What if there was a smartphone app that improved focus, reduced anxiety, enhanced learning, and put you in a better mood? Wouldn’t that be incredible? “Sign me up!” we’d say, right?  You may be surprised to learn that you already have this app installed, and you use it all the time.  It’s your camera.  When brought out into nature and focused on our area’s vibrant natural beauty, your camera transforms into a powerful tool for personal wellness. Let’s explore how.

No one knows photography’s feel-good effects better than the young men and women at Northwest Passage, a Webster-based mental health treatment organization that utilizes nature photography as a therapeutic cornerstone through a program called In a New Light. Over the past eight years, over 1200 participants have helped decode photography’s therapeutic power:

  • Life through a lens is simple and soothing. The focus required to created photos automatically quiets the parts of your brain responsible for thinking and worrying about other parts of your life.  In other words, photography is meditation.  After just 30 minutes of photography, you’ll feel calm, in charge or your emotions, and ready to take on the rest of life.
  • Anyone who lives or vacations in our area already knows that time in nature makes you feel good.  Countless scientific studies, even now, support this obvious fact. The close and intentional interaction with nature that photography requires amplifies nature’s soothing effects.
  • Nature photography awakens your childlike sense of wonder, curiosity, and fascination. You’ll notice the small things you’ve been missing all along: the pattern of veins on a leaf, the movement of ripples in the water or the color of a bird’s eye. In searching for photos, one can’t help but be moved by the deep beauty of this world. Fascination and wonder are psychologically restorative emotions.

Are you ready to go make some beautiful nature photos?  Let’s do it. It’s way easier than you think. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a fancy camera; just grab your smartphone.  Good locations are especially plentiful in our area, but start near a watery shoreline, such as a canoe landing on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The river is a good subject itself and concentrates wildlife, birds, insects, and plant life. Then take the following four steps to make a great photo:

  • Take five minutes to simply sit quietly, observe and identify the photographic subjects that most strongly catch your eye.
  • Seek out appealing light.  Avoid bright, harsh sunlight. Cloudy days, moderate shade, and soft morning or evening light usually yield the best photos.
  • Find an interesting, unexpected angle from which to capture your subject.  Lie on the ground and get dirty if you have to!
  • When composing your shot, use the rule of thirds, which means placing the photo’s main subject 1/3 of the way from the nearest edge of the frame.

Finally, hold your camera as steady as possible and click! It’s as simple as that. Your photos will improve with practice, but more importantly, you’ll begin to experience life in a new light.         

Submitted by: Northwest Passage
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