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Find Your Inner Calm – The Therapeutic Processes Of Long-Exposure Photography

Written by: Christiaan Partridge, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Christiaan Partridge

Much is already known regarding the benefit of outdoor activity in reducing stress and the calming effects of forests and water. Colour Theory tells us of the calming nature of blue and green hues and how they may fit together in colour harmonies within nature and images. In addition, there are the therapeutic processes of long-exposure photography, a slowing down of thoughts and an opportunity to live in the moment.

Shot of a water falls

I am writing a document of self-discovery and how I have used my photography as a means of relaxation and mindfulness to cope with the stress of daily life. Along the way, I have found that I am not alone in this and that there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence and poignant life stories from other photographers, such as Paul Williams and Paul Sanders, who have also found inner peace with their cameras.

What is long-exposure photography?

Long exposures in photography are considered anywhere between ½ a second to several minutes and require the camera to be steady on a tripod, using a remote release cable and a watch or timer. Light is blocked out using neutral density filters, ranging from 2 to 15 stops, creating a lengthened shutter speed. In my images, the focal point is static; I can create patterns of colours, shapes, or lines, either in the sky or in water, depending on the length of the exposure. It is experimental in its very nature; the results can’t be seen any other way.

Find your subject

As an experienced local photographer, I am already knowledgeable about the local photography hotspots and what potential subjects there are. Otherwise, I would use Google Maps to explore locations, parking, access points, and paths. Of course, being outside, you are reliant on weather conditions, and when working in coastal areas, having the tide time information is essential. I will often spend the first 15-30 minutes at any location assessing which subjects are the most conducive to becoming successful images, depending on the conditions at the time and what may develop. Once I have selected a subject, I frame my composition, maybe taking a few metering images to test the light and the base shutter speed from which to calculate the long exposure. Most filters come with shutter speed conversion guides; these are a start, but eventually, I will get creative and experiment with my own.

The therapeutic processes

This starts with my metering images, and like with any sport, I am effectively warming up and getting ready to make images. I will have given myself at least 2-3 hours at a chosen location and often return with only one successful image. As I become more in tune with my surroundings, the success of my images increases. Time begins to slow down as you concentrate on your composition. The filters block out all visible light, so you must pre-focus and get the image framed before sliding the neutral density filter into position.

By mid-shoot, I can recognise three phases of becoming more relaxed and absorbed by my subject and surroundings. I am living in the now, and all the noise of daily life has been silenced. This may now be termed Mindful Photography.

Phase 1. A clarity of thinking

I am familiar with the initial phase, where I can analyse my thoughts and arrange my other tasks accordingly. I have found keeping a notebook and pen in my camera bag beneficial, as this stage usually lasts only a few minutes.

Phase 2. Hyperawareness of now

After a moment of clarity, I become fully absorbed in my surroundings. My attention is solely focused on the present moment, and I am no longer aware of other thoughts, worries or stresses. Instead, I am captivated by nature's sights, sounds, and scents. I am aware of the rustling of leaves in the wind, the vibrant colours of wildflowers, the crashing of waves, and the intricate patterns of clouds in the sky. This is the stage where the most successful photographs are taken. It is the process that I follow that leads me to this state of mind.

Phase 3. Relaxation

An appreciation of the countryside or coastal landscape has developed, where you are within it and complete relaxation. I’m enjoying everything around me and being there in the moment. I have no stress or worries; I’m just enjoying nature at its very best and a feeling of contentment that the world has many beautiful places and a scene that Mother Nature can change every day.

The Final Images – An appreciation and a memory

There is much enjoyment to be had reviewing and editing the final images. Much of the hard work is done outside in the field; I don’t want to sit in front of a computer for hours on end; for me, that would defeat the process. But just viewing the images brings back memories of that sense of being in the moment and completely relaxed, knowing that that image was only as it was there and then, and that tomorrow it may look completely different.

That is the power of nature, the ever-changing landscape, and the colours and patterns of nature captured in a moment on camera. Through long-exposure photography, this is the ability to slow down, appreciate your surroundings, and find your inner calm.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and visit my website for more info!

Christiaan Partridge Brainz Magazine

Christiaan Partridge, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Christiaan Partridge is a Family Doctor, Photographer, football coach and cricket coach. Having picked up a camera at a relatively late stage in life, Christiaan has recently achieved a First Class Honours degree in Photography via the University of Chester. For the past 7 years, he has been a youth football coach and also an ECB Core Cricket Coach. Christiaan also has vast experience in running amateur sports clubs, specializes manly in Landscape Photography, with a particular interest in Therapeutic Photography to treat minor mental illness.



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