Mindful Photography Engagement Event in Cumbria
Case Study Type:
Public Engagement Case Study
Sand dune system:
Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve
Case Study Subject:
A mindful photography session was run to help engage people with the dunes and improve their personal wellbeing
About The Dune System Engagement Intervention
In September I ran a mid-week evening ‘Mindful photography workshop’ at Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve. The session was free to attend and aimed at the general public who were welcome to use their camera phones or cameras.
What was the focus of the event?
My aim was to provide an alternative way to enjoy the sand dunes, one that would be accessible for anyone, and engage with audiences that we don’t always see at other events, such as younger people (18-35), and men. I also wanted to promote the idea of ‘mindfulness’ in an easy to digest, and relatable way that encourages people to be creative, and focus on the present moment.
What did you do and how?
The activity was a 1.5 hour session using photography as a tool to unwind from the day. We focused on mindfulness, and appreciated the beauty of the natural world, and the sand dunes.
The session was split into 2 parts. The first consisted of warm up activities to get to know the group and find a ‘mindful’ headspace. For this, I took inspiration from the nature and wellbeing sessions I had ran in a previous role, and the reflective writing work shop that we attended through Dynamic Dunescapes.
Activity 1: 5 4 3 2 1 senses - 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste
Activity 2: Colour chart
Any colour chart will do! This is the one I used, by Emily Mackenzie: https://curiouserandcuriouser.com/collections/all-prints
For this activity, I asked participants to take a look at the colours and pick one or two that stood out and fill in the sentence below
‘If my… (eg. day/mood/heart/personality/object) was a colour, it would be…(fill in a colour from the colour chart).’
Activity 3: Key focuses
On the table I laid out a range of pictures of landscapes/nature, and asked everyone to chose one that they were first drawn to.
We then went round the circle describing what we liked (or disliked) about the photo, or what stood out to us, focusing on the key words below. This activity was used to vocalise and help convey what we find appealing in photographs.
- Colour (or lack of)
- Shapes: Lines
- Shapes: Circles/spirals
For the second part of the session, we went out into the dunes. I asked participants to randomly pick a word card from a bag (consisting of the key words above) and use this to focus on for the next 25-30 minutes while out taking photos.
They then explored the reserve, and returned back to based where we shared the photos from the session and discussed the activity.
I advertised through Dunescapes channels, Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s What’s On magazine, and website, and local radio stations.
Who did you work with?
National Trust owned reserve and indoor space.
Highlight any issues/obstacles & how you overcame them?
I had advertised the event as being open to everyone, with no previous experience of photography needed and would mainly be using camera phones. A few skilled photographers attended the session, however it was good to have their knowledge and they still gained from the session by looking at photography in a different way and focusing on mindfulness.
How much did the intervention cost?
Very little. For the event I bought a white board, printed resources, paper, and laminated activity sheets.
Was the intervention successful?
Yes, I’ve received good feedback and there seems to be an interest for future sessions.
What could be done differently next time?
Perhaps a longer time on the dunes taking pictures. Also sharing to local social clubs to engage with younger people.
Feedback from the event
Messages from those that were involved:
-It was a lovely evening on Thursday and good to meet you and all the others. Thank you for facilitating the workshop.
-I found the idea of having a prompt to focus on very enjoyable. The process of building my pebble stack was very mindful and allowed me to photograph it without feeling self-conscious lying on the beach!
- Thank you for yesterday evening - perfect for detaching me from work, mentally & physically
-Thanks so much for running yesterday's session – I really enjoyed it and will use the prompts again.
Images produced during the workshop from various prompts