I just returned from Rivers Inlet, B.C. as the only woman on a guy’s fishing trip. My husband promised me romance. He swore there’d be unsurpassed beauty, sunset cruises, even privacy. He pledged we’d find salmon, lots of salmon–maybe one big enough to quell the brewing desire to “slay the gigantic king”.
In spite of the fact that our 25 foot aluminum fishing boat does not even have running water, a heater, or a toilet, I believed him. Plus, he never mentioned the 3am wake up call to get to the head of the inlet in time for the “bite.” He never told me we’d be watching out for logs in the pitch black water, me wondering what the hell I got myself into.
And while I can’t say much for the romance part of it–I mean how romantic is twelve pairs of socks just to keep the shivering to a minimum?–I did get some nice pictures.
This humpback whale breached a few feet away, while we trolled for salmon. I’ve seen whales many times from Mexico to Alaska, but I’ve never seen such active breaching. It was incredible. While I scanned the water through my viewfinder, I was struck with the paradox of preserving a special moment through photography.
The thing about photography is that you want to catch the moment, to record it and print it (or post it to your FB page). It becomes something which you can gaze at later; something that you hope will transcend the moment. But it’s sort of an oxymoron because by merely taking a picture, seeing the whale breach through the viewfinder, you become a little more removed from it.
Or do you?
I would like to argue that perhaps the camera’s viewfinder adds a new dimension to the moment. Maybe it deepens the experience, just as thinking about how to post an experience to FB or write about it adds to the event.
As I held my Nikon D80 in my hand, fingering the shutter button and wrapping the strap several times around my wrist (I was, after all, practically leaning out over the gunwale of a very rocky boat), I watched the black water for any signs of the whale. It had just done a beautiful tale-up dive a hundred yards away, and I was ready to catch its next rise. This time, however, it shot out of the air just a few boat-lengths away, and I pressed down the shutter and captured this photograph.
John hoorayed from the helm. “Did you get that?” He asked. “That was incredible.” I told him that I got it, but I resisted the urge to press the play button on my digital camera and double-check. Instead I held the camera away from my face, watching the world through one naked eye, while the other steadied the waterline through the camera’s lens.
Cameras, blogs, FB updates are all just modern ways to tell a story. And, after all, haven’t we been telling (and re-telling) stories since Day One? I believe that stories make the experience. They become (enhance? replace?) reality. If, upon returning from this fishing trip, I lament the cold dampness, whine about the longer-than-expected itinerary, complain about having to pee into a bucket on the back deck, then the memory (and the trip) will become a prick in my mind. It will be a rough sand-papery wedge of reality in between my cheek and gum.
Instead, if I tell the story a little differently, remembering the beautiful whales, the towering peaks and the not-too-rough seas, it becomes something entirely different in my memory.
That is the beauty of photography, and also the value of blogging and facebooking and tweeting. We all need to tell our stories, put a spin on our lives that helps categorize and explain our experiences.
The frame we choose to hang our memories in can (as The Dude would say) “really bring the room together”.