I think I took to lockdown quite well. I’m an introvert, and I can work from home, so initially it was like being given permission to live the hermit lifestyle I’d always wanted to! But I’m also very restless and I like to keep busy, so I knew I’d have to find some projects to amuse myself. Nature and the outdoors are a huge part of my life, and part of the medicine I need for my own wellbeing, so I would also need to make sure I keep up a regular dosage.
I started off by using the extra time on my hands for a bit of quality Lightroom time; processing photos. A couple of weeks before lockdown, I was photographing some parrots for a long-running portrait project of mine. They were a fun subject to have waiting for me in the backlog, and different to a lot of the species I’d normally photograph. It had been a tricky shoot, but they were really enjoyable to process, and that passed the first couple of weeks of spare time, doing something I enjoy.
After nature & photography my other main interest is sport, and although I’ve been running fairly regularly for the last few years, at the start of 2020 I signed up for my first ever half marathon. I had been looking forward to that personal challenge, but in the first few weeks of lockdown it started to become apparent that the event, due in May, would not be happening. That was a blow, and my running initially waned, but I’m well aware that I was in it more for the motivation to stay active than for the event itself. So although I’m no longer increasing my running distances, I’m still running a couple of times a week, and I’m so glad of that. It gets me out and about in the local area, to places that would be too far to walk. I’ve also been out on my bike a bit too, when my knees need a rest from running, and I discovered one nearby woodland that will look fantastic in the right conditions - and it’s only a few minutes bike ride away. So I’ll definitely be back there with my camera over the summer and autumn.
Along with the rest of the country, a big take-away from this lockdown period has been the experience of noticing spring. Whether I’m out running, cycling, or walking, I’ve taken the opportunity to observe the process of spring unfurling with fresh leaves, from the budding trees. My regular running routes gave me the opportunity to keep track of several ‘favourite’ trees along the way, and to monitor their activity as the season progressed. I usually associate May with the indigo of flowering bluebells, which have often monopolised my photography time in springs gone by, but this year I’m sure May has never looked so green. When the leaves came out, I was excited to be outside every day. They seemed so fresh, and so comforting. In particular, there was one week in early May where all the oak trees in the area were just about as green and fresh and spectacular as I've ever seen them. The previous spring I’d taken a couple of photos of leaves, but then put that idea down, when something bigger or more shiny took my attention. So this year it seemed like the perfect time to revisit that project and start photographing more leaves. In the end it got quite addictive. They all look so beautiful to me, even though I’m only able to identify a few of the species. I don’t know where this project will go, but as a man with a love for trees I’m just enjoying the process at the moment, without a specific end point in mind.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. I’m prone to anxiety at the best of times, so the fear of an invisible danger, and encouragement to increase hand-washing have exacerbated that. Add some stressful fights for supermarket delivery slots and asthma inhalers, and it’s enough to test most people. But I know others have had it worse. Rumbling along in the background the whole time, I’ve been feeling pessimistic about the two big trips I had booked for this year; one to Iceland and one to Colorado. Feeling them slip out of my grasp has been frustrating and difficult.
But - and it’s such a cliche I’m embarrassed to write it - ...I have seen that there’s more to amuse me in my local area than I ever realised. I’ve always enjoyed my trips away to experience other cultures and ecosystems, and I’m sure I always will. But this has been a timely reminder that there’s plenty on my own doorstep to keep me amused for a long time yet. Just photographing leaves has been challenging and rewarding, not to mention the time I’ve spent in woodland or running past green fields and trees. Like everyone, I’m looking forward to the end of this, but I’m also taking every opportunity to enjoy the extra time and contemplation it’s afforded me.
George Wheelhouse is a fine art nature and landscape photographer.