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To Camera or Not

I am reading a walking book which advocates that people forgo carrying a camera and take pictures with their mind, the freer to walk and enjoy the sights.

When I was first in Europe (1970's) I had great "little" Nikkormat. I shot slides everywhere and still get them out on winter nights to relive those times and places.

When we returned to Germany, we celebrated the arrival with the birth of our daughter. It was either carry the camera gear or the baby. I have far fewer scenery pictures. It was the right choice at the time.

Now of course, we have a perfect answer in very light digital cameras that would not prevent one from easily carrying both. Still, sometimes I wonder what I am missing when I carry the camera. I still love looking at the pictures but wonder if I cut corners when it comes to really getting into a place at the time.

Any thoughts?

Regards, A Luddite

Posted by
9106 posts

I rarely take a camera with me in my travels; mostly because I hate lugging things around. I typically go sightseeing with nothing more than a map in my back pocket. I find it very liberating and I believe I "absorb" more of what I'm seeing and learning. A couple of years ago before my first trip to China my coworkers nagged me into bringing a camera with me. While the pictures turned out great, it really took away from the overall experience of "being there". I was so consumed with taking pictures I felt a real "detachment" to my surroundings, and vowed to never do it again. The only exception is when I go hiking in Switzerland. I know this is going to be a minority opinion, and whenever my friends and coworker ask me why I don't have any pictures I simply tell them: "if I forget what the place looks like I'll go back":) I challenge all shutter bugs out there to take just one trip without a camera.

Posted by
521 posts

Hi Gary,

I personally love having photos to look at. I find that I remember different things that I have photos of, so the two of them combined allow me to fully remember the great trips I have had.

That being said, I think there is a difference between taking some photos, and trying to document everything. I think that there is a whole range here - going from no photos at all, to too many photos. The trick is finding the balance that is right for you.

Posted by
9363 posts

I find that over time I forget exactly what something looked like, or I remember it differently than it was. I love having pictures to remember my past trips, and I would hate not having them. I don't just take scenery pictures, though. I'm always surprised at just how little the kids were at some vacation spot or other, or how old the cars look. I'd never give up my camera.

Posted by
12040 posts

We know from research how fallible human memory can be. So, I'll continue to travel with my camera, no matter how much of a tourist I look like.

Posted by
4132 posts

I think it is definitely a trade-off. On my first trip, my honeymoon, I didn't even bring a camera. Bought some nice postcards. Since then we bring a camera but use it sparingly.

I've taken some great photos that way, and I treasure them. But I try hard to not let the camera get in the way, and still buy lots of postcards.

Posted by
875 posts

I solved that problem by having my husband take all the pictures! It leaves me free to enjoy all the scenery :)

Actually I also take a tiny digital camera to get shots of something I think he won't take a picture of.

Posted by
215 posts

Along with my pictures (that I treasure) I also take along a travel journal to write in. I have done this now for over 10 years. I love to read about the places we have been to, the things that stood out to us, and our private jokes on things that made us laugh. (also things the kids have said that are priceless)... it is strange how much we can forget when at the time you think to yourself "I'll never forget this!!"

For me.. I could never travel without a camera or journal.

Posted by
32241 posts


I tend to agree with Steven that it's best to find a balance between taking photos to remember the trip vs. documenting every last detail. IMO taking a Camera would be a good idea because of two things you mentioned in your post:

  • you enjoyed reliving past trips by looking at slides taken with your Nikkormat (much easier these days to view photos on a PC).

  • you have fewer scenery photos of a trip you took to Germany (and I'm assuming you don't remember the trip as well due to the lack of photos).

As the others have pointed out, memory is not infallible and as time passes the details of trips and the great scenery will begin to fade out. I find that viewing photos is a good way to rekindle some of the fine details of a trip. With current technology, it's also a good way to share at least parts of a trip with family and friends.

As Viv mentioned, keeping a journal is also a good way to remember details, and that's a method I also use. In conjunction with photos, I find that's a great way to relive trips and will still be good even when I'm too old to travel.

Although capturing photos of the places I visit is a significant part of my travels, I try not to become obsessed with it. That way I can still enjoy the ambience and the people. These days I travel with a dSLR and associated kit, but I also have a small P&S that I take out in the evenings.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
188 posts

My photos (travel and other) are important to me. That being said, I don't take photos of everything--one scenic seaside village (or medieval castle) starts looking similar to the other 99! ;) I also try not to look at everything through the viewfinder--I saw some tourists snapping pictures of things without even stopping as they walked along! Something I would like to try is to take photos when the lighting is the best and then put the camera away for the rest of the day. I guess this only works if one stays in a spot for at least a day!!

Posted by
796 posts

I love taking photos when I travel. I do look back at my vacation photos often and the photos do bring back the memory of the exact day. I haven't been really good about putting notes on the pictures, but when I have put the location and maybe date, it does help me to recall the feeling of the place and other events that happened that day, the temperature, the picnic I had while enjoying the Eiffel Tower view, memories like that. I do find that taking photos does make me look at architecture, scenery, with a different eye, picking alternate angles for creativity and a different "view" of the sight. Even when on a tour, sometimes I will step away from the group and the guide momentarily to take photos of a certain feature of the sight.

Posted by
850 posts

I very much enjoy photography and always have my camera with me. I have photos on my computer and have my screen saver set to automatically view a slide show of my photos. It helps to keep the trip fresh in my mind.
I know there are those who say you should not spend your vacation looking through a lens but photography is a big part of my trip. Many times I snap away but other times I try to find the best composition for a scene so I acutally spend more time studying the scenery to try to see the view from a different angle. Like Viv, we keep a travel journal and that along with the photos bring back pleasant memories of the trip. Sometimes I go back and read an entry in our journal and find that I had forgotten a particular incident. Of course that is easy to do for someone who cannot remember where he parked his car at times.
Having photos of the trip for our children and grandchildren to view will hopefully inspire them to travel one day to those places that my wife and I have been. Pictures are great.

Posted by
85 posts

I love to scrapbook, so I carry my tiny little digital camera in my inner, secret jacket pocket and each night I record the day's events in my journal. Then when I return home, I can put my travel scrapbook together with the best pictures and document my memories. I hope that in the future I'll have these to look back fondly at my travels and I'll have something to leave my great, great, great grandchildren who will have never known me but can see glimpses of my life.

Posted by
263 posts

Like many posters, I agree you have to find a balance. My problem is the pictures! Being slightly disorganized, I tend to squirrel pictures away in shoeboxes. When I got a digital camera I squirrelled them on the computer. But the last three trips have been different. Many companies allow you to publish a "book" of your digital pictures. That has really helped me. I do pull out the books and look at previous years' trips. I also read my journal. And sometimes, when the mood hits, I open a bottle of red, take out an album and I'm back in Italy, or France, or Switzerland. Sometimes the camera can help you meet local people, a lot of people are willing to take your picture it you ask. My feeling, take the pictures. Just keep the balance and enjoy the trip.

Posted by
162 posts

While I sometimes feel I missed a few great moments on a trip because I had my face behind the camera, I would never want to leave my camera at home. I have filled our home and my husband's work office with framed vacation photos. It reminds me everytime I walk by of my passion. Travel is my joy, whether I am on a trip planning for a new trip, or reliving a past trip. Photos are the recording of some of my favorite life moments.

Posted by
37 posts

I also scrapbook and almost get to relive the trip with my albums. I collect metro tickets, receipts, pamphlets, etc along the way.

I do take pictures and buy postcards when I know they're better than the pictures I'll be able to take. My pet peeve is to see people clicking away in museums, both in Europe and at home, instead of taking pictures with their eyes!

Posted by
182 posts

Hi Gary

All I can say is Camera, Camera, Camera!

All the posts have good perspectives and yes, it does involve some sacrifices and there's alot involved to do it right. As we've traveled more over the past few years, my use of a camera has also increased. AND, I also have balanced using my digital SLR with a seperate video camera (this will change as newer cameras now will take the video too, but quality is lacking ay present).

But I truly love it!

I'm into my 3rd camera now as each time I find I want to take better pictures. I also find I spend more time on internet photo sights seeing pictures others have taken to see how others have viewed the same sights. I am a pretty organized person in general, so I find it easy on the other end to review and organize my pictures after the trip.

Finally, I also have an ever increasing photo slideshow screensaver that is constantly taking me back to fun times and great memories.

Have I missed things, sure. But when our family revisits our pasts travels, things I haven't taken pictures of are often blurry memories (yes some of its age too). As time goes on, I'm even more am glad I have the pictures to go back to.

I believe the hardest part will ultimately be to ditch the bad pictures and organize the rest of the pictures, maybe with narrations, that you save in organized folders. There's never enough time for things like this.

Posted by
5678 posts

I have to have my camera. I love looking at the pictures. I like the challenge of finding a good shot. BTW looking for a good shot can open your eyes to views that aren't seen by the typical tourist. I have a picture that I took straight down from the clock tower in Prague of people. The people and their shadows brings back the afternoon to me perfectly. Get a gorilla pod and you're set. Pam

Posted by
891 posts

I wouldn't give up the picture of my Dad and me with Vesuvius in the background. A few years later I was able to get almost the same shot with my husband.
I also took a picture of my husband from a different vantage point, the sun had come out and we thought that picture might come out better (before digital).
When we got home and were looking at the pictures we both cracked up. I hadn't noticed when taking the picture that a stray dog had walked up and laid down at my husband's feet right before I snapped the shot!

Everyone has asked why we took the picture of my husband and the dog! We just laugh!

Posted by
1292 posts

I'm on the side of bring the camera. My pictures are priceless to me and I love looking at them. (I also scrapbook so it is easy to get out the book and relive my trip) Having said that, I agree that taking too many pics can take you "out of the moment". I usually snap a few and them put my camera away and resist the urge to try and capture every moment. The truth is that most of the pics don't capture how beautiful most of the scenery really is- so you need to "absorb" it without a camera between you and what you are looking at.

Posted by
111 posts

I take my digital cam every time I travel. You can take so many pics with the things and they are really small. You can take short little videos. It doesn't really take long to take a photo and you can be on your way. Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry in Ireland...Venice...Florence...London...lots of memories and the photos help remember things that I did at that spot or things I saw and felt.

I took a photo of a pint of Guinness at Lahinch Golf Club that I love to look at...and I have some that I use for my PC wallpaper too. You may even inspire friends to go see the same places after they check out your photos.

Posted by
118 posts

If you take pictures of travel, you have them to either look at or not. If you don't take pictures of your travels you will never have that choice.

Posted by
139 posts

We take a small digital camera. It slides right into a pocket and is easy. You have lots of choices in the $300 range. When you are unwinding in the evening you can delete the bad ones. We also write in our journals. Then on the aniversay each day we each read our journal entries and discuss. We read a page a day reliving the trip. It is fun and interesting what you recall and how you viewed the various events and locations different from one another. Sip some wine enjoy!

Posted by
15640 posts

When I was in Italy, I had Rick's audio walks (and a couple others) on my iPod. I walked, listened and had my hands free to take the photos. Now I can listen to the walks again and relive it all while looking at the photos.

My friends (so they tell me) like to look at my photos too, especially when they have been at the same places or are planning to go to them. It's also fun to relate my trip anecdotes while seeing the photos on the tv screen (isn't digital wonderful!).