Anyone that knows me knows I love landscape photography. Getting out with the camera, whether on my own, or with friends, is great especially when the conditions are jaw dropping.
But also, after many many shots, many many trips out and away, staying in with a good film, Mrs Fox for company and maybe a sneaky beer, leaving mother nature to it, needs to be done from time to time.
As a photographer we can, depending when we have the free time, go out as much as we like. What I have learned in this short time, is that down time, relaxation and taking ones time to develop and process images, read and comment and perhaps blog about it is all part of the learning process. Hammering it every morning, every evening that we can, does help you learn quicker but it does have its drawbacks namely Fatigue Syndrome. Many of us have major or minor addictions, just to different things, but mine has never been substances or gambling etc. mostly in trying to get good at a skill or sport.
When your friends tell you, “you are over-doing it mate” you think – rubbish – I’m still me and doing nothing abnormal until you realise that you can’t get out of bed one morning. I remember last year that there were a few instances where I could not get up, I felt depressed, weak, couldn’t tolerate loud noises and bright lights, I had joint aches and felt profound tiredness. I would sleep for 9 hours and still feel very tired on waking. I also started waking up 1 hour before the sun rose. I didn’t take many days of work (perhaps 3 in a year) but my productivity dropped. I remember one week I had gone out for an early sunrise every, day before work, and also fitted in a few sunsets too. A lot of my friends and my wife, I think, were in a bit of disbelief, in hindsight, at what I was doing. This lasted for over a year, nearly two!
The physical symptoms were quite pronounced to a degree I went to my GP and was referred to specialists but no abnormalities were found. I had periods of extreme highs when I went to shoot sunrises with cloud inversions and mist etc. However, as I became increasingly more fatigued, I would also have quite bad bouts of feeling very low and depressed. I started to think I was becoming clinically depressed, but it didn’t make sense when, after capturing a great sunrise at 6am before a full days work, I would be on a high all day.
My local GP, who is great I have to say, suggested I talk it over with a counsellor. The thought of that suggested to me I was going a bit nuts and, like a lot of people would be, I was a bit resistant, thinking I must have an infectious disease or something making me ill not a mental illness. However after a few sessions of talking to him I realised that I had a problem, but not one I had anticipated. He made me realise that my fatigue was self-induced. Sometimes you have to step away and look at your situation to assess it properly.
For me it was the thought of missing a shot, mist, great conditions. We all strive to shoot in what we perceive are great conditions but when your brain does not think of much else, this becomes obsessive and unhealthy. An ability to get a “happy medium” in life and some contentment is a far more healthy attitude I believe.
One thing I did come away with was generally a much more chilled attitude to life and the ability to do employ mindfulness in my life. Doesn’t mean we don’t feel anger, fear, stress anymore but does allow you to deal with them better and try kick them into touch before they become a problem. To be honest I think most people would benefit from mindfulness, meditation and relaxation in everyday life.
My late father had a favourite saying (he did like them) “All things in moderation and nothing in excess”. He was right and a good concept to remind ourselves in day-to-day life. Of course photography, if you are a full-time professional, can be very tiring, especially if you are a landscape artist, given the unsociable hours. However, even then we have to have a rest, relax and enjoy life, not just photography. Photography should be enjoyed and savoured like a good Scotch or a glass of wine, without rushing it and give yourself time to digest.
I have to say I suffer none of the above symptoms now and to be honest I think I am a happier person for going through it and coming out the other side. But, although some might think this blog is a bit odd, I thought it might resonate with other photographers who may have been through the same perhaps?