My husband and I are a great birding team. He relies on me to help him hear and spot birds, and I rely on him to get any pictures that he can. We often learn important things when we look at his photos later, making them of great value to me. But when I’m on my own, I am reluctant to carry a real camera. The main reason I hesitate is Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).
A good camera means carrying more equipment, when I’m already weighed down by my binoculars, field guide, and notebook. Without a camera, I can put all my energy into observing any birds I spot. Fumbling with a camera means less time looking at the bird, and that worries me.
I’ve often seen a bird that Kurt never got to see because he was too busy trying to get a picture of it. Whether the bird flies off before he’s ready or he doesn’t get a good photo of it, Kurt winds up relying on what I tell him because he never laid eyes on the bird.
Cameras also put distance between you and your subject. Life is literally “re-framed” as you focus in on it. While you are busy taking pictures of one thing, you could be missing something else close by that’s just as interesting.
It wasn’t until I started writing about this that I realized that my reluctance to use a camera while I bird is just FOMO. I like to think I don’t have issues with acronyms or suffer from things others complain of. Just like I thought I was never lonely, I thought I was free of FOMO.
But I do have FOMO. Fear that the camera will keep me from seeing the bird at all, that I’ll miss a lifer or a rare sighting or noticing an unusual marking or some really interesting behavior. The whole reason I bird is to watch the birds, to learn more about them through my own observation, to connect with the wild world around me.
And yet no camera is a problem, too. Without a picture, I have no way to verify that what I think I saw is what I actually saw. Without a photo, I can’t prove to others that I saw a rare visitor to the area. No picture means no visual record of the experience I had and no physical reminder of happy birding moments.
The longing for taking my own photos hit hard when I went birding in Hawaii. I saw lots of introduced species, but I also got some good looks at some of the colorful endemics. Brief initial sightings were followed by longer, more leisurely looks. When yet another i’iwi flew slowly past, I suddenly wished I could get a picture of this striking red bird
But all I had with me was my cell phone, and I knew better than to even try. The only thing worse than no picture of an i’iwi is a photo of a red dot that people have to take on faith.
I know the best way to get over this is to just start doing it, but I have yet to take a camera with me birding. Apparently, my fear of missing on seeing the bird still outweighs my fear of coming home without photographic evidence of the sighting.
If you bird with a camera, I’d love any tips you can give me.