Archive for the ‘mental illness’ Category

How to get “unstuck”

August 3, 2013


Are you stuck?

You’re in luck…you can tell because the elephants trunk is up. That’s a sign of good luck. I took this photo recently while down in Disney World. Or I think this one is actually from one of the Universal Studio
parks. But I digress.

I’m going to save your life today.


Because I’ve been reading a lot of material lately (books, blog posts, etc.) written by James Altuchur.

And James says that when he was stuck (after loosing many millions of dollars) and wondering how he was going to go on with life, get unstuck, part of his healing, therapy, technique for getting “UN-STUCK” was to wake up in the morning and direct his attention to thinking about saving one life today. Apparently it worked for James because now he’s back on top again, with something like 4 million readers on his blog, numerous books in print, a new wife, and business deals to pick from.

So I’m going to try his advice to get you (and me) unstuck. Today I woke and decided the life I would save today would be yours.

You’re welcome!

Perhaps you’re unsure now if I’m speaking metaphorically, or if I am actually going to save your real, physical life? I think I can do both.

Let’s tackle the mental side first.

You’re (we’re) stuck. Each day seems like the day before. We’re not moving forward. Not progressing. There are things we want to do, be or have and we’re not getting them. And we don’t know what to do anymore. So we do nothing (different). We’re stuck and know we need to do something different. But what?

Great American photographer Robert Capa says, “If you’re photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” For me that means zoom in. Your photos aren’t good enough because there are too many distractions that keep our eyes from seeing what is really important. In all great photos (art) our eyes need one focal point. Only one.

So why did I just dump this Capa photography quote in so abruptly? Two reasons.

One, because I’m a photographer and this is a photography blog, so I filter and express all my thoughts through the photographic “lens”.

Two, because Capa’s technique for creating great photos is also a great way to get unstuck. Both in our photography and our life. We need to eliminate the distractions and create a central focus point. We need to reveal (think about, discover, show) what’s most important.

In photography, using a macro lens is one great way to zoom in and reveal the incredible detail. To show a world that was there all the time, but we never really see it. Google “macro photography images” and you’ll be taken to another world. One that is there all the time, everyday, but we’re moving so fast, we’re so busy that we never notice it.

If you don’t have a macro lens (like me) just use any zoom lens to take really up close photos of anything. Tree bark. Brick walls. A stone path. Graffiti. A bug. Circuit boards. Use and stretch your imagination today and you’re sure to get unstuck mentally. Get out into world, use your feet to zoom too as you move physically closer to your intended subject. Being physically active taking photographs will also help to stimulate your creative juices, your blood, all the stuff of life coursing through your body. It will clear your mind and inspire and energize you.

Eliminate the distractions in your life (just the simple act of looking through the camera’s viewfinder, that small little piece of glass, cuts off over 120 degrees from your eyes view. As your eyes take in less (useless) information your brain can begin to relax to focus. It’s almost like meditation!)

Getting out, physically moving your body to take new photos, in new ways is the best way to get unstuck. Anytime you can combine your mind and body you compound the results. One reinforces the other for exponential (faster) results.

But if you can’t get out today…

Photoshop (or most any photo editing software) is another great way to transport yourself to another dimension of time and space. Take one of your photos, any one, and change the screen view from 25 or 33% and zoom all the way up to 200%. Look at all the detail. I’ll bet you can create a great new work of art by just zooming in massively on some detail of your photo. Use the rule of thirds, use standard composition, color, and contrast techniques to create some great new artwork today. Let your eyes open and experience a new and exciting closeup world that you’ve been overlooking up until now.

You could also take one page from  my “Photoshop Recipe Book” and try that technique on one of your photos. You’ll learn something new. Perhaps a faster technique for skin softening or for cutting images out of one photo and pasting them into another. Pick one page (focus) on making one change in how you do things. One step today to get moving. Then another step tomorrow.

I know that zooming in, focusing on the most important thing in your photos (and in your life) and taking some NEW or DIFFERENT action will greatly improve your photos and your life. It will help you get UN-STUCK. I know it has for me.

So finally (I haven’t forgotten, although I do forget more and more as I get older) you’re probably wondering how can I save your real physical life today?

I’ve given you one way already. Perhaps you missed it. (See how easy it is to get distracted!) Get your body moving. Go out and take some photos. Practically this whole blog has been devoted to the health benefits of photography and the main way this works is that your interest in photography gives you a reason to GET UP AND GO DO SOMETHING! Move your body. Any physical motion is better than none. Our bodies (and minds) need to move or we atrophy and die.

If you’re stuck, take some action, TODAY, no matter how small, to get in motion. Rinse and repeat. Whatever you have (or have not been doing) is why you’re stuck right now. Do you know the last time I posted on this blog was June of 2012? Posting this now is something different, something I haven’t done in over a year. (shame on me!)

Let’s do something different today. I’m starting off the day by saving your life today.

It’s an experiment, my way of doing something different today. It’s a big, bold step, the kind they say you need to make for best effect, so please don’t call me many nasty names if it doesn’t work out for you. I’m new at this.

James Altuchur says it worked (as part of his daily practice) to get him unstuck, and he swears it has worked for thousands of others, so I’m hoping it will work for me (and YOU).

We’ve seen the elephant and he forecasts good luck. So let go out and get unstuck together, today.

Robert Schwarztrauber

P.S. To show I’m walking my talk, in addition to saving your life, the elephant photo you see here was made by zooming in on just one part of an exhibit from the Universal Studios park.


Holiday Loneliness Conquered by Camera

December 23, 2011

All of the socks come out of the dryer with a mate except for one. You.

Wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for all those holiday get-togethers. Boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, lovers of all variety having one another to fall back on, leave with. Family, work, and friends all gathering (paired) to spread the holiday cheer.

You’re expected to go and have fun too, even if you are the lonely sock.

So what’s a person to do?

Good news! It’s easier than ever now to have fun on your own, in any situation.

Just appoint yourself the photographer!

Now, you can even use your iPhone or android to take candid shots. Whether you tell anyone or not is up to you. The point is, you have a mission now, a greater purpose. A cause.

You’re no longer the lonely sock, you’re a rogue spy. You have a reason to interact, to draw a crowd, to instigate fun. When you become the self-appointed photographer you take the focus off you, pun intended, and concentrate instead on capturing all the fun. We’re always happiest when we’re doing something for others!

Imagine how much fun it will be to share those photos after the party’s over.

It works for parties and it works if you want to travel someplace, but don’t have anyone to join you.

Think about it. Do you ever feel lonely going to the store? No, you’re on a mission to buy something. You have a definite purpose. Do you feel lonely when you’re fishing, or painting, or knitting, or baking, or cutting the grass, or washing the dishes? No, because you have a purpose and that makes all the difference.

The great thing about the camera is you not only have a purpose (to record the sights and mood of the occasion) but you also  have a tangible product when you’re done…photographs!

Many photographers and artist have more fun manipulating the images afterward (with programs like Photoshop) than they did taking the pictures initially. So you get double the fun.

If you have a digital SLR camera, that’s great. But you don’t need to lug obvious or expensive equipment to get results. Many times a big camera and lens actually makes people freeze up or move away. But folks seem to love hamming it up in front of the tiny cell phone lens.

In my survey of amateur photographers, 93% said taking photos made them feel good about themselves, it boosted their self-esteem and 80% said photo taking made them feel more connected to the community, it increased their interaction with other people.

This holiday season, if you want to feel really good about yourself and have a blast at all those parties you were dreading, break out the camera!

Fear not, even if your photo taking skills are lacking. The same survey of photographers showed that it didn’t matter if the photos were good or bad, those taking the photos still felt all the positive benefits. It was the ACT of taking photos, not the actual photo quality that made the difference.

Embrace your lonely sock-ness. Roam untethered through the season, capturing all the action, and you just might find in the end… you’ve become the life of the party!

For more information on how to become a happier, healthier you while having fun with your camera, check out “Your F-Stop Guide to Fitness”


Coming Up: My interview with Dr. Lisa Rene Reynolds, psychologist, marital counselor, and  author of the great new book, “Parenting Through Divorce” . She shares her expert opinion on how photography helps folks create a more positive atmosphere through the loneliness and trauma of marital breakups. Her book offers a unique perspective on how to best protect and nurture the children through this difficult time. She says certain photos can really help!

Camera Best Gift for Single Folks

December 16, 2011

Ten days until Christmas and the panic of not knowing what to buy my single friend consumes me. Waves of adrenaline shoot through my heart. I want to buy a gift that matters, but what?

Page after page the catalogs and store flyers leave me uninspired. Surely there is one gift that will bring my friend happiness, let her be more active, more social. But what is it?

Here it is. A digital camera!

In a recent survey, three out of four photographers report photography makes them more active each week. In fact, all of the surveys participants state that photography stimulates their mind and half say it makes them feel more focused, alive and creative.

That report also says taking photos helps boost self esteem. Ninety three percent say taking photos makes them feel good about themselves.

Eight out of ten say it lifts their mental state daily and increases their contact with other people. Most in the survey say taking photos makes them feel more connected to the local community and the world.

Best of all, the survey says you don’t have to be a good photographer. The folks in the survey are amateur picture takers and even if no one else likes their photos, they still report feeling all the positive benefits of taking photos.

The people in the survey say taking pictures helps them connect with nice people, it relaxes them, and gives them a greater appreciation of the world. It says their interest in taking photos gets them out of the house more and makes them feel better.

Photography is even considered a therapy for depression and loneliness by some psychologists and counselors. One woman used photography to beat her addiction to alcohol. Another man who suffers chronic pain from an accidental fall used it to mask the pain; it’s effective, if only temporarily.

Yes, a camera will be the perfect gift for my friend.

Digital SLR’s offer the greatest opportunity for creative photographers. Automatic features insure that even the novice can take great photos the same day. Manual features allow the budding or expert photographer complete control for artistic expression.

Technology now lets the new iPhones and androids compete in this arena too. The quality of their onboard cameras and their portability make them the go-anywhere alternative to the bigger digital cameras. Add some editing in a program like Photoshop and you’ll never know that cell phone photo didn’t come from a pro camera.

With all these great benefits, a digital camera really stands alone as the best gift choice for single folks, divorced folks, and widowed folks. Everyone young and old. It might just be the most overlooked total mind-body fitness machine ever invented!

For more information on the many ways  photography can improve your life, visit

Dealing with Loss: Content Aware Fill for the Soul

November 10, 2011

Marcia lost her voice. Patrice lost her freedom. Ken lost use of his legs

At some point in our life we will all experience loss of one kind or another. We may lose a friend or two as we go through grammar school. We may lose a sweetheart in our teen years. Our pets may pass on or run away. 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Some of us may experience the heart-wretching loss of a child to disease, accident, or war. Most of us will have to get through the loss of our parents. We may lose our job.

How do we fill the void?

How do we make the emptiness go away.

How do we reassemble the pieces of our life so it makes sense again?

It hurts. How do we stop the pain?

We’ve all heard the expression that nature abhors a vacuum. Weeds are a perfect example. Cultivate some plot in your yard for flowers or vegetables. No sooner does that empty space start filling. Not with the flowers or vegetables you planted but with weeds. That’s nature seeking to fill the void.

An empty table or counter in your home is the most attractive magnet for anything you hold in your hand that needs to be set down. Does anyone have a half-empty closet?

Nature wants us to be full too. That empty feeling inside is nature’s way of prodding us on. Our souls and hearts were meant to be full. Many times, the loss becomes a blessing in disguise. The loss was really just nature’s way of calling us to a great fullness. Her way of replacing something inadequate with something more suited for our potential.

We often can’t see past the hurt though. All we feel is the pain. But as we begin to rebuild our lives we are drawn to this greater potential. Sometimes we can feel the need to do more or be more. Sometimes we are guided by forces we do not understand or are unconscious of.

While it may seem to take an eternity, eventually our emptiness is filled. Though we will never forget the loss, it becomes part of the new you. But does it have to take so long? Is there a faster way to fill the void?

As strange as it may seem, Adobe may have unwittingly found  the solution in their newest Photoshop version, CS5.

One of this great new options in this photo editing software is a feature called “Content Aware Fill”. This feature lets you cut out, erase, or remove any part of your photo and then Photoshop goes to work to fill that area with new information calculated from the surrounding pixels.

Before “Content Aware Fill” the photo editor would have to fill that void manually, piece by piece by cloning pixels from the remaining photo or by replacing them entirely with some piece from another photograph. Editing the old way could take hours. With “Content Aware Fill” that time could be reduced to just seconds.

That’s great for filling the void in photos, but how does that relate to the void in our life?

Quite simply, we must do what the Photoshop program does. We must look at the parts of our life surrounding the void, the loss, and see what information is most relevant, most important to us. We must look at all the interests that make up our life and grab pieces of that to begin rebuilding.

During such crisis in our life it is natural to focus on the loss, on the void. To rebuild we must change our focus to what remains, to the whole portions of our life. It will happen eventually, but we can make it happen faster.

In my studies I have seen countless example where photography has been used to hasten the recovery time for people in loss. Marcia used photography to radically change her life after completely losing her voice in surgical complications. Patrice used photography to restore freedom to her life after she was called to care for her invalid brother. Ken used photography to relieve chronic pain and boredom after losing use of his legs in the line of duty. Many people have used photography as therapy after divorce.

Photography forces you to change your focus  and begin to see the infinite beauty in all the wonders of this world. You’re naturally drawn to photograph the things you love when you get started so it’s easy to forget your troubles. Your void begins to fill with beauty. You smile a lot.

Photography is life’s “Content Aware Fill”.

In order to become whole again, in order to become more than you are, you must do something. You must take action. Photography is perfect because it is simple.

Everyone can take a photograph. Some better than others, but we can all do it. The more you become involved the more focused you become. You become focused on the good and the beautiful.

Photography forces you to get up and get out. It forces you to do something different. As your reward for taking action you do you will see things you have never seen before. You will meet wonderful people you’ve never met before. Right next to what you love there is more, and that is your Content Aware Fill.

When you need a new view, remember that your camera already has a viewfinder. Why not use it to see all the beauty you’ve been missing. Use your camera to quickly fill the void. Look around and see the beauty and wonders that remain.

Robert Schwarztrauber

For more information on using photography to improve your life, preview Robert’s latest book, “Photo Fitness Phenomenon” at or visit his website at:

Photography Changes Everything

June 27, 2011

Butterfly Reflection at by Robert SchwarztrauberEvery once in a while I’ll stumble across an article that really reinforces what we’re talking about here at

This article, and the Smithsonian website where I discovered it, really explores the impact photography has on our personal life as well as the lives of society in general.

If you’d like a real boost in energy or new-found excitement about your photography, I encourage you to read this article on how photography changes everything.

You might even want to use it to justify your need to spend even more money on the next  new lens or other accessory you “need”!

I chose the butterfly photo to represent this post because most of us associate the butterfly with change. The complete metamorphosis from one creature to another. From a lesser form (the caterpillar) to the striking beauty of the free-spirited, high-flying butterfly.

I think it well represents the change photography brings to our life.

(I’ll save the photo of me and Bill Feather from the Smithsonian Institution for another story!)

Here’s that link to the story by Dwight Pinkley, U.S. Foreign Service Officer on assignment in Switzerland, who writes about how photography encourages a heightened sense of awareness:

Robert Schwarztrauber

Multiply Apple’s Benefit – Do This First

April 4, 2011
Robert Schwarztrauber Apple

Do This to Apples and Multiply Your Health Benefits

We’ve all heard the familiar chant,

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

I believe it has a great deal of truth to it. There certainly is plenty of evidence that eating more fruits (and vegetables) is good for our physical bodies.

So by all means, be sure to eat an apple (or pear, banana, pineapple, peach, orange, or pomegranate) every day.

But if you really want to get maximum, whole-body benefit from your fruit, I recommend you take a picture of it first.

Sounds crazy right? But wait. Let me tell you why this might not be as crazy as it sounds.

OK. Thanks for sticking with me, because I’m about to reveal the results of a recent survey which shows the amazing ability of photography to improve our health. Our physical health, and our mental health.

A recent survey*, conducted by TotalFitnessPhotography offers some interesting health benefits not normally associated with photography.

Photographers are More Active – 3 out of 4 people in the survey indicated that photography made them more active each week.

Photography is Mind Stimulating – All of the survey’s participants said that photography stimulates their mind. Half stated that it made them feel more focused, alive and creative.

Photography Improves Power of Concentration – 82% found the ability to sustain high levels of concentration while taking photos. (not an easy task in today’s hurry up era with rampant accounts of Attention Deficit Disorder and infinite media distractions)

Photography is Fun – Most study participants were involved just for fun, deriving no income from their photos.

Photography Boosts Self Esteem – a huge 93% of the people reported that participation in photography made them feel good about themselves.

Photography Lifts Spirits – 8 out of 10 said it lifts their mental state daily… it makes them feel good.

Photography’s Social Contribution – More than half the people surveyed felt more connected to the local community and the world.

Photography Ends Isolation – 8 out of 10 reported that their involvement in photography had increased their contact with other people.

Surprises! – The quality of the photos taken did not influence results. Even though half the people found others showed little or no interest in their photos, they still reported feeling all of photography’s positive benefits!

When asked to reveal, in their own words, the benefits they enjoyed from photography here are some of the replies:

“Connecting with nice people, relaxation, reduced stress, creativity, extra income, greater appreciation of the world, help people preserve memories, make people happy, get out of the house, meet new people, nostalgia, makes me feel better.”

Personally, I was not surprised by the results of this survey. I had already experienced all of these benefits myself. But I wanted proof that my experience was not unique. And I got it. So I am convinced, now more than ever, that nothing beats photography for  all-out, total-body fitness. A program that folks of ALL AGES can benefit from.

Getting started on something new is always the hardest part. What is it they say, that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, while an object in motion tends to stay in motion. I’d like to get you in motion.

And what could be simpler than taking a few photos of your favorite fruit before you eat it.

Some of the greatest photographs are also the simplest. And they don’t require the most expensive cameras or photo equipment. You can begin right where you are with what you’ve got. Then, as your interest and skills improve (because you’re in motion!) you can choose to buy whatever else you want to express even more creativity.

I encourage you to just get started. And I’ll be happy to help you if you’ll let me.

Why not pop on over to my website,

and get started right now.

*2010 Survey Conducted by using SurveyMonkey, the free online source for targeted response research. Survey designed and results compiled by Robert Schwarztrauber, veteran photographer, leading expert on the health benefits of photography, and author of many books including, “Building Blocks of Prosperity”, “The Original Photoshop Recipe Cards” and his upcoming new program, “PhotoPlan 25 – Total Fitness Through Photography”

Robert Schwarztrauber

Zig Ziglar’s Take on Your Autumn Path

October 27, 2010

"Fall Path"

Our senior years are often referred to as “The Autumn of Our Life”.

We’ve weathered the seasons. Grown strong. Brought forth new fruit. We’ve matured.

But Autumn doesn’t mean “the end”. It’s likely we’ll slow down a bit, but we’re far from through!

Many new studies show that our chronological age does not have to be reflected in our physical or mental states. There is a great deal we can do to control the condition of our bodies and our minds.

Studies also show that one thing is key. Exercise.

Just last night I read two reports from totally unrelated sources that came to the exact same conclusion…exercise (something as simple as walking) can slow or reverse the effects of aging on our bodies and our minds.

Adding an element of interest, challenge, or interconnection with other people  (like photography!)  intensifies the effect.

In a recent article, Zig Ziglar, America’s famed sales and motivational speaker sited research indicating that exercise is the factor that seems most likely to benefit the brainpower of the healthy, sick, young and old alike. He recommended 9 ways to stay fresh. Remarkably,  8 out of the 9 can be accomplished with your camera in hand.

1) Be flexible.  2) Find peace.  3) Eat right.  4) Get lots of stimulation.  5) Stay in school.  6) Seek new horizons.  7) Engage the world.  8)  Take a daily walk.  9) Finally, keep control.

In the second unrelated article University of Pittsburgh psychologist Kirk Erickson told Yahoo:

“In fact, there’’s only one practice that’’s been proven, without question, to preserve your memory: exercise. Aerobic activities tend to show larger effects than non-aerobic activities.”

Working up a sweat helps your mind stay fit better than any crossword puzzle–unless you’re doing that crossword on a treadmill.

The good news is that you don’’t need to run a marathon. Just walking six miles a week can ward off memory disorders caused by aging, according to Erickson’s research published this month in the medical journal Neurology. “It appears that if people start exercising their memory may improve and if you continue to exercise, that might delay, or offset, the age-related decline in memory,” he explains.

And you don’t need to lift any heavy barbells either. Erickson and his team monitored 300 senior adults over a period of 13 years, and found that those who walked between 6 and 9 miles a week——whether to work or with the dog –had half the brain deterioration of those who didn’’t. “Exercise seems to enhance some of the more fundamental properties of our brain,” Erickson explains. “It increases the growth of new cells and improves cellular processes associated with learning and memory.”

To put it simply, walking keeps your gray matter from shrinking. And the more matter, the more mind.  >>>end article<<<

Substitute “CAMERA” for “dog” and you have a much more potent stimulant for fighting the effects of aging. Photography requires far more use of your brain cells and concentration than any dog will. Don’t get me wrong…I love dogs! They have a powerful effect on keeping us happy too. Maybe you can alternate days of walking the dog for exercise, with walking your camera for mind power!

More and more studies seem to be supporting my position that one of the best ways to keep your mind and body young is to pursue your photography with passion!

Get up. Get out and enjoy this beautiful world we live in.

And bring your camera to record and share that beauty. It might just save your life!

Or at least make your Autumn years that much more colorful.

If you haven’t already, please help me in my research on this topic by taking just 3 minutes to complete my survey on the effect photography has on those who take pictures, either casually or professionally. It’s completely anonymous, and just 10 multiple choice question.

Here’s the link to the study that’s posted on SurveyMonkey

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Speaking of scary… one study also sited that people’s single biggest fear after 55 is Alzheimer’s disease. Take care of yourself…grab your camera and start walking!

by Robert Schwarztrauber

5 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

January 8, 2010

Building Blocks of Prosperity Too cold to get out for your regular photowalk?

Don’t worry! We can find plenty to do indoors while we wait for warmer weather to come around again.

No need to put  your  camera away for the winter.  No need to feel those winter blues at all.

We only get to feeling low when we fail to keep our activity level high.

With that in mind, here are 5 great activities you can begin indoors to keep your body moving and build your brain power.

5 Photo-Smart Ways to Beat those Winter Blues

1. Learn and Practice Macro Photography.

Macro photography is essentially close-up or ultra-close-up photography.  It requires learning a few special techniques but most folks can get started right away with the equipment they already have or equipment that can be improvised from ordinary household items. It can really be a lot of fun and give you a whole new perspective on things. Exactly the cure when you’re feeling trapped indoors.

2. Create a Legacy – Publish your Own Photography Book

What better way to insure that your photo treasures are enjoyed for generations to come! Instead of stuffing your 4×6 prints in an ordinary photo album, why not grab 100 of your very best (or favorite) photographs and create your very own hardcover book? It’s easy now with many online printing sources to choose from. If you can drag and drop, you already have all the skills you need. I just finished a children’s book, “Building Blocks of Prosperity” using the online software. It’s super easy to use and you can add additional text and graphics. Plus, the quality of the finished hardcover book and the price can’t be beat. Avoid the cheap paperback version. If you’ve always wanted to be published, do it yourself this winter. Imagine how proud you’ll be!

3. Hone Your Photography Skills

Practice, practice, practice! Get out your camera’s manual and discover what it can really do. Get online and search photography techniques on Google, then practice them. You’ll learn all sorts of new things to become a more versatile photographer come springtime. If you use Photoshop, there’s no end to the things you can learn and practice.

4. Practice Studio Photography

Ever wanted to start your own small business? Taking portraits of folks from babies, to teens, to families, and pets can be a great new way to bring in some added income. New income plus new skills can really give you a warm and fuzzy feeling to get you through the winter.

5. Start Your Own Blog

Everyone knows something. Share your special knowledge with folks online. Even if no one ever comes to visit your blog (unlikely) you’ll still be amazed at how much you learn (and have to keep learning) when you commit to sharing your knowledge and  helping others. Plus,  feedback and comments from your readers can really lift your spirits.

There’s 5 simple starters for you. Fell free to mix and match, or use the inspiration to come up with your own unique plan. Just get busy!

Action! That’s the key to beating those winter blues. And for us photography lovers, there’s never an end to the activities and skills that we can pursue.

Robert Schwarztrauber

PS: If you’d like more information on my book, “Building Blocks of Prosperity” you can visit:

A Photo Fitness Walk

November 20, 2009
Photo Fitness Scene

Photo Fitness Scene

I was reminded today of a quote by a successful business man.

“If you settle for less, that’s all you’ll get.”    by J.F. (Jim) Straw.

Allow me tell you what unusual circumstance prompted that quote to enter into my head.

I was driving by a local YMCA. On the side of their building is a little oval walking track, I would guess about 400 yards around. Nothing could be more plain. It’s a corner lot, tall hedge of green on one side, brick building on the other, and street; that’s it. Nothing to see here, as they say. It looks more like an after-thought.

And on the track this day is one woman, dressed in a style that let’s me assume she’s out for a fitness walk. Round and round she goes in an environment that is totally lacking in stimulus.

To me, she’s only getting half a workout.

Just the day before I took my own fitness walk, as usual, with camera in hand. Here’s a photo of what I saw.

Beautiful autumn trees sharing their colors over a quite lake. A gorgeous statue, “3 Sisters,” spraying a wonderful mist of water that reverberated off the lake’s surface like music to my ears.

There were trails that went uphill and trails that went down. Families, and couples, and joggers of one.There were geese resting in the sun and squirrels frantically preparing for winter. This place was alive with everything a body needs to be truly fit – body, mind and soul.

And it was only a ten minute drive from that desolate track where she walked round and round.

Little changes can often  make a big difference. “But if you settle for less, that’s all you ‘ll get.”

Going for a walk with my camera in hand, almost forces me to find someplace to walk that offers additional stimulus for my body, mind and soul. And every excursion is successful. I see something I have never seen before. And because I have my camera I can share it with others. How much better my experience becomes for making that one simple change – bring your camera. Don’t you settle for less.

Literacy Through Photography

October 6, 2009

Forest Girls Frame-sm One of the greatest things about photography is it’s ability to enrich the lives of folks young and old.

I’ve written here many times about photography’s benefits to adults (increased focus and attention, increased mobility, better overall mental and physical health, and the monetary rewards) but not much about it’s ability to benefit the young as well.

Recently I came across a website from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies that focused on a children’s program by photographer Wendy Ewald.

Ms. Ewald’s program,  Literacy Through Photography, is reaching out to children across the world -putting cameras in the hands of children and leading them to explore and express their surrounding through pictures.

It was heartwarming to read the stories of how much her students could learn and grow from the experience of taking photographs, many holding a camera for the very first time. Perhaps not so surprising to learn of how Ms. Ewald was learning new things right along with her students.

It has been my experience, and I’m sure most teachers would attest, the best way to really learn something is to teach it. Until you can look at something through another’s eyes you are only seeing one perspective. The echo that comes back from the student is the true measure of the effectiveness of teaching. Once received, that echo provides a sound basis for teaching the teacher through the new perspective gained.

I encourage everyone to pop on over to the Literacy though Photography website and follow the links there to stories of Ms. Ewald’s facinating adventures in bringing photography to children around the world. If you wish, you can also make a donation to help her in this great project as well.

Young or old, rich or poor, weak or strong, wherever you stand right now, photography offers you a vehicle to something even better. Pick up your camera now and begin to explore this wonderful world with the perspective only you can provide. The benefits are there for everyone.

Camera Cures aka Pictures of Health

June 1, 2009
Snow Geese Family

Snow Geese Family

It is widely accepted in psychological circles that colors can effect the mood of the people who view them. Blue is often described as a calming color while red is said to excite. Yellow is cheerful and black depressing.

A persons mood can also be effected by the subject portrayed in the scene. Certain landscape scenes have a calming effect while certain city-scapes tend to increase tension.

Hundreds of studies can be found that document a viewers reaction to pictures (paintings and photographs).  What surprised me however, was how little  documentation (almost none) could be found that gave evidence of the therapeutic effects of TAKING photographs.

I came across one clinical observation in my searching that really gave credible evidence to the benefits of taking photographs.

It was described in the book, “The Strengths Model” by Charles A. Rapp. In the section titled, “Talents and Skills” the author told of a hospitalized man with mental and physical abnormalities (pg.95). He descibed how when this man was directed to pursue his passion for photography (even though his photos never sold anywhere) he was released within 2 months from the hospital with a clean bill of health. Even more compelling was the fact that he never again returned to the hospital in the subsequent 20 years until his death from pneumonia.

Merely pursuing a hobby that interested him, photography in particular, was enough to set this man on a course to a long and healthy life.

Anyone interested in photography can tell you that there is a calming effect of searching for and always finding the beauty in this world. Any photographer will tell you of the zen-like focus of attention one comes to when consumed with creating an image. You block out all others problems and concerns in your life, you cannot consciously hear the sounds around you, you cannot see disrtactions beyond the viewfinder. You are at once consumed by the scene you hope to capture to the exclusion of all else.

So I am surprised not to find more accounts online which tell of the wonderful effects of photography on the human mind and body. I know it has effected me by increasing my fitness through walking to find great shots to share, it has increased my mental sharpness and focus, and it has increased my economic condition through the sale of photos.

Please share your stories with our readers in the comments below.

How has photography improved your mental or physical health?

How has it improved your economic standing during these difficult times?

I know informally from conversations with other photographers, but lets see if we can help more folks by sharing our results here in writing.

Your comments are welcomed below!