12.15.2014

A long weekend without a camera in my hands.

In the last twenty years I've never left town without a camera of some sort.

I broke with a long tradition and habit this past weekend. I traveled to Charlotte, NC and back without a camera. Unless you count the camera in my iPhone 4s, and I really don't. I meant to take a camera, or rather my habitual nature meant to take a camera, but my rational brain kept saying, "you're going to have your hands full and your schedule is tight. A camera will just get in the way." This time I listened to my rational brain which is also unusual.

I was traveling with my two parents who are in their late eighties. The both need to be in wheelchairs with Skycaps to make their way through big airports. My dad is becoming a bit forgetful and someone needs to be with them to make sure he doesn't leave his keys, wallet and passport behind at the security checkpoint like he did on last year's trip. My mother needs to be on oxygen and I've spent a good week learning the ins and outs of oxygen concentrating machines. The difference between pulse and constant, the stated battery endurance versus actual performance and the best way to breathe to make sure oxygen delivery is efficient. 

Skycaps guide the parents while I guide the carry-on luggage and oxygen machine extras. It's the kind of operation that has lots of moving parts and a lot of "if = thens" involved. Very much guaranteed to crank up the anxiety levels of even a calm and easy-going person. On the plane I get to make sure my dad doesn't accept too much coffee because those bathrooms are far away and it's a slow procession down the crowded aisles of pre-holiday jets. I also need to use a fingertip oximeter to make sure we got the oxygen flow correctly done for my mom. That's always an interesting competing intersection between appropriate levels and battery life....  I just wasn't up for tossing a camera into the whole mix.

I didn't really miss the camera (my perennial safety blanket) on the flight to Charlotte. I certainly didn't miss the camera as I paid attention to both the conversation of the Bulgarian cab driver and the beeping, low battery alarm on the oxygen machines while we traveled through Charlotte in a cab, to my sister's house. My mind was running the calculus of time spent versus stated battery reserves. Didn't even think to stare out the window and calculate the correct exposures in my mind. 

Where I missed my camera was my return the next day. I got dropped off at the airport by myself, carrying nothing but a small backpack with one change of clothes, a pen and a journal book. When I walked through the terminal I saw potential images everywhere. The sunlight was strong and clean outside the windows and it made the planes seem sculptural and somehow much more interesting. There were lines of architecture intersecting commerce that would have made wry, disassociated commentary, and at the very heart of the matter the camera is so wedded to my self-image that I felt somewhat naked and adrift without it. 

I flew into San Antonio, retrieved my car, and headed up the road to Austin. Heavy gray clouds hung over the highway like a dowdy, lumpy comforter. Little glimpses of sunlight popped up here and there and wherever there was a break in the clouds there was also a most picturesque and laser-like beam of warm yellow sunlight coating everything within a small cone of brilliance. I saw one image of a majestic roadside tree perfectly spotlit and magical against a background of desaturated gray clouds and un-illuminated landscape. And still no camera. 

When I got home I kissed the dog, kissed the wife and then went off into the studio to look for a camera to play with. The first one I came across was an old Alpa which had settled in next to an older Leica. They were both so comfortable. It was great to back home with my small family and a studio full of friends. 

Epilogue: The parents were delivered to my sister's house, safe and sound, and are enjoying their visit very much. The cameras have had their batteries charged and are enjoying some downtime. I'm learning to let go a bit; I walked with Studio Dog and Wonder Spouse this morning and didn't even consider bringing along a camera. I guess that's healthy...

10 comments:

Dave Jenkins said...

An E-M5 with the 14-42 kit lens is very capable and takes up almost no space. . .

Just sayin'. . .

Anonymous said...


KT,

Camera or no, like those of us who must take care of elder parents you deserve a medal for the care of your parents. Just as parents take care of us as we grow up, we must care for them as they grow older. It is good we do this.
Jb

Anonymous said...

The Kamera Godz wouldn't have turned you to stone for shooting the "...majestic roadside tree perfectly spotlit and magical against a background of desaturated gray clouds and un-illuminated landscape." with your iPhone 4s ;-) A little post-processing could have turned it into a work of art. A lot of pros are turning out some very nice iPhotos.

Just sayin' ...

Anonymous said...

The Kamera Godz would not have turned you to stone for shooting the "...majestic roadside tree perfectly spotlit and magical against a background of desaturated gray clouds and un-illuminated landscape." ;-)

Just sayin' ...

Kirk Tuck said...

Dave, I've got a passel of EM5s and a bunch of tiny lenses but in a situation like this I am loath to even have the idea of a distraction.

Kirk Tuck said...

Taking good care of our parents is a good thing, may be karmic and sets a good example for our own children. That's important; we might need them some day....

Gary said...

In February my wife and I took an emergency trip to Florida from my home in Brooklyn, after my 99 year old mother fell again and was in the hospital. I knew that she never going back to her condo where she lived alone and that we would have to make new living arrangements for her. I brought only my Fuji X20, because my priority was not going to be on photography.

As it turned out, My mom ended up in hospice where we sat vigil and comforted her as she peacefully went to her maker over a two week period.

I am so thankful I had a camera as I was able to capture those last days of her life. You just never know.

Kiss the dog first and then your wife, wow!

Dave Jenkins said...

I understand perfectly, Kirk. Just kidding.

Old Gray Roy said...

Kirk;

This column struck a particularly resonant note for me. As an elderly parent, perhaps 2 or 3 years younger than your own, I am beginning to understand what my own parents went through as I looked after them during this trying period of our lives.

My wife and I have only needed our kids assistance one time. Their response let us know that they are aware (probably more so than we are) of the circumstances of our aging, and that they are ready and able to take over when necessary.

Your son is very obviously observant and capable and has no doubt picked up a lot of information about his grandparents from you. In later years, should you need him to, he will pitch in and take over just as you did on your parents trip.

Our kids can surprise us with their capabilities in an emergency. And it sure is gratifying to see them pick up the ball and run with it when they are really needed.

Oriol said...

Hi Kirk,

I highly recommend you a Ricoh GR for these cases, wonderful camera and truly pocketable. Otherwise, a picture made with an iPhone edited with VSCOcam can become a piece of art

Oriol