Most of us photographers are very particular about maintaining our tools. Lenses need to be stored in dry, temperature-controlled, padded places to prevent scratches, or mold growing between the elements, or even something like oil leaking between the elements. We take great care to make sure that our cameras are well-protected if it is raining, or we might even avoid taking photographs that day simply to prevent damage to our equipment. Some of us invest lots of money in camera bags to keep our equipment armored, dry, and safe, even on the roughest of trips.
But what about the most important tool of all? I’m talking about you. Your body and your mind. That’s the one tool you absolutely must have—and it can also be the one that we maybe don’t always maintain quite as well as we should.
Just think for a moment of all the ways in which you use your body and mind to create photographs. Your eyes need to see clearly in order to spot compositions. An interesting thing I learned about cataracts, for example, is that they not only affect your vision but also the way you see color. In some people, they can make vision more yellow. Beyond vision, you also need to be able to move around in order to hike or get down on your hands and knees. Minds should be sharp because when we’re at our sharpest, we’re at our most creative.
Bodies and minds—without these two things, all the well-maintained camera gear in the world won’t help. From that standpoint, I think it’s important that we maintain ourselves to the best of our abilities.
But what does that mean? Well, of course, diet and exercise, but we’ve all been told that these are things we need to be doing. Beyond that, I think it’s also important to go for regular checkups at the doctor. If your knees or hips have been bothering you, get it looked at before it interferes with your ability to move around. Get regular eye exams, too, so that an eye doctor can spot and potentially correct a vision problem before it begins to affect your life and your photography. Go on hikes with your camera not because you intend to take photographs, but simply to get yourself out and moving—and to have the camera handy in case you spot something.
All of these things help to keep your mind sharp, too. When you’re active and energetic, cognition increases, which means creativity flows more easily because your mind is better able to process what your eyes are seeing and turn it into something creative. That free flowing creativity is almost like exercise in and of itself because the more you create, the more creative you will become.
There are lots of ways to keep your body and mind healthy, and for everyone, the answer will be slightly different. For all of us, it’s all about the lifestyle—choosing healthy alternatives to spending a whole weekend watching TV or binging on junk food. Whatever the right answers are for you to maintain your health, do it with photography in mind. Remember that you, not the camera, are the most important tool in the act of creation.