I once read that the great landscape photographer Ansel Adams expressed just one regret at the end of his life. That one regret was that he had not taken better care of his health. I haven’t been able to find that article again, nor confirm the reliability of the source, so I don’t know if it’s true. But what I do know is that it’s not a regret that I wish to have.
A love of landscape photography means getting out of bed before dawn on freezing cold mornings; caring more about keeping your camera dry than keeping yourself dry in the rain; staying awake in the middle of the night to take photos of the stars; skipping dinner because a thunderstorm just started and getting amazing shots of lightning is a higher priority than eating; circling a scene on foot numerous times while trying to decide on the best composition for your shot; walking all the way to the top of a hill with a heavy bag of equipment only to find that the best shots to be had are from a third of the way up; running to reach the spot you want to take photos from because you didn’t notice the beautiful sunset until the last minute; returning to the same scene over and over again until the sky and the light is perfect; and being careful with your footing because all it takes is one wrong move with a tired leg on some rocks and you can say goodbye to your favourite lens… and possibly say hello to an injury.
If you want to be out there chasing that perfect landscape at whatever age you draw your last breath, then you don’t want to become personally acquainted with diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis or dementia at any age. But with a lack of exercise, and an addiction to sugar and processed foods, it’s where most of us are headed.
It’s often easier not to think of the decades ahead and what ailing health does to the achievement of life goals. But every once in a while when fatigue takes over and I begin to notice that work and life in general leaves little energy for photography, I begin to question my choices. Is that piece of cake more important than having the energy for photography? Is the convenience of that takeaway pizza that lets me get on with editing photos instead of cooking going to chop years off my life or leave me too unhealthy to get out there with my camera in my later years? Is spending 2 hours in front of the computer editing photos instead of spending a quarter of that time stretching or going for a walk going to mean I won’t have the strength to carry my camera gear in a few years or that back pain will one day steal the joy from my photography?
The answers are obvious. It doesn’t matter how much cake, chocolate or ice-cream you ate today. Tomorrow is a new day to choose more nutritious foods. It also doesn’t matter if you can only swim 200 metres tomorrow when you used to be able to swim 2 kilometres in 50 minutes, or if walking 1 kilometre wears you out while your neighbour runs marathons. All that matters is that you make a start because the longer you leave it the harder it will get. A lot of us landscape photographers like to tell ourselves that we don’t need to exercise, because we get more than enough exercise getting out there with our cameras, but for the most part that’s just self-deception at its finest – we all need more exercise than that! And even more importantly, we need to remember that it’s the photographer that makes the photo, not the camera, therefore if the photographer doesn’t take better care of their health, then there will be no photographer and therefore no photo.
In the coming months of bringing this blog back to life, in between all the photography posts, I’ll also be sharing my journey back to optimal health as it unfolds.