RENOWNED photographer and naturalist Steve Parish has planned a photographic seminar in the Whitsundays, not just as a two-day workshop but as an inspiration to photographers, artists, and creative explorers to connect with nature and develop their own originality in their work.
Mr Parish, who is also a devoted ambassador for bush heritage and mental health and wellness, said the weekend seminar would be about "taking risks and stepping out of the familiar" while also investigating how to "bring joy to your life" through the photographic process.
As his website says: "Joy and photography are entwined. Moments alone with nature, still and calm and lost in creative imaginings, invite joy into life."
Mr Parish, who lives on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and was last in the Whitsundays 10 years ago, said he was motivated to help people feel inspired and share their photographic life. He said working with the creative elements of photography was also an effective approach to dealing with pressure, stress and anxiety in life.
The seminar, to be held from November 18-19 at Lure, Abell Point Marina, will look at the major themes of our life's purpose and pursuing our dreams. It will also cover how to grow your creativity, overcome day-to-day challenges, enhance skills, develop or fine-tune technical expertise, how your state of mind affects your work and finding work-life balance.
Mr Parish, who was devastated in the floods of south-east Queensland in 2011, losing his publishing company and all his possessions, said he had to reinvent himself and learn how to deal with loss, change and stress. Through his life he has also suffered "terrible" depression and is now passionate about helping others achieve positive states of mental and physical wellbeing "which is the package of mental health".
"I realised you can lose something you have but you can't lose something that you are," he said.
He now spends two to three hours a day on social media connecting with others, helping hone his sense of what is driving other people learn where their stress is coming from, and what causes it.
Mr Parish, who has teaching engagements with about 4000 people a year, also facilitates Nature Connect, a company with activities designed to raise awareness of our place in the natural world. He said the importance of our "life purpose" was crucial to the process of "life enhancement", yet many photographers became driven by ego and a "negative" competitive spirit.
"If you have a life purpose, then it's not just about taking pictures. Photography is a way to talk about creativity. It's about having that creative element and endorphin rush into generating your feelings so you can transmit and share them with others, and also receive that joy back," he said.
He said his program in the Whitsundays would look at storytelling and doing more with photographic images, focussing on the process of "shoot, write, speak" and "stepping back out of ego and into a place of play".
"People are looking for creative life purpose so they can wake up in the morning and feel the joy of another day," he said.
Photographer Anne Smith, who lives near Bowen, has worked with Mr Parish on coordinating his Whitsundays weekend. She is also currently working on a Phd looking at whether images and art help with mental health and feelings of wellbeing.
Ms Smith, a strategic partnering specialist, said Mr Parish was "unique" because "he's taken his work into the next step of the creative genre (and) he's digging deep within himself to do that."
She said when photography was approached in this way it could become very meditative.
"I took on photography and found it very calming. It's my stress release. I always feel so much better when I get out there in nature and look at something different ... different locations, different scenery, different animals," she said.
Ms Smith said the seminar would give the local community the chance to meet a man who'd had a lifetime experience of taking photographs, and was an expert naturalist with a wide range of advice and skills.
She said Steve Parish would help open their eyes to the diversity in the region and celebrate nature.
"The Whitsundays are so naturally diverse. We have the agriculture and wildlife and the ocean, we have crocodiles and then just five minutes out of Bowen we have flocks of wild emus. It's just astounding," she said.
"Taking photographs makes you view the world a little differently. It makes you appreciate things that you usually wouldn't even notice. You take the time to sit still and observe."
Ms Smith has also established The Bowen and Whitsundays Photography group, which currently has nearly 1000 members via Facebook. The group is for professionals and non-professionals and allows photographers to support each other.
Bookings for the Steve Parish seminar can be made at www.steveparish-natureconnect.com.au
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