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Is A Camera Also A Piece Of Exercise Equipment?

by Michael Hanson-Metayer 9 months ago in photography

Nature Photography: An Exercise For A Quarantine World

Is A Camera Also A Piece Of Exercise Equipment?
Photo by Alexander Wang on Unsplash

No Gym, What Now?

In this extended pandemic in which we all live, the gym went from a place I spent time 5 days a week, to a place that was closed and I was not allowed to go to by statewide order for months, to a place that is now open but I do not really want to go at the moment for a number of reasons. However, getting the exercise I have desperately been missing is still very much a possibility now and strongly encouraged by the same folks who shut the gyms down in the first place. Outdoor exercise, trail walking, hiking, biking, running, and general activities that require moving one's body outdoors are considered to be the best way to keep in shape and in good health in a world where social distancing is also an important part of staying healthy. Though I have dabbled in certain outdoor sports from time to time, the one outdoor activity that has stuck with me over the years has been nature and wildlife photography.

Black-Crowned Night Heron, Photo By Michael Hanson-Metayer

Photography has taken me to places I would not have otherwise gone, gotten me to hike, walk, and climb when I might otherwise be sitting on a couch, forced me to wake up at 4:30 in the morning when I would have otherwise slept, and made me move faster than I otherwise would have if I had not been racing against changing lighting in order to get a shot. For those reasons, and the fact that camera gear including a tripod, a camera body, and lenses can add up in weight fast, I would argue that for many people doing outdoor photography, a camera should be considered a piece of exercise, as well as photography, equipment.

"Sunset Over Shelburne Pond", Photo By Michael Hanson-Metayer

How Much Exercise Is Really Involved In Pushing A Shutter Button?

Contrary to the luck some people seem to have, and popular belief, most stunning photographs of animals taken in the wild are not taken from the road side or minutes after someone parks a car. In my experience, most require a hike of some distance, can involve some climbing depending on topography, squatting or sitting, waiting, watching, and often not getting a good shot per set up (but maybe I am doing things wrong). If you know your subject and its schedule, the likelihood of setting up for some great shots is much greater, but typically requires beating the wildlife to a location and waiting for its arrival, requiring patience and stamina. However, with wildlife, there are no guaranties and a motor boat on the other side of a pond could be enough to scare your subject for the day, having it not return to a spot you can photograph it. It is all part of the joy and trials of wildlife photography, but also contributes to hiking to another location, earning a little more exercise along with another potential shooting opportunity.

A Male Common Grackle, Photo by Michael Hanson-Metayer

Getting Me To Go Out When I wanted To Stay In

For me, there is a continuing psychological weight to being outside in a world where the public is being told to socially distance and avoid groups of people whenever possible, even when I am headed places I do not expect to see many people. Call it an abundance of caution, but I dread going to the grocery store and cringe when I see another person on the same trail as me headed the opposite direction, not wearing a mask. I am not generally an anxious person, but the pandemic has almost gotten me to the point where I do not want to leave my home. The one major motivating factor that is getting me out of the house at this time is capturing wildlife shots, taking photographs of landscapes, and generally seeing what photos I can take of the natural world. Most of my photography is shot for my own purposes, never shared with the world, but its value extends outside of the time I am capturing individual shots, serving as a strong motivation to get outside with my camera, but giving me the side benefit of a healthy amount of exercise.

"Blue Heron Gone Grey" By Michael Hanson-Metayer

An example? The photo above of a Great Blue Heron was taken the 3rd time I saw the bird for the day, after I had hiked over a mile, and without a tri-pod. The first time I saw the heron it was spooked and flew away. The second, about 3o minutes later, was as it was gliding from one wading ground to another, I knew its location but it would take some time to get to. When I was finally able to take the picture, it was after hiking to the area I was relatively sure it had flown to, creeping through a wooded edge of the pond, and setting up a shot free hand through a couple trees, using them as cover to not spook the heron. All told, it took almost an hour from first seeing the heron to getting a few decent shots of it, an investment well worth it in my approximation.

"Hiked 2 Miles For A Chipmunk", Photo By Michael Hanson-Metayer

Exercise Worth Perusing?

If running and biking are not your speed, you are in decent enough shape to hike a couple miles in a few hours over rough terrain, you already have a camera (cell phone can work in a pinch), and you have a love of the outdoors, nature and wildlife photography could be a great excuse for you to get out more. The hiking may seem incidental, but in truth it is part of the appeal as song birds can easily be photographed in a residential back yard in suburbia, and nestling behind cattails and waiting for your desired subject to appear gives the opportunity to listen to bird songs, watch dragon flies dance, and observe the changing sky as the sun pushes up from sunrise (please note that nature photography does not need to be taken at sunrise, don't get scared off by sunrise references). A lot of people are finding new hobbies in a world where many of their old ones are simply no longer options. I would recommend nature photography to anyone interested in pursuing it, it is a very rewarding hobby even if you never get a shot worth publishing in a magazine and no one other than you ever sees it, and remind you that it counts as exercise and might just get you out of an exercise related activity you don't want to do.

Michael Hanson-Metayer
Michael Hanson-Metayer
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Michael Hanson-Metayer

A restless soul, typically caught in between 2 divergent things. Sometimes freelance writer, occasional photographer, wide eyed observer of humanity, often a chronicler of recent and contemporary events, and frequent storyteller.

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