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Healing Journey Through Photography

Updated: Mar 1

"Worry less about being a great artist. Worry more about being a good person who makes art. Worry less about making a mark. Worry more about leaving things better than you found them" - Austin Kleon


This blog post is about being a better person above being a good photographer. We all have our dark days and bright days. And it's especially tough to remain in awareness during the dark ones. But it's in the dark days we are tested for resilience, it's during the challenges we experience growth.



Overcoming anxiety

This state can be exhausting. Mind is racing day and night in a loop, not capable to predict the future outcome. More anxiety means more stress and less quality sleep.

In 2023 I passed through a difficult personal period and to the point when anxiety started affecting my life seriously. I had not touched my camera for 2 months, felt a complete apathy for doing anything, editing my photos was painful as it triggered many memories of the life I no longer had. One day I decided I needed to do something about it.


I headed to Asturias to hike Ruta del Cares on my own to stay connected to the nourishing environment. It was difficult at first. But my focus shift had to be on how to pack my only backpack to optimize the weight I'd carry on the trail there and back. It brought me closer to the present moment. When I started the trail from Poncébos I needed to stay aware of the rocky terrain I was stepping on, surrounding mountains, deep gorge below, changing light and air temperature, notice when my body needed hydration or alimentation breaks. When I focused on things I was in control of and on decisions I needed to make, anxiety eased off.


As I kept walking, I started observing everything around me and welcoming other emotions. The light rays of the rising sun were breaking through from behind the mountain and I wanted to get to the spot where this light was reaching and feel this moment. Being in this moment felt so special that I decided it was time to capture it.


Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Finding The Light
Finding The Light


Being in the Moment

Staying in the present moment helps us appreciate our closest surroundings more. With camera in hand, we learn to observe small details, changes, transformations.


During one of my meditations the other day, guided by Down Dog meditation app, the background subject was about photography and staying in the moment. When we take a photo do we immediately think of how it should look like to those who we share it with or do we take it to capture the moment for ourselves, to freeze the way we felt it at that time and share it a later point ? It's the latter to me. It's a more honest way, more authentic, self-sufficient, not looking for external approval.



Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Icelandic Droplets
Icelandic Droplets


Empathy

When we know that path to resilience can be rough, we develop empathy and compassion towards ourselves and the world around us. Empathy helps us understand and connect to emotions of others. It helps us become more caring for our environment, people and creatures around us.


Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Arctic Fox Cub
Arctic Fox Cub


Fear

Fear of failures, fear of the unknown, fear of being alone, fear of not being approved by community, fear of losing someone we love, fear of getting hurt. These are more common faces of fear we are struggling with. To understand the nature of fear and where it's coming from, we need to start with its acceptance. Following that, we need to ask why we have this fear. Once we know why we have it, we can confront it consciously and through this process of confrontation fear transforms into learned experience.


When I started the Cares trail, I felt discomfort in my lower back from the backpack weight. My fear was that my back would be in too much pain and I wouldn't be able to finish the trail. Then I stopped and readjusted all the backpack straps so that I didn't feel a lot of pressure on my lower back and continued walking. In less than half an hour my fear dissipated.




Imperfection

When we go out into the elements, at first we want things to be in a certain way to capture them, expecting a perfect light, weather condition, etc. But nature has its own flow. And when conditions don't click, we get frustrated and blocked. The first step is to accept the imperfections as they are. The next step is to look for beauty in these imperfections and make them our allies.


I was staying in Thorsmörk valley in Iceland for a few days and monitoring weather forecast for planning my hikes. On my second morning there I decided to hike up the Valahnukur mountain, the forecast predicted sun. But in reality everything around me was sinking into the dense fog and visibility was seriously impeded. I even had thoughts of going back but then started looking at smaller things around me and saw a lot of beauty in the close vicinity that didn't even need that perfect visibility.




I was no longer obsessed by the destination views I wouldn't be able to see, I simply felt joy being where I was.




Problem-solving

When we learn to accept the imperfections, it directly impacts our problem-solving skills. It helps us keep an open mind, adapt to circumstances and take the best out of it. Instead of staying focused on a problem, we start looking for solutions using the tools we have. Our creative visions get unleashed.


In Cuenca I went to San Pablo bridge after the rainy night, it was a place where I took beautiful sunrise photos on my first visit to Cuenca back in 2017. This time I was disappointed to find a dull cloudless sky. Instantly I decided to check another location saved in my map, and on approaching the area, I saw fog moving through the valley. That was the solution.




Limits

Through outdoor experiences we learn to surpass what we think are our limits. When we know that everything is a constant change, we put ourselves out there into the unknown conditions to test our resilience and problem-solving skills. And that's when we get to know that our limits change too. What our limits were yesterday will not be the same limits today and the limits we have today will not be the same tomorrow.





Reward

When we accept the given circumstances and let things go their way, nature rewards us with experiences. The weather in Thorsmörk gave me a chance after all.


Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Clarity Of Mind
Clarity Of Mind

Next time you are out with a camera, step back from taking photos for the sake of taking photos or getting more likes, instead stay connected to your environment, observe, listen and feel, and capture moments with your feelings. They will be projected into your story and make it more meaningful and more relatable.



To conclude it, when your foundation is being a better person, everything else will add up harmoniously and all your interests acquired with time will still project the core values.


I'd love to know how you experienced your healing journey through photography and what stories you've created out of it, don't be afraid to comment and share.




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