Too many photos in too many places

TRAVERSE CITY — This headline caught my eye: “Woman falls to her death while taking photos at Eagle Falls in Lake Tahoe.”

That’s been happening a lot lately, especially since the invention of the selfie.

“Oregon State college student falls to her death from cliff while taking pictures.”

“Grand Canyon tourist falls 1,000 feet to his death while taking photos”

“Indian couple who died taking selfie in Yosemite regularly took risky photo.”

I always notice these stories because I think it would be a terrible way to go. But then I have a falling phobia based in part on my overactive imagination. I always wonder what people are thinking on the way down. Probably just “Aaaaaaaaa!” But if it were me, I’d spend the last few seconds kicking myself for being so stupid.

“It’s a just a photo, dummy. And you never look at them anyway.”

Which is true. Before digital cameras, my photos used to languish in plastic film cartridges. I find one every few years in boxes that have moved with me from house to house over the years. Even after discovering them, I seldom go to the bother of having them developed.

But I also never throw them out.

In the smart phone era, I’ve taken thousands upon thousands of photos. A few of them I post to social media, just like everybody else. If Facebook ever goes kerplunk, so will much of the evidence of my existence. Remember that, Zuckerberg.

The rest are, I don’t know, drifting in the digital “cloud” that my iPhone is always nagging me to buy more space in. (Dear Apple: Please, for the love of god, let me shut off your incessant notices.)

I doubt I’ll ever see these photos again because I don’t know how to access or operate this cloud and don’t really care to learn. I suspect someday my cloud will become so overloaded it will rain my motley collection of digital sunsets, selfies and vacation shots down upon the digital landscape, potentially causing regional digital flooding. If so, sorry about that, digital landscape, especially for all those photos with my thumb in the frame. I’m not a good photographer.

There are thousands more photos of mine stranded on the 15 or so desktops and laptops I’ve owned over the years. The computers themselves have moved on to cyber-heaven (or more likely, hell) but I kept the hard drives. Somewhere. I’m just not sure where.

I have a similar collection of old cell phones, each containing about a billion more photos that I never bothered to or remembered to upload or download or save.

But I doubt I’ll ever see them again. Yes, I have all the phones, mostly because I’d feel guilty putting them in the trash but also because I don’t know what else to do with them. I can’t imagine caring enough to figure out how to A) power them up again or b) get the photos off them.

And even if I did, what would I do with them?

I’d probably put them on a hard drive, which I’d then stick in a box.

Most people are like me, I suspect. We take a lot of photos but never do anything with them.

So, why do we take them in the first place, even to the point where we’ll risk our lives?

I dunno. My guess is photos are somehow proof to ourselves (and to others someday) that we had a good and fun-filled life surrounded by people who loved us.

But do we really need that? The images our brains snap are better, more vivid and last longer (literally our whole life) than anything we can capture with a camera.

I’ve been trying to keep that in mind.

When I’m doing something special, I try to focus all my attention on the experience itself.

Yeah, I guess I’m getting contemplative the older I get. The fewer tomorrows I have, the more my todays mean.

I’m not going to miss out on moments because I’m too busy recording them to look at later, which probably won’t happen anyway for all the reasons I mentioned heretofore. I’m going to experience them now, fully.

When I do, I find I enjoy things more.

Plus, you know, I increase the odds that I won’t fall off a cliff.

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Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him via email at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

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