April always seems such an ‘in-between’ month, suspended between winter and Spring, havering, unsure whether to let go of winter and commit to Spring! And this year it has seemed just as indecisive as ever!
The month began with some dramatic displays of winter weather. Whiteout conditions, blizzards and sub-zero nights were common – too common!
It looked as though another Spring would be blighted, as the early Japanese plum blossom struggles with the snow. Last year much of the garden suffered with blackened buds.
The plants that had overwintered indoors thrived, sheltered from the cold – and our Xmas Cactus gave us a lovely colourful display – at Easter!
And as April drew to a close the Victoria plum was full of blossom. We kept our fingers crossed that no sudden blast of frost would kill the blossom before the fruit buds were established. Maybe a good crop this year?
With the weather still cold, and the arctic winds strong, I spent most time indoors.
Here I was shooting macro, and having fun with what the macro lens can show. This is a small 1 inch slice of a computer motherboard!
I love to shoot glass, all sizes and shapes – it is always a delight and a surprise too. Here a burst of evening sun caught two crystal glass balls ….
…. and here shooting a glass cube on a glass side table, against the reeded glass of the front door. Shooting on glass or through glass there are always interesting effects to find!
And finally the collage of all my uploads to Flickr this month. My uploads reflect only a small selection of what I have been shooting, out and about as well as indoors in my little studios.
As January begins we are in a worse place with COVID than we ever expected to be! The virus is mutating, and the more it spreads, the more opportunities it has to create variants that will make it more successful. We have vaccines already rolling out, but mass vaccination is a daunting and long process – and all the while there is the threat of a mutation that the vaccines cannot combat. Our current mutation (B 1.1.7 – the Kent variant) is thwarting all attempts to contain it. It is filling the hospitals to overflowing, and with a younger age profile than we have seen.
Those aged 60+ are highly vulnerable now, not just the 80+. So we start the year with an almost total lock-down across mainland Scotland, reinforced with travel bans entering or leaving the country. Needless to say the general background stress level is high, even though we, personally, are as well protected as possible. The change in the age profile has lifted us both into an earlier group of the vaccine. Hopefully February will see us getting the first dose.
So, while keeping track of the local and national progress of the pandemic, I am trying to keep a clear eye and close focus on the beauty that lies all around me, and close at hand! We’ve had some wonderful red dawns … and I grab a camera and capture the view as the sun rises over the far hillside! The weather has been cold since the start of the year, with overnight deep freezes that mean icy roads and some freezing fog too.
Before the lock-down we drove to Inverurie to fill up the car at our nearest ‘pay-at-the-pump’ filling station. The ice and fog made for a beautiful sight but a treacherous drive! And January 7th and 8th saw our first real snow event of the winter!
It started overnight, and the street light allowed me to watch the snow swirling as it fell silently. I wondered if it would all be gone by the morning …..
…. but the delight of sunshine and crisp dry snow made a white wonderland of our world! As the month progressed we see-sawed between deep freeze and torrential rain. The ground was either a muddy mess or a frozen muddy mess! So I decided that it made good sense to look for some inspiration in the garden, and began shooting some things I usually overlook. One of these is our crab apple tree. The blossom is gorgeous in Springtime, but the fruit is usually ignored, both by the birds and by me too! I brought indoors a few of the last apples hanging tenaciously to the tree …..
And we finally DID make a few trips to Tesco in Inverurie! We needed to fill both cars with petrol, and it is the only ‘pay-at-the-pump’ place we know. And along with the petrol I also raided the store for fresh cut flowers. They lift my spirits so much with their beauty, and also inspire me to reach for my camera and my paintbrushes.
Then, just before the month ended, we drove to Fyvie Castle. It is under 5 miles if we drive the narrow road over the hill – but with snow and icy roads we took the longer route using the main road. There is still lockdown, and the request is not to leave home, but there comes a point where the need for exercise and fresh air is paramount. Regular exercise keeps the muscles in shape, and that is essential. And our village only offers one pavement to walk along – and walking on concrete is not good if you have a bad back or hip! So we took cameras, and went to see if the grounds remained open during this lockdown! They were indeed open, but the parking area was closed as it was too icy to approach. We managed to walk across the lawns, all icy and crunching underfoot. I took an infrared camera, wanting to see how winter looked through the IR lens.
We couldn’t do much, as the grounds were so icy and slippery. Even the loch was frozen! But the visit was a real tonic – and along with the flowers it marked a high point of January.
And so to the collage of all the shots – indoors and outdoors – that I posted to Flickr this month. In 2020 I used these monthly collages as the page header. As a change I think I might use them as a ‘footer’ instead of a ‘header’ from time to time!
2021 and we are in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 began with hope and a sense of a fresh start to not only a new year, but a new decade. Hopes were quickly dashed as the virus spread across the globe, and we all struggled to handle the new reality. It changed the shape of our lives! 2021 begins with a new and more transmissible variant of the virus threatening to overwhelm our medical services, with another lock-down across Scotland, indeed across the whole of the UK, and a small glimmer of hope as the first vaccines are rolled out. So the question I ask myself is … what will the shape of 2021 look like? At the moment, as the year begins, I see it defined by the monthly blocks of vaccine jabs … we are being divided up by age and vulnerablity, and will be allocated a vaccine slot accordingly. So the months will be blocked out for me as I wait my turn.
So I am starting the new year as I always do, with the one resolution, to see clearly! To see with camera lens – and hopefully with the paint brush too this year. There is something magical and paradoxical about the camera lens … when I look through it I can somehow see more than I can when looking around with just my eyes. I guess there is something about the narrowing effect of the frame together with the extra concentration demanded to frame and focus the shot. But the world can surprise me through the camera lens. And increasingly I find I can ‘see’ the reverse process … I look around and can see the potential photograph or painting that is there. I guess that the two sides of the coin are gradually coming together! My ‘canvas’ has been radically and progressively restricted through 2020 – as the pandemic has developed my freedom of movement has been curtailed. Add to that the way that the pandemic has also taken so much of my small energy store away from anything creative, and focussed it on the increasing challenges of simply getting through the day/week/month. And so the 2021 journey of discovery begins:
January – and the pandemic worsens, forcing another lock-down. And I try to keep focussed and creative. February – the roll-out of the vaccine, and the worst snowstorms in years. March – and has Spring finally arrived? And my painting picks up momentum. April – Still no Spring, but we do get our second vaccine shot! May – and finally Spring? And lockdowns are gradually eased once more. June – and who has heard of the ‘Delta’ threat? July – and the world shrinks as we tackle health issues August – and summer is overshadowed by a 400% rise in Covid-Delta cases September – and it’s all about shortages! October – where Covid-19 meets Beowulf! November – winter creeps closer and we meet Storm Arwen December – recovering from Storm Arwen, and meeting Omicron.