How Mesmerizing Landscapes Helped One Photographer Combat Depression

Great Barrier Reef | © William Patino
Great Barrier Reef | © William Patino
Photo of Monique La Terra
9 November 2016

Australian photographer William Patino spoke to Culture Trip about the meditative powers of landscape photography and how this art form transformed his life. He also provided an insight to his photography workshops and opened up about Instagram.

Your work​ is atmospheric and evocative. What specifically do you most enjoy about this type of photography?

Thank you. At the end of the day, I really just want to capture images that move me personally and express how I felt at that moment. Most of the time this tends to be scenes or moments that are perhaps more atmospheric and less ordinary. I like to try and expose myself to rare and elusive situations that will be hard to experience again, and if what I create resonates with someone, then I’m really honoured.

Courtesy of William Patino

How has it helped you overcome your battle with depression?

Photography has a wonderful way of opening up your eyes and helping you see and appreciate many finer details that most people often overlook. It came into my life when I really needed it most, at a time when my world was really devoid of light and colour, despite having so many things to be grateful for. Mental illnesses affect each individual differently and certainly don’t discriminate or abide by any rules, so when I found myself in such a low state of mind, it was confusing, terrifying and, worst of all, made me feel guilty for feeling that way, which only made things worse.

Seeing doctors and speaking out about it certainly helped immensely, and once I began taking photos, it encouraged me to keep active, to get outside and to explore. Photography is almost like a form of meditation because when you’re alone with your camera, you can’t really think about anything except for what’s right in front of you, through your lens. I formed a love and obsession with chasing light and seeking moments of solitude in nature. It wasn’t a conscious decision that this was going to help me; it just happened naturally over time, and I was slowly able to look back day by day, week by week and see that the periods of darkness were decreasing. It probably took a good two years or so before I could say that I was free from its grip. I do still feel deep down it will always be a part of my personality; however, I’ve learned to control it, and I guess even channel it through my work.

I consider myself so fortunate to be where I am today, and I know so many people battle these illnesses for the best part of their lives. It’s incredibly complex, but I think speaking out about it can only be a positive thing, removing the stigma and helping people feel more comfortable in seeking help. Although it was the most difficult thing I’ve been through, I’m so grateful for it and how it has given me a new outlook on life and greater empathy toward others.

Consolation Lake | Courtesy of William Patino

​As a self-taught photographer, what has been the most important lesson you’ve learnt along the way?​

Trust your instinct, create from within and be honest with yourself.

Transcendence Courtesy of William Patino

How significant has your Instagram account been for your professional development?

Instagram is what led me to photography in the first place and has been there with me this entire journey. Years ago, it was such a fun place to be, and it really encouraged me when I was starting out. I’ve made life-long friends through the app and will always be grateful for the role it’s played in my life. It’s helped me get my name out there and share my work across the world which has been a stepping stone in doing what I do today. Unfortunately, Instagram is entirely different platform now, and I’d be lying if I said I actually enjoy using it like I use to. Sorry Insta!

​What cameras do you currently use, and how often do you swap them out?​

I’m shooting with Sony mirrorless cameras at the moment, which are used for my main work, but recently I’ve been carrying Olympus and Panasonic models with me too for some client-specific jobs. The gear I carry really depends on what I’m shooting and if I’m hiking for days on end or just driving around. In order of importance, I’d say that the eye is number one, then the lens and then the camera body itself.

​You recently returned from an excursion to Iceland. What were the highlights of​ the trip?

That trip was for two workshops that I was running back-to-back across the country. It was an immensely fun time shared with some awesome people in what would have to be one of the world’s most photographic locations. There are many highlights, but without a doubt, the main one would have to be standing under the Northern Lights as the crew saw them for the first time. This goes for both of the groups I was leading.

Godafoss, Iceland | © William Patino
Iceland road | © William Patino

​You conduct your own photography workshops. ​What can someone expect to learn if they sign up?

Running workshops is my main business and is something I’m passionate about and thoroughly enjoy. I guess in a nutshell – my trips are designed to share with people the very best of a country, help them with their photography and give a fun and enjoyable time along the way. Those that know me or perhaps get an insight through my Snapchat know that I’m very serious about my craft but am light hearted as well. I treat my clients like my friends, and really, my tours are run just like I would if I was out travelling and shooting with my mates, shooting from sunrise to sunset and into the night. I generally keep my itineraries somewhat flexible and am always looking at the best possible options for everyone to get memorable photos and experiences. An example would be from the recent Iceland trip where, due to cloudy weather, my first crew had not yet seen the aurora, and we were on our last night of their trip. I presented them with an option, and we ended up driving almost seven hours across the country to chase a small weather window. Needless to say, we made it to shoot the best sunset of the week, and later that night watched the illustrious lights of the aurora dance across the sky. Other trips include things like plane rides over snow-capped mountains at sunrise, walking on glaciers, cruises beneath waterfalls and canoeing on glassy lakes. As far as learning goes, I share everything I know about photography, my entire workflow in the field and post production techniques. As well as this, I try my best to address each of my clients’ personal photography goals and needs.

Fury Courtesy of William Patino

​What advice can you give budding photographers?​

Without a doubt, it would have to be to develop your own style, find your own places and be your own person. Places like Instagram are absolutely flooded with copycat images of the same old places with the exact same compositions, people wearing the same clothes, the same editing styles, the same fabricated captions, etc. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I think if you want to grow as a photographer, then you need to somewhat switch off from what everyone else is doing and go and do your own thing and create with pure motives. Social media will always mostly present what’s trending, and if you’re striving to keep up, you’ll end up losing yourself in the process and sacrificing your growth as a photographer.

Arise Courtesy of William Patino
Laurel Hill | © William Patino
Rees Valley | © William Patino

Finally, we know this may be difficult one to answer, but which photograph are you most proud of?

Definitely difficult to answer as I can always find room for improvement in my work. It’s only really in the last six months that I feel I’ve established my own vision and am able to pre-conceive and convey this through my photography. My images ‘Arise’, ‘Ether’ and ‘Resurgence’ are probably the best examples of this and reflect the emotion I wish to convey through my work at this point in time.

Ether | © William Patino
Resurgence Courtesy of William Patino