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A Way of Seeing or Recording ‘A Moment’

Jan 7, 2013
Maureen Spagnolo

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever … it remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything.”  Aaron Sussman

We are all photographers – any of us who have picked up a camera, and snapped a photograph. Why do we do it? Often, to capture the moment. It’s fleeting, yet forever, once we’ve recorded that image on film or flash card.

A few shots taken during a visit with relatives or friends can become precious if that was the last time we saw those people alive. Yet, at the time, it might have seemed as if there would be other times. Such was the case when my dad and I visited my uncle and aunt in 2003. Dad died later in 2008, and my aunt and uncle died this past fall. I recorded the 2003 visit with a digital camera. I cherish the shots of all of us enjoying an afternoon together.


Aunt Joan and Uncle Bob

Uncle Bob and Dad

Cousin Gillian and Dad

Dad and Maureen

Photography is also a tool to awaken us to seeing. When we look through the lens, framing a small portion of the available view, it reminds us that life is about perspective – how we view it. Twenty photographers can be shooting at the same location, and not one of those photos will be identical. One or two may capture a unique and mind-blowing shot – often taken because the photographer was able to shift his or her view to somewhere other than the “norm”.

Photography is a great metaphor for life: it’s all about one’s point of view – which can be shifted. Admittedly, it’s easier for me to tilt my camera, or get down on my knees to shoot a flower, than it is for me to change my view of a sister who won’t talk to me.

There are lots of simple guidelines to help us create better and more memorable images of occasions.

Here are a few:

Photograph the details. On vacation, take shots of menus, the food (close-ups), signposts, ticket stubs, local maps, etc. These shots will help you remember the experience more fully.



Photograph your journey, and the locals (taken on the bus driving from the aiport)

Take photographs of people on your trip


Photograph details of your trip (National Geographic Cruise. Panama, Costa Rica)

Picnic table: Interesting and humorous details can be fun to include in your photo album (signs indicating picnic table, and water faucet beside said items amused us)

Get the overview shots too, using a wide angle lens: the view from your room, streets scenes, etc.

Take photographs of people on your trip - ask permission if you have eye contact. (Panama airport).
Take photographs of people on your trip - ask permission if you have eye contact. (Panama airport).

Take candid photos of your party, as well as getting a tourist to photograph your group in front of the landmarks. Take photos of the locals, where possible. Some of these will be candid shots, though asking permission to shoot interesting locals eye-to-eye is also good. These interactions can be precious, and will add not only to your album, but to your memories.

And don’t forget to write notes on your journey that can be added as comments to the photos.

Photography is a wonderful tool to enhance our life experience, and share with our loved ones. When we need a pick-me-up on a rainy day, what’s better than to pull out our albums, and remember all the love and joy that we have experienced.

Maureen Spagnolo is a photographer, living in Washington, DC. She writes on a variety of social issues in addition to her photography articles.

Her passion for photography began in her twenties when she fell in love with a photographer, and then took her first photography class. She used any camera she could get her hands on - until she got her first DSLR camera several years ago. Since then, she has gone gangbusters - taking photos like a junkie (!) and reading everything about photography she could find. She now owns enough (never enough!) cameras, lenses, tripods, and camera paraphernalia to warrant an add-on to her home owner's insurance.

Yet, photography is not about equipment. It's about passion, and seeing - qualities that can turn a cell phone into a tool which can compete with the most expensive camera.

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