Picture: Oak trees, cows and green grass on hills over valley in spring at sunset, Briones Regional Park, Contra Costa County, California
When someone is looking at one of our photos, many photographers have heard the saying “Wow! You caught that at just the perfect moment.” Sometimes though, the perfect time to take a photo… isn’t.
This last weekend I was on a training hike in the hills near my house. I had a fully loaded day pack with all of my camera gear and tripod. However, on this day I was more interested in exercise than photography, covering about 6 miles and 2000 feet of elevation in two hours. I crested the summit of Briones Peak just as the sun was going down on the horizon. At my favorite spot, I stopped to soak in the scenery and watch the sunset.
It was a clear, late summer afternoon. As I looked around, I could see the last golden rays of sunset light kissing the edges of the golden hills. To my left, a group of four deer were standing in the tall grass just below the new crescent moon. Straight ahead I could see the fog rolling in to the San Francisco Bay, as the sun set over the shoulder of Mount Tamalpais. To my right, a falcon hovered in the breeze above me as I looked out toward the Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta.
It was all there. It was perfect. I had my camera with me.
It was as the famed psychologist, Abraham Maslow, would describe as a Peak Experience.
I immediately recognized that there was no way to capture everything I was seeing and feeling in a single frame. I also realized that if I raced to break out my gear and start trying to record all the disparate elements, I would completely shatter the peaceful scene by frantically trying to take pictures. My camera gear stayed nestled against my back as I stood quietly soaking in, experiencing, and being part the scene.
After remaining motionless for a few moments, a field mouse started rustling in the grass two feet from where I was standing. I no longer felt alone, but I was totally content. It was a perfect moment.
My only regret is that I can only share the experience with you in words. But this is one instance where the camera would’ve completely interfered with my experiencing the perfect moment for the sake of trying to record it.
C’est la vie.