I’ve Set Down My Cameras...Again


I’m slow at getting it. During my previous visit to Thailand, I realized that photography was intruding on my travel experiences. When I blogged of my realization, several friends emailed to say that they had noticed the same thing. Yet before long, I’d doubled down on taking pictures and buying more photo gear.

On this visit to Thailand, I left my camera in the hotel safe, visited a fantastic store named Lamune and bought a journal (a passport sized Midori Traveler’s journal and accouterments) which fits in my pocket, and spent my time sitting in cafés or on public benches journaling about my experiences. What I learned is that writing about my experiences after having them (though not too long afterward) is a different and more fulfilling process than mediating the world through the camera. I prefer the experience of writing. The camera, which is a powerful tool, isn’t able to capture the lessons that I want, nor is it able to go deep enough and explain my experiences fully.

Likely the most significant moment I’ve had in Bangkok has been my visit Wat Pho late one afternoon while it was nearly empty, and quietly walking amongst the pagodas, examining the ceramic work, watching the sunset, and seeing the artificial light of the Wat’s lamps blend with reddening light of nature. I could never capture that feeling in one of my photographs.

That’s my shortcoming. I know many photographers whose photographs capture their intentions perfectly. That’s why they’re photographers, and why their images are profoundly moving. We all have to choose the art which expresses our hearts most completely.

So I’ve set my cameras aside and returned to deep journaling, writing longhand. I’ve bought all of the journal inserts that Lamune had for my journal, as well as all of their ink for my pen, and judging by the amount of journaling I’ve already done, and I’ll need more supplies soon.

That’s not to say that I’ve stopped taking photographs completely. I’m still using my iPhone for the occasional snapshot, such as the image above taken at the Grand Palace, but my phone now rarely leaves my pocket for pictures. Experiencing the moment is more important.