The Serene Sacred Solitude Of Photography

Whilst some love photography in the streets, at demonstrations, festivals or any other event with throngs of interesting people to photograph, I’m quite the opposite.

For me, photography is a conduit for escape from the bustle of daily life, even from my own family.

As much as I adore them, I’m just someone who needs that alone time to let my thoughts settle, and let the quietude and beauty of nature restore and rejuvenate me.

I would go so far as to describe the solitude I experience when wandering out in the countryside, or rambling through an ancient churchyard, as sacred.

Here, the deity I’m worshipping is twofold – the nature around me, and solitude itself.

Without this regular solitude (perhaps once a week) I find myself irritable and antsy, and I begin to feel too enclosed and sucked into the chaos of life.

For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed this experience in some form. 

I have a strong memory of taking part in cross country races at school and loved that feeling of running through the leaves and mud amongst the trees, with no-one in sight, only my own breathing and pounding feet audible amidst the forest quiet.

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Since around 2005 I’ve nearly always wandered with a camera in my hand (or in my phone), enjoying the surroundings and the feelings of calm, but with an eye out for beauty I can capture photographically too.

In recent years I’ve been invited to a number of photographer meet ups, involving a wander round a town taking pictures, then a drink and chat afterwards.

I cannot imagine anything worse, so have politely declined.

But how about you? Do you like to photograph alone, in quiet places? Or do you enjoy photography in a group and/or in a busy environment? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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24 thoughts on “The Serene Sacred Solitude Of Photography”

  1. I have it same as you. Quiet. Alone. It is what I enjoy. And I prefer to be/shoot alone and avoiding groups.

    That said, I had overridden myself, my personality for a couple of years. I was shooting street, people every day. Challenging myself. Going on the edge. Meeting people from abroad and doing photo trips together.

    Now, that I have done both I am slowly going back to my natural doing – in quiet.

    1. Pavel, thanks for your thoughts.

      That’s great that you challenged yourself like that. I’ve done a little street photography, but just realised it went against why I photograph – for that solitude and escape. I could probably push myself in other ways though.

      Do you still do some street photography in busy places?

  2. I love a good lonely photographic walk both within natural and urban environments. To me it’s like a form of meditation. Group walks give me anxiety and I can’t focus on what I’m doing, I just get carried away and chat all the time 😂 I tend to decline invitations for this reason.

      1. Oh thanks for sharing the link! I haven’t been on WordPress for a couple of years and I have a lot of reading to catch up with 😂 I just published a new post, I was on a solo trip to Yangon and I spent an amazing day wandering around the city and taking pictures. Of course there were moments when I missed having someone with me to talk about what was around us, but mostly I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I could chose where to go and stop indipently, without the need for a conversation in between 😂 maybe one day I’ll find a photo walk soulmate but for now I’ll stick to solo trips 😉

  3. The only time I went on a photowalk with a group of other photographers was 50+ years ago on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I lived there at the time so rather than photographing my own neighborhood I photographed the other photographers as they did so. Several members of the group didn’t like that and I was “uninvited” to their next outing.

    That said, a lot of my pictures are taken on outings with family members and friends. In particular, my wife appears somewhere in the picture in almost every shot I take of a “street” or “tourist” subject. She also has an excellent eye for less obvious subjects and I am just the camera operator for her pictures.

    1. Ha, Doug, love that word “uninvited”! Sometimes the most interesting photos of a gathering of people like a carnival or protest, are of the other people making photographs.

      How does that work with you being the camera operator for your wife? How does she farme the shot she sees and wants to capture, if you are holding the camera?

      1. Our collaboration on a photograph often involves two steps. She identifies a subject or group of subjects and a viewpoint that shows them to best advantage. I then stand in her footprints and “tidy up around the edges” (her words) with the final framing.

  4. I’m with you Dan, not a fan of group photo activities. My friend is a long standing member of a local photography club, and has urged me to go along, but everything she has told me about it sounds dreadful. I relish my quiet time and have a hard time concentrating if I’m trying to listen to someone talking to me. I’ve also rebuffed invitations to go on local group rides with cyclists I know. I can’t imagine spending the better part of a Saturday trying to keep up with a group, or waiting for someone else to catch up, I like to meander at my own pace. Also, I hate to say this, and I hope things are different in the U.K., but photography and road cycling in my area tend to attract a lot of arrogant and pretentious people i prefer to avoid. I often joke that I’ve chosen the two hobbies that have the highest proportion snooty people around, but my friend pointed out that the sailing crowd is even worse. In general the online photography community seems great, so perhaps it’s a local thing.

    1. Ha ha yes I have avoided cycle clubs too, there are a number around here who go round in their matching bright lycra, riding two or three abreast along the road and winding up motorists. Gives us more casual cyclists a bad name too.

      There is a local photography club I thought about looking into, and I saw an exhibition in a local town a few months back. Some shots were great, nature based. But others were along that route of horribly over processed digital photography, like the kind of gimmicky looks paint programs had decades ago where it made your pictures look like a watercolour or charcoal sketch. Horrific!

      The group at the exhibition were all somewhat older than me too, I was young enough to be their son, if not grandson! I’m not ready for that yet, if I’ll ever be.

  5. Something that has always fascinated me is how unfriendly other cyclists that wear “the costume” are. Around here it is customary to wave at another cyclist as you pass, especially on a path, but seldom or never have kitted out road cyclists retuned a wave. The friendly people are usually older cyclists who seem to be dressed more for birdwatching than a long ride, and they are usually smiling too. I suppose the more technical cyclists are trying to “win” on Starda or Strava or whatever it is. I have mostly avoided the costume, if I’m going for a really long ride I’ll wear MTB clothing which is a little less ridiculous looking. Sometimes you do need the technical clothing, at least I do.

    1. It fascinates me too whether I get a nod or a smile from another passing cyclist. If the other is in the neon lycra costume, I’m nearly always ignored!

  6. Strongly, very strongly prefer shooting/photography alone. However, I really enjoy meeting other photographers. I’ve been lucky to make close, lifelong friends through photography in the past. When I meet someone for a photowalk I do so knowing it’s definitely more for socializing or exploring new places (or seeing places in new ways) and that my actual photography will be significantly compromised. The upside is strengthening social ties and friendships over important common bonds…… and learning some new things. The downside is that I have relatively little discretionary time for shooting on my own and so obviously I’m willingly forfeiting that. It’s just up to me to decide what’s more important at any point in time. But meetups definitely do not bring out my best work! Haven’t been on one in quite a while.

    1. Yeh I feel similar taking a camera with me on a family trip to the woods or a National Trust place. I realised years ago that if I wanted to meander at my own pace and take photographs, it wasn’t going to work with family in tow! So I don’t really try now.

  7. I hate taking photos when I’m with a group of people. I don’t mind it when it’s specifically to remember a gathering – a family gathering, for instance – but generally I like to be out in our garden (or elsewhere though I don’t travel well anymore) and photographing nature. And yes, I like long periods of time on my own, too. My fave things to photograph are trees and birds. (Which reminds me, I need a new camera, my old Lumix is giving up.)

    1. Yes, like you I’m quite happy taking photos at a family party or kids birthday or similar. But yes for my own “proper” photography, I have to be a lone wolf…

      Which Lumix do you have? I’ve had three or four and been impressed with most.

      1. It’s a DMC-TZ8 – very old now. I need a good macro but also a camera that doesn’t distort longshots. I mostly use Aperture but sometimes resort to auto. And I can only really use compact cameras as my hands are so small – and I haven’t really got the physical energy for cameras with add-on zooms.

      2. Do they have removable batteries, do you know, Dan? I can’t bear having to recharge batteries inside the camera. My previous camera to the Lumix was a Sony (Cybershot, but can’t recall the number) but later ones I’ve looked at (and one or two I’ve tried) now only recharge inside the camera.

      3. Nearly all digital cameras I’ve used you can remove the battery to charge. I can only recall one where you didn’t, an old Casio where you had to put it in a kind of charging dock. You might want to look just at cameras that take AA or AAA batteries. There are plenty of older ones about and for convenience they make plenty of sense. My two main DSLRs (both Pentax and from 2006 and 2010 respectively) take AAs, as does a very capable old Fuji S7000 bridge camera, and a few compacts I’ve used. I have a set of Duracell 2500 mAh rechargeables and some Panasonic Eneloop Pros (also 2500 mAh) and they both last ages.

      4. My Sony took AA’s but I found it used too much juice. My current Lumix has an externally-rechargeable battery – one of the block type thingies. Generally I prefer the block type as then I don’t have to keep buying new batteries. I know some AAs and AAAs are rechargeable but I’ve always found they lose their charge too soon.

        I’m trying to remember what the last two cameras were that I bought (and sent back)…. I know one was a bridge, the other a compact I think. I’ll try to remember!

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