the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Feeding the Photography Habit when Traveling with Family

The LouvreIf you are like me, it is often difficult to do serious photography when traveling with your family. I wish I had a simple method to address this problem, but I don’t. If you do, please let me know! Or perhaps you don’t think this is a problem. If that is that case, please tell me why.

When traveling with Tanya, she usually requires me classify the trip as  a  “photograph trip” or a “non-photography trip.” On non-photography trips, I can still take my equipment, but I am expected not to disrupt any trip plans with photography. On photography trips, the world’s my oyster and I dictate when and where.

Casa Batlló, designed by Gaudí, on the Block of Discord, Bacelona

Casa Batlló, designed by Gaudí, on the Block of Discord, Barcelona

When we take a big trip, like our trip to Europe last month, they are by default non-photography trips. This is especially true when we travel with others; in this particular case, traveling with my mother-in-law and my son. One word of advice – if you want to get a lot of photography in while traveling, don’t travel with your mother-in-law.

On a photography trip, I tend to take the whole bag. But for non-photography trips, I go more minimal. I usually take my camera backpack as a carry-on in the plane, but I don’t typically carry it around when out shooting except when I’m going out by myself (see below). Even then, I take some of the gear out instead of my normal kit. I typically take my Canon 6D body with battery grip, a 28-300 mm lens, a 17-40 mm lens, about 5 or 6 memory cards, a polarizing filter, a split-neutral density filter, a Canon speedlight flash, four batteries, a battery charger, a tripod, my laptop, a card reader, and a few various accessories (lens cloth, etc.). In addition to the backpack, I also bring a Think Tank Pro digital holster  as a smaller bag.

So when on a non-photography trips and heading out with the family, I go with a minimal set of equipment.  I will put the 28-300mm lens on the camera, take the battery grip off, and put the camera in the holster (the camera will not fit in the holster with the battery grip on). In the pockets of the holster, which are rather small, I’ll carry a spare battery, a spare memory card, a cleaning cloth, and the polarizing filter. Sometimes, if I know I will want it, I’ll carry the 17-40mm lens in my coat pocket (no room in the camera holster). Rarely I’ll carry the tripod as well with this minimal setup. This minimal set of equipment allows me to get quality photographs without impacting the family, though I will often have to shoot at a higher ISO than I’d like due to not having the tripod (see my last post).

But my main strategy to get quality photography time is to go out without the family. This usually means going out at night after the family has retired to our lodgings for the evening or getting up extra early and going out prior to everyone else being ready for the day. This is one reason I like to stay near major attractions that might look good at night. On your recent trip, we stayed within easy walking distance of the Louvre when in Paris and near the Block of Discord in Barcelona. When going out on my own, I carry my full kit in the photo backpack and always take the tripod (even with high ISOs, it is hard to shoot at night without a tripod). The added advantage is that often there are not very many people around wandering into my frame when shooting, and even if they do, the exposures are long enough that they typically don’t show up if they keep moving.

Shooting at night also has the added advantage of making the sky easier to deal with. When doing travel photography, you typically don’t have a lot of time at any one destination. So you can’t necessarily wait for those “good” sky days. Often the sky is a mass of clouds without any redeeming detail, and if you place it in your composition, it sits there like a huge blown-out white blob. Not to mention the contrast problem it creates with the foreground and your image’s subject. Not a problem at night. At worst, clouds pick up scattered lights from the city and take on an orange glow, which is easy to fix in processing.

The images accompanying this post are from two nights I went out by myself, once in Paris and the second in Barcelona. Unlike my previous post, these images were all taken with an ISO of 100 or 200 while using a tripod. The featured image at the top of the post is of the courtyard of the Louvre.

The top of the large pyramid in the Louve courtyard with the museum building in back.

The top of the large pyramid in the Louvre courtyard with the museum building in back.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, just northeast of the Louvre

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, just northeast of the Louvre

Louvre, the Seine River, and the Pont du Carrousel bridge

Louvre, the Seine River, and the Pont du Carrousel bridge

Palace of the Institute of France

Palace of the Institute of France

Reflections in the Seine looking toward the Palace of the Institute of France and the Pont des Arts bridge

Reflections in the Seine looking toward the Palace of the Institute of France and the Pont des Arts bridge

Close up on the Casa Batlló

Close up on the Casa Batlló

Close up on Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera

Close up on Christmas decorations on the Casa Milà , popularly known as La Pedrera

Shooting at night can give lucky accidents, such as this shot of La Pedrera with a bus driving through the frame during the exposure

Shooting at night can give lucky accidents, such as this shot of La Pedrera with a bus driving through the frame during the exposure

Barcelona is home the famous Magic Fountains, but there are many other fountains in the city as well, such as this one in the middle of the intersection of Passeig de Garcia and Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes

Barcelona is home the famous Magic Fountains, but there are many other fountains in the city as well, such as this one in the middle of the intersection of Passeig de Garcia and Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes

Or the fountains here in the Plaça de Catalunya

Or the fountains here in the Plaça de Catalunya

 

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12 responses

  1. These are really great! I love the one of the Louvre.

    February 6, 2016 at 4:51 pm

  2. wow. this is amazing

    February 6, 2016 at 8:04 pm

  3. hmunro

    I greatly admire your discipline in declaring a trip “non-photography” and approaching it with a minimalist mindset. And in spite of that you still get such stunning images! Nicely done!

    February 7, 2016 at 5:31 am

    • Heather, it’s not really me that forces the declaration, it’s Tanya and my desire to have happy marriage! If I had my way, every trip would be a photo trip 🙂

      February 7, 2016 at 11:08 am

  4. Joe, these are all great shots! I agree with your post. Although we don’t have designated “photo” and “non-photo” trips, I usually mention key photo opportunities I would like to hit on big trips, and try to compensate as well as challenge myself with the weather or time of day in the process. As such, I learned a lot in Iceland, but always have fun in the Alps.

    February 7, 2016 at 8:50 am

    • Thanks for the comment. You mention a good part of it, trying to hit key photo opportunities. I typically do the planning for our bigger trips, and try to plan for good photographic sites that will also be interesting to Tanya. And challenging yourself when conditions aren’t perfect is another good point – making the best of what is given to you as a photographer in the short time you have for photography in any given location.

      February 7, 2016 at 11:14 am

  5. I share your dilemma. I primarily do bird photography and luckily my non-birder wife likes to sleep in on these trips. It gives me a good couple hours in early morning when birds are active and the light is good. I also try to find lodging close by potential birding sights. During the rest of the trip I carry around a 70-300mm compromise lens, and sneak a bird shot no and then. Good luck and great photos.

    February 8, 2016 at 5:51 am

    • Thanks for sharing. Nice that you get some of that early time by yourself.

      February 9, 2016 at 12:08 pm

  6. I really like your shots of the Gaudi building. My wife’s a great fan of his work.

    February 9, 2016 at 4:47 am

    • Thanks. It’s a fun building to photograph.

      February 9, 2016 at 12:06 pm

  7. Gerald Reed

    Excellent article Joe! I’m lucky in that when we travel with my sister and brother-in-law they both bring their cameras too! Bonnie hates going to the Pike Place Market with me because she knows it’s going to be a “photography trip” . . .

    February 9, 2016 at 8:55 am

    • Thanks Gerald. Just don’t let Bonnie know that she can declare some trips as non-photo!

      February 9, 2016 at 12:09 pm

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