Mental Health Awareness week #3: location, photography & mindfulness

There are opportunities to create mindful images wherever you are (Image credit: Paul Sanders)
Meet the pro: Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders

(Image credit: Paul Sanders)

Paul has been a pro photographer since 1984, and by 2004 he was Picture Editor at The Times. In 2011 he became a full-time landscape photographer, and is passionate about the power photography has to help people overcome anxiety, and to positively adjust their outlook on life.

For mindful photography you don’t need to travel, there are no good or bad locations, there’s no such thing as good or bad light, there is only where you are and the opportunities gifted to you. 

If you take away the expectation and pressure of having to make great images, you’ll find that your curiosity will lead to some wonderful shots. 

Outside is another level. There are trees, rail lines, hedges; everything calls out at different times for attention. I rarely research locations, I just go and enjoy what is there on the day.  

By going to seldom-visited locations you are finding your own way. The key is to enjoy the time in nature – only two hours outdoors is proven to have huge health benefits!

3 subjects and scenes to look for

There is no such thing as an ideal location to practise mindful photography, but starting at home is as good a place as any. Our homes have so many overlooked and unappreciated areas of beauty that aren’t noticed, and you will be amazed how much you can see and how connected or tuned in you are. 

From the light and shadows playing on the wall to the steamed-up mirror in the bathroom, the floor, flowers in the garden, the view from the window or of your house from the road, there are moments of beauty everywhere.

Home (Image credit: Paul Sanders)

My favorite location is my home –specifically within ten kilometres of it. I really don’t need to travel around looking for pictures when I am presented with things every day. We all live in the most incredible places – cities, towns, villages, open countryside – and yet we all fail to appreciate what is on our doorstep.

We take our homes for granted, but the wealth of beauty around and inside them is incredible. From a pile of washing to the light working its way across a wall, there is something in every room. 

(Image credit: Paul Sanders)

Urban environments offer so much opportunity: reflections, shadows, graphic shapes, hard and soft contrast, incredible light and drama. But often we are too busy heading to work to notice what is offered, especially in the evening when we are trying to get home.

Take the train in to work early and walk slowly to the office noting what you see – it will be the best walk of your day. Next time, take your camera – travel light, then get into the habit of doing the same walk every day, and notice the subtle changes, the seasons changing the angle of the light. You’ll be amazed.

(Image credit: Paul Sanders)

I am calmest by the water. I naturally gravitate towards it: coasts, rivers and lakes make me feel rested. Most of the waterside images I make are long exposures. This technique lends itself very well to mindful photography because it exudes calm. Head nearby instead of travelling to well-visited locations.

Embrace the weather to add mood and emotion

The changing weather can reveal beauty in subjects that might otherwise be plain. It can reflect your own moods or emotions. I find that I see more when the weather matches my emotions, allowing me to amplify my mood and receive something truly beautiful. When it rains don’t run for cover. Grab your umbrella and watch the life-giving force fall from the skies and inspire you.

Driving across to Holy Island, Northumberland in the pouring rain, I stopped the car on the causeway just to watch, as the rain seemed backlit, the wind kept catching it and making it drift and swirl, so I just started photographing the patterns and shapes in the rain. I was totally soaked after a short time but exhilarated. I love the way the rainfall mirrors the shape of the castle. (Image credit: Paul Sanders)

Read more: 

Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK
Learn the craft of slow-shutter-speed photography
Can photography improve your mental health

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