Vacation Photo Tip #1: No man is an Island

Man and woman scuba divers in tropical sea diving up

Ah, summer. Vacation time! How often I thought I could use a vacation to take wonderful pictures. When, after all, should one do that if not while seeing wonderful places in far away countries being super relaxed and having all the time in the world? And it does sound plausible. In theory. But it does often not work in practice, at least for people who have “normal” jobs with two weeks of paid vacation (or five if you are a lucky German) and do not live the life of a travel photographer.

I had my share of failures, and I know others have it, too. Reason enough to look a bit into the matter in a series of loosely connected blog posts.

Vacation picture tip #1: mind your fellow vacationers

There are many ways to do some serious photography during your vacation. But not every such way is compatible with every vacation and every person you are holidaying with. Some pictures just take a lot of time to take them properly. The light is never perfect. The scene needs to be set. A good viewpoint needs to be found. And then there is no such thing as a perfect picture, so you might give it one more try. And one more. And again one more.

All of that is not a problem at all if you are travelling alone. But typically you are not. So unless your partner or family is very, very patient and sympathetic to what you do, you have to think things through in advance or you will have the worst of three worlds: a failed vacation, bad pictures, and a crabby partner or family.

There are of course a few things that many people try.

  • Some do a quick and dirty snapshot while buying ice cream for the kids and handing sun lotion to their partner. And that might work sometimes and can be a good training for certain types of photography. Yet very often it results rather in lomography.
  • Other try to find a balance by upsetting their partner or family up to a point but not further thus squeezing out as much photography time as possible without risking Armageddon. That, of course, typically does not really end well.
  • And there is the idea of combining serious photography with an attempt at documenting the vacation thus having a sales proposal towards partner and family. That means plenty of compromises.

I personally think that all of the former gets you only so far. Here are a few ideas that require a bit more planning and negotiation but eventually might get you further:

  • You may ask you partner or family for a day off. A lot of people do actually like hanging out at the hotel pool zipping a lemon squash and reading a book while getting tanned. You might not understand where the fun in such things is, yet that is your chance to do something better with your time. But ask in advance: knock and the door will be opened. And if not there is always the possibility of a divorce later.
  • Consider a trade of. Spend quality time with your partner or family and take your own photo weekend or short vacation a bit later. You may have better relaxation now and better pictures later. Plus you do not have to compromise on the vacation destination. Resort very often are only mildly exciting photographically anyway.
  • My personal solution is to make my wife my model when we are vacationing together. She not only enjoys but actually demands it, and insofar we complement each other very well. That is, I admit, undeserved luck and may not necessarily work for everybody. It is not an easy route though, because even in a vacation you need props, proper attire, and make-up for a good shoot. So we often spend a full day just buying sunhats, beach dresses and bling. There is no such thing as free lunch, yet for me this is a price worth paying.

I am sure there are many more ways to combine taking pictures and a serious vacation. If you have some suggestions please let me know in the comments!

Man and woman scuba divers in tropical sea diving up The title stock image can be licensed for royalty free use at Fotolia: man and woman scuba diving in their vacation, shot on Gili Trawangan, Indonesia.

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