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How a Photo Walk Can Improve Your Mental and Physical Health

Updated: Mar 21

We all need something that can take us away from the stresses of everyday life, a way to clear our mind, get a better perspective, keep ourselves fit.

For some people, running is their therapy, for others it is sea swimming, still others love to get out for a walk (with or without a dog!) to brush away the cobwebs.

A friend of mine goes hillwalking every morning to get the day off to a good start, another does early morning yoga.

Photo walking is my therapy, that is, walking with a camera or phone camera at hand, and it is something I try to do every day.

Photo walking, like all walking, gets you moving, it gets you connecting with your surroundings and it gives you something to occupy your mind and stimulate your brain, taking you away from the stresses and strains of life into a creative and inspirational space.

Two of my passions are walking and taking photographs, so when I combine them in a photo walk, I consider it to be a perfect balance of physical and mental health.

A resident of St. Enda's Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin

Fernhill Park and Gardens, Stepaside, Co. Dublin

I take my photo walks at different times.

Sometimes I go out in the early morning, often capturing dew on the grass, the morning sky, the first signs of life for a new day.

When I go out in the late afternoon, I might capture bustling scenes or catch the late evening light as it plays on a subject.

As evening turns to night I have often gone out in search of a beautiful sunset or to make images in the soft evening light.

On some occasions I will concentrate on a chosen theme, or take a particular lens with me.

On some days that might be a telephoto lens so that I can look for some more distant images, while on other days I will try to capture close-up images or experiment with aperture or shutter speed.

These walks differ from a deliberate photo shoot, where I will want to have a variety of lenses to choose from to make the most of the location.

On photo walks, often I will just wander around, observing and shooting what grabs my attention, and many times that will be with my phone camera.

Taking just one lens with me

I like to experiment with aperture

and shutter speed

Images from Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin

On most days I like to walk close to home rather than drive to my location, but I do try to vary my walking routes.

Some days I go to my local park and walk through the wooded area, other days I stroll along a riverbank or meander around a local neighbourhood in the morning and watch the day begin to unfold.

I am also fortunate that I have several amazing walks within a short driving distance of my home which offer lots of photographic opportunities.

These images were taken on a recent walk to Fernhill Gardens in Stepaside, Dublin, a beautiful location which has become a popular location for walks in nature.

Fernhill Park and Gardens, Stepaside, Co. Dublin

One of the reasons I love checking out locations near to me is that it gives me a chance to explore places which are literally on my doorstep or not far away.

These places, such as local parks and gardens, river walks and beach locations are places which are home to so much natural beauty, and they call out to be enjoyed.

I have put together 5 tips from my own photo walks which I find can make the experience more rewarding.

5 ways to make your photo walk more meaningful:

Look for beauty all around (even in ordinary things). My main purpose in taking photo walks is to enjoy the experience. I don’t expect to capture great images, but I love to be aware of what draws me and try to find beauty in the ordinary things that I come across. They make for images that are special to me.

Have a sense of purpose. I like to pick a theme to add a little variety to my photo walks. Some days I concentrate on taking sky photos, for example, sunrises or sunsets, or interesting cloudscapes. I will use trees or other elements of nature as my subject or I may choose a particular colour and try to find images to illustrate that colour.

I have an interest in black and white photography and this gives me the opportunity to think in black and white and look for subjects with strong texture and shape and good tonal range, which will convert well into black and white.

Tune in to your creativity. It is easy to feel that we are simply taking the same images all the time and become bored with the exercise, so I find that it is important to try to get creative, to make use of different techniques, to make each photo walk a unique experience.

Try to vary your perspective and shoot from unusual angles, for example, squat down and shoot low or step onto something and shoot high. Even just tilting the camera up can show our subject from a view point that we don’t normally see. Try shooting unusual or unfamiliar subjects; sometimes just turning around and shooting what is behind you can give a different perspective.

Absorb your surroundings. Photo walks are a great way to become mindful of your surroundings. In the busyness of our daily lives, we are at risk of becoming oblivious to all the variety of life that is around us, so take time to consciously stop and stare; listen and not just hear, see, and not just look.

Since I began my photo walks, I have really come to know my neighbourhood and yet I always find something new to photograph.

Vary your route. We can easily become bored of the same route, thinking that we have exhausted all the possibilities for photographs, but a bit of creative thinking can help us get the most out of our walk, even if the number of locations we can visit are limited.

While always staying safe we can go in different directions, explore different neighbourhoods, see what a local park, riverbank, green space, hedgerow or built environment has to offer.

Being open to exploring what is around me has given me numerous locations within a short distance of my home to which I can go and make images.

St. Enda's Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin

Enjoy your photo walk images

I love to assess my photos when I get home, see which ones I like most and share one or two of them on Instagram. I usually add a few hashtags to try to find some followers who are fellow photo walkers and who appreciate my photos as they are - an effort to share my images and highlight the value they bring to my life, with the hope that they will inspire others to do the same.

St. Enda's Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin

Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin

Fernhill Park and Gardens, Stepaside, Co. Dublin

Why not try a photo walk in your local area. You don't need any special equipment, just your phone camera will get you started.

You really will reap the benefits.


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