The Most Unadventerous List Ever

Sometimes you can get overwhelmed by the epic adventures folks post on their Instagram streams or talk about in their blogs. From trekking across mountainous terrain, camping on the edge of cliff faces or cycling across whole continents the adventures that everyone seems to be having are 100 times more interesting that anything you could possibly even start to consider let alone achieve.

The important thing I need to keep telling myself is that adventure should be a personal thing and what may seem the most unadventurous thing to one person can be the complete opposite to others.

Over a cup of coffee this morning I was considering the things that I’ve yet to experience in my life which are, to a degree, very achievable. I thought I’d make a list, it may be the most unadventurous list ever

  • Catch a fish, prepare it, cook it on an open fire, eat it
  • Bivy overnight somewhere remote
  • Skinny dip (don’t worry, I’ll hide myself away somewhere)
  • Cook on an open fire, on a beach while the sun sets
  • Experience a cloud inversion up a mountain
  • Spend 5 days biking / wild camping
  • Spend 3 days hiking / wild camping

 

Putting the Camera Down

As some may know I’m a photographer. And of course any photographer worth their salt loves to chase good light. Over the past few days, here on the North Coast of Ireland, we have been spoiled with some fantastic conditions.

Soft pinks and purples with candy floss wisps high in the atmosphere at sunrise followed by brooding fire breathing red dragons at sunset. We even had an evening with the beautiful Aurora dancing on the horizon. It would seem mother nature loves to remind us it’s St. Patricks Day.

Yesterday however, despite once again beautiful conditions, I put the camera down. I spent the day with my wife and we walked. We talked. We drank tea by the shore, watching the patterns made by the tide washing over the pebble strewn beach. Dogs chasing balls. Dogs chasing dogs. Owners chasing dogs.  At times we simply sat in silence.

As sunset approached we walked up to a high point overlooking the rocky shoreline as it started to take on the red tones of another glorious show from mother nature. A small starling murmuration twisted and twirled high above.  The calls of a distant Oyster catcher carried on the sea breeze.

Previously I would have seen myself agitated in trying to make an image, or frustrated with myself for leaving the camera behind. This time however I was in the moment. I could not have been happier with my lot as I squeezed her hand and watched the sun slowly dip behind the horizon. Another day almost over. Another sunset gone forever. A reminder as to the importance of living each day as fulfilled as possible. Something I continue each day to try and do. It’s still a learning process.

Reminded me of this video, the value of time.

A great day.

 

The Thing About Beauty

I write this post looking out on moody skies, raging waves and howling winds. Yes, I’ve well and truly landed on the North Coast of Northern Ireland.

The weather, as expected, has been a little challenging at times with 3 Winter storms passing over (or close to) our home base. Still, in a way, and as I’ve said a number of times over on my photography blog, I love being at the edge of weather systems. There is something so wonderful, so pure and so enthralling as storms roll in and then pass out the other side. To feel the sheer force of nature passing over you. Makes you feel so small when pitted against the might of mother nature. In my opinion, just the way it should be.

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The conditions just before our very first #ParkRun

Over the past few weeks we have been spending our time acquainting ourselves with the area. Despite only travelling along 40 miles of coastline I’m already a little bit in love with the place. The Light. The Remoteness. The Energy. The Quietness.

More alive than I’ve felt in a very long time

As I mentioned in the previous post there were a number of reasons for this move, not least time to allow us both to focus on some of the individual personal issues we have been facing. Of course it’s very early days but already I feel just that little bit more energised. Just that little bit more alive.

Thar Be Gold ...

Looks like #StormHenry may have dropped a pot of gold at Barrys ……

I stood on the edge of Ballintoy Harbour the other morning waiting, as I often do, for conditions to come together. Sunrise breaking to the east. Long dark clouds to the west being blown towards me by the wind. Waves breaching the harbour defences. Gulls playing in the wind. Not another soul around. Despite being well wrapped up for the conditions I could still feel the biting cold against my face. Every so often sea spray would blow upwards and cover me in a cold wet mist. The tips of my fingers numb. The cold penetrating deep into my lungs with every breath I inhaled.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It’s the source of all true art and science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, his eyes are closed.”

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

 

It was in that very moment, as I surveyed the scene in front of me, that I realised a single tear had dislodged itself from my left eye and was now trickling down my cheek. Then another. And another. The place had me. I stood there rapt in awe. Mother nature providing me with a glimpse of her beauty. I realised there and then, windswept and shivering that I wanted more. More of what this beautiful and intriguing planet has to offer. The landscapes. The wildlife. The people. The stories.

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The Path to Recovery 

I realized as I stood there, not sat at home living someone else’s story through websites and blogs, a habit I had become far too familiar with, nor in front of a warm fire supping a cold beer, will I find happiness. Will I find inspiration. Will I find peace.

It will only be as I personally gaze on the mysterious that I can hope to take steps to recovery. Perhaps those first tentative steps have already been taken.

Looking After Number One

It’s Thursday 21st January 2016. In 3 days we will leave our home of the past 15 years to begin our journey to our new pad on the North Coast of Ireland.  It’s been a long time in coming, given we first agreed the rental back in November. In hindsight we wish we had have done the switch over much quicker.

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We have been very busy, both in regards to packing up the house (and semi unpacking it into the new place) along with the general rush of the holiday season, seeing friends and finishing up tasks at work (in Nicola’s case). I’ve realised however that while we have been very busy we have also been equally very lazy.

The laziness I talk about is from a health and personal growth perspective. I realise that I can be very guilty when I know there is a specific date coming up which allows me to fool myself into saying I’ll start my new regime on that date. Perfect example of this, which I’m sure a lot of folks out there can testify to, is the New Year. You know, 1st January, the diet / exercise regime starts then and so with that in mind I can let myself go a little (or in my case, a lot).

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One of the key reasons for this move is to help both Nicola and I focus on our health and well being. We are rather bad influences on each other in regards to laziness and without too much of the distraction of the normal 9-5 routine we are hoping to stop the decline and improve ourselves both mentally and physically. Right now however, we have both fallen into the trap of waiting to start any new regime until we are physically over in Ireland which really hasn’t helped our well being. Too much bad food. Too many trips to the local pub. Too little exercise. Too much time spent doing pursuits which bring little or no value to our life.  In my experience the waiting period, this treading of water, can sometimes put you into a worse state of mind (and body) than your normal day to day behaviour.

I also realise, as I take time to read back through most of the blog posts, that rather being about the bucket list specifically and living a new and purposeful new life, most of the posts have been about my continued struggles and attempts to break out of a pretty unhealthy pattern.  I now realise that instead of focusing on the bigger picture, the bucket list and way into the future I need to instead turn my attention back upon myself. To the here and now.

As I mentioned on my photography blog a few months ago this pattern has a dramatic (negative) effect on my creativeness, leaving me struggling to even pickup the camera at times. In that post I mentioned that I had been doing (and still am) a lot of reading in regards to the daily habits of creative people. I’ve actually started to look more closely at my own daily habits and how much value they are actually bring to my life, not just in regards to creativity but general mental and physical wellbeing. Of course changing a daily habit is a pretty difficult thing to do and while there are a number of areas I want to focus on (health, creativeness, diet, mental state) I know I need to approach the change of daily habits with baby steps.

With this in mind I feel it’s much better to look to introduce new daily (and positive) habits one at a time. I feel this blog therefore over the coming weeks and months may focus less on the bucket list, and more about my own (or rather our own) personal growth as we attempt to right the many wrongs of the past 10+ years. I already know that I need to be honest with myself and while it may be difficult to pen some of the words and open up publicly here, I personally feel it’s an important step. Not for everyone I know, but for me I believe it can help. Perhaps through time my words can also help others.

Oaky enough with this particular post. Next stop, summer in Ireland !

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Is It Already Too Late?

I’ve just watched a short documentary on Douglas Miller, a street photographer (musician and painter) from California.  It’s a great little movie and describes how Douglas has shot a roll of film along the same stretch of beach for 44 years.

He’s been shooting for longer than I’ve been living.

One of my biggest regrets, right now, is that I only discovered my love of photography a relatively short time ago, 2006 to be precise. And to be honest for a number of years since then I’ve not taken my art seriously.  In fact even today there are wasted moments. Wasted opportunities.

In a few weeks time I’ll be taking a step back from sports photography, at least the top level stuff in England, with other more important things on the agenda. I shot my first (amateur) football match back in 2007, moved on to be the Cambridge United club photographer in 2008 and finally started working for my current agency in 2009.

In sports photography terms, just under 6 years on the track is a very (very) short period of time. During most games I sit beside, and share a press room with, photographers who have been in this industry for 10, 20 and even over 30 years. Some very (very) talented folks who have produced the iconic images which have graced the pages of the national (and international) press for decades. Folks like Kent Gavin, Mark Leech and Eddie Keogh (to name only a few). There are too many to name, but it has been an absolute privilege to share, even for a short time, the same pitch as some of these folks.

Over these past 6 months, especially as the sports photography industry has changed (sadly for the worse I might add) I curse myself for not discovering both my love of photography and then eventually sports photography much (much) sooner. Of course there are no guarantees in life, but I find myself wishing that I’d have had the chance to sit beside some of the folks mentioned above 20 years ago. To learn from the masters. To observe and run with them in the film days. To have time to craft my art. To have stories to tell. But mostly, to look back on 20 years of my images and perhaps have captured a handful of my own personal iconic moments.  And of course it’s not just in the sports arena that I find myself holding regrets over my short love affair with the camera. The likes of Danny Green, David Noton and Paul Nicklen are a constant reminder of what could have been.

I wish I’d have been given a camera by my grandfather at the age of 10. No screw it, 6. Looking through a viewfinder becoming part of my childhood, my teens and twenties. The smell of the darkroom instead the smell of the nightclub. Instead I, like most, was too busy focused on other things. Less important things. Things that today seem beyond irrelevant.

I’m not getting that time back … it’s time to focus on making the next 10 years count

I turned 40 a few months ago and I often say to my wife that (if health and circumstance allow) the next 10 years will be what shapes what will then remain of my life. Of course the past 20 years have shaped the person who I have become today and sadly there are a number of aspects of that person which I don’t particularly like.

I guess what I’m trying to say, albeit in a long winded manner, is that despite my fears that it may already be too late in some aspects of life (a full time career in sports photography for example) I don’t believe it’s too late to change other aspects. It will, at times, feel like I’m swimming against the tide, after-all habits of a lifetime can be the most difficult to change. I believe however I’m up for the challenge. It will take time, so there is no time to waste.

The regret for not discovering photography at a younger age is something which I can’t do much about. Trust me, I’ve tried hitting 88 mph in my clapped out old nova and all I got was a near death experience. This regret can be consuming at times. Instead of regretting what could have been I instead now challenge myself with the mantra what still can be !

What, however, will hurt me 100 times worse is if I look back 20 years from now and realise that I didn’t make the most of the opportunities that were presented to me since finding my passion for photography. The opportunities in the next 10 years. The challenges to be met head on. The stories yet to be told.

So, going back to the title of this post, is it already too late?

A resounding NO, but there is no time to delay as of course as life goes on aspects and circumstances will dictate that for some things it may just be too late.

Start today. Go chase what has yet to be.