Photo Therapy

Photo Sensitive

You know what I did about a year ago? I drafted a blog post pursuing the idea of using photography as a type of therapy. I never got around to fleshing out that draft, but given our current state of affairs, now seems like maybe a good time to bust this one out.

Can photography be therapeutic as a sort of mindfulness activity where you’re focused on things in the immediate present? Or does looking at your world through a lens remove you too much from the moment?


Focus On Healing

Looking back through my photos over the years, I started to lament the passing of time and good memories, and also how I used to enjoy photography a lot – I was so into it! I’m sad that I’ve lost some of that enjoyment, the passion of the hobby. The few times I seldom focus on photography, I really enjoy it. The embers get fanned into flames again, but for a short time. It makes me consider re-focusing on photography as a more full-time hobby.

I find in photography a tangible way to “get out of my head” and get into nature, the great outdoors. The camera is a tool that causes me to look and see what’s around me. It makes me study a scene, the subject, the lighting, the shadows, the little details. I think you could say it makes me mindful of the moment.

The camera is like a mindfulness tool. It sharpens my eyes while also giving me another eye through which to see the world. Yes, to some degree, I think photographing a moment removes me from it. But then again, I’m still involved with the moment. Instead of an active participant, I’m an observer. And I’d say I’m an active, not a passive, observer. Rather than being in the moment, I’m around or about the moment. I’m seeing it from a different angle, in a more mindful mode.

This mindfulness via camera seems to me like it could help deflect worry because by focusing on external objects – like a flower – I’m not dwelling, brooding, or ruminating on internal concerns.

Let me interject a caveat here about generalized anxiety disorder, which is an order of magnitude worse than worry. While I think a hobby, especially photography due to its inherent trait of observing the world outside of you, can be a good way to decrease worry, I don’t think pursuing a hobby is a cure for an anxiety disorder. Having suffered seasons of terrible anxiety and panic attacks myself, seeing a counselor, taking medications, etc, I empathize with those who suffer likewise. Each person is different, and mental health issues are complex. I can’t blanket cure such issues with a camera. Hope that makes sense.

Having been through debilitating anxiety episodes, I’m all too familiar with worry. For me, among the many aids that carried me through my anxious seasons, I think photography is a nice means to interact with nature and lessen the tendency and severity of worry.


Looking Around

My hope is that this seed of an idea finds fertile ground. Maybe a test or study could be undertaken that offers photo-walks, for example, as a way to introduce people to a potential means of enjoying life more rather than worrying about it. I’m using Rich Mullins’ words here, “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see. Everywhere I go, I’m looking.”

Can photography be a form of therapy for some people? I think so. Just being outside in nature is helpful. The camera is a way to focus on nature even more (pun not intended by happily embraced).


What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

How Dedicated Things Are Better

Refocus

Hey there, blogosphere! Hope your 2020 is going well. My blog pace has slowed down in the last few months, but I’m still cruisin’ along here. This post is on the tech verve. Last week, my brain started to re-notice how single-purpose devices or services are often better than their multi-function counterparts. So here’s a re-visit of this tech topic.


Hardware

One of the things that stands out clearly for single-purpose devices is their clear direction. It’s the fact that when you look at some ‘thing’, you know it does this one thing. Like old-school point-n-shoot cameras, when you see one, you know exactly what it does and what it’s for. It exists for one purpose: taking pictures (oh okay, videos too I guess, so “images” that are either still or moving). So simplicity and clarity are nice benefits of solo-function-focus.

There’s another great advantage to a mono-tasked gadget: capability. Sticking with the camera example, not only do you know exactly what it does, you know it excels at what it does. Every part of the camera is designed with the explicit purpose of taking great photos. They typically have more functions and buttons to control the photo-graphing experience and produce the one thing it lives for: pictures.

It’s pretty obvious that certain gadgets do one thing and do it well. While a smartphone or a tablet can do a lot of things, sometimes single-purpose gizmos are best. Besides a camera, I tend to note the eReader (e.g. a kindle) is best for simply reading lots of books. And hand-held gaming devices, like Nintendo’s 3DS line or the Switch, excel at gaming (dedicated buttons!) more than a phone or tablet. These are examples of hardware tailor-built to one certain task. But the single-purpose paradigm also benefits software.

Software

Let’s start with the example of Microsoft Word. It’s a word processor made to do one thing: process words. Right? True, yet many people also know that Word was once a really simple program. But over the years, Word’s feature-set grew; its capabilities stretched beyond processing just words to processing whole documents of many sorts. Its simplicity in doing one thing was obscured by complexity, going beyond just typing and editing text.

Another good example of single-purpose software is a Journaling app. For many years, I used general note-taking apps for journaling in addition to storing all my notes across different subjects. Most general purpose note apps let you organize or distinguish your groups of notes, either in folders or with tags, for example. So I just set my journal entries apart as dictated by the notes-app. This worked well enough for bare bones journaling.

Then I found a dedicated journaling app that I actually like to use. Other note apps can store my daily musings, but a single-purpose journal app can do more and better, all while keeping things simple. The journal app I settled on is called, “Journey.” It has many features for journaling that a general multi-purpose note-app lacks, such as a calendar that shows your daily entries and a graph that shows your recorded moods over time. (For my more in-depth review of Journey, click this link.)

Companies

Since we’re talking about note apps, I should go ahead and note another category of single-purpose entities. Just as hardware and software can be singular-focused, so can software companies; they can be dedicated to doing one thing well. So both Apple and Google make many different software apps. In addition, Apple makes hardware, and now they also make services and entertainment content! Of the software, Apple makes a notes-app, and they also make Apple Music. While both are great, I’ve discovered that there’s an advantage to single-purpose companies for software and services.

Committed to notes, the company I like is Evernote. They exist to do one thing and do it remarkably well: create and maintain an app and cloud service for note taking. That’s it! They’re all about notes. The company’s purpose is laser-focused into a robust and reliable note-taking platform. All their energy and dedication go to providing people a way to record, store, and manage notes. Their reputation is banked on notes, nothing else. That’s their single-purpose.

And because they exist outside and independent of Apple or Google and those respective platforms, Evernote’s third-party status means they’re available everywhere. If you use them to take all your notes on an iPhone but then switch to an Android phone, you won’t lose your notes. Heck, you won’t need to migrate or transfer them either. Just sign-in on your new device and you’re good to go!

My last example is music. All the songs! I tried Apple’s and Google’s music streaming offerings…in the end, I settled with Spotify, a company with one function, a single-purpose: provide an awesome music service everywhere you are, be it on iPhone or Android or Windows or Chrome. All of Spotify’s resources are committed to excelling at this one thing: music streaming. Their mission is straightforward, and their vision is not clouded by side-projects. They just do music, and they stake their entire reputation on just that. So they strive to be the best at the one thing they do. As a Spotify subscriber, that gives me confidence in using their app and service across my Apple and Google devices.


The Point

So this post has kinda stacked the deck towards single-purpose things. But I do agree to the counter-notion that multi-use devices have their place too. As with most things, each person should weigh the pros and cons of whatever it is you are using or might consider using. Basically, smartphones are a “jack-of-all-trades” and master most of those multi-purpose skills. But as good as my iPhone is, sometimes a “real” camera is better. And I generally prefer my kindle for eReading.

You get the idea. So maybe think a little about what kind of device(s) you prefer. And go with what works best for ya.


Do you find single-purpose devices better? What do you prefer? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Good Morning My Muse

Here’s a little update about my writing endeavors. I’m still plugging away at it. No novel in the works, but novella ideas here and there. Mostly I’m focused on blogging. Finding time is usually the roadblock, so I was driven to find a way around.


Morning

I want to write regularly, but my schedule is so regularly filled with other things that writing falls by the wayside. That’s funny, because if I’m a blogger, then writing should be the regular thing my time is filled with.

Since it’s a matter of time, it was time to take action and make a change in course. So now I get up earlier in the morning with the express purpose of just drafting stuff. Just 30 extra minutes of quiet focused solitude. And coffee, of course. There’s always coffee.

I get up early. I get my keyboard, my iPad, my coffee. I open Ulysses. By this time, 5 or so minutes after swinging the legs onto the floor and taking on the vertical challenge, my eyes are mostly open and my brain is starting to fire on all the neurons.

Then I start writing. Usually I draft. Sometimes I’m editing. I almost always have at least a few posts started. They’re ideas I’ve jotted down during random moments throughout the day.

Muse

You’ve likely heard about the thing called a muse. Like it’s some kind of imaginary magical writing fairy that floats into your subconscious and taps you on the head with a word-wand. Next thing you know, the latest New York Times best seller is flowing through your fingertips.

It’s not quite like that.

I don’t get up early in the morning to let a muse visit me for writing. The early morning is my “muse.” The simple solitude and quiet, the time and space for me and my mind to focus, relax, and get into writing mode is all it really takes.

That simply means thinking more deeply than usual. It lets you chase those rabbits all the way to the end of the trail because there’s nothing else in the woods with you, no distractions1. So you get to see where the path leads and fully develop a thought, even approaching it from different angles.

For some people, their writing time is at night. Mine happens to be in the morning, while it’s still dark outside before sunrise. So technically that’s also night I guess. The point is I’ve got to take time and make space to write.


Take Time To Have Time

So it’s kinda simple. I don’t have to be Einstein and know how time and space work. I just need to know they work and then use them to write.

This is a good change of pace. Before, I didn’t know when I’d get to write except maybe during the weekend. But now, I know I get to have 30 minutes a morning, 5 days a week, plus likely on weekends.

It’s like the french dude’s one-liner in The Matrix Reloaded about time. If you don’t take time, then you won’t have time.


When do you like to write? Comment below or message me. Thanks for reading!

  1. My iPad goes into “Do Not Disturb” mode. That’s a handy feature!

Pincushion Cactus

Several years ago, my wife and I visited Lake Brownwood State Park in Texas. We got away from the kids for a few hours and had our cameras to enjoy the outdoors.

Down in the dry dead leaves, I found some succulents known as pincushion cacti. One in particular caught my eye, so I began to work it. I used my Canon S5 point-n-shoot, it’s best feature being the vari-angle screen.

You can swivel the display out and around to almost any angle. It’s excellent for putting the camera down low to the ground to capture macros of flowers and bugs.

That’s how I snapped this photo. But to make it better, I worked it in Lightroom with a radial filter or two and some global tweaks to adjust the lighting and color. Basically, I slid the sliders until I got what looked good to my eye.

For this shot, I like the muted warm colors and the texture. I tried to spotlight the cactus to pop it out from the background and surroundings.

You can also view this in my Gallery here. You won’t find it on Instagram. I do happen to have this one on my Flickr.

Enjoy!


What’s your favorite camera to use right now? Do you have any tips for me on this picture? What would make it better? Leave a comment or message me. Thanks!

Instagram Was Good Until It Wasn’t

Do you remember back when Instagram first came out? It was not social-focused like it is today. It was photo-focused. And I totally miss that.


A good start

I recall how at first, Instagram helped a thing called iPhoneography take off. Around 2011, smartphone cameras were getting seriously good enough, and at the same time being super convenient, that people started using them instead of traditional point-n-shoots.

Instagram was a wonderfully simple app. It did one thing and did it well: quick photography. There were three basic steps:

  1. Take photo
  2. Edit photo
  3. Share photo

Pretty simple, huh? But there were some special features about those basic steps that made all the difference.

First, you could take only square photos – gasp! How limiting! At first, I found this to be suboptimal, something I had to tolerate. But as I was “forced” to practice making 1:1 ratio pictures more and more, a change began to occur. I found the limitation, lets now call it focus, sparked my creativity. It made me think of framing photos differently than the 4:3 ratio I was used to on my “real” camera.

Second, the editing specialty was probably the biggest shiny thing it had going. You could use filters! Sometimes this seemed like a gimmick. But sometimes I found it to actually help photos look better. At the time, smartphone cameras were passable but not very good. Filters helped overcome this deficiency in picture quality, like a simple mask. Plus, they also spurred on creativity.

Third, sharing your snaps on Instagram to a feed dedicated to photography was, for any shutterbug, a sweet dream come true. Somehow, Instagram had just the right, simple mix of social features (comments, likes) without being a noisy soul-sucking Newsfeed like Facebook. And there were no ads!

A bad end

Like all social media, as Instagram grew, so did it rot.

Instagram seemed to flourish with photographers in the beginning. Beautiful pictures and love-of-photography, much like beloved Flickr or yore, were prominent.

But then came the Brands. And the selfies. And the celebrities. And the ads. And the self-promotion. And Stories. And, worst of all, the Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg. Then the guys who founded Instagram could take no more and left their creation. Need I say more?

Instagram promoted photography. Until it promoted celebrity.

Instagram was the new Flickr. Until it was the new MySpace for photos.

A bad trend

I’ve lamented the souring of Instagram. I’ve tried to enjoy it regardless. But it didn’t work out. I deleted my Instagram account in March. And I don’t miss it.

I’m not the only one put off by what became of the once cool photo sharing site.

I found this great Washington Post article about one of Instagram’s creators who became disillusioned with it and quit! Check it out:

Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the many disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it.

Future focus

What will become of Instagram now? The recent F8 conference, where Facebook prognosticates itself, gave more details about Mark Zuckerberg’s so called “pivot to privacy.” And as a matter of course, Instagram will see some changes.

But will they really be for the better? One can hope, but it’d be a fool’s hope after all the years of Zuckerberg’s privacy violations. Maybe Flickr, in the hands of SmugMug, will be a better choice.

For now, I’m posting my photography to my blog here in the Gallery.


Do you still use Instagram? Do you like the photo aspect or the social aspect more? Comment below or write me. Thanks for reading!