Vacation Photography: Capturing the Moment While Trying to Live in the Moment

I am on vacation, but a blogger gots to blog. I picked up photography as a hobby over the years. This is my first vacation lugging around a bag full of lenses, filters, and memory cards. With my backpack over my shoulder, I hiked to an awesome spot where natural blowholes formed in the coastline. I started a conversation with someone who was observing a bunch of people either taking Instagram-style photos or making TikTok videos… or both. This person thought it was ridiculous to spoil the moment by taking out their phones to take silly photos of themselves on a volcanic rock cliff. I felt a bit conflicted knowing that I had all of my camera gear at the ready to capture the perfect moment, and I am trying to be mindful about living in the moment. This sounded like the perfect quandary for me to explore.

Instant Memories

The impulse to instantly share experiences online has become almost second nature. Whether it’s a delicious meal, a stunning sunset, or a candid moment with friends, many of us instinctively reach for our phones, not just to capture these experiences but to broadcast them to the world. When seeing the Mona Lisa in person, we all take out our phones and take a photo. Who are we taking that photo for? And do we need millions of photos of the same painting? I often wrestle with this puzzle.

Mona Lisa Photos (Credit: Pedro Fiuza/NurPhoto)

This culture of instant sharing has fundamentally altered how we experience moments. In the rush to post, like, and comment, how others perceive the experience online can overshadow the immediate, raw connection to it. The present moment becomes a commodity that followers can package, filter, and consume, frequently resulting in a disconnect between our lived experience and our digital persona.

I’ve learned to recognize the difference between capturing an image for likes and capturing one for love.

Hans Scharler

When I first picked up photography as a hobby, I was drawn to the technical aspects—the play of aperture, shutter speed, and composition. Over time, I began to realize that photography offered me a way to connect with the world around me on a more profound level. I’ve had moments when I felt the pressure to snap a picture simply because it would look great on my social media feed. But I’ve learned to recognize the difference between capturing an image for likes and capturing one for love. I now have an audience of one. Me.

The journey has taught me to pause and ask myself why I’m taking a picture. Is it to preserve a memory, tell a story, or simply because I’m drawn to the beauty of the scene? Or is it driven by an external need?

Finding the Balance

Finding equilibrium between our desire to capture memories and the need to fully embrace the present is no easy task. It’s a dance that requires awareness, intention, and practice.

  • Set Intentions: Before you even take out your camera, know what you want to capture and why. This clarity can help guide your focus and keep you grounded. Sometimes my why is to learn a lens or to learn how to capture a scene in different lighting conditions.
  • Be Present First: Experience the scene fully before reaching for your camera. Soak in the sounds, smells, and feelings, then capture what speaks to you.
  • Get into the Photography Flow: I have found that looking through the lens is a way for me to focus on the moment. PUN INTENDED. After I took in the scene, I then start to imagine the photo that I want to take. This gets me into a flow state and I can loose minutes of time at a clip.
  • Limit Your Options: Only bring one lens with one focal length. I love the challenge of learning one lens at a time. This causes you to move around to find the right angle and compoistion.

Some folks enjoy knitting, reading books, or perhaps painting watercolors while on vacation. These hobbies provide a way to unwind and a means to engage with the surroundings in your own personal way. For me, blogging and taking photos have become those connective threads that tie me to a place, a feeling, or a fleeting moment.

Since sometimes my camera is my phone, I’ve had to become extra conscious about both staying in the moment and capturing it. It’s a delicate dance that many of us face today, where the very tool we use to preserve memories can also pull us away from truly living them. You snap a photo of your poke bowl and suddenly, your off looking at your friends photos on a better vacation. You find yourself swiping up on Instagram, drawn into another world while the real one continues to unfold around you without your full attention.

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