Harris Hawks

Four Adolescent Harris Hawks in Cactus Nest

Recently, I reflected back on the ways in which pictures have repeatedly spoken to me and I realized how intertwined photography is with mental health.  Even in the dreariest of times, it is a joy to see a beautiful image or to have one of your precious memories preserved for a lifetime of infinite revisits.  When one is grappling with depression or other mental health issues, even seconds of reprieve are a welcomed hiatus.

This past summer, my passion for photography took an inadvertent and exhilarating twist with the advent of what I call Random Acts of Photography, resulting in the launch of www.ChangingFocusPhotography.com. Frequently, when I am standing outside with my camera, strangers approach me and ask what I am photographing. When I offer to send them photos they are filled with excitement and gratitude.  Typically, taking photographs feeds the soul of the photographer, but my newfound passion is to use the photographs I have taken to give other people unexpected doses of joy.  In addition to sending strangers pictures of nature and wildlife, I habitually look for opportunities to take photos of people with their loved ones when they are engaged in outdoor activities, such as swimming in a lake or fly-fishing along a river bank.  I then wait until they walk past me and offer to send them the pictures I just took of them.  To see the visible lift in people’s eyes, particularly during the difficult times we are all navigating, makes me want to do it all day, every day.

The above photograph was taken in Scottsdale, Arizona.  I spent over 40 hours watching hawk activity near a towering Saguaro Cactus with tangles of monstrous, twisted arms.  Using my binoculars, I spotted the mother flying back to the nest with a branch and discovered four young hawks living there.  I then spent countless hours in the blazing desert heat to get this one shot of all four of them, eyes visible, looking in the same direction, in anticipation of their mother’s return with food.

My quest to have a positive impact on the world through photography was recently affirmed when I shared this photo of the hawks with a woman who lost her husband to cancer.  She told me that, while our many intimate conversations about how to navigate grief and depression have been very helpful, my photography has helped her even more throughout her journey.  She shared that her daily walks now include a heightened awareness of the beauty around her and that my photographs have inspired her to stop and feel the pleasure of the nature she previously walked past without taking due notice.  Nothing epitomizes the “gift of giving” more than hearing you’ve made a difference—that you’ve eased the burdens of someone else’s plight.

T.L. Wilson

Terry Wilson (formerly Terry Wise) has lived through a myriad of personal and professional lives, each of which has led her to the same place, with the same purpose: to provide hope and inspiration to others. Terry is the author of Waking Up: Climbing Through the Darkness, a book that offers a road map to emotional health to people who are faced with a diversity of life’s challenges (grief, depression, suicidality). Terry served on the boards of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Association of Suicidology and spent a decade delivering keynote speeches in every state in the United States. After happily re-marrying in 2010, Terry wrote a novel, Viewer Indiscretion, penned under the name T.L. Wilson. Terry’s most recent endeavor as a photographer is to capture and share the beauty of the world around us through a different lens—a camera lens. It is her belief that recovery from mental health challenges is achieved incrementally and it is her hope that each image will provide doses of joy to the eye and warmth to the heart. Her mission is to make the world a better place one book at a time, one word at a time and now…one photograph at a time.

To view more images, please visit www.ChangingFocusPhotography.com.