Mindfulness and Photography | inspiring | challenging | thought provoking |

| inspiring | challenging | thought provoking |

The words I've used above are what motivate me to take photographs. Photography allows me to express my feelings, thoughts, ideas and creativeness and transform these into my visual interpretation. I enjoy seeing beautiful images and am continually impressed by the wonderful work fellow photographers produce and share. I'm always looking to capture natural pictures as well as create effects which can both enhance and stimulate discussion and debate.

a definition of mindfulness

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it. I feel this ability we have can be a significant factor in the art of photography, and I'm certain it helps me to connect with my subject.

my photography

Be aware of what's around you

I became interested in photography over 50 years ago having bought my first 35mm camera. I certainly 'got the bug' and experimented in home processing of black and white film and then became a big fan of reversal slide film. I still have hundreds of slides and a working projector. Eventually the 'digital age' took hold, my first camera being a Kodak 1 megapixel camera, yes one megapixel, before moving on to several SLR cameras with a number of different lenses. I now thoroughly enjoy using both rangefinder and mirrorless cameras.

Halina Paulette Electric - my first camera

what inspires me

My main photographic passions are street photography and landscapes and I like to explore different viewpoints in everyday situations. I've also come to love monochrome more and more and feel that it provides another perspective to my images. But I also get inspiration by seeing other peoples images whether it be in camera groups, on websites or social media shares. I'm not an avid reader but I do read articles that appeal to me and I guess any keen street photographer should have a copy of 'the decisive moment' by Henri Cartiér Bresson. There are also some great YouTube videos and the Sky Arts series Master of Photography is worth a watch on Catch Up.

being aware of what's happening around me helps me create interesting images

People watching

immersing myself in the environment allows me to visualise the picture I want to create

Early evening sunlight in the Wye Valley

endless opportunities

I'm fortunate to live in walking distance of the Forest and close to some beautiful locations which provide endless opportunities for photography. Nature is a wonderful thing and whilst I don't attempt much in the way of wildlife photography, the changing seasons offer a wonderful landscape to recreate. Cities such as Bristol and Cardiff are also easy to travel to and provide lots of scope for my street photography.

Spring is sprung
Bristol streets

photography is an art and therefore subjective

Photography like other art forms is very subjective and therefore 'each to their own'. Members of camera clubs will often concentrate on creating technically perfect images using Photoshop to correct or embellish the original, the once adage "the camera never lies" certainly is a relic of the past. Making tweaks and enhancements in post production is pretty standard these days although I don't get into the really 'heavy' manipulation.


My approach to photography is generally 'project' based. I prefer to have an objective or topic I can focus on (forgive the pun), rather than go out aimlessly looking for for subject matter. Recently I set about photographing a number of the many villages within the Forest Of Dean and I found it really interesting wandering down side streets and discovering wonderful architecture and hidden gems. Some other projects have been the Severn Estuary bridges, Graffiti, mainly in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol and Selective Colour; this is where I convert a colour image to black and white leaving an object within the picture in colour.

villages of the forest of dean project

St. Briavels, Aylburton, Newnham and more
Selective colour

becoming mindful of the beauty that surrounds me

I love photographing trees they have a mystery about them and the foliage and the shapes they create provide some interesting opportunities. The vibrance of colour as the trees reach their summer peak show the Forest in all its glory whilst Autumn leaves bring those wonderful rich oranges, reds and browns. I like to photograph from different perspectives in order to create an atmospheric effect. Using an extreme wide angle lens emphasises the height and breadth. The forest is definitely a place where I can 'lose myself' from the noise of everyday life and be more mindful of the beauty that surrounds me.

TOP: The Canopy | MIDDLE: Scowles | BOTTOM LEFT: Mallards Pike Lake | BOTTOM RIGHT: Near Speech House

picture stories

These came about by chance when I was shooting some street photography in Cardiff. I engaged with a young man who was sleeping rough and chatted to him about how he came to be there, with his permission I took a few photos' and published his story with an image on my website. I've now done this around a dozen times with a variety of people I have met and having chatted to them found they have an interesting story to tell, and who have been happy for me to take their picture even if they wouldn't usually do so.

Jim & Bernie

I'd often seen this guy out walking the lanes when I was driving by; he'd signal with his hand and I was never sure whether it was an acknowledgement or some other sort of gesture! Originally from Ross, Lenny is one of the Forest of Dean's true characters and today whilst about to start my short woodland walk, he appeared as if from nowhere, and seeing my cameras asked 'if I'd got anything?". We began a conversation and I learned that Lenny is a Pagan and believes that "things in life happen, you don't make them happen!" He is an artist, and crafts walking sticks from the branches he might find and also the antlers from deer that have passed. What a great character and I just had to take his picture; something apparently he rarely gives.

taking photographs helps my wellbeing

Photography is a great hobby, it can be challenging, it get's your mind thinking and your creative juices flowing. It gets you outdoors, yet provides opportunities indoors. It can help you meet people and sharing your images and memories can be a wonderful social activity. You may never produce the 'perfect photo', very few people do, but you will get great satisfaction seeing and sharing the results of your endeavours and hearing those words, "what a great photo that is".

Outdoor and indoor

helping me, to be me

I think it took me a while to realise how much photography helped me to be me. Whilst photography can be a casual activity like when taking holiday snaps or photos for Social Media posts, as a keen amateur I enjoy immersing myself in the process of capturing photographs. I guess it's the feeling of becoming totally engaged when only the subject you are focussed on and the image you are trying to create is forefront in your mind; everything else around you is unimportant in that decisive moment. When I'm out taking pictures I find I become removed from all the day to day 'issues' that otherwise my mind might be preoccupied with. It can therefore relieve some of the stress we all face for whatever reasons we have it, if only for a few hours.

it's my creation and if I like it that's the most important thing

Whatever results you get, be proud of the fact that you created them. Whilst other peoples opinions and interpretations are always welcomed and sometimes sought, the images I create are how I picture them and therefore as an amateur I'm the only one the result needs to satisfy.

Taking in the view - Newnham on Severn

the best camera is the one you have with you

You may well of heard this statement before and it's absolutely true. Many great photo opportunities have been missed because your 'proper camera' was at home. Nowadays virtually everyone has a camera in their phone and modern day phone cameras can take exceptional pictures. I use mine regularly as it has a great camera and makes it really easy for sharing on social media.

Phone pictures

it's being mindful of what you see

Hopefully you like the photo's I've shown in this presentation and you might be thinking I bet he has a very expensive camera and that's one of the reasons they're good. Well yes I do, but having a 'good camera' doesn't necessarily make you a good photographer. You can achieve this whether you use your phone, a simple snapshot camera or a Mirrorless or DSLR. It's being mindful of what you 'see', how you interpret that and how you create the image that makes the difference between a 'nice snap' and a great picture.

can I inspire you?

So if you love to take photographs now's the time to get out with whatever camera you have and try a different approach to creating some special images. Think about what you are going to photograph and what you want to achieve. Try and visualise how you want your photo to look; whether it be capturing a landscape a personality through a portrait or conveying a pictorial message. Then decide where and when to do it and immerse yourself in the process; you will enjoy it.

| topics | projects | challenges |

Set a topic or maybe a little project to complete over a period of time or set a photo challenge with someone. Myself and a friend take it in turns every four to six weeks to choose a topic to photograph leaving the interpretation to ourselves. We then get together over a coffee or lunch and review each others images, usually we limit it to a maximum of six pictures.


Two very different interpretations of the topic 'connection'

simple tips and techniques for improving your pictures

I've put together a few hints and tips for helping you take better photos both with a camera and a phone, covering composition, viewpoints, and some other basic points. These are available at the end of this document; please take look at them at your leisure.

Avoiding camera shake

what will you do with your wonderful pictures?

For me the joy of taking photos is equalled by the sharing of them. Social Media is quick and reaches hundreds of people in an instant and encourages feedback and 'likes'. However, the 'likes' can be superficial and your lovely image will soon disappear down the list of ever-growing posts. You can of course use Instagram or perhaps you could create a dedicated Facebook page used only for posting your images.

Most phone and tablets will store your photos and allow you to create albums. This is a great way to catalogue your special events or projects so that you can find them easily whenever you want and wherever you are. Or like I have done here create a slideshow which not only displays your photo's but allows you to tell the story behind them. This application is called Adobe Spark and it's free and easy to share. If you're IT savvy you could create your own website to better showcase your portfolio as it grows, again there are inexpensive applications out there where you can choose a theme, create your own design using drag and drop simplicity.

how about the 'old fashioned' way?

Alternatively create photo books for your projects or as a memory book. I produced one for my wife over the last few years to help us remember what we did during the previous year, I called them Memories and Moments. There are many online suppliers, they come in different formats and sizes and they are easy to create and produce lovely books which you can keep or gift and are reasonably priced. Whichever method you choose enjoy creating them and enjoy sharing them.

the dementia action alliance and myself

The Dementia Action Alliance provided activities for my wife and I during the last few years of her life which helped us significantly. She loved to attend their Dog Days and I often took photo's which the DAA have used in their newsletters.

I hope you have enjoyed my short presentation and some of my images, and can see the connection I feel between photography and mindfulness and that it will encourage you to take time out of your busy days to enjoy this wonderful hobby and bring a different perspective to your life. If you would like to see more of my work and projects please head over to www.stevegaskinphotography.co.uk or my FB page stevegaskinphotography.

please support the forest of dean dementia action alliance

I was asked to do this presentation as I recently set up a project to raise awareness of dementia and funds for the FOD DAA. The project is called Our Favourite Places BIG PHOTO ALBUM, the concept being that you post a photo of your favourite place which can be shared with family, friends and other participants, for a small donation to the Cause. I would be very grateful if you would take a look at the website later and upload a photograph that hopefully you've be inspired to take.

Our Favourite Places Big Photo Album

finally, a challenge for you

Hopefully you will be encouraged by this presentation to get out and take some new pictures, so here's a challenge for you. Over the next four weeks create a picture for the topics 'Circles' and 'Lines' (two separate images); you can enter just one topic or both. Once you have taken your pictures visit my website using the link below and look for 'Photo Challenge' in the menu bar and open the page. You will see a link which will allow you to email your images to me. Once received I will upload them into a gallery on the same page for everyone to see and you can share that page with friends and family if you wish. This is just for fun but it will be interesting to see how people will interpret and present their images.

The closing date for entry is Wednesday 2nd June and all images will be posted in the gallery on Thursday 3rd. Good luck.

thank you for your time and I'll now take any questions

simple tips and techniques for improving your pictures

IMAGE ORIENTATION: If you're using a phone please turn it on its side. It seems that most photo's taken on phones are taken in portrait position, yet our natural field of vision is horizontal (landscape). Unless you are taking a portrait or specifically want a vertical perspective, using your camera in the landscape position will give you more scope and produce more natural images.

COMPOSITION. We often snap a picture and don't notice a distracting object such as the 'P' sign in this example. Just moving the camera angle or the subject if you can will hide the offending object.

VIEWPOINTS: We often photograph from our usually standing position, but crouching down as in example 1 or looking up as in example 2 can produce a very different result.

RULE OF THIRDS: It's common to place the main subject centrally in the picture, but often the photo can be more interesting if you offset it. The rule of thirds grid (which is built into some cameras but easy to visualise), guides you to use the vertical and horizontal cross-points to position objects; this makes the photo much more interesting and can turn a good image into a great image.

CROPPING: I guess many of you do this but again it's a great way of ensuring that the most important part of your picture has no distractions. Just be careful not to crop too much as your camera may not be able to maintain the quality of resolution you need for a sharp image.

CAMERA SHAKE AND LENS CLEANING: We sometimes wonder why our pictures are slightly blurred. The two most common reasons are camera shake and dirty lenses. Shake is when you don't hold the camera/phone steady and 'jab' the shutter button rather than press or squeeze it gently. This problem is accentuated in low light conditions as the shutter needs to stay open longer to allow enough light into the camera. A dirty lens is more common with phones than cameras. Your phone camera has no protection, it's is in your pocket or bag and handled extensively with most likely greasy fingers, so it's no wonder you pictures are fuzzy. Clean your lens regularly and preferably with a cleaning cloth and not your handkerchief.

Camera shake
Before and after cleaning


You can be in the Our Favourite Places Big Photo Album

To celebrate the DAA Event Week and Dementia Awareness Week I am offering to photograph your local Favourite Place with you in it if you wish for entry into the BIG PHOTO ALBUM at a cost of £5 which will be a donation to the project. This offer is open until the end of June, just email me via the button below to make arrangements*


  • The location should be within 10 miles radius of Coleford
  • The location must be easily accessible and open to the public unless your own private garden
  • The donation is to be paid up front and will be refunded should the arrangement be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances by either party prior to the agreed appointment
Created By
Steve Gaskin