I wrote this open letter after mingling frequently with lots of tourists and others this summer at the foot of majestic Oregon waterfalls, in front of marine-life tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, aboard an Amtrak train and even at Cambria’s Pinedorado parade.
Dear fellow travelers:
How about this? To have a better vacation, step away from the iPhone or “smarter-than-me” phone. Consign your laptop or iPad to the motel room, or better yet, leave it at home. And yes, even put down your bells-and-whistles digital camera.
You’re on vacation! You’re supposed to be relaxing, enjoying new territory, having new adventures, seeing new sights. Why spend your rare time off hiding behind an “image-capturing device” or a portable computer? Why filter the splendor through a viewfinder, LCD screen or Tweeting monster?
Why not let your eyes sweep freely across the horizon or take in what’s right at your feet?
Absorb the sights and smells around you, the feel of the air as it wafts across your shoulders, the mist settling on your face. Hear the sounds of waves or birds, wind in the trees or the laughter of little kids chasing butterflies.
“I want lots of pictures of my vacation,” you whimper. But why? Unless you’re a professional or art photographer or capturing once-in-a-lifetime shots of breaking news, a family wedding or other special event, then taking zillions of pictures is OPTIONAL!
When was the last time you really looked at and enjoyed your vacation photos, and where are they, hmmm? On a dusty CD, in a file on your external drive, somewhere in the bowels of Facebook or lost in the fog of a digital Cloud, right?
I’ll bet a doughnut you haven’t yet put any of those pictures into an album (digital or hard copy). If I owe you that doughnut, I’ll bet another one that fewer than four or five other people have ever flipped through that album. And how long has it been since you did?
Sure, it’s nice to reminisce occasionally about touring Yellowstone with your toddlers or going to Paris with your prince. But the important memories are in your head and heart, dear.
A few quick snaps can provide that memory trigger. What does having 50 or 60 frames of each view prove? That you really were there?
Of course there are exceptions. Some photos are priceless memories preserved forever, and important news footage often comes from amateurs.
I’m not saying don’t take pictures. Just don’t be obsessive about it.
Vacations are expensive. It costs a lot to get where you want to go and stay there. It costs lots more to get nearer the glacier, on the hot-air balloon or to the bottom of the canyon.
So, once you’re there, don’t restrict yourself to seeing only bits of that grandeur from behind the lens of some digital demon.
Most of the people we saw at the waterfalls, the aquarium and the parade were taking pictures. They were so involved with capturing this image or that footage, they missed the fun of where they were, who they were with and what was happening right in front of their noses.
Competing photographers can also make it hard for other people to enjoy the scene. Manners often get lost in the camera bag when elbows and shoulders turn into positioning weapons so someone with a camera can weasel into where another person already was.
And once someone nabs the sought-for spot right in front of the point of interest, that photographer’s apt to hog the vantage point until and if the jellyfish or surfer or clown strikes just the right pose in just the right place.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Imagine soaking up those sights without fretting about focusing, zooming and whether you reinserted the media card. Relax and use all your senses (including the common one) to enjoy being in the moment, being where you are right now and sharing it with your companions.
After all, in a pinch, you can always buy a postcard. But you can’t recapture time gone by or opportunities lost.
That’s right put the camera down step away. Now, just enjoy.