Jen here with another First Year post!
Warning: This is going to be one of my more serious posts. I’ll wait while you put on your serious face and get prepared.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Ever since Jason and I have been living in Georgia, we made it our tradition to visit the zoo every Easter. What a fun way to celebrate, don’t you think? And how excited we were to take Logan with us for her very first trip! It was our first big outing as a family, so I was really looking forward to documenting the day with my camera. I had an idea to create a photo book comprised of a variety of photos of Logan, Jason and me, as well as some of the animals we saw that day. It was going to be so adorable!
Once we were inside the zoo, we entered the first exhibit, which was an aviary filled with beautiful birds, a pond with turtles sunning themselves on rocks and a cute little waterfall. Jason picked Logan up out of the stroller and began taking her on a tour. The two of them looked so adorable – little wide-eyed Logan and Jason being a good daddy, pointing out the different birds. I whipped out my camera, got my settings and started snapping away.
I quickly realized something was really off. I couldn’t zoom out as much as my lens usually could, nor could I open my aperture as wide as I wanted to. And then it dawned on me – I brought the wrong lens! UGH! How could I have done that?! I was SO disappointed, but I kept on taking photos of Logan, Jason and the animals.
We went to a few more exhibits – the rhinos, elephants, cheetahs – and I enjoyed taking photos of Logan taking in all these new views.
Besides not being able to take as technically beautiful images due to having the wrong lens, it was also a little difficult trying to push the stroller around from exhibit to exhibit AND take photos. We stopped to give Logan a bottle, and I mentioned again how disappointed I was that I brought the wrong lens. I was obviously flustered. Jason made the suggestion that I put the camera down for a little while, and he could get some shots of Logan and me with his smartphone camera at the next few exhibits. I agreed, and we were on our way. We went to the giraffe exhibit – one of our favorites – and took some photos around that exhibit. And to tell you the truth, I had so much fun showing Logan around, I completely forgot about my camera.
The next exhibit was my absolute favorite: the jaguars. Two were out and playing with their toys – the liveliest we’ve ever seen them! This lady came up beside me and was snapping photos of them, then moved to my other side and took more. I moved down the exhibit some so I could get a closer look, and a moment later, the same lady was right next to me again, snapping more photos. I noticed her husband walking alongside of the exhibit, holding their young daughter’s hand, and she was just delighted with how the jaguars were playing.
We followed a group of people into a dark indoor exhibit, where we began checking out the dozens of reptiles, bats, and frogs. Jason, Logan and I were looking at one of the terrariums in the wall, and one of the lizards began crawling out of the water. We were pointing him out to Logan, when, all of the sudden, the same lady from the jaguar exhibit squeezed in next to me and began snapping away at the lizard with her camera. She proceeded to follow us through the rest of the exhibit, snapping away at whatever animals she saw. I looked around to see where her husband and daughter were and found the husband squatting down next to the daughter, both of them laughing at the pygmy monkeys and chatting away – they were having so much fun!
And then, like a thunderbolt, it hit me: that woman who was spending too much time behind her camera and not enough time with her family? I was in danger of becoming her.
The first portion our time at the zoo, Jason got to play with Logan while I was behind the camera, trying to document it all, worrying about camera settings, trying to get the best angles, and frustrated at myself for bringing the wrong lens. Did I have fun during that time? No, not really. Did I feel like I was a part of my family’s first zoo experience during that time? Again…no, not really. I looked at that woman’s husband and daughter and saw Jason and Logan down the line. I also saw a choice. Where would I rather spend my time right now and in the future – always behind the camera or with my family? It seems silly now to even have to ask that question because it really is a no brainer – I’d much rather be with my family. However, my actions from the first part of our zoo trip don’t correspond with that answer.
I vowed right there to not become that mom, the one who is always separate from their family, the one who doesn’t get to enjoy special moments and trips and everyday family life, simply because she feels like she has to photograph everything. Instead, I want to be the mom who, when my daughter looks back on her life, can say was truly present. So does this mean my camera is going away for good? Absolutely not! I’m a mom and a photographer – capturing my family’s story is so very important to me. But I am going to better balance my time being behind the camera with being in front of it and being without it.
For the rest of our zoo trip, my DSLR rested comfortably in its bag. Every once in a while, my husband or I would take out our smartphone and snap a few candids.
And you know what? Not only was our first zoo trip as a family incredibly fun, but I actually got to enjoy every minute of it! I will be honest – there were times that my photographer’s eye saw something that would have made a fantastic image, but I looked down at my daughter and decided those shots weren’t as important as holding her up to see her first zebra.
Did today’s post strike a chord within you? Do you feel pressure to always have a camera in hand and feel like you are not being a good parent if you don’t? Do you have an idea on how to balance your time between spending time with your family and photographing them? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
Meet me here next week, when I try another one of Me Ra’s photo recipes from her book, Your Baby in Pictures. I’ll be showing you some of Logan’s million-and-one facial expressions! Get ready to laugh!
First Year Cheers,
*Jen is teaching an April and May Workshop for Moms in Georgia. Click here for more details on Jen and her workshop dates!