By: Josh Perez
Photography is my creative outlet, and in a way, it’s my therapy. How is taking pictures therapeutic? I asked myself this same question for a long time. I would look back at my old photos and try to figure out why I loved it so much. Then it hit me. While it’s great to have a beautiful product to look at, it’s the process of being outdoors and finding that perfect shot that brings me joy.
Let me explain. First, I enjoy taking landscape photographs more than anything else. I love seeing new a new place and working to capture its beauty. I try to showcase a scene that captures the essence, atmosphere, and feeling. With every shot, I want someone to be able to experience my photo with all five senses. Beyond just seeing what’s in the picture, I want them to smell the rain, taste the salt, feel the moss, and hear the birds.
Sometimes we take for granted how lucky we are to live on a planet that was designed perfectly for human life. I want to bring that awareness to everyone. My goal is to bring the beauty of nature to life in my photographs, especially for people who may not be able to get out and see it for themselves.
I love photography because it brings me outside. It’s 2019, the world is quite literally at our fingertips and in our pockets. We can use Google Earth on our phones of laptops to travel all around the world with a single click. Why do we ever need to leave our houses? This is the mindset I fear I would have if I had not discovered my love of photography when I did.
Think about it, a single hashtag on Instagram can show us practically any travel destination in the world. Currently, looking at a screen can’t compare to actual experiences. Who knows, maybe someday Virtual Reality (VR) will offer a close alternative. That would be a beautiful thing for people who want to travel but have physical, financial, or other limitations keeping them from doing so.
Looking at a screen will never replace being immersed in the beauty of nature.
One of the biggest differences between being outdoors and being online is the time of interaction. As a photographer, I spend a lot of time scrolling through images of destinations I hope to visit and capture. I was recently inspired by a snap of Vernal Falls in Yosemite on Instagram. I spent several minutes staring and zooming before scrolling on to the next image, and I thought to myself, “How can a few moments possibly capture everything that place has to offer?”
Later, when I set out to capture those same falls, I got my answer—it can’t. The hike is about two and a half miles round-trip. The trail goes up about 1,000 feet and takes no less than three hours at a moderate pace. And let me tell you, looking at a screen will never be able to replace the feeling I felt being fully immersed in the beauty of this waterfall.
A lot of people listen to music, podcasts, or audio books while hiking to pass the time till they get to their destination. Others use this time to think, reflect, meditate, or pray. I fall into the latter group. Being away from the distractions of everyday life really allows me to focus on what’s important to me. There’s no time to check Instagram or worry about the little annoyances that get us down. On my hike through Yosemite, I was able to soak up all that nature was willing to offer me: the dirt under my shoes, the trees playing host to dozens of species of birds chirping away at every step I took, and the smell of the grass with each breath.
How fulfilling is it to double tap on your phone? Sure, you’re rewarded with the little heart that pops up, but it’s nothing compared to the satisfaction I felt when I made it to the top of those falls. There were steps that made a Starimaster feel like a literal walk in the park. Climbing the steps made my legs burn until I questioned whether this shot was worth the effort.
“There are so many images online already; do I really need one for myself,” I contemplated in my head.
Once I reached the top, the feeling of accomplishment was something no amount of virtual hearts could ever touch. And I did it. I got the shot. But let me once again remind you, the photo isn’t what I enjoyed most: it was the journey I took to get it. As I stood there staring over the waterfall with mist blowing all over me and my camera, I was fully immersed in the beauty I was hoping to capture on film.
In that moment, I realized I do photography for the self-worth I gain when I go all-out for a picture. I don’t do it for the Instagram likes; I do it to be one with nature. And I encourage you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be photography but find something that entices you to #getoutside like bird watching or even star gazing. We often feel tethered to our phones and forget we have the #freedomtoexplore. It all starts the moment you open your front door.