Leaving the Camera At Home

Over a 7-day period last week, I went to Disneyland 4 times. I mean, I know I have a blog and all, but come ON–that’s a little ridiculous. I mean, it seemed legit. Friday the 26th I tried to schedule like 17 things in the same morning with disastrous results. It was meeting readers Nancy and Linus, trying to get on the Lilly Belle, and a family photo shoot. It was approximately a billion degrees so the Lilly Belle was a bust, then Theo had a meltdown of massively epic proportions that completely shot the rest of the morning. Tuesday I joined friends Kristin, Monica, and Carissa, and our combined 5 children plus 2 babies and rode, among other things, the Astro Orbitor. Well, only 4 of those children rode. We didn’t take the babies flying around in circles in a tall rocket ship. Wednesday I finally did get to ride the Lilly Belle, and then on the spur of the moment, I met up with Kristin again at the Mouse-Next-Door on Friday.

So technically I only went to Disneyland 3 times in 7 days. heh.

But on that fourth time, when I was halfway to the park, I realized I’d forgotten my camera. I actually forgot it the first Friday too. I almost turned around to get it, and then I thought nah, leave it at home.

Not everything has to be documented within an inch of its life. I remember talking about this with my friend Renee, who is  professional photographer. Her older son was born before the big digital switch. She said she brought the camera with one roll of 36 exposures, and planned out the pictures. You took time to make sure that hopefully most of them were good. You couldn’t get everything, so you captured the moments you thought were the most important, and the ones you wanted to remember. When her younger son was born, it was all about digital and she has pictures up the wazoo.

And of course, so do I. I have literally hundreds of pictures from writing this blog. I took 33 pictures on the Lilly Belle alone, and that’s about typical.  I’ve got 70 pictures from D23. And whatever I was doing on June 7th, I took 158 pictures of that. I checked and it’s the Jedi Training Academy Parts One and Two,” it’s a small world,” the Hook and Ladder Company, and the South Side of Frontierland. I mean busy day, sure, but 158 pictures worth of busy???

So on Friday, I left the camera at home.

I was having a discussion with some friends a short while ago about living a documentary life. Photography is so easy and so cheap, it seems that we live our lives looking through those couple inch-sized screens. I think our society has changed. It almost feels as if people think “If I don’t take a picture or video of it, then I wasn’t really there, or it didn’t really happen.” Whenever a major news story breaks and there’s a crowd of people, what you see are a whole bunch of cell phones being held up over heads snapping picture after picture.

And of course I’m guilty of that too. I end up with pictures like this:

Um, yuck

Or this:


Trying to catch a moment when obviously it was a complete waste of time to turn away from the show in front of me.

In this shot, I’m more concerned with taking a picture than enjoying what I’d set out to document in the first place. Where is the experience? Why can’t I just turn around and enjoy the moment with my husband and son and remember it in my head instead of a crummy picture later (in this case, one of 28 pictures of this show, The Magic, The Memories, and You)?

I always kind of feel strange when I see people taking videos inside of rides. Particularly people who spent thousands of dollars to get here and waited a really long time to get on the ride. Are you REALLY going to watch your video of the Pirates of the Caribbean when you get home? There already are videos of these rides on YouTube. Why not put the camera down and enjoy the best part of Pirates, which is the immersive experience.

We’re addicted to our cameras because we can be, and I’m not going to tell someone who spent a lot of money to get here not to take pictures, but the magic is there whether you take a picture of it or not. Sometimes a picture or video puts a barrier between you and the magic.

Sometimes it’s better to take a picture with your heart rather than with the camera.

So if you’re a local, leave your camera at home every once in a while. And if you’re here on vacation, maybe take a moment to ask yourself, “will this picture come between me and the experience–between me and the magic? Do I really need this picture or video to remember this moment?”

You may surprise yourself by finding that you don’t really need all those pictures after all.

11 responses to “Leaving the Camera At Home

  1. RedRosie September 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Thank you! And why in the world do we moms put unnecessary pressure on each other with all the scrapbooking and websites to share (show off) pictures?? I love that there are great pictures and videos online already so I don’t need to take pictures of that regular stuff. And thank goodness for the PhotoPass guys that will take pictures of the whole family. On our next trip (in 2 weeks whoo hoo!) I make a pledge to enjoy the moments in real time and not worry about documenting it all. BTW – Am I a horrible mom for having only one page completed of my son’s scrapbook when he is turning 10 this month? That’s more than I have for my daughter who is turning 7! One of these days in my free time…..

    • Shelby September 5, 2011 at 9:21 am

      “Free time”? I’m unfamiliar with that term ;). I bought a bunch of stuff for scrapbooking, then it sat there looking all sad and pathetic so I gave it away. I’ve had good luck making those photo books for Christmas and such, but they take FOREVER because I’ve got all these pictures!!!

  2. Amber September 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I try to mostly take picture of people. I also try to hand the camera to my husband and have him take some pictures so I’m in a few too. Occassionally I have to remind myself that I (where ever we are, or whatever we’re doing) need to experience this in real life. It’s easy to get distracted, but seriously one picture of my mother holding my daughter on Dumbo was all I needed. Then I put the camera away and enjoyed my flight with my DH.
    Perhaps you need to start limiting yourself on photos. I love reading your blog because you have great humor in the way you present the park. A picture of the outside of the pinochio ride to show what/where it is would have been fine. Afterall, your point was to DO everything there was to do, not take pictures of everything.

    • Shelby September 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

      You’re right–it is easy to get so distracted and look for that perfect shot! And great point about doing everything, not photographing everything! I have made it a point to not photograph the things I haven’t been on before but maybe I do need to step away from the camera a little more. I’ve felt obligated out of a sense of journalistic integrity to document as much as possible. But, I’m such a lousy photographer anyway!! 😆

  3. sproutsphoto September 5, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Oh Shelby I am SOOOO happy you wrote this post! You know how I feel about this, and how much I preach to everyone to STOP OVERSHOOTING! I almost never take pictures anymore, rated I do it for a living so I certainly don’t want to be taking pictures while I’m “off” so to speak. But, I realized a long time ago that I was spending so much time getting the perfect shot, that I wasn’t experiencing the moment. I have a family friend that when she vacations, she just buys the postcards. She will of course take a few pictures of her at monumental places, but for the most part she buys the postcards. Her theory is that the photographer that took the photo is a way better photographer than she is. How brilliant!

    My final thing I’m going to say is to your readers! Edit, edit, edit! Delete photos that are bad, blurry, don’t have a focal point. Get your experience down to 10-20 GOOD pictures and get them into an album! DON’T LET YOUR KIDS GROW UP TO BE JPEGS!

    • Shelby September 5, 2011 at 9:35 am

      I knew this would resonate with you!! The postcards are such a great idea. When I’m on vacation I usually stick people in the picture because it’s pointless for me to try to capture a landscape or something. And yes, editing is so important! I need to get better at that. Like you said before though, there’s still that feeling of “if I delete this picture of my child, it means I don’t love him” or something :lol:.

  4. Dawn September 6, 2011 at 8:11 am

    I’m with you on this one! I didn’t take a single picture when I was at Disneyland this summer – my sister on the other hand, took over 200. I stopped taking pictures obsessively about 8 or so years ago. I would get home and realize my memories were looking through the view finder and then when I looked at the photos I had no idea what I had taken a picture of. Now I just enjoy the moment and think about what I am experiencing. I enjoy it more and come away with a much better sense of “I was there and I had a great time”. Thanks for spending so much time on this blog – it is always thoughtfully done and with a sense of humor. I don’t own a computer (I know, I know – as my students say – “How do you live?”) but when I get to work each morning it is the first thing I check. Your work is appreciated – especially by those of us that don’t live close enough to get to Disneyland as often as we would like.

    • Shelby September 6, 2011 at 8:21 am

      Oh, thank you so much! I’m really having a good time with this project and I just love the fact that so many people are so interested in it. And how DO you live without a computer? 😆

  5. Jennifer September 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I loved this post. It was what a lot of us are thinking but don’t say – or maybe what some haven’t considered before. We need to make sure that we are not only THERE for our kids, but we are PRESENT for them and the moment as well. This was my favorite post by far. Bravo.

    • Shelby September 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm

      Yes! We have to be there AND present! So important. Because the memory isn’t “that trip to Disneyland where I took this picture”–it’s “that trip to Disneyland where we rode Dumbo together” or whatever. Unglue ourselves from the cameras!

  6. Heather September 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I really love your blog very much and have read every single post and never commented but for this I had to. I too have been plagued by the “if I delete this picture” emotions and your post really got me.

    I really feel as though bringing up children in this over digitized world is somehow a struggle. You want to take and share pictures of your children but not to the point it takes over time you could be spending quality time with them. I feel like every time I get overwhelmed by having to sort through 3854360765 to find and post the “good ones” I will remember this post. So thank you.

    FWIW, I often hear “I AM AN AWESOME PHOTOGRAPHER” in my head while going through said photos. So thank you for that too 😉

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