Last weekend up in the White Mountains and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, I wondered if I'd let my photography get out of hand.
Even before we passed 5000 feet, when we stopped at a crossing of the Owens River (and a small parcel of land with water actually owned by the County of Los Angeles)...
...I spent less time listening to the explanation of the plants we were seeing in the rare, wet, riparian habitat than I did trying to photograph it.
And as we were driving down Death Valley Road towards the "Devil's Gate," I had to make sure I captured as much as I could.
At least when we got there, I could park my car and get shots of scenery that wash't whizzing by me.
But still, I don't feel like I was really seeing any of it with my eyes.
I wanted to commit everything to memory, but what I'll remember is the photographs I took, not what I actually saw.
And sometimes, photographing something doesn't mean you're experiencing it. The camera—and its lens and screen—can act as a kind of barrier.
It's all at once a mask, a veil, a prop, and a security blanket.
But I do believe there are things I only notice because I'm looking for something to photograph.
The details in the landscape start screaming out at you, when you're packing the heat of a macro lens.
You watch where you step.
And you revel in the details.
I don't own binoculars—so sometimes my optical zoom allows me to see (and document) something that's too far away for the astigmatic lenses of my eyeballs to process.
But the lens of my camera can handle the fleeting appearance of a horned lark...
...or the scurrying of a frisky marmot...
...that's emerged from his rockpile burrow to try to nab a snack from curious passersby.
When my father first discovered something was wrong with my vision when I was just three years old, he'd pointed out a "birdie in the tree" out an upstairs window, and I couldn't see it. (Or, that's how the story has been told to me.)
Now, my vision is mostly corrected—by thick eyeglass lenses and hard contact lenses that torture my eyeballs.
But it's the camera lens that really makes sure I never miss a birdie (or anything else) in the tree, ever again.
Life Through the Windshield
Dust on the Lens
Plight of the Avid Amateur