Family Vacation- Put the Camera Away!

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So, here we have a bit of a contradiction- a photography blog that is going to encourage folks to put their cameras away. Away, you say? Yes, away. Perhaps not entirely, but for the most part, away.

If you are anything like me, as my camera obsession has grown, the way in which I view the world around me has changed. I find myself observing my surroundings as if I have a camera permanently attached to my face. I am constantly evaluating the light and composition possibilities around me. I am often wishing I could stop the car or making notes to self about where to return and when. There are endless photographic possibilities out there and it can get annoying when “life” gets in the way of those possibilities.

One way that “life” can get in the way of photographing is when you are in the company of non-photographers. I have been told on many occasions that walking around with me, when I have a camera in hand, can be incredibly tedious. I totally get it. The constant stopping and framing of shots, not giving others my full attention, and so on, makes me not very good company. For those reasons, I often go off alone when I want to photograph and feel very comfortable doing so. I can take my time, move about as I see fit, and fully concentrate on the task at hand. It is in many ways a solitary hobby, and therefore, poses a problem during family vacations.

For me, a family vacation affords a period of time during which my spouse and children (and sometimes, extended family and friends) can experience new things and places together and enjoy one another’s company in a relaxed way. It is a special period of time set apart from the usual weekly routine and often produces memories that last forever. For the photographer in me then a dilemma always arises- spending time alone capturing these new sights and places versus remaining present with my family. In years past, I have justified to myself going off and capturing images alone- “I may never get back to this place again”; “I will have great images to share with them”, etc. but often did not feel completely comfortable with the situation.

As my family vacation got underway this year and I began to mentally plan how and when I was going to be able to carve away my photography time, it dawned on me to just let it go. Let go of the obsession that a great image is out there for me. Let go of the incorrect thinking that I need to record everything with my camera. Let go of the incorrect thinking that a vacation is judged by the quality of the images captured. Let go of the incorrect thinking that our memories and what lives in our hearts somehow need a corresponding RAW file. Let go of the stress of all of this and just relax and fully experience the hours and days as they came to me.

The moment I made the decision that this vacation was a family vacation, and not a photography/family vacation, I felt fantastic. I love my photography hobby but there is a time and a place for everything. Does this mean that I took no pictures? Of-course not, but the emphasis on formal photography was much less. I shot sunrises when everyone else was sleeping and then concentrated from time to time on simple snapshots of people enjoying themselves during various activities and the sights in front of us. It was very freeing for me and in no way do I feel I missed out on anything or that this vacation was less than because I don’t have thousands of corresponding images. On our last night in the Outer Banks, I took informal family portraits of both my family and all the friends that were with us. What more do you need?

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3 thoughts on “Family Vacation- Put the Camera Away!

  1. Great post and insightful observation! I was listening to a photography podcast a while back and they came to the same conclusion. It’s difficult to mix photography with a family vacation. Their example involved the frustration of wanting to go shoot during the “golden hour” when everyone else wanted to go out to dinner. Argh! Sometimes you gotta just leave the camera in the bag and go out and enjoy life!

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