Picture of dark roots of an upturned tree

Our societies are in lockdown again, as a result of the COVID19 pandemic, which has been with us for the better part of the year. Autumn is quickly progressing towards winter and it is perhaps more important than ever to keep our spirits up.

In this article, I argue that times of crisis present us with an opportunity to be creative and open to change. Change stimulates our brains and can help us to become more adaptable and resourceful. What brings you joy? What could you spend more time on to keep positive?

Nature photography has developed into a real hobby for me. Welcome to “Into the forest – Trees & plants”, a photo album with my best forest pictures from 2020, from which these selected photographs are taken.

Little leaf, Eleanor Smith

The power of hobbies

What better way to stay positive than to do something that we enjoy? This is where hobbies come in. Given the current situation, it has become a challenge for many people to keep up their hobbies as gyms and group activities are cancelled.

However, it is also an opportunity to be creative and find new ways of entertaining ourselves. If you look closely, I bet that you will find something that you do without perhaps being aware of how much you enjoy it. Could this be a new area to focus your attention? Or do you have time now for that project that you have been postponing for years?

I am a person of many interests and hobbies. I still struggle to come to terms with the fact that it is not possible to do everything that I want to do. I am learning to celebrate my achievements, rather than focus on what I did not manage to get done.

Keeping several hobbies going on a regular basis alongside work and family life is a challenge. However, in times like these, it is also an asset as I have plenty to choose from. As my daily routines change, impacted by the changes of rules being implemented to try and tackle the COVID19 pandemic, I gain opportunities to spend my time differently. Personally, I find that the balance lies in going with the flow, staying open to change and being aware of what you feel that you need and trusting that feeling.

My hobbies resolve around two main axes: nature and art. I always write and take photographs. I always spend time in nature. Nature photography has thus given me the chance to combine both my love for nature and my need for artistic expression. My intention is to share with words and photographs taken over the last few months, how my time in nature has kept me happy and healthy.

Reconnecting with nature

Evening time, Eleanor Smith

I believe that many of us have been feeling a need to reconnect with nature in these times of a global pandemic. Looking at nature, touching nature, breathing it in, and being in nature is so important for our well-being as a species. Nature gives us hope, space, a home, and a sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves.

I would argue that going for a walk in nature helps clear the fog of worry that can appear in the mind, and soothe a deeper sense of anxiety that we are feeling right now for the fate of our loved ones and our communities.

Here is a quote by a supporter of the Thriving with Nature guide, by the Mental Health Foundation and WWF, which aims to help people to make the most of our natural spaces through the seasons: “Sitting outside, in nature, calms me so much, gardening makes me feel healthier, inspired, the rain calms me, the smell and sounds of birds, animals, flowers, the wind, watching clouds float by, calms me.”

Fluffy dots, Eleanor Smith

Not everyone shares this view and that’s fine too. What matters is that we all have something or someplace that we turn to when times are hard. For me, that place is nature, the outdoors, the elements.

What nature means to me in pictures

Roots, roots, those beautiful roots, Eleanor Smith

I am lucky to have many places to hike. Living in Bergen, the city of seven mountains, you are never far away from a hiking trail. I have always loved taking pictures and have done so my whole life, using everything from one time use cameras to mobile phones and small digital cameras. Last year, I bought a Sony A6000, and this marked the start of a new chapter for me.

Since going on a photography course this summer, I have been teaching myself how to shoot in manual mode. I have become a true amateur photographer, learning how to use my camera and how to edit pictures afterwards.

This year has given me the opportunity to invest a considerable amount of time into learning these new skills, combined with spending more time hiking.

Vulnerable beauty, Eleanor Smith

I have published many photo albums on Flickr, a great platform for photographers, without the advertising or the videos that overwhelm Instagram. I have now decided to create albums by topic, where I collect my favourite shots from a range of other albums and gather them all in one place. I give each photograph a title and often write a description.

Publishing my images thus gives me the opportunity to combine my two main languages of art: photography and writing. I hope that they will brighten your day, give you a break, and some space to breathe and dream.

Would you like to see more pictures of nature? Have a look at my best-of collection: “Into the forest — Trees & plants”.

We all have mental health – what helps you?

Heart on a tree, Eleanor Smith
Rocks with stripes, Eleanor Smith