How (not) to take family vacation photos

sea turtle rehabilitation baby in tank

It took me several days to go through about four hundred photos I took during a big family vacation we took last weekend. On a normal shoot, I would go through twice as many in about a day but coming at this from purely a place of pleasure, culling and basic color editing was not terribly fun.

I brought my camera in hopes of exploring and capturing something new that I haven’t seen before. We went to Jekyll Island, a small place next to Saint Simons Island and Brunswick in Georgia. About an hour north of Jacksonville on the coast, it was a fairly short drive for us here in Ocala. Our hotel was covered by wind-swept oaks curved toward the mainland from the ocean’s breeze. Wild deer walked by the parking lot into neighboring yards and beaches in the evenings. The beaches weren’t overrun and felt relaxing. Nearby marshes made the area feel much more like the South (South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia coast) compared to Florida beaches. How a state line can change the feeling of a place is beyond me, but I happily accept it.

Four days and three nights should have been enough to explore, paint, and take some photos—or so I thought. It didn’t take long to realize when you’re with family, it’s not about chilling out and free time. We ended up swimming and fishing most of the time. These two things don’t allow one to handle a camera well. On top of that, I became the designated family trip photographer which is terribly hard to do when you’re trying to enjoy your vacation and participate in everything.

My iPhone was with me much more of the trip than my DSLR. My brain was crying out for a pocketable camera. Then, after editing photos from my D90, I liked how the photos from my iPhone looked better! (The iPhone photos are over on my Instagram @smithandfritzy). But before I get too far into that, where I did get my camera out was on a group outing to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to get out of the scorching midday sun one day, our big family dinner out where we had way too much fun playing cornhole, and and following my niece’s birthday twilight standup paddling adventure in St. Simons.

I often shoot with both the Nikon D90 and the Canon 5D so I know there’s a bit of a difference between how VSCO handles both types of cameras’ images. I’ve just come to prefer the Canon+VSCO combo for colors. I didn’t get that “wow” feeling processing this set. There’s so many factors that go into play with this—it’s not just a VSCO issue. Between difficulties with exposure, white balance, and focusing issues, the photographer is much more to blame.

I just wanted to be a lazy photographer so I could enjoy my trip—is that so wrong?

This is where the iPhone trumped my DSLR’s on this trip. It was with me everywhere, there was no guessing exposure, and a small lens/open f-stop lets focusing be less critical. Don’t get me wrong, I would never give up an interchangeable lens camera. The phone just let me have fun on my trip without getting caught up in making the best photos ever. That’s something that’s more and more important for me lately.

FINAL NOTE: I loved Jekyll Island and the biggest thank you to my mom for getting us all together and making a wonderful vacation for everyone.

gorgeous sunset on saint simons island georgia florida

live oaks jekyll island georgia hotel

paddle boarding st. simons island at sunset

girl playing cornhole beanbags

grown up turtle peeking at light in outdoor tank

ocean turtle swimming in rehabilitation center

rippling water at twilight


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