It’s well-known that in the modern era, people are settling into increasingly sedentary lifestyles. But even as we become surrounded by the conveniences of technology, many of us still resist this influence. We put on good running shoes and head out to keep up a daily exercise habit. We research new ways to work out and improve nutrition.
Yet technology might unlock opportunities to improve our health. Everyone carries a smartphone around these days. Your phone is home to handy fitness apps, but it’s also a capable camera. And by taking up the hobby of outdoor photography, you can engage in an activity that boosts physical and mental health, social connections, and creativity. Here are some things to know before you start.
New physical activity
With nothing more than a smartphone in your hands, you can take pictures anywhere you go. But being a photographer requires intent. As you start to learn and practice your skill, you won’t be content just to look around and snap away casually.
In any scene, photographers are always on the lookout for an exciting subject. They consider the best point of view and how to get the best lighting. When you’re outdoors, this translates to new forms of physical activity. A hiker will follow the trail; a photographer will head off the path, scurry down slopes, and clamber up rocks, trying to get the best view for a unique shot.
And while it’s true you don’t need anything more than a smartphone to take pictures, better equipment will enable better photography. Upgrading to a DSLR or mirrorless camera system will let you take high-quality photos. You’ll be able to deal with challenging conditions and do justice to the most beautiful scenes you encounter. At the same time, gear upgrades add weight.
When your kit includes a camera body, tripod, lenses, and other accessories, you can easily wind up lugging around several more pounds. You need to add weight carefully and carry it with proper form. You’ll want to warm up thoroughly and stretch to keep your body limber, both before and after each session. Your hobby now incorporates a proper workout routine.
A connection to nature and people
Technological advances in recent years have had the unfortunate side effect of increasing our sense of social isolation. We’ve become accustomed to interacting through our phones and social media; it’s convenient, but also distant. Living in a world that’s connected 24/7, we’ve somehow managed to lose the richness of face-to-face interactions while being exposed to a high level of status pressure and anxiety.
But taking up outdoor photography gives you a different reason to use technology. It encourages you to get closer to nature and spend more time in the outdoor environment. Even if you never go off the grid, you’re using your devices to enrich your connection with the surroundings, not distract from it.
Outdoor photographers also enjoy a sense of fellowship with the people they encounter on location. You might find that you have a lot more in common with hikers and sightseers than your colleagues at work. Strangers in the city routinely ignore each other. But when you’re in the middle of a park or trekking up a mountain, unfamiliar faces become more friendly. You take the time to say hello, introduce yourself, and maybe stop to chat about what you’ve seen or share tips for the road ahead. Away from the context of our busy urban lives, we can enjoy more meaningful social interactions.
Staying in the moment
Mindfulness is a popular method of improving one’s mental health. People practice yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises to focus their senses and heighten their awareness of thoughts and feelings.
The skill of photography requires far more than seeing something exciting and taking a picture of it. When you exercise your photography ‘muscles’, you actively think about what draws you to a subject. What makes it stand out? How does it interact with the surroundings? What is the best way to compose your shot?
Having the gear and being present at a scene are just part of the equation that goes into a successful photo. Your mind is the most critical part. You want to understand what you feel in the moment and find the best way to convey that in your photos. Thus, practicing photography is also practicing mindfulness. You can’t help but stay in the moment as you try to capture the scene before you.
Outdoor photography is a hobby that will benefit your health and well-being in multiple ways, and it takes nothing more than a smartphone to get started. Head out now, and you can begin a lifelong practice for self-improvement.