For this baby boomer, the older the wiser!

Boomer wisdom. It’s something we treasure, because while the world perceives nothing but loss the older we get, we know differently; we know, the older the wiser. So it is for Mike Plews of Missouri Valley, Iowa, who put his experience to work by putting it away on vacation.

Perfecting the Busman’s Holiday is kind of tricky.

Mike Plews

Mike Plews

I’m a news photographer, been doing it for forty years and it can be a stressful occupation, so vacations represent a welcome break. Along the way I have also been an enthusiastic amateur landscape photographer. Once a year my wife packs me up and we go to some place where the yellow police tape doesn’t follow and I get to make some images.

Switching subject matter without switching mindset doesn’t work very well. Over the years I’ve blown more than one vacation by trying to “cover” my trip like a news story. Coming back from a holiday more tired than when I left can legitimately be considered a failure and I have chalked up a few.

A couple of years ago I came across The Little Book of Contemplative Photography by Howard Zehr. In it Zehr talks about the language we use to describe the act of making an image. He suggests a change in thinking that I found eye-opening. Drop all the aggressive descriptions for more introspective language.

What that means is, we tend to describe photography like a big game hunt. We take, shoot, acquire, and capture images. Zehr suggests instead that we think in terms of receiving images as gifts. When I started thinking of photography in those terms, my personal work got smaller and quieter, and I did too. The experience changed from a hunt to a conversation and that
made all the difference for me.

This year Mrs. Plews took me to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park for my annual R&R. We have been going there since our honeymoon in 1980 and this year we hit the changing leaves of the aspens at exactly the right time.

The mountains were awash in fall colors. A few years back I would have lost my mind trying to “capture” every shot possible. This year I relaxed and did some photography but also spent a lot of time sitting on a rock just being there with my wife. Of the images I brought back, there are almost no big sweeping vistas. Things just felt more natural on a more intimate scale.


We came across a little mountain stream and stopped to make some frames. Going slow, I tried several angles and focal lengths, each time asking myself, “What is this stream telling me?” It was as relaxing an experience as I can remember up in that treasure of a national park.

Walking back to the car, I caught myself humming one of my favorite Mose Allison recording, “One such perfect moment, never twice th’ same, one such perfect moment, will keep you in th’ game.”

As I said, Busman’s Holidays can be tricky.

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    1. Thanks Eric
      The Mose Allison recording I made reference to was the wonderful TELL ME SOMETHING. Van Morrison wrote the song and I slightly misquoted the lyric. It should be “never twice the same such a perfect moment will keep you in the game”. A boomer remembering a lyric wrong, there’s a first!

  1. I’ve known the Pluses for over 30 years. Mike is one of those guys whose thoughts run deep. His eye for the perfect picture whether is it for his job as a news photog or pictures of his family catches you attention and makes you glad you took the time. He’s a great guy with a wonderful talent. I like looking at Mike pictures partly because I love his pictures and a lot of times it is of a place i wished I had gone, like the Rockies. Nice work Mike. And congratulations on the recognition of your talents and your personality.

  2. Mike: intriguing story. I can understand being conflicted by any hardware, appliance, or tool that I’m attached to; especially a camera. I can see you straining to make the perfect shot until you reached your “small is beautiful moment.” It’s hard to unwind sometimes, right? Hard to get out and enjoy life, but you’ve proven you do now. Good for you — better for your wife. You give hope to the rest of us still eying that summit. By the way, great shots.

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