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Back when my blog was new and no one looked at it, I did a perfect Oops post (is that an oxymoron?). I’ve pulled it out of obscurity for the Weekly Photo Challenge today under the assumption that few, if any, of you have ever seen it before.

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I’m climbing up the steep side of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and I’m clinging for dear life to the chain in the side of the cliff. Can I let go with one hand and dig my camera out of my pocket to document this climb? It’s a thrill a minute and I’m loving it, but how can I prove how scary this is without a good video?

I round a corner in Nepal after days on the trail and there it is, my first glimpse of the mountain I’ve waited decades to see in person – Mount Everest in all her glory. Is it enough to just take it all in with my eyes, imprinting it on my brain forever, or must I document this from all angles for my scrapbook and blog later? If I don’t post this on Facebook, did I really do it?

I just read an article, “We Are a Camera” in The New Yorker magazine.  It’s about the GoPro head-mounted cameras used by surfers, skiers, and others, but the question it raised for its author, Nick Paumgarten, and me is: to what extent do we need to record what we do to have it matter? As Paumgarten says, we “used to just do the thing – plan the killer trip or trick and then complete it, with panache. … Now the purpose of the trip or trick is the record of it. Life is footage.”

Much as I love taking photos and looking back at them, I find both truth and sadness in the “Life is footage” statement. Many times, I do forgo a picture when I am really enjoying a trail or a sight, consciously choosing to fully take in the experience in real time rather than on film, tape, or memory card. Only rarely have I regretted living the scene versus recording it. But today we live in a visual, media-dominated world, and it’s hard to rein in the impulse to document everything we do; I’m no exception, although I do feel a pang every now and then when I interrupt what I’m doing just to capture it through a lens other than my own eyes.

So, back to Angel’s Landing … it really was an impressive climb up there and once I did make it, I asked my husband to take a photo of my exhausted, sweaty self on the top so that, yes, I could prove that I’d succeeded. Here it is. Sometimes even the best plans for posterity don’t work out!

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(And neither of those partial people is me; I am fully behind the finger. Promise!)

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