I fell into photography by accident. I didn’t really ever mean for it to get serious. At first it was a tool one winter to keep me enjoying the moorland when it was too cold for me to do my landscape drawings outside. I’d spent many months on the moors, working for hours on oil pastel landscape pieces, refusing to create them inside. I loved the atmosphere that came through when they were generated in the place itself, but when it got to the winter I hit a stumbling block. My hands just wouldn’t work for long enough in that cold! So I bought my first little point and shoot digital camera. Very basic, but really great for keeping up my momentum to be out in the elements in all weathers.
The first time I took my little camera up on the moors, I came across a group of three wild ponies walked up to where they were, standing right in front of them. I fully expected them to move but they didn’t, they stood neatly in a row and let me take my time as I played around with the camera. It was an amazing experience, one that I look back on as formative – not just for photography in future, but also as the beginnings of my passion connecting much more deeply with animals. That passion has lead me to becoming an Animal Communicator. The more work I do connecting with animals, the more that fuels my passion for photography and vice versa. It’s something I never could have predicted happening but it’s the source of massive joy. It’s that joy that I dearly wish I could share with others. I work often with domesticated animals which is wonderful, but there is something magical about spending time in wild nature and learning how to get closer to wild animals too. The lessons for me are incredible and teach me a huge amount about patience and releasing all expectations of what may happen. I often go out with the bit between my teeth, itching to be on the land and with my camera, but I never, ever know what’s going to happen. I’ve rarely returned without something wonderful occurring, whether or not the photographs have turned out. I’m learning so much about not worrying if things don’t happen. In a culture where we are often so focussed on getting ‘results’ that are tangible and physical, I’m all for easing that pressure and enjoying experiences – whatever they bring. Sometimes all I have is a story. I can’t record everything, I don’t always have the camera ready and even if I do, some things are sacred and never can be ‘captured’.
It’s a funny expression to ‘capture’ or to ‘take’ photographs. I don’t’ really feel like I take anything at all. One of the great things that I continue to learn as an Animal Communicator is that moving towards an animal with an agenda, or too many questions, or just with too much intention, can be really counter-productive. Animals definitely know what we’re up to and if I walk towards a band of horses with an attitude to take something from them or get what I want, I’m sure they’d just play me for a while. They may even get really cross and shoo me off aggressively, disliking my energy coming towards them. Or they may run off before I get anywhere near them! I’ve definitely had it happen and it’s made me think a lot about my intentions when I’m hoping that I’ll come home with some lovely photographs. The thoughts I’ve come to have been to switch my approach so I never feel that I’m taking, rather that I’m receiving. That’s been the turnaround for me in all my work and it’s such a link between them all.
My relationship with domestic and wild animals has altered significantly – there’s been a lot of magic unfolding, more than I’ve actively noticed before anyway. I relish spending time out in nature and with all the creatures that turn up along the way. There have been many occasions where I’ve gone out hoping for something to happen and only when I give up on the idea of that and start my drive home, something really wonderful happens! Suddenly a herd of horses appear or I catch sight of some incredible flowers, or the grasses against the horizon line look particularly beautiful. I feel that when we are more deeply connecting and connected with nature, the world can look very different. As we work more and more with that connection, something develops – nature and animals love us to notice them – they love to be appreciated and greeted, to be respected and cherished. For me, that’s when photography comes alive, because it is about coming from the heart. It becomes filled with spontaneity and that is the essence of the natural world. It’s not a way of escaping from the world as some may think – but a way of more deeply engaging with all that is around us. Sometimes that’s beautiful, sometimes it’s brutal. Nature is, of course – all things. One of my dearest wishes would be to share how it feels to connect more with nature and our animals and how transformational that can be.
I’ve had a deep love of nature since I was very young but it’s been in the last few years that it has taken on another level. There is no doubt in my mind that the way I’ve learnt (and continue to learn) to listen to animals has changed me on every level. It’s this way of listening and slowing myself down when I’m engaging with the natural world that allows things to happen. All the meditation I did over the years didn’t quite get me to this place in myself. When I’m out in nature I feel absolutely free, I’m not trying to still my mind or quieten my senses, it tends to happen all on its own. This is what nature and the animals teach me. How to be still and how to be utterly in the moment. When a wild foal approaches me, there is nothing I can do other than to be completely in that interaction. When I see a flower that I can’t pass without photographing, that brings me into another kind of present moment. I’m totally engaged with that plant, with observing it’s beauty in new ways, seeing details and personality that I may not have noticed if I hadn’t stopped for a while. It’s amazing what can happen when we’re looking at the world with fresh eyes and senses.
Today I was on the moor with my camera. I came across a set of wild ponies I met a few weeks ago. There seemed to be two new foals amongst them which was beautiful to witness and one couldn’t have been more than a few days old. Keeping my energies very gentle, I approached the herd slowly, greeting them and acknowledging their new arrivals. Quite exquisite! They were so generous with me and let me in closer and closer, at first letting me in at a distance with the babies. Then within a short while, one of the young foals edged closer and closer, started sniffing my hand, then my shoulder and eventually he touched his head on my forehead, resting it there for a while. He even nuzzled in as if grooming. My heart filled with delight – a fullness that is hard to describe. These are wild ponies – it’s their rules, not mine so it’s always humbling if they let me near. It was a moment I wished someone else could have photographed, because I’d love to have shared that image or seen it for myself! I was so caught up in what was happening I have no idea how long I was there with him or that herd. Somehow time seemed to stand still. It could have been ancient or modern times, it’s that same connection that as inhabitants of planet Earth we have shared for aeons.
Maybe many of us seem far away from that now, but deep down I think we do feel that connection still, even if it’s buried away. Watching how many people get their phones out to snap away at the ponies or the Dartmoor landscape, it’s plain to see that our connection is not lost but merely dormant. Most of us delight in seeing wild horses run across the land, or lambs on the hills, our hearts flutter when we see puppies or kittens, we can’t help but admire the birds if we’re out walking. Most of us will feel upset if we see landscapes destroyed or creatures injured. When we deepen our bonds with all kinds of animals it is much more difficult to accept the horrors that they often endure because they are at our mercy. My dearest wish is that we choose to awaken our senses again and remember the beauty of connecting with many, many more species. It could be the key to drastic changes on our planet, changes that we so desperately need to make. Not just for ourselves, but for the welfare of our animals, the preservation of the natural world and the future of generations to come. I will say this time and time again through these blog pieces because every moment I spend in nature and with animals convinces me of how vital it is. And quite simply, because I hope in some way to share the joy and help to be part of the legacy for our amazing planet.
With gratitude and love,