Like most of you, I like to come home from the family summer holidays with a couple of good pictures. But vacations are also supposed to be a way to get away from what you do day in, day out. Which in my case is ... photography. And although I generally don't feel like stepping away from photography, I know I need to do it anyway. So you see the dilemma and I'm sure some of you struggle with it too. Therefor, I'm writing this post. This is what worked for me for our family holidays in Portugal.
Simplicity is key when it comes to gear. I always have to fight the urge to bring every piece of equipment that I own ... and buy some new stuff for the trip as well. I had my finger on the buy-button to get a drone several times prior to this trip. But then I remembered that this is a family holiday, not a National Geographic expedition. For this holiday what helped to keep it simple was that we were traveling with carry-on luggage only.
My favorite camera for traveling light is the Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a 35mm lens (in this case the f/1.4). This setup lets me shoot pretty much everything like the way my eyes see it, even when it gets really dark. This combination for me is perfect to capture life in general.
When choosing your kit for a trip, you have to keep in mind what kind of subjects you may encounter. If you are going on a safari, a 35mm as your longest lens, would probably not cut it. And if you would be able to fill the frame with the head of a hungry lion, I hope you have good insurance.
We didn't expect elephants in Portugal but what I did expect were some beaches under dramatic skies and my kids surfing in the Atlantic waves.
So I decided that I needed something wider than the 35mm too. Instead of taking another lens, I decided to bring my X100F with it's fixed 23mm lens as it doubles up as a backup camera too. Another reason to take the extra camera is that it fits my flexible water housing like a glove (more about that later).
I loaded the cameras with 128GB SD cards and batteries and I brought 2 extra batteries, a couple of USB-chargers and the water housing. That left me enough space in my carry-on bag to bring clothes, my laptop and all the other stuff one needs for a 10-day trip.
So basically I took two compact cameras that are capable to document the essence without tempting me to shoot everything and anything.
Even if you're not into landscapes and shooting wide vistas, it's worth shooting some establishing shots to set the scene. Any album or slideshow will benefit from some pictures that show the environment. Even if they aren't award winning pictures in itself, they can set the atmosphere and provide reference for your tighter shots.
Shoot your Loved Ones
It goes without saying that you should take pictures of your family members. But if your family is anything like mine, some are easier (or more eager) to be in the shot than others. Sometimes this can be a more posed portrait, often they don't know they are in the shot.
I often hear photographers complaining about how difficult it is to photograph their own offspring. And as soon as kids become teenagers they are supposedly even harder to shoot. Maybe I'm blessed with really weird kids but I don't find it hard to get them to pose for me.
There's definitely something about them being used to a dad with a camera in his hands but I think understanding and respecting them is the key here. First of all, they know I won't post anything online that I'm not sure of they will like. If you ever get invited to one of their weddings, bring the popcorn because there will be an extensive slideshow with embarrassing pictures, but for now I don't share those.
All kids from a certain age are on social media these days. Ever since my kids discovered that their dad's pretty decent pics of them, get more likes than their own selfies, they don't object to pose anymore. In fact, they ask regularly for new pictures.
I always keep it fun and quick. If my idea doesn't work immediately, I'll drop it. After all, it's a holiday, I don't need to prove my skills and the most important thing is that we enjoy our time together.
I also try to make a nice picture of the whole family on every trip. By making it a collaborative thing, everyone is game for the challenge.
Also make sure that you are in a couple of pictures yourself. Otherwise you'll get these family albums that look like the kids grew up with a missing parent. I'm lucky enough that my girlfriend is a gifted photographer but I also encourage the kids to pick up my cameras (as long as they put the strap around their neck).
Part of the reason we choose the area near Peniche in Portugal as our holiday destination was that the kids wanted to learn to surf. A long lens would be the obvious choice to photograph the wave action but there are other, often more interesting, options. For starters you could try your hand at some pictures to combine landscape and surfing.
But your options are limited and you need to get lucky with the environment. The dark skies didn't hurt in the picture above either.
I believe action is more dynamic if you photograph it from up close. But the waves here are perfectly capable of knocking you over even when the water came only up to your knees seconds before. So taking your camera into the water is a recipe for disaster ... unless you have an underwater housing. I've been using a Dicapac WP-S3 housing for a couple of years. It's not perfect but it has kept my cameras perfectly dry so far. It fits my X100F perfectly. If you're interested, I'll write up a review the housing later but in short it's basically a plastic bag for your camera. It doesn't handle as well as a hard plastic housing but it's cheap and it works.
I basically set the camera to f5.6 and let the X100F figure out all the rest.
Masterpieces vs Memories
As photographers we generally put the bar very high when it comes to our pictures, and so we should to improve our game and represent ourselves. But when it comes to family time, memories are more important than masterpieces. The bulk of the pictures I take and keep from family holidays and life in general, will never win any awards but they are without any doubt more important to our family than anything that's in my portfolio.
Keep in mind that your pictures are time capsules. What is just a snapshot today, becomes a valuable possession in a couple of years. And on that note, make sure that your pictures are always backed up in a safe way. Also, don't forget to share your pictures with family and friends, just not bombard them with hundreds of pictures. We made a little Blurb book to take out of the cupboard every now and then and I promised myself to do that for every family trip in the future.
I never intended to write such long posts on the new blog, but I guess there was a lot that I wanted to say about this subject. I'll try to keep future posts a bit shorter. As the blog is new, please let me know what you think in the comments below. And if you like what you see, feel free to share.