Last weekend I did something completely new. I went on a 'photo walk' with a group of people I've never met before. These photos came very close to never existing. It was a rather grey drizzly day and on opening the blinds that morning, the all too familiar voice that resides in the top right corner of my brain preceded to spill the usual schpeel in hope of keeping me house bound. "You don't have a water proof, you don't have wellies, what if your camera breaks in the rain, what if no one turns up, why don't you have a day off, the weather is much more suitable in the lounge", etc. etc.
It was a mad dash to arrive on time as I spent most of the morning deliberating, thus resulting in porridge being eaten on the way. A morning ritual which seems to be becoming a regular occurrence since starting a new part-time job. Not a habit that I'm most proud of or one that I'd recommend. Some mornings it has also been accompanied by the smoothie. Another futile time saving technique for it generally ends up being hastily gulped down once parked up. Cue teeth speckled with blueberry skin for the most part of the morning.
The walk was organised by James Benwell aka @jimpanda on Instagram. James takes beautiful photos of our local wildlife and organises photo walks in the West Midlands. I discovered James via a recommendation from a friend, Sarah Higginson. Sarah has become a recent inspiration of mine, after commenting on her stunning photographs of birds she pointed me in Jame's direction and I booked on to one of his events.
A big thank you to James for organising the walk. The bluebells were certainly worth venturing out for.
We walked around the Lickey Hills, a country park near Bromsgrove. Living in Birmingham, I forget how much beautiful countryside we have on our doorstep. It took around twenty minutes to drive there from Harborne. Which is pretty swift, considering it can take half an hour to drive down Harborne highstreet in traffic.
I'm not sure of the exact route we took to reach the bluebells. I was mostly concentrating on staying vertical in the mud and getting to know the others in the group. After going on a fair few photo walks on my tod it was great to go on one with some company. Everyone was really friendly and a some even came just for the walk.
James was really helpful and I was eager to pick his brains. For one, my macro lens was stuck on the wrong setting and I couldn't even get it to work at the start. I was also itching to know how it took for the birds in his photographs to eat seed from his hand.
We have a slightly tame squirrel named Stanley (of course) who visits us daily in the garden, the pigeons however are not quite so brave, they startle and scatter as soon as you move an inch. I couldn't imagine sitting still for long enough for them to brave coming anywhere near, let alone any of the smaller birds. I'm imagining a quite sizeable timeframe, perhaps somewhere near long enough that I'd begin morphing into a Radagast The Brown-esque piece of garden furniture. But with more moss and bird poo.
The burning question was what kind of telephoto lens would be best to start taking wildlife photos. So far I have a macro and a prime lens but that's all. Plus the kit lens that came with the camera but I struggle to take crisp shots of birds (or much else for that matter) with it. James recommended some lens' but along with most of the group's names I can't remember what they were! Hopefully in a future post I will be able to let you know which one I opted for.
The image below is my favourite from the day. I'd love to be able to take this style photo of subjects at a distance. Or even just slightly further away would be great! To take this shot I was crouched down, one knee in mud, leaning backwards with a soggy branch positioned behind me to balance one arm on. Whilst also avoiding trampling on any stray bluebells. The image feels quite serene in comparison.
The bluebells really were stunning, I've never seen so many growing together on mass before. Parts of the walk were quite breath taking, they are growing within a hilly nature reserve so at some points you could see the whole hillside above or below covered in flowers. If you're local to the area I would heartily recommend a visit, there is a path around the reserve which you can walk along to keep all the bluebells safe and untrodden upon. An un-squished bluebell is a happy one.
Half way round the reserve mossy logs started appearing. I loved taking photos of these. I think perhaps because they take me to places envisioned in my childhood from fairy tales. The circular walk is so long that by this point I had lost the rest of the group. It felt quite magical to be alone in the woods. If it weren't for the sound of the motorway you could think you'd entered The Secret Garden or Narnia.
I hope you enjoyed seeing the bluebells. If you've not seen any this spring in real life yet then I thoroughly recommend an outing in the fresh air (followed by a trip to the pub) to see to our delicate native flower in bloom.
If you would like to join James on one of his photo walks, he lists all of his events here:
P.S. I just learned a some interesting things about bluebells here:
- Tags: creative journey