Photography is all about capturing moments.
Whether it’s a moment in time on a street scene, a ‘wow’ moment in a beautiful landscape, a candid moment of children at play or an image showing amazing light before it changes a moment later.
As well as capturing moments, however, we are also living them, and it is important that we cherish each moment as well as capture it on camera.
I was reminded of this post by a friend, who told me recently that she felt that when we are taking photographs we are missing the moment.
It is true that sometimes in photography we tend to concentrate on making the image and not on being in the moment.
Life is full of precious moments and rather than encourage us to miss these moments in the act of taking a photograph, photography can do the opposite and encourage us to embrace each moment and truly experience it.
How does photography help us to appreciate life’s moments?
This question might be answered in different ways depending on the type of photography we are doing.
In landscape photography, when you are photographing a particular landscape you will connect with it in some way, it will mean something to you, and this will give you a deeper appreciation of the scene and the moment you have chosen to capture.
For example, before I took this image I was drawn by the colour of the sky, the tranquil atmosphere.
I spent some time absorbing the scene, becoming at one with it, feeling an intimate connection with every part of the vista in front of me – the vegetation, the water, the distant houses and trees.
I took in all the sights, the sounds, the smells of the place.
I took my time, walked along the shoreline of the lake and considered different views of the scene in front of me.
I didn’t rush to take my image but let the image speak to me.
I enjoyed the moments and when I pressed the shutter to take my picture, I felt it was an intimate photo of a time and place that was special to me.
This is a place I have visited many times; in different seasons, at different times of day, when various events were happening in my life. Yet I don’t need the image to remind me of the place; I have my memories through having absorbed the moments while there making my images.
I have many images of this place, from different viewpoints and perspectives, and it represents more than just a photography location
Other forms of photography also give us opportunities to become more observant, more in tune with our surroundings.
In seascape photography we can become one with the coastal landscape, smelling the salt in the sea air, feeling the sun or wind on our skin, hearing the sounds around us - crashing waves, gentle lapping sounds, seagulls screeching overhead.
When making images of skyscapes we are aware of the changing world above us; grey skies, blue skies; cloudy skies, clear skies; stormy skies, calm skies.
Street photography gives us untold opportunities to tune in to the present moment, to observe what is around us, to become aware of body language, gesture and emotion in our subjects. We become students of human behaviour as we move around engaging in this candid photography style.
Macro or close-up photography requires us to notice little things that would normally go unnoticed and helps us to become more acutely aware of things that are all around us but to which we scarcely pay any attention.
It is easy to see how photography offers the potential for us to really experience life to the fullest, but does this bear out in practice?
To really appreciate what is unfolding around us as we hold our camera ready to take a shot, my advice is to go where other photographers don’t go, to create our own moments and make our own unique images.
On a trip to Italy two years ago, I took a bus tour around Lake Garda, stopping at little villages along the way. The guide pointed out the best vantage points for photographs and the photographers lined up with their cameras to capture that perfect shot.
I found myself wandering down laneways, up hillsides, always taking different routes, moving away from the crowd. I may not have got the usual iconic images, but I did experience the places I visited, and I have vivid memories of those experiences, as well as images to jog my memory and my emotions connected with what I saw.
I believe that if I had spent time queuing for a spot on the viewing point, I would have missed the real experiences, so I was happy to trade the popular, tourist shot for the unique shot.
Sometimes that involved immersing myself in the life of the place and taking candid shots of everyday happenings, other times I managed to get a vantage point away from the village and took shots from outside, looking in.
I broke most of the rules here by taking the shot when the sun was high in the sky, but I was in this place at this time, and something drew me to the scene, so I made the image. I like the reflections in the water, and the sun helps to achieve this. It might be frowned upon by 'real' photographers, but fortunately, I am only answerable to myself
Join the debate!
There does appear to be a sort of tension between being an observer who looks and experiences fully each moment of life and a photographer whose main intent is on capturing a beautiful image of that moment.
Does the photographer miss the moment?
Or does he or she become so fully engrossed in observation of the scene - being acutely aware of light, beauty, emotion - that the moment of pressing the shutter becomes part of the overall experience?
I believe that when photography forces us to observe more closely, to appreciate beauty, to notice little things, it is actively encouraging us to live more fully in the moment.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
Updated Dec 2021