Some have kindly suggested that the loss of the camera frees me to enjoy the experience of paddling, to enjoy my hike in the woods, to enjoy the views and the flowers for their pure beauty instead of their potential as a photographic image, to experience the experience without the obligation to photograph.
While I appreciate the friendly efforts to console and cheer me, I cannot really relate to that advice.
To me, part of the joy of nature IS the joy of capturing it in a photograph. To me, there is joy in seeing a beautiful scene and in the process of deciding to frame just a certain part of it to convey a specific message. When you see, you see whole panoramas, you see objects in their situation and in their relationship to all the things around them, but in making an art image, you must edit out much of that and make a conscious choice of what to include and what to exclude. Those decisions determine what message the viewer will take away from the art. Sometimes, there is more than one message, such as the beauty of an individual tree in fall foliage, the beauty of that tree surrounded by others of different shape and color, the separate beauty of the relationship of the reddening leaves to the red rock that gives our Lake Redstone its name, the shape of the individual leaf, or even the vein pattern on part of that leaf. Sometimes, the plant covered in flower is one message and the individual flower with pollen drifted onto its leaves is another and the visiting bee, with its leg pollen sacks stuffed to overflowing is yet another. Ferns say one thing from this angle with the leaf litter under the fronds and another thing from another angle where they rise up to the sky. Lit from behind, the leaf is a glowing bright green that stuns while photographed from the same side as the light source presents a more solid earthy sheen to the surface. Photographing the nature is a way to look at it more deeply, in more detail, to explore the relationships among the parts of the natural world, and to enjoy far more about it than would be seen at first glance. Photographing, or rather the looking and the deciding what message to convey, make nature a richer experience for me and allow me to see more deeply into the relationships and more precisely into the details. Quick, how many lobes on a maple leaf? What is the back side of a white oak leaf like? Where are the legs attached to a bee's body? In taking the photographs and viewing them later, these sorts of things can be studied and learned.
Photography to me is NOT an obligation but a joy, and a way in which I experience more fully the joy that is out there in the world. It is also a reason to linger. Someone might think me a kook if I just stopped and lingered too long in front of their house to look at their magnolia tree buds or their rose shrub thorns quite closely, but if I have a camera in hand, I can inspect and peek and stare and study and no one calls the police or yells at me or send their dog after me. They just smile at the crazy camera lady and leave me be to my joyful soaking in of the details of the world.
And then there is the sharing it with you. I NEED those images to show to my kids and to my spouse and to my mom and to my sister, to email around to friends. to post on this blog, to post on Facebook, to share my story. "I went for a paddle today" is some news, yes, but accompanied with a dozen of the finest shots, it makes other people smile a little bit and hopefully inspires them to get outdoors for a paddle or a walk on a trail or even just around their neighborhood, and maybe the pictures of the things closeup makes them walk a little slower and look a little harder and notice things of beauty that might have been missed. Maybe it makes them love nature a little bit more and support the conservation efforts of some local organization or vote for the candidate who has a 'green' record.
A walk or a paddle with no camera is just me alone, but with a camera, I bring you all along and share it with you in that little way and it is not just me alone anymore but all of us loving nature and our surroundings together. Yeah, it really it that big. I need my camera!