A couple months ago I read an article about photography which argued that when we live our lives through a lens (SLR, point-and-shoot or cell phone camera), we miss out on the very experiences we are trying to capture. Nowhere is this concept more pronounced than in the shots we take during a family vacation. The concept was especially intriguing to me because I had recently returned from a vacation in which I photographed dolphins jumping as we took a family boatride. I loved the resulting shots, but I absolutely missed the experience of seeing the dolphins jump and I missed the chance to watch my children’s faces light up- because my lens was focused on the water. I decided to do a little experiment… I returned recently from a vacation in San Diego with my children. My mission was to find a balance between experiencing the special moments of our vacation, and also capturing our favorite memories to take home as priceless souvenirs.
In the end, I took 1,118 photographs over the course of 8 days (about 20 pictures per hour that we were out and about). I did put the camera down, but more importantly I worked to change my perspective– both literally and figuratively shifting the direction my lens was pointing.
I used to focus on capturing the best shot of what it was we were seeing (whether it was a show, or a new animal, or something funny)– this time I shifted my focus to capturing the kids’ reactions to the experience before I took any images of what we were seeing. The real story of our vacation wasn’t the beauty of the activities (of which their are already thousands of great shots in existance), but the beautiful experience itself and that is the story that needs to be told! I worked diligently and am happy to report that the shots reflect our experiences! Now I will forever remember my son’s eyes lighting up as a hippo swam towards us (even though it isn’t a great shot of the hippo), his sheer joy at using the watergun in the waterpark, and my daughter’s sheer delight at seeing the Disney princesses right in front of her during the parade (even though Sleeping Beauty is out of focus).
My advice? If you want a “beauty shot” of a unique experience, buy the postcard! Otherwise, keep your lens focused on the real story– your own family, and how they felt the moment they tried something new.
All Images © 2010- 2023 Karissa Van Tassel Photography
319 Peck St., New Haven, CT 06513
Karissa Van Tassel is an accredited professional photographer, accredited by The Portrait Masters,
an association of master photographers from around the world.
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