For those familiar with Leave No Trace philosophy of outdoor recreation, my statement here may sound sacrilegious. But hear me out.

There was a period in my life when I was an active amateur photographer. It was a time when I travelled a lot, so unsurprisingly, some of my best photos came from this period. Coming home was hard, since all I wanted to do was show people the beautiful places I’ve been. My family would politely sit through my slideshows but it wasn’t hard to tell, after a while, they did not understand my enthusiasm.

Being an amateur photographer, my GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) peaked with the birth of my first child. My husband, who accompanied me in the delivery room was given control of all the cameras because for once, I couldn’t be behind the camera. Relinquishing that control was hard for me. As my child grew and starting moving about, I needed a new camera. One that had faster AF so that I didn’t end up with blurry pictures. One that was compact, so I would actually bring it with me, along with the massive amount of baby gear we needed, every time we went out. 

There is always a tension, for me when I am photographing, between capturing a shot and fully participating in the moment. Somehow, no matter how unobtrusive the camera, I cannot be fully present when I’m also thinking about making a photo. More and more now, due to the realities of being a mom of two and a change in my mindset towards photography, I am photographing on my phone and less worried about if and how the photo actually turns. Sometimes I don’t get the photo I want, but I’m more often than not now, part of the action. 

With the availability of really good cameras everywhere, it’s easy to let the shutter do the storytelling for us. So while I still love photographing, I try to not forget that in the end, my goal is to tell a story. I challenge myself to take more than photos: to take interest, take notice, take part. In return, I’m giving more of myself and leaving more of myself with the people that I meet and the places that I visit. 

When we enjoy the outdoors under a leave no trace mindset, we try to leave as little of an environmental impact as possible – and therefore, we take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints. In the rest of life, and in mindful travel, maybe leaving an impact is not such a bad thing.