A few weeks ago, a friend and I talked about the value of photography in our lives. I explained my obsession with clouds (I always keep a camera at the ready for a stunning sky) and he described his travels free of a camera because it interferes with his sensory experience of the moment.
I couldn’t believe it. Not use a camera? I took hundreds of photos when I traveled, documenting dozens of moments (or over-documenting any one). I have photos of clouds, family, cats, and trees, self-portraits, tornadoes, and random abstractions in my life.
I remember when film limited the number of photos I could take. I had to think carefully about what was ‘camera worth’ and what wasn’t. Did I frame the image correctly? Would it turn out as I hoped. Even with digital technology, I realized that the camera has never really captured my feelings or the scene as I remembered it. In fact, digital cameras have allowed me to ignore much of the emotion in the moment as I relentlessly documented every moment of an event as it happened.
So when I went on a walk the other day, I didn’t take my camera. I knew it would be the last warm day of the season, a balmy 70 degrees outside with bright sunlight illuminating the red and gold leaves in my neighborhood.
Here’s what I experienced by paying close attention to my senses.
1. For almost the entire length of my two-mile trek, I could hear dogs barking in their yards or people mowing their lawns.
2. At six o’clock, the air in my neighborhood smells earthy and moist, even on the driest day, especially where the road dips into shadow at the bottom of a hill.
3. Colors in autumn are pure and bright with lemon leaves striking against an azure blue.
4. A subtle smoke from wood fire tinged the air, reminding me of my childhood and a Utah winter.
5. The sound of leaves crunching underfoot could only be matched by the rustling of trees in a warm breeze.
Overall, my walk sans camera reminded me that it’s sometimes best to enjoy the moment without a camera, which couldn’t have captured the other sensory experiences I enjoyed on the last day of autumn (weatherwise, that is. Autumn doesn’t officially end until Dec. 21, but that is way too late, and my friends, a different blog post).
How have technologies like cameras or video recorders affected your experience?