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How Photography Can Connect You to the Outdoors

Photography can be a great way to experience nature in a deeper way, even if your photos never make it to Instagram.

By: Andrew Todd + Save to a List

Capturing moments and turning them into memories is powerful. For those of us who have a passion for the outdoors, capturing our adventures through photography can really fuel that passion. Here are three ways (plus a few tips) that photography can connect you to nature and make your explorations even more memorable.

1. Photography helps us to be more observant.

It's easy to pass right by the beauty of nature all around us. This is a struggle in our busy everyday lives, but even when we drive to the mountains and intentionally go on a hike it can still be hard to really "pay attention." I've found that shooting photos can give me that extra mindfulness to look around, appreciate small details, and really take in the sites. 

When you're shooting photos, you notice the light, the color, the texture, and the sheer magnitude of the great outdoors - you have to in order to accurately capture it. Whether you're shooting a wide, magnificent scene or the small, more contained ecosystem of a single flower, photography can help you to truly "see." Bringing along your camera when you go outdoors can really take the experience to the next level, just be sure to look around and soak it all in with your eyes after you've grabbed a few shots!

2. Photography can give us that extra motivation to really explore.

Just as we can often pass by and miss beautiful details when we're outdoors, we can also get into ruts where we aren't motivated to get outside at all. We may want to spend more time outdoors, but it can be tough to prioritize something like that in our fast-paced lives.

Taking up photography can give you a bit of an "objective" when you go outside - it can help you to look around, observe, and be creative. A lot of people start daily or weekly photo projects, some like to shoot photos based on a theme - just have fun getting out to explore your world (and experience all of the health benefits that come with it)!

Of course we also have to keep in mind the responsibility that we have in this - never risk your safety or the safety of the environment and nature around you for the sake of getting a cool photo. Let photography lead you to amazing places, but don't neglect the "leave no trace" principles. 

3. Photography can help us share and remember.

Have you ever looked back on photos from a trip you went on or an adventure you had? They probably brought back some really great memories and details - the feeling of "smallness" as you looked out over that canyon, the wind (and maybe rain) blowing against your tent, or the scent of that timeless campfire smell.

Shooting photos can help solidify these experiences, and afterward bring us that great joy of remembering. Additionally photos motivate us to keep exploring, and they help us share our love of the outdoors with others. Social media and websites like The Outbound take this reach and influence even further, allowing us to see places around the world that we may never get to travel to.

It's an amazing privilege, but don't let the ability to look up just about any place on Earth get in the way of actually getting out and experiencing it for yourself. Get inspired, go explore, prioritize people and being present, then share your experiences afterward, not during!

How do I get started?

  • Start with what you have - you can start shooting photos on your smartphone, it's fine. Just make a habit of it!
  • Keep your photos in some sort of private album somewhere (not only on social media) so that you can both easily see your progress as a photographer, and look back on the amazing things you've seen and places you've been.
  • Consider starting a daily or weekly photo project, or maybe pick a theme for your photos and focus there - it's not a bad thing to add a little structure to help you stick with your new hobby!
  • Eventually, consider getting a camera that will allow you even more creative power and control over settings, especially as you get better and more skilled in your photography.
  • Don't forget that the point is to have fantastic moments in nature. Get out and explore, shoot photos, and capture beauty, but remember to also spend a little time being present, being still, and taking it all in - and not only through the lens of your camera!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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