What I Learned when I Gave up the Perfect Shot to Live in the Moment

I was in the moment. I was happy. And not once did I reach for my camera.

By: Sarah Giek

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It was 4:30 on a Sunday morning. My alarm had just woken me up for a full day of adventure. But I’m not very good at getting out of bed in the morning, so I delayed my start and scrolled through my Instagram feed for a few minutes.  As the internet goes, it wasn’t long before I was on The Outbound reading a new post by Sara Sheehy, Calming the Fear: A Hiking Meditation. I finished the post and realized how late it was getting. I surely wasn’t going to make it to my destination by sunrise, but I thought I could at least get to the mountains and find an overlook to get a good shot.

It was 5:30 when I got on the road. I had a two and a half hour drive ahead of me. That time would normally be spent trying to beat the ETA on Google maps, passing cars on the highway, checking the map for a good spot to pull off. But instead I found myself thinking about the article I had read before leaving that morning and how I often struggle to stay in the moment. I thought about my recent frustrations with the colliding worlds of social media and the outdoors and my role in that collision.  And I thought about how my own experience with the outdoors had changed since I started trying to capture my adventures on camera - more focus on the best light, the best timing, the best angle, and less on the experience itself. All of this left me wondering what I was losing by trying to get the perfect shot.

The sun was nearing the horizon just as I began to enter the mountains. I hadn’t thought much about capturing the sunrise that morning, but as luck would have it, I passed a sign for a scenic overlook just one mile ahead. My timing couldn’t have been better! But in that moment, without much thought, I did something I don’t normally do. I kept driving. I sang along to the song on the radio and let the cool breeze flow through my car. I looked out my window at the layers of mountains and the blanket of fog lining the valley. And I watched as the bright orange sun crept above the horizon and filled the sky with its glow. I was in the moment. I was happy. And not once did I reach for my camera.

The only snapshot I have of that morning is the one in my memory. It’s not perfect - the lines are fuzzy and the colors are faded. There will be no Instagram post; no chance to collect likes or gain new followers. But what I got from that experience was something even better - a reminder of what I had been giving up every time I focused on getting the shot instead of appreciating the moment, and a resolve to change my approach to my time spent in the outdoors. I don’t intend to leave my camera at home; I still enjoy capturing beautiful things and sharing them with others. But when I find that I’m caught up in getting a picture instead of enjoying the moment, I will put my camera down and remember the lesson I learned on that early morning drive in the mountains.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.