travel photos say too much about you


When my husband Ray goes somewhere, anywhere, he has two cameras attached to his body -- a very large SLR for one hand and an extra point-and-shoot  in case the really big picture shows up in the Pacific while he’s focused on the Atlantic.

Plus, of course, multiple lenses, a tripod, a monopod, assorted waist and shoulder bags, extra batteries, extra memory cards, and sometimes a multi-pocketed photographer’s vest that makes him look like a cross between Indiana Jones, a Greek fisherman, a Washington lobbyist, a coupon redeemer at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and an older and less flirty version of Ashton Kutchner actually taking photographs instead of just picking up chicks.

With all this paraphernalia near me, I’ve given up carrying my own camera, especially since my red Nikon which served as the perfect fashion accessory fell out of my hands and permanently split open.  When you give me a technical device, there is serious risk of seeing it dismembered right before your eyes.

Truth is I’m an anti-photographer.

Raybo’s theory:  See it, love it, see it again in the comfort of your own home.

My theory:  See it, love it, set it free.  Free is not living inside a memory card or pleading from inside a picture frame.

And how many photos will nature grant before it wants minimum wage?  

But despite my pooh-bah attitude, I know a great thing when I see it. And a recent trip to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru was going to be a great thing, so even I packed a tiny camera for those moments when Ansel Adams Kutcher was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was up to me to return home with the proof.

Besides, pointing my camera in Raybo’s direction and taking pictures of him getting the perfect shot can be useful for blackmailing. He takes pictures of the scenery, the people, the animals; I take pictures of him facing down Andean llamas. One shot shows him butt-to-butt with a llama; it should be good for something.

So there I was on the Incan cliffs having a darn good time and actually making a record of it. I avoided the hard stuff -- the intricate details of the architecture, the wrinkled Andean women in their wide Crayola-colored skirts, the grinning mountain kids -- and focused on the stuff I couldn’t destroy because it was too picture perfect. Like all of Machu Picchu.

Suddenly I was looking at the world the way you photographers do -- with a big barrier of glass that prevents any real connection. Wait, I take it back. That was the old me. The new me, weapon in hand, was seeing things in a way no one had ever seen before.

When we got home the true camera buff immediately disappeared into his office to become compressed into his Photoshop software. I knew this meant he was doing things to his pictures that make middle-aged women look bad. He was messing with nature and if nature intended itself to be enhanced, what chance does a middle-aged women have of accepting herself without plastic surgery?   

And yet, like a good facelift, the results were hard to argue with. I was invited, eventually, to a showing. Popcorn was even included because he wanted me to fawn for a very long time.  But suddenly I realized all this artistry had occurred without my own photo contributions.  Where were my personal shots of the famous Sun Temple, the sacred mountains?

“Well,” said Raybo, “better hold onto your popcorn, this is going to be a very bumpy ride.”

In other words, was that Machu Picchu in the clouds or maybe an anthill encircled in thick white spider webs? Was that a llama grazing on the terraced land, or maybe a deer chewing the hostas in my own front yard?

“The Inca empire wasn’t built in a day,” I huffed, and retired to my own office after slamming my camera back on the shelf. But first I removed the memory card to set all my rotten images free.

Then after Raybo went off to bed, I snuck softly as I could back to his empty office and marveled -- in the comfort of my own home this time -- at all the wonders we saw and all the wonders we could thankfully see over and over again.

July 3, 2012

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