by Kieran Metcalfe
Posted at 20:18pm on 27th November 2021

I’m writing this on the day when Boris announced a return to compulsory mask-wearing after two cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed in the UK. Who knows how the landscape will change over the coming weeks.

I owe this blog post to @dgregoryphotos, @bradcarrphotos and @peteyd91 - without a set of tweets from and with these chaps, I’d not have made the connections below and wouldn't have put my finger on something which has been getting to me for many months. Thanks chaps! (give them a follow...)


When we were in lockdown, we knuckled down and stayed put. We only made essential journeys, and we gave up a lot in the distant hope that one day life would return to normal.

For those fortunate ones like myself, who suffered nothing worse than the restrictions themselves, largely it has returned to some nomality. I don't wish to downplay the huge sacrifices and personal losses that many have faced, and which cannot be healed.

But at the time of writing, Christmas is approaching and the prevailing feeling is that (Omicron-allowing) it’ll be much more normal than last year. Aside from sensible mask-wearing and thoughtful conduct, we don’t live under any restrictions on our movement. 

So naturally, I’ve jumped straight back into regular photography trips and am loving being in the outdoors again… right?

Not at all.

I’ve found it acutely difficult to go out in recent months and something in me has felt almost paralysed. Even when the light has been developing nicely, rather than jumping into the car and heading for the hills, I’ve found my internal monologue reeling off the many reasons why I should stay at home:

  • You can’t guarantee the light will stay nice
  • Will you get there in time? Even if you do, how long will you actually spend at the location (compared to the driving time)
  • You won't find anything new or groundbreaking
  • You have to finish this bit of work (even though it would wait til tomorrow)
  • You have to finish this bit of work (even though your head is so fried that getting out on a hill would undoubtably give a moment of clarity)

 … and so many more.

I’ve not been able to put my finger on what would make me struggle so much with jumping back into something I've desperately missed and hugely enjoy.

After the twitter conversation above, I finally realised what appears to be going on. Over a year of only going out when it was deemed essential or for a specific purpose has left its mark.

It’s down to the way I taught myself to cope with not being able to get out during the lockdowns. If you add “It’s ok because… …anyway” to those items, it’s a positive affirmation that I’m doing the right thing by staying at home:

  •  It’s ok because you can’t guarantee the light will stay nice anyway
  •  It’s ok because you won’t get there in time anyway
  •  It’s ok because you won't find anything new or groundbreaking anyway
  •  It’s ok because you have to finish this bit of work anyway

... etc.

That kind of thinking is clearly habit-forming, and has remained a pattern for many months after the lifting of the restrictions. I’m now in a position where I’m so used to talking myself out of going out that I now genuinely to struggle to embrace the opportunities and freedom we took for granted - especially in the pursuit of something that is, mostly, non-essential. 

I say ‘mostly’, because I am also keenly aware that without that escape from my home office, I do not function well. Certainly there are other ways to be active and get out of the house, but as much as I like cycling etc, I find there’s something genuinely re-energising about making creative observations of the natural world. There’s exercise involved, but the mental and emotional response to the natural world provides a genuine reset.

I have had a few trips out recently, and I’ve found them immensely enjoyable. But in every case, it was a mammoth task to convince myself to go - or rather, that I was *allowed* to go, and that it was a worthwhile thing to be doing.  

Mostly, I was able to overcome that because I knew I needed to make sure I had something to add to the autumn months of my 2023 calendar… it sounds daft (and more than a little vain) to admit that, but it’s very real. It is certainly not my intention to get on the treadmill of creating images under commercial pressure - even though, in the case of the calendar, it’s entirely for charity. 

But for now, that feeling of commitment and responsibility is a good catalyst in that it has actually worked a few times and I am grateful for that. I just don’t want to it sap the life out of the hobby.

I want to get back to being excited to simply explore the natural world - to start with a celebration of the landscape and the shapes and story to be found there. In every case, when I have hauled myself out of the house, I’ve loved it. I’ve found a number of scenes which have produced images, or even just been added to my list of spots to revisit in different conditions. And I’ve always come home refreshed, relaxed and revitalised, and wondering what I was so worked up about.

My hope is that having realised a probable cause for my negativity, I might now be able to move towards getting out more freely and with fewer reservations. And in many ways, I’m writing this article as memento for myself to come back to.

But I also wonder if anyone else is struggling with the same tensions. If you are, and this helps put a name to it, then so much the better. Equally, if I’m talking rubbish, I’ll accept that :)