Outbound Collective logo

How Do You Find Balance between Being in the Moment or Behind the Lens?

We all want that Instagram-winning photo. But to what degree are we sacrificing our experience of the moment by putting the emphasis on getting the shot? I struggle with this all the time.

By: Jonathan Ronzio + Save to a List

Photography has always been a passion of mine, but lately, as the obsession to capture the perfect shot grows, I find my appreciation of the moment shrinking.

Is perfect lighting or composition more important than connection and reflection?

As a full-time adventure travel blogger, photographer/filmmaker, this is quite the predicament for me. Documenting and sharing my adventures is literally what I do for work, and it's the best freaking job I could ever ask for. I built this city (or dug this hole) for myself, and now, am I really complaining about it? Woe is me, right...

But I don't think it's any big secret that we all feel just a bit too connected these days. I don't mean to each other...human connection is great and the technology that allows us to connect beyond geographical boundaries is simply amazing. But we're definitely too connected to that technology and the ego-motivated impulses that go along with it.

Why do we feel so compelled to share our stories?

I wrote something about this a while back on the Amadeus blog - 

"At the heart of it all is our desire as people to leave something behind. Documenting travel goes back as far as travel itself. 

We left marks on caves as we migrated. We mapped the worlds that lay beyond the end of the earth, climbed mountains for our countries, and sent journals home about our conquests to be published. Sharing our adventures through social media and blogs is simply the evolution of the human story. 

Our travels and learnings can now be published and consumed in the present, pushing the way we experience and appreciate people’s cultures and places around the world ever further and ever faster.

Posting your travels up on social as a blog or a photo/video is not only a way to look back on where you’ve personally been and how you’ve grown, but it’s a way to inspire others to seek the world beyond their own boundaries.

But a balance must exists between what we keep for ourselves and what we share with the world. There is a certain beauty in the moments when we leave technology and our ego behind. When we simply let the experience have us and then become nothing more than memory."

FOMO behind the photos

The following few photos I absolutely love. I was psyched when I got them and I'm still psyched on looking at them. But, when I reflect back on each of these photos, I realize how not in the moment I was. 

Instead of being present with the people I shared these adventures with, I was more connected to my camera. And in a big way I think that in stepping aside to get the shot, I missed out.

Car camping at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Amarillo, TX

In the middle of a cross-country road trip with my wife and our two pups this past winter, we spent one incredible December night at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Amarillo, Texas.

We arrived just before sunset and were able to walk the dogs along the canyon rim then follow the dirt road a few miles to our campground for the night. As the stars came out, the temperature was dropping, Alexandria was tired, and the dogs were hungry, but I saw an opportunity for another cool shot.

Looking at this photo without any context, you might feel the perfect mix of road trip emotions. The bags on the roof, the bike on the rack, the peacefulness of the stars and desert at night contrasted by the commotion of getting ready for bed. It's adventure travel in a photo and I'm glad I got it. But would I have gotten more out of this moment had I been playing with the dogs and climbing into our bed in the Jeep a little earlier to have a nice long conversation with my wife about what we had done that day? 


Post hot air balloon tour in Phoenix, AZ

Here, Alexandria and I had just landed somewhere in North Phoenix after our first hot air balloon adventure

We're surrounded by new friends we had met while soaring above the Sonoran Desert (an hour spent in a tiny basket at 6,000-feet is a great way to forge a friendship!). Stories, laughter, anticipation of the champagne bottles being popped and picnic being prepared, and who's not standing there laughing along with the group? 

But, I love that photo!

Sunrise at Goosenecks State Park, Mexican Hat, UT

I snapped this in the same spot as the cover photo with my camera - Goosenecks State Park. We were driving from Colorado down to Arizona and spent the night (one of 3 cars) parked on the canyon rim. The view here was breathtaking, both by full moonlight and in the morning sun. 

But instead of brewing up some coffee on our Jetboil and sipping it relaxingly on the lookout ledge, I was up for the chilly dawn, climbing down the cliffs, scrambling to find a place and fumbling with camera settings and reviewing photos.

I could have spent the time simply breathing in the beauty and finding inspiration in the moment, but instead my hand was glued to my Sony and eyes more focused on the preview screen than the incredible expanse before me.

These are things you don't think about when it's happening. I was just purely stoked on how amazing this place was, how cool it was to wake up there, and how great the photos were. But afterwards, you start thinking about how you could have done the experience differently. 

It's hard to say what's better because I love having this photo to look back on the morning spent here, and I had a ton of fun getting the shot. Adventure photography is always a rush, I really love it! 

It's the travel photographer's perpetual predicament. 

Going forward, will I keep the camera in the car sometimes? Will I find more meaning by being more mindfully present in the moment? Will I soak in the sights or keep seeking out the shot? I still don't know.

How do you find the balance between being in the moment or behind the lens? 

Shoot me a message with your tips or stories over on Instagram at @exploreinspired or at exploreinspired.com and share if you feel the same struggle!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Top 5 "Grand" Canyons to Explore This Summer

The Outbound Collective

6 Adventures to Inspire a Summer Trip to Lake Powell

The Outbound Collective

Messengers: A 250-mile Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Running Story

Greg Balkin

The Future of Bears Ears

Michael Graw

Trump Dramatically Reduces Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments

The Outbound Collective