Sunday, 2 October 2016

Crunch Crunch Click

Does the change in season from summer to fall excite or depress you? Sure, the days are shorter and the air cooler, with winter just around the corner but I suggest you embrace it. That's what I did this morning when I woke up with an anxious pit it in my stomach with no explanation why, except the usual mix of what seems like a million items on my to-do list and my favourite energizing season - summer-slipping away. So I put on my jacket and headed out for a walk, but instead of my usual camera I only had my cell phone to take pictures. It doesn't matter what kind of camera you have, just get out there and get inspired. When experienced fully, fall is actually really awesome and when your camera is part of it, the experience is that much deeper. The crunch of fallen leaves under your feet, the vivid colours, the warmth of the sunlight on my face, yet a cool crispness to the air as I breathe deeply.  Once again, as with other explorations with my camera, worries dissipate, mood lifts, I am able to be mindful of and enjoy each moment.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Juggling Life

Self portraits have the ability to really make you think about where you've been, where you're at, and where you're heading, all which can lead to some realizations. When thinking about my life what keeps coming up for me is the constant juggling of life's demands. Home, work, family, friends, school, or whatever it is, it can feel like a juggling act trying to fit it all in. Although I thought I had gotten better at prioritizing how I spend my time, letting go of the need to be perfect and always do better, saying no and not feeling guilty, I'm still doing it. I'm still overfilling my schedule and that is when I feel stressed. I'm sure many others can relate. This assignment helped me to see more clearly how I am doing this to myself so I can make changes.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Reducing Anxiety

"After a storm comes calm" - Matthew Henry

I love photographing the sky; clouds on sunny or stormy days, sunrises and sunsets, sun rays beaming through clouds, lightening if I am lucky enough to capture it with my camera, the shape and form of clouds, and the rainbows that appear after a storm. Photographing these heavenly scenes always brings me to a sense of wonder and awe. Sometimes clouds just float gently by and sometimes they appear to build and thus create some cold windy rainstorms. But it always clears up eventually.

When we experience anxious worrisome thoughts, they can build up inside of us and create a stormy feeling within. Photographing sky scenes reminds me of this and a metaphor I once learned about worries being like clouds floating through the sky. We all experience anxiety some time in our lives; it's natural. However, anxiety can cause problems for many people. One strategy to help reduce anxiety is to use that cloud metaphor when anxious thoughts pop into our minds. When a cloud comes into our vision, we take notice of it and we may watch it float away. We don't usually stay stuck watching one particular cloud. But when worry thoughts occur, we can get stuck on the thought, and that thought leads to another worry to another and another, until there is that storm built up within and we lose sleep and experience headaches and other physical symptoms. It might help to just notice the worry thought and then let it go, as you notice a cloud and it floats away in the sky. Easier said than done, you might say. This is just one strategy for dealing with anxiety and there are others. It might not help everyone but it is helpful for some. For anyone who experiences anxiety, I would recommend speaking with a counsellor or therapist.

If you are looking for enhanced wellness, this may be worth a try or even just considering how, like a stormy sky, change happens all the time and storms do pass. With photography of scenic skies, that sense of wonder and awe that comes, at least for me, can be exhilarating or quite soothing and almost spiritual in a way. As well, it is a wonderful self-care activity and can provide a bit of distraction from other stressful thoughts, if even for a few minutes.  It is the mindful practice of photography and letting worry thoughts be noticed but then then float away that helps to get to that state of calmness. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Photographing for Mental Health

This photo is called Circle of Life. I photographed this last spring while laying on my back in the middle of a majestic forest in BC. I was out with a group of other photographers getting eaten by mosquitos and taking photos of the area. It was very enjoyable, (well not the mosquito biting part) and of course that is therapeutic being with and enjoying other people.

What I really wanted to share with you tonight is an awesome website that I stumbled across. In an article called "7 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health" by Danielle Hark  on the Beliefnet website, I read the suggestion to "try art" and even take pictures with your cell phone. "The key" Hark states, "is not what you create, it is how you create it. Its about being in the present moment and enjoying the process of creating."  Of course this caught my interest because I have also been encouraging this.  Hark provided a link to her website Broken Light Collective. I'd encourage anyone who has or is struggling with mental illness or working in that area, to check out It's an amazing site with photos submitted by many people whose lives are impacted by mental illness.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Nature Lifts the Spirit

Photographer Freeman Patterson wrote, in Photography of Natural Things (1982), "The growth of cities has increased interest in nature photography as an antidote to the pressures of urban living, a readily available therapy, and a stimulating creative outlet".

I totally agree with this statement as I have experienced this for myself. Stepping out into nature, with camera in hand, can provide uplifting and therapeutic experiences. While driving along the highway recently I noticed Trumpeter Swans flying and landing on ponds and streams in fields within the interior of British Columbia. So as soon as I had the chance took the opportunity to pull over to observe and photograph these magnificent creatures. Witnessing these beautiful birds, ones I have rarely seen before (except in photographs made by others), got my blood pumping and although I could have easily rushed over to start snapping pictures, that would have scared them away and would have been disrespectful. Instead, I purposefully had to slow down, gently and considerately approach their environment, and patiently wait. As I did this for awhile I was able to just focus on them, noticing and appreciating every beautiful aspect from their gorgeous huge wing span, to the long curve of their necks that appear so fragile, what they eat, and how they interact with each other and the environment. As the sun was going down, it reflected on the nearby grasses and cast a golden reflection on the water. I was totally absorbed in the activity of being still, merely watching, listening, and taking photographs. I was in awe of them and the beautiful and peaceful scene. This reminded of the the connections between all living things and the need to be respectful and take care of our earth; without it there is no life and life is a gift.

There are opportunities all around us to slow down, notice and appreciate nature. If you are stuck in a city apartment you may have plants in your home or birds outside of your window.  If you have a dog that you take for walks, take your camera along on those walks and take more notice, and photograph, what is around you. It may only be a plant sprouting from a crack in concrete or a sun lit spider web with morning dew. With the seasons in transition, this is a wonderful time to witness the return of some birds, like Robins, and the new beginnings of plants sprouting through the soil. This kind of photography can awaken and lift the human spirit and is a very therapeutic activity indeed.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Healing and Wellness in Nature Photography

Jan Phillips wrote, in God is at Eye Level, that "We heal ourselves in the act of photographing by being fully present to the moment at hand. When we stand on the edge of that which is, we are released from the yoke of what has been, detached from the fear of what might be. There is only the moment, the light, the matter of vision. All is peace in the eternal now". I feel this when I am photographing nature. My worries slip away, my heart beat regulates, and I feel calm. How does getting out into nature and photographing make you feel? I mentioned this in a previous post and I encourage you again to give it a try.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Self-portrait photo diary

Like written diaries, where we document events of the day, our thoughts, challenges or vent our emotions, etc, and this being a therapeutic activity, self-portraits can be a sort of diary with therapeutic benefits. Christina Nunez, who wrote the article "The self-portrait, a powerful tool for self-therapy", in the March 2009  European Journal of Psychotherapy and  Counselling, suggests that creating an image of yourself can be like using a "punching bag".  You can take photos of yourself when you cry, dance, when you are angry, and this allows you to release your emotions and vent into the camera and express yourself. Jason Harris took a self-portrait every day for 12 years, even through his battle with cancer. Check out his video here. You may also like this short clip of a girl who took a self-portrait each day over a 5 year period and then created a time lapse video. I also created this self-portrait for a photo assignment titled "This is soooo not me". It was an interesting process; when thinking about what I am not, it lead me to think about what I am at this time in my life and all that this means.

Anyway, here is the link for the journal article I mentioned and I hope you check out the links above.