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.