I recently went to the new movie titled The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and was intrigued with a scene where a photographer was up high in the Himalayan mountains searching for an elusive snow leopard. The main character of the movie, Walter Mitty, was sitting next to the photographer when a leopard came into the camera’s view. Instead of taking the photograph, the photographer just watched the leopard, even though the image was perfectly composed and the light was perfect. Walter Mitty asked, “Aren’t you going to take the shot?” but the photographer answered that sometimes he likes to remain in the moment, rather than let the camera get in the way of his experience.
This is truly a dilemma for us photographers. Should we stay in the moment or take the picture? Recently, an article posted in the journal Psychological Science claims that taking photos of whole objects reduces our memory of the details of the object. On the other hand, the study found that taking photographs of the details of an object did not impair our memory of the object that we zoomed in on.
I generally come down on the side of taking the picture rather than living in the moment. For me, the process of creating a lasting image is often as exciting as the moment itself. There are obviously some events in my life for which I’m happy I wasn’t toting a camera around. For example, my children’s births and my wedding. I am happy though, that other people had cameras to immortalize those moments.