on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

The restorative effects of landscape photography

The immersive experience of being in nature

Shannon Kalahan

Shannon is based out of the New England region of the United States. Her photographic journey began in 2002 while volunteering for an animal rescue. She has since built a successful business as a landscape, wedding and newspaper photographer, author and educator.


When people find out that I am a photographer, inevitably, they ask how I got started. In response, I tell the story of my journey from novice to now, making sure to highlight the time I spent shooting and developing black and white film. I reminisce fondly on time spent in a darkroom because to me, it is a peaceful space. When I explain it to people, I talk about how developing film is a meditative process, where the rest of life’s worries and stresses fall away for the time that I am in the darkroom. If I am thinking about dodging and burning, or chemical baths and film reels, I cannot help but to be fully invested in that moment. In hindsight, it has occurred to me that all aspects of landscape photography have been restorative for me, not just my time in the darkroom. That is part of why I have made it a centrepiece in my life. It encourages me to travel, explore in nature, practice mindfulness, develop connections with the world around me and create something of beauty.

Although I have always thought about the positive impact landscape photography has on my own life, I only recently realised that photography has therapeutic value for others. The realisation came while I listened to a photography podcast featuring William Patino, a landscape photographer out of New Zealand1. William said that several years ago he’d been diagnosed with depression and photography helped him manage it. In his own words, “photography was this tool that allowed me to kind of see colour and hope and beauty in the world again. Depression just really made me very numb to everything and photography was a tool that helped me feel alive.” That is a powerful sentiment that resonated strongly with me. Among other things, photography has been a way for me to celebrate the beauty of the world and to hear someone else verbalise my feelings were strange. Of course, I’ve always known that I use photography to celebrate nature, and of course, I’ve always known that I found happiness in the act of creating art. However, until hearing that interview, it never occurred to me that those two things were two sides of the same coin.

Time spent in nature has long been known to have health benefits. Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at Stanford University, conducted a study to measure brain function before and after a person was immersed in nature. Participants were asked to describe their baseline level of brooding, worrying over the same issues repetitively or fretting, and they were scanned to measure blood flow in the brain.

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