I'm aware that in recent months my photography has focused on people and portraits. I guess given the forced isolation we have all experienced due to the pandemic it is no wonder I've sought out human contact through my images. But, with the change of seasons, I find myself drawn more and more to the forest again.
For me woods and forests hold a special place in my heart. I feel at peace amongst the giant trees, taking in the sights and sounds of a mixed woodland really lifts my spirits. The Japanese have recognised this for centuries, and even today their doctors prescribe Forest Bathing as a way to improve wellbeing.
Whilst its true that simply walking through a forest does have physiological benefits, I like to practice a technique of wellbeing that not only enhances this effect but compliments my photography.
I begin by finding a suitably quiet spot and stand still with my eyes closed. Taking slow and even breathes I start to become aware of my body and how it feels beginning at my feet and working my way up are my feet cold or warm, do my legs ache, are my shoulders tense, and so on.
This alone is a great exercise in relaxation and awareness, but I also turn to the world around me and become aware of the forest itself. Usually starting with what I can hear, I simply observe the sounds of the forest. Without taking too much time about it I try to identify what the sounds are and where they are coming from. I am always surprised by how much I can hear even in the quietest of spots.
I do a similar thing with the smells of the forest. This time of year there's a wonderful smell of the forest floor know as petrichor.
Finally, I turn my attention to what I can see. This includes the quality and direction of light, the colours, shapes, patterns and texture. I simply observe and become aware of what's around me.
I know its a cliched term but it really is "being in the moment" - not thinking about the past, or what's coming up in the week ahead, just being completely aware and part of the here and now. It is truly a wonderful experience.
How does this help my photography? I simply have a greater awareness of my environment which in turn means I'm more likely to observe things, things that if I was lost in my thoughts, or had earphones in I would have missed.
These shots were taken early one morning after practicing this mindfulness technique of mine.