How Pictures Served Me Defeat Grief

Most cancers took my mom absent. I was in a downward spiral right up until a probability come upon with character established me on my path to recovery. I started photography as a usually means of prolonging the serenity I felt when surrounded by nature.

In excess of time, I healed, rediscovered myself, and recalibrated the tempo and route of my everyday living. I now photograph to celebrate and preserve the reminiscences of nature’s ephemeral attractiveness. My 1st task, “Metamorphosis,” is a manifestation of the alterations that have happened in me. 

I began photographing as a variety of self-treatment. I was grieving more than the decline of my mother, who experienced been both equally my confidante and my moral compass. Though I acknowledged her dying, I ran from grief by burying myself in operate. Having said that, my work environment, like most, was not conducive to healing. Marriage difficulties additional compounded my agony and left me at the most affordable point in my everyday living.

I wallowed in this point out of existence for a couple of yrs right up until I recognized I had to do a little something about it. It was impacting my family members and shut close friends. Signing up for a volunteer software in Tibet turned out to be a defining minute. Volunteers could assist out at an orphanage in Lhasa and also go on sight-viewing outings. 1 these kinds of excursion took us to Lake Namtso, a lake at an elevation of 4,718 m (15,479 feet). I was sitting down by the edge of the lake when I savored a perception of peace that experienced eluded me for a long time. The vastness of the lake gave me a feeling of point of view though its elegance reignited in me a sense of question and adventure. Mother nature reminded me everyday living is lovely and there is so a great deal to are living for and to discover. I am tiny in the scheme of the universe. My spirit reawakened. I located hope.

A person of the other volunteers on the journey experienced a digital SLR camera. At that time, I didn’t know what a digital SLR digital camera was and was completely happy with my place-and-shoot digital camera, busily snapping away. Having said that, unidentified to me, a seed had been planted in my head. When I received house, I bought my to start with electronic SLR digicam and signed up for an on line workshop to find out about f-stops, shutter speeds, and ISO. A couple of years afterwards when I was in-amongst work opportunities, I registered for a couple of images workshops at the Santa Fe Workshops in New Mexico. And this was how my photography journey began, at age 33.


My lifetime up to that point had been all about economics and finance, tactic, and negotiations. The only brush with the art environment was in my very first year of college when I went shopping for a poster for my dormitory area. I fell in like with Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise,” with no being aware of who he was. The poster prompted me to examine up about him. One issue led to a further and the books I purchased introduced me to Renoir, Degas, and other impressionists. I afterwards figured out about Van Gogh and fell in like with Chagall’s function. My current like is Li Huayi, a modern ink portray artist from China, and Goto Sumio, a notable Japanese artist whose museum I stop by as soon as or two times a calendar year for inspiration.

My 1st undertaking, “Metamorphosis,” features the landscapes of Central Hokkaido, Japan. The alternative was no accident. I experienced initial frequented Hokkaido with my household when I was seven several years previous. My dad took us there to ski for the duration of our 12 months-close university getaway. My world then was uncomplicated – performing faculty research, mastering to ski, and consuming tasty Japanese foods. It could have been only a a few-working day trip for a number of winters, but these memories stay etched in my intellect. Remaining there conjures up nostalgia for the purity and simplicity of childhood.


Central Hokkaido is a magical area crammed with mountains, forests, rolling fields, rivers, and lakes. The distinctive seasons and broad temperature differences involving night time and working day give increase to some incredible all-natural phenomena this kind of as fog, frost, and diamond dust. My need to shell out additional time in Central Hokkaido led me to go to get the job done in Japan, and finally depart my finance work.
The photos in this challenge ended up, in essence, a chronicle of my therapeutic as perfectly as my expansion as a photographer. Photographing mother nature distracted me from my unhappiness and gave me a perception of goal. Scientific studies have shown that character and even visuals of mother nature offer symptom reduction, reduced anxiety ranges, and reduce despair and anxiety. To this day, I obtain my spirits lifting each individual time the aircraft methods Asahikawa Airport and I see the extensive expanses of mother nature. I hope that my pictures do the identical for many others.

I frequently wonder if contentment and other thoughts are habitual. I experienced how negative feelings can lead to a downward spiral. In retrospect, pictures was the new habit, or potentially I should say addiction, that broke the spell.

Despite the fact that the urge to photograph had originally stemmed from an practically desperate motivation to extend the serenity that character introduced, more than time I commenced to get pleasure from basically getting immersed in character, marveling at its attractiveness and currently being grateful for yet yet another serendipitous come upon.


Photographing character meant I experienced to learn far more about character. I turned extra proficient about various all-natural phenomena by reading and via encounter, that is, making problems and understanding from them.

Some normal phenomena like sun pillars are tough to occur by as they demand from customers a confluence of multiple elements, e.g., crystal clear sky, exceptionally lower temperatures, superior humidity, and calm, windless situations. As world temperatures warm and the weather results in being more and more erratic, solar pillars are turning out to be even rarer. I panic that there will occur a day when this awesome phenomenon may possibly turn out to be extinct, and this issue has driven me to photograph in bigger earnest these days.

If I locate a scene that resonates with me, I could be there for several hours, attempting to exhaust every chance of seeing and photographing. Nonetheless, a lot of components of nature this kind of as fog and diamond dust are ephemeral. I am racing in opposition to time to seize their magnificence prior to they disappear when the fog lifts, the petals slide, the solar shifts, and snow bugs die. The four-character Japanese idiom, 一期一会 (ichi-go ichi-e), finest illustrates the simple fact that quite a few encounters with nature happen the moment in a lifetime and simply cannot be replicated even when the seasons repeat.


The seasons, in transform, remind me of the inevitability of death and rebirth. The anniversary of my mother’s death is the exact same day as a friend’s birthday. I bear no grudge from lifetime but really feel just a very simple appreciation of the fact that everyday living is shorter and valuable.

I am typically at a decline when questioned to demonstrate why I photograph what I photograph. I feel I just conclusion up shooting no matter what moves me emotionally. I may well probability upon a scene or a element and discover my heart skipping a beat. I photograph by adhering to my gut, by instinct, on impulse. It is pretty distinctive from what I utilized to do as an investment banker in which logic and explanation trumped every thing else.

Two items of assistance have guided me by means of the project and I’ve stored them near to my coronary heart. The to start with is from Masumi Takahashi, a landscape photographer based mostly in Central Hokkaido. He told me to retain my objectivity and not be spellbound by the landscapes. This is especially genuine when photographing uncommon and spectacular occurrences these kinds of as diamond dust. It is effortless to be so filled with awe and pleasure that as a substitute of calmly and creatively photographing the scene, I conclusion up being rooted in one location and hitting the shutter in a frenzied hurry.


One more piece of guidance that I’d like to share is from my mentor, Nevada Wier. She reminds me to be aim when reviewing and picking out my photos, not to be clouded by the backstory and the working experience of earning the image. For instance, an image should not be offered advantage in excess of an additional just since I had braved biting winds and bone-chilling temperatures to make that image. She taught me not to confuse the merits of the picture with the working experience by itself.

I hope their terms of knowledge will echo with you as they have with me.

I devote “Metamorphosis” to all the instructors who have touched my lifetime in 1 way or a further, in unique my mentor, Nevada Wier, for helping me acquire my voice in photography and inspiring me with the generosity of her spirit.

The write-up courtesy of Components Magazine. The Aspects is the regular journal devoted to the greatest landscape photography, insightful editorials and fluid, cleanse style and design. Inside of you will uncover an exceptional and in-depth articles or blog posts and imagery by the greatest landscape photographers in the planet these as Charles Cramer, Christopher Burkett, Chuck Kimmerle, Christian Fletcher, Charlie Waite, Rachael Talibart, John Sexton and Freeman Patterson, to name a couple. Use the PETAPIXEL10 code for a 10% low cost off the annual subscription.

About the author: Xuan-Hui Ng is a photographic artist from Singapore who now resides in Tokyo. She has been chosen for juried exhibitions at the Griffin Museum, Davis Orton Gallery, Southeast Middle for Pictures, and A Smith Gallery, in addition to placing at the 16th Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Girls Photographers in 2021.

From the artist: “The previous 11 many years have been a time period of transformation for me. My desire to spend extra time photographing in Japan led me to go there and inevitably to depart my finance job. I have been rediscovering myself and recalibrating the tempo and route of my everyday living. Spending time in character has built it achievable. I bear its imprint, artistically and temperamentally. My images are a manifestation of these variations. I devote these tokens of memories to kindred spirits, the weary, the dropped and the lonesome. I hope that they also can knowledge the pleasure I felt when I laid my eyes on these magical landscapes.”

Maria Lewis

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