Excellent topic! +1
I guess there is a fine line between being a photographer and being a tourist and everyone would need to draw it themselves. I know I don't want to be a 'tourist in my own life' so I will leave the camera toys at home when it fells right.
I had been stationed in Hawaii while in the Navy and had done just about every conceivable "touristy" thing that could be done and all with a Canon AE-1 and a 50/1.8. One day I was on duty as back up OOD and so I had time on my hands but had to be available so no trips onto the big island. I had played a few rounds of golf on Fords Island a few days prior and thought that I might go chasing after the wayward balls that I had shagged along the way (never said I was good or Austin Powers). After awhile I came upon this massive, hulking, rusting, twisted pile of what I thought was scrap so I proceeded to climb all over it only to come to the startling realization that I was standing on what had at one time been everything above the water line of the USS Arizona. I never had the opportunity to go back with a camer as I was scheduled to be deployed with my squadron that very week.
I will never forget right after my son was born (literally just a couple minutes). Normally I've got a camera in my hand when there's some sort of family event happening but not this time. My daughter, who was then 3 years old, was at the hospital waiting for her little brother to be born and her grandparents were keeping an eye on her. When they came in, she was all smiles and said "I'm a big sister now." I'm so glad I did not have the camera going then because the memory of it has stuck with me so well and I would've missed it if the camera had been going. I can hear her voice just as clear as day these 12 years later.
Fast forward 12 years from then, and they fight quite a bit, but don't let anybody from outside the family mess with either one of them! They are the first ones to come to the each other's aid when someone outside picks on the other one.
I photograph primarily around the house and within a few blocks of where I live. In doing this I have come to see the places nearby in a very different light than before I started photographing them. Sometimes stopping to photograph something, especially in large format, forces me to see it more thoroughly and in more detail than if I had just casually looked at it.
Photos made while traveling or on vacation can be altogether different because you are often seeing a place for the first time and the presence of a camera can interfere with how you perceive it or distract from the overall moment.
My best/favorite photographs add a new dimension to the experience. But, I can't think of any that were intended, at the time, to document what was happening. They were made because of the light or image. The mood in the resulting image, may be rather different than what I was feeling at the time.
When I'm looking to enjoy a sunset, for example, I'm just as happy, or even more happy to not have a camera, or attempt to record it.
I have plenty of shots done at places, Disney, scenic locations, etc. made during various family outings, etc. My impression is that, for me, they don't add much to the memory of the place or events. Few if any, are photos I'd designate as "favorites".
Maybe it is because, as a young photographer, was either engaged in journalism, or being paid to document an event or situation, so documenting, and reacting inwardly to the light or conditions are very separate endevors for me.
Interesting topic, thanks for starting it.
I learned this lesson long ago when I used to go scuba diving. I thought how great it would be to capture the images and relive the moments. We went out on a commercial dive boat one Sunday morning for our usual 2 dives before lunch. There was a tourist couple (among several others) on board. The two of them spent most of the transit to the dive site (about 45 minutes) getting their camera gear ready... housing seals lubed, film loaded, flashes connected and tested, etc... while we ate fruit, drank juice, and joked about the previous evening's events at a mutual friend's birthday party. What a way to ruin a nice cruise. While I would love to have photos of all my dives in the Florida Keys, I am happy I chose not to deal with any of the excess gear.
When I started looking for birds and wildlife in the Everglades, Loxahatchee and Big Cypress Park, many times I just left the camera in my pack and enjoyed the hiking/canoeing.
I may not have photos to show for everything I've done, but you can take a picture of the smile on my dead face when my time comes to pass.
When I vacation I take only a P+S. Anything else would just make me feel like I'm at work.
This is a great topic.
When I first got into photography I was obsessed with 'capturing the moment', chasing after sunsets, trekking through the woods weighed down with gear, etc. I took some really nice shots, but it could be really stressful trying to get to some of the places I used to got to shoot. I may have captured the shot but I was missing the peacefulness of the moment.
Around the mid-90s I lost my enthusiasm for photography so I started to just enjoy where I was and not think or worry about how to forever capture it for prosperity. The photo bug bit me again a few years ago and now when I am shooting I approach it like some people approach fishing-I may not get a bite, but I'm going to enjoy where I am, listen to the sounds of what is around me and know there's always another day to get the the big one.
Seeing means satisfaction.....the beauty of light. Not having a camera with you....only a slight regret.
I photograph the experience, not the memories. I am not out there to record, but to gather all the elements of my experience in a place and distill it into a photograph through the magic of light.
I photograph to slowly teach myself to see better. So it does not bother me too much to see and not to photograph.
Using an 8x10, I wander in the landscape. Only when all the elements come together do I set the camera up. The camera does have an influence on me, but I am not looking through it to find images.