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Step away from the camera phone


By Jennifer M. Latzke

Somewhere in the middle of a winter wheat field near Rosario, Argentina, it hit me.

I was so focused on getting a great shot of the field, the farmer, the crowd of ag journalists and taking notes all at the same time that I wasn’t appreciating the magnitude of the situation. The moment was slipping by me.

There I was standing in the middle of a winter wheat field, in Argentina, halfway around the globe. I was south of the equator talking to a farmer who spoke only Spanish and yet reminded me of my Oklahoma wheat farmers. Me, a wheat farmer’s daughter who dreamed of far-off adventures, was finally living an adventure, and I was missing it because I was so worried about getting the perfect shot of the adventure.

This wasn’t the first time I’d found myself in an awe-inspiring situation, and yet I was missing it because I was behind the lens. In Vietnam I got great shots of others enjoying street food and interacting with locals. In Colombia I have a great photo of a wheat farmer enjoying a street scene. I have lovely pictures of umpteen national parks, historical sites, museums and all manner of lovely and serene rural settings—and yet I couldn’t tell you that I fully appreciated being in any one of those remarkable places at the time I took those photos.

I was focused on only capturing perfection with my high-dollar camera lens. Only the cleverest smartphone camera shots were worthy of sharing online with Instagram. All so that I could compete in some imaginary game of “she who winds up with the most ‘likes’ over social media wins.”

Even more ironic is that I have very few pictures of myself in any of these great places.

How many of you can relate? For years I avoided having my picture taken because I just don’t take flattering photos (at least not without the assistance of Photoshop and a team of artists). My cheeks were too round. My nose was too pointed. My body was too chubby. My hair was a wreck. You name it—I made the excuse.

And really, those who love us, the ones we want to share those life experiences with when we come back home, they don’t care about any of that.

Take a swing through Pinterest and you’ll see hundreds of brides worrying about capturing the perfect photo of their wedding day. There are hundreds of ideas of the cleverest family photo settings and poses. And anyone with a digital camera is trying to out-do Ansel Adams with scenic photos of far off places.

Meanwhile, while we all wait for that perfect moment to happen and to be captured by a snap of a shutter, our perfectly wonderful lives are passing us by. We’ve let the technology and hashtags take us away from what’s really important.

Stephen Covey was right. You have to stop and appreciate the little moments in life in order to really live in the present.

So, right then and there, just for a moment, I put down my camera. I handed my iPhone to a friend, who snapped a couple of shots of me, the Kansas wheat farmer’s daughter, standing in that Argentine wheat field. My hair is wind-whipped. My cheeks are still chubby. And, yes, I could stand to lose a few pounds. It’s not the most technically perfect of shots, but it’s my favorite.

Without meaning to, I captured a perfect moment of imperfection and that’s one little moment I won’t take for granted.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807 or by email at jlatzke@hpj.com.

Date: 10/21/2013

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