Friday, February 24, 2023

Where we leave the Nikon at home

Game of tones
Deerfield Beach, FL
February 2023
This photo originally shared on Instagram

I did a once-unthinkable thing before our recent trip south: I left the so-called “good” camera at home.

As much as I love shooting with it, I’m tired of trips being dominated by the equipment I carry. Or of worrying about it while we’re at the beach. Or of the pain I feel after dragging it everywhere all day because it’s too valuable to leave back in the hotel.

So the Nikon stayed home. In its place, I had my smartphone and a small point-and-shoot.

Were there moments when I wished I had the full-on kit with me? Sure. Chasing birds around the beach and tracking waves, for example, were, um, a lot different with the pared down equipment. Not gonna lie: a DSLR would have been a much more flexible photographic tool.

But vacations should be about rest, not schlepping your stuff around in a giant bag. And I regret taking all these years to figure that out. Probably should apologize to my wife right about now.

Long ago, I learned - but perhaps didn’t fully appreciate - that the best camera is the one you have with you. So I shifted my brain a bit and embraced the moment. The smartphone lacks the reach, while the point-and-shoot lacks the speed. But I grew up using cameras with fractions of their capabilities, so it was time to focus on the craft and not on the hardware.

I think this shift made me a better photographer. No longer was I bludgeoning the scene with a massive piece of photographic technology. I was simply telling a simple story with what I happened to have.

More importantly, though, I think - hope? - this shift made me a better travel partner. I was far more in tune with the memories we made along the way. I stopped focusing on capturing moments, and simply enjoyed them. Photography became a sideline to the experience instead of its centrepiece.

There was one point during a visit to a nearby wetland preserve that I felt a little outgunned. I walked past these pros with massive camouflage-covered lenses probably worth more than my car. Suddenly my smartphone and point-and-shoot felt…small.

But photography isn’t about what’s in your hand - or how your specs measure up. It’s about the stories you tell, and the memories you make along the way. I wish I had learned this lesson earlier.

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