Good light is what you miss if you spend too much time indoors.

Heading home into the sunset. Sony Nex 6 with 50mm 1.8 OSS lens.
The last bit of color and light in the winter sky...

Some days I go out with the idea that I'm on a search for good images. Some days I go out with the idea that I need a walk. On the days on which I'm just walking I always bring along a camera, just in case. I never understood the holistic utility of a good walk until I recently started reading research about the way our addiction to two dimensional screens is changing our brain physiology and hampering our ability to visualize and function optimally in the real, three dimensional world.

Seems that sitting all day looking at a screen disrupts your ability to absorb three dimensional clues and information. It also reduces your physical system's micro-balance. The diminution of one's ability to operate optimally in three dimensional space also limits and bounds one's cognitive processes. Put another way, sitting around looking at screens all day makes you a dumb ass with balance issues. Not the way you really wanted to spend your adult life.

Fortunately the cure is painless and, for photographers, productive. After a spell at the crusty old monitor/internet connection you head outside in a pair of comfortable shoes and look at the world around you as you walk. An hour or two of walking can do much to mitigate the creeping mental lethargy brought on by excessive two dimensional visual activities. But you have to be diligent. There has to be a balance.

Our DNA pushes us to crave action and movement. It conditions us to crave the act of moving through space. When we're stationary and sedentary we're battling our own evolutionary imperatives. 

Thank God we invented photography. It gives us a ready and reliable excuse to push away from our desks, easy chairs, dining room tables and couches in order to head outside and get some creative thinking and seeing done. A photography secret for living longer and happier lives.

Doesn't really matter if you come back with winning images. It really is a case of the journey being more valuable than the immediate results. I no longer rationalize the time I spend walking through the city. It's not about casting a temporal net in which to catch images. Now it's just an exercise I do to increase my ability to play well in three dimensions and to unfetter my mind from the stationary physical barriers that researchers agree hamper advanced problem solving and non-linear creative thought. Try it. 


Jim said...

An unusual perspective but then, I would expect nothing less from you Kirk. And I totally agree.

Philip Ho said...

Also, I think that if you go out while having in mind the walk as an experience to look at life, instead of the walk as secondary to getting pictures, I think you'll be less bummed out/hard on yourself if you miss "that one amazing scene/moment".

It'll make you less stressed out and more glad that you had the privilege to observe something that beautiful at all, while possibly leaving you motivated enough and devoid of too much regret, which at too high levels can be emotionally incapacitating.

Might not work well for a professional photographer on assignment, but I think it pans out pretty okay for personal work. For me, anyway.

Carlo Santin said...

Walking really is terrific for the body but also for the mind. When I'm out for a good walk I think about all sorts of things that normally wouldn't enter my mind, sort of like moving meditation. I always bring a camera but often return without having taken a single shot. Fresh air and sunlight is always good.

Chris Malcolm said...

Another convert to the views of the peripatetic philosophers of Ancient Greece :-)

It's not just looking at 2D screens. It's sitting at a desk looking at paperwork. Or sitting round a table talking with people. In short, sitting :-) What really gets the brain into full throttle engagement is moving through the three dimensional world, not just looking at it from a chair. What's more the moving has to be done by your own muscles working the joints, maintaining balance, feeling the breeze in your hair, chewing gum at the same time as walking :-)

Increasing numbers of people are becoming converted to the idea that if you want to prolong your active fun-having life, rather than just adding more final unfunny years in intensive care to the end of it, then it's a really good idea to keep the body fit and healthy.

But what about brain health, keeping most of the marbles between the ears as we age? Obviously you need to do brain exercises like crossword puzzles, sudoku. etc. That's where scientific research comes in so handy, when what is obvious turns out to be wrong, when the truth is surprising, unexpected. What turns out to be the best exercise for keeping the aging brain in good cognitive shape is walking.

Nobody as far as I know has yet done the important critical scientific research to assess the extra benefits to brain health of carrying a camera while walking. I don't mean just having one in your pocket along with mobile phone and swiss army knife. I mean seriously carrying a camera with the deliberate intention of finding opportunities to have fun with it.

So you look around more. You find interesting things to photograph. You grapple with photographic and artistic problems. That's more stuff for the brain to be doing. Plus you find yourself moving around to get better views, moving off the beaten path to investigate odd looking things, getting up on walls to get better views, climbing over fences, scrambling up slopes, running to get ahead of the woman in the red coat so you can catch her as she rounds the corner beside that ancient faded red church door, not to mention the complex manipulative and balancing skills required to change a lens while standing on a rock in a river. Taking a camera for a walk can tempt you into a lot more physical exercise than just walking.

And as I point out to the domestic treasure and treasurer, once I've improved my strength and fitness to the point of being able to run around for hours with my photographic gear bag then it's time to add some more weight to the bag, such as a new heavy lens :-)

AdamR said...

I'm a big fan of walking, with or without a camera. When I get a new camera or lens I don't find something bland in the house to shoot, I grab the dog and head out the door. This past weekend I ran a roll through a Zeiss folder I got for Christmas. The dog and I both had a good time and when the roll was finished we still had a nice long walk back to the house to enjoy.

My other hobby is hiking though, so maybe I'm a little biased. Personally I'd rather walk than run or bike. I feel like I have to pay a lot more attention when I'm running or biking to keep from getting injured, whereas with walking I can clear my mind and relax. There's nothing I enjoy more after a stressful day at work than a long walk with my dog.


Kirk Tuck said...

One of the ingredients for a joyous life.

George said...

I just did a walk with mom a couple hours ago. Having 2 weeks of holiday that finish this monday.

Some of these days are just lazy for me, even not going out of home for most of the day; Yesterday was one, today walked because my mom insisted. Even if I like it, sometimes the laziness overcomes the desire. I like having a lazy day, to relax and do nothing every one in a while, But after having one or more lazy days, I feel worse.

When I go to college I have a 1h commute and then a kilometer walk from station to college. If the weather is good, it becomes quite a fresh morning walk and I love it.

Somehow going out of the train to the campus has become a "me" moment, and I like to loiter around and observe, taking it easy. Ending the commute in a terminal station, which is much more calm, open, and with a XIX century architecture helps it.
Arriving early helps it too.

However, often there is a classmate on the same train and then it becomes a quick walk; taking out the observation factor in change of conversation. It takes away some of the magic

I think that it makes the day a bit better, and I never had the level of energy and animation before entering college.

However, I'll have to convince some of my friends to go have a walk in one of the many free time between classes. I've done it few times.