Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Defining Moments


Perhaps better than anyone, photographers understand that once a moment passes, it is gone forever.  Just as no two physical objects are ever exactly alike, no two moments in time are ever perfect replicas of one another.  Every moment is unique and can never be duplicated.  So while I’ve never been a fisherman, I know what it means to lament “the one that got away”.  Like everyone else, I possess images that were (or would have been) “defining moments” for me as a photographer.   But they exist only in my memory – they were never captured on film or memory card and they will likely never come again.  They linger in my mind as reminders of what might have been.  They are the ghosts of unpreparedness, bad luck, and the naive notion that there is always tomorrow.

Life, I have learned yet again, is no different.  Assuming that today will be no different than yesterday and that tomorrow will unfold with no surprises is, to put it mildly, a really bad idea.

My mother is 90 years old (and will soon be 91).  My father died some 29 years ago, so she’s been pretty much on her own ever since.  Up until about 2 weeks ago, she was still driving.  In my mind, that wasn’t a particularly good idea, but I was always out-voted.  Generally speaking, her health has been very good.  Her diet was good and she religiously avoided doctors (a practice that is sometimes far “healthier” than getting regular checkups, in my opinion).  Her short term memory was failing, but hell, so is mine.

Anyway, she fell and broke her hip.  In an instant, everything changed.  For me, my 2 brothers and sister, and most importantly, for her.  First, there was the surgery to repair the hip (including a metal pin).  Following that, the rehab to get her on her feet again.  That will last at least 2 months – perhaps longer (she fell again in the rehab facility and reinjured the hip).

But I don’t think it’s the physical injury (as bad as it is) that’s the problem.  The problem is the effect the whole experience has had on her mental well being.  In a word, she’s losing ground.  And quickly.  She always said that she would never allow herself to be “institutionalized”.  I always figured she’d live to be 100 or so, go to sleep one night in her own bed and never wake up.  I fear we were both wrong.  One of those defining moments has changed it all.

I guess there’s something to be said for “living in the moment”.  And if you happen to be a photographer, keep that damn camera close.  Because when the moment is gone, it’s gone.


3 Responses to “Defining Moments”

  1. Steve Weeks

    So sorry to hear about your mother and I wish her all the family my best.

    My dad is 87, had a small stroke a couple of years ago and subsequently also had a fall that further laid him up. It seems like it all just seems to pile on when one gets further down the path of life.

    I am also learning more and more it is important to have a camera handy. The G9 has worked out great for that, but still there are times it is in the house or car and I have learned that if I go fetch it, that moment will be gone, so I have resigned myself to just enjoy the beauty unfolding. If I would have gone to get the camera chances are that moment would be gone and I didn’t even get to enjoy it.

  2. Don

    Life changes quickly.
    I saw my mother on a Sunday and we enjoyed the day, on Wednesday my son returned from Iraq and called his grandmother, she was fine, that weekend she died suddenly. Same with my father-in-law a few months ago, he came home from the VA hospitol after his treatment, said he was tired, died in his sleep.
    Be prepared life changes instatly and so does the picture.
    If I am not carrying my D90, I have my cellphone with a 3mp camera and in my car, in the console is a P&S Nikon P50. Like a Boy Scout, be prepared.

  3. Paul Maxim

    Steve and Don,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m sure that there are many, many people out there with similar experiences (with both life and photography). I certainly agree, Steve, that sometimes it’s best to leave the camera where it is and just enjoy what’s in front of your eyes. But it can also be damn frustrating – like the time out at Red Rock when the clouds were literally spilling off of the cliffs like some giant, ethereal waterfall and I was in the Jeep rushing to make it home in time to take my son to work. I should have stopped anyway. But I thought, “there will be other chances like this”. Nope. Dumb. Just plain dumb.

    I’ve never been much of a Boy Scout, Don, but the advice is good nonetheless. I do carry a G10 with me now, but I’m still waiting for that “defining moment” opportunity. You know, like alien spacecraft landing or seeing a 2 – headed cow somewhere, or maybe Elvis ducking into a bar. Then again, maybe I should lower my expectations…….


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