Mental Health Awareness Week NZ '18

Jimmy Pollard trail building in Queenstown, New Zealand


Day 1

Today marks the start of the @mhfnz photo challenge, we are exploring the way that nature helps our mental well-being as well as using the Māori lunar calendar (Maramataka) to help structure the content.

Our subject for the day is Connecting / Me Whakawhanaunga and the last day of the lunar cycle is known as Mutuwhenua where it’s suggested focus activities on connecting with your tangata/people, rōpū/teams and nature to uplift your wairua/spirit and those around you.

When I saw my counsellor last week, one of my goals was for me to connect again. This latest bout of depression caused me to retreat a little. As if by magic, my friend Jimmy got in touch about shooting some photos so we met for coffee and started hatching some plans.

Riding bikes is such an amazing way to connect with nature. Often we find ourselves in the forest surrounded by the giants. The earth trails are made from years of composted leaves, processed by a plethora of insects and forest creatures. Rocks, roots, bumps, dips and all other sorts of features help put a trail together.

I’d heard rumours, and seen one massive feature of a trail built in Queenstown that was just 100% crazy. Jimmy had a few ideas, I had no idea how it was possible, but I knew if anyone could, he could.

It takes a while to set up for a shoot like this. I needed to work out what the light was like, how I could shape it myself to help make the photo work. Search around the forest floor looking for angles and testing out lines. All the while Jimmy worked with a spade and a rake to tickle up a trail that hadn’t been ridden in years.

Once the trail is ready, then the hard part comes, the visualisation of how to ride it. Thankfully, all I had to do was make sure that I got the shot. The process is incredible and all the while there was a little Miromiro flying around wishing us luck another constant reminder of how amazing a place the forest is to spend time.

We were on the border of some native bush and pines, with the light shining through the canopy creating the most beautiful colours and patterns and when those wheels connected with the down ramp and the corner was shralped, that was just one of the best feelings ever.

Learning is a key step towards mental well-being. I've been turning my hand to time lapses recently. This is one of the experimentation sunsets I've taken and used in the #mhawNZ photo challenge

Day 2

#MHAWNZ Day 2 - Keep Learning/Me Ako Tonu

The moon phase today is called Whiro, meaning the new moon, the beginning of the new moon cycle and a day where activity was minimal and traditional Māori would wananga/learn. This makes it a great day to Keep Learning.

I predominantly take still photographs, however deep in my distant past I used to create moving images based around my roots in Skateboarding. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, how can I move away from stills into motion.

I’ve been shooting little bits of video, mostly with our pets as subjects which will eventually be collated into a something, but for now, those little snippets are still locked hidden away. As a link between the still and the moving, I have also been experimenting with time lapse photography.

I’m still on the fence about how much I like this as a medium, I believe it needs to be used carefully as it can easily be overcome. I’m also conscious of today in terms of the maramataka and learning close to home. We are beyond privileged in where we live and what we have access to within close quarters.

There are many days where I’m not feeling as mentally well as I would like, so not going far from home is most definitely what I need and I find that if I can turn my hand to learning or progressing my craft it lifts me.

So here we are, a timelapse of the sun going down, not far from my desk at home. I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out

Bubbles - Nevis River

Day 3

#MHAWNZ Day 3 - Take Notice/Me Aro Tonu

The moon phase today is Tirea, the new moon is beginning to expand ever so slightly and can just be seen. See nature through a different lens and take some time to take notice and be mindful of what’s happening around you.

I’m finding it impossible to keep to each of the five ways of mental well-being each day. For so long I’ve used these tools and photography to help me through some of the harder parts of my life that there is always so much crossover. I love noticing the little details that surround me, although my photography often focuses in close on distant objects or looks wide at near objects.

So as I took notice I decided to zoom in a little. To look close, closer. I scurried away with @emmasgonecycling’s favourite Mirco lens and stepped well out of my comfort zone. I found I learnt more than when I was trying to learn and soon enough as I was absorbing myself in the tiny, I got lost in nature.

My mind settled and my imagination ran free, thinking of what it would be like to live in this teeny tiny world. A way for me to shift perspective on the world around me. A technique I find helps enormously when I’m trying to unravel what’s going on inside my head and also the heads of others around me.

There is no right or wrong, there is only different. That’s something I continually tell myself. It helps me stop being annoyed with others actions and also my own. This viewing of varying perspectives is imperative to being able to understand our diverse society which often confuses me beyond belief.

I couldn’t choose one image, so you have three. This gorgeous bee feeding on Thyme in the Kawarau Gorge, some bubbles forming on the Nevis River deep in the valley floor and some lichen growing on the matagouri


New Balance Walking Shoes


Day 4

#MHAWNZ Day 4 - Be Active / Me Kori Tonu

Today’s moon phase Ohoata is a great day to be active! Getting outside and exercising is good for your overall health and wellbeing and strengthens your connection with nature.

Exercise is huge for me and my mental health. If you’ve been following my journey this week you will have picked up on the fact that I ride bikes. I try not to repeat myself so this is also my segway into throwing in a pair of sneakers into this project. This winter, I’ve been exercising in a whole new way, in the garden. I come from a long line of gardeners, yet it’s always slipped me by. I’ve had a feeling that it would come to me at some point and these last couple of months it’s arrived in full swing.

We’ve got a small patch of trees out the back, 20 years overgrown and as messy as you could get. It could have been fairly straightforward to get someone in. It would have been fairly straight forward to borrow a chainsaw. However, I’m not so sure about the real benefits that would have given us. We attacked the woodland armed with a pair of loppers, a wood and bow saw, eventually using a compound saw for the final stage.

Garden gym was insane. I shed around 3kg’s over the month of August doing this. We took our time. We got to know our place really well. The way the water moved through it. The lay of the land and the creatures that share our space. Once again, these five ways to mental well-being are all woven here.

As the trees came down the fires roared for the smaller stuff we set about organising and sorting the wood for the fire next winter and hopefully the winter afterwards. These sample New Balance walking boots have proved to be amazing gardening shoes. The leather has helped keep most of the water out, the soles grippy enough to allow me to push a wheelbarrow laden with logs up steep loamy slopes, all the while when I looked down at my feet they looked rad.

This pile of kindling behind me is one of the greatest physical achievements of my life to date. I’ve touched every piece and developed relationships with every tree they’ve come from


Adventures into the Nevis Valley - Duffers Saddle, Bannokcburn, Central Otago


Day 5

#MHAWNZ Day 5 - Give/Tukua

The fourth night of the lunar month is Ouenuku is a good time to rekindle your connections with nature, re-tell stories with whānau and give back.

I find that the giving with photography is one of the easiest of the five ways to complete. How amazing is it that a craft can help secure peoples memories for years to come? The photographer often see’s scenes differently, capturing behind the scenes magic and enhancing the true beauty encapsulated within that moment.

Being with others in nature and showing them around is a wonderful gift to be able to give. We’ve had @emmasgonecycling ‘s Mum and Uncle Rick with us this week and it’s been a real pleasure to show them around our place, sharing stories of the people and place whilst capturing those important moments in images.

As I think more deeply about giving, I find my mind drifts towards the concept of learning and Ako Ako within Te Ao Māori, in that whenever we teach we learn and when we learn we teach. Is this not true of giving? Let’s ensure that we honour and respect the two way flow that is present and not think it’s only one direction.

Gifts that have been created with one’s own skills and time are so valuable, it’s a way for the giver to be able to tailor their gift to the receiver. This kind of gift cannot be bought.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to @mhfnz and @nikonNZ for supporting not only this week's’ photo challenge but for their continued efforts to help the people of our amazing place to be able to live with strong healthy minds. As well as an all round shout out to everyone that has followed me this week and so many other previous week’s. Ngā mihi nui koutou