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How travel, nature and photography helped one guy fight depression

Image of William Patino - Moke Lake

William Petino is a renowned landscape photographer, blogger, and social media influencer based out of Wollongong, Australia. He regularly travels throughout Australia and across the world chasing fleeting moments of light from the mountains, to the sea and everything in-between.

But what you don’t know is that prior to this gig, William spent 8 years as an Air-con technician in a large company. This is William’s incredible story behind his battle with depression, and how a combination of travel, nature, and photography helped him along the way.

In 2012, I downloaded Instagram, kind of by accident, and soon developed an interest in photography. We had a DSLR at home which I had no idea how to use, but after seeing some inspirational images on Instagram, I decided to give it a go. After shooting my first sunrise I was hooked and just really loved being outside and looking at the world in a different light.

I dedicated a lot of time to teaching myself how to use my camera and was soon heading out every single morning before work. People were interested in what I was doing and I had some opportunities to travel and make money from my work.

At the start of 2015, realising that life’s too short, I overcame my fear of failure and left the comfort of my job to provide for myself and family full time from photography. I haven’t looked back and feel so blessed to love and be passionate about what I do for a living.

Top 3 memorable destinations? 

Iceland: The country is so wild, diverse and has a raw, rugged energy about it that can’t really be described. Black sand beaches, jagged mountains, geysers, thermal pools, glaciers, a trillion waterfalls, ice covered beaches and of course the elusive Northern Lights – there’s nothing quite like it. It definitely lives up to the hype and is worth the 40hrs of flights from Aus.

Yellowknife in northern Canada: This was my first experience seeing the Northern Lights and boasts the coldest temperatures I’ve ever experienced. Averaging -25 (Celsius) in the day and reaching -45 at night, this small town is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. I went dog sledding, caught fresh pike fish from beneath a frozen lake and sipped warm coffee inside a tepee under the green glow of the aurora.

Cairo, Egypt: Before I was a photographer, back in 2010 my wife and I visited Egypt. Seeing the Pyramids was unlike anything I had experienced before. The sheer size of some of the tombs and monuments, all made by hand thousands of years ago is difficult to comprehend. It’s hard to forget a place like this.

How has travel, nature & photography helped you fight depression?

When I was battling depression it was really like the colour and joy had been removed from my life. It was hard to be happy or upbeat about anything, no matter how positive it was. Photography slowly introduced that much-needed light and colour back to my life. Getting outside and exploring new places kept my mind active and gave me something to look forward to. I soon began to see the beauty in life again, from the big things to the small intricate details we so easily overlook. It makes you appreciate life and how finely tuned this world is.

How important is it nowadays with the increase of social/digital media that we disconnect to reconnect with ourselves?

We’re all connected online yet so disconnected physically and mentally. In this digital age, I think the best thing we can do to recharge and reconnect is to go outside and simply meet up with people, away from technology. Whether an afternoon by the sea, a multi-day hike in the wilderness or just a picnic somewhere with a group of friends, it’s so critical to get away from our screens and interact with people face to face. Even at home we have a few policies with phones, keeping them out of the bedroom and not at the dinner table etc.

What would you say to other people that are suffering from mental illness?

Mental illness is such a personal thing and although there’s no one cure fits all, one thing we all have in common is hope and the fact that there is a way out no matter how dark things may seem. I believe depression and anxiety can really thrive on secrecy so I really think that speaking to someone close to you or a professional is a giant step in the right direction. Just getting things off your chest and knowing someone is there for you really goes a long way. I believe that diet and exercise plays a huge role in recovery as well as spending quality time outside. A few small lifestyle changes can make a massive difference. Just know that you’re not alone and you’re stronger than you think.

Your mental health is very important. If you or someone you know needs help please visit BeyondBlue for more information about depression, anxiety, and treatment.

Follow William on Instagram or check out his website for more incredible pics.