Let’s face it: it can be hard to pursue a hobby when you’re in the throes of raising children of a certain age (newborn to school-age). Photography is no exception. Add to that the challenges of traveling with children and travel photography starts to look like an impossible task. I’ve met so many people who told me that they gave up on photography because of these very hurdles.
I picked up photography when I bought a DSLR to take better photos of my newborn and so I’ve been in the thick of it since then. I don’t even know what it’s like to take photos any other way. In this article, I would like to share some of the ways in which I’ve been able to overcome the aforementioned challenges, while sharing photos from a recent family trip to Italy.
The exact opposite of what will be discussed here – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 78mm, ISO 64, 1/100, f/8.0
- Have a Supportive Partner. The first point – and I can’t stress this enough – is to make sure you have a supportive partner. Every time you take photos, you are disengaging from the family which means someone else has to pick up the slack. If you don’t have that, well, I don’t know what to tell you other than considering pursuing something that is more family-friendly, like, say, cooking. If you haven’t committed to anyone yet, then you may still have a chance to get this part right. To be truly safe, I would suggest adding a clause to their vows to the affect of “in sickness and in health, and even when you totally ignore me on our dream vacation because you are busy taking photos…”
Beautiful Perugia – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 95mm, ISO 64, 1/160, f/8.0
- Shoot at Sunrise. Now, on to more practical matters. We all know that sunset/sunrise are often the best times for photography. And while sunset during travel is usually reserved for family time, sunrise is not. Sneaking out while everyone sleeps affords an opportunity to get some slow, deliberate captures in great light.
Misty Tuscan sunrise – NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 95mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/8.0
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 35mm, ISO 64, 1/1, f/8.0
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 66mm, ISO 64, 1/30, f/8.0
- Find a Golden Lens. This will usually be a zoom. Make sure it is compact and light. I love to shoot with primes but the hassle of carrying all that gear and changing lenses in the field is just not practical when weight and time is of the essence. The Nikkor 24-120 f/4G VR has worked well for me in this regard. Sometimes, just to change things up, or when the situation requires, I opt for the Nikkor 70-200 f/4G VR. Both are lightweight and very compact options for travel photography.
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 125, 1/80, f/8.0
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 100mm, ISO 200, 1/400, f/8.0
- Keep it Light. Forget the tripod, dial up that ISO and learn how to de-noise. I know we all want to capture the cleanest and sharpest images possible, but often the choice is between a tripod bag and a diaper bag and, well, enough said. I mentioned the golden lens earlier. It helps tremendously if it has a wide aperture and supports some sort of image stabilization.
Varenna, Lago di Como – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 110mm, ISO 1000, 1/80, f/4.0
Inside the Duomo in Siena – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 2000, 1/25, f/4.0
- Go with a High Resolution Sensor. If possible, use a camera with a high resolution sensor. It is hard to nail that composition when that toddler is dragging you by the shirt towards the Gelato cart. It will give you more opportunity to address framing issues in post-processing.
Bellano, Lago di Como – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 27mm, ISO 160, 1/80, f/8.0
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 95mm, ISO 320, 1/1250, f/8.0
Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral) – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/200, f/8.0
- Use a Camera Clip. This one has been a game changer for me. I use Peak Design. I know there are other options out there. Wearing the camera on my belt frees up my upper body for all the various functions parenting requires. I’ve even been able to take some photos while wearing a baby carrier (don’t forget to dial-up that VR). None of the three image below would have been possible had I been wearing my camera around my neck.
Mighty Sassolungo – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 120mm, ISO 64, 1/50, f/8.0
Parade in Siena – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 28mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/4.0
Perugia Life – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 44mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/8.0
- Keep Your Priorities Straight. Family first, tourism second, photography third. If you are visiting a beautiful landmark, make sure you take it all in with the family and then, when an opportunity presents, fire off a few shots. This is easier said than done and I know I have my struggles in the area when my first instinct is to capture the scene before I do the rest. Sometime, that actually is the better approach because once the photography is out of the way, it is easier to focus on everything else.
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 70mm, ISO 64, 1/200, f/4.0
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 82mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/8.0
This shot of the magnificent Langkofel group (Sassolungo and Sassopiato) was taken on a moving chair lift with my wife and our three very excited and therefore frisky kids. I knew I had only one chance to nail the composition as the three trees appeared to counter-balance the weight of the composition in the top-left side of the image – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 58mm, ISO 64, 1/160, f/8.0
- Stock Up on Memory Cards and Don’t be Afraid to Bracket. When you’re rushed, bumping up the sample size is usually the best way to get the statistics to align in your favor. When you don’t have the time to really dig into that histogram or image preview to see whether you nailed the shot or not, bracketing increases your odds of capturing something that is workable.
Torre del Mangia as seen from one of Siena’s gates – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/8.0
- Sharpen Up Post-Processing Skills. Working on those post-processing skills will allow you to compensate for the various compromises you’d have made on the field, especially when shooting the harsh mid-day sun or under overcast conditions.
Geislder Dolomite group – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 48mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/8.0
Siena – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, ISO 64, 1/30, f/8.0
Different take on Geisler – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 44mm, ISO 64, 1/80, f/8.0
- Keep Camera Gear Clean. Clean your camera gear, including the sensor, before you leave for your trip. It may be hard to take care of things once you’re out there. In addition, you will waste a lot of time that you don’t have, trying to remove those dust specks in post-processing.
Bellagio – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 34mm, ISO 320, 1/400, f/8.0
Lago di Carezza – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/200, f/8.0
Compromise – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/640, f/4.0
- Don’t Make the Perfect the Enemy of the Good. The truth is, I miss 90% of the shots that I would actually like to capture simply because I can’t. How many times have I passed on that amazing sunset because it’s dinner time with family or that incredible vista because it would make the drive longer and therefore more difficult for the family. But the 10% that I do get, using the techniques mentioned here, are usually good enough to keep me interested and keep my creative juices flowing.
Il Belvedere – NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 46mm, ISO 64, 1/15, f/8.0
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 320, 1/50, f/8.0
Montalcino- NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/60, f/8.0
Family, travel and photography are all sources of joy that can, at times, be in tension with one other. With the proper compromises, it is possible for all three to align for that joy to multiply and for one to achieve the best of all worlds. I hope that the tips I have shared here will help others to realize some of that magical feeling.
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 95mm, ISO 200, 1/25, f/8.0
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 62mm, ISO 200, 1/25, f/8.0