What? No Photograph? No Camera?

As usual the first task of the day after breakfast was to head into the park with The Hound for his exercise. These balmy days in Cork have meant that the Hound needs walking first thing in the morning and last thing at night, it being too hot for him at the height of the day.

So there we were, the Hound was busy playing with his buddy, Bobo and getting a great stretch of the legs. Bobo’s owner was going to do another lap so I thought I would add on one more circuit too. The Hound had other ideas and when we arrived at our exit point promptly marched down by the big wall towards the house. He stopped, nose sniffing at the ground and then I saw something scuttle between his legs.

I was enchanted and enraptured  by the scene that greeted me. There was the Hound in front of me, nose protruding forward at the base of the wall, the nostrils could audibly be heard taking in the scent. Just in front of him standing on tip-toes, nose twitching and leaning towards the Hound was a tiny little grey shrew of no more than 5 cm (excluding tail). For a short while the scene seemed frozen before the shrew then darted along the wall looking for an escape route. The Hound just looked bemused, wondering why this little creature didn’t seem to want to play.

My first thought was, blow, no camera. It would have made an enchanting scene. But then, the light in the shade was not great, the colour of the shrew blended in with the wall, would I have had the right lens on? The more I thought about it, the more I was glad that on this occasion I had no camera.  The result was that I could just lose myself in this wonderful scene unfolding before me and become fully absorbed by it, rather than be thinking of the depth of field, composition, lens, etc. By the time everything had been right the shrew would have been long gone.

For me it is similar to when I go to a new location, I need to feel the place, the environment, take a walk around to sense what is important, what is the soul and heartbeat before digging out the camera. It is only then I really know what I wish to take and the camera can become a tool to express this.

So while most photographers seem to state that a photographer should carry a camera at all times I completely disagree with this. Sure I might miss some shots, such as the shrew this morning, but I was able to fully  immerse myself in the drama.

Many photographers may find the above very contentious and consider that this is why I am not a ‘real, professional photographer’. Just wondering if anyone else would be of a like mind to myself.

15 thoughts on “What? No Photograph? No Camera?

  1. Years ago, I was really struck by something Susan Sontag said in her book On Photography that touches on what you have shared – (rough encapsulation here) when we encounter something that is inspiring, moving, or striking, we automatically/unconsciously reach for the camera to take our snapshot – this places something of a veil between us and the actual experience and subconsciously justifies not fully engaging with the experience, not allowing it to fully move us or deeply penetrate – a fuller engagement in the moment might be more than we bargained for – by placing that veil between ourselves and the experience we can stay on a more superficial level and the result is that the experience becomes more real to us when we’re back home looking at the photos than it was in the actual moment – I used to be an always-carry-my-camera guy but when I thought about it more fully I had to ask myself, just why would I do that? I want to experience and participate in life not just document it – and like MrsDaffodil and ‘B’ say above, the camera can get in the way of the actual experience sometimes but the memories live on – your story is much richer and engaging than the photo could ever have been – so, I’m with you as well – it’s really OK to miss a photo op and allow ourselves to fully experience a moment rather than worrying about the angle or exposure or the right lens (but definitely carry the camera sometimes… ) I just try to have a compelling reason and be conscious of why I take it out of it’s case – thanks


  2. Perhaps for others………..but I can’t bear to leave home without my camera. Sure, there is the odd time when I don’t use it, but I always enjoy the journey or when some little scene or incident unfolds, first. Then I might record it with the camera (if I can). I spend so much time lost in the scenery or observing an animal at the zoo, that I can honestly say I do both ‘experiencing’ and ‘recording’.

    But then I am retired and go for walks for the fresh air, exercise and entertainment (as well as the photography).


  3. I once lost a whole stack of photos in a digital disaster. Years later, I realise my memories of these events are sharper. I think there are times and places.


  4. Oh wow a shrew…..are you shure..! I think when you take your hound for walkies,the last thing you would think of is your camera…..unless you were hoping to get a glance of the “Boss” or Daniel Day Lewis having a scout around..lol. I am suppose to be a garden blogger, but do I remember to bring my camera with me…..noooo…doing what I have to do down the garden takes precedence to the camera.It’s only afterwards I say…..shoot…..should have taken a pic of that!!


    1. Definitely a shrew, the snout was unmistakeable. I expected it to be a baby mouse and was surprised and delighted to see the shrew. He was so cute.

      When one is wearing shorts with just 2 pockets carrying everything for the dog is bad enough let alone taking a camera too. MM


  5. Of like mind here, MM. There are times when we are meant to fully experience (and immerse) ourselves in the drama. In lieu of a camera, you have(had) your mind, senses and memory to capture the real essence. So a question returned: Would you have traded the authentic moment you had for a chance at a digital image of the experience?


    1. No, I know I would not have been able to capture its essence. It would have been ‘lost in translation’. My wife even had a name for the shot: “The Taming of the Shrew”.


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