Rick linked to Crow‘s argument against taking a camera along on outdoor excursions. How I see it:


  • Sharing: I hike, my wife doesn’t, but she likes to see what I’m seeing out there. And my weekly photo essays have developed a bit of a following, so I feel sort of obliged to keep the customers satisfied.
  • Learning: It’s easy to snap a shutter release, but taking pictures worth looking at is a knack you can spend a lifetime acquiring.
  • Observing: Taking pictures obliges you to see in a new way, and it teaches you to keep an eye out for vistas, wildlife and other sights you might miss otherwise.
  • Remembering: The Kodak moments, obviously, but also something else: the rare — but in my mind way cool — experience of a sense memory, when your brain suddenly recalls the sounds and smells of something long forgotten. Pictures can be handy for triggering those memories.


  • The weight: Good cameras are heavy; taking them along obliges you to leave something behind. Compact point-and-shoots take weight off, but you sacrifice image quality.
  • The inconvenience: Having to break up your stride to take a picture is bad enough when you’re alone, but in a group you’re either changing your pace to keep up or missing shots to avoid slowing everybody else down.
  • The moments: This was Crow’s main point, that time spent looking for great pictures comes at the expense of having great experiences. I find this point persuasive enough to encourage the shutterbugs to at least consider leaving the camera at home.
  • The reality that pictures do lie: Photographic evidence is in many cases highly overrated. To say that a two-dimensional image captured for a thousandth of a second within the narrow field of a camera’s shutter opening represents “reality” is an exaggeration at best. Pictures are nice, but they convey such a tiny slice of the experience of living that it’s hardly a major sacrifice to go cameraless.

As usual, I’m in the middle of the road. It seems like you could become so preoccupied with chasing great images that you’d risk losing the visceral thrill of being out there, but I’m thinking if you asked the great outdoor photographers about this, they’d say the visceral thrill is what gets them out there to begin with.

This reminds me of the question that helps simplify the decision to try lightweight or ultralight backpacking: are you a hiker, or a camper? If you’re a hiker with trivial interest in camping, then why take along a ton of camping gear? But if you’re a camper, why sacrifice your fun just to walk a few more miles? If you’re a photographer, a camera’s sort of a requirement. But if not, why complicate things in a place where the point is to have an uncomplicated experience?