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 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!)