I wanted to throw my phone into the raging river a thousand feet below.
Its camera stubbornly refused to reflect the beauty I was seeing. It wasn’t fitting everything in. The colors were off. I’d take a picture and it looked nothing like what unfolded before me. It was like a reporter only telling half the truth.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson. I experienced the same feeling when I visited the Grand Canyon. No camera on the face of the earth could sufficiently encapsulate the full grandeur of the feeling one has standing before it. I chuckled at the tourists with their tiny point-and-shoot cameras, preserving nothing more than a postage-stamp slice of the mighty mural sprawled out before them.
And yet here I was, at Yellowstone National Park, desperately trying to capture the colors and majesty of what I was seeing, feeling, and experiencing.
It’s a lot like life, which can’t be captured, only experienced.
Photos are great for capturing slivers of an experience, just enough to remind us of how we felt at a given moment. The trouble comes when we get so hung up trying to freeze time that we forget to actually live the moment.
If we’re honest, part of us wants to record the moment as proof of our exploits for our friends and family, perhaps drumming up a “must be nice” from them in the process. But It’s also an attempt to slow down time and preserve it, fearful of our forgetting it.
As if I will ever forget making eye contact with a mighty bison as he carved through the morning mist and ambled past my driver-side door!
Which I would have missed had I been fiddling with finding the proper f-stop.
Near the end of our trip, we had the good fortune of stumbling upon a ranger talk in the auditorium at Old Faithful. He was giving a spirited account of the history of Yellowstone, a presentation that was equal parts interesting and inspiring. He concluded with this:
“I have two invitations,” he said, as he held up his smartphone. “Take this device we all have and use it. Take all the photos. Share them with people. Tell the others about this place. But I also invite you, every once in a while, to put the phone away. Just experience this place. Be in the moment. Live it.”
I won’t be abandoning my camera any time soon. But I will continue to remind myself that photographing a moment is not the same as experiencing it.
The best parts of life are all too fleeting. Let’s not leave them half-lived.
🤔 I wonder…what’s an unforgettable moment you’ve experienced that you just couldn’t capture with your camera no matter how hard you tried?