Have you ever been to Italy? Yeah, me neither.
Well… maybe that’s not entirely true.
I did go. Once. But I missed the whole trip.
About a year after my husband and I got married, we took a trip with my parents to Italy. Beautiful-beyond-description, Italy. So beautiful, in fact, that I obsessively photographed every dog, child, flower, and street sign in the whole country.
I was going to change the world with the beauty captured inside my new digital camera. My days were full of snapping and checking the back of my camera while I toiled away my nights editing, adjusting, and obsessing, waiting for the world’s slowest dial-up to post my photos to Facebook. (Because if it wasn’t on Facebook, it didn’t happen. Right?)
I was on cloud nine, camera-obsessed and certainly obnoxious. There I was in the most beautiful place on earth with the people I loved the most, and I couldn’t sleep I was so excited to photograph every solitary moment. My joy was matched only by the height of my husband’s eye-roll as he watched me edit away our Italian adventure, unable to rescue me from the photo vortex I’d discovered.
And like a blink, the trip was over.
I’m sad when I think about it now. In my effort to record every moment, I didn’t let myself soak up any of them. I had this once-in-a-lifetime experience to bond my new husband and my family, and I was too preoccupied with a screen to be present in the moment.
Fast-forward a few years, and I’m on a trip to Colorado with my husband’s family, our little boy, and an entirely different perspective. This time, I decide to bring just one film camera and a handful of rolls of film.
Life and love dance across the lenses of my eyes, and when I want to make sure I preserve a certain special one, I slowly pick up my film camera and take one or two photos, and then, get this: I put it down. That’s it. There’s no screen on the back of the camera, begging me to review my work. There’s no hard drive full of images to distract me. There’s just my most beloved people and me, on vacation. I cull and post the photos weeks after the vacation, and we get to relive the magical moments and laugh at the experiences we shared together. Imagine that!
Photography is such a gift, and the photos we take of our children will bless us forever. But if we let taking photos get in the way of making actual memories, then we miss the point.
Will you take on my challenge? On your next vacation, instead of taking your work camera along, or taking a million phone photos, try shooting on just three rolls of film. Let it change the way you document the world. Let it allow you to be present with your family. And just watch, because I bet you will love each one of those precious few photos you took, much more than the hundreds you usually do.
You don’t need to be a professional film shooter to do this! You can buy a small film camera (Canon AE-1 is great and only about $30) and try shooting 2-3 rolls on your vacation! See if you enjoy the freedom of being able to put the camera down. Developing the film and looking back at the photos a week later will give you a chance to relive those magic memories all over again!
Digital shooters, you can do this, too! Try taping a piece of black paper over your back screen and just relying on your camera meter when taking photos. Take the picture, and then put the camera away. Make the choice to spend time connecting with your family and not flipping back through the photos you’ve taken or editing them while you’re traveling!