Inside this issue
Solitude or Isolation?
Time spent in the elements
Steve Ball is a landscape and nature photographer based in the NW of England, ideally situated between the three National Parks of Snowdonia, the Peak District, and the Lake District. His emotional connection with nature continues to grow bringing with it a greater appreciation of land, wildlife, the coast, and the environment. His principal aim is to create images which illustrate his love for the natural world, and which tell his story of what he sees, and what he feels. His philosophy is to take photographs which first and foremost appeal to himself, if they are of interest or provide enjoyment to others then that is a welcome bonus. In more recent times his focus has shifted from the wider vista to a more intimate perspective, creating images characterised by texture, patterns and form.
Much has been written about the benefits of landscape and nature photography on our health and well being (read articles on mental health and depression). A growing number of well known professional photographers have consistently offered that view and have actively promoted their commercial offer and workshop content on the premise that time spent alone in nature with our camera has positive effects on our morale, levels of anxiety, and at an extreme as an antidote to depression.
Looking back on my life so far, I have regrettably reached the conclusion that I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my life and certainly all my adult life. I took up 'serious' photography about ten years ago and am grateful for and embrace the relief that it has given me through some dark times and periods of personal turmoil. I have had moments of sheer exhilaration in the mountains, periods of peace and tranquillity in the woodland, and times of unconscious immersion in the intimacy of a coastal environment.
Those times have undoubtedly helped me put aside the challenges that everyday life brings.... however, and this is the point of this article, those moments in time are only temporary. They represent a brief release from the issues that trouble us and which can take hostage of our thoughts. When you return from your excursion in nature, your troubles have not magically disappeared, they remain and, in my case, are sometimes magnified because of the precious time I have spent in nature and the subsequent contrast with the turmoil of everyday life.
Actual time spent out in the field can also present problems to people with mental health issues. I am sure we have all experienced days when we trudge around devoid of inspiration, struggling to find our creative mojo. For those who are troubled and unsettled, those occasions can magnify our sense of unease and increase the feeling of isolation from the world. It becomes easy to question your ability to find something inspirational and ultimately can spiral into a mindset where you question the reason for being a photographer in the first place. Such thoughts can take over and ultimately detract from all the proven benefits of being out with the camera.
For many of us, most of our photography practice is done on our own, whether that be time in the field or time spent processing and printing our images. I don't know whether that is always a good thing. From my perspective, solitude and isolation are two very different concepts. Although not a clear cut view, solitude can be a choice, whereas isolation is often, but not necessarily always, a feeling brought on by loneliness. In my more positive times, I choose solitude because I want to experience nature on my own, accompanied only by my thoughts and senses. However, in less positive times, that solitude can feel more like isolation, which in turn can negatively impact my health and wellbeing. I know that landscape and nature photography is an essential element of my life.
I love the connection with nature, the time spent in the elements, and the sheer joy of creating and printing an image. The benefits to me are immeasurable and far outweigh any downside. However, it does present its challenges, as I am sure it does to others, and as such, the question remains as to how I can carry on my work without suffering the impact of that feeling of isolation and despair brought on through time spent on this solitary pursuit.