I've been at astronomy camp for the past week, out in the California desert where the sky gets pitch black at night and uncovers a blanket of stars -- unlike back home in D.C. where the only star I can see is the sun.
Today, instead of giving y'all the low down on all of the supernerdy things I'm doing out here, I'm going to tell you the three reasons why I have a newfound love for Polaroid photography.
1) Polaroids are small
I used to carry my DSLR camera around my neck on all of my adventures, but then I realized that I was doing all of my adventuring through the lens of my camera instead of my own pupils. Lugging around a DSLR was like putting a wall between myself and the world in more ways than one -- it instantly identified me as a tourist, it restricted the activities I could do, and caused heaps of anxiety.
"Crap, I can't go swimming, because a beach bum might steal my pricey DSLR/sand will scratch the lens/it will get stung by a jelly fish (?)."
"Shoot, I can't dance with you, street performer, because dancing with a DSLR around my neck is not only awkward, but there is an 80% chance I will smash your tooth out with it."
"Nooooo! Did I get guacamole on the lens?!"
Polaroids are small, hardy and can be tossed in a bag or bike basket or fanny pack with ease. They're also pretty resistant to guacamole.
2) Polaroids are inefficient.
It's easy for me to get snap-happy with a memory card that holds 2000+ photos, or worse, my iPhone camera. However, with my Polaroid, I can only take ten pictures per film pack. It forces me to slow down and think "do I really need a picture holding a bell pepper that's shaped like a heart?" (yes) "do I really need an artsy picture of myself holding my morning coffee?" (no) "...but my nails look real nice today" (still no). It weeds out the multitude of squirrel pictures, selfies and "artsy" cappuccino pictures that used to be mindlessly downloaded onto my computer never to be looked at again. Instead, I get 10 or so thoughtful pictures that sum up the day.
3) Polaroids don't always work
My camera's fussy- sometimes it decides it just doesn't want to print me a picture. This happened yesterday when I went to a minor league baseball game in Sacramento - I had my camera poised to take the perfect shot of the fireworks at the end of the game... and then it decided not to print. But then, I got to lie back and enjoy the fireworks fully without worrying about getting the perfect snapshot. Even when the pictures do print they don't turn out crystal clear -- there are always strange little light squiggles over people faces, or little blurred halos in the center of the frame(check out my dismal food photography of a strawberry crepe). How is this a plus? It lets me relax and enjoy the moment, not for the picture-perfectness of it, but for the moment itself.
Polaroids are messy, fussy, and imperfect - much like the memories they capture. Also much like the memories, they are unique and singular. I can't print out a million copies of a Polaroid picture, but I can mail it off to a friend or tuck it away in a book for myself, giving that imperfect snapshot meaning and value that a digital picture can never have. These pictures can't be photoshopped or airbrushed - but even when they've got red eye and light splotches, they can transport me back to the moment that I took them... and isn't that the whole point of a picture?
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