The contrast is even more extreme when I do "macro" photography--that is, when I'm taking pictures of very small things, such as tiny flowers. Once I find a suitable subject, I have to pay attention to so many factors: the angle of the light and the resultant shadows, the background "noise" or distracting elements, the "ideal" height of the camera and the perspective on the subject, the bits that I want to be in focus and the bits that I want to be blurred, the effect any slight wind or breath of air movement can have on the subject, and so forth. Taking a closeup photo of just one flower can sometimes take thirty minutes or more. Most hiking companions, unless they are also taking photographs, don't like to wait so long.
It's possible to think that looking at the world with a camera in front of my eye has its definite limitations, for it means I end up by myself an awful lot. It could also mean becoming an outsider, an observer, not a true participant. Were I a portrait photographer or a photojournalist, I would admit to some truth in this claim. Yet when photographing people, I pose myself in front of the camera as often as I put others there. But more than that, interacting with the world as a photographer really brings a calmness to my spirit. Not only do I slow down my usual headlong rush through life, but I also pay attention to the details that make the world so astonishing, so beautiful, and so sacred. I feel connected with the universe; I experience a sense of unity that is both intimately personal and infinitely beyond the personal. I have a strong suspicion that I would not have had these--dare I call them "spiritual"?--experiences had I not been looking through my camera lens.