To Savor or To Capture

August 1, 2008

I have this on-going conflict. I hear my father's voice directing me to "never leave home without your camera". He never did. When I was little his camera bags were two leather boxes lined with a soft, velvety material. He would frequently pull over on the side of the road if he something caught his eye. He is rarely in any of our family photos because he was always the one gathering us together to record the event. My mother is also a amazing photographer. She is especially gifted at capturing personalities on film. And my grandfather was a well-known documentary photographer. So in some ways my "conflict" is part of my genetic composition. I have a strong urge to capture moments, scenes, and people around me.

The first signs of my "conflict" came during Noah's first preschool performance. It was a Fall performance and the audience (ie parents) crowded into their seats eagerly waiting for their cuties to take the stage. As soon as the music started, so did the clicking. I had this surreal moment of realization. I put down my camera and turned to look around the room. Just about every person/parent in the audience had a camera or video camera in front of their face. I was struck by the view the children must have from the stage...instead of proud parents beaming it was a sea of metallic eyes trying to get the best shot. I turned my camera off and tried to enjoy the moment instead of capturing it. And the conflict has continued.

I want to have a record of my children's childhood. I love looking through my dad's slides and our family albums. I don't have baby books for my kids and now in the age of digital I rarely print out photos (although I really need to do that). I keep the blog and once a year I put together a photobook with highlights from the past year. And yet there are some moments that I miss because my camera isn't with me or because I choose to experience it instead of capturing it.

One of those moments happened two nights ago. While eating dinner the kids and I watched an enormous great egret walk around out back yard hunting for his dinner. After dinner, we walked to my grandparents house (a few blocks away) and while checking out their tomatoes we all turned in surprise to see the same great egret. We pulled up lawns chairs and sat down to watch the show. Thirty minutes with my children, my grandparents, and a big beautiful bird....even with the occasional sibling squabble it was one of those magical experiences that I want to remember for a long time. I don't have any photographs because I left my camera at home. I am glad I didn't have a camera with me because I don't think I would have been able to savor that experience. I would have been adjusting the camera, thinking about the light, the bird's movements, etc, but instead I was able to sit in a purple lawn chair mesmerized and happy to be right where I was.

I think this conflict will go on for a long time. Anyone else struggle with this?
Jessica said...

Yes, constantly! I usually just find myself wishing my eyes could be cameras--the best things always seem to happen when there isn't a camera around. ;) But you are right, sometimes, even if you have the camera, it is much better to just EXPERIENCE. The cool thing is that you can write about an experience and it's as good as if you had taken a photo, so it's win win. Don't worry about it so much. It isn't like you don't have any photos--we all know what your family looks like. :)

Chinazhoumom said...

I know what you mean - so what I have started doing at school functions - and others - is get the "shot" in the video viewfinder - with it about at K head height - (my waist) then just record - I don't look thru it - or at it - but do glance - same with my digital - it has the red dot that you know if it hits there face - that is center of the pic - so I look her in the eyes and place the red dot and glick away...or use a tripod - like if she is playing inside on a stationary thing -that way I can smile at her or talk to her - and after a few secs she no longer even notices the camera...

I love it - that way I am in the moment - and get great shots (mind you my Sony is an auto focus) so I don't have to do that - and I force the flash - even outside - to remove shadows - and then adj in photoshop if needed...works like a charm as they say...

Hope all else is well - and yep sometime it is good to leave it at home...

Tisra said...

OH MY GOODNESS, YES! That is totally me!

Betsey said...

I like these thoughts.

I wish I were better at writing things down as well. At least, I do take pictures occasionally. Not all the time.

Karen said...

This is how I feel about my travel photos, especially ones with people. I find it unbelievably rude that people will just walk up to a 'local' and shove a camera in their face. Therefore, I shy away from taking someones photo unless I specifically ask. I also feel like I can't connect with the person if there is a camera between us. When the moment sparks I always wish I could have taken a photo, but then realize the moment would not have been the same... it would have been altered. I especially feel this way walking around my town here in Italy. Some days you just have to leave the camera at home.

I guess that is why we write, but more importantly, it's why we keep on living. It's not important to hold on to every moment (or everything), but to just keep having good moments. Sometimes I feel like a slave to the blog. Like, if I don't blog it, it didn't happen! But then I realize, it's not important, there will be more adventures to write about and other photos to post. -- phew, sorry for the long comment!

Kellie said...

I definitely struggle with this, and it has sparked some memories. I sense a blog post of my own coming on. I am sometimes dismayed and overwhelmed by the sheer number of photos that the digital format allows me to take and have lately been in a mode to consciously take fewer photos. I think of the precious albums I have of relatives and all the contemplation and imagining that just one old photo can bring to mind. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. I can so relate.

Corinne said...

I think I've actually posted about this before. And I think when I leave my camera at home (in the car...) I am more in the experience. I'm playing with my kids in the water instead of taking their picture from the beach. I've got them on my lap or in my arms or chasing me instead of recording it. If only I had a personal photographer following me... :)

Shanea said...

I don't have the history or legacy of photography as you, but I too struggle with this conflict. I enjoy good photos, but am frustrated by trying to enjoy the moment through a viewfinder or LCD screen. I tend to leave the camera at home more often than not because of this. I avoid the frustration but still suffer disappointment with lack of captured images. With Lydia's dance recital, I solved the dilemma with video of her rehearsal, photos in the dressing room, and sitting back, focused to soak in those short stage moments unhindered. And then I still had to chastise my disappointment of not having the second night captured!

The Solley Five said...

i don't struggle so much with this...but there's a lot of pictures missing from my albums. i do have them in my head though. i often just let the camera stay in my purse and ignore that little 'i should get the camera out' impulse. maybe i'll deal with that more when i'm 45 and have a hand or two available at some point during my days!

holly said...

YES! I've noticed it more recently with our camera battery needing to be replaced. We'll get a couple of good shots in before the battery dies, or forget the camera entirely because it's been so hit or miss.

But this circumstance has inadvertently given me a "middle ground" that I go to when I feel like the camera has been a little too "trigger happy". I take a couple pictures at the beginning to document the event and then put the camera away. I may not get the perfect moment, but enough that a memory will be triggered when we look through later.

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