Looking for a retirement hobby? Pick up a camera

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At the last photography class at Walla Walla Community College I was challenged with a very insightful question from one of my students: "My grandfather has just retired and our family wants to keep him mentally and physically challenged, so how can I persuade him to take up photography?"

Then several other younger students joined in, saying they had similar concerns and desires for their own family members.

Having lived in Walla Walla for several years I have noticed that many retirees live in the Valley. The thought of retiring can possibly be interpreted as a "changing lifestyle," which for many means "slowing down."

As a class we began to discuss some of the attributes of digital photography for retirees who may not have taken up photography as a hobby. As one student said, "It would seem that with more free time, photography would present a real interesting stimulus to retirees," followed by another student who said her grandfather really liked nature and was always talking about it but never photographed the animals and birds he loved.

I asked the class why photography would be a good hobby for retirees.

Not surprisingly, one of the first thoughts presented by the students was social networking. Two thoughts presented by the students were finding and sharing photographs on Facebook with friends they graduated with from school, and reestablishing friendships in various communities where they had lived over the past years.

Another student brought up the fact that with all the stress in the economy she felt a daily walk with her camera through Pioneer Park and taking pictures of the changing seasons greatly relieved her inner tensions and would help others, too.

Then a student photographer in the class said he had found photography very stimulating both mentally and physically.

This student had his own studio and relayed some of his mental preparations for a portrait photo shoot as he shared with the class his daily challenges with camera settings, lighting, angles, styling, etc.

He also shared how much he enjoyed photographing children with their parents and grandparents.

Another student said how much he liked the physical activity of walking around Bennington Lake with his tripod and photographing all the seasonal wildlife and changing panoramas.

One student said he liked to walk around the wineries at the airport and capture seasonal scenes like outdoor barrel cleaning, and sometimes just stop and talk to the winemakers about their profession. He liked the openness of the Walla Walla Airport, ranging from the expanse of the wheat fields to the almost surreal movie-set colors of the wine incubator buildings.

This class discussion proved to be a lively and productive exploration of ways to involve more of the community to try a new hobby and take up photography. This class session not only inspired the students, but also hopefully aroused some curiosity in retirees to think about photography as a mental and physical stimulant in their golden years.

I have found there is always a hesitancy to getting started on a new hobby, and a great way to start photography -- even before buying equipment -- is with easy online training. Just look up "online photography instruction" on Google and many choices will be listed. One of my favorites is Lynda.com, primarily because the instructional choices offered will stimulate even the mildly curious.

We are truly blessed living here in Walla Walla, where imagery and light abound with the seasons, and depending on a person's interest level they can keep as physically active as they want with a hobby like photography.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention -- I retired in Walla Walla!

Don Fleming can be reached at don512@me.com, he is also on Facebook and Twitter.

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