Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.
Health & Wellbeing

Mindful photography: We joined a workshop on the banks of a secret Perthshire loch – and popped in for a swim

We joined a mindful photography workshop on the banks of a secret Perthshire loch – and popped in for a swim.
Gayle Ritchie
Gayle joins a mindful photography workshop near Blairgowrie. Picture: Steve MacDougall.
Gayle joins a mindful photography workshop near Blairgowrie. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

Gayle joins a mindful photography workshop on the banks of a secret Perthshire loch – and pops in for a swim

Sunlight dapples through the trees and warms my skin as I sit beneath the leafy canopy.

I’m listening to the sounds of the forest – a tweeting bird, a buzzing bee, the distant bellow of a cow – and I sense some tiny insect feathering its way up my arm.

My breathing is deep and I allow Kelly McIntyre’s soothing voice to wash over me like a wave of pure relaxation.

I’m taking part in one of her mindful photography workshops – on the banks of a ‘secret’ loch near Blairgowrie – and it’s absolute bliss.

Kelly, in the grey t-shirt, leads the workshop. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

There are eight of us here this afternoon, and, having walked through woodland to reach this stunning spot, we sit in a circle and informally introduce ourselves.

Kelly then invites us to close our eyes and get comfortable – you can sit, or lie on the forest floor if you prefer.

Guided meditation

Taking us through a brief guided meditation, she encourages us to connect with the present moment, to be still, calm, and release any feelings of tension.

We need to try to block out any intrusive thoughts, and focus on our breathing, which is often easier said than done.

And relax. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

The plan, once Kelly has grounded us in the ‘here and now’, is to go off on a wee wander, exploring our natural surroundings.

The focus of the workshop is ‘patterns’ – and, rather than snapping absolutely everything in sight, we’re to take just a handful of shots.

It’s a chance to stop, think, deliberate and really consider what we’re taking photos of, and why.

Overwhelming beauty

There’s so much beauty here it’s overwhelming – trees, a loch, distant hills and meadows. Where to begin?

I’ve a habit of trying to encapsulate everything in a single frame, but often, it doesn’t make the greatest photo – especially when my ‘camera’ is a Google Pixel phone.

Kelly suggests scaling things back, shrinking it all down, and zoning in on the small stuff; the things that really resonate.

Exploring the texture and patterns of this old tree trunk. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

I gravitate towards the trunk of an old tree, noticing how gnarled the wood is, rather like the skin of an elephant.

I hone in on a tiny white flower, noting the stunning detail on the petals and the fluffy texture of its stamen. How have I never noticed this before?

A stunning flower. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

I’m also drawn to the loch. It’s tempting to snap the entire body of water, but I resist, instead photographing a series of ripples on the surface.

Mindful photography

Once we’re happy with our photos, we sit down for a chat about our experiences.

One lady describes her delight when she looked inside a foxglove and discovered its unique pattern of delicate spots.

Others talk about surprising textures found on bark and leaves.

Gayle checks out the loch for photo opportunities. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

Another lady becomes quite emotional when she reveals it’s the first time in ages she’s made time for herself, and allowed herself to simply ‘be’.

Meanwhile, a man shows us his stunning picture of a bee resting on a flower.

A workshop participant wanders into the loch to take photos. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

Essentially, the session has given us the time to slow down, open our eyes to the possibilities, and accept the things we’re presented with.

Meditation on beauty and nature

It’s a sort of meditation on beauty and nature – on life itself – and not allowing the noise of stressful, energy-zapping thoughts to drown us.

It’s a hot day, and once our ‘work’ is done, Kelly suggests we head into the loch for a dip. Well, of course!

It’s refreshing and invigorating – a true lifter of the spirits and the perfect end to a fabulous session.

Gayle in the secret with a fellow workshop participant.

While we’re swimming, Kelly shares her thoughts on mindful photography, and tells me what inspired her to run her workshops.

“I’m fully at peace when I lose myself in the beauty of nature,” she muses. “It inspires me, gives me clarity and settles my spirit.

“Crossing ravines, getting lost in valleys, finding waterfalls and lochs to swim in and walking with friends around Perthshire nurtures my sense of adventure and boosts my creativity.”

Enjoying the sunshine: Gayle, Roxanne Kerr and Kelly McIntyre. Picture: Steve MacDougall.


She says this connection to herself, her friends, and to the environment – the freedom to “play” without judgement – made her want to share that feeling with others, and inspire them to tell their own stories.

Kelly completed a course in mindful photography earlier in the year, solidifying the connection between wellbeing, nature, creativity and self-discovery.

“It brought together so many aspects of my learning and passions – permaculture design, wellness, journaling, and my work with charities and social enterprises,” she says.

Kelly takes a photo. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

“There are so many ways that being in nature is good for you. Adding in photography and being with people is a way of exploring that connection together. You don’t need to be a photographer or think of yourself as being a creative person – it’s letting go of those expectations and exploring them.

“It’s about bringing awareness to what you see, feel and think. It’s a welcome chance to escape for a few hours to explore the practise of mindful photography through a lens of presence.”

Gayle takes a photo on her phone. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

Kelly describes her mindful meditation as an invitation to be present, connecting all our senses “to the wind in the trees, the ripples in the water, the grass under our feet – an immersion in the beauty of nature”.

She elaborates: ““The photography aspect looks at patterns of nature and focuses our attention on colour, light, shadow, texture, movement, what we see and how we see it.”

Gayle walks down to the loch with Roxanne Kerr and Kelly McIntosh. Picture: Steve MacDougall.
  • Kelly is running a mindful photography workshop in Perth Concert Hall at 2.45pm on Sunday August 20 as part of Perth and Kinross Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival, No need to book but turn up early to secure a space. You don’t need a camera – your mobile phone is fine.
  • The session is one of many events running during the festival on August 19 and 20.
  • Kelly creates film and photography for charities, the public sector, social enterprises and various businesses. Her next step is to set up her own social enterprise, hosting mindful photography and video workshops to promote mental wellbeing.