I never have a camera when I need one. My kid could hit a walk-off home run in the seventh game of the World Series, round the bases heading for home to pick up his Nobel Prize in physics and his Congressional Medal of Honor from dignitaries waiting at Home Plate, and I'd say to my wife: "Gee, I wish I brought the camera. "
To be a photographer is to record, not to participate fully. It's unselfish in a way, and standoffish in another. You are there; but just. The professional photographer's a whole 'nother animal. He either isn't there, an outsider gazing at you like a scientist looking into a petri dish, or he's arranging the scene to suit his art, and he's the center of attention. I have no idea what a drunk guy with a camera phone represents, unless he's with Paris Hilton.
At any rate, sometimes a thing happens in my yard. You can feel it coming. It gathers around the edges of the horizon, egged on by mists from the nearby ocean, chastened by the stalwart boles of the pines, and lowered down on your head like a veil -- or a crown.
My wife usually tells me it's about to happen; the bats tell her. They circle the periphery of the patch of lawn outside our back door, hugging the shadows and gently lowering themselves, like the light, until it's satiny dark and you hear the soft susurrus of their leathery wings right over your head.
There's a tipping point, when the gathered indistinct aureole of haze shot through with pastels snaps like a twig and reveals the underlying sky. It only lasts for a moment, and only comes in the spring.
I got it last week, a minute apart; lord knows what my kids were doing that I should have recorded for the ages and missed while I pointed the camera aimlessly into the sky like a loon:
And then, like all the moments you missed because you were in them, it was gone.