As lockdowns have reconnected many more people with nature and with its impact on wellbeing, so many are also looking to deepen that connection in new ways. These might be sports or wild swimming – or photography. I’m focusing here specifically on landscape photography, and another time hope to write about other kinds of nature photography.
Landscape photography might highlight perspective and distance, or focus on a scene close at hand. It might portray light and dark, sea and land, shadow and sky, reflections in water. So many different views can be memorable: an urban street or skyline, or a deserted skyline. So it is in no way limited to people in scenic areas. It can help us see the familiar with new eyes, or reveal unknown places to us.
Not long ago I came across the striking landscape photography of Rebekka Guoleifsdottir, whom none other than the Wall Street Journal has named Top Web Photographer. She calls her work Fine Art Landscape Photography. Rebekka comes from Iceland, known for its sometimes wild and remote vistas, hot springs and long coastline. Sometimes she photographs the one scene through different times of the day or of the year, capturing subtle changes in light, landscape or mood. This reminded me of Claude Monet’s series paintings, where he painted one subject (a cathedral, or trees, or a river) again and again in different levels of light. Sometimes he would have as many as 9 canvases on the go at one time.
Rebekka Guoleifsdottir’s book Moodscapes demonstrates how any of us can experiment with landscape photography. It covers a wide range of techniques and practicalities, and is also an opportunity to absorb Rebekka’s style and work. But it was actually online that she came to be noticed, as she shared her photography through online communities. The web has opened up real opportunities for people to enjoy learning and sharing landscape photography.
So how might wellbeing be found through landscape photography? By motivating people to spend time outdoors and experience nature, it could calm us, as nature is known to slow heart rates and reduce anxiety. It could add another level to a walk or drive, or even to time looking through an open window, helping to absorb people in a scene and forget the everyday for a while so that they feel refreshed and renewed. It could also be a way to connect with other people, by sharing photographs maybe in an online group or a local club. People who might not like exercising may enjoy walking more if they take a camera or phone with them, and so find that the exercise too boosts mood. As an art form, photography also improves wellbeing just as other forms of creativity do, and as technology allows more and more editing and manipulation, photography becomes more and more creative in turn.
And people don’t have to take photographs themselves to benefit. Looking at landscape photographs in a book, online or in a display can literally be a change of scene. Maybe particularly if people are unable to travel far or are housebound, landscape photographs and video can become a lifeline. It draws the viewer into a scene, transporting them somewhere they may never have travelled to themselves.
Do you find landscape photography boosts your mood and helps wellbeing? It would be great if you would like to share any thoughts or experiences – or images! – on Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.