Photography as a mindfulness tool

Why is photography mindful?17203169971_ff7e957c00_k

This blog isn’t always about making money, in fact the money aspect only came about because it helped me to get out of the house when I was struggling and because not having enough money to pay the bills creates stress and anxiety, so having a little extra always helps.

One of the things I spend my extra money, when I’ve got it, on is photography (more on that later on) because it’s easy to practise mindfulness when you’re out with the camera. In fact it doesn’t require any thinking. I find by using my camera I’m automatically stopping, thinking and focusing on the here and now. It’s mindful just by doing it.

Purposeful Photography

There are different types of mindful photography. The first being what I refer to as purposeful photography. This is a deliberate decision to get out the house, take your camera and go somewhere you know will give you plenty of opportunities to play with your camera. I use a Canon 60D (secondhand) with a variety of lenses, but I primarily use my Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 when I’m out and about.

For me, this sort of photography is best out in nature. It gives you a chance to explore the wildlife, the flora and fauna and offers plenty of subjects for you to practise your craft on. One of my favourite places to go to is RSPB Fairburn Ings because parking is relatively inexpensive at £2 for the day and there is plenty to do and see. You can find out if there’s an RSPB reserve near you here.27681881190_a3c3c75783_k

Once you’re there it’s time to get out on foot. The visitor centre always has a map available and if you’re up to having a chat with the staff as you pay your parking fee then they’re happy to offer advice and guidance on what’s around in the reserve on any particular day. That said I’m still after a photo of the elusive kingfisher!

As you walk around you just need to keep your eye open for something that interests you, and then be patient. If you spot something, take a good walk around it. Check out different angles, what it’s in the background and the foreground. Check where the sun is and how the light catches it. There is nothing more frustrating than spending ages composing a photo and then getting home to discover you didn’t notice a shadow or a random twig.

All of this is being mindful – observing your surroundings, listening and focusing on the here and now.

You can spend hours walking around and taking photos and you don’t have to do it alone either. You can take a friend, pack a picnic and make a day of it.

If you’re lucky, when you get home you might end up with a couple of decent shots that you can frame on the wall, share on social media or just feel proud of. If not – don’t worry, I’ve been taking photographs with my DSLR for over ten years and somedays I come home with few decent shots. I just remind myself that sometimes it isn’t about the end product but about the process.

What equipment do I need?

I’d recommend anybody who wants to practice photography in a mindful way does so using ‘proper’ equipment. Using a DSLR camera forces you to think more carefully about what you’re doing, but also allows you more freedom when it comes to editing your photos. It also guarantees when do you shoot a decent photo that you can get it blown up onto canvas and hung above your fireplace.

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Wind Turbine at Royd Moor

That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive though. I rarely buy any photography equipment new and all my expensive items have come off eBay. In fact I’ve bought all my used gear from a single seller The Photographer’s Bag. Everything is accurately listed, it’s all dispatched in good time and packaged well. I’ve never had cause for complaint.

As a minimum though you need:

  • A DSLR body (I’d always recommend Canon and something like this)
  • An appropriate lens (up to 300mm for nature shots)
  • A UV filter to protect your lens (best buying brand new because they’re relatively cheap and protect your lens)
  • A bag (used or new)

 

Where else can I go?

There are loads of other places you can go to for photography, these are just a few I’ve been to:

What next?

We’ve got a few posts coming up on other types of photography, ways to maximise the fun and mindfulness of it and how to develop your photography skills.

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