I had a rather remarkable and wonderful day today. Not only is my girlfriend Clara a computer nerd, but she shares in my ever–since–my–childhood rail interest! We spent much of the day at the Thirlmere Train Works rail museum; its vast size and the sheer number of photos we took ensure neither of us have the energy to post about the trip today.
It reminds me of what my mum used to say when we'd go on holidays. The first time we went to Europe as a family, we went to a few many tourist spots, and too many few less travelled paths along Germany, France and Scotland than I can count. Despite being a professional photographer and film developer, she barely took any photos at all; and the ones she did take were mostly of us, not the locations.
She said it was more important to relish the experience, not relish in taking pictures of the experience. If you spent most of your time with your face buried behind a camera, you're always seeing the place through glass, and never once with your own eyes.
Even as a kid, I found that rather profound. I'm also a sentimental, nostalgic fool, and like taking pictures to remember experiences.
It's why when I travel, I try to do both. Taking in the experience is so vital; in the case of today it was witnessing the sheer majesty and awe–inspiring mechanics of some of the most technologically beautiful moving objects humans have ever constructed. It was also a chance to revel in the history with Clara, and to find the best angles and lighting to take great shots. I made sure to do all of these in equal doses.
I suppose it comes down to what you want to get out of your trip. If you want memories in your heart, maybe you can leave the camera at home. If you want to remember an experience, perhaps pulling the camera out can help. If you want to improve your photographic technique, and see the experience as a vast subject for you to focus on, then by all means snap away.
Personally, as a 20–something IT guy, I'm still naïve enough to think I can have my cake and eat it too :).