Stories, Thoughts, & Reflections

Holding My Own: Nature Photography Lessons from a Toddler

May 8, 2021

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Out of my comfort zone. When I started landscape and nature photography, one of the last places I ever thought I would find myself is sitting with a macro lens among a bunch of flowers trying to find the right composition and angle. My inspiration to shoot started as a way to share my travel stories and bottle up that feeling of wanderlust. It was all about adventure, wide-open spaces, and the grand landscape. Then, I became a mom and my travel days abruptly were put on a long pause.

Chrysanthemum Flower Macro Photography Image
“Ná caill do chroí” means “Don’t Lose Heart” in Irish. The first image of my macro and intimate scene photography journey where my inspiration reemerged.

For a long time, I struggled to pick up the camera and be happy with my captures. I never felt satisfied or felt that elation of creating something magical after the shutter clicked. I simply felt as drained as my camera batteries at the end of each session. Shooting landscapes felt overwhelming, and perhaps the reason is that life, in general, felt overwhelming as a new mom.  Even local hikes to try and shoot a sunrise or sunset were not calling to me anymore.  Looking back, I didn’t know who I was in this new role and phase of my life. And inevitably, if you don’t know who you are, it’s hard to connect and express yourself through an image.

During nap times when I had a moment to myself, I would sit outside, lay in the grass, watch the birds, and wander around the garden. I was so tired that I would sit and watch the bees buzz around the flowers almost in a trance. It was my time to ponder life’s great mysteries all while watching nature’s minutia. By mysteries, I mean debating if I’m going to ask my husband if we could get take-out for dinner again because cooking wasn’t fun anymore either.  Reflecting back, it was those short respites outside which helped me keep my sanity.

Then that newborn turned into a toddler and started exploring the outside world more independently. From pinecones to mushrooms, tree bark to flowers, he investigated everything. He was so excited and somehow that made it exciting for me. Watching him explore nature and then run to hand me every rock, leaf, and flower for me to explain did more for me than him. It was looking at those little details from a toddler’s viewpoint that helped me find the beauty again. I looked closer at Mother Nature and how every tiny aspect showcases absolute elegance and resilience under the pressures around it. It gave me hope to just keep hanging on until I found my footing in life, in parenthood, in photography, and in the world of macro and intimate landscapes.

Intimate Landscape Image of a Dandelion

A few more moons have passed since that revelation. Now, I couldn’t imagine a world where I wasn’t photographing more intimate landscapes.  It was a long and arduous lesson in learning the technical craft as well as understanding who I was and where I wanted to point my camera. It brings me so much joy to sit, study, and contemplate all the intricate details of nature’s smaller scenes.  I have never felt more connected to nature and my images.  Moreover, I have never felt more compelled when I photograph. I feel so strongly about the images I produce now.

Know that you must photograph whatever calls to your heart. That calling will change as you go through life.  Follow that call. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace experimentation.  If anything, this is simply following the cyclical patterns of nature.  Let your autumnal leaves fall from your previous life, and embrace the winter hardships of learning something new. Spring will undoubtedly emerge with new buds of growth. Then for a brief period, you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor through summer.

Nature Photography of Green Succulents

The saying is that the days are long but the years are short. That may be true, but now I prefer to think even smaller these days, in minutes and moments. Because spring blooms and toddler snuggles are fleeting. Until the glass runs out of sand on this phase, I will embrace and enjoy every second until the next phase of life begins. Then, I’m going to experiment and change some more.

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Fine art nature and landscape photographer, speaker, and Lightroom educator.

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