The eyes of a Wolf always see straight into your soul ...

...You can't hide the truth from them


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Monday, 19 August 2013

Stigma and mental health ...

Anyone with a mental health disability will face some level of stigma from some quarter of Society.  Most of it stems from fear of the unknown.  People find it easier to cope with a wound that they can see and empathise with ... but when the wound is invisible it throws up all sorts of issues.

Definition of Stigma: 
1. A mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation.
A mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease: Eg the stigmata of leprosy
If you live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you'll notice things because one of the symptoms is 'Hyper Vigilance'.  You tend to notice things that the average person will miss.  This is particularly true of Veterans that have served in hostile areas.  The ability to spot something out of place, could have identified a source of danger ... and saved lives.  The same skill is often used in the way that we look at people.  People that are skilled observers will notice little things like attitude, energy, mood etc, very quickly ... no matter how subtle it is.

I tend to be very open about living with PTSD and the effect it has on my life because I'd rather that a stranger avoid me before a friendship has developed than lose a friend through stigma.

Subjecting someone to 'Stigma' is the equivalent of rubbing salt into an open wound. It leads to further isolation and makes recovery very difficult.


I hope that if you have friends that encounter difficulties of this nature, you'll be aware that they suffer enough on a daily basis and that it would be nice to have people around that can make allowances for their disability without patronising or offending them.  Just ask your friend about what they need ... and if it's possible ... make it happen.  Eg If I go anywhere with friends, I sit with my back to a wall or I try to avoid sitting somewhere where human traffic is constantly moving around me.

If you have any sort of mental health condition, the chances are that you're hurting deep inside.  You may have become isolated.  You might be scared about the consequences of a diagnosis confirming that you have a condition. You might not know which way to turn for help. Stigma's the last thing you need to be subjected to.

It took a long time for me to be able to go to a stranger and say 'help, there's something wrong with me'.  Having admitted it to myself I got some support initially from the NHS.  Their support won't always be there though ... it's limited by a budget.  So we have to develop our own ways of dealing with the condition.

Don't let stigma stop you from getting the help you need.

Don't let stigma stop you from being a friend to someone.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Young Osprey in Scotland ...

The youngsters are either getting ready for their first flight or have already left the nests in the Highlands of Scotland.

One year I was lucky enough to photograph some youngsters practising on their nest before their first flight.  They were beating their wings and flying up over the nest - just a couple of feet.  Then they'd go a little higher as their confidence was built up, their wings getting stronger and stronger.

Flexing wings

I don't know how many days they practised in this way as I was popping in periodically around photographing other species in the area.  Their cries echoed in the area as they ventured higher,  I assumed that the cries were a mixture of elation and fear ... but that's from my limited human perception.

Hovering on the wind

Their mother had left the area by now, she'd done her bit and it was up to dad to do the rest.  He'd left the nest too and would often perch in a tree close by calling to them, coaxing them, as if saying, 'Come on, fly - I know you can do it.'

Dad coaching

... And it did!  The first youngster left the nest ...

First flight

It only flew a short distance to a nearby tree ... but imagine the courage it took?  To leave a high nest, instinctively trusting in an unproven ability to fly and then to negotiate a landing on a different tree branch?  I'd say that's a 'brown trouser' moment.

First landing

Dad's work had just begun though ... the next stage was to teach them how to hunt.  A skill that he'd developed over a number of years with refinements made by each progressive generation.

Osprey hunting

They're still in the area, hunting, fattening up a little for their migration back to Africa.  Listen for their calls as they echo over the Cairngorms and enjoy their presence.

Be aware that some humans try to kill these amazing creatures.  If you see any dead osprey, or anyone acting suspiciously around a nest site, call the local police ... they'll want to hear about it.  Their phone number is (Confidential line) 01479 810121.

Happy viewing.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Monday, 12 August 2013

An exercise in meditation ...

One of the problems of living in this modern world is that there's so much going on around us.  It generates intrusive thoughts and our minds can be on the go 24/7 if we're not careful.  People that live with stress related conditions can find it very difficult to switch-off.

'Mind-chatter' makes it hard for us to relax even when we're not working.  People try to find solace in music, watching moves, taking drugs, sports and many other activities.  The one area that solace can be found is within.  It takes time and effort to find peace within and silence is the goal.  Within the silence we can hear ourselves instead of all the rubbish floating around us.

If you have problems trying to find the silence within, try the exercise below.  It's from my third volume of poetry, Soul of a Wolf.  I felt like putting in an exercise that might help someone.

Find the Silence

Having trouble finding the silence?  This exercise should take you anything from 15 -30 minutes. Read this all the way through first and then try the exercise.  If you need help with it, get a friend to read this to you or record your own voice and play it back to yourself and work through the instructions.

Sit or lie down on the floor in a comfortable position and began breathing evenly and making the breaths gradually deeper.  Let your tongue touch the roof of your mouth with every out breath.
Do this for about 60 seconds.  Aim to get the last two or three breaths to last 10 seconds in and 10 seconds out if you can do so comfortably.

Don't stop the breathing exercise, but keep the breathing going - deep and even.
Now start the exercise.  Make sure your eyes are closed and that you’re sat in a darkened space - draw the curtains.
As you keep breathing, start to paint the following scenes in your mind:

1.  The waves of the ocean are calm, 2ft height gentle swells rolling in to the shore.  Put detail on the waves, colour texture, movement, the effect of the light.  Keep your breathing at the same rate throughout this exercise.  Paint in the sky, the clouds are grey and closing in.  The wind is picking up speed and buffets you now and then, letting you know that there's a storm coming. 

The Storm

2.  Make the waves higher and higher.  Make them reach further into the beach.  Make the wind faster and harder. Paint in the grains of sand being blown along.  Paint in the sky turning dark and the noise of thunder - LOUD!   Paint in the flashes of lightning!  Make the waves higher, crashing, hear them!  Picture the foam, the spray as it drenches you.  Hear the thunder, see the lightning!  Put all of your pain, anger, sadness and any other negative energy into this scene.  Pump it up and let it go!  Picture every explosion as the huge waves explode over ancient rocks.  You must keep the breathing going;  it may get a little faster but don't worry - go with it.

3.  Gently start to ease off the size of the waves, little by little.  Gradually, slowly, make the sky lighter.  Make gaps of lighter sky appear in the clouds.  Let the wind slowly ease.  Everything must be gradual.  Work back towards a calm ocean, a clear sky and let the rays of the Sun gently warm you.  Make the waves tiny - very gentle waves now delicately lapping at your feet and feel the connection with the calm.  Your breathing should be deep and even – 10 seconds in, 10 seconds out.  Do this breathing alone at this rate for another minute.

The ‘mind chatter’ should be gone now and you’ll have the peace of silence within.  Stay in that position and enjoy the silence.

©Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Flowers and Hoverflies ...

I have some Ornamental Lillies (Lilium) that have opened up and they smell absolutely gorgeous!

If you're looking to try some relatively easy insect macro photography, now is the time to try it.  Try Hoveflies (Syrphidae).  Okay, like any wildlife, their movement can be a little erratic ... BUT they do hover and if you spend a few minutes standing close to the flowers they'll get used to you and will ignore you.
Hoverfly feeding

Try a couple of static shots to start with.  You might want to frame a Hoverfly feeding or one that's just landed.

Briefly resting

As you get more comfortable, try to catch them mid air or as they're about to land?  That's a good challenge and makes for some beautiful photography.

Hoverfly approaching

 Make sure you vary your viewpoint ...

Hoverfly taking off

... and steadily build up a set of images for your collection ...

Hoverfly landing
... have fun!

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Macro Photography ... a whole new world ...

Have you ever tried any Macro Photography?  I've done some Plants but Insects are a passion!  They're so diverse in form and the way that they move.  Things that crawl, walk, fly, slide, undulate!

The colours and forms can be very attractive.

If you find something static, a tripod is a must.  Ideally, you want a good lens with a matched flash ring - even in daylight.  However, even the macro settings on bridge cameras can get you decent shots.

The real challenge is getting a moving object such as some sort of fly - bees etc.  You never know how long you have to take the shot.  The subject might hover for a second or two, could land on a plant or flower ... or could just fly off in a random direction.  It can take hours!  It's worth persevering though because you might get a really good shot that you're happy with.

I wouldn't recommend using any sort of lure to bait them - Eg sugar water etc as you'll probably end up killing the insect.  We should observe with respect and not interfere in their diet etc.

Faces of insects are a real challenge.  I got a shot of the face of a Damsel Fly and I was wondering what it was thinking as we sat and examined each other.  Intelligence and curiosity go hand in hand.  I felt I was being observed as much as the subject.

These opportunities may exist in your own garden.  All you need is plants, flowers and water.  It's easy to set up an Eco-garden for the purposes of photography.  More on that later.

Have a lovely weekend.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 2 August 2013

Promotional material ... video

It's so important to build a bank of promotional material for use on the Internet ... and it doesn't have to be an expensive process when you use companies like Fiverr or People per Hour.

The countdown is on for my exhibition and I'm working hard on raising awareness about the project and building up a collection of usable pieces that will promote the project in different ways.

It's quite a different experience to work with moving images, sounds etc.  I'm relying on experienced people to do the building while I provide direction on what I want, the look, the feel, expressions, words etc.

I'll keep you updated on what's produced.

Here's a soothing little video that you might find useful during your working day.  So get a cuppa ... sit back and relax for a minute and take a deep breath ...

Have a good one.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Osprey - Nature section

Osprey - Nature section
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