That's a Judgement Call

Some of my favorite moments were never recorded by camera.

Sunsets lighting up housing tracts, billowy clouds hanging over parking lots, a child reaching up to hold his parent's hand - these are all shots that I've enjoyed, but didn't capture.

Why not?

Sometimes it's because of our selective vision. For example, those three-dimensional clouds hanging over a Safeway store are indeed beautiful. But the foreground isn't. So either I have a shot of just clouds and blue sky, or I have a shot of clouds, blue sky, and a supermarket parking lot. Unless something spectacular is happening there, the shot just isn't going to pass muster.

So I enjoy the clouds, and then go about my business.

The child reaching up for his parents hand, well that's a different story. People are nervous about photographers taking pictures of young ones in public. It creates suspicion. It makes people uncomfortable.

To be honest, I don't want to ruin the moment. So I let the child feel secure holding his mother's hand, and continue with my shopping.

This raises one of the most difficult questions in photography for me personally: When is it appropriate to take a picture, and when not? In the past, as a photojournalist, I sometimes intruded when I would have preferred not to. These days, I'm more conservative in my shot selection.

The bottom line is, I have many wonderful moments in my photo library - and just as many that never made it there. That's OK.

Because I'm a photographer. I see moments that others miss. I got to experience them with or without a camera. And many of those mental snapshots have stayed with me for life.

The real gift of becoming a photographer is learning how to see.

Whether or not you click the shutter,

that's a judgment call.