This is something I’ve thought about a lot since I started traveling, solo or otherwise. I have mixed feelings about taking pictures while traveling, but my perspective has shifted somewhat since I decided to start a blog.
When I first started traveling I had a tendency to take pictures EVERYTHING. Sunsets, shops, streets were all captured by my low quality cell phone camera. I felt the need to document all of my experiences so I could share my trip narrative with visual aides. I liked the idea of the vacation slide shows of the 1960’s. I soon realized that my friends were all humoring me through the painstaking explanation of each of my trip photos. It also quickly became apparent that I was spending too much time focusing on snapping memories than actually being present in the moment. When trying to recall what it felt like to witness a sunset on the beach, I found myself having difficulty. What did it feel like to have a Chicago style hot dog in Grant Park? I couldn’t tell you. But I have a plethora of pictures that are all mysteriously slightly blurry. And I feel no connection to them.
On my next trip, I challenged myself to take less photos in order to focus on soaking up the experience. My first trip that I really exercised this was on my first solo trip to Seattle. I have vivid memories of hiking up my first “mountain” just south east of Seattle proper. And I only took five photos of that entire journey. And for someone coming from flat land, it really was a journey. On the way up I took one of my favorite pictures, though admittedly, not my best. A foggy mist permeated through the pine trees, and a cloudy sky cast a gentle ethereal glow on the trail. Fresh dew drops cascaded from green and yellow leaves of all shapes and sizes. The smell of pine and fresh rain floated through the air, just subtle enough to remind you that it was there every few breaths. Instead of stopping to take pictures every fifty steps in order to capture glimpses of my trip for other people, I paused to consciously absorb my surroundings. After I was satisfied I had experienced that moment to its fullest, I grabbed my crappy cell phone and took five seconds to take two pictures. This was the raw, unedited result:
I am confident that I will remember the details of that glorious moment, not because of the picture, but because I took the time to let the moment wholly envelop me and my senses.
Now that I’ve started my blog, I realize how important it is to take numerous pictures. But I’m finding it rather easy as long as I focus on being present first, then taking a quick photo to remind myself of how I felt.