I have always had a camera, but photography became a passion when I was in a job that was demanding, pressured and at times scary. I quickly realized that time out with my camera was like hitting pause on all the stressy stuff. It was time out for me. I would get caught up in the details around me, lose track of time and feel myself relax.
When I’m out with my camera I’m not just snapping away, I’m slowing down. I’m aware of where the light is coming from and picking out the details. I become aware of textures, the rough tree bark, the flaky paint, soft moss, tissue paper like flowers and the rough or wet ground I am kneeling on. I often have one wet or muddy knee. It’s a good sign I’ve had fun out with my camera. I like to get in among the subjects I’m photographing. I get down on the level with the flowers, so I am in their world rather than standing up and looking down. I often say to people, ‘be the flower!’ By getting down on the level of the flower we get so much more feeling.
Whether I’m noticing colour or texture, I’m there in that moment. I’m not thinking about to do lists or the conversations I had earlier. I start to relax and most importantly, I feel like me. One of the things that I love about teaching how to take pictures and how to explore, is that I see people relax, connect with the details around them and come alive. Within minutes of rushing to me they have relaxed into it and say, ‘Oh that feels better!’
It’s infectious. We explore, we laugh, and we take pictures. We may use cameras, or we may use our phones. We are using photography as a way of exploring and connecting with our surroundings. We are in the moment and being mindful. People walking past sometimes give us some funny looks and sometimes ask what it is we’re looking at. One time when I was in the park, I was all excited about some leaves when a lady asked what we were looking at. I replied, ‘look hairy leaves!’ she sighed and walked on. The leaves had hairy edges and the light was catching them exactly right. We had fun trying to capture that in a picture.
My tips for finding calm with your camera….
- If you do not want to be disturbed by notifications when using your camera phone, turn flight mode on.
- Start out and work in. Pick one thing such as a tree, a building or even a wall. Start with trying to get the whole thing in the picture and then work in. If it’s a tree, photograph the whole tree, then some branches, then some tree bark and some leaves or buds. Each time you are moving in and capturing more detail. You are noticing how things look and feel.
- Try filling the whole picture with as much of one colour as possible. Choose one colour and see how many things you can find that are that colour. For example, red.
- Choose one thing such as an apple and see how many different pictures you can take of that one thing.
- Try not to overthink it. Just explore. Your mind may try and tell you things like, it’s not a very good picture or what’s the point in taking a picture of that. Ignore it. Unleash your inner child. Explore with curiosity like you have never seen these things before.
The great thing about digital photography is that we can always delete. I always feel so much calmer after exploring with my camera and I hope you do too.