To describe a photo might take a thousand words, but a picture’s worth, as measured by what it tells, well, that’s debatable.
My neighbor is a guru with the computer. Sheila modestly plays down her skills. Of course I’m an idiot, not an idiot savant but more like the village idiot of technology. In our neighborhood, consisting mostly of retirees, I have company. Many are computer-challenged to varying degrees. I’m reminded of the French proverb: ”In the realm of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” At any rate in our “banlieu”, Sheila reigns supreme.
So whenever I trek off to exotic places snapping jpeg’s or when I photographically chronicle a worthy event, I ask Sheila if she’d mind helping me upload the stash. A million times she’s shown me how, but like a magician’s sleight of hand, her fingers press certain keys as she zips to certain sites, and the next time I’m alone and try to duplicate the same finger waltz, I end up on some website with German instructions. “How’d you get there?” she asks, astonished. I shrug.
Recently, Sheila downloaded my 901 shots of the Panama Canal and Costa Rica. At one, she paused admiring the various hues of the azure Pacific , the bluish- tinted distant mounts, the verdant oil palms, the gleaming white speck of a ship far from shore and the two grinning castaways –hubby and me—in the foreground who appear clad in the PTA Thrift Shop Special of the week—all mismatched and tattered looking.
“At least you’re both smiling,” she pointed out diplomatically.
“Fake smile,” I replied.
Sheila squinted at me.
“I was on the verge of collapse.” I pointed to the water shoes I’m wearing in the image. “They instructed us there’d be wet landings and we needed to wear footwear like those duckish- looking shoes.”
I brought up the next shot of a Zodiac raft where geezers huddled in life jackets sat on the rounded sides. “We didn’t use boat tenders, just these black inflatables, and we waded, ankle deep, into shore from them.”
“The bad part was I didn’t know I’d be wearing those dang agua- man shoes all day long as I hiked miles and miles through snake-inhabited jungles or when crossing on shaky, swinging rope bridges with missing planks, under which lurks stagnant, murky water hiding who-knows-what kind of serpent or parasite.”
I pressed the arrow on the screen to display the next pic: Me sitting on a rotten log with a palm-fringed lagoon in the background. Again, my politician–like smile. “Ants on that log,” I recalled.
I sped through photos. I paused at one where my chest or decolletage, as French are wont to call that area, looks like it’s a glazed turkey breast.
“You were sweating!”
“Maybe. But I was so lathered in SPF 50 and sprayed with OFF to keep away ZITA-imbued mosquitoes, it’s hard to tell. I was on my last leg when we reached the waterfall. I also had a thin sheen of dirt over me. So hot and humid, I yanked off my mismatched apparel and jumped in. Jeesh! Like a plunge in a Cape Cod lake in October! I felt the way Leonardo di Caprio looked in The Revenant! Bloody freezing!
“Again, you’re grinning!” Sheila mentioned as she stared at the image of “moi” raising my hand waving “Hola “to the Costa Rican guide perched on a ledge above the frigid cascade.
“Yup. I was happy I hadn’t had the big one!”
“I almost did when they wanted me to mount Mr. Ed. As if I could hoist my “more than pleasantly plump” body up on this sweaty horse! I had to find a hill to stand on.”
“My husband coaxed me into it.”
“What are you eating there?” she asked as she pointed to the screen.
“That red fruit is part of the cashew nut tree, I think.”
“What are you drinking, there?”
“Some raw sugar cane juice from that primitive press, next to the colorfully decorated oxen.”
“You’re holding his horns!”
“I blamed my stomach trouble that evening on cruise food or Norovirus. Now in retrospect if I put on my “CSI” investigator hat, I see endless possibilities for digestive turbulence.”
“That plate of food looks good.”
“Costa Rican cuisine: black beans, white, rice, cabbage, red and green peppers and carrot mix, and a chicken drumstick. Maybe that dish was the culprit?”
We surveilled more photos. All had a story. Yet, the photos didn’t capture the tales behind them. Pictures can’t make a viewer feel the oppressive heat, or smell the mélange of aromatic, floral fragrances and off-putting animal odors, or taste the passion fruit you just bit into, or cringe at the sting of the SPF lotion dripping into your eyes. And then there was that indescribably horrifying realization that your foot stepped in horse manure as it squished up around your mostly open water shoes just before you turned your ankle and lost your sun hat on a dusty road.
A photo only evokes but so much! That’s why films need scores of moving music, scintillating dialogue, heart-throbbing action, attractive, young actors (if kissing’s involved) and sometimes 3 D glasses.
A time will come when taste and touch and smell will all be simultaneously webbed together into a cinematic armchair experience at one’s home. Yet until that day comes, there’s no substitute for physical travel!