I used to wonder why looking back at a picture pulls on my heartstrings less than seeing the view through my own eyes. Why does a sight seem like the most beautiful thing you've ever seen when you take a picture of it, but looking at someone else's most amazing view is just nice? Why are pictures fundamentally worse than the view I'm taking the picture of? Here's an example:
I used to think that it was the medium of the picture that made it worse. That somehow viewing an image on a screen or printing it out on a 4 by 6 piece of paper made it worse. I thought that my own two eyes saw clearer on top of the mountain then at my desk.
That can't be true though, picture, screen, and printing quality is so good that it looks just as real as it would au naturel. The content of the image is the same. So what is it then that makes a view so special that I pull out a camera and try to save it?
I think that it is the context of an image that makes it great. It is the emotional state that I'm in that makes the view so special. It is the act of taking a trip to a fantastic place so different from home that fills me with wonder, more than the visual stimulus alone. Awe of the beauty of nature has just as much to do with the place of mind as it does the place of body. Hiking and sweating and exploring only to find a unique place like I've never seen before creates such a powerful feeling. Looking at that place in a picture has no chance of replicating that feeling, only a part of it.