National Parks UK

I came across this wonderful website today, one that immediately made me long for the great outdoors (even if we explore it on a screen). It also reminded me of the wealth of beautiful landscapes we are blessed with in the UK.

The website is stunning from the moment it loads, the above screenshot of a moving image can’t do it justice. There are 14 National Parks in the UK, and this site makes exploring them easier than ever.

Having made a few clicks, this is a terrific site. Lots of great photography and comprehensive information. No time to describe it all to you, just go and explore it for yourself. Click here.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and imagine you’re sitting on the bench looking out into the distance. Think about the reasons you have to be cheerful in the harsh realities of today’s world. We can’t make them go away, but we can focus on reasons to be cheerful.

First, there’s the beauty we can see all around us. Nature has remarkable restorative powers; I’ve previously posted about it here.

Second, simply the act of feeling happy and smiling more can have positive effects on our physical health and lift the mood of people around us. People groan at the jokes I post on Facebook, but laughter is a good medicine.

Third, we can learn to be happy. We have more control over how we feel than we might think, and feeling a sense of control over our lives is an important ingredient of happiness. One builds up the other.

Fourth, the happier we are the more we’re able to encourage and help others, and there’s such a need for this now. People are hurting and need encouraging. Doing someone else a favour activates the ‘feel-good’ area of our brains, we help each other. It’s a no-brainer, a win-win situation.

Finally, we need to look for the positives; not the insipid reassuring lies that are so often peddled today, but realistic affirming hopes. We need to train our brains to notice the good things around us and be grateful for them. There will always be negatives, but we need the tools in our emotional toolkit to deal with them constructively.

Photo Credit: I’m grateful to my colleague and friend Shelagh Clift for allowing me to use her photo.

Sound of Silence (Disturbed)

Video Description: I found the images of the emptiness captured in cities all over the world to be heartbreaking and eerie. We are living in a surreal situation. I decided to edit this video using footage from several famous cities; New York, Chicago, San Francisco (briefly), Budapest and Paris.

With the images of the Chinese quarter in Chicago at the start of the video I tried to make a reference to the virus’ origin, and to the Chinese cities that were placed in lockdown. I don’t mean to point fingers with it. Hope you enjoy the video.

The soundtrack is ‘The Sound of Silence‘ by Disturbed (Simon and Garfunkel cover).

Tiago Teixeira

Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park

IMG_20200801_151348

Now that we’re settling into our new home in Norton, Stockton-on-Tees, we’re finding more opportunities to explore the area nearby. Today, Naomi and I took the girls (Freddy was with Grandma and Grandad) and Toby (our dog) to Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park. It’s only a few miles away and I imagine we’ll often be found there, so Freddy needn’t worry about missing out, and he’ll enjoy the trains that pass the park. You can see all the original photos here.

Natural Health Service

IMG_20200505_155737

Today’s family afternoon excursion into beautiful nature wasn’t just daily exercise, but emergency treatment from the Natural Health Service.

We’re all in the same situation in the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, but everyone has their own personal challenges to face. For us, it’s having three young children, me trying to work from home, and preparing for my imminent retirement in July and moving house.

We’ve had a few bad days, and were both physically, mentally and emotionally drained. So, not only did the therapy walk do us the world of good, spending quality time with Naomi and our children really helped, but also observing and photographing nature.

Note: All the photos were taken with my smartphone, I just got in close, or low, or used unusual angles. See all the original here. Why not have a go for yourself?

Four by Four and Four by Sixteen

IMG_20200427_164436

Photography (a smartphone is all you need by the way) and writing, whether personal or for work, are two of the things that are currently helping me maintain my mental health and sanity in the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

Partly by accident, but also by design, I’ve developed a way of posting them on social media and here. I take four square photos and then stitch them together with an Instagram app to make a four by four photo which I share then to Instagram (and automatically to Facebook and Twitter). I repeat this three more times, and then stitch the four stitched photos together into a four by sixteen photo. The above stitched photo is today’s offering from my afternoon walk in Richardson Dees Park in Wallsend.

I then add all the individual photos to a Google Photos album, and you can see the ones from today here. I’m particularly pleased how the dandelion shot turned out, I spotted it in a ray of sunshine that didn’t extend to the background, making it stand out dramatically.

I also took four photos of some fungi on a tree stump that I’ve stitched into a standalone four by four one. Again, you can see all the individual ones here.

IMG_20200427_164208

Oh, and even though I concentrated on nature, I was with my family. Here’s the one shot I did take of them (Naomi was taking photos of the children), and I immediately loved it.

20200427_160023

 

Morning walk in the early light

IMG_20200426_063640

I don’t know about you, but (like many people in this coronavirus pandemic lockdown) my sleep pattern is all over the place. Last night I couldn’t get to sleep until the early hours and then I woke up early, and that was without the usual alarm clock of my bladder (it’s an age thing). When this happens, I sometimes feel like lying in bed, but at other times I just get up. This morning it was the latter, and I also decided to go for a walk.

The above are some of the photos I took with my smartphone. You can see all the individual photos here, and another set (not shown) here.

Companion piece: Therapeutic Nature

See also: 10 Tips for Top Sleep and Digital Wellbeing (Sue Thomas)

Note: all photos unedited except one to adjust the composition slightly.

Therapeutic Nature

IMG_20200421_203251_085

I’ve had a couple of bad days in lockdown, but after getting our children into bed I was able to enjoy nature just a couple of hundred yards from our house while I walked the dog – and it did me the world of good.

Looking closely at nature and capturing its essence in the evening light, all on my smartphone. That’s all you need, although a steady hand also helps. The above photo is a composite of the photos I took, you can see them all here. As they say, nature is cheaper than therapy. Next time you’re out for a walk (with or without a smartphone) look closely.

Companion piece: Morning walk in the early light

Note: all photos unedited except one to reduce brightness slightly.