Staying in the Moment by taking a Photo

Recently, I found myself on a hike around the Bow Lake in Banff, Canada. The Bow Glacier Falls trail offered breathtaking views of the mountain-surrounded Bow Lake and the magnificent Bow Glacier. Sitting on a boulder, I enjoyed the spectacular panorama of the Bow Glacier Falls, while listening to the glacier outflow rambling past me into the Bow Lake. The moment was remarkable, with warm sunshine dancing on my face through the diamond sparkles of waterfall mist. I sat alone in silence, waiting on the rest of my family to make their way through uneven rocky surfaces, feeling more serene than I had all year. My camera was already out, but I decided to wait on taking a picture and continued to sit still, savoring the experience.

As if on cue, my husband came up behind me. On hearing him approach, I turned with an urge to seize that moment with his Samsung camera-phone. I knew that no photo could come close to capturing what I saw and felt, but I wanted to quickly document the experience, so that I could transport myself back to that blissful moment every time I looked at the photo. My husband understood that I wanted to capture an important memory and obliged me by taking the above photo. At other times, he is not so obliging because he believes that taking pictures often interferes with the experience.

This is not surprising because photo-taking has become a universal daily activity for millions of people. According to DMR, 400 Million people use Instagram actively on a daily basis, which constitutes only 20% of the internet users. Because, in addition to special trips and events, people are taking photos of almost any type of daily activity, psychologists started looking into how taking pictures impacts the way people recall their experiences.

The general thought is that photo-taking interferes with the experience when the experience itself is already highly engaging. I do not agree.

When I take photos of things I’m interested in, I focus more intently on my subject. This kind of fixed attention primes me to engage deeper with my surroundings and ultimately helps me in creating a sustaining memory. When I go back to look at my photos, like many others who love taking pictures, I feel happy to have captured a moment of interest. Frequently, I even regret not taking a photo of something I wanted to remember.

I am also guilty of taking pictures specially for social media. This exercise usually makes me more concerned about how others will respond to my posts, instead of enhancing the experience. My favorite photos, however, are the ones which I keep as private memories and do not share with the world. For this reason, I will only share below the photos my husband took of the Bow Glacier Falls Trail. They happen to picture the hike better than the ones I took for my own use.

How about you? What kind of pictures do you take and why?

Photo credit: G. Nemeth

Bow Glacier Falls outflow into Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Beginning of the Bow Glacier Falls trail from Bow Lake towards the Bow Glacier Falls

The steps on the trail to Bow Glacier Falls in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

View of the landscape surrounding the Bow Glacier Falls, from the trail steps

The view of Bow Glacier Falls after a hike/scramble to the mountain slopes

Looking back from Bow Glacier Falls to Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

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