When I was packing for my trip to Vancouver a few weeks ago, I faced a dilemma: Pack my moderately beastly but beloved Canon DSLR camera and face lugging it around in its cumbersome bag, with both my wide-angle and telephoto lenses in tow, or leave it behind to lighten my load and rely solely on my pretty-good-but-no-DSLR iPhone camera to document my trip. I know. A First World problem if ever there was one. But I was so conflicted! My trusty Canon has accompanied me on all trips and documented all of my major life events since it was gifted to me 10-ish years ago, and the idea of not taking it just seemed ludicrous. Photography is a major crush of mine and I was going to a gorgeous city by the ocean surrounded by mountains, for Pete's sake, so how could I leave it behind, in favour of taking photos on my phone no less? But it's so damn heavy! And I knew that we would be walking the length and breadth of the city. But the pretty pictures! So agonizing was my torment that I texted my friend a photo of the bag to ask her opinion, and the reply came that I should leave it behind.
In the end, I agreed, although not without some regret once I saw just how beautiful Vancouver is (hella-beautiful, guys). Ultimately though, other than a few moments of longing for my telephoto lens, such as when a REAL LIVE BALD EAGLE flew past me, I realized that leaving my camera behind had not only lightened my load but had allowed me to stay present. With camera in hand, I often get caught up in capturing every moment, every scene, and it can take me away from actually experiencing the beauty around me and the joy of that moment. As an anti-social photographer ("You go ahead! I just want to take 300 different shots of this flower!"), it can also take me away from living that moment with the company I'm keeping.
I came home with 114 photos on my iPhone, which may seem like a lot but I was there for 6 full days, making that an average of 19 photos per day, a HUGE cutback from my usual haul. Most importantly though, I came home with an abundance of memories of time spent with my friend, which was the whole purpose of the trip.
That experience of staying in the moment was really eye-opening and, without realizing it at first, I came out of it changed. Last weekend, I went to Vermont with a friend and as we were packing up to go home, she pointed out that I hadn't used my DSLR camera once the whole weekend. I haven't been clicking away with my iPhone much either. Yesterday I attended my daughter's school concert and her part was over before I realized that I probably should have videotaped it or something. Or maybe I shouldn't have. Without camera in hand or iPhone in front of my face, I fully lived in and loved every moment, marveling at the pride and joy lighting up my little pride and joy. I saw every smile pass her lips with my own eyes instead of through a lens. I wouldn't trade that experience for a secondhand version on film.
This is not to say that my camera will be collecting dust. Photography remains a passion and will continue to be an outlet for my artistic expression and a means for collecting memories. But moving forward I intend to use my camera as a tool to serve and express who I am now, instead of playing the frantic documentarian trying to bottle up every ounce of now to enjoy "some day", to serve a future that is not promised to any of us.
On the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington Vermont, a graffiti artist after my own heart said it best: Live in the now. I snapped that photo (or, okay, four or five versions...quickly) and then stood in that now, breathing in the hot summer air, gazing at the green mountains and the glistening water. As nows go, it was pretty marvellous, but you know, so is this one, sitting on my couch typing on my iPad, watching the sky darken on a warm evening, overhearing the Two and a Half Men theme song coming from my neighbour's TV. Even this now is pretty great. And I don't need photographic evidence to prove it.
(I would be remiss, though, if I didn't share a carefully curated few of my Vancouver and Vermont photos. Please enjoy them as part of your now.)
Vancouver: (1) Granville Island giants (2) Hipster instructions (3) Retro decor at Nuba Restaurant (4) Oh hello! (5) The ocean! (6) Ripples in the sand (7) Vancouver is super pretty (8) Heron (9) Siwash Rock with obliging goose (10) BALD EAGLE! (11) Bridge, obviously (12) Fountain, obviously
Vermont (Burlington and outskirts): (13) A pretty building off Church Street (14) Lake Champlain (15) Dock (16) And more of it (17) Horseback riding! (18) Horses! (19) Beautiful countryside (20) And more of it (21) Graffiti (22) And more of it (23) Incredible mural in progress