Often when caught staring as a kid, the retort was “Take a picture, it will last longer.” It occurs to me as I travel that this is somehow exactly what happens. Travelers and tourists alike search for the best picture and forget to actually LOOK at what they are taking a picture of. Are pictures somehow more important than looking at a place?
Travel Through the Looking Glass
I notice the phenomenon in me as well. I look at a site (or sometimes just a cool sign) and line up the proper picture looking at it through the camera. Then I click and before the picture is showing up in preview I am already off looking at something else, only going back if the picture wasn’t right. Despite this self-observed habit, I really want to look and enjoy the places that I have put such effort into finding. That the experience of being there should be just as much worth as the photo somehow proving it. I do not want to experience a place solely through the digital LCD of my camera.
This habit has somehow increased in the time since becoming a blogger. I buy pastries thinking about what I might want a picture of. I look at mundane things thinking, “wow that would have gone well with a post a few weeks back.” or “hey I might need that for another post.” I want to have enough photos to dig through when I am trying to accompany a post. So at times the idea of writing about a place overwhelms the idea of just enjoying it.
So Leave The Camera Behind?
Of course not. I am just as big on pretty pictures as a person could be without being a professional photographer. I love taking pictures and catching odd shapes of shadows on walls and weird run down doors in back alleys. I love looking at other people’s pictures and experiencing things they have seen. The point that I wonder about is whether it seems that the point of travel has somehow BECOME the photos. I laugh at people trying to get the classic pictures of holding up the leaning tower and wonder if they are actually seeing the tower.
I would urge all of us LCD staring travelers to make sure you have memories and experiences to back up the photos you take. If you look at a place in photograph form and don’t get a flood of memories of one sort or another, there may be something wrong. Maybe you missed having an experience just to capture it in a static state. That is what I want to take from this revelation.
I have a number of pictures that I look at and only know where they are from because they are in a labeled folder. Sure they are pretty hills, but I can’t remember the day that I took them. Other pictures are badly aligned and I remember exactly the cold wind that made it hard to hold the camera. I think I would rather more shots like the latter.
Just the other day I actually saw someone stop and smell the flowers. I was high above in the fitness studio watching people go by as I tried to work off the chocolate and beer from the past week. This woman stopped at a cross walk and leaned over to smell the flowers before moving on. It was so cool and reminded me again that the enjoyment is the thing. I will try to remember that moment when I travel next.
So I am not leaving my camera home or in my pocket. I certainly want pictures of my travels. I want them for posts and for sharing with friends and family. I just want to make sure that I truly see what I have traveled to see and not just “get the picture” and move on. This is all supposed to be fun and not solely preparation of a set of slides. I want to remember my trip when I look at my pictures. To remember the smells and the feelings.
Do you see people ignoring the sites to take pictures of them? Do you catch yourself doing that?