No matter what anyone says, you do more on a vacation that you would ever do if you stayed home and went to work like usual. There’s something about a vacation that screams “MUST SEE ALL NOW!” Like there are no second chances. We have friends who did Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and a bus tour of the area all in one day. They thought they had seen it all. They probably did, but the point is that they saw it all at 60 mph. There’s something wrong with this picture.
Sure you can overstuff your travel plans, but for the photographer, it limits the opportunities and the pleasure which comes from spending time with a single subject. It makes the stress to “get the shot and leave” more intense, especially if someone is standing around waiting for you who isn’t interested in photography. So what can you do?
Photography and the stress of a totally overloaded vacation don’t go much hand in hand. Prioritize what you want to see and allow yourself plenty of time to see it. Two hours at Disneyland will never be enough time. Thirty minutes at California’s Monterey Aquarium is never enough time. If you don’t know how long a tour or museum visit will last, call them and ask what they feel is the appropriate and average length of time to spend there and then add an hour or two.
Working with wildlife and nature subjects puts a complete stop on the vacation travel clock. Either they don’t cooperate or the weather or light doesn’t. You have to spend time with anything to get good shots. So prioritize and slow down. No matter what you might think or what anyone may say, you can always come back if you find something more. Pick three to five things to concentrate on instead of 25. Research your subject so you understand how best to approach and work with it. Learning by the seat of your pants is great unless you don’t have the time. Advance knowledge and preparation will make what time you do have less stressful and probably more successful.
Working Within the Available Time Constraints
When time is short, plan ahead. Check addresses and maps ahead of time to help you get around. Double-check opening and closing times of all parks, facilities, and visitors’ centers, plan for the best times to be where you need to be. You’ll get to see more wihtout wasting time waiting, and you won’t have to learn the hard way that the wildlife refuge is closed on Fridays.
Give yourself time in each place to explore with your camera and time to get to the next place without stress. Plan for the priority subjects first, but allow for time in between in case you get caught up and spent extra time in one place, or the traffic between locations is heavy. You don’t have to plan every minute, but you do have to plan for transportation time, as well as free time, in your schedule.
Making do with what you get
Brent and I dreamed of going to Alaska. The wide open spaces, the big wild animals, the wild everything! Finally, after several years of missed opportunities, we arrived. For the two week adventure we are determined to enjoy the full experience of Alaska. About day 5, we started snapping and fighting over little things. We love to travel and have done so for years with great success, with and without each other. We love traveling with each other more than anything. We’d never fought like this. What was happening to us?
It didn’t take long to realize that we were both disappointed. Our expectations weren’t being met. How? No wildlife. None. Zip. Okay, the occasional squirrel, but nothing big, magnificent, nothing that screamed out “The Wilds of Alaska!” Our expectation of great grizzlies, proud elk, monster mooses, and all our plans to bring back the most dramatic images of our life – down the tubes. When you are disappointed, you get mad at the people around you. We remembered that wild animals aren’t the only thing people associate with Alaska. Incredible scenics were everywhere, with lots of close-up material, and we celebrated the beautiful colors of fall in the tundra. Once we let go of our preconceived notions and expectations, we had a great time. In the end we brought back some of the best images! Eventually we even found a moose or two.
Let go of your expectations. Let go of preconceived plans. Keep your mind open to all possibilities. Remember, the sunset itself might be quite ordinary, and the gold light of evening can work magic. Turn around and see what’s glowing behind you. The more you are open to the possibilities that come to you, the better your vacation and the more exciting your images will be.