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Since I often travel alone and am seldom sans camera, I have learned to take pictures of myself. I’ve mastered the self-shot with arm extended, have triumphed over precipitious camera-balancings and am even the proud owner of not one, but three tripods. (two flexy-tripods which I love(here) and one manfrotto, which at 5 degrees farenheit recently almost froze my hands off but I love it anyway.) I’ve also recently come into posession of the Nikon ML-L3 remote control, which means you don’t have ten seconds to run into your own picture, you can snap it (or them) when you’re ready. I am secretly in love with my remote control, and there is a long ode to it coming, but the point here is something else.

There are times when you don’t want to take a picture of yourself, or when even your best tripod and remote control aren’t going to serve you. The viciously windy Straight of Magellan crossing comes to mind. In this case I handed my beloved camera to someone with an even better one, and knew she would do me right.

Sometimes you can’t choose who to hand your camera to. There’s only one person around. And I worry, yes I do. Not about whether they will steal the camera. But will they know how to pre-focus on me and then move the camera? Will they wobble when they click? I can set up the angle, and even pre-focus, but will they know what to do? I’ve had pictures where I am cut off, where I am not looking at the camera, where everything is blurry, etc. I can look at the pictures (they’re digital), but how much do you really want to bother someone else to take yet another picture of you?

Strangely though, I see it totally differently when I take pictures of other people. I love using someone else’s camera to record their antics. I love getting people to pose doing silly things, like here, where I’ve forced my mom to pretend that she’s hitchiking.

But I’ve done much better with people I don’t even know. There were some British guys with the massive Nikon D200 on a trip I was on recently. They wanted to pose hither and yon, all muscles and puffery. But while they were posing, I noticed a group of vicuñas (like these, pic mine) gathering over my left shoulder. I quietly herded the boys over to get the vicuñas in the background and took what was probably the best picture of their vacation. I calmly handed them the camera and said, you’ll love the second one. I heard them exclaim all the way back on the bus.

Another time, I was walking with an older couple down the Pukara de Quitor and there were two little openings in a centuries-old wall. I made them get behind the wall and put their heads in the spaces. It’s silly, but you know? It’s probably the cutest picture they have of themselves on that trip.

I really love taking pictures of other people in general, and taking pictures of someone else on their camera is kind of bittersweet. On one hand, I can take nice shots of people, and get to know them a little. On the other hand, I don’t have a picture of the muscley boys with the vicuñas behind.

Quick poll:
Do you like to take pictures of other people?
Do you ask people to take pictures of you with your own camera?