One of the surprising bonuses of growing your own vegetables that I hadn’t expected when we started years ago, was Mother Nature creeping up and gently stroking the back of my neck until I smiled, softened and basked in the calmness that the sensation evoked.
Although born and bred in the countryside, as soon as I was able I left home, moved into a city life closer to work and friends, spent my daylight hours inside office buildings and watched the fields flash by on the two-hour daily train commute every morning and evening.
On dry days I would head outside to a park bench and sit quietly eating lunch under the trees with a book or my thoughts for company and on Friday nights, rush home to pack the tent and sleeping bag onto the back of the motorbike ready for a couple of nights under canvas.
I can’t say I fully appreciated all that Mother Nature offered back then. When the heavens opened I’d look up and shake my fist at her as the rain spilt down and soaked my jeans through to my skin and I’d have to constantly brush the droplets away from my visor so I could see the road. I’d curse at her when my hands were too darned cold to operate the clutch effectively or when I was sweating it out in leathers whilst the sun beat down so powerfully it felt like I was riding into a hot hair-dryer, but I daren’t risk baring hands or arms in case tarmac came closer to me than I wanted.
And then Mr G and I moved to our quiet spot in the south-east of Ireland and we began to grow our own vegetables. As I started to grow carrots and kale nature crept up on me.
First of all I noticed the wind; the direction the breeze predominantly came in from and how hard it blew, which helped me to realise that my little plants would need some shelter if they were to survive.
I watched the sun rise in the morning and noticed how the shadows passed through the garden throughout the day, shading some areas yet leaving others in full sunlight. I became aware of how little or how much it rained, when the frosts arrived and when they were gone.
I noticed the many varieties of weeds that grew in my garden, the colours, how they spread themselves, their seed pods exploding, scattering themselves all around or gently fluttering on the wind as our children blew their delicate seeds into the wind. I noticed the insects and learnt to distinguish the ones I wanted in my garden from those I didn’t and rejoiced in the sound of bird song rather than pumping beats from the stereo. I began to feel much closer to nature and not distant from her as I felt her healing powers weave their magic around me.
I guess it was a natural progression that I’d want to photograph everything that surrounded me, to capture the wonder and emotion that the world of flora and fauna evoked. But I didn’t know how! Yes, I can point and shoot a camera and get some lucky Instagram shots but I wanted to learn more.
It was with delight therefore, that I was able to help Suzanna Crampton of Zwartbles organise her first photography workshop during the last weekend in April and in doing so, secure myself a place.
Ten of us arrived at Suzanna’s enchanting farm for a full day of tuition, not quite sure what to expect other than we were to learn “composition”. She did not disappoint us. Suzanna is a natural teacher who shared her knowledge and guided us. We didn’t sit with textbooks or gaze at screens, we spent almost the entire day outside taking lots and lots of photos – she helped us see what worked and what didn’t. We took stills and action shots, looked at straight lines and arches, flowers and trees and spent the entire Sunday indulging ourselves in something we all enjoyed – photography!
All of the photographs taken in this post were shot during that one day (and a couple hundred more are sitting on my hard drive . I’m really hoping they’re the ones Suzanna liked! They’re not perfect, I’m still a beginner but I have come away from the workshop looking at photography in quite a different way and am in awe of the professionals who get it right.
I’ll keep practising (which according to Foxglove Lane is THE key) and hope that Suzanna doesn’t look too closely at my mistakes. If she does, I know that she’ll politely point out where I’ve gone wrong and make suggestions on how to do it right next time without making me feel uncomfortable or disappointed with my efforts.
If you weren’t able to attend this photography workshop, hopefully Suzanna will run another in the coming months – the feedback from this course from participants has been fantastic.
Leave a comment below if you’d like to be informed of any more workshops or contact Suzanna directly (see www.zwartblesireland.com for contact details) or just leave a comment anyway if you like 🙂
And if a workshop isn’t for you, next time the sun is shining and you find yourself with a free half hour or more, why not head outside and see if Mother Nature begins to tickle the back of your neck too… who knows where it may lead you.