Tips for Taking Great Pictures on a “Normal Vacation”

by | Sep 18, 2014 | Tips & Tricks | 4 comments

Are your vacations ever “normal”? Like, where you actually take a break from what you always do?

For me, a “Normal Vacation” is when my main objectives for vacationing someplace does not include taking pictures. A vacation is when I go someplace and feel like I have don’t have to spend a lot of time getting the “perfect picture”. There’s no pressure if I don’t get awesome shots. I don’t carry around a tripod and I don’t keep others waiting on me forever (or at least that’s what I’d like to think). When I’m sight seeing or spending time with family or taking time off to be with friends . . . that’s a “Normal Vacation” for me.

But, just because my objective doesn’t include taking pictures, it doesn’t meant that I won’t take pictures! What a waste to be somewhere amazing and not come away with anything to show for it! Plus, I’m always amazed at how many great shots are created while shooting from the hip.

From a day trip last week to Washington DC with some friends, here are a few tips for how I still try to get great shots on a normal vacation:

1. Get on the ground!

I’m sure a lot of folks were wondering who this guy was laying on the ground in front of every monument, but then again, perhaps they were also jealous of the fact that they didn’t have the nerve to get down and do it themselves. 🙂 It makes a difference in how your pictures turn out.

1098_Washington DC--USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-800 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

2. Utilize special effects

Again, I was laying on the ground for this shot, but that was because I knew it’s where I needed to be to get a sunburst. I saw the shadow of the building there on the ground, so that’s where I knelt down. Soothing sunbursts is a typical action so it wasn’t hard to implement one into this shot. The hard part was remembering to implement it.

0973_Washington DC--USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 23 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 16, ISO 200

3. Capitalize on the split second

There were crowds of people getting their pictures taken in front of the massive sculpture in the Lincoln memorial. I tried to get a shot with nobody in the frame once or twice as we walked by but to no avail. I gave it up and continued the tour of the interior. A few minutes later, I glanced over and what do you know? You never know when split second opportunities will come up so keep your eye open for them.

1236_Washington DC--USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 800

4. Remember you’re still a master of composition

Even if it’s a snapshot (a picture that didn’t take much time to snap), you are still in control of where elements are placed in the frame. I made sure the foreground headstone was uninterrupted (completely surrounded by green) and that I could see the end of all four rows extending to the left. It was like intuition.

0978_Washington DC--USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 1-60 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

5. Don’t forget that the golden hour is still golden

We were running late and the Lincoln Memorial was our last stop so I didn’t have much time to compose something. I forgot to get down low (to amplify the triangle of gold on the lawn) but I think the time of day really made this shot work.

1227_Washington DC--USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 16, ISO 400

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  1. Sarah Brown

    I really like that first shot there! Thank you for all the quick tips and reminders, so many times I forget that getting down on the ground or looking for that specific angle can be so detrimental! I think I would of liked to see that last shot taken from a low angle but I still think you captured it well! Great job!

  2. TheCountryMuffin

    Brings back wonderful memories of a family trip to D.C. during one of my dad’s business events. I think pictures #1 and #2 are my favorites 🙂

    Funny that you should include that note with the first picture 😉
    “I’m sure a lot of folks were wondering who this guy was laying on the ground in front of every monument, but then again, perhaps they were also jealous of the fact that they didn’t have the nerve to get down and do it themselves…”

    Yes, that would be me, but I’m working on it. 🙂

  3. James Staddon

    You really have to be careful that you don’t do things out of your comfort zone to “show off”. Like, getting a cool perspective to show people around you that you know what you’re doing and are cool photographer. In that case, taking your shot has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with ego! I shoot for the sake of a good picture, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible and not thinking about what I think others are thinking about me. As soon as I start thinking that way, I cease to be a photographer.

  4. Mom

    Wow! I liked the one of all the headstones lined up. It was unique. Sometimes the inspiration just comes. How exciting!



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