Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer Vacation: Part 1

Well, summer's at an end and school's begun. If we were lucky, we got to take a vacation away from work and the grind of daily life. It might be tempting to leave the camera at "get away." But think what you'd be missing. Documenting a family event or outing can offer a plethora of visual opportunities. There are stories to be told. There is scenery which differs greatly from your living room or front yard. It's a wonderful challenge and a chance to capture images that may never present themselves again. (this applies to zoo trips, park outings, etc., not just vacations)

This post is part 1 in a short series on summer vacation. The past two years, my family and I have traveled to East Tennessee and stayed in a cabin tucked in the Smoky Mountains. This post covers last year's vacation. The next one will cover this year's. The goal is to give you a sample of how I cover/document my family vacations with a few notes and encourage you to do the same.

On the way to the cabin, we stopped in a hotel. The boys weren't very good at being "quiet." The next four shots cover that experience.

This boy fought sleep for about an hour and a half. We were quite relieved when we were able to get him to to go down. Plus, I love sleeping pictures. It's a recurrent theme in my family PJ work.

What to do when your oldest wakes up at 5 AM? How about cartoons and powdered donuts? Notice the very slight tilt to the right. Subtle tilt can add a dynamic quality to an image, if not overused or too obvious or exaggerated.

The tunnel provided an interesting visual but if shot straight on, would appear at a bright circle with rapid falloff. Instead, I shot at a slightly oblique angle so that the tunnel would curve out of the frame and give the viewer a sense of where Henry had come from.

This kind of picture takes itself. Notice the sleeping bear on the other side of the glass.

It was later in the day. We had walked all over a rather large zoo and everyone was bushed. I was able to tell two stories simultaneously. And by shooting a somewhat oblique angle, I provided a little more depth to the image (with two distinct layers of content).

The context makes this shot. I could have grabbed a closeup or head shot but the rocks and brush behind him give the photo a rustic quality and sense of place that I like.

These are the kinds of moments I love to capture. Again, we have a sense of place. It was a beautiful, sweeping area. I would consider this a landscape with people in it.

This shot was easy to capture. I had to choose my angle to show just enough of his face (the eyes are the most important feature) and watch him play. This kind of image is more elemental than literal. By focusing on the context and playful eyes, it becomes an image more about childhood fun, even when it's nothing more than a bathtub.

Grandma calmed him down and rocked him to sleep...with Gus (teddy bear). Her hands were my focus, as the shot is more about her comfort than anything else. The hands and her gaze were the key features that I wanted to capture. The exaggerated wide angle (while being careful not to distort too greatly), makes the hands more prominent.

These are just a few highlights of last year's trip. It's not important to have 50 or even 100 superb shots. 15 good images is plenty IF they're really good (and that's a judgment call, there). Spend time capturing one good image per event. If you get more than that...great! That image will live on as a family classic. Quality, not quantity. Even if you don't take the camera out very much, your family will be able to look back fondly on their past, long after the details have faded from memory.

Thanks for sticking around the blog, guys. Your comments are always welcome and highly valued.



  1. Great stuff here. Can I ask what gear do you use?


    After I started reading this site, I admit to having become much less focused on gear and more focused on capturing the moment.

    Most noticeably, I crop less frequently and less tight and try to improve my composition..

  3. amazing as always, love every one of them....
    i learn a lot from this site...
    keep it up guys :D

  4. Your photos are so inspiring! Thank you for this blog, the tips and your notes about the photos and why you made certain creative decisions are very helpful.

  5. Absolutely wonderful Daniel.

    Comp, story and b+w conversion.

    Glad I nipped in!

  6. many thanks, guys-we really appreciate your comments and encouragement-it's great motivation and helpful to know the direction of the blog is solid