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To snap pics, or not to snap pics...
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Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/22/2012 10:33:07 MDT Print View

So I have wondered this for a while...should I try to capture the moments or just focus on staying in the moment myself? Man kind did fine before portable cameras seeing things, telling stories about what they saw and not having pictures. Sometimes I feel like having the camera at the ready distracts from the experience when the experience comes. The scenic photos never look as scenic in a picture, the wall never looks as steep nor the view as big as it really was.

Another issue is volume. Our 10 day family vacation last year my wife took hundreds of pictures...basically none have been shared because neither of us has had time or effort to wade through all these pictures, delete the bad ones, re-orient, re-size, pick out the good ones. It would have been better had we just taken 10 pictures and called it quits, the memories would have been a lot easier to share.

Sometimes with camera at hand I feel like I am 'missing' the moment and better record it or else...or else what? Maybe better to just let it be in my memory than distracting myself to snap snap snap.

It only takes one decent picture of a trip to pull up all the memories.

Thoughts? How do you do it?

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/22/2012 10:51:10 MDT Print View

Use the camera to capture things that are beautiful through the camera. Finding beautiful things with your eyes and then pointing a camera at them rarely produces images that captures the moment.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Pictures on 03/22/2012 11:02:15 MDT Print View

I really like having the pictures. I wish I could say that my memory would hold the images for all of time, but it just doesn't.

I'm glad I took a lot of pictures of my kids when they were small. When I look at these pictures, I can't believe how much the kids have changed. And I remember events, favorite toys, early words, outfits, etc that may otherwise have been lost to memory. As the kids grow up, I am sure that these pictures will be one of my biggest treasures.

Same is true for trip pictures and reports. Seeing the images and reading what I wrote at the time vividly evokes feelings and impressions I had during the trip, the little details that are so easy to lose. When I find myself wishing I could get out, I'll usually go back and look at old pictures and this gets me through till my next trip. I also get a kick out of seeing my kids flipping through these pictures and planning their own adventures with dad. It's nice to know that after I am gone, they'll still have a record of who I was as an individual, should they be interested.

I don't find the process of photography to be a distraction, though of course I'm just a point and shoot guy. If anything, the act of composing a shot or finding beauty in small details makes me more mindful of my surroundings.

I leave behind a lot of stuff when I pack for trips, but my camera is one item that is never on the chopping block.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/22/2012 11:26:05 MDT Print View

For decades I rarely took a camera. It was a distraction, and it sucked up time.

After my kids left home I started to take a camera occasionally, mostly to write a stories for them, and sometimes I post them here. Sometimes I wish I had taken a camera on trips long past, and mostly am glad I didn't.

Photography is an skill, and one needs to try and determine what story they want to tell with a picture. I often focus on shapes, colors, and textures... a micro or macro view time, space, and place. When hiking I often don't have the time or inclination to study the scene and frame it in my mind. It is a skill I don't have or am really willing to develop.

However, I was pretty happy with these pictures taken with a P&S camera. I wanted to describe "desert pavement." Deserts are associated with sand, I wanted to associate it with rocks.

26 Desert Pavement

24 Desert Pavement

25 Desert Pavement

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Balance? on 03/22/2012 11:41:48 MDT Print View

Where is the balance though between having the camera constantly at the ready, looking for the next photo op and staying in the moment yourself? It's most prevelant with a camcorder, I see Dad's at scenic places that are seeing hardly anything except what is in the viewfinder. I think the same sort of thing can happen with the camera.

For example...

Scenario 1: You are walking down a trail and as you round the corner you see a black bear a good ways up the trail. You reach for the camera in your pocket (wait it's not in that pocket it's in the other pocket, you dig it out, look down, turn it on, woops wrong setting, change setting, okay now its on, get it up, focus it, snap pic, woops blurry, get another one, wait it saw me, there it goes.

You get home, couple years later you tell your son you saw a bear once and you have a picture of it. You get out the photo album and show them the small black blob in a fuzzy green forest picture. The remark is 'huh, cool'.


Scenario 2: You are walking down a trail and as you round the corner you see a black bear a good ways up the trail. You didn't bring a camera so you stop and watch the bear grazing on some blackberry bushes. You notice the details, oh wait look at has a cub with it! Just behind it are two cubs! Wow this must be a mother bear, so cool...wait it saw me, there they go.

You get home, couple years later you tell your son you have saw a bear once, you were walking and rounded a corner, there it was. You stopped and were watching it for several minutes. It was munching on blackberry bushes, it looked huge! It was really black and had long hair. I remember thinking 'man it must get hot out here with all that fur!', then I noticed it had TWO CUBS with it! Baby bears! It was so cool. At first I was kinda nervous but as I watched it eating blackberries I remember thinking how cool it was to be standing there watching a bear in the wild. She noticed me and ran off. The remark from your son is 'wow cool, I wanna see a bear'.

(I know this is a highly fictional scenario but I think it delivers a point and is plausible).

Edited by TylerD on 03/22/2012 11:49:37 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
whatever floats yr boat ... on 03/22/2012 11:48:13 MDT Print View

doesnt matter one bit either way ...

only you can decide ...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Balance? on 03/22/2012 11:48:15 MDT Print View

You got it.

Choices, choices, choices.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: To snap pics, or not to snap pics.. on 03/22/2012 11:50:38 MDT Print View

I always take lots of pictures, but don't spend much time thinking about it or doing it.

My camera is attached to my hip belt and I can get it out quickly, take a shot, then put it away. Thus I should call what I take "snapshots" rather than "pictures" so as not to insult serious photographers.

Nevertheless some fraction turn out great, totally randomly and by chance. These sometimes get printed, or become a screen saver or whatever.

I don't bother to organize them other than by trip, and I don't touch them up. On occasion I present a slide show at a public forum, so I have to pick and choose what to show. So they just sit on my computer (backed up three different ways) and on the web (private access) as a reminder of past trips, and I randomly go through a trip or two's worth when in the mood. I find this greatly enjoyable.

Good point above about spending so much time playing with cameras that you miss what you are there for. This is one reason why I take "snapsnots" and not "photographs."

I have never regretted taking too many shots on a trip, but I have regretted taking too few.

Edited by ewolin on 03/22/2012 11:55:00 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/22/2012 12:00:26 MDT Print View

I started taking a few during hikes as to document and attempt to capture the moment, though my brother the photographer always tells me editing is needed to get the true feel of a landscape. I counter that our perception may be altered by the time we get back to a computer for any edits but I can see his point. If making an early camp, photography could be a neat diversion (as can fishing or exploratory dayhikes or climbs I guess). For photos containing normal hikers, probably doesn't matter.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/22/2012 12:27:08 MDT Print View

Thankfully, digital is cheap to shoot and cheap to store on a hard drive.

Take as many photos as you find comfortable with that does not distract from your outdoor experience.

The more that you shoot, the more you may find that snapping a picture does not distract from your experience. It simply becomes a natural habit and you will hardly notice any distraction at all.

I agree with Elliot's comments above. Having a simple pocket camera easily accessable makes it easy to get quick snapshot with little fuss or distraction. In my case, I have my camera in my left cargo pant pocket. I can easy reach in with one hand to grab it and snap a shot and then drop it back in my cargo pocket without having to stop hiking/walking.

My thought is that you may not appreciate them now, but years or decades later, you will appreciate having them to remind you of where you have been and to be able to share those photos/memories with your loved ones.

In my case, my memory sucks, so I rely on taking tons of photos to remind me of where I have been and when. :)


Edited by Valshar on 03/22/2012 12:31:34 MDT.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: RE: RE: "To snap pics, or not to snap pics..." on 03/22/2012 12:40:51 MDT Print View

I don't take a lot of pics if any at all. I've admired a lot of the pics members of this sight post so I've been trying to take more, but I'm one who finds that the constant stopping distracts me from my hike. I get into a rhythm that I find hard to break. I see it as a flaw. It's important to document one's experiences

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: RE: RE: RE: "To snap pics, or not to snap pics..." on 03/22/2012 16:20:21 MDT Print View

If I take a camera, I normally keep it in my pants pocket.

Last November I decided to see if I could a XUL (FSO under 5 lbs) trip in cold rainy weather. My shorts were under 3 oz and did not have pockets. I normally carry my P&S camera in my shorts or pants pocket, when I bring one.

Instead of a camera, map or watch I brought my only my iPhone (as an experiment), since the iPhone weighs the same as my camera. Worried about damaging the phone I made a case out of bubble wrap and kept it in the side pocket of my pack, as my neither my shirt or shorts had pockets (to save weight).

I was hiking on a trail through some tall willows and came to an open space against the wall of a mountain. A few feet in front of me, just a little higher than eye level was a Big Horn Ram, bedded on a rock outcropping. I could see hair in his nostrils... the picture of a lifetime. He didn't move but was staring at me. As I slowly reached back to fumble for my phone, he bolted and was gone in seconds.

I missed the picture, and I missed closer observation by just standing mobile. It was the only time I have ever regretted not bringing a camera and not having one with very quick and easy access.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: "To snap pics, or not to snap pics..." on 03/22/2012 19:28:30 MDT Print View

I should be clear. I didn't read all of the postings and I didn't mean to offend anyone. If so I apologize. I was only referring to it being a flaw with me because so many important events in my life have not been recorded photographically. That sounds like an awesome experience Nick.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/22/2012 20:19:11 MDT Print View


IMO, not only is this 100% subjective, it can differ wildly within the same individual -- just depending on the mood du jour.

My first 13 years or so of traveling, I didn't bother with a camera, and didn't feel its absence 99% of the time. Then, starting in 2009, I brought one with me, snapped about a thousand photos (it was a 7-month trip) -- and really enjoyed it. I brought my camera again in 2010 -- and again last year. But for some reason, I just wasn't in the mood last year -- even though I had the camera with me. The entire 3-month trip (or close to it), I snapped maybe 10 photos and deleted 9. Go figure...

But one thing for me -- having traveled with and without a camera -- I do find myself "seeing" much more when I am not watching for the next Kodak moment. I think there's something about taking the moments for granted, moving on too quickly instead of lingering and savoring, etc. -- when we know we've "captured" them with our cameras... YMMV, of course.

Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Heisenberg uncertainty principle on 03/22/2012 21:09:06 MDT Print View

2(ty) -- digital makes it too easy to take pictures. It is like going to a buffet. Self control is required. I agree with you -- 10 good shots would be great (as long as I don't have to take them).

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/22/2012 21:21:30 MDT Print View

What a fascinating, interesting discussion--thanks for starting it, Ty Ty.

Sometimes, what I've done is just hold the camera by my side and take pictures without looking through the viewfinder, so that what the camera sees and what I see are two different things. Looking at the photos later becomes a new experience of a place I also have in memory. Here's an example of a photo taken that way:

Tokyo market

I've never tried this technique hiking--I suspect it wouldn't work nearly as well as with urban settings.

Edited by DavidDrake on 03/22/2012 21:23:27 MDT.

Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: The Palouse
re: to snap pics or not to snap pics on 03/22/2012 21:41:34 MDT Print View

So this is admittedly kind of a cop out post... but I wrote a piece about this the other day.

Without a Camera

Many of the same thoughts being discussed here.

Also check out the essay "Learning to See" by Barry Lopez, his evolution from working as a landscape photographer and writer to working solely as a writer.

Edited by ctwnwood on 03/22/2012 21:51:15 MDT.

Jacob D
(JacobD) - F

Locale: North Bay
re: to snap pics or not to snap pics on 03/22/2012 22:27:34 MDT Print View

Tyler (H), I just read your post; good post.

In a sense I also attempted to tackle this issue in a couple of posts that I didn't write but asked others to. One of them was Tony Wong, the other was a landscape photographer, the difference being that one sets out to go backpacking, the other sets out to produce fine art landscape images. The two are not mutually exclusive, but usually that's true only by happenstance, in my opinion.

If you're constantly searching for the next photo op, as you put it, I would suggest considering planning some photo-oriented trips. In other words, be the landscape photographer for a day, week, etc... On the other hand, if you're just snagging some shots of your trip, don't sweat it and just pull the camera out when it feels natural. Cameron really said it best in his reply.

I arrived at the same conclusion at some point. The types of things that inspire me to make a photo are mostly not postcard-like landscapes, but more subtle things like the way the light was, textures, color palettes, the mood of a place or person. Aside from the people photos, there are not so many fleeting moments (however we want to call them) that I photograph. But in some cases, say a sunset/rise, I will take a photo or two then put the camera away. Unless I set out specifically to photograph that moment, then I don't dwell on it. Everyone has to find their own balance I suppose, personally I would really miss being without a camera.

Edited by JacobD on 03/22/2012 22:28:50 MDT.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Re: Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/23/2012 08:59:55 MDT Print View

"But one thing for me -- having traveled with and without a camera -- I do find myself "seeing" much more when I am not watching for the next Kodak moment. I think there's something about taking the moments for granted, moving on too quickly instead of lingering and savoring, etc. -- when we know we've "captured" them with our cameras... YMMV, of course."

Ben - that is what I was thinking about, 'seeing' versus capturing. I think there is a sense of 'oh I snapped that picture, got it, move on' versus not having a camera and just stopping to absorb it.

I think this might relate in a way to something I was reading about recently that people are remembering a lot less fact type information because if the brain is faced with the choice to memorize a fact or memorize where to go get the fact, it will choose the latter because it is easy. So with the internet/google/wikipedia our brains have gotten lazier on remembering things because we just figure it is easier to google it.

Possibly something similar is happening with the photos.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Re: re: to snap pics or not to snap pics on 03/23/2012 09:02:56 MDT Print View

Tyler - I am going to go read the blog and the Lopez article. I suspect the Lopez article might relate back to what I mentioned about story telling. Before portable cameras I bet people were better story tellers.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Re: Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 03/23/2012 09:14:30 MDT Print View

David - good idea on holding the camera by your side.

Notice in your photo...the two people with cameras. One is looking through the view finder, the other is looking down and walking. Then look at the guy on the right hand side of the picture who is looking up and seems to be more observing. This is a decent representation of what I we are talking about.


Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Do both on 03/26/2012 15:28:37 MDT Print View

I am definately aware of the juxtapostion of experiencing a moment or a landscape bs capturing the moment on a camera. I try to do both. But I have to do it conciously. When i first get to a viewpoint or somewhere extraoridinary I take in the sight. Then I get my camera out and take a few pictures and think about how best to tell the story in a picture or just snap away. Then I put the camera away and experience the area again.

It is done as a series of acts because I am not sure that you can experience a place and take a photograph at the same time. You need to make time for both. So on trips where you see lots of wildlife I do rush to get the camera out and take some pictures but sometimes I will just look and remember.

I think the key is to know that you are making a choice and ensure you make time for both.

stephen jennings
(obi96) - F

Locale: Deep in the Green Mountains
When to take a picture on 04/01/2012 22:43:29 MDT Print View

"Too in the moment to take a picture" wow, I must be doing it wrong or something. I've carried a Canon powershot SD 1000 for years from Afghanistan to the JMT and pull it out whenever I'm "In the moment." It has never prevented me from having the "OMG I can't believe I'm here seeing this" euphoric feeling. In fact, I usually put it out because I'm having a OMG/euphoric feeling.
Everyone is different as these posts attest. but we only get one shot at this life and I like to share the moments that mean a lot to me with those I wish could be standing next to me, but can't . Pictures go a long way to making that possible.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: When to take a picture on 04/01/2012 23:39:09 MDT Print View

I have a nice-ish DSLR that I am slowly learning to use. Some trips I take it, some the point & shoot, and some nothing at all. Yesterday was a perfect example of nothing at all. I spent the day snowshoeing and watching the avalanches go up high. I didn't need a camera to enjoy it.

Usually, I pick one purpose for a trip. If it's photography, then I let that dominate the hike. If no camera or just the point & shoot (which just serves to capture the more memorable moments/landscapes) I try to be present and only bring out the camera if necessary.

Really for me it's a matter of focus. I want to be a better photographer but also a better hiker. The two collide, but I try not to collapse them into one another.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 04/04/2012 08:47:50 MDT Print View

I keep my P-S camera in a case hanging on my chest strap so that it is right there. no fumbling for it. it is 3 seconds away. see something.. take a pic.. then enjoy the moment or whatever.

I try to be selective.. there are only so many pics of tiny waterfalls, flowers, whatever that look cool out there but get boring quick when there are a dozen of them.

John Jensen
(JohnJ) - F

Locale: Orange County, CA
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 04/04/2012 09:18:46 MDT Print View

I went through phases as photography became more digital. When jpegs were young I'd spend hours organizing an archive and backing up to CDs. At some point I noticed I wasn't an early adopter anymore, I was just part of a flood. Photos became very much less precious from say 1994 (Apple Quicktake) to 2001 (Nikon 995).

There are lots of interesting tidbits in this article, including "Every 2 minutes today we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s."

I totally agree that good photography is art, but I think I'm like a lot of people in that I try to cast a few good images into twitter or instagram ... archiving just a few to remind me what I was doing and when.

(I'm in a meetup hiking club that must itself take more pictures than humanity in the 1800's!)

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 04/04/2012 12:02:46 MDT Print View

I started enjoying my trips much more and taking better pictures when I stopped trying to take great pictures and instead started taking snapshots that tell the story.

I'm not a photographer, I'm not ever going to take national geographic quality photos. But I like to tell a good story and days, weeks, years later, it's the stories that make me happy. The pictures are there to illustrate the story. In fact, I've started taking particularly illustrative pictures, such as pictures of emptying out my pack to show my gear, pictures of my tent set up, pictures specifically of something I want to write about later.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 04/04/2012 12:24:52 MDT Print View

"such as pictures of emptying out my pack to show my gear"

It can be fun to document this with a stop-action sequence of photos all shot off a tripod. Then you edit it to make it into a jumpy video strip that lasts 15 seconds. Show that to a group of beginner backpackers.


(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
Snap!!! on 04/04/2012 13:23:15 MDT Print View

Take as many pictures as you can. I averaged 700 pictures per 10 day trip the two times I went to Alaska. I spent about 4 hours deleting the bad ones/organizing, and choosing the ones to frame for my home, the work is worth it.

Michael Levine
(Trout) - F

Locale: Long Beach
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 04/30/2012 10:20:51 MDT Print View

I had the same thoughts last year. I was doing the John Muir Trail and decided on pictures being not all they cracked up to be, and instead choosing it live in the moment. I was fine with it for most of the hike. But man, when I camped at Evolution Lake and saw the sunset, and then the sunrise lighting up the peaks through the reflection of the lake... I busted out the wholly inadequate iPod nano to try to take some video. Some things you WANT to share with others. I now reflect on other peoples JMT pictures and think back, but I don't have mine.

I've just purchased a nice camera (Canon s100) for my upcoming trips. I'd like to think I've learned a few things. a) take less pictures. Take the time to come up with a good shot, composition and all, that you'll want to have, blow up, frame, show people, and look at. Taking fewer pictures on purpose means I don't just snap 20 an hour and keep walking. It means I take two an hour and think about the shots. If I can't see a smaller square of my field of vision that would reflect what I'm seeing with my eyes, I spend maybe some extra time looking instead.

Some things like movement, you being in them, friends, and certain critters, just don't show up in other people's pictures.

My new big thing, taking less pictures than I used to.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 04/30/2012 11:02:19 MDT Print View

From my trip this week... have a blinking battery warning :) Then you will take pics of just the stuff you really want. i ended up doing 3 days 40mi and only taking 20 pictures

Richard Sheward
(Shewie) - F
I take too many !!! on 04/30/2012 11:26:57 MDT Print View

I take too many, it's a fact

Probably distracting and annoying to my trail mates every time I stop, but I do enjoy sharing them and looking back at old trips.

My brain is useless at storing images, I must have a bad sector in there, pictures albeit snaps, are the only way I get to relive my adventures.

Remembering just a few basics like general composition, direction of light and the rule of thirds can give you some great memories for when your legs don't carry you like they used to.

Daine Scott
(daine.scott) - F
Re: To snap pics, or not to snap pics... on 05/02/2012 06:20:16 MDT Print View

I’m not in favor of clicking out each and every moment, it just adds to piling up of snaps and after a span of time one hardly gets time to see it all over again.

Chris Scala
(Scalawag) - F
Photos on 05/24/2012 09:47:08 MDT Print View

I'm a photographer, so I'm always struggling with the balance of serenity vs. the "calling" to capture what I see.

In photography, less tends to be more. The problem with digital photography is that photos "cost nothing", so people just blast their shutter all over everything "just in case". The mindfulness of appreciating the scene is lost with this kind of thing, and there is often ZERO planning with regard to the photo itself.

Think back to the days of film... you'd WAIT for a shot. You'd think of 30~ things you wanted to capture, and went for them. Try doing that with digital. Pretend you CAN'T take 3,000 shots.

Chances are, you will end up with far less, but they will be far better. And when you show your friends you won't be like, "This was a log, this was a stone I sat on, this was the view from the lake, this is the lake again, this is the lake from the other side, this is the log from the lake..."

Because honestly, no one cares. If you're struck with beauty about a particular scene, find a way to capture it in one or two images at most. If you can't, it probably will not translate well to a photo.


Beyond that, I just think part of the skill of being a photographer is knowing what will work and what won't, and not expending the effort for what won't. Some things are better as memories. Certain lighting will just crush an otherwise beautiful scene, just due to the nature of how a camera works.

There's also the frame of reference... meaning, when I take a shot, I'm always keeping in mind an artist it may "feel" like, or whether something similar has already been done in a better way.

For example, if I want to take a portrait of a woman on a mountain gazing awe-struck into the distance, my experience with photography tells me to TAKE OFF THE GO-LITE VISOR, or the neon green headband, or other silly "gear" items that just takes away from the photo. This kind of instinct comes only with experience and awareness, but it's something that separates run-of-the-mill family photos, from the National Geographic stuff people drool over.

Edited by Scalawag on 05/24/2012 09:48:53 MDT.