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No Moment Can Be Saved For Later

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Last week I went for my midday walk first thing in the morning, because by noon it was supposed to be hot and muggy.

The feel of that particular morning was so sublime and strange I have nothing but clichés to describe it with. It was the day before school started, and the neighborhood was both supernaturally quiet and uncannily beautiful. The sky was orange and still, and the air was so thick it seemed to filter out traffic noise, leaving a soundtrack of only birds. September-stage trees and gardens glistened in July-like morning heat. Boulevard flowerbeds billowed over the sidewalks.

Aside from the apocalyptic implications of such warmth coming so late in the year, the walk was a unique and remarkable experience, and I know I have absolutely no way of conveying that specialness to you or anyone else.

I did try though. I took a half dozen photos, and a few videos panning over the trees and gardens, hoping to somehow capture I’m not sure what—the sweetness of the air, the alien combination of summer humidity and dry leaves, or whatever unique quality made me want to document it.

Of course, I ended up with nothing but flat photos and videos of trees and sidewalks and flowerbeds that will excite nobody, and which contain not even a speck of the experience I was trying to capture.

I kind of knew that already though. No matter how readily we pull out our devices to capture and Instagram the sights and scenes that move us, it is impossible to actually capture a moment.

Being a better photographer might have helped me make more impressive photos, just as being a better writer would have helped me create stronger images in the paragraphs above. But that’s not the same as passing along to you the noteworthy sensory experience that inspired this post.

In other words, the only way for a person to experience that particular place and time was to experience that particular place and time, and I although I was in the right place, I spent much of that time goofing with my phone.

Clearly there’s nothing wrong with taking pictures and videos. They can be precious reminders of certain stages of life, and details we could never otherwise remember. But I think our 21st-century documentarian impulse often gets in the way of the simply appreciating nice moments while they happen. In an era where we’re never without a camera, we may be losing the ability to simply appreciate, in real-time, remarkable experiences in an uncomplicated way.

An English backpacker once shared with me his tragic experience of this problem. It was a bucket-list item for him to see the New Zealand rugby team perform the haka. When he was finally there in the stands, he was so determined not to miss it that he watched the entire thing on the two-inch LCD on the back of his digital camera, realizing only during the subsequent applause what he had done.

Only a few decades ago, we lived mostly free of this strange tension between the desire to enjoy something and the desire to document it. Because we did so much less documenting, we must have been much better at enjoying sensory experiences as they happened, since we had no recourse to a “captured” version later. Before photography and videography became a reflex, it must have been exceedingly obvious—too obvious to even think about it—that the only time you can enjoy an experience is when it’s happening.

But nothing can be saved for later. We can make images but we can’t capture experiences.

Think of how many photos of sunsets have truly mesmerized you, and how many times you’ve stopped in your tracks for the real thing. We can create as many records and depictions of life as we want. But it’s life itself that we actually appreciate, and life can’t be saved for later.

I’m trying to re-interpret that “photo opportunity” feeling as an opportunity to enjoy something that’s only happening here and now. If we can see a sunset, or a perfect morning walk, or any other beautiful moment, as something that simply can’t be saved, then we’re free to drink it in till it’s gone.

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{ 64 Comments }

Vishal September 26, 2019 at 2:28 am

A simple yet poignant perspective, David.

I take pride (somewhat smugly) on using the phone lesser than friends and peers. (Maybe 10% less, but the smugness probably comes from the human tendency to overestimate ourselves.)

Here’s something more I’ve noticed. I seem to remember events from the pre-social media days of my life far more vividly than the present day. Maybe being fully present in the moment during those times also etched the memories in our minds deeply. But in the current day, we’re so focused on documenting every moment that we barely experience something worth storing for the long term. In fact, we even struggle to recollect the name of the delicious eat-out joint we visited last week.

Technology came to enhance the quality of our lives, but it has probably made us dumber. (Maybe this always was part of SkyNet’s covert plan to sabotage the human race )

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 9:18 am

Hi Vishal. In a decade or two we’re going to have a lot more science on the side effects of the smartphone age, and many are anticipating we’ll see a pronounced downturn in our ability to remember things. And who knows what else… my guess is we’re losing abilities we don’t even think of as abilities (such as our capacity to appreciate things in real time).

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Dave Hughes September 26, 2019 at 2:33 am

Thanks for another insightful article!

Now that we can take all the photos we want at any time, without the cost of film and developing, we can easily accumulate hundreds or even thousands of pictures of these moments.

How often do we actually look back through all those photos? Even if we do, do they spark the same joy or bring back the same feelings? And if we were to spend a lot of time looking back through those old photos, by doing so we would be ignoring everything going on in the present.

More likely, we are just accumulating a massive archive of photos, most of which will never be seen or enjoyed again. It’s usually the photos of people we value the most anyway.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 9:22 am

Yes! That’s another thing. I went to Europe a year ago and the took hundreds of photos, all still in my laptop, never seen by anyone. When we had rolls of film we chose the shots more carefully, and because they were so precious, we couldn’t wait to get them developed. And looking at pictures was much more of an activity. I’m glad I was alive for the tail end of the “album” era.

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Jan September 26, 2019 at 2:35 am

Beautiful! Thank you David

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Anne September 26, 2019 at 2:47 am

Thankyou David. A timely reminder as I prepare to fly to New York to fulfill a long-held dream of going there. There’ll be so many photo opportunities – I must make sure I don’t see the whole trip through my camera!

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 9:23 am

Yeah, don’t get me wrong — take pictures! But don’t forget to also look at the landmarks and buildings themselves. You could sit near any famous landmark and watch person after person come up to it, photograph it, and go away without even looking at it.

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Annie September 26, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Yes! I second David’s recommendation. As a lifelong New Yorker I am sometimes saddened to see visitors experience my beautiful, gritty, bustling, charming-in-a-New-York-kinda-way hometown only through their camera lens. By all means please do take a photo or two of anything that really catches your eye, but remember to capture it in your minds’ eye as well. If you get a chance, one of the best ways to experience the city is to people watch in Central Park. Go to the area known as “The Mall”, take a seat and just watch the show go by, sans camera.

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Rocky September 26, 2019 at 3:39 am

If you are going to take the photo, the more “In the moment” you can be…. the better the photo.
“There is no good singing, there is only present and absent.”
-Jeff Buckley

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 9:25 am

Definitely… I think the problem isn’t so much the photography as the reflexivity of it. I just *had* to try to keep some of the morning for later, because it’s such a practiced impulse.

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Calen September 26, 2019 at 3:53 am

Several years back I was attending college in San Francisco and I went to the local science museum. They had a tropical rainforest exhibit – a tangle of trees in the middle of the building, and guests could walk freely through it to see the various exhibits of birds and bugs. Many of which were free.

While I was walking through it a butterfly landed on one of the leaves above me. I didn’t think about it much but I pulled out my phone, held it at what felt like an appropriate distance, and snapped a picture.

That’s probably the best photo I’ve ever taken. It’s a single mesmerizing moment of a butterfly perched on an emerald leaf, wings outstretched, glittering like gemstones.

There was nothing in that particular moment that was as poignant as the picture that came out of it – except maybe in the sense that there’s a beauty in every moment if you know how to be grounded in it. Other than that it was quite mundane. If I didn’t have my cell phone I certainly never would have experienced that moment from just that angle. Now I pull it out every few months and look at it again, and it still is breathtaking to me.

Not sure what the moral of this is – maybe it’s just, life is fleeting and you steal your beauty where you can get it. Or maybe better, what we get from the moment and what we get from our camera are hardly ever the same thing. The moment can be beautiful and the photo will be disappointing. Or the moment can be bland and the photo will turn out to be the kind that takes the moment and paints it in gold. I hear that the best artists and photographers can make the moment and the picture line up on occasion.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 9:30 am

Thanks for sharing this. I can remember a lot of moments in which the opposite happened — I saw a bird or butterfly land, then tried to get a picture of it, and of course it flew away before I could either photograph it or enjoy it.

But you bring up a good point: the photo and the experience are different things. A photo is an artifact made from capturing light and color in that moment, but it is not the moment. Quite often the photo contains things the moment doesn’t. I’m thinking of those “supermoon” photos, where the moon is so huge it dwarfs a whole city. They use telephoto lenses to make the moon look much much bigger than it ever has to a human eye.

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Pebbles September 26, 2019 at 4:09 am

Thank you for this reminder. I stupidly tried to recapture something digitally recently and chastised myself for not remembering how I’d found on previous attempts how futile this is. Life is like passing clouds. Savour it in the moment. The richness of it stays in your heart long after the image has faded.

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Neil September 26, 2019 at 4:23 am

This reminds me of an experience in my youth when I was swimming under a rainbow. The rain then started falling and a gull cried out in the silence. The perfection of that moment brings tears to my eyes now. I will never forget it but a photograph would never have captured the beauty.

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Mahmoud September 26, 2019 at 4:50 am

David, you’re insightful blog post dovetailed nicely with this article I just read:

https://www.wired.com/story/six-weeks-100s-miles-hours-glorious-boredom-japan/

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Leah September 26, 2019 at 6:05 am

I’d like to push back on this one just a little bit. Maybe the problem is not the act of taking a few pictures or videos. (And sure, people go overboard on this all the time. But let’s not heap on guilt unnecessarily.) Instead, maybe we need re-frame our expectation of what that image can capture.

I have a truly awful memory. I hate to admit it, but I can hardly remember what my own children looked like as infants, or what it was like to rock them as newborns, just based on memory. Thankfully, I have many photos and videos from their very early days. As soon as I look at one of those pictures, all the tender emotion comes flooding back. It’s different when I look at pictures of other people babies – sure they’re cute, but the emotional connection is just different, obviously. Same with vacation memories, etc. My memory, especially my long term memory, is made up of a collection of re-told stories and images that I see over and over again. For better or for worse, most of the rest of my experiences I just forget with time. Images and videos help me hold onto those memories, and enjoy them over and over, in ways that I cannot seem to do on my own.

So maybe, in the act of taking photos during your walk, you preserve that memory, those sensory experiences, for yourself. Even if others won’t see or can’t sense the same emotion or sensory experience, it’s worth capturing that experience for yourself (guilt-free; so long as capturing it doesn’t absorb you 100%). You can both drink in the beautiful day in the moment, take a quick photo or two, and revisit that scene over and over again for years to come.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 9:59 am

I don’t think we disagree. I definitely wouldn’t tell anyone not to take pictures of their kids growing up! Photos can create a powerful seed for memories, and I have many photos I cherish.

I’m talking about a more specific, 21st-century impulse — “Because this is nice, I can’t just enjoy it, I must also photograph it”

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Danica September 26, 2019 at 6:06 am

Insightful post. I was never one to take a lot of pictures on vacations, but since I got my IPhone a few years back, it seems that picture-taking while vacationing is all that I do, in an effort to share the experience with friends and family. When I think back, I remember my pre-IPhone vacations better, perhaps because back then, I was processing them in the moment, whereas in the post-IPhone era, I figure I can always go back to the photos later. In a few days, i am heading to Morocco and I Will be dialing back considerably on the number of photos I take. I am done with seeing life through a few inches of screen.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:03 am

I think it’s possible to do both, just by making sure that the photo doesn’t come at the expense of being there with your senses.

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Francesco September 26, 2019 at 6:24 am

Great article as usual! I personally much prefer writing a short diary entry than snapping pics!

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John September 26, 2019 at 6:51 am

“I’m living inside a moment, not taking pictures to save it.”

Drake – The Resistence

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HOWARD MATTHEWS September 26, 2019 at 6:57 am

My wife is always telling me take a picture, so you can remember it……..I am the guy who tried a lot of the street food in China. I go to the beach during the off season to listen to the waves coming in with a cup of coffee and bare feet in the sand. I enjoy giving my grandkids a bottle and holding them. Life is not flat and glossy. You must taste it, smell it and feel it to really enjoy life.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:07 am

Your multi-sensory accounts here explain why the photograph doesn’t do all we often think it can do. The full experience is multisensory, including emotion and mood, and the feeling of being you in that moment.

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Chris Gammell September 26, 2019 at 6:57 am

This article kind of reminds me of the made up word “morii” by the dictionary of obscure sorrows:

https://youtu.be/1asBOCAmgaw

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:10 am

Yes, totally! We need all their words

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Financially Fit Mom September 26, 2019 at 7:29 am

Not to mention that no matter how good of camera you have or the photo is you snap, it NEVER captures what your actually seeing! I run into this often when hiking and then going back to look at pictures days later – never the same!

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:15 am

Totally… Skilled photographers can capture quite a lot, but even then, they accentuate certain things through composition and post-processing, but some qualities aren’t captured at all. Certainly not how it felt to be there, which is a three-dimensional, inner-outer, visual-emotional, moving experience. . A good photographer can create a beautiful, feeling-evoking image, but it’s not the feeling of being there.

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Nancy Kvorka September 26, 2019 at 7:33 am

This was great, thank you. Also to Mahmoud, thank you for the link. Also a great article.

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Linda September 26, 2019 at 7:39 am

I often face this struggle between enjoying the moment and documenting the moment. A few years ago, I often found myself actually THINKING in Facebook status update style, and I knew I had a problem. These days, I use this as a cue to leave my phone where it is and focus on what’s in front of me. I’ve often had moments I wish I could capture with a photo, but for one reason or another, that would be impossible – one time I said to my mother that I wished I had cameras for eyes, so that a photo could show exactly what I see. Now, when I’m enjoying a sublime moment, I say to myself, “cameras for eyes” and it actually helps imprint the moment on my brain.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:17 am

Oh no! Well at least you noticed! These platforms really do affect our thinking. I had a similar moment when I deleted Twitter, then had the impulse to announce this act on Twitter.

Love the “cameras for eyes” mantra.

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Elizabeth Munroe September 26, 2019 at 7:56 am

I love to take photographs, but stopped bringing a camera with me when I traveled because I was spending too much energy trying to keep the camera safe. Since then, I’ve found that many people are missing the experience of their travel while trying to capture it.

On a trip to Morocco, my travel mates took endless photos, but never talked to a Moroccan. They spent hours sorting digital photos on the bus, instead of looking out the window to see Moroccan countryside. They sent endless photos to their friends at home while they were travelling, instead of engaging with the people that were there around them.

On Haida Gw’aai, while exploring in a small Zodiac, the people with cameras spent 20 minutes trying to capture the image of fish jumping out of the water, while if you turned 90 degrees to the left, you could watch full-grown elephant seals slide down rocks into the ocean.

Mornings are often a magical time for a walk, and no two mornings are alike, so I definitely appreciate this post.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:19 am

I’ve done that too — and I suspect the question of “should I take my camera out today” on vacation has been around as long as consumer cameras. These days I usually reserve some time just to be in photographer mode, and don’t carry it otherwise.

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Ashley K September 26, 2019 at 8:34 am

This reminds me of 3×5 by John Mayer:

“Didn’t have a camera by my side this time, hoping I would see the world through both my eyes…
Today I finally overcame trying to fit the world inside a picture frame.”

You said it all very well, thank you for the reminder.

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Sharon Hanna September 26, 2019 at 8:35 am

Thank you David for turning me on to Marcus Aurelius. Got the ‘meditations’ from the library in a 4 CD set. I can only listen to a little at a time…and know so little about the ancient philosophers. Re: trying to hold on to the moment – a few days ago while walking in the neighbourhood, I picked an apricot-coloured rose which hanging over the sidewalk. Actually had to bite it off with my teeth. It’s been in a tiny vase smelling so fruity and rose-like. Now it sits with all the petals off, and it still has fragrance. Guess I am trying to hold on to it but it is also a symbol of letting go and impermanence.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:21 am

Meditations is great for just “a little at a time.” One idea is enough to inspire an entire walk :)

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sandybt September 26, 2019 at 9:49 am

Had a related experience just yesterday. Glancing out my window late afternoon I noticed stunning golden leafed trees lit up by the western sun, against a backdrop of dark thunderous clouds coming in from the east… grabbed my phone and went outside to grab a photo but by the time I took it, that brief minute of sunshine was gone. I wished I had spent those last few moments just enjoying the scene instead of rushing around trying to capture it.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:23 am

Can definitely relate. And even if you had… would the photo have been as moving to anyone else?

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Trish Scott September 26, 2019 at 10:07 am

You’ve landed on one of my pet peeves. I live in the midst of some of the world’s most amazing scenery – The Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, The Wave – places like that and so much more that hasn’t, thankfully, made it to iconic status. Most people you see in these places just keep taking photos, forgetting to breathe, forgetting to shut up, forgetting to experience where they are. I say, buy a postcard if you want a reminder but spend your time with those incredible moments of awe that only come from BEING THERE. These experiences, like your morning walk, are whole body/mind experiences that remind us of a wholeness that is simply inexpressible. We are so fortunate to have these moments in our lives! Still, that said, I don’t think it is anything new to totally miss the point of these incredible opportunities. A lot of people, with or without a camera, are incapable of turning off their need to document in their minds, tell each other about it, judge it’s relative merits against other things they have seen or done, etc. It’s not just that we all carry a camera and can instantly send the pic out to the world but that it is an inability to slow to natures pace long enough to take in what it gives us. But you know that.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 10:32 am

Ah..You’re getting at something I only hinted at — there’s something going on in our minds that makes us want to make the experience “mine” whether or not we post it on instagram or whatever. We want to own it in some sense, and not just be graced with its presence.

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Trisha Scott September 27, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Yes.

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Patrick September 26, 2019 at 12:57 pm

I live in Chicago, IL and on slow, picturesque evenings I’ll walk down to Millennium Park–a central tourist destination–with a book, sit on a bench and watch the evening roll by. The central draw of the park is a sculpture called ‘Cloud Gate’ or ‘The Bean,’ as we call it here. It is not at all uncommon for people to approach The Bean looking at their cellphones, briefly peer at it over their cellphones, turn in the opposite direction, compose the frame, take a selfie or two, then walk away continuing to look at their cellphones, without for a moment being truly present in their surroundings. Again, this is NOT uncommon.

I’ve been reading A Course in Miracles lately and one of the distinctions given to the ego in this book is that egoic thinking–and its related egoic behavior–are derived from a sense of lack, of incompleteness, of need. The ego views values everything it encounters by its ability to affirm the existence of the ego. Thus, things that are certain to garner a level of attention or adulation in social media–like a beautiful sunset, a recognized landmark, etc–are viewed through their ability to gratify the ego of the person who captures their beauty and displays it on social media, using the world’s beauty as a way of fortifying the strength of their ego.

Seldom are images shared with the idea of actually benefitting the recipient, more for the aggrandizement of the sharer. I always know this when I see those ghastly images of some beautiful scene with the mangled feet of its photographer marring the image so that the viewer knows that, yes, you can attribute any beauty this scene contains to me, my amazing life and the amazing things I do. It’s all really silly, but completely understandable and an impulse we all have to be mindful of.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 3:58 pm

I have spent time sitting by public landmarks watching how people interact with them. Some really appreciate them, but yeah it seems most people are there to take a picture of it and I guess look at it later??

The bean is a funny case because it’s impossible to get a picture of it without its surface being covered in people taking pictures :)

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Brenda A. September 26, 2019 at 1:07 pm

I am so appreciative of your insights and this is a topic I have given much thought to as I am an avid photo taker (I say it that way because calling myself a photographer seems to imply being at a level I’m not). I also happen to be an avid observer of the world around me. I take great joy in taking in the full sensory experience. I frequently feel torn between capturing the scene before me and just letting it be. The more intensely I’m “feeling” it, the less likely I am to reach for the camera. But honestly, my enjoyment in snapping pics can be pretty intense too. So I have learned to toss aside the guilt and do whatever feels right for the moment most of the time. I just finished up a two week trip to Alaska and had many moments so intense that I cried. I also took approximately 1000 photos! And while traveling back home I was overcome with excitement to get back home, get them all downloaded and get to work editing them. This is where the whole process really sings for me. I absolutely love fine tuning my photos and giving them an artistic flair that is all my own. I’m never in a rush as it’s my therapeutic creative time. I struggle more with other people pressuring me to “hurry up and post my pics’ so that they can see them! But I do it for me; they can wait. lol But even with all of this, it is ALWAYS the moments that matter most. You just have to know how to differentiate between the times that need to be only experienced and those that will bring joy later as photos too. As an example, I didn’t even bother to try to capture a glacier calving or a whale breaching. But you can bet I will be talking and thinking about those experiences as long as I’m able. As someone else said, you can always find a postcard of those things.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 4:01 pm

I appreciate the distinctions you’re making here. Photography is a joy of mine too, but what I was trying to do that day was not photography, it was the expression of a kind of insecurity that this moment is ending and I need to memorialize it or capture it. Making photos is its own activity and can be done alongside simply enjoying things. But I believe that the more reflexive our camera use becomes, the more those two motives come in conflict, and pure experience loses out.

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m2bees September 26, 2019 at 3:53 pm

Trish Scott said it (above) – buy a postcard.

Usually that postcard pic will be better than any I can take (better light, better format, better position) but *I* will have been in the moment to which the postcard is my cue to the memory. :)

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 4:02 pm

Yes! Receiving a postcard has become a much rarer experience as digital photos have become more common. I love every one I get. I love the foreign stamps, the tiny message scrawled on it, the thumb smudges and the professional stock photo on the other side.

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David Cain September 26, 2019 at 4:07 pm

One reader sent me an article covering some scientific findings on this phenomenon. Really interesting read:

https://espressoscience.com/2018/07/25/photos-versus-memories/

Apparently taking photos of things often impairs our memory of them. We “outsource” the task of remembering the subject’s appearance to our cameras.

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Kirsten September 26, 2019 at 5:47 pm

Beautiful post, David. And totally true. I gave up travel blogging because I was always either setting up a shot or filtering experience as to what was good material for a post and what wasn’t — I was never really IN the experience at all…

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David Cain September 27, 2019 at 11:07 am

Hi Kirsten! You just reminded me that I very briefly had a travel blog version of Raptitude when I went to New Zealand. It so quickly added those “filters” to my experience, not just the photography but knowing I had to say something about it too.

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Bernadette Parker September 27, 2019 at 3:59 am

This short video from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows beautifully captures this sentiment:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1asBOCAmgaw&feature=youtu.be

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David Cain September 27, 2019 at 11:07 am

Yes! Someone else posted this above. We need so many more words :)

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Angie unduplicated September 27, 2019 at 8:22 am

I am no photographer, but I keep a folder of others’ great nature photos that I call my instant vacation folder. It probably would be more accurate to call it an “open in case of stress” resource.

No, moments cannot be captured in their entirety. You can capture the memory of color, fragrance, and even the elation experienced. You did well to photograph the situation(s) you want to remember. The photo here is spectacular. Do you all actually have daffodils in September?

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David Cain September 27, 2019 at 11:10 am

I do love photography and own many photography books (and of course my own photos), which help clear the mind and refresh my way of seeing things. But this is a completely different function than making an experience permanent.

The London photo above is sourced from Unsplash — I definitely didn’t take it. I’m not sure what time of year it was.

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KP September 27, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Really loved this! So true, but described it better than I’ve struggled to define.

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geokills September 29, 2019 at 10:23 am

This is definitely one of the more apparent struggles in my experience of life. I absolutely love the process of framing a shot or video, and I often receive praise from friends, family or social media when sharing these captures, which really only serves to tilt the balance toward excessive energy spent on what, at its best, is a wholesome intrigue and lifeline to memories that might otherwise fade into the oblivion more quickly. Conversely, getting too caught up in this activity weakens the initial memory I might be trying to preserve.

There is a balance, and I’m not always great at hitting the mark; But I am trying, and your post here is a poignant reminder of why this self awareness is so important. It’s often when I scroll through my collection of what I would peg at close to 100,000 photos in search of some specific moment, that I realize how overboard I have gone at times. Amidst this review, I can also see with some clarity where I have learned to pull in the reigns, and the ebb and flow of this honing process of my own self control.

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David Cain September 29, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Hey good to hear from you geo!

Another strange part of this digital photography equation is that it’s so easy to rack up thousands of exposures, that we can never really look at them all, let alone process, print, or post them for others to see. I have thousands and thousands of photos on hard drives that I have never done anything with. Each one was a moment of my life, at least!

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Dan James September 30, 2019 at 7:48 am

David, excellent post. One of the most tragic instances of this is at every sports day or music show or assembly I’ve been to at our childrens’ primary school. The number of parents watching the events involving their children unfold through the screen of their phone or iPad, rather than just with their own eyes is getting ridiculous, and it’s really rather sad. I’d rather be there in the moment and enjoy the experience than see it through a device – even if it means you can then watch it again afterwards, seeing it once in person is far better, and more memorable.

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Mr. Crosby October 2, 2019 at 10:19 am

It was a sad day when I fully realized how little my life meant to most other people. But that knowledge freed me and allowed me to simply enjoy my life.

Like many people, for years I wanted to post photos and videos so my “friends” could share in my joy. But it didn’t feel like that. Social media became a competition: who has the most friends, the most likes? So, I quit. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare. I’m not out there (other than my little website).

I am happy to have walked away from it. A walk is a walk, a run is exercise, a vacation is a time away from a busy life. Nice.

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Kaila October 3, 2019 at 12:53 pm

There was a great animated movie a few years ago called Waltz With Bashir. It didn’t get much press but I highly recommend it if you ever come across it. It is NOT for children, it is about a slaughter that occurred in the 80s in Israel. The main character tells a story of someone who was documenting the war and looking at these horrible atrocities, but it was all through a camera, so he felt completely safe and removed from them. As soon as he puts the camera down and actually LOOKS, he starts crying at how horrific it is. I still think about it every time I want to capture a moment on my camera. Better to look and truly feel.

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Don October 3, 2019 at 5:30 pm

I had a similar realization in 1969 after taking a bunch of photos of the Apollo 11 Saturn VI liftoff. After all these years all I have is a bunch of crappy little photos. I still regret not just watching and experiencing the profoundly historic event as it unfolded.

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Rick H October 5, 2019 at 8:32 am

Another bang-on post David! I typically do a short solo backpacking trip each year, and this September I decided not to take any electronic devices, watch or camera for my 3 day trek. I just ‘went along’ with it. During my hike, I saw 2 moose, an awesome harvest moon rise, and a special moment when the sun peaked out very briefly over a beautiful lake. I observed with no distraction or desire to physically capture the moments – I think the memories of them are much more impressive than pictures.

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Martin October 6, 2019 at 5:06 am

Lovely post David.

Our family went to a waterpark this afternoon. There were two big supertubes, curvy tubes that we slid down for hours on end. The higher one was about 4 stories high where we entered the slide and the lower one about 2 stories. I spent the whole afternoon running up the helical ramps with my kids and wife to get back to the top to go down the slide again. We went down all together as a family, with me and my son, with me and each of my daughters, my wife and I. By the end of it I was stooped over and dragging myself up the ramp while filled with exhaustion. It was only as we were packing up to go that I realised I had not even taken my phone/camera out of the towel bag. I realised it was not needed.
I took a lovely photo of the girls asleep on a bean bag once we got home. I sent it to my mom and family with a note of how exhausted they were. Two 8 year olds in a deep sleep and gone to another world after expending every ounce of energy they had.

It was a wonderful day. My wife’s idea that turned into something special. I have no photos of today and I won’t ever experience this exact day again but I will never forget it.

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Deborah LaPorte October 6, 2019 at 7:45 am

I mostly agree, David! There are definitely scenes that just beg us to document them and I’ve enjoyed doing it–but one of the most disappointing moments in my life was seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre through a screen of 25 arms and cell phones taking a picture of the picture. You can buy much better photos in a 50 cent postcard. There needs to be good sense and balance.

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