Monday, October 14, 2013

Lessons from Nature: Enjoying the Moment

Browsing through some photos recently, I came across the image below, taken on a hike last year.  This picture is a reminder of the unfortunate wreckage that often results when rare and awesome moments in our lives collide with the need to photograph and document every experience.  It is a reminder that oftentimes, it is better to simply enjoy the moment while you're in it, rather than missing it in a frantic scramble to locate your camera and snap a hasty, low-quality photo that in no way represents what the experience was actually like. I daresay that the image in your mind will be more beautiful and enduring than a fuzzy photograph.

The photo above was taken on a hike in English Camp on San Juan Island.  My husband and I came around a bend in the trail and found ourselves face-to-face with a large doe.  Now, most of us don't have close encounters with deer-- or any other wildlife for that matter-- on a regular basis, so these are the moments when you gasp in delight and stand in awe at being in such close physical proximity to one of these animals.  That was my reaction for the first few seconds, after which I quickly reached for the camera around my neck, fumbled to turn it on, pointed it at the deer, waited for the focus to lock on... and then captured the lovely image you see above.  Knowing I had taken an awful photo as the deer fled from the crazy camera lady, I attempted to lure the deer back into view by making kissy noises, but to no avail.  The moment had passed.

Seeing this photograph again over a year later, I can't help but wonder-- would I have had a more profound and enjoyable experience had I simply stood there and watched the deer and been "in the moment" rather than persisting with an unsuccessful attempt to capture the moment on camera for posterity?  Especially in the age of social media where we're documenting and sharing so much of our lives online via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., there seems to be an increasing and urgent need for us to photograph, post, tweet, and share every experience we encounter.  Would our memories be more vivid and enduring if we were to let a few social media post/tweet/sharing opportunities slide by and capture the moment in our minds rather than with a camera?  This question was unequivocally answered when I found myself attempting to capture a stunning sunset just last week:

Yep.  Crummy, washed-out photo of a bright orange blob on the horizon that in no way captures the actual beauty of that sunset.  Luckily, I came to my senses, put down my phone, and soaked in the sight before my eyes: spread across the heavens from horizon to horizon, the light blue evening sky was streaked with clouds, their underbellies aglow with a fiery pink that gave way to glowing orange in the immediate vicinity of the setting sun.  The sky seemed so overwhelmingly large and expansive, and I felt so incredibly small.  Now there, doesn't that paint a prettier picture than the poor-quality photo above?

Take the challenge for yourself the next time you have to urge to photograph one of those rare and awesome moments. Turn the camera off, keep the phone in your pocket, and try to enjoy the scene before your eyes.   I'm not suggesting that we should stop taking photos altogether, but every once in awhile, just let one moment go by undocumented, un-posted, and un-tweeted. Like me, you might even feel a little relief at allowing yourself to be in the moment rather than feeling obligated to capture it on camera to share with everyone else.

1 comment:

  1. Well said! I witness this type of viewing-life-through-a-lens in natural settings, such as you've provided, as well as in social settings, such as a wedding. I know I'm always pleased that someone else is documenting the social event, but if that person is not a paid videographer/photographer, and is instead a personal acquaintance of the bride and groom, I feel that they've actually missed the magic of the moment, viewing only what is captured within the limitations of a lens. Life is meant to be viewed, not just documented. I appreciate your focus on shifting from the latter, to the former.