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So, you are a family with active kids (note, I didn’t say naughty) on a long-awaited vacation, dealing with their tiredness, hunger, and a lack of interest in anything without a screen. You have spent decent money and time to get here and may never set foot on these locales ever again in your lifetime and hence, desire to capture it for posterity through photography. You aspire to be a photographer with an artistic bent and not a trigger-happy vacation snap-shooter. How do you balance these competing issues of having a fun family vacation while capturing a few inspiring photographs from the trip.
Here are some techniques that have worked for us –
- Early and Late: Wake up early in the morning and leave for a photography walk before the kids are up and ready for the day. This technique has only one disadvantage – you get to sleep a little less, but its only a little personal sacrifice for a number of advantages. You may get pre-sunrise blue hour, the sunrise itself, or you may encounter some mysterious morning fog. You definitely get the place all to yourself – tourists are off the roads and plazas, and even the locals are rare sightings. You can take your time, compose, and shoot gorgeous images, and by the time you are back home, you are happy to spend the day being a tourist [see Bonus Tip]. As a corollary, you can stay out late once the kids are in the hotel room playing or in bed. But I do find the early morning technique work better, since you are fresh and there is a higher chance of empty streets and plazas to plop your tripod in.
As an example, during the summer months in Rome or Venice, tourists crowd the streets far beyond midnight, but nary a soul in sight at 4.30am. The colored images show the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain at 5.00 am while the duo-chrome images represent the same locations at 7.00 pm in the evening on the same day.
Bonus Tip: Enjoy the Day. Bright sunlight is probably the worst time for photography, so you might as well enjoy the day without thinking about it. You can still take the occasional snapshot, craft family pictures, shoot HDRs to compensate for your lack of inspiration and prominence of bad light, or simply whip out your smartphone and upload. But above all, behave as a tourist and have fun – take the vacation you came here for.