As we are about to turn the calendar page to the month when traditionally travel becomes more frequent, I have a question for you. When was the last time you took a trip that didn’t include taking selfies? My guess is, no matter your age, it’s been quite a while.
With the improvement of the photographic quality of today’s cell phones, the one item that used to be mandatory for almost all travelers, a camera, no longer finds its way into too many bags. Now, that phone we always have with us, you know, the ones that we absolutely can’t seem to stop tapping on, is ready to take just the right photo at the right angle that will stun and amaze everyone, especially those with all those Twitter followers and Facebook friends.
When Lady Jane and I decide to break out and check out parts of our world quite different from the place we call home, I’m the one who’s pressing that little white button from time to time to capture a moment. While most of what I’m photographing is landscape in nature (I’m, as Jane will tell you, a sucker for crashing surf and autumnal trees dripping in gold and crimson), I do think we should make an occasional appearance, not for social-media posting, mind you, but just for our own reflection on those days when our Ohio lives seem a tad banal.
Thanks to the wonders of the tech world in which we live, my photos automatically load to the iPad to create a much larger image. Gone are the days I was running up to Meijer to have photos developed unless there’s an occasional one I’d like to frame for that gal from Montezuma.
Now, when it comes to selfies, of course, it’s often a hit-or-miss proposition as far as whether both Jane’s and my face are properly aligned and centered. If you’re thinking one of those selfie sticks would be a purchase I’d consider, well, I wouldn’t, unless it comes with a person who’ll carry it! As for asking other fellow sojourners to capture Jane and my image, well, I have one rule. Unless someone asks me to take a photo of him or her first, thus, allowing me a chance to play the reciprocity card, I’m pretty much not imposing on other folks’ special moments.
Now, a box I always check when it comes to any photographic efforts during my travels, be they straight landscape or selfies with my gal, is the safety box. We’ve been fortunate enough to see some pretty amazing natural beauty over the years, oftentimes from vantage points from far above.
In places like the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland’s County Clare, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and many of the overlooks off State Route 1 far above the Pacific coastline in Northern California and so many others, I’ve seen my fellow travelers so very close to the edge of sheer drops of several hundred feet to capture an image. Anyone who’s had experiences at such heights knows that in addition to the altitude, there will often be sudden and strong gusts of wind.
In our advanced photo-taking times, there have been several who took that one step too far to get that really great shot. The Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care conducted its own study and found that 259 fatalities occurred between 2011 and 2017 that were attributable to people perishing while trying to take an imprudently conceptualized photo.
At Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, which is the Grand Canyon’s eastern edge overlooking the serpentine bends of the Colorado River far below, there were two selfie-related deaths in 2018 just months apart.
In 2019 in an article in The Irish Post, author Aidan Lonergan wrote of a Trinity College Dublin student who fell to his death at the Cliffs of Moher while trying to take a selfie some 700 feet above the surf that crashes against the Atlantic’s rocky coastline. He tragically didn’t respect the altitude and the typical 30-plus mile-an-hour gusts that accompany the magnificence of what can be seen. And, of course, in Ireland, pretty much everything travelers see may just come with some crop-up rain.
When Jane and I were there, we both saw and heeded the words on the memorial on the path on The Cliffs that reads, “In Memory of Those Who Have Lost Their Lives at the Cliffs of Moher” both in English and in Irish and enjoyed our moments admiring what lay beneath us safely.
Yes, the traditional travel season is upon us, and there are so many natural wonders to imbibe, especially at national parks. Some come with my strong recommendations, such as Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon and Yosemite, but with the magnificent vistas that are there for the visual taking to store in memory banks, there also comes potential danger for those who simply can’t conceptualize the fragility of life.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]