The Case for Always Taking Your Camera
In all of the photography advice I have ever received, the most common is to always bring your camera. You never know when you might come across something that you want to aim your camera at, and the comfort of having a camera around your neck or tucked in your pocket or bag is joyous. I love the spontaneity of being able to take a picture anywhere. You can find small or substantial moments and you never know when they will pop up. It could be a cloud formation or the way that a shadow hits the sidewalk as you are walking to the mailbox. It might be a bird in mid-flight or your child running. That “decisive moment” that Henri Cartier-Bresson described is much easier to find when you have your camera with you.
I am particularly a fan of small cameras, that are easy to carry with me every day and everywhere, that allow me to take pictures even when I wasn’t planning on it… I have an old tiny digital camera (that fits right into the current digi-cam trend) that arrived in a jumble of mostly film cameras that I bought cheaply on an online auction site. That little camera was an unexpected bonus. It’s smaller than a pack of cards, very thin, and it really does fit squarely in the palm of my hand. Yeah, it has a tiny sensor, but I don’t care about that. I have loved the images that come out of the camera as much as any other, and I barely notice its presence in my pocket, hand, and even the little pouch in my running tights that seemed utterly useless until this camera. I don’t feel self-conscious with this camera when I’m out on neighborhood walks. Mostly, though, I just love having any camera with me.
Pretty much all of the cameras that I have gravitated to are smaller, way before I had a mirrorless one. Even my first “real” camera, while it was a DSLR, was touted for being small and light. When I am using a film camera, I love an almost pocketable SLR with a 50mm lens attached or even a newer plastic reusable point-and-shoot no bigger than a paperback book. I also love an older model of the digital camera beloved by street photographers, and it is an almost constant companion. Just because I have a camera with me doesn’t always mean the images are immortal or amazing. In fact, many of them are not. I often just pull out my camera by instinct or whimsy. I look at the pictures later when I get home or after my film is developed. A lot of them aren’t “bangers”, but I appreciate the practice, the opportunity, and my hands and eyes operating quickly. Sometimes these are snapshots, even a reminder to go back later in different light, a funny juxtaposition, a pop of color on a dreary winter day, or just the discovery of a fleeting moment.
If you have a camera slipped in your pocket, strapped to your hand, looped around your neck, or in easy reach in your bag, it can free you up to be creative. If you’re not lamenting that you forgot your camera, you are ready to find those shots that you might have missed otherwise. We often have cameras with us for big events like a family reunion or a long dreamed about vacation, but sometimes we leave out the smaller moments like shopping for groceries or going out to dinner. I have seen some of the most beautiful skies while walking in a parking lot on a Saturday of errands. Having it with me reminds me that any moment can become a photographic moment. It helps me to see beauty in things I used to ignore when I didn’t have a camera with me. It helps me to realize that life is full of these small moments that can be just as or even more life-altering than a view from a scenic vista.
Photography and our cameras can teach us to appreciate, to look into the shadows, and to find the ignored. Always having a camera helps us to really see what we find along the way.
By Kary Schumpert
Kary keeps a blog at running-into-life.com and can be found on Instagram at @running_into_life. She teaches, writes, runs, plays with cameras, and spends her time in New Mexico and Colorado.
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