It has been such a joy to interview and share insights from so many creative and wonderful artists! Today I introduce Elizabeth and Olof Carmel from the Carmel Gallery in Truckee who are fine art photographers that have traveled the globe taking delightful and stunning images. In addition to their vast offerings in the gallery with images, cards and books, the Carmel's recently launched NatureStream TV to allow all of access to pristine beauty and calming nature images.
I have had the pleasure of using the Carmel's photography in a number of my interior design projects. My clients love the pristine beauty, color, lighting and feeling their work brings to our finished designs. Deep breaths, inspiration and a moment of perspective are all brought to you by these stunning photos. I have often imagined what it is like to be there in the moment taking these images!
The question I have been asking in this series of blogs is: do beautiful "things" help bring us inner peace?
Speaking as a designer, from the image of a pier leading into crystal clear Lake Tahoe at an accounting firm conference room, to a custom image wrap on an entire column of a casa in Mexico for a Mexican Restaurant, or the brilliant turquoise water from a view above Tahoe in a medical office, are all images that brought meaningful beauty and a sense of serenity to the room.
Then there was the magical moment antelope showed early morning for a custom photo shoot on a golf course. I love that Elizabeth did not tell us until she unveiled the images for my client. We were all surprised and in awe of these graceful creatures who had sauntered onto the course just in time! These images were perfect for our members only golf clubhouse.
Today we have the opportunity to take a deeper look into Elizabeth's life at home, her inspiration and I really love her insights on nature and peace within us and out in the world.
1. Do you feel beautiful things in your home/office are beneficial? If so in what way?
Most definitely! I enjoy decorating with art and natural elements brought inside. I think colors can give us energy and elevate mood so I enjoy seeing a variety of colors. I feel fortunate that most of my work involves working with beautiful images or film clips so I have a constant source of visual nourishment.
Research(1) has shown that beautiful scenes and objects can stimulate the vagus nerve, which runs from the neck to the abdomen and is in charge of activating the relaxation response (reducing heart rate and blood pressure) and reducing the “fight or flight” stress response. There is a scientific basis for having beautiful things in your environment! (1) The Nature Fix page 197
2. Is there a color theme, shape, element of light that captivates you, making you aware of the present moment?
I enjoy what is known as “the magic hour” of photography, which are the times at sunrise and dusk when the low angle of light enhances the appearance of the world. The soft shadows make everything appear more three dimensional and glowing. The harsh sun of midday rarely produces compelling images, but the magic hour can make for wonderful photographs. It doesn’t last long, so I find it all consuming to work during the magic hour.
3. Please share a room or a loved thing that is something that makes me feel a sense of inner spaciousness.
We have a wonderful atrium with an old Mandarin tree growing outside – I call it the giving tree because it produces prolific harvest of wonderful mandarins every year, which we enjoy sharing in the community. Being able to see the tree, the sky, and the pool in the atrium is a wonderful way to bring the outdoors in.
4. Over time we may not really see our beautiful things in daily life, what is in your experience keeps a space fresh and a place of peace and presence.
I enjoy observing and experiencing the changing seasons. The natural world is in a constant state of decay and rebirth, ever changing. I know that when I see a compelling subject for a photograph it is important to capture it immediately because the light and conditions can change rapidly. I know those exact conditions will never be repeated again. I think we can tune in to the nature’s renewal by refreshing our surroundings with new visual stimuli on a regular basis - to keep nourishing our appreciation of beauty.
5. Can you share your experience about spending quality time in nature and your ability to capture images that are not only beautiful but inspiring?
Thank you for the nice compliment! I find it critical for my emotional, spiritual, and physical health to go outdoors in nature daily. My photography helps me experience my surroundings in a more fully conscious way. Looking for patterns and magical light in nature makes me feel a part of something larger than myself – a wider perspective that helps me cope with the small concerns of daily human life. Sometimes I feel there must be a creative force in nature that has a sublime aesthetic sense of beauty – from the perfect lines of hoar frost on autumn leaves to the grandeur of Delicate Arch in Utah. Maybe our conscious appreciation of beautiful places is part of this creative force, and somehow completes a circle of comprehension and appreciation.
6. Do you see the beauty of nature as being a place we can find unity as a community, a country, and the world?
I think the experience of a beautiful place is a shared human experience that can help us transcend smaller differences and nourish a sense of unity - not only with fellow humans but with other living beings on our planet. Through my work as a nature photographer and cinematographer I strive to make these experiences of nature’s beauty more accessible in our everyday lives. There is actually a field of research on the beneficial effects of experiencing “wonder and awe”, even if it is through photographs and films of beautiful places.
Here is a recent excerpt from Elizabeth's NatureStream.tv newsletter:
"Immersion in nature increases our capacity for courage, creativity, kindness, and compassion"
- this wonderful quote is from Louis Schwartzberg, the amazing filmmaker behind the new film "Fantastic Fungi", a must watch new release available on the major streaming platforms. Because of pandemic restrictions, physical limitations, work schedules, or geographic location many people are unable to have immediate access to beautiful outdoor locations when needed for reducing anxiety, “clearing our heads”, or increasing positive emotions. There is actually extensive scientific research available on the positive benefits of viewing nature scenes either as photographs or films. A review of available research shows that subjects who watch nature-based imagery have increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotional stability, positive mental outlook, and empathy.(1)We founded NatureStream.tv as a way to enhance any indoor environment with the positive benefits of nature’s beauty. Viewing our ambient nature films even for a few minutes can be noticeably calming - breaths are deeper, the eyes relax, the heart rate slows, and the brain gets a reprieve from the day's agenda.It is an accessible way to foster increased mindfulness.
To see a full list of books and research references on this please visit our Research page. By Elizabeth Carmel(1) Your Brain on Nature, p. 34