See the Light (Part 1 of 2)
The Sun is your friend
“When was the last time you looked at a sunrise?” my trainer, Jim Laird, asked.
“Like through my house window in the morning?” I stammered.
“No,” he said, “outside, looking at the sunrise without sunglasses, and with as much skin showing as possible.”
I had no answer, and I didn’t totally get his point as the question came during a strength training session to rehab my surgically repaired hip a few years ago. “What does this have to do with my hip?” With a little research, more tips from Jim, and first-hand experience I began to see the light and have enjoyed studying the topic ever since. And I’ve reaped the benefits of a more enlightened view.
To a photographer, this is a big deal. After all, we are light experts, right!? I am well-versed on the importance of light and its effect on a photo. I can create good light when no good light can be found. However, I had never thought much about my own “apertures,” those eyeballs on the front of my face. And, for that matter, my skin. Of course, Vitamin D is good, everyone knows that. But I’d never seriously considered the importance of natural sunlight on my overall health (“It’s all about food and exercise!”). Immunity, stress levels, hormone function, the list goes on.
After a few conversations with Jim, a Lexington-based health, light and strength training guru, I began to take this more seriously. I quickly saw the benefits firsthand. And the science was conclusive.
Before I jump into the importance of sunlight, take a moment to think of a few things that come to your mind on the topic of sun exposure in pop culture. You might think of:
1. Sun is great, but you need sunscreen if you’re going out for more than a few minutes.
2. The sun is dangerous to your eyes and sunglasses protect them.
3. Getting a sunburn will ruin your skin forever.
But, what if none of this was true? I’ve spent the last several years sorting through the cascade of sun schema built up in my mind, much of it by clever corporate marketing, and I’ve begun – through practice and research – to filter through what’s junk science and what’s true. Just like fine tuning camera lighting skills.
The effects area real
I realized that not wearing sunglasses all the time actually did make me see more clearly. And I didn’t even need them when it was super bright outside (a hat usually did the trick in a pinch). I rarely wear the prescription glasses anymore that I used to rely on for computer work. When I wore blue blockers at night, or as often as I could when on screens, I didn’t feel that eye strain (we all know it) and then didn’t have trouble sleeping. Using common sense practices in the summer months, I could build up a great “base tan” without ever getting a sunburn. I could avoid the groggy morning blues with a dose of morning sunshine on the deck with my coffee. These were very simple things that led me to dig into the science of the why.
I’m the daughter of a scientist, but that’s the only claim I can make to knowing science. However, the biological facts are easy to find if you’re looking for them. Did you know that, similar to gut health, your eyes basically have their own microbiome? Healthy circadian rhythms and the resulting hormone production are crucial to overall health and immune system function. Way beyond the usual sleeping well.
I was always a child of nature. Growing up in the woods of a small country town before the age of everything tech; I was always outside and always healthy. When we were first dating in our early 20s, my husband jokingly called me a hippie because of my earthy ways. But with age comes professional demands, family demands, culture – the usual stuff. It’s tough to get back to that natural life.
But that has been my goal. Just like my camera likes natural light the best, my body and soul do, too. I challenge you to figure it out for yourself! Your mental, emotional and physical health will thank you. There are simple practices you can implement every day with some intention and effort.
Dive in to learn for yourself!
To learn more, here are just a few resources to get started. My aforementioned trainer Jim Laird is a great guy to follow (gymlaird.com and on Facebook @GymLaird). Another light expert is Dr. Jack Kruse. Dr. Leland Stillman is another. There are endless “food experts” because you can SELL food and nutritional products. But there are fewer light experts, because you can’t sell the sun. God gave us that as a gift, and He created it to perfectly suit our needs.
Get out there and see the light! We truly hope that we can take your photos again soon!
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