I finally saw The Milky Way, the other week. A bit of it. I’d never seen it before — never actually seen that many stars at one time before. The night after, I saw the Northern Lights for the first time. Well, a bit. It was white, and dilute. But clearly there. The others in my party had seen them the night before. I’d gone to sleep early and missed them. The photos the next day were luminous, electric green curtains. What I saw was more like smoke. It was still riveting.
The reaction to seeing something extraordinary is always to try and photograph it. Not least because a photograph will always last longer than memory, and will in fact trigger the deeper experiential record of memory. But, sometimes? I almost missed the moment of my daughter’s graduation because the phone camera’s focus weirded out at the last second.
Why bother trying to photograph the Milky Way when I can just lay on my back in a Norwegian forest at night and stare at it until it fills my eyes?
Sometimes, you don’t take the photo. You just live it.
I am, however, an inveterate plane-window photographer.