Why I Leave My Camera at Home
I am on the beach with my toes in the sand, enjoying a slight breeze that feels like butterflies kisses caressing my skin. It is the golden hour, and I know so because my eyes feel lighter in the soft focus. Every part of my body is taking in this experience, and my hand reaches into my pocket… for my camera. I interrupt this reverie to take a picture.
Except my camera isn’t there; I left it at home on purpose. I knew this phantom limb I call a lens would disrupt me from consorting with nature. I realize that it isn’t there and sigh because I am still not used to going without it but also because with this breath I am settling back into the true beauty of the golden hour. It isn’t just for pictures; it’s for prayers and preparation as one day begins its transition into the next.
Funny thing, how the light was beautiful enough that I wanted to remember it but not good enough for a picture.
Earlier that week I was roaming about the beautiful beaches of the Bahamas with my family, camera in hand just waiting for the perfect moment of sunlight to present itself for a picture. I walked mechanically along the shore, not slowing down to appreciate that lovely strip of beach that is just close enough to the water that my toes are hit by the foamy tide. I did not look down to see the contour of my feet in the earth, nor forward to see what shells may lie ahead. I was thinking about that picture I was hunting.
I don’t think I am alone in this either, I am not the only one who has mindlessly walked past moments in life looking for the picture that would represent it. Now, this kind of thinking might be okay for someone who is dedicated to photography as part of a profession or as an art form, but I am neither of those. I just wanted the perfect picture to remember the moment by. But the moment came and went, and I never got the light I wanted. Funny thing, how the light was beautiful enough that I wanted to remember it but not good enough for a picture.
Even if I had been able to capture that moment on film, it never would be able to replay the way the breeze tickled my shoulders or how the seagulls sang with seemingly less urgency or how the smell of my sunscreen gradually faded until I could easily smell the salty water again. Cameras have their limits. However, it is not everyday that I am fortunate enough to be in the Bahamas! I want to have things to remember this trip by, things that will remind me of the little moments that fade with memory but come surging back through gentle prodding.
By using different media to record my thoughts and memories, I think more deeply about why each moment matters.
So, I write about it in a journal. I also get a disposable camera, taking photos that are joyful in their imperfections and awesome in their delayed gratification. Some other things I have done is to draw in a sketchbook, pick up small rocks, leaves, or shells, save ticket stubs, make audio recordings, buy postcards, or just cherish the stamp that would forever grace my passport. All of these things hold memories and promote mindfulness.
The benefits of leaving my camera at home extend beyond disconnecting from the digital world; it also pushes my creativity. By using different media to record my thoughts and memories, I think more deeply about why each moment matters. If I have kept matches from a bar, then I recall fondly the eccentric locals that challenged me to billiards. If I have kept a seashell, then I remember what beach I got it at, what the time of day was, why I loved the way the spirals felt tightly wound and how the colors seemed faded from usage by scuttling sea creatures.
Writing and drawing are small time capsules that capture emotional landscapes as much as they capture physical scenery. However, when a camera is available I tend to take 100 photos when 10 will do; it is easy and aimless and far less personal. I won’t deny that I love a good photograph, but I definitely appreciate a well-written note or the torn edges of a ticket stub much more.
Letting go of the view behind the lens isn’t easy, but I highly recommend it.