Just put it down. Or not?

My camera was making me growl. Even though I knew better. Everyone knows that taking a photo from a moving vehicle is bound to fail. So just sit back and enjoy. But Cambodia wasn’t cooperating.


Missed him

Missed him

A monk in brilliant orange robes stood in front of a humble house, waiting for the bus, and I wanted the image. Women in colorful skirts stirred steaming pots of soup while egrets posed, poised, in the background, and I wanted to record it. Children laughed as they rode bicycles far too large for their sapling legs, then turned around to do it again, and I knew the photo would make me smile for years…if I could just get it.


But the monk was a blur, the woman was too small, and the children fell half out of the frame. So I was growling. Lydia was patient, and helpful. “Or, you could put the camera away and just enjoy it,” she offered.


Wait, what's going on over there? Move, you stupid tree!

Wait, what’s going on over there? Move, you stupid tree!

I knew she was right. I remembered all the commuters I’d marvelled at, faces in phones, ignoring gorgeous sunsets out the window. And backpackers by the kiloton, iFaces in iMacs while the irlWorld went on outside.


I could remember these images just fine in my mind. I counted them on my fingers as we went, to make sure I wouldn’t lose one. Eight fingers. There was the monk, the woman, the kids, the….um….


My mental memory card has a leakage problem. Or rather, it’s working perfectly, since remembering everything would be a useless skill, once you went insane after a week. That’s why god invented kodak.


How could I let these moments slip away? Perhaps my soul’s memory is better, and even if the images are forgotten, their calming beauty remains. I could live with that. I would live with that. In gratitude and satisfaction.

Okay, so I didn't entirely miss the women making soup.

Okay, so I didn’t entirely miss the women making soup.


We rode along one of Angkor Wat’s massive reservoirs, which stood for the world’s oceans in the physical portrayal of Hindu cosmology that Angkor Wat represents, and allowed Angkor Wat to become the largest pre-industrial city on Earth, roughly eight times as large as its closest rival, Tikal in Guatemala.


And what do they do now, besides serve as marvelous photographic elements for zigajillions of tourist photos? The afternoon had reached a fine, calm old age of softer sunlight and gentler warmth, when skin felt embraced instead of assaulted, and the reservoirs were hosting groups, cliques, and packs of Cambodians, who lounged on the walls, nibbled snacks in the shade, and laughed above ancient waterways.


It was the sort of communal public space that I envy in countless places around the world, where the population is not willingly confined in their separate bubbles, captives to their flickering blue screens and “social” media. It felt like a privilege to see, and a gift to my spirit.


And I wanted to take its picture! But no, I had put the camera away, I could just enjoy it. Breathe it in. Witness and appreciate. Screw that, I want a reminder to hang on my wall. I ripped the camera out of its bag, flicked it on, lifted it to my face-

The only one, hurried and blurried, that I got over my shoulder as we drove away.

The only one, hurried and blurried, that I got over my shoulder as we drove away.


And the road curved and we headed into town. Growl.

Do you try to take photos from cars/vans/buses/trains/tuktuks? Or better to put the camera away and just enjoy?