A little while back we posed the question: “Are photos ruining our memories?” Well, actually we repeated the question that The New York Times asked, but the main point is, it got us thinking about our parenting since we use our DSLRs like they are extensions of our arms.
Yes, we questioned our parenting, not our photography. How often were we actually ruining/staging/falsifying the moment by whipping out our DSLR to “capture” a memory. Were we actually performing a noble memory keeping service for our families or were we stifling memories to death like fireflies left too long in a jar?
These thoughts and more inspired a very interesting podcast if we do say so ourselves. You can see–and listen to–what we mean here.
At the end of that podcast, we asked, “Would you be able to limit your shutterbug impulses?”
Ellen: And I could not stop thinking about that question. So much so that a week before my husband and I were set to take our daughters to Paris, I decided I didn’t want the intrusion of my large camera. My reasoning was this: if I wanted an awesome picture of the Eiffel Tower, it was available online.
Erin: But it wouldn’t be YOUR picture of the Eiffel Tower!
Ellen: Oh wait. I didn’t say I didn’t take any pictures. I am pretty sure I could never be THAT kooky.
Erin: Yeah, “kooky” and “Ellen” are generally not uttered in the same sentence.
Ellen: I knew I wanted something other than my cellphone because I did not want to drain its battery during a full day of sightseeing. I needed it for other things. So I just logged onto Amazon and found a fit-in-my-hand point-and-shoot that had good reviews and a price tag close to $200. You can check out what I chose here.
Ellen: I asked myself: did I seriously need every picture crisp enough to blow up to billboard size? Was it worth it to stop the fun to awkwardly pull out my Nikon or to kill my neck to always have it at the ready? The answers were no, no, and no; because if I’m totally honest, most of my pictures live on my computer and my trusty external hard drive anyway.
And in the interest of full disclosure, once I got my camera, I actually tested out the zoom and low light capabilities with some photos that I actually printed out. (The first ones in about a year.) I had to know! I had to be sure!
Erin: I totally get it. Pictures are important. They are far better souvenirs than t-shirts and novelty spoons.
Ellen: Although they may not be better than this apron purchased after a bottle of wine at lunch.
Erin: That is hard to top.
Ellen: But back on topic, I did not give up the performance of my DSLR without A LOT of anxiety and research because it felt like I was picking the class clown over the valedictorian.
Erin: This right here is a case study of the yin and yang of Ellen and Erin. While Ellen did research and made a conscious choice to leave her DSLR behind, I FORGOT mine on the way to our annual beach cottage vacation on the shore of the Potomac with our dear friends from Maine.
Our 14-year tradition is replete with a whole slew of little traditions like jumping from docks, double dessert dares, and the special photographs we take of the kids each year to document their growing up. Photographs just like this one.
Ellen: Because of course, you are the de facto photographer for this vacation? As you always are.
Erin: I gladly do the job because I enjoy it, but apparently my forty-three-year-old brain decided I needed a break.
Ellen: Yeah, that is a more gentile explanation than saying your mind has been a spazzy mess because your oldest is going away to college. But since I’m a good friend, I won’t point that out.
Erin: You really are swell. Well, me being me, it was halfway through our four hour drive to the cottage when my mind’s eye woke-up and screamed, “YOU LEFT YOUR DSLR ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER!”
Ellen: You should fire your mind’s eye. It is neither timely nor helpful.
Erin: I seriously considered turning the ship around and heading back for it. And by seriously, I mean that I asked my husband, Steve, if it was crazy. More than once.
Ellen: I am guessing the answer was you were a bat guano brand of crazy?
Erin: I could not convince anyone that turning a four hour drive into an eight hour one was a good idea in any way, shape, or form. I had to make peace with using the camera on my phone and that would be that.
Ellen: So how did it go? Did the world stop spinning on its axis?
Erin: Surprisingly, no. I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t miss my awesome zoom lens a couple of times, but the truth is that changing how I was going to take the pictures changed more than just the pictures. Using my phone gave me the freedom to step out from behind the lens more. It turns out that a camera around my neck was an albatross of sorts interfering with my ability to fully commit to the chill, hanging-out vacation vibe I so like to cultivate. I jumped off the dock a lot more instead of just documenting the jumpers: the observer became the doer. In short, clicking less meant I played more.
Ellen: I felt the same way in Paris! No stopping the scene to get the picture. With my little Sony Cybershot tucked neatly in my hand, I was able to capture moments, not just photographs.
And it was easier to capture the cheesy tourist shots my kids wanted. I don’t think there was one groan about mom and her camera. A first for our family!
Erin: Speaking of firsts, this was probably the first time I came home with less than 300 pictures, but rest assured, no traditions were broken. We still had our special shots . . .
And we never lost the sense of fun and silliness that characterizes our brief but special time together.
Truth? I missed my Nikon less and less each day. Our fun and funny memories were still happening and I was still finding a way to save them for us. The big bonus? I found a way to savor the fun a little more in real time without sacrificing our ability to treasure them for the next fourteen years.
Ellen: Ah! But I do have one more confession. Full disclosure is the sensible way. I was too chicken to leave my DSLR completely behind in the United States. I lugged it overseas, but only took it out on our Sacré Coeur day. I figured if I needed a photo to paper a wall in my family room, I would be able to have at least a couple to choose from.
Erin: Ha! That’s assuming you would ever print a photo out.
Ellen: It could happen.
So what do you use to take most of your photos?
-Ellen and Erin
Check out our books, “I Just Want to Be Alone” and “You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth.”