Goodwood and why I’m leaving the camera at home.

So the 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed begins tomorrow (Thursday the 26th of June).

Here we are, just past the summer solstice and once again it’s time to pack the family into the car, along with a picnic and possibly a pair of wellies. The one thing that I won’t be taking with me this time is my D-SLR camera.

On too many occasions I have hauled this cumbersome kit to events with me and ruined the day because of my endless need for capturing the moment. Time after time I have asked my family to stop and wait for me, as I compose and frame the perfect shot of this car or that famous driver. This is usually met with a lot of huffing. But this time it will be different, this time I will take only the smallest of compact cameras and my smart-phone, both of which will remain firmly ensconced in my satchel, just being brought out for family photos or spectacular newsworthy events.

As a freelance photographer by trade, I am always looking at the world through a camera viewfinder, for hours at a time, day after day. I can tell you; it’s nice to put down the camera and watch the world go by with your own eyes. Too many times I have been at events and watched vast swathes of people filming the whole thing on their iPad or phone.

The incredible thing is this; most of the time those same people are so far removed from the action in the first place (mostly due to catch fencing or by being in the cheap seats), that it makes me wonder just what the hell they’re trying to capture? TV cameras costing thousands of pounds do a great job, as does the 600mm Nikon lens that I sometimes have to use for my work. A tablet camera with a lens the size of a pinhead is never going to produce the same results.

Why put a screen between you and your life? It’s isolating enough when you’re alone in front of a computer, but now we’re doing it even when out among the swarm. What are we doing with all of these must-film-every-second videos, anyway? Has anyone actually ever watched one? Does anyone think the grandstand cinematographer at the Grand Prix is going to sit in front of his computer and gape at it again, ever?

The technology exists that allows us to film or photograph every waking moment — a fantastic concert, your son’s first football match, that spectacular air show, but as Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park, “Just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean we should.” Wouldn’t your kid prefer to look over to the sidelines and see you cheering uncontrollably over his big goal than flashing a feeble thumbs up while trying to keep the image steady?

We all need to stop focusing so much on capturing the moment and just enjoy it instead. Be present. Live in it. Snap a picture to take you back to it in your mind, when you stumble across it years from now on your computer hard drive, let that memory be of how fully you experienced that event at the time, with all your senses; and if you absolutely have to have a recording of it, go and buy the event DVD. The picture and sound quality will be much better, and you can still tell yourself, “Wow, I was there.”