New York City Elopement & Portrait Photographer || Katie Jane Photography » New York City Elopement & Portrait Photographer

Letting a Moment Just Be a Moment || Fine Art Elopement Photography

I couldn’t tell you what time it was. Somewhere between one and four AM depending on the time zone. A silent flight cross country in the middle of the night.

It had started off bad. The seatbelt sign stayed on from Las Vegas to Nebraska, and somewhere over Colorado, I think we all thought we might go down. The rocking was incredibly intense; the flight attendants ordered into their seats. Someone was crying, but it wasn’t me for once. I held on to the arm rests, barely able to breathe in and out. A tiny part of me was almost amused – my flights with John are always calm. These terrible, turbulent flights only seem to happen to me when I’m alone. We dropped, hard – someone yelped. Again, it wasn’t me. I shut my eyes, thought of home, and just kept breathing.

It was over suddenly. We made it over the Rockies and as we flew across the Great Plains the shaking abruptly stopped. Everyone blinked at one another in the dark – did we make it? The flight attendants resumed drink service, and suddenly strangers were talking to strangers – sharing their stories of past turbulent flights, nervous laughter, deep exhalations of breath. We were okay. Just fine. The captain turned off the seatbelt sign, and everyone visibly relaxed.

I fell into a tense, uncomfortable sleep. Airplane sleep. It had been a long week, and I felt it in every fiber of my being. I tossed and turned, I couldn’t get comfortable… stealing sleep in 15 minute intervals. I awoke to see we’d headed north – an arc to New York City, somewhere over lower Canada now. Home felt decidedly closer. I stared out my window – strange lights spread across the horizon. Sunrise? I looked at the time, tried to deduce the time zone… but no matter where we were, it was still too early for sunrise. I watched these strange lights shimmer and move, slowly… barely. Just glowing. They really weren’t the right color for sunrise at all, actually. I suddenly realized what I was watching… the Northern Lights.

Instinctively I reached for my phone camera. My SLR was tucked in the bin above, so my phone would have to do. The rocking and shaking of the previous two hours disappeared. This moment, this unexpected gift that I very well could have slept through, made all of the turbulence worth it.

I clicked – a black photo. Repositioned, messed with the exposure as best as I could on my phone camera. Black photo. I tried taking video… video of nothingness… just the red blinking of the light on the airplane wing. This moment… I was losing it forever. I zoomed in. Black photo. My heart deflated. And then it sort of dawned on me… I wasn’t losing the moment because I was unable to take a photograph. I was losing the moment in my urgency to capture it.

I put my phone back in my bag and pressed my nose to the window, like a child. The Northern Lights glowed back at me… colorful and beautiful. Unexpected. The plane was silent and dark around me, except for the occasional exclamation of someone else who’d awoken, looked out the window, and spotted the lights dancing across the sky. We began to dip down again, our arc moving south… almost home now. The lights disappeared from view behind me, though I squinted through the darkness… still searching.

There is no physical record of this moment. I was alone, half-asleep, exhausted from an incredible week. But the memory is infinitely more beautiful than anything I could have captured on my phone camera. A reward at the end of a grueling day, a grueling flight. I did not expect to cross something from my Life List on my flight home last night, but I did. And it was just perfect.

.

BLOCKCONTACTFOLLOWLIKEPORTFOLIOBLOCK

.

  • This gave me chills. All of it. From the bumpy flight (I hate to fly) to the reminder to live IN the moment, not try and capture it to relive later. Beautifully written!! You rock!

  • I seriously have goosebumps. I love this post and it is SO true. We’re so busy capturing everything, documenting everything – that sometimes we forget to just sit and soak it into our brains – into our memories, where it is really best kept. Love love love this post. Happy you made it home and can hug John and relax. :) xoxo.

  • Gah! Love this, and I really needed to hear this today!

  • Yay – the Northern Lights are on my Mighty Life List too! It is so wonderful you got to see them – right when you needed to. What a great post about missing a moment because you are too busy trying to document it (I am so guilty of this – and even worse, am a crappy photographer, so I lose out both ways). Glad you are home safe and sound (and with the awesome cats).

  • Cheryl

    You wrote a lovely account of a beautiful moment! I enjoyed reading it and thank you for sharing with us. I’m a friend of your mom’s. I enjoy your photography very much. You always do great work. God bless you.

  • Oh Katie Jane, that is beautiful. I appreciate this reminder, to take each moment as it comes. It’s one of the reasons we’re having a no-technology ceremony, because we want our people to be present with us in the moment, not watch it through their iphone lens. Thank you so very much for sharing. <3

  • Erin

    I am so happy for you that you saw the northern lights. They are the most lovely thing, and I sincerely think everyone should get the chance to see them. my heart is so full of happiness for you!

  • Sam

    Simply…..perfect. You not only have a magical way with a camera but with words too.

  • Beautifully written. My trip home was the same – non-stop turbulence from Las Vegas through Denver. Ironically though I’d actually read your post before boarding, and I kept it in my mind, so thank you!

  • Gah, gorgeous. It’s so hard to separate memories from photos sometimes, it feels like our minds aren’t as permanent as images, that we need pictures to share things, that stories don’t suffice. But they do, and yours is such a keeper. Thank you for sharing it.