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Doing Photography in Nature Has Benefits for Mind and Body


It is a widely held belief that spending time in nature has multiple benefits for our health and wellbeing.


While I may not have concrete scientific evidence to back up this belief I do know that when I am out in nature I am at my calmest and I always return home feeling reinvigorated and less stressed that I did before I went out.


What does spending time in nature give us that is so beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing?


When I am walking in my local woodland or along a river bank or strolling down a country lane I am in the midst of beauty. My senses are awakened by what is around me – the sights, sounds, smells and textures that are part of this natural landscape. I hear the sounds of birds chirping in the trees, water gurgling in rivers and streams, the sway of the trees in the wind. I notice how seasons change the landscape, the comings and goings of animals and birds, how colours come to life after the rain or when bathed in bright sunlight or lit by the muted glow of evening light.


I notice the tiny things – the smallest mini beasts, the hidden flowers, the abundance of contrasting colours that only nature can produce, the ever changing sky.


I often stop to touch and feel; to touch the rough and smooth textures of the human-made and the natural existing side by side or to feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.


The scents of nature are not immediately obvious but if we stop and allow ourselves a moment we will smell the warm summer air filled with the scent of blossom or the dank musty smells of autumn and winter which bring their own beauty.


By being out in nature our physical being can experience all weathers and seasons, have our senses filled and our hearts lifted, but there is nourishment for the mind also. That feeling of being immersed in nature brings with it something intangible, an invisible sense of calm and peace that can overwhelm us and bring a sense of awe at the wonder and beauty of it all and a real feeling of gratitude for being alive to witness this beauty.


The benefits of being at one with nature are heightened when we go out with a camera to experience and observe it all more closely.


It almost goes without saying that doing photography in nature has benefits for mind and body; but what can photography bring that we don’t already experience simply by being out in nature?


In my view it’s about CONNECTION.


Photography allows us to experience a deeper connection to the world around us. We are not simply observing, we are observing so that we can compose a picture and bring this place, this subject, this feeling to others through our images.


If our images are to have depth and emotion, if they are to convey to the viewer what it was that we saw and felt, then we need to develop this sense of connection to nature and to bring our whole experience, our whole self to our photography.


These photographs, all taken in roughly the same location, might illustrate what I am trying to say.


Man in the mist

Autumn scene

Misty morning

Couple walking

Man in the trees

Autumn leaves

Ghostly figure

ICM trees

ICM colour

Vertical

Woman with dogs

Two people walking

Some months ago, while looking through some of my previous images, I noticed how often this scene features in my work. I began to realise that I am drawn to this group of trees for my photography. I have photographed near them or included them for regular photography and ICM, I have photographed here in all seasons and different weather conditions, I have photographed from a variety of angles and taken shots both with people or animals and without. I have taken photographs here from a variety of different focal lengths and shot in both monochrome and colour.


I thought about these photos more closely to try to discover why I was drawn back here so often.


The trees in this scene represent a link with the past. They were standing tall in this spot long before I was around, and they will be here long after I'm gone.


These trees represent strength and courage to me. They are always here, welcoming the hundreds of people who pass beneath them every day.


They are real characters in the woodland. You can almost see the trees communicate with one another as we humans pass by, hardly noticing them.


They provide food and shelter for themselves and also for the hundreds of tiny creatures that live in and around them. They tolerate the squirrels who run and play up and down their trunks; they host all kinds of birds who use them as lookout posts or meeting places or just as stopping points on their flight elsewhere.


By attempting to build a connection in this way I can better understand that I am a guest in an ancient spot, that I don’t just ‘take’ a photograph and move on, that I must realise that each photograph is a gift from nature and should be treated as such.

Immersing my senses in nature has also given me opportunities to be creative and playful with my images.


Photographing in nature has taken me to special places, places of peace, calm and beauty. It has also  encouraged me to see beauty in the ordinary, to see abundance and variety, and to witness many wonderful, if fleeting, moments.


FINAL THOUGHTS


Developing a deepening connection to nature takes time but in doing so I hope that I will make better, more authentic photographs, but more importantly I am deepening my spiritual connection to the world around me and that gives me an overwhelming sense of physical and mental wellbeing.

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