The Decisive Moment

In Travel
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“Should I stop the car?” asked my husband. The four of us were driving to a glacier in Iceland. To our right were flood plains leading down to the sea, while on the left was a dramatic volcanic landscape. Over the years we have travelled many miles together and my husband knows to ask this question when passing through particularly picturesque scenery. It’s a difficult call to make: there isn’t always a suitable place to stop, and the road, the light and the scenery all need to align. 

It’s a bit like photography itself, then — but instead of choosing, like Henri Cartier-Bresson, the “decisive moment” to press the shutter, I have to make the call on when we should slam on the brakes. And sometimes, when we get out of the car, the scene is a disappointment, and we’re quickly on the road again. But the flip side is worrying about the pictures we could have stopped to take, but didn’t.

I learned this the hard way. Back in October 2010, we were on a road trip in Greece. We had just visited Phillip II’s tomb and looked at his exquisite oak-leaf crowns made of gold. Afterwards, as we drove south to Meteora, the setting sun lit up the groves of autumnal oak trees on either side of the road with a magical, golden light. It felt as though we were driving through a mythical landscape of heroes, nymphs and centaurs. But there was nowhere to stop and take a picture, so the golden oak trees will forever be just memories. In retrospect, we wish we’d looked harder for somewhere to stop.

This experience means, though, that we now err on the side of stopping, rather not stopping. Better to pull over, and be disappointed, than not do so, and worry about the pictures not taken. Yes, I can take pictures from inside the car while we’re moving, and I like to do that too, but there are always funny reflections in the windows, or road markers getting in the way, so it’s not the same.

Anyway, in Iceland that day, we soon found a spot, and pulled over to take pictures of mountains and ice. We did this several times on that trip, sometimes lingering for half an hour as we all took pictures from different perspectives. Later in the year we found ourselves back in Greece, back on the same road to Meteora, passing those same oak trees. But it was May, and the leaves were bright green, and the light was different, so we didn’t take any pictures. It was a reminder, though, of the need to be decisive, and seize the moment!



  1. I can so relate to this! Especially because I’m the one driving most of the time and I make the call to not stop (usually because it’s not safe). And I’m always so angry and disappointed I didn’t…

  2. la foto che hai perso… io scatto in movimento, a 1/4000 di secondo…
    meravigliosi i tuoi scatti

  3. Love the reminder to always stop! Haha. I feel this so much. I still think about “photos” I missed, but it’s good to remember that there’s always the next time to try again. These are great, as usual. I always look forward to your travel photos. Thanks for sharing!

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