The first month of the year,
A perfect time to start all over again,
Changing energies and deserting old moods,
New beginnings, new attitudes."
― Charmaine J. Forde
January is where I will begin. It only feels right to start at the dawn of nature’s calendar, when the sleeping world opens her weary eyes & grants the early Spring permission to proclaim her duty. The days are beginning to unfurl & rouse from their wintery slumber. Tiny buds can be seen peeking dubiously through the earth, still hesitant & suspicious of the chill; and yet despite the seasons uncertainty there is the promise of Snow Drops in flower, the fair maids of February with their dainty white hats and delicate poise.
According to one legend, the snowdrop dates back to the Garden of Eden. After God banished Adam and Eve, Eve grew tired of the endless winters. An angel came to her and created snowdrops from the snowflakes. She proved to Eve that winter doesn’t last forever. They came to symbolise hope as the first flowers to appear after the snows of winter. Photographing nature at this time of year can feel daunting, the lack of colour & life looms all about & the weather deters us from venturing far but there really is so much to see. I try to encourage the girls to go for walks in the early morning, when there is a blanket of crisp frost & the day is still half asleep.
Before we leave for a walk at this time of year we pack a small bag that includes:
• A warm blanket
My bag is a little less interesting and I normally only take one camera lens as I know I'll soon be carrying the girls baskets and various belongings as they run off to explore. The field next to our house is quiet of people and we walk our usual path to the bare hedgerows and trees. Our boots crunching the frost is the only sound. We soon find signs of life, the sound of a Song Thrush can be heard from somewhere high above and we spot scattered wild Primrose in the coppice. The Primrose's common name comes from the Latin 'prima rosa', meaning 'first rose' and describing its early spring flowering. Folklore tells us that hanging a posy of Primrose flowers outside your home is an invitation for the fairies to visit. Although this little flower is now protected here in the UK due to their decline, so it is lovely to see them growing nearby.
I try to photograph a journey as we wander, a selection of images that create a story. I take my camera out, the air is bitter and I clench my hands to get the blood flowing. My nose is red and running from the cold. There are days I don't feel like venturing out at all in the Winter months (much more frequently of late, due to the restrictions) but I do think it important to spend time outdoors in all weather, even if the time is limited due to the cold. We continue our walk & head downhill.
I immediately spot the old Hazel, a notably colourful tree considering the time of year. Bright yellow catkins hang glowing like taper candles in the low sun.
The morning is peaceful making it much easier to choose camera settings & take in the surroundings. When choosing settings I always consider the light. This time of year is lovely in the morning. The clouds seem to act as defuser but there is still a warm glow in the air. I tend to keep my ISO around 160 ( unless the sun is hideously bright) I like my images (particularly portraits) to be soft & dreamy so I tend to have my aperture set wide, I rarely shoot anything over 2.8 and I'll play around with the shutter until I find the correct exposure.
I encourage the girls to collect anything of interest they find such as leaves and dried foliage as we have started a monthly nature journal with all our findings. I find they engage much better through practical activities & it keeps them busy on our walks.
I watch the girls playing together in their woolly hats and coats all snug and I am reminded of my own childhood in nature. Days spent outdoors, climbing in the trees, building dens with my brother & sister and I never once remember wearing a coat. We were far too care free for that sort of thing.
I miss those days.