There’s a great scene in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty where Sean O’Connell is looking through the lens of his camera at a snow leopard, and he doesn’t release the shutter. Walter looks at him and says ‘When are you going to take it?’ to which Sean replies
’Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, I mean me personally…I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it’
To me personally, there are a number of moments in my life where the clock seems to have stopped and for that piece of time in the universe, everything is so perfect that I just want to stay there forever.
Towards the end of 2014 I did an educational, visiting a number of lodges in a few short days of travel. I took loads of photos as you do when travelling, but there were also times where once I had a few shots that I knew I liked, I just put the camera down and sat in silence in the back of the Land Rover, trying to take in all that was happening in front of me. When you’re metres away from a leopard, the visual overload is of epic proportions. It’s difficult to take it all in when it’s happening live in front of you that you need to rid yourself of any distractions like technology.
On one particular night on my trip, I didn’t get a photo.
We had been following a leopard for quite some time, probably an easy 30 minutes, all by ourselves. Not another car in sight, just us in the wild watching one of the most beautiful animals effortlessly breeze across the land. As the light started to fade away, one or two other vehicles entered the area and we decided to leave. At one point our guides said we need to completely cover our faces because we were entering a short stretch where there were going to be loads of bugs, and at driving speed we’d risk some damage by being hit in the face.
We closed our eyes, expecting a bug storm of epic proportions. After a short time, and having not been hit by anything, we were told it was now safe to open our eyes.
In front of us lay one of those settings where the 1000 words of a picture will not come close to describing it. That setting wasn’t a picture, or words, but a feeling that only those there will ever know.
With the low light, I knew a cellphone image wouldn’t even be worth trying to capture, and all I had on my DSLR was a zoom lens. So I just sat and decided to really appreciate everything. We were set in a clearing of bush, with a fire burning in the centre, a bar straight ahead, food being served towards the right and a long table up front. We heard hyenas laughing and shone the torches towards the bush near the fire, and they were right there. I looked up to the night sky, filled with stars, and all at once I realised how small we are in this universe. I realised that taking a photo of this setting would be a complete waste. If I were going to try capture a photo at that time, I’d be completely wasting a moment in time.
The fact that we are here and alive is a miracle. For as far as we currently know, there is no other life out there. There may be, but if there is, it’s a long way away. The fact that we are surrounded by inhospitable planets, yet all the ingredients for life on earth came together perfectly, is an absolute miracle. The fact that on that planet, there is a place called Africa with some of the clearest skies and most beautiful animals and experience, is another miracle in itself. We’re surrounded by so much, and we have such a short time to enjoy it for ourselves, that we owe it to ourselves to truly live in those moments instead of worrying about sharing them.
That moment in my life was one that I want the whole world to experience and the only way I’ll ever convince them to experience it is by telling them face to face. As beautiful as photos and words are, you’ll need to see the telltale signs of excitement on my face as I recall the story to really believe me.
A lot of what we do these days is captured to be shared. Yet for every moment you have a camera at your face, or are thinking of what you will caption your photo, you’re denying yourself being present in that very moment. That moment is all you’ll ever have, and it’s OK to be selfish. It’s OK to not tell anyone where you are. It’s OK not to filter a photo and hashtag it. It’s OK to consume that moment 100% for yourself. If you don’t want to tell anyone about it afterwards, that alright too. It’s your right to do whatever you want with your memories, and if you want to keep them as a secret for yourself, you can do that.
Whatever you do in these moments in life, just make sure you take them in either by yourself, or if you’re surrounded with friends, partners or family, enjoy those moments with them. Don’t worry about the people in the digital world. For every moment a screen is in front of your face, a piece of life is taken away.
Take your life back and live in these moments, because they’re all you’ll ever have.