Woodland bathing, feeling immersed in nature and embracing the simple joy of swimming outdoors: Beth Squire shares the story behind her playful cover shoot and why she is determined to inspire people to have fun in nature.
The January edition of Outdoor Swimmer magazine examines the power of immersion in nature and how carving out time for rest and reflection in this early part of the year can not only restore you to yourself but also help you to meet your swimming goals, whatever they may be. Stories explore how spending time among trees has a profound effect on our bodies and minds; how to train for a winter swimming contest; how to pace yourself when you’re a long-distance swimmer with a chronic illness; and why January is a prime time to reflect and plan your training goals for the year ahead.
Photographer Beth Squire captures the ‘rest and reflection’ theme of the issue beautifully in her playful cover image (above), which really encapsulates the joy of woodland immersion. As Editor Ella Foote says: “For me, this is the perfect image of January – diving into a river plunge pool to avoid the damp dank days, feeling muddled and not knowing what way is up or down”.
As the January edition lands on subscribers’ doorsteps around the world, we spoke to Beth about the woodland pool in the shoot, and her passion for outdoor swimming and inspiring others to get outside.
Please can you tell us more about the story behind the January cover image and the location. What inspired you to shoot here, and how did the location feel to explore?
This shot was taken on a day trip to Eryri (Snowdonia), which I visit a lot as it’s my closest National Park and has so much to offer. It was a cold and windy day; I’d just finished a sunrise photoshoot and we wanted to find somewhere to swim that was a bit more shielded from the wind, and I’d had this spot on my list for a while. The walk up through the woodlands was beautiful, like something from a fairytale. We stumbled across a few bigger waterfalls on the way but they weren’t suitable for taking a dip, so we kept walking just to see what we could find until we finally happened upon this little pool that was just perfect.
What do you think the photo captures about woodland bathing?
I think it captures the fun side of why we swim outdoors. As kids, my sister (pictured) and I would always practice handstands in the water and this photo almost transports me back in time. Wild swimming is incredible for both one’s mental and physical health, but it’s also just another way to get out and have some fun in nature! When you’re in the water, surrounded by woodlands, there’s no greater joy and so I love that this photo captures that.
How did you connect with the themes of the story, which is about the power of immersion in natural landscapes and woodlands?
I’ve always been drawn to woodlands; the stillness, and the almost otherworldly feel to them. So finding spots like this which are so immersed in the woods is my absolute favourite. Don’t get me wrong, I love swimming spots that give you amazing views for miles, but there’s something so magical about swimming amongst the trees, and getting lost from the rest of the world for a little while.
Please can you tell us more about your passion for outdoor swimming. How does swimming in open water make you feel?
I’ve been outdoor swimming for a few years now and it’s something that really helps me switch off. Being a photographer means I’m constantly looking at things through a lens but when I’m swimming, it’s one of the only times I’m fully present in the world and it’s helped me bring that into other aspects of my life. Other favourite places to swim would be spots along the River Wye, and the Lake District (whenever I can get up there!).
What are you aiming to capture with your outdoor swimming photography? Your swimming images feel so serene and intimate; it really makes me want to BE THERE!
I try to capture how wild swimming makes me feel: peaceful and completely in love with nature. There’s nothing more calming than being in the water and looking around at nothing but trees. Or mountains. Or the sun, as it rises or falls. So this is how I want people to feel when they see my photos, and I want them to want to be there! To encourage others to get out more in nature, so it’s great to hear that that’s how they make you feel.
What do you hope to inspire in others when they see your work?
I hope that my work can inspire others to get outside and experience these things for themselves. Nowadays I think that it’s so easy to neglect our connection to nature and to focus on things that aren’t real or important. So I think that getting outside is more important than ever. There’s so much out there for people to see and do and I want to inspire people as much as I can to go out, find some adventures, and to re-connect with themselves and nature.
What does 2023 hold for you?
I’m hoping to explore as many new countries as I can this year and to go on as many adventures as possible. My first trip is to Austria next month, where I’ll be going on some hikes and finding some lovely wild swimming spots. It will definitely be cold, but I won’t be able to resist!