I took a two-week trip to Hawaii last month with the intentions of not bringing along a bunch of camera gear. That was a fine thought in and of itself, but now I’m wondering if I could have mustered the courage to take an extended trip to a picturesque location without bringing a real camera at all?
I brought only my Fujifilm X100T and relegated my trusty Think Tank Retrospective to holding mostly bottled water and snacks for the family. But this post isn’t about traveling light or selling you on how easy it is to tote around an X100 model (duh, it's easy). It's me asking us as a group: are we diminishing our own experiences by always making them into photo opportunities?
It can be pretty tricky for me to shut off the part of my brain that operates as a professional photographer. That seems fair, considering how many hours every year I dedicate to being focused on just that. The catch is that I don’t always want to be in “pro mode” when I’m taking in a pleasant experience with my family. The aching desire to turn a quick snapshot into an Instagram favorite can be daunting, especially when the fam is waiting around the corner of a mountain pass or halfway down a secluded beach for you to pick up the pace.
This desire can present a difficult balancing act, can it not? Firstly, it's not as if I dislike my job. I rather enjoy making photos, as a matter of fact. So, having a desire to not take my shooting so seriously isn’t completely born out of exhaustion. Thus, even if I do resign myself to leaving the big cameras at home, it's hard not to pressure myself into producing shareable “pro” work. It's an internal struggle, but a real one.
Secondly, there is the expectation of being your family’s memory keeper, and a good one at that. I have no qualms with taking tons of photos of my kids. It would just be odd (and potentially ill-received) for me to go on vacation and declare to Mrs. Sparkes that she is now the primary picture-taker. Even if I’m going the X100T-only route, I can’t help but let the fun little camera suck me into the trappings of the aforementioned “pro mode.”
Lastly, there is one further layer of hypothetical fear that I’m combating: regret. What if I decide to just rely on my iPhone and play tourist dad during my tropical sabbatical, but soon find myself yearning to sneak away and take photos at sunrise, or take my kids down to the beach for an impromptu (and likely protested) mini session? Will I forgive myself for not adding the flexibility of, at the very least, my mirrorless camera to my carry-on?
Who knows? There’s a great possibility that I’m just overthinking this. However, there are times that over-pontification of a thought is best left to a little groupthink. Let me know how often and how long you can/want to go without playing the role of photographer? If you do it, how does it benefit you?