Resolution: Photograph less, live more!

Today my daughter invited me, on about an hour’s notice, to join her at the Portland Japanese Garden; apparently this is the first time in its 50-year history that they’ve opened this magnificent garden on New Year’s Day! So, since it is one of my very favorite places in Portland, I decided to go. It’s a clear and sunny day here today, but quite cold and frosty in the morning, so I couldn’t wait to get there and start taking pictures.

Problem: in the rush to get out the door, I simply could not lay my hands on my camera. Aargh. (I had my iPhone, which takes decent pictures, but I like to take extreme close-ups, and for great quality, I really needed my “real” camera.) After some frantic searching, I gave up, sighed, and left for the Garden.

On the way there, I thought about this, especially that sense of “Ooh, can’t wait to take some pictures!” I was going to the Japanese Garden, reputed to be the finest and most authentic of its kind outside of Japan, but all I was thinking about was snapping away with my camera. I wondered: When does photographing an experience actually take over the experience?

I first started getting into photography (c. film photography era) at a time that coincided with some of my first trips to Europe. On my very first overseas visit (to Greece for my little sister’s wedding), I was constantly taking pictures. Of course this was natural, especially under the special circumstances, but even while I was still there, I started to be bothered by the feeling that I was actually looking around for things to take pictures of— as opposed to actively enjoying all the varied experiences of just being in a foreign country for the first time. I resolved after that trip that, whenever I was seeing something or some place for the first time, I would not take my camera; I would simply record my impressions in my memory.

Today, when I had to leave for the Japanese Garden without my camera, I was reminded of this experience in Greece. So I’ve made a new resolution, or rather a corollary to the original one: Unless I’m specifically planning a trip or outing for the purpose of photography (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), I will go simply for the pleasure of consciously participating in that experience. Do I risk missing opportunities to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments? Sure, but is that a greater risk than missing opportunities to actually experience those moments?

I may still take my camera with me most of the time (assuming I find it), but by this time a year from now, I want to look back at the photos I’ve taken and know that they are only the tangible evidence of a year in which I fully participated in my own wonderful life, in the year 2013.


  1. I think both the impact of taking pictures and having them forever, and experiencing something independent of a camera, are excellent points. And in your daughter’s defence, she did ask the day before…


    1. As someone (might have been me) once said, it’s all about the balance! (And yes, you did ask the day before… it slipped my mind until an hour before we had to leave.)


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