They say pictures tell a story, but today, let me tell you a story about some pictures.
First, a little background. For our vacation, I rented a Hero GoPro. I’ve always thought they were pretty cool cameras, but I couldn’t really justify spending a few hundred dollars on yet another piece of photography equipment. But they’re small, and come in a waterproof case, so having one on a vacation where we might be on beaches and in water seemed like a neat idea. As it turned out, one of the main activities where I had hoped to put it to use got cancelled because of weather, but it could still come in handy at other times.
One of those times was a tour while in Belize, when we drove out to visit a site of Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. Like every other day of our vacation, it was raining during our visit to the site, so we took a few pics with our regular cameras, but eventually pulled out the GoPro to snap a few others once the rain really started coming down. One of the downsides of the small camera, though, is that it has no view finder, so there’s no way to really frame your photos—you just sort of aim and hope. And, of course, they’re really created for extreme sport type usages, so for the most part, they’re attached somewhere to sort of capture whatever the user is seeing from a unique POV; just holding them and kind of looking around isn’t really the best use of the technology. Here’s an idea of what I mean:
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this photo, but it might have looked a little different had I been able to see what I was actually shooting. But, this picture does give us a starting point for the actual story . . . See that temple in the background, the taller structure? It’s just over fifty feet high, which doesn’t really look all that high from the ground, especially since they’ve put a hand rail along the steps, so it seemed like it would be pretty simple to get to the top. I thought that even though I’m pretty much a baby when it comes to heights; I really thought it would be okay.
However, the steps themselves were pretty deep, making for a more difficult climb than I had anticipated, giving me crucial additional seconds to think about how much higher up we were getting with every passing step. So, when we got to a landing not too far from the top, I thought that might be a fine stopping point for me, and I’d leave Brian to go on up to the top and take a look around. So, I waited in an out of the way tiny corner and sent Brian up top with the GoPro to snap a few photos so I could at least see the view after the fact.
But, a lot of plans didn’t work out on this trip, and this was one of them. A tour guide came by while I was waiting and asked if I needed help with the camera backpack I was holding (no need for Brian to lug it to the top when he was only going to be using the tiny waterproof camera). When I explained I was just waiting, he explained that the stair traffic was one-way, and I was going to have to go to the top in order to get to the downward steps on the other side. Well, hell.
So, long story short, I trudged up the last few stairs, stood very briefly in the very center of the temple and looked around (can’t get too close to the edge, you know), then proceeded to have a small panic attack before I could bring myself to step off to the first stair and then climb down. For the record, sometimes living with a phobia really sucks.
I can’t say that stands as one of the high points of the vacation, but it does have a rather amusing ending. Later, when I pulled the memory card out of the GoPro to see what the terrifying vista looked like when not in a state of panic, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Remember, I’d sent Brian on the photo assignment with a rented camera with no viewfinder, so I guess I can’t entirely blame him for what happened, but when I opened the files, this is a sampling of what I saw:
I can’t deny I was initially disappointed with these results. And, besides being just a little bit angry with him—who can’t recognize the lens of a camera, even when it’s brand new and encased in a plastic box?—I was also annoyed with myself. After all, if I hadn’t had a melt down, I would’ve been in charge of the pictures myself, so there’s really no one else to blame. But, I saved all the pictures because I knew someday they would make me laugh. And I was right. They may not be the scenery I had hoped to capture from that afternoon, but I’m pretty sure a quick Google search can show me the view. (Sure enough, though I’m more intrigued with how someone managed to capture a photo with no people in it!):
This photo of Altun Ha Ruins is courtesy of TripAdvisor
But, Brian’s pictures are more than scenery, they’re a memory, which is the whole point of taking pictures in the first place, right? And, of course, they’re a story.