SA_BlogHeader_Dec2013I have read a few articles recently advocating taking fewer photographs. Some of these articles have “gone viral” on social media, being “liked” and shared thousands of times. Have you seen them? These articles recommend putting down the camera and being more “in the moment”. They claim that we are in danger of not enjoying the time we spend with loved ones because we are seeing everything through the viewfinder  of a camera. Some writers even claim that when we take photos of things we are less likely to remember them, and even risk damaging our memories permanently.

Here’s my response to this current trend (excuse the language): What a load of crap!

I guess there are people who take thousands of photos and never look at them again, who take no notice of their environment because they are too busy snapping away with their phone cameras. But my observation is that those people are definitely in the minority. I’m not like that – and I know you aren’t either. I take lots of photos. Too many probably. But I cherish every one of them, I pore over them, delighting in the memories they trigger. I guarantee I have a better recollection of places, celebrations, fun events because of the stories and memories captured in my photos than those people who were fully “in the moment” but have no photos.

In fact I think photographers are often more “in the moment” than anyone else. We are constantly looking for that perfect shot. We notice the light, shadows, colours and shapes. We see details in the scene that others ignore – a golden glow around a child’s head as the afternoon sun lights up her curls, the way the fabric of the tablecloth drapes over the garden chairs, a dragonfly hovering, dewdrops on a spider’s web. We see beauty in everyday objects and we capture what we see. Or try to, anyway.

I’m an avid travel photographer, as you probably know. But I’m not very good at remembering to take photos of the everyday, or even at special occasions. Every Christmas, especially, I am very much in the moment. I’m the host, I cook and decorate and serve and I love to do all that. But sometimes I am so much in the moment that I don’t even remember to get my camera out, and that makes me sad. I recently came across the photo in this page below. It was taken a few years ago around the Christmas dinner table. It’s frankly not a great photo – the people on the left are not well lit, there’s a distracting strip of a light colour at the top (next door’s garden shed), and only half the people are smiling or looking like they’re having a good time.

Christmas Memories

Content used in this page: Perfect Place Blueprint from p2P; Be Jolly Kit from Little Feet Digital Designs; Santa’s Sleigh Alphaset from CottageArts

But what makes this photo extra special is that in the last 3 years we have lost 4 of these people. My Mum, my sister-in-law and both my parents-in-law passed away since this photo was taken. We miss them dreadfully, of course, but looking at photos like this one brings a smile to our faces as much as it brings a tear to the eyes because of the happy memories it triggers. We all know that death is inevitable, yet somehow it always catches us by surprise. We fool ourselves into thinking we have plenty of time, that there will always be another tomorrow, another Christmas dinner, another photograph.

Of course, the best way to keep those memories alive, and to get the best from your photos is to put them in an album, and journal the stories. Don’t leave the photos on memory cards and computer discs. When I’m creating digital scrapbook albums with my photos, I’m not just putting them on a page for safekeeping. I’m reliving the whole experience, and reminiscing about why I took the photos in the first place. For my travel photos, I do research about the places in the photos to add to my journaling. In sharing the completed pages I get to celebrate those moments all over again. I reckon I am a lot more “in the moment” than if I hadn’t taken a single photo.

Looking back on that Christmas dinner, do I wish there was more food, or more decorations on the tree? I don’t even remember what we ate or how full the tree was. Do I wish I had more photos? You betcha.

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15 Responses to Blog: Being in the Moment

  1. Vicki says:

    What a wonderful blog Shelley! Just this past weekend my sister and I traveled to Washington to visit with our cousin for the first time in many years. One day we sat down with her mom’s photo albums. How precious the memories they brought back to us! Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s our parents didn’t take as many pictures as we do today, and we commented on how we wished we had more photos of our childhood and of those loved ones who have passed. And yes I took lots of photos! I know my kids and grand kids will be glad I did someday!

  2. janakamom says:

    Very well said, Shelley!

  3. Sandy says:

    I am also a proponent of being in the moment but when I travel I usually carry three cameras with me. I learned the hard way and lost some photos because of only having one camera with me. Needless to say I now come home with a lot more photos than even I can use, but I know that I got the shots I wanted to help record the adventures.

    There are many places now that don’t allow photography, as a way to help preserve the artifacts within. It is in these places that I have learned to see with my own eyes and not through the camera lens. Because of this I can frame the shot in my memory and take home more than photos.

    I am the photo historian for our family, basically because everyone knows I will have a camera with me whenever we are together. I don’t take pictures of everything involved with the get togethers. We know we ate. We probably played games. We definitely shared stories. But the importance of being together is sharing time together and capturing family memories. If I can do that for my family through photos, I am happy.

    • Shelley says:

      If you count the phone (and these days phones take pretty amazing shots!) then I take 3 cameras too. My big DSLR, a little point & shoot (with GPS) and my iPhone. I always have too many photos, but too many ALWAYS beats not enough!

  4. debbie says:

    Totally can relate to this! Sometimes I take quite a bit of teasing with all the photos that I take but everyone seems to LOVE the photos of themselves and family members later on. I personally feel that it is a very important legacy to keep these memories alive

  5. Karen says:

    So very true Shelley. Every Thanksgiving, in Canada its the second Monday of October, our family, or as many as can, go to my sisters house outside of Kingston, Ontario. Each year we take a posed family picture of all in attendance and lots of candid photos. Those photos are more special with the recent loss of my Dad. As tradition allows, we will meet again this year rejoicing in the memories of past years but taking more photos to preserve memories of a time together in 2014. Keep snapping those pictures Shelley as everyone is special.

  6. Anita Albritton says:

    Such a touching blog, Shelley!! I just completely understand, and agree with everything you expressed!! I try really hard to take photos at Christmas (and other family get-togethers) but so often the pictures aren’t the best! But regardless, they become treasures on a page, don’t they? And even more so with the passing of time!

  7. Kaye Rhodes says:

    You’re so right, Shelley, and I totally agree with you! I’ve always believed that a bad photo is better than no photo and there have been several times when that motto has served me well. However, I will never understand why people want to take photos of every plate of food that is served them. A couple of years ago, we were at a dinner party where one of the other guests had to photograph EVERY person’s plate at our table and we couldn’t touch our food until she got the picture. This was repeated with every course. It was very annoying and to what purpose?

  8. Deanna Emmert says:

    Love your blog today, Shelley! I agree with you. I guess that is what I don’t like about phones. I think those articles are mostly talking about the phone crowd who take photos and videos of everything and just can’t put those phone cams down for a second! Makes one wonder if the phone cam has become another appendage! There is a happy medium! I’d like to believe I strive for that happy medium with my “bulky” camera and gear. Mostly, when I want to (because sometimes I just can’t get out to do it) I like going out someplace, setting up the tripod for a special scene, place the camera on the tripod and set the camera for lighting, etc., plug in my remote, and snap away while I look around enjoying the scene and checking the camera focus and lighting once in a while. Or I can take a couple of wildlife shots, put the camera down and enjoy the rest of the antics as they happen. And those are some of my best memories whether or not I have “the” photo. Yes, you have to strive for a happy medium.

  9. Linda DeLaughter says:

    I totally agree with you, Shelley! Some folks don’t want you to walk around taking photos, but rejoice at a later time when you actually have the photos. Thanks for sharing!

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