On Cliches And Sunsets

It’s my last night in Santorini. I watched my fourth sunset on this Greek island just a short time ago. The view from the hotel is quite amazing and I’ve never had the opportunity to see the sun disappear little by little into the horizon the way it does here, like it’s dipping into the sea until it’s fully submerged.

We went to Oia yesterday to view the sun doing its thing among the throngs of people who congregate to see the sunset in Oia. Although it was nice, it wasn’t too different than the view from the hotel (look at me, being a snob about sunsets) but that didn’t stop me from snapping pictures. I found myself taking as many pictures as everyone else around me. To be honest, I thought I would stay away from the clichéd pictures on this trip and step up my photography game but that didn’t really happen. I’m going to have to sift through the many pics I took, most likely shaking my head at the majority of them, wondering what I was thinking when I took then (Besides “Ooooh!! Purrty!”).

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The crowd in Oia, waiting for the sunset

Even though I wanted to take extra care with pictures on this trip and put more thought into what I capture, I couldn’t help but be sucked into the tourist frame of mind since this trip started in Istanbul. The funny thing? I know a lot of the pictures I took won’t do the subject justice. I sincerely doubt any of my pictures will truly depict the majesty of the Blue Mosque. None of my pictures would be able to translate the vibe of Istiklal or how good my durum was at Durumzade (not that I took any pics of that, I was too busy eating it).

So for my last night in Santorini, where I have the distinction of being one of the most clothed people on the island, I left my camera in the hotel room and sat and faced the sunset without worrying about pictures. I focused on being a participant in the moment. Instead of trying to make a perfect photo, I tried to create a really good memory. And I think I got it. No photography filters required:)

15 thoughts

  1. It’s so easy to get sucked into a ‘capture everything’ mentality. I was in Europe last year and my camera was stolen (or lost, I’m still not really sure) quite early on. At the Borghese Gallery in Rome, I watched people walk up to spectacular sculptures as they raised their camera, snapped the shot, and turned and walked away. Some never looked at the artwork except through a lens or screen.

    I was kind of glad I didn’t have a camera — it made me aware of the difference, and now I try to remember to enjoy the moment. Sounds like a great trip, and congrats on just watching the sunset.

    Love your blog!

    1. I couldn’t help but notice the same thing in the Veletrzni palace in Prague the other day. I saw one tourist snapping photos of all the masters, but she never actually saw the paintings except thru a lens.

    2. Thanks for reading! I totally know what you are saying – I see people who seem to only experience their vacations through a viewfinder. I always had it in the back of my mind that my memory card would fail or there might be camera issues so I always made sure to actually take in what I was looking at. To be honest, I know some pictures won’t even do what I was looking at justice!

      Sorry to hear about your camera though!

  2. Bushra, what a beautiful blog piece. The last paragraph really captures the importance of being in the moment. I find myself with my camera out all the time on trips and in general, if not the camera-texting, and you really can’t be present that way. It is also hard not to get the tourist shot. That is why we go to these touristy places. I am sure you took some awesome pictures. Sounds like you had a fabulous trip! Can’t wait to hear more. The most important thing is that you traveled to another part of the world to see marvels and learn how other people live.

  3. May I offer an alternate perspective? I think that taking “good” photographs requires really seeing deeply what you are capturing. Really taking in the character of your subject to enable the proper framing that captures its essence. Therefore, one may argue that approaching photography this way actually requires you to be more present.

  4. In other words, 10 really good, carefully captured photographs > 100 snapshots and cuts less into vacation time :). How about 2 photos of the sunset and then putting the camera away the rest of the time? There’s always balance to be found. The trick is to find the balance instead of eschewing photography all together.

  5. I think you’re right, Monica. My perspective has changed on this a bit since I wrote it and I do think that I can still be present while still taking photographs. I think I achieved that more in Spain than I did on this particular trip as I was actively trying to take a lot of good pictures this time around. So, that’s why I had to force myself to be in the moment, because I hadn’t been.

    I think this XKCD comic really speaks to what you’re saying: http://xkcd.com/1314/

  6. Oh and one note about trying to stay away from cliched photographs. What helps me with this is trying to capture how something makes me feel versus literally what it is. For me, sunsets represent warmth and color rather than an orb hovering above a straight line. For example, instead of taking a front and center photo of the sunset, one can focus on the way the sunset light glints off the side of a building and gives it a glow, etc. Or perhaps focus on the colors in the water instead of including the sky and clouds as is typical.

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