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A man takes pictures of the Eiffel tower and its reflection on the Seine river, in Paris, on April 12, 2020, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic Image Credit: AFP

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. I beg to differ. The ones I take are mute, refusing to yield any information on when this was taken, where and, most important of all, why I chose this particular subject.

There seems to be no logical reason for my focus.

Disillusioned, I have decided not to bother whisking out my mobile or camera when I am on holiday. Let the others shoot to their heart’s content while I concentrate my undivided attention on my surroundings.

On a recent holiday, I was only too happy to leave the photography in expert hands. One of my fellow travellers happens to be passionate about capturing the sights and sounds of any new place.

I read a joke about photography, which I found extremely funny. Apparently, this is the only hobby where you can shoot someone and cut off their heads without going to jail


So, this friend went about capturing the best shots and patiently waiting for the best angles. This was especially comforting when you are seated on an elephant surrounded by rhinos.

You don’t want to be distracted by trying to get the best shot and doing something foolhardy, such as leaning over dangerously, in such circumstances.

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I read a joke about photography, which I found extremely funny. Apparently, this is the only hobby where you can shoot someone and cut off their heads without going to jail.

Yup, that pretty much sums up my photographic experience. It is important to realise your limitations and play to your strengths instead.

To be honest, how often does one look through old photos? Once upon a time I used to get all my pictures developed at a studio, buy photo albums and diligently slot the photos into the sleeves on each page.

This was a task of epic proportions which demanded patience, knowledge of chronology of events and deep pockets.

Aussie trip

My trip to Australia was documented in five albums. Needless to say all the pictures were taken by others. However, I have not opened these albums after the onerous task of inserting the photographs.

Actually I just remembered that I did take them out when my Aussie host visited me some years later. But instead of applauding my painstaking efforts, all she could point out was that she herself didn’t have so many of those pictures. She felt aggrieved at the thought that these were taken only because she provided the opportunity.

So, she started pointing out all the ones she had missed seeing. My protective instincts made me regret my rash decision to relive memories by showing her my catalogue of photos.

Seeing my reluctance to part with any of these, she tried another tack. She pointed out several similar pictures and eventually persuaded me to part with a few.

Needless to say the albums were put away rather abruptly before the empty spaces in the albums made a mockery of my hard labour.

Spectacular formations

A tour of the United States, which took us across 19 states, meant that my mobile was used extensively.

The sights were difficult to resist and I must admit I went berserk, shooting everything I found fascinating, which included some plants on the wayside that I intended to look up on the Google guru for identification purposes.

Three years later, the plants remain unidentified. Then there were the spectacular formations of Bryce Canyon.

Somehow I felt I had to capture these from multiple angles, which resulted in a collection of badly taken shots that failed to capture the beauty of my surroundings.

There were some iconic buildings that somehow were reduced to ordinary edifices when seen through the eyes of my camera.

As I look through these imperfect images, I am assailed by a sense of guilt over my lack of success in capturing the beauty around me and diminishing the marvels of Nature and spectacular man-made creations.

I should just rely on my memory and my inward eye.

Vanaja Rao is a freelance writer based in Hyderabad, India.