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Mindfulness and Photography - My Story


It's taken me nearly three years to write this blog. Mainly because I wasn't sure which direction I was heading in with mindfulness and felt like I needed to explore the subject much more before I started writing about my experiences. I've spent some of my spare time researching and practicing; which has lead me right here. This is my story.


I first stumbled across mindful photography back when the Covid pandemic first hit. It feels like such a long ago now when I think back to that first walk with my camera. It was when we were allowed to go out for one walk a day. I remember feeling so trapped at the time because I wasn't able to do all the things I loved. As well as not being able to visit family and friends, the nearest beach was at least an hour away. How I missed listening to the crashing waves and to walk on the soft sand. I missed walking through lush green forests, catching glimpses of the local wildlife, I'm sure you remember it well.


At that time, most of my walks consisted of a couple of miles around the block near to my home. The first lockdown was in spring/summer, so walks through the town past houses and parks didn't seem so bad. Yet there was still a part of me that yearned for more. I cant remember what day, or even my train of thought in that moment, but suddenly remembered a place called King George Pool in Altrincham. How could I forget?! A little lake hidden away in Altrincham surrounded by trees, flowers and wildlife that was very near to my home.


When I think back to the start of the pandemic, wearing masks, wiping down shopping, washing hands, gelling hands, the slightest cough or sneeze was an instant terror that consumed me. Adding to that was the anxious thoughts about my own well-being and how my business was going to be affected by the pandemic, I also was consumed with worry about my daughter and her education. No wonder I, along with thousands of other people felt scared and trapped.


I decided immediately we were going to visit the lake that day. When I arrived with my daughter I had no expectations of how I would feel. We were both excited to be outside on a warm sunny day, like we were visiting somewhere new, even though we had been there countless times before.


As soon as we took those first few steps along the little footpath surrounding the lake I felt like I could breathe again. I felt so happy to be surrounded by nature, encapsulated by the trees; almost like we both entered a secret, magical land.


I remember feeling like all my senses were on high alert, taking in everything around me. The sights, the sounds, the smells. How I felt in that moment to be near water again. Sounds silly when I write about it, maybe even a little bit dramatic. But when I think back to those days of feeling so trapped indoors, terrified of the unknown and worrying about how much worse pandemic was actually going to get. The sense of feeling free walking around this little lake was euphoric. A reminder that the world was still turning and the realisation that maybe I had taken our green spaces for granted a little, as I was so used to them being a part of every day life.


That day as we walked I noticed so many things that I'd never noticed before. The swans, ducks and birds casually floating on the surface of the water. Bluebells hidden in a little patch away from the path with soft light illuminating their beautiful colours. The spring flowers proudly blooming on the trees. The size of the leaves by the waters edge. Squirrels rummaging, the local cat coming to say hello. The ducks watching nervously as you walk past them. It was on that day I knew I needed to return to capture all the magic I was experiencing around me.


Bluebells in the Woods

King George Pool, Altrincham


I returned a day or so later with my camera, and unknowingly used all my senses again to see, feel, hear what was around me. I'd brought my awareness into the present moment without even realising I was practicing mindfulness. When it comes to every day life, we all tend to worry about several things at once and this interferes with our ability to focus on the present moment. We function on autopilot and can become consumed by worry, especially in stressful times. The time I spent that morning walking around the lake and taking photographs I found that I was distracted from all my anxious thoughts, simply because I was present, and tuned into everything that was around me.


When I returned home and looked at the photographs I felt like I had took a little bit of happiness back with me. Each photograph I looked at brought back that feeling of calm, a sense of freedom.


I've always been aware of meditation practices, yoga, pilates etc. I only ever tried a pilates class once in my 20's with my mum, but I spent most of it trying not to laugh at the poses mum was trying to get herself into. I also attended a meditation class in my 20's and in all honesty remember finding it really hard. I'd get about 10 different itches on my body, I wasn't comfortable the way I was sat, I couldn't relax and my mind felt like it was going at 100mph. I felt like it really wasn't for me. I suppose I wasn't fully educated on the practice so couldn't appreciate the benefits or understand them fully to take them forward and use them regularly.


It wasn't until a few weeks after my walk around the lake it dawned on me that I had been practicing a form of mindfulness. I'd never heard of mindful photography before so decided to research more into the subject. To my surprise I found out it was actually a thing. Lots of other photographers talk about it, there are even mindful photography groups out there that people can take part in.


Spring Flowers; King George Pool Altrincham


I'm now in my 40's and still find it difficult to practice many of the traditional methods of meditation, it's hard to control my thoughts and physical feelings. I went to a sound bath session recently. You lie down in a room under a warm blanket whilst listening to a lovely guided meditation and singing sound bowls. It took every part of my will power to concentrate on her voice, but would become easily distracted, especially when I heard other people snoring. Why am I not so relaxed that I fall asleep?! My back hurts. Did someone just fart??


I find practices that involve me physically doing something much easier.


No matter what works for you, mindfulness and mediation have so many benefits.


Mindfulness teaches us to slow down. It's a gentle way to focus our attention to the present, to observe, explore and experience the moment we find ourselves in. Another term to describe mindful photography is 'open awareness meditation.' Our negative emotions and feelings have an impact on our health. Did you know that practicing mindfulness helps to boost our immune system as well as our mental wellbeing? As well as the physical aspect of walking which has many health benefits.


Positive Psychology writes that;

Mindfulness encourages openness to experience and compassion, along with an appreciation for the moment in which we find ourselves.


Whilst I was going out on walks with my camera I quickly noticed that there is was a link between what I thought, which lead to an emotion, then to a choice and finally to an action. I would see pink blossoms (for example) my thought would be 'wow they are beautiful!' I would then feel an emotion from that thought, leading to a choice; do I stop and photograph the flowers? Or carry on walking? Which would finally lead to the action. Taking the photograph or continuing to walk.


Spring Flowers

2023


This thought process can be applied to our every day lives. We think something, that thought leads to an emotion, that emotion (good or bad) generates a choice, which then leads to an action. These include the negative aspect as well as the positive ones. By practicing mindful photography I was able to recognise this process and apply it to my every day life. Realising that my thoughts and emotions lead to my choices and actions.


I found an interesting quote linking to mindfulness that said; "We tend to live most of our lives in our heads, and are lead by thoughts alone'. Does that sound familiar?


As you can see from my website, I'm a portrait photographer, not landscape. So one of the things I always have to be aware of is trying to be being none judgemental of the photographs I take when it comes to mindful photography. When I talk to other people about mindful photography I find myself saying the same thing over and over again.


You don't need the best camera on the market, we aren't photographing for Country Life magazine. This isn't about taking a spectacular photograph, it's all about the process that takes us to the action of taking the picture.


Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention without judging the experience, and staying aware of the current moment. It also means compassion and kindness towards yourself. Its paying attention with purpose.


If you decide to give mindful photography a go and do find yourself becoming judgemental of the photographs you take, just observe the thoughts and let them go. Try and see the camera as an extension of yourself, not as a separate entity.


Accept things as they are without judgement.



After the pandemic ended I wasn't thinking of taking mindful photography any further, it was all about getting back to work, school and making up for lost time. I still practiced mindful photography when I could as I was aware of how beneficial it was to my mental and physical health.


Then, the second lockdown hit. This time was winter. This lockdown was hard. I mean, really hard. The short days and long nights. It was cold, no leaves on the trees, no summer flowers. Overwhelming worry about my daughter missing out on so much of her education. This one was going to be tough.


It was at that point I realised I had to do something productive with my time, so I decided to research more into mindfulness and meditation. When I look back now I'm so glad I did. It's lead me to so many new things. Even starting new hobbies that I never thought I would see myself doing. All stemming from one day of walking around a little lake in Altrincham.


We moved in 2021 from Altrincham to a rural part of Cheshire. And this is when I fell in love. I fell in love with the landscape, the fields, the farms. A trip to Scotland in 2021 sealed the deal. I had never felt so aware, so present when admiring the stunning landscapes Scotland has to offer. Mindfulness was in full flow.


Lochness, Scotland


Yoga classes, gardening, journalling and walking up hills that I never thought I'd see the top of are just some of the new things I have discovered and still love doing since being introduced to mindful photography. I also spend less time on social media and more time reading books.


I have completed a level two in counselling skills and am currently studying a mindfulness course.


Most importantly I have become much more aware of my thoughts and feelings, I consciously take some time out from mum and work life when I can. I try not to allow myself to become overwhelmed when life gets tough. I listen to my body a lot more and not just what's in my head.


Has this experience turned me into a magical being that can cope with everything life throws at me? No, not at all.


Do I have a lot more to learn? Yes.


Does it help me in every day life and will I carry on learning? Absolutely.

If you would like to try out your own mindful photography walk, have a look at my blog post:



Do you have a story you would like to share about mindfulness? Please get in touch! Email nicolapass@icloud.com



Thanks for stopping by,



NP x

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