The Best Camera Can Be the One You Leave at Home

Much has been said and written about photography’s probably most quoted quote, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” Or is it? This quote is a great equalizer. The image doesn’t matter. The quality of the image doesn’t matter. What matters is that a picture is taken at all cost. Shaky, blurry, highlights, whatever, not a problem. A problem arises when one fails to capture the moment — or in other words: what’s the point of a personal experience if you can’t prove it. But there are benefits to giving the camera a rest?

“Constantly trying to be aware of and capture the moment can often take you out of it,” says The Phoblographer‘s Julius Motal. He maintains a constant awareness. This awareness is like radar. This preoccupation with nailing the moment and the momentary blackness resetting the mind when the viewfinder goes black, these side effects of photography can make images disappear altogether. Yes they’re on film or on a memory card. Yet, “Oftentimes I find it easier to remember the images I’ve missed than the ones I’ve made.”

The photographer more focused on the image than on experiencing life isn’t a renunciation of photography, says Motal. “Rather, it’s being aware that my awareness can be as much a detriment as it is an asset. The moment shouldn’t rule the photographer (…) Choosing not to make the image can be as important as choosing to make it, and in some instances it can be more beneficial.”

Leaving the camera at home can open a door to experience life more immediately. And to open the eyes again and be aware without the camera being both an extension of the hands and eyes. Motal calls this “a way to reset the mind” to “have peace of mind.”

Because, honestly, sometimes there is very little to photograph. The photos might look technically perfect showing good composition, discipline and mastering of the camera. But little else. It’s so much easier to just use a camera, echnically, than to make good use of it, aesthetically.

Why force it. Sometimes it is good to give the camera a rest.

Jaded gear doesn’t make up for a lack in artistic imagination, we all know that. How each and everyone of us photographs is nothing else than who and how we are, as Ming Thein says. Each and every photo is a reflection of our very own condition. As much as you can judge a man by his shoes you can judge a man by his photographs.

Want to get better and change your images? Change yourself.

Serenity, dear friends. Composure. Take a step back from yourself. Ignore the camera once in a while. To reset the mind and see again.

  • Drazen B

    Great article, Dan.

    Remember that scene from Secret life of Walter Mitty with Sean Penn and snow leopard?

    Yeat…that one ;-)

  • Wolfgang Lonien

    I also was thinking of that movie immediately. Sometimes it’s right to *not* take the image, even if you have the (great old film) camera and the right lens, composition and everything…

    Good movie. The sequence of Stiller going down on a longboard in Iceland – wow.

  • Or change camera and way of shooting, just for a while. It can be mind refreshing.

  • Pablo Ricasso

    Exactly same thoughts Drazen, when I saw that scene I went imediately like – WTF? then thought about it for few seconds and let a sigh out…”aha…I get it totally!”

    And BTW, what a movie that was…a real feast for photographer’s eyes, indeed.

  • Andy Umbo

    Many years ago, I learned there was a specific thing I liked about photography, and a specific discipline that I wanted to follow in it. The area I was interested in, was thankfully NOT one that had me indiscriminately shooting photographs of everything that moved, or was in my line of site. Many of today’s digital ‘snappers’ behavior has more to do with adult ADHD, than a process for exploration of photography as a commercial or art form. I would rather watch a sunset than take a picture of it, and I remember many great times and beautiful scenes that had nothing to do with taking a picture.

    Recently, another friend of mine, also a commercial photographer, and I were discussing the time I rode along with him out to the country, where he had to take a picture of someone in a small rural community church, for a magazine story. While we were waiting, there wasn’t a car or person for miles, and a guy who couldn’t have been less than 90 years old, rode an old ramshackle bicycle out of nearby farmhouse and started riding down the road. It was beautiful, stone silent, at twilight, and this old guy on an old bike rides up, stops, and we proceed to have a nice, neighborly conversation for about 20 minutes, and then he rides on, as he does every night he can. Neither of us took a picture, or thought to take a picture, altho it would have been a perfect picture. We call each other every once and a while and remind each other of that scene, and one or the other of us would have been recently thinking about it too, even tho the other was calling. We laugh about a couple of photographers not taking a picture like that, but we know it would have wrecked everything.

  • Beautiful!

  • We were at it guys, the “distraction of the camera”: