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Happy New Year everyone! Most of us think of ways on how we can make our new year better than last year. We all at some point in time have come up with new year’s resolutions. But how serious are we really about fulfilling them?
Focusing on key areas of our lives – mental, physical, social, and spiritual health will help us reach our optimum well being. As you know, as a Landscape and Nature photographer, I try to share the benefits that nature offers us because I love nature and I’m passionate about it.
So here are some things we can do to reap the benefits of nature and help us move forward to a great fresh start.
Meditative Hiking / Reflection / Commune / Practice Mindfulness
One of the things I love about nature is its potential for peace and quiet. I say “potential” because I see some people especially from younger generation who go out and hike or walk in the park but have earphones plugged into their ears so they can be listening to something else. For me, that just totally defeats the purpose of being out there in the first place. It’s difficult to find a truly peaceful place these days especially if you live in a busy city or suburb. A lot of times you have to go far away and deep into the woods to enjoy the quiet. This can be a challenge to some as they have no means to go far and away.
In the quiet of nature, try to just keep your mind still and forget about your worries and cares. Try to just think of the present moment and commune with nature. Meditate and reflect. You can do this as you walk or sit in a place surrounded by the beauty of nature. This gives a very calming effect in your being. And as you do this, be mindful of what surrounds you, the details of the trees, the leaves, the paths you cross, the rocks, even the occasional wildlife you encounter along your walk. Be one with nature.
Did you know that Christmas is one of the most commercialized holidays? It’s sad but true. Nowadays as early as September, some stores have already started displaying Christmas related merchandise right next to Halloween. Growing up in the Philippines, I could understand that. Because there were no Halloween nor Thanksgiving holidays there, as soon as September rolls, stores start to put up Christmas displays and play Christmas music. But here in the United States, it seems like Christmas comes earlier every year. Stores are competing for business and want to get ahead of their sales that holidays have become just ways to lure people to spend unnecessarily and not really give thought to the true meaning of the holidays they’re celebrating.
If you want to experience a stress-free non-commercialized Christmas celebration, read on. Here are six ways that could help you have a more relaxed Christmas holiday.
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Plan on keeping your celebration a simple one. Christmas is not about lavish parties or extravagant presents. The true meaning of Christmas is honoring and remembering that God sent His one and only Son our Savior Jesus Christ. When Jesus was born, He didn’t even have an elaborate entry into this world. He was born in a manger where only Joseph, Mary and the barn animals were present. It was a great example of true humility from which we could learn from. Be with family and friends who are dear to you and give thanks to God for His gift to us.
2. GO ON A MEDIA DIET
Marketers are very good at getting the attention of consumers. This is why every year, millions of unwanted and unneeded items are purchased as gifts to self or to others. To avoid getting into this trap, it’s best to avoid TV ads or mail.
Once you get your mail, sort through them and recycle the junk mail right away including the store ads because as soon as you leave them out in the open, and you start reading these ads, you know what’s going to happen next. If you are not aware that a certain store is having a Big Sale, chances are you really don’t have a need for the items that they are selling. The only reason you think you need to buy something is because a certain store has a coupon or a big discount. Advertisers are really good at capturing your attention and luring you to purchase. As Steve Jobs quoted “A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
3. MAKE IT ABOUT OTHERS AND NOT ABOUT YOU
Christmas is not a reason to shop for new things for yourself. A great way to share your love this season is to volunteer at local food pantries or rescue groups and help out when you can. If you can’t volunteer, you can just send them some goodies to help the less fortunate. For sure they will have a wonderful Christmas and you will feel good about it too.
4. MAKE YOUR OWN GIFTS
Who has time to make their own gifts these days? Not many. That’s why handmade gifts are valuable. It means that you took time out of your schedule to put some thought to your giving. Handmade gifts are one of a kind and also usually more economical. For some people making stuff could also be therapeutic.
5. START EARLY
Starting early also means saving up incrementally during the entire year. You know you’re going to spend more during Christmas time so don’t stress about it in December. Set aside some spending money throughout the year.
Usually what stresses people out during Christmas season is the last-minute shopping. Last-minute shoppers don’t get the best deals. If you are able, don’t wait until the last minute. Throughout the year, you will find items that are on-sale that you could give to your family or friends as Christmas presents. If you plan it right, by the time Christmas comes you are already done shopping and you probably got the best deals too. Also, if you start early you will most likely have time to make your own gifts for your family and friends.
6. TAKE TIME TO RECONNECT WITH NATURE
One of the best free antidote to a stress-free Christmas holiday is the time you spend outside in a relaxing quiet of nature. Nature benefits us in so many ways. It has the ability to melt down our stress and worries when we truly connect with it. As Dr. Les Higgins said in his book Claim your Wildness: And Let Nature Nurture Your Health and Well-being, “the mix of solitude and beauty sets the scene perfectly for contemplation, reverie and reflection.” Even 10 to 15 minute walks will help refresh your mind and spirit. If you are not able to go out in nature, go to a quiet room and listen to some soothing sounds or look at some landscape and nature photos. These also have some benefits to the way your mind works and help reduce stress.
I hope that you found these tips helpful and that you will have a great Christmas celebration with your loved ones away from the commercialism Christmas season has become.
Three weeks ago, an article that I wrote for a kids online magazine called My Kids Adventures was published. It’s called How to Have an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt With Your Kids
Do check it out and if you have kids or family and friends who have kids, please share the article. If you like it and found it useful, I would love to hear from you.
Also, don’t forget to check out the other great articles on that site. It was created for busy parents who need ideas on fun things to do with their kids. Time flies fast. Quality time with our kids is very important because they grow fast and they won’t be kids forever. Enjoy them while they’re young.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers! In honor of all the mothers, I would like to share these three tips to taking great photos of MOM on her special day.
I”m sure there are tons of tips one can think of in order to take great photos, but I just want to sum it up to three that are at the top of my list.
Everything in photography is first and foremost about light – the amount of light, the quality of light, the direction of light. Having a good light on your subject is very important. During the day, if you are indoors and the light is not so good, you’ll be surprised that by just moving closer to a window, you’ll get a much better light. If you are outside on a sunny day, the amount of light may be too harsh. Just move your subject to a shady area and use a reflector to reflect the light back to your subject. This way you will get a softer and more even light.
Capture great facial expressions by talking to your subject. When you connect to your subject, you will be able to get different expressions from their face. Try sharing a funny story or maybe tell a joke. When you do this, you’ll be able to get some really great shots of your subject that tells a story in itself. When I took some photos of my me, my mom and my daughter recently, I gave directions like now let’s do a little smile or now a big smile, but the best smile I got was when I said “ok this time, no teeth”, and my mom thought it was funny she actually laughed.
Uncluttering your background is so important in order to get great shots. When the background is cluttered, it draws your attention away from the subject. Before you take the shot, do a quick check of the surroundings of the subject and make sure that there’s nothing in the scene that is going to be distracting. Also make sure that you keep an eye on things like maybe a branch growing out of your subject’s head. Sometimes, there are distracting things that are so easy to remove, or other times by moving your subject a little bit to the left or to the right, you will get a much better shot. It is worth taking the time to do it right.
Remember that the photos we are going to take of our moms are our gift of memories to our families in this generation and the next. I hope these tips will help you take better photos.
Have fun celebrating Mother’s Day!