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When is it time to put the camera down and be present to the moment?

I mean to ask this as an open question, not a rhetorical one. And it's not an either/or. It's the sort of background reflection that might be useful to inform our creative technique.

Sometimes, I personally notice things better (or at least differently) when I'm looking through a viewfinde— er, I mean, looking at a view screen. (Whew! I'm dating myself...) Other times, trying to capture a moment can distract you, even remove you from the moment itself.

What are your experiences with this? Is there a generation gap involved? Have you ever forced yourself to forego taking pictures in order to be present to others around you?

In a way, this may be more about personal electronics than about means of art-making. Is breaking out the digital camera sometimes more like pulling out the iPod or a video game or phone? Do we sometimes RECord our surroundings to amuse ourselves, because whatever we're doing isn't quite capturing our attention? Or do we RECord in order to better engage, take it in, connect?

To parse out the electronic gadget issue: Is a digital camera more potentially distracting to its user and others than, say, their sketching with pencil and paper would be? or even a film camera? (Hey, at least with those you had to be a bit more judicious about which shots you took!)

A related question would be whether it better serves an event (for lack of a better catch-all phrase) to be recorded by a participant involved in it or by a "disinterested observer", so to speak. Is the "disinterested observer" really...
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