The Shutter Balance

To try to capture a moment on camera, or to put it away and really be present in the moment? That’s a question I have to ask myself every time I’m faced with something beautiful. As a photographer, the urge to document everything is strong. When I experience a new place, I often get caught up in the click, click, click of the shutter. Social media has made that even worse. The joke “pics or it didn’t happen” can seem all too real when you’re juggling a DSLR, Snapchat and Instagram stories. What started out as an opportunity to experience nature can all too quickly turn into a technology fest.

Awhile back, one of my favorite photographers, Chris Burkard, gave a great piece of advice. When you’re experiencing a new location, give yourself thirty minutes to just take it in before you pull out your camera or phone. His reasoning was that not only will it force you to be present in the moment, but when you do pull out your camera, you’ll have a more nuanced perspective and get better shots than the hasty ones you would’ve taken straight out of the car.

This piece of advice changed the way I take pictures, so I wanted to document it to show you how it can really take your experience to the next level. I headed to one of my favorite secret spots to watch the sunset recently. At the crest of a hill, the Colorado prairies rolled out in front of us, leaving us a beautiful view of the western horizon.

Being present is something we so often overlook in our frenetic world. Whether we’re distracted by our camera viewfinders or notifications on our phone, we often forget to just be and soak in this beautiful world we’re so lucky to live in.

As my fiancé and I walked to the spot where we were going to set up, the golden light drenching the grasses was beautiful. My fingers danced over the controls of my camera, but I resisted the urge and found a log to sit on.

It’s amazing how foreign stillness can feel; I’m so used to pulling out my phone the second that I have any downtime. I found myself fidgeting mightily the first few minutes, but slowly a feeling of peace crept in. I began to notice little things. The way the fading sunlight shone through the yucca plants, the shadows growing long on the ground, the smell of the sweet prairie grasses, moistened by the melted snow, the sound of utter silence. I closed my eyes and breathed it all in. I sat there as the sun dropped behind the horizon and I truly experienced the moment.

My thirty minutes ended just as the last of the light kissed the hill I was sitting on. I grabbed my camera and shot the light through the yuccas – a shot I would never have taken when I first saw the scene.

Being present is something we so often overlook in our frenetic world. Whether we’re distracted by our camera viewfinders or notifications on our phone, we often forget to just be and soak in this beautiful world we’re so lucky to live in.

Since reading Chris Burkard’s advice, I’ve made a conscious effort to just be in the moment more often. Sometimes, I leave my camera at home altogether. Other times, I’ll just watch an eagle fly by instead of trying to hastily capture it on camera. It’s given me a deeper appreciation for nature, allowed me to see hidden beauties and kept me in check in moments I might’ve been tempted to “do it for the ‘gram.” There will always be moments I’ll want documented, but some moments are far more special when they only exist in our memories.

Narrator

This blog was thoughtfully written by Mikaela Ruland. You can find her on Instagram @airundermyheels


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