Chasing Rainbows

If a tree falls in the woods and I don’t photograph it, did I really see it?

Last week, amidst the throes of last-minute packing for spring break in Hawaii, I was mentally outlining the next chapter of my manuscript. That’s the only excuse I can give for walking out of the house and onto an airplane…

Without. My. Camera.

So Thom gave me charge of his new toy, a Pentax underwater camera, for use in or out of the water.  My hero!


Its zoom wasn’t as powerful, but I was grateful.  As they say, “Any port in a storm!”

I snapped a handful of shots before it died. We changed the battery and…nothing.  Arrrrgh!  I thought about buying a new camera, but it seemed wasteful; I’m happy with the one at home.  Maybe just a one-use camera, a single roll of film in a recycled plastic case?  No, those photos always look washed out. Then I thought, I’ve been to Maui, and I’ll be back.  How many sunsets do I need in my archives?


I don’t need to chase rainbows


I decided to make a clean break of it, go cold turkey.  Perhaps my travel experience might even improve without a lens between me and my world.

Look, Ma!  No cams!

I confess, I felt the pangs of withdrawal.  My photographs help refresh memories I might otherwise forget.


 With my camera, I am never alone.

I anticipate with pleasure the sharing of pictures with friends, family, my blogging community.  Even sans camera, I was constantly framing shots in my mind’s eye. Sea turtles gliding in ocean currents.  Two hotel maids walking arm-in-arm down a deserted hotel corridor.  The underwater service station run by a pair of enterprising Cleaning Wrasse, with bigger fish lined up like cars at a car wash, patiently waiting their turn to be picked clean of parasites.

Oh, yes, and the kid in neon snorkel gear who shouted, “Mom!  Dad!  I can hear the whales singing!”  Eli and I smiled indulgently at his vivid imagination.

The next morning we were snorkeling off that same beach when Eli said, “Mom! Dad! I can hear whales singing!”  I thought he was teasing, but I ducked under the waves, held my breath, and listened.  And I could hear them too.  For an hour or more, we held perfectly still, just letting the whale song wash over us. I’d been coming to Maui for twenty years, but had never heard them. Had they been there all along? I was an astronaut, observing an alien planet from my little floating bubble, and was unexpectedly invited in for tea!  And inside my snorkel mask I cried.

When we staggered onto the beach and looked out at the water, we saw them spouting, teasing us with glimpses of their fins and shiny black backs.  We also saw the whale watching boat hounding them. Had they been communicating distress or just watching out for each other?  Finally the boat left.  And the moment it did, the whales began breaching and splashing, showing their big white bellies, time and time again!  I suspect they were jumping for joy and shouting,”Woo hoo!  We ditched ’em!”

It was like discovering your house is haunted with friendly ghosts going about their business, oblivious to that other world, except on those occasions when your worlds intersect.  I decided the rolling ocean is The Poker Face of the World, and just beneath the surface, a swirl of emotions, life and death struggles, joy, pain, drama, and countless stories play themselves out.

There was no way a camera could have recorded that breathtaking experience, and no way I would ever need the help of a camera to recall it.  Just when I resolved and resigned myself to a camera-free existence, Eli and I went for an afternoon walk.

And he taught me how to take photos with his Smart Phone.


Okay, forget everything I just told you about a camera-free life.  Because then Saint Eli indulged me completely, taking me back to revisit all the beautiful sights I’d admired.  We snapped all these pics and more with his Smart Phone.

Pretty pictures of stationary subjects…

 …that practically come when you whistle for them.

Other photos depended upon conditions like weather.

Or light.

Or where our feet happened to take us.


 My favorite shots are the unexpected ones, that dropped like ripe fruit falling from a tree into my lap.





As we sat on the beach watching the sun set, directly ahead of us a whale leapt out of the ocean so close I could see the lines on its belly.  It thrust one long fin into the air and waved goodbye. Exhilarating! A flash of wonder!  A glimpse of the sacred just for us! It is forever engraved in our memories and upon our hearts.

But I’m THRILLED that Eli caught it on his Smart Phone!



Okay, time to come clean.  I ADORE chasing rainbows…

…and I will ALWAYS go for the gold!


All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck (and Eli Garrard!)

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Clean.



  1. scillagrace says:

    What a marvelous place, marvelous moments! If you’re marveling without a camera, do you feel more alive in the moment? More focused? I love the story of the whale song. You tell stories as vivid as pictures with just your words, you know. You are a storyteller, remember? 😉

    1. Dear Scilla,
      Thanks so much for the visit and, as always, your thoughtful comments. It is always good to hear from you! From one storyteller to another!

    2. Dina says:

      Yes, indeed a great storyteller! Loved this post, great moody captures to go with your words, Naomi.

  2. raptekar says:

    Love the bird of paradise.

    1. Hi Richard,
      I love them too! They are so striking, and they were everywhere, a beautiful reminder that we weren’t in Kansas any more!
      Thanks for the visit and, as always, for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  3. Ruth says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post today, Naomi. How the forgetting of your camera impacted your Maui experience this trip. Lots to think about. Great storytelling. We are there!
    Love that you were able to go back snd catch what you saw with the smartphone- wondrous lone whale in the distance, waving.
    Looks like a magical getaway.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. It was really a lovely trip. I I so appreciate your thoughtful comments, and your generous response!

  4. I’m grinning! Know exactly what you mean about the indelible experiences that won’t ever need an aide memoir – and the feeling that without a camera we can get closer to our experiences – and the excitement of capturing the wonders of our world – and yes, the miracle of our new smart phones – because yes, after all, being camera-less isn’t as much fun! I’m wondering whether they arm us with extra curiosity (nosiness?). Thank goodness Eli captured the waving whale … I’m sure you’re all having a terrific holiday 🙂

    1. Hi Meredith,
      I LOVED your comments–I know you really understand! Eli capturing the whale on its way out to sea was the icing on the cake! I love my camera, but I think I might have to bite the bullet and get a Smart Phone for back up.
      Thank so much for the visit and for really making me smile.

  5. What fun! I miss students teaching me about technology. Whales singing — extraordinary!

    1. Dear Mary,
      I so get that! I don’t know what I would do without my very patient children to walk me through the new technology. I put off blogging until Bea’s last year in high school, because I knew if I had trouble I could ask for help until I caught on. She was very patient, and also set me up on FB.

      1. My nieces have helped, and the gurus at the Apple Store . . . and in a pinch, I’m not too proud to ask total strangers for advise. ❤

  6. Fun fun fun! Welcome to smart phone
    Shooting also known as phoneography. Like the rainbows and rainbow leaves.

    1. Thank you, Carol.
      I’m still using my ancient phone made for technically challenged people. It has a tiny keyboard for texting, with a key for each letter!
      I was really surprised at the quality of photo one can get from a Smart Phone, and am thinking it might be time to jump on that train. Honestly, I just didn’t want another piece of technology to have to learn (I will not use the word ‘master’ because that’s never happened yet!)
      Thanks for the visit, and for taking the time to comment.

  7. Anne Rutherford says:

    I so love this post! Pix, pix, words no pix (wonderful whale words) then – pix pix pix pix pix! You and your saints are terrific!

    1. Thanks, Anne.
      I usually try to intersperse words with pix, and avoid big blocks of words, but the lack of a camera affected the format, as my selection of photos was limited.
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for your fun response!

  8. What an amazing experience to hear the whales singing!

    1. Oh my gosh, yes! It sounded just like in the National Geographic specials. I had to stop and hold my breath to keep the sound of my own breathing from masking their song. It does make me wonder if they have always been there, and I’ve only just learned how to listen for them.

  9. Beatrice Garrard says:

    Wonderful post! So glad you had fun.

    1. It was a wonderful trip, but we missed you!

      1. Beatrice Garrard says:

        Next time!

  10. niasunset says:

    So beautiful photographs and places, fascinated me. As always captured me your words too, I can almost feel the moments of these photographs. Thank you dear Naomi, have a nice day, love, nia

    1. Dear Nia,
      Thank you so much for your very kind words! So good of you to visit, and take the time to share your thoughts.
      Best wishes!

  11. One can always make a plan, and smart phones are quite wonderful and so easy to carry. Love your pics and words, Naomi. It looks and sounds like you had a wonderful time there in Hawaii. Love the boys with the rainbow halo. 🙂

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      I’m thinking Smart Phone for back up is in my near future. Thanks for the visit, and for your sweet comments. I couldn’t believe that rainbow–I never saw such a perfect one. The sun kept shining through raindrops, and we could hardly even tell where they were coming from.
      It was a lovely visit. We almost never go back to the same place–there are so many new ones to learn about and visit and not enough time to do it all, but Maui and Grand Teton National Park are where we go to recharge our batteries.

  12. socialbridge says:

    Interesting question about the extent to which a camera comes between a person and the sight/experience. But I confess I’m in your category! I attribute it to growing up with a father who had at least two cameras with him at all times!!

    1. It’s funny about your Dad. My Dad worked part-time in a camera store and developed his own photos in our kitchen. We rarely saw him without his Leica. I drive my husband crazy if I bring the camera when we are out walking, because he wants to go at a fast steady pace, and I always want to stop to photograph something that strikes me. Somehow we always manage to find a pace that suits us both.

  13. I can imagine your angst– it would be as if I left my knitting, or ran out of books. Glad the smart son introduced you to the smart phone photos! Great pix and great trip!

    1. Yes, my hands felt empty, and I felt as though I were missing something. My son and his Smart Phone saved the day. Thanks for the visit and the kind words, Lisa.

  14. Naomi says:

    I hate to forget my camera. I worry that someday we won’t remember certain things we have done, without a camera to record it. But my husband always says we take the best pictures with our memories, if we pay attention. I don’t know if this is true, or not, but it is certainly true that there is no way to take pictures of whale song, but also no way you will ever forget it. I love how you describe the ocean as The Poker Face of the world. I think it, and everything it contains, has a way of making us feel humbled. Just when I think you have written the post ever, you write a new best!

    1. Dear Naomi,

      I know your husband is right, but I also think in terms of posterity, possibly grandkids or even great grandchildren, who might enjoy (as I did) a peek into the life of their older relatives and ancestors. I had an adopted grandmother who said, “Our stories tell us who we are.” I hope that one day the photographs will help tell a story for those who are no longer here to share their memories.

      You are really very kind. I thank you for your thoughtful comments that always bring a thoughtful perspective into the conversation.

      1. Naomi says:

        I agree with you- I like to have pictures. 🙂

  15. Such lovely pictures… and memories! Dear Naomi is always a special feeling coming here in your virtual world! Have a lovely Eastern, hugs and kisses :-)claudine
    PS. I didn’t know that in your blood flows some swiss-dna 😉

    1. Dear Claudine,

      The Swiss DNA is somewhat diffused. My great great grandfather Jean-Pierre Brenyard was a potter from a village of potters in Bonfol, but the Industrial Revolution made it difficult for them to make a living. He and several intermarried families all left for Upstate New York around 1838. It does make a visit to Switzerland all the more fascinating to me.

      Thanks for the good wishes, and you have a happy Easter too.

  16. Thanks for sharing a magical time. You heard the whales sing and now you know how to take cell phone pics, too.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      I’m really such an old dog; I have resisted the Smart Phone, as I tend to resist most new technology. But I can see the advantage of investing in one. Thanks for the visit. I am almost certain I can make the next Edmonds Story time, and will look forward to seeing you.

  17. frizztext says:

    I like the fragment: “…Even sans camera, I was constantly framing shots in my mind’s eye. Sea turtles gliding in ocean currents. Two hotel maids walking arm-in-arm down a deserted hotel corridor…”

    1. Thank you for the visit, and taking the time to comment. Also, on you blog, it was fun to hear Gordon Lightfoot singing Don Quixote!

  18. kathy says:

    You can paint pictures without a camera, Naomi! Words do the trick wonderfully; I was enchanted by your story spell.

    But hey – those photos are lovely poetry, too 🙂

  19. Hi Kathy!
    It’s good to hear from you. Thank you so much for your really sweet comments. I hope you are well, and that the writing is going well.

  20. Roy McCarthy says:

    Reminds me of many years ago in Ireland when my friends patiently drove me around for many hours so I could get all the shots I wanted. I then stupidly exposed/ruined the film. I made them drive me around the same places again, which they did but this time with borderline patience for which I’ll always be grateful.
    I’m sure we’d survive without your pics Naomi but the world would be a poorer place.

    1. Dear Roy,
      That is the perfect story for this post! I so get that! I’ve been fortunate enough to have the rare second chance at a pic, but it was an unexpected treat to be able to go back with Eli. It’s like stepping into the same river from the same place on the riverbank; it can never be quite the same, as light and conditions are so different, perhaps affected by rainfall at the top of the mountain that you can’t even see or predict, objects that happen to be floating downstream, or passersby on the other side of the water. But the bones are there, and maybe a lovely shot you weren’t even looking for.
      And Roy, thank you for sharing your story, your unique perspective, and, as always, your very sweet comments that always make me smile.

  21. pattisj says:

    I’m glad Eli came to the rescue with his smart phone, that was a scary moment there when you realized you didn’t have one with you. Hope that next chapter got its outline all figured out.

    1. Yes! Eli was my hero! I didn’t go right out and buy a Smart Phone, but I finally figured out how to delete photos from my cell phone to make room for new pictures. That’s a big deal for me, as the memory has been full for a year, and I’m so technophobic that I just never dealt with it. SO I emailed 124 photos to myself, loaded them onto IPhotos, and deleted them from my phone. The photos aren’t great quality, but at least it’s back up.
      And yes! I did get a first draft of that next chapter written.
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for your thoughtful comments, Patti!

  22. It is interesting to me that the experience of hearing the whales you couldn’t really capture on camera anyway. I’m glad that you have some photos, I would have been in camera withdraw without mine 🙂

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I had to stop kicking myself every time I framed a perfect photo, but had no camera to capture it. But there was also a bit of relief about not lugging it around or worrying about losing it or getting sand into the workings. Even so, I would never willingly leave a camera at home, and a zoom lens is a luxury I will never take for granted.
      Thanks for the visit, and for your thoughtful comment

  23. nutsfortreasure says:

    Awesome post! Happy Easter to you all

    1. Thank you, Eunice! I hope you had a Happy Easter!

      1. nutsfortreasure says:

        I did thanks 🙂

  24. Carol says:

    It is a palpable loss, not having a camera with you, isn’t it? Memories are fickle when not recorded and there is that creative urge that must be satisfied. So glad Eli came to your rescue so you could share with us.

    1. Dear Carol,
      I was so grateful to the lad! And so touched at his patience and willingness to indulge me in what he knew would make me happy. Thank you for your very dear comment. It is always good to hear from you!

  25. Judith says:

    Thank you for sharing your Spring break with us. Love the pictures, love the thoughts, and am so glad you heard whales singing. Your posts are my favorite emails! Judith

    1. Hi Judith,
      So good to hear from you! Thank you for your visit, and for such sweet words.

  26. Whew. You had me worried there. I was afraid you might stop taking photographs and taking us to far-off places.

    1. Dear Cathryn,
      You are too dear! It always means a lot coming from such a fine photographer. Your specialty is transporting us to the hidden places of the human heart. I love your blog!

  27. diannegray says:

    How incredibly exciting it must have been to hear those whales calling – wow, Naomi! 😀

    I use my smartphone when I don’t have my camera with me. In fact. I dropped it in the creek two weeks ago when I was taking photos of the dogs, but it is still working (fingers crossed it stays that way). I don’t think my camera would have survived the water 😉

    1. Wow! That is durability! Smart Phones are now on the radar, and it’s only a matter of time before I bite the bullet. Thanks for the visit, Dianne!

  28. Arlene says:

    Such a wonderful story – I can’t even imagine the sound of the whales but would love to hear them! Not having your camera must have been difficult. Like leaving my journal behind. So glad Eli shared his little secret about the smart phone cam 🙂 that picture of the sunset and whale was awesome and I’m sure the experience was all the greater!!!

    1. Dear Arlene,
      Thank you for your visit, and for sharing your thoughts. Your analogy between journal and camera is apt, because I use it as a photographic journal to record experiences that I might go back to and write about.
      Thanks again for sharing–it’s always good to hear from you.

  29. Stunning. I love your description of hearing whale song. I’m totally jealous, it must have been magical.

    1. Hi Kate,
      It was magical; it felt almost sacred. It made me wonder if it had always been there,if they had been singing all along, and I’d just not stopped or stood still long enough to listen.
      Thank you so much for the visit. It was so good to hear from you!

  30. Sarah Raplee says:

    This post and your lovely photos brightened my morning! You are such a gifted writer and photographer. No wonder being camera-less was a trial.

    Thank you for sharing your mystical Maui experience.

  31. You are too kind! Thank you so much for your really generous response.

  32. 4amWriter says:

    I love taking pictures, yet I feel that when I focus on the photo I miss out on part of the inner experience. This is more true of milestone events like graduations and holidays. Love your photos!

    1. Dear Kate,
      I always feel torn–I know there is an awareness of the camera that affects one’s perceptions at the time, but afterwards every time I view the photos, I experience all over again the memories triggered by that image.
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your perspective.

  33. reocochran says:

    Oh, how lovely to have heard the whales singing and that you were moved to tears. I just got a little teary eyed, reading this. I admit, it doesn’t take too much to get me started. But the wonder of the sound, just affected me… I love that you are able to keep going without the camera. It can be rather freeing and I have not had many times where I really was ‘in the moment’ when I was trying to get my perfect shot of a family member. My youngest daughter is always saying, “Enough, Mom!” My defense is one you give, that I or someone else, may not remember this moment without a photograph. I love the way memories can wash over us, when we are looking back in time at a photograph. I hear you and think you are, “Right on!” Smiles, Robin

  34. TBM says:

    I’m really glad you ended up taking photos. I went to Hawaii many years ago, before I had a camera, and now I wish I had photos to look back on. Sorry about the fancy camera dying.

    1. Thank you. I hope you get back there soon, with a camera!

  35. Photography is such an addiction. I get so frustrated when I miss a shot because I’ve forgotten to take my camera out with me. But I agree with you, Naomi, sometimes we miss something outside of that potential shot, by always having a lens between us and the world.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      It’s true, it’s true, I know it’s true, but I have to confess to you how happy I was to have a camera in my hands and go back to capture some of the shots I’d missed! There are moments that can never be recorded anywhere but within the human heart, but sometimes a photo will bring to mind great joy that I mind not otherwise recall.

  36. elisa ruland says:

    Oh, what I would give to be able to hear a whale sing! Beautiful post Naomi!

    1. Dear Elise,
      Thank you for the kind words. I hope that you will hear the whales one day too. The amazing thing to me is that I wasn’t on a whale watching cruise, and I didn’t have to go deep sea diving. It was the most accessible beach, and all I had to do was to put my head under the water and just listen.

  37. beautiful photos, wonderful stories too!! I love the whales singing!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, and for sharing your generous comment!

  38. Such beautiful photos and stories. I’m glad you came up with a solution for your forgotten camera! How exciting to have actually heard the whales singing. 🙂

    1. Hi Linda,
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts. The whale song was a highlight of that trip, a first for me, but I was really glad to have the camera too!

  39. restlessjo says:

    Hooray for Eli! 🙂 I don’t think I could have enjoyed the holiday without a camera. And isn’t that flipper waving at you the most magical capture?

    1. Dear Jo,
      Eli really saved the day. I had to make a conscious effort not to kick myself every time I saw a beautiful shot that I couldn’t take. But it did have a happy ending, thanks to the lad, and a magical ending, thanks to those amazing whales!

  40. Amy says:

    Beautiful photos and wonderful stories, Naomi! Shale singing, Wow!
    I must have my camera….

    1. Dear Amy,
      Thanks so much for the visit and the kind words. And I agree with you about the camera. I always feel like something is missing if I leave it behind.

  41. megtraveling says:

    It sounds like you had the best of everything Naomi, both the memories of things you saw and then being able to take some pictures after all. Wonderful!

    1. Dear Meg,
      I am happy that it all worked out. Honestly, however it had worked out, it would have been okay, but I am so so so happy that I got to share a few photos of that trip with my blogging buddies. Thanks so much for the visit!

  42. Jamie Dedes says:

    Lovely post. Lovely photos. Smart phones take rather remarkable photographs. I believe you can get attachments for certain effects. My daughter-in-law is great at this. A whole new world, isn’t it?

    1. Thank you, Jamie. I was amazed at the quality of the picture. Much better shots than my phone can take. I am usually the last one in line for a new piece of technology, but I might just have to bite the bullet on this one, if only for the camera.

  43. I’m glad you followed your heart and brought a camera. I tried being away from it too and had huge withdrawal. Worse than withdrawal is regretting not capturing the moment to celebrate always. Our brain natural camera can only capture as much but the camera lens, every single thing we may have missed. Wonderful, fun tropical adventure. Thanks for sharing these.

    1. I’m glad you understand–I really do feel like I’m walking out of the house without my wallet or car keys if I don’t have my camera with me. Inevitably, that’s when I will see something I want to record and remember and share. Most of the time, they’re things you just can’t go back to, so I’d rather be ready with my camera when I see it. As a father, you will also know the importance of pictures of the family, because kids grow up way too fast and you can’t go back and get more photos. I regret most of all not taking more pictures when my kids were little. Thank you for the visit!

  44. Lovely ♥ (but I agree…I feel lost without my cam.)

  45. You took some very nice pictures. I enjoyed looking through them. Thanks for liking my blog and I hope to see you again.

  46. Thank you, Naomi. What a marvelous journey you have shared with us!

  47. Madhu says:

    I could relate to everything you said Naomi, every word! And now I want to go experience all of that myself. Thank you for sharing your amazing time in Maui.

    1. Hi Madhu,
      I bet you never walked out of the house and onto an airplane without your camera! UNbelievable! It was an interesting experiment, but I really felt bereft when I would see something lovely, and couldn’t capture it to share. I do love Hawaii. Such a gentle place. Thanks so much for the visit!

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