The other day I was standing at the window looking out at the grey, overcast sky contemplating where I was going to walk that morning. All of my normal routes seemed boring, so I grabbed my camera, went outside, and decided on impulse to turn right instead of left at the end of my driveway. Ten minutes into the walk I felt inspired and started looking for photo opportunities.
Throughout my walk I thought about what it takes to keep going, even when you are bored with your walking routes, the weather is bad, and you don’t feel inspired. When I returned home I searched for ideas, and was amazed with what I discovered.
First there are the benefits. I know we have been talking about this many times in our posts, but there is just so much evidence that walking improves your physical health, and can add years to your life, that it is too important to ignore. Walking regularly helps keep your heart healthy, staves off diabetes, aids in digestion, and much, much more. But did you know that a recent study found that walking improves your creativity? Researchers at Stanford University determined that walking, even if it is just around the room (let alone walking outside), improves people’s ability to solve problems more creatively.
And then there are the mental health benefits. A study from the University of Innsbruck in Austria found that 20 minutes of brisk walking had positive affects on mood and overall well-being. Just 20 minutes! Other studies showed that people were less likely to feel job-related depression when they walked regularly.
And now for the added benefit of Camera Walking – Dr. Dennis Park, a neuroscientist from University of Texas at Dallas, tested his theory that learning a new skill could keep your brain sharp. He found that people who had the greatest improvement in memory were those who learned digital photography and Photoshop! Yes!
I was buoyed by the studies and amazed that we, unknowingly, were including all of these benefits in Camera Walking. We knew that walking was beneficial for health and fitness, and using a camera as a tool to get out moving was, in fact, a way to become more creative. But we didn’t realize that our tagline, Health, Fitness and Creativity was so on the mark!
Without getting too full of ourselves here, there still are days when it is challenging for most of us to get out the door for a walk, so I poked around for a few tips.
Tip #1: Plan your walk in advance. If you have limited walking routes, think of something that will make that walk fun – a theme, a goal, or a reward at the end. I have written about walking with a different lens, as one way to bring something new to your walk. Try changing your route. That morning when I was uninspired I walked down new streets, and immediately I was exploring again!
Tip #2: Up your pace. Michelle and I always say, “in-between the stops you make to take photos, walk briskly.” It turns out that saying, “I am going to walk faster,” makes a difference. The Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that walkers took an average of 118 steps per minute after making that statement. Normally one hundred steps per minute is considered moderate to brisk, so it works!
Tip #3: Challenge yourself with a pedometer. We have written about pedometers before, and more recently about our love for the Fitbit Flex. Whatever device you use, it can help motivate you to move more often and farther. I loved David Pogue’s review of fitness bands on Yahoo.
He said that “these bands — the Jawbone UP, the various Fitbits, and so on — really aren’t so much about technology as psychology.” That’s right, he contends that it brings “fitness from the back burner to a front burner,” and I agree. Recently a friend, who is a new owner of a Fitbit, wrote me from an airport in Europe. She said that, “instead of sitting for six hours waiting for my flight drinking wine and eating free food, I got up and walked the terminal three times to get my 10,000 steps. I feel great!” Proof positive!
Tip #4: Set a goal for your photography. Experiment with different ideas, shoot images in macro, wide-angle, or target specific subjects – doors, flowers, or birds (even if it is just a seagull). Any of these can help grow your photography skills.
Use a different camera to expand your skills. If you normally use a smartphone for your photos, try out a one of your larger cameras. If you use a DSLR, try using a smaller point and shoot, or an older version. All can take good photos, as it is the person who creates the shot, not the camera.
Tip #5: Enhance your photo editing skills. I have to admit that one of the great pleasures of Camera Walking for me is returning home to see what I have captured in my camera. I enjoy post-production editing because it allows the artist in me to emerge, and it is fun (as well as good for your memory). I love creating the image that I saw in my mind’s eye when I took the photo.
I use plug-ins – primarily Topaz and Google’s Nik Software, which work well with my photo editing software (Aperture). Both have many filters that allow me to play with my images to get the results I want. There are many photo editing software options available, but I have to confess that Photoshop has been a trying learning experience for me. I made it a goal this year to get better at it, so now when I experience my periodic frustration with my slow learning process, I can remind myself that this is what will help keep my mind sharp!
Camera Walking is good for the body, mind and soul, so pick up your camera and take that daily walk to achieve better health, fitness and creativity. We now know it is for real – the studies prove it!