Humans have spent many thousands of years adapting to natural environments, yet have only inhabited urban ones for relatively few generations,Whilst those individuals living in an urban envoriment who seek out parks and gardens appear to understand the personal health and well-being benefits arising from a ‘Contact With Nature’,tapping into this vital resource that nature provides.As more people survive to older age, and as patterns of living,working,feeding have changed,diseases such as coronary heart disease,diabetes and cancer have come to dominate our population.Where mental, behavioural and social health problems are increasing in this time of great change in the way we live our life’s.The answer for me is one I have benefited from since a small child and that is a ‘Contact With Nature’ .
Studies of ecology, biology, psychology and psychiatry have attempted to examine the human relationship within the natural world, some concluding that as well as being totally dependent on nature for material needs (food, water, shelter, etc.) humans also need nature for psychological, emotional and spiritual needs.Yet how dependent humans are on nature for psychological and well-being needs, and what benefits can be gained from interacting with nature are just beginning to be investigated by experts around the world.
The healing effects of a natural view are increasingly being understood in stressful environments such as hospitals, nursing homes,military etc. In these environments particularly, as well as for people who work in windowless offices, studies show that seeing nature is important to people and is an effective means of relieving stress and improving their well-being,so in this time of stress the only real answer to help us is in getting back to nature,having contact when and where we can and tapping into these ‘Green lungs’ that our parks,fields,reservoirs play within our urban,city lives.
I live within an urban environment in Staffordshire,where from a small child I was able to find these, little ‘Green Lungs’ within that world,in which unknowing to myself at the time, were helping me,my contact with nature building a love,a empathy towards the natural world,and in turn the world I lived in.There is a place known locally as ‘Bluebell Wood’ where I have visited as a youngster,playing tree houses,soldiers,hide and seek etc, right through to the present day as an adult.Its an old coppice of woodland,made up of hazel, magnificent beech, elegant silver birch and ancient oak forming the backbone to this wood.
Beneath their foliage they shelter a vast carpet of native bluebells which have taken several centuries to reach perfection. The intense azure haze and glorious heady scent from these beautiful, elegant flowers is one of the chief delights of the English countryside and a truly unforgettable sight.Its a place I go too,often finding myself just sitting,laying down and listening to nature,the corus of birds signing their hearts out,the distance noise of urban life occasionally piercing the silence of this magical place.
Over the last year I have been trying to capture a family of Foxes that I caught abrief glimpse of last year while visiting this place.Giving me the slip everytime I tracked them down, through foot prints,tracks,smells etc.As quick as I’d find their den,they’d move to another. I’ve had this relationship with this family of Foxes now for over a year,and to this day it bring a big smile to my face, as trying to capture a wild Red Fox away from rubbish bins,street corners is very hard I have found.I have used my many,many trips to this place to build a picture of their lives and behaviour’s and just as I getting somewhere the famous dog walk comes around the corner and breaks that silence and trust I have built up,in turn making the Fox really sensitive to disturbance.
The den is under a thick,dense tree line,making for poor light,but I have been able to find a way in, almost disappearing within the stinging nettles,and thorny vegetation this Fox family have chosen to live in,affording them a private world only available at ground level.Over the last week I have observed their cubs coming out and playing,most of the time to dense for a photograph.With several holes into the den its been a trail and error exercise for me to place my hide where I think they will appear while moving at a snails pace,most of the time though they outwitt me!!.This week I have been lucky as the cubs are getting more bolder and don’t see my hide which I have left there now for weeks,each time I return to the hide, the adult foxes have covered it in their distinctive ‘Smell’ which after several hours makes your noise and eyes run its so strong,nice to know they’ve ‘accepted’ my hide though. The male Red Fox can been send above with the beautiful Bluebells as the backdrop.
Often as a Wildlife photographer you wait on the off chance for a wild animal to linger in front of your lens longer enough to be able to get a decent picture of that special moment,placing a ‘Frame’ around what you have seen,showing this to others so in turn the picture of Wildlife around us becomes clear to them.This is the essence for me what Wildlife Photography means.Where my unique philosophy when it comes to Wildlife Photography that was derived from those early encounters with nature,where being at ‘One’ with nature to get the best from your subject is key, also helping your well-being in terms of this encounter with the natural world.
In my conclusion on the topics I have mentioned in this post,and as our understanding of the natural environment has developed, and the massive destruction human activities can have on natural systems has been observed, a more clearer view has emerged. This view recognizes that plants and animals,including humans do not exist as independently as was once thought, but instead are part of complex and interconnected ecosystems on which they are entirely dependent.The ‘ecosystem’ is the fundamental point on which all life is dependent.It is clear that nature and the natural environments relate to human health and well-being.Where that’ Contact With Nature’ is key to un-locking the door to human well-being and happiness, where my advice would just be simple,seek out these ‘Green Lungs’ within your place of work or where you live,learn and watch nature,through the changing seasons as they come and go,look out for whats happening around you,the noises,the smells etc and in turn it will enrich your life more than you can imagine.