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Five reasons to leave your camera at home
One less thing to worry about
It puts a barrier between you and the people
Nothing makes you stand out more than pointing a camera at a complete stranger. An unsuspecting market stall owner or farmer or palace guard is busy trying to do his or her job, and suddenly some tourist comes along and sticks a big lens in their face. Not a good way to get the locals to warm up to you. In some places, posing for photos has become a business and you'll be promptly asked for cash after you take a shot, or be badgered by flocks of children asking for their photo to be taken. Some countries have strict rules about what you can photograph. I once got told off by a cop in Tehran because I took a photo of a statue. The statue was fine, but including the post office behind it was forbidden because it was a government building. With no camera in sight, you'll get a lot less harassment.
There's nothing quite as boring as looking at someone else's holiday snaps. Oh sure, your family and friends will make admiring noises and ask to see more, but that's because they like you. They'd like you more if you closed the photo album or computer and took them out for a drink.
It can interfere with the moment
When my wife and I attended an archaeology conference in Oxford, we and the other participants got invited to walk among the stones of Stonehenge at dawn. As the sun rose between two of the standing stones it cast an eerie glow through the mist. Everyone hurried to take a picture while I stood there in awe. The conditions were such that nobody got a perfect shot. I ended up with the best memory of the event, still vivid after seven years, because I was actually looking at the sunrise instead of trying to capture it. (Full disclosure: this was mostly due to the fact that my wife was holding our camera at that moment, otherwise it would be her bragging right now.)
Over at Postsecret, where people send in heartfelt messages and confessions on anonymous postcards, someone who says he plays Mickey Mouse at Disneyland tells parents not to rush over and take a picture of their kid cuddling him because the best part of his job is seeing the kid's face light up at meeting him. Taking a shot distracts both him and the kid from a magical moment. Who are we to disagree with Mickey Mouse?
You can get better pictures elsewhere
Chances are you're not a professional photographer. Even if you are, when you're on vacation you probably don't have the time or inclination to take professional quality photos anyway. The pros work under ideal conditions with expensive equipment, and often wait hours, days, or even weeks for the perfect shot. Benefit from and reward their labor by buying postcards and coffee table books full of amazing images of the places you've been. Or check out our Photo of the Day section.
So when you're packing for your next vacation, rethink what you're putting in your bags. Your trip might just be the better for it.