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'

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.

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 Facebook page stevegaskinphotography.

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
Created By
Steve Gaskin