Why I Don't Always Carry a Camera with Me

During my 11 years as a full time travel photographer, I have heard countless photographers, some of them successful, extoll the virtues of carrying a camera at all times, lest you miss the shot of a lifetime. Like a hunting lion lying in the weeds, serious photographers are always on the lookout for their next shot, eyes constantly flitting about, not blinking just in case.

One of these photographers is Thorsten Overgaard (why does everyone else have cool names?), a very good and successful photographer who espouses “wearing” a camera at all times and being at the ready for any and all photo opportunities. In his own words:

I say “always wear a camera,” and by that I mean that you have your camera over the shoulder, turned on, set to the right ISO and white balance. And then you look for things. If you do this, you will feel as a photographer, be aware of the viewpoint of the lens you have on the camera and start seeing photographs. And when you see something, you have to have a built-in reflex to slightly touch the release button so as to turn the camera from sleep mode to shooting mode; and by the time the camera has reached its place in front of your eye, it is powered up and ready. All you have to do is focus and shoot, then drop the camera so it falls back to its place by your hip.

I completely understand this approach to photography, but it is not for me.

For me, the act of photographing is a little like exercise, which I engage in regularly and happily. I enjoy working out, but I cannot exercise constantly and without interruption. I need to take a break, rest, then go out again when I am refreshed and excited. I feel the same about my photography; I enjoy it tremendously, but I cannot pursue it constantly. And because I am refreshed and eager every time I’m out photographing, I believe my images are better for it. If I don’t take as many pictures as others, I can live with that. (Besides, I still capture my share of unexpected moments using my approach. The image here, which I call “Bronco 1, Cowboy 0″, was taken during the Rodeo de Santa Fe, New Mexico).

 Cowboy upside down on bucking horse, bareback riding competition, Rodeo de Santa Fe, New Mexico

Although I am probably in the minority regarding this approach, I have always felt I am not alone. Surely there are other photographers who feel the same way. Imagine my pleasant surprise when, while perusing the “Contributors” page of Travel + Leisure’s August 2014 issue, I came across Brooklyn-based photographer Christopher Testani.

Here’s Testani’s “Tip from a photo expert”:

Put the camera down. Sometimes it’s better to be present in the moment than to obsessively document everything. You’ll end up with better memories—and photos.

Probably the best approach for most of us is somewhere in the middle. In the end, each photographer has to find his or her own sweet spot, the spot where being in the moment, capturing the moment, and being happy in the moment come together (insert sappy music track here).

Now get out and shoot something.