Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

Give your camera a vacation, please

This is Scotland, and I am tasting Scotches. Very fine ones, in fact. I should be happy. Even giddy. But there's a problem. I can't even see the drams — much less sip any.

Smartphones have suddenly sprouted like shiny bamboo shoots. People in my tour group are squeezing in front of me and elbowing me out of the way.

There's a woman with not one but two phones happily clicking away. A man wearing tweed is hopping as he snaps, which blocks a taller man behind him. I watch the tall guy drag over a chair from somewhere and begin shooting what has to be a hawk's-eye view of the scene.

Is the Duchess of Cambridge here? No, what the flashes are highlighting is, well, whisky. Images of a desk clerk pouring. Pictures of a drink.

As quickly as I can, I grab my camera, set the settings, flip on the flash, and — for reasons I'm not sure of — something makes me stop. Just this once, I'm not quite up for battle. I slink over to a plate of scones.

What's going on? The single-malt shot: It will not be mine.

Everyone else will snag much better images than I will. They'll be grabbing Facebook traffic the very second they post them.

I will drink my unrecorded whisky in disgrace.

• • •

When it comes to taking photos, I almost always try hard. I dance a samba the minute I'm lucky enough to reel a good shot in. But every once in a while, I have an intrusive thought: How many tidbits from a vacation does a traveler need?

I've started to think that snapping strings of pictures is a kind of nervous tic. A way to box up travel, show it off and take it safely home. It seems like the only convincing reason for a world that suddenly appears bored with plain old experience (yawn, another day in Rome) until the instant it's captured.

What makes a man hold up the screen of his picture-enabled iPad to block out a squadron of sun-bright parrots in Brazil? What causes a woman in a safari jacket to pose for a series of self-portraits? When it's sunset. In Kenya. When a brushfire tints the sky. When there are giraffes — softly bending — only a few yards away?

Why do people point lenses at unphotographable rain in rain forests? Or shadowless snow on top of ice on top of the Arctic Sea?

Why do diners in a Hanoi noodle joint forget the slurp, the steam, the shrimp curled up inside their pho? Everyone likes images that are sharp and evocative and good. But of every mouthful, at every meal?

I'm the first to admit: Whether it's a recipe or a blog, words arranged on paper look a lot more polished when they mix with pictures. Colors are a fast and fashionable crowd. A sentence skulks around in horn-rimmed glasses. Paragraphs hate parties. Pages are painfully shy.

So I get that hotshot photographers are proud. They can spot us amateurs coming, and they suppress a smirk. I know just what they're thinking: No fire in our bellies. No guts. No decent equipment. No game.

And when push comes to shove, I realize that they're right. That shot that caught the drama of an accident, in a dusty alley, deep in the medina, in between souks, in Fes? Not mine. I missed the action. I was engrossed in spooning up sauce with couscous at a cafe lunch.

That image that made the Atlas Mountains look luminescent, and picked out a lantern moon? I didn't take it. I was too busy skidding on pebbles. Too busy poring over a map. Too busy wiping my brow.

It may be simple jealousy, but lately I've felt a secret, giddy relief when I enter a place where pictures aren't allowed. Is it a tropical garden in Burma full of expansive blossoms and enormous trees? I might see a butterfly against a branch without the scene being backlit by a dozen flashes.

Is it an almost-famous restaurant in Madrid? I'll be able to actually taste and digest without a tablemate photogenically rearranging my food. Unruly lakes of gravy, hills of mashed potatoes? Do not sculpt. Here comes my knife.

Can you find flavor in a photo? Can you sniff it? Roll it around on your tongue? In these moments, I no longer want to try.

Suddenly I'm free — not just from forests of clicking cellphones — but from the temptation to pull out my own. I can concentrate, not on things that might be worth recording, but on the things that aren't.

A person's face that isn't craggy or intriguing. A rattling sound that makes me think of music. A boring-looking bit of fencing that, for some reason, reminds me of home.

When I get this gift of seconds that are very happily pointless, I remember something that I typically forget. I remember what it was like in the days before devices, before everyone on Earth was "wired."

I make my mind up to turn over a fresh new leaf on my very next trip. Don't be encumbered, I remind myself. Skip the technology, take a pass on gear.

I have a plan, in fact. A plan to alert myself when it's time to pack. I'll use my iPad, type in the date. I'll set it up just so.

I'll make sure that my device lays on an ear-splitting warning at exactly the moment when I'm filling my duffel.

"See more, snap less," it will say.

Don't be encumbered.

Don't be the Tweed Man. Don't be the Tall Man.

Just go.

Peter Mandel is a travel journalist and author of children's books, including Jackhammer Sam.

Comments
The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

The Bucsí problem isnít how they finish; itís how they start

For the second straight week, the Buccaneers had the ball in the final minutes of a tie game.For the second straight week, they could not finish.As disappointing as that might be, they have a larger problem, and one that has existed all season: The B...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fire at Tampa townhome complex caused by faulty air-conditioner unit

Fire at Tampa townhome complex caused by faulty air-conditioner unit

TAMPA ó A malfunctioning air conditioning unit sparked the fire that damaged several homes at the Brookshire Townhomes on Monday, authorities said.Investigators concluded the fire started on the back patio of unit B103 when the power supply of a cond...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago

Plant City boy, 12, dies in Mulberry crash as car turns into path of semi

MULBERRY ó A 12-year-old Plant City boy died Tuesday when the car he was riding in turned into the path of a semitrailer on State Road 60, authorities said. Miguel Resendiz was riding in an eastbound BMW 328xi when its driver, 29-year-old Maricela Re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Buchanan Middle aide used Instagram to seek nude photos, sex from students, deputies say

Buchanan Middle aide used Instagram to seek nude photos, sex from students, deputies say

TAMPA ó A 24-year-old aide at Buchanan Middle School was arrested Monday and charged with using Instagram to ask for sex and nude photos from female students at the school, deputies said.Between Sept. 1 and the time of his arrest, Quinton J. Bradford...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bayís mortgage delinquency rate crept up in December

Tampa Bayís mortgage delinquency rate crept up in December

Times Staff WriterThe percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners who are late on their mortgage payments rose slightly in September, probably due to Hurricane Irma. According to CoreLogic, 7 percent of bay area mortgages were delinquent by at least 30 days c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Unusual paddle design earns worldwide market

Unusual paddle design earns worldwide market

Paddling on the heels of the last supermoon of 2017, Phil Hughes navigated an uncommonly low tide off Dunedin through St. Joseph Sound on an effortless but lengthy glide.This is not easy water, nor an easy paddle, and could be especially daunting for...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Nicko's Fine Foods, classic diner and Seminole Heights icon, closes after six decades

Nicko's Fine Foods, classic diner and Seminole Heights icon, closes after six decades

Nicko’s Fine Foods, known as the place Elvis Presley ate following a 1956 concert and Tampa’s last classic prefabricated diner, has shut down after more than 60 years in business. Owners Karen and Nicholas Liakos could not be reached for...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa memorial for

Tampa memorial for "Fight Doctor" Ferdie Pacheco to be held Thursday

TAMPA ó A memorial service for "The Fight Doctor" Ferdie Pacheco will be held Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Centro Asturiano, 1913 N Nebraska Ave.He died in his Miami home on November 16 at the age of 89.Born and raised in Ybor City, Pache...
Updated: 2 hours ago