The other day my husband and I went to Monterey Bay for the day. Day trips are what Californians do. If someone had been people-watching me they would have thought I’d never been to California in my life by the way I was taking pictures: Ooh – scrub oak! Ooh – farmland! Ooh – Pacific Ocean! At one point I just held my camera up and out the window as we drove along Highway 1. After all, I could just delete all the images that didn’t turn out.
I used to be quite the shutterbug back in the day when we had things like film in our cameras. I took my camera on every trip and took pains to capture the essence of those trips, sights, and moods on film. I took pictures of things that caught my attention. One of my most favorite photographs ever was taken in Yosemite – of a manhole cover.
When I used film, I didn’t just snap willy-nilly. That could be costly. I didn’t snap unless I was convinced of the strong likelihood that the photograph would turn out well. I spent time really looking through the lens at my subject, not holding the camera at arm’s length and looking at a screen.
At some point it began to feel like I was spending entire holidays and vacations looking through a lens rather than being truly present and enjoying the experience. So I put the camera down. Some time later, after I’d practiced the art of being present for a while, I thought I might get a digital camera. I liked the idea of having something tiny to put in my purse to capture those images from everyday life that I found so poignant. My SLR was a beast to carry around.
I haven’t quite reverted to my old shutterbug tendencies, but the other day on the coast made me pause a bit. There were moments of near feverish snapping, trying to get a good pic. Nothing like the perfect photograph I used to labor over, really taking time to see my subject, understand and appreciate it.
There were moments the other day that I missed. Missed, because as we drove by I was more preoccupied with holding my camera out the window, looking at the LED screen, rather than looking out the window myself. And in those instances I didn’t see anything.