I just got back from Tokyo last week, where I “walked the walk” of my characters in my 2013 NaNo, Little Affair in Greater Tokyo.
Going to Tokyo is a big deal for me because I live on the island of Hokkaido. But unusually, this was my third time in Tokyo in as many years, so I could ignore some of the first-time tourist distractions and go a bit deeper into my research.
When I was writing my NaNo in November, I got stuck in some of the half-remembered details. I looked at my pictures from my Tokyo trip, and they helped trigger my memories, but I remember thinking, “Man, these pictures suck. And there aren’t nearly enough of them!” I wound up going on the Internet and YouTube to fill in some of the blanks, and I vowed that I would take better pictures next time.
I took a photography class in college, and the one thing I remember from it is to not be afraid of taking lots of pictures. This was back in the day of film, and developing the pictures and all that jazz. Photography was a costly endeavor, especially for a poor college student who wasn’t very good at it.
These days, it’s terribly easy to just take a hundred pictures, and sort them out later. In one way, that’s great. But in another way, it can hamper your memory. You rely on the SD card to be your brain, and you wind up not paying as much attention as you should, hoping that quantity will make up for quality.
And sometimes it will. But if something really catches your eye, it’s important to take a minute to figure out what is going on, and properly frame the shot. You’ll remember the details better. (NPR’s All Things Considered has a great series on photography and memory.) In this digital age, though, it’s perfectly OK to take a bunch of random shots as well. Take pictures of textures and close-ups as well as the big picture shots and the too-big-to-be-art shots. You’ll get the best of both worlds if you take thoughtless pictures along with the thoughtful ones.
I still got home and thought, “I didn’t take enough pictures!” I got caught up in the excitement of being there, and simply forgot. But, I did better than last year, and photography is just a small part of the writing process. Capturing those experiences in words will be where the real work is.
I know several of you guys have taken research trips. Is there anything you really wish you’d taken a picture of? I know next time I need to include more super-big-picture shots that help me remember how, say, the rose arbor related to the benches around the fountain — stuff that will help me paint a lovely walking break that may end up in a kiss under the roses in Yoyogi Park.