Point of view: A photographer's quandary

Witness or participant? Observer or actor? Every profession has its drawbacks. For me, these take form in the decisions that pursue me: Do I bring my camera to family events? On vacation?

I recently attended a party celebrating a friend's achievements. I decided to bring my "vacation camera," a sophisticated point-and-shoot model. I thought that a small book of informal photos would make a nice gift. I sat up front to get the best shots, but soon realized that while it was a wise move photographically, my lonely stake-out isolated me. I let go, moved to a crowded table, took fewer photos, and had more fun.

With the birth of each of my children, people often said, "Wow, you must take a lot of pictures of your kids." Usually I mumbled something about being too busy parenting. But I think it's that I don't want a camera coming between us. The other day, however, on my way home from work and toting my professional gear, I couldn't resist capturing my children digging in their grandma's garden. Witness or participant? I liked the image I took. But I was happier after I'd put my cameras away.

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