of the reasons for deciding to do a yearlong project was to keep myself motivated to take pictures. Going to the forest is something I am generally keen to do and we all know that being in nature is good for mental health so sticking to this project has many benefits.

This walk was over a month ago. I vaguely recall only having a short amount of time, so chose to go a place that was familiar; a gentle slope down into a valley, both sides hosting small glades of young silver birches amongst older beech and scrubby holly and hornbeams. Knowing I should be able to find at least one image there, one for the end of year calendar (I hope).

Though I enjoyed being out, I wasn’t in the right head space, I took a few pictures, mainly because I felt I had to. Perhaps coming back to a place I knew well was a bad idea. The idea of the project was to explore more broadly, yet I am stuck in the familiar. I also hate my camera now, and have started blaming it for my lack of creativity. I hate that it is heavy, that it is old, I see it as an impediment to something. Though I know this is complete rubbish and any block is me. It is not impeding anything; there is nothing to impede.

Spring had only just started, last time I was here the forest was covered in snow, though I was surprised at how little green there was. Autumnal colours were still prevalent, as were a couple of downed trees.

Though this one was not going anywhere at all. I wonder how old it is?

Void of anything that interested me photographically I continued with my experimentation with intentional camera movement (ICM) , or impressionist photography, as I call it. This grove of young silver birch proved a good range of colours to experiment with some vertical panning.

I know this technique has been done to death, and I have used it myself, but I do like the range of options it can provide for image making. The following three images were all taken of a different grove of silver birch, without moving the tripod.

I have also been experimenting with another style of ICM, for a more painterly type of image. I am trying to come up with something that approaches the pointillist style, mixed with classic impressionism.

Mildly disappointed with what I had achieved in the short time I was out, I headed back towards the lovely High Beech Church, my parked car and ultimately, home.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 3-March

March 2018.

I am so glad I managed to get out earlier in the month to take some photos as that was it for forest trips this month. I have to thank the snowy weather that got me there. I am making this once a month photo-blogging project of the ever changing Epping Forest far harder than it should be.

Here are a small number of favourite photos of the winter wonderland that was a snow covered forest, not in any particular order. As always they have all been posted previously.

I am trying to be more experimental in photography again so here is March’s Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) image, or impressionist photography as we used to call it.