White orbs waned and waxed as I twisted the dial on my binoculars. It was the night of the eclipse and the earth’s shadow was steadily gnawing into the moon like a cookie. It was 2˚f and I was bundled in my large black coat and plaid trapper hat, leaving the tip of my nose exposed to the bite of the still night air.

My family was inside, and few lights tainted that quiet space.

Slowly, I steadied the dial and the moon with it’s craters and gleaming top curve clarified. If I could only capture a photograph that crisp and clear…

But I remained in the still and watched the tint of rust creep into its shadows.

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Passing Time

I often spot the best images while driving, but never have the time or my camera to pull over and capture it. In the past it drove me nuts as an artist—I saw the most beautiful line of light, a stunning range of colors, a solitary object with a distinctive voice. Missing those moments were frustrating, but instead I committed them to memory. They were beautiful, fleeting, sacred moments for me to cherish.

Sometime in the wake of the Internet and beginning to blog, this feeling began to change. So many people on the Internet were capturing their day throughout the day to share with the world. But I wasn’t. I do not own a smartphone and capturing anything to share takes some time.

Though I knew that the meaningless stories about my very repetitive and unevenful days were nothing to worry about, it was the moments that mattered which began to feel wasted. Beauty I spotted on drives were now missed opportunities to capture for the blog. Serene images I discovered while immobile and ill were now taunting moments of waste.

Beauty, discovery, learning, and novelty had become about sharing and display…they were no longer quiet experiences to tuck away for a day of wistful imaginings.

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Rapid Fire

Last year I became aware of how this feeling had infected my life. I questioned how much of our experiences are experienced not as the events themselves, but as moments to capture on camera.

While I am all for documenting memories (I studied archiving and preservation), I wonder when the intention of capturing the memory intervenes on the event itself.

How often are we missing moments we are living because we’re approaching them with the mindset of showing it off to others layer? Are we going to the event to show that we’ve gone to an event, or because we want to attend? Are we parading our lives in our captures, or making a point to remember?

I may not have a smartphone, but I get caught up in documenting moments sometimes. Because my life is pretty chill (aka uneventful for the most part) I often feel an urge to capture the special experiences. Weird thoughts run through my head—

Do people think I have a boring life?
Are people wondering what is happening to me?
Is my online persona an accurate reflection of how interesting I really am?

Or in instances of my creative photography—
I photograph nature, shouldn’t I be photographing the Eclipse?

This was something that hit me when first beginning to watch the Eclipse. I thought I should run inside and set up my tripod… instead, I went inside and grabbed my binoculars.

There was a bit of a sting as I went outside,

A perfectly good eclipse and you are wasting it by not capturing it.

Invisible Snow

When I was first ill with Lyme’s disease and hardly able to move around there was a day with the most beautiful and quiet snowfall. My mother helped me get dressed and we went into the backyard to see.

My body was frail and felt roomier in my thick black coat than I had remembered. There was a bright sheet of grey over the sky, and plump drops of white danced out of the sky.

I waded off the deck and into the middle of the yard. The cold nipped my face and jolted my skin, but it was more than I had felt in a long time. I breathed in the crisp air, and overcome by the sheer joy of it, I lay back in the snow and stared up at the sky.

What I saw was simple. They pale, grey sky. The falling, silent flakes, and the arms of the trees stretched high above me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see my mother watching me, and there was such sadness in her eyes, though her mouth bore a slight smile.

It is a hard moment to explain—the total serenity of the moment, the bliss of the cold of my cheeks, and the sorrow of a broken body deeply aching in the snow.

The experience as nothing a camera could capture.

But I recall it all.

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Committed to Memory

I think that I will never forget that moment. On days that share that same dreary bright pale sky and falling snow I recall it. The serenity also returns when I experience events of similar emotion, like viewing the eclipse on a cold, silent night while the stars pierced the sky to see me.

As I stared up at the moon the memory came to me of that day when I lay in the snow.

I considered the other uncaptured wonders I had seen in the night—the prime glow of the milky way over a campground, or the green and red sparkling meteor that streaked for one brilliant second across the sky. It was strange how those moments came back as I stared into the vastness of the atmosphere.

It was, perhaps, my canvas of memory, where I could look and recall those brightest moments of my past that had left an impression on me.

There are countless other canvases of memory: the ceiling of my family room, the kitchen cabinets, the pond down the street, all textures, places, objects, and details that stir in me a deep nostalgia of memory that time cannot steal away.

Am I suggesting that it is wrong to photograph our lives? No. As with any tool it stands to do good or ill depending on the person who uses it.

What I am saying is that sometimes photography doesn’t need to document our lives. Sometimes, it should be put away to let our minds create a greater picture than a photo—an experience we will never forget.

It’s a new habit I’m trying to make.

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