The end of July found our family flying off for a two and a half week summer get-away to England. Family vacations always fill me with a bit of dread. It’s not the flying or traveling with the kids that gets to me. Although I was a bit nervous about driving on the left side of the road, what worries me is the photography. Weeks before each trip I start to fret about which camera to bring, which lenses I will need and which bag will be the most comfortable for carrying around all day long. Each trip is the same because in the past I have made bad decisions and I felt that I paid the price for it. When we went to Thailand a few years ago I brought along an 18-200 travel lens that I knew was having problems. Sure enough after about 30 minutes of humidity it quit working and I was forced to use a little point and shoot for the majority of the trip.
I have also been encumbered by very heavy equipment. In 2010 we went to France and I brought all of my best and heaviest gear in a small shoulder bag. Each day was agony. As a result of these past experiences I began to think long and hard about what to bring for this trip months before we left. The resulting gear was narrowed down to two small Fuji bodies (X-E1 & X-T1), three lenses (10-24, 18-55 & 55-200), a tripod and a myriad of filters, cable releases and extension tubes all carried in a backpack.
I felt I was ready for any situation. Once on the ground I began to realize perhaps this trip was going to be a little different photographically than I originally imagined. Somehow, I always forget that I am headed out on a family vacation. This means that we are busy walking around taking in the sites, aiming to see as much as our feet and jet lag will allow us. At the end of the day we fall into our beds and awake the next morning to do it all over again. It can be exhausting, but it is also exhilarating. It is so cool to explore the world with your kids. It isn’t very conducive to a slow photographic process however.
My family is very receptive to me stopping to take photos. Over the 18 days we were travelling I shot about 2100 images. Juliana, our daughter, took about 1800. So we did snap a lot, but mostly it was just that: Snap shots. Over the duration of the trip I used my tripod twice (never in London), and I didn’t use any of my ND filters. Travelling as a group just doesn’t work if someone is stopping to set up and spend 15 minutes composing an image, adding filters and waiting for the camera to capture super long exposures. I wish I could have done that, but I value my marriage and family life too much to subject them to that. Besides, the next free tour always starts in 15 minutes when you are 20 minutes away from your destination.
What I did try to do in London was to find different angles that would let me capture some of the essence of the city while avoiding capturing the millions of tourists standing in front of me. Did I get as many good photos as I was hoping for? No. I never do. As a photographer I am always searching for the elusive perfect shot. Ninety percent of the time when I am looking over my shots I think they would have been perfect if I had only moved over to the right 10 feet, or shot it at f2.8 instead of f8. The other 10% are just crap. Hindsight is a cruel mistress, and this photographer is rarely happy with his work.
We took the kids out to Cambridge to see our old stomping grounds.
A bit about the post processing:
Sitting down to go through all the images I made was a bit of a daunting task. I first went through all 2100 images just to see what I had. I then went back through each day and selected everything that I thought was OK or interesting. This brought me down to 900 images. I then begin to weed out multiples. I will often take 4 or 5 shots of the same subject from different angles. I may like all of them but I can’t put them all into the photo book I will make. So I begin to do a basic post processing of the images, adjusting contrast, recovering highlights, opening up the shadows. This gives me a better idea of whether or not I like the image enough to continue with it. For this blog post I weeded out anything that was family/snapshot related, redundant, or only had meaning to our family. This brought the 900 to 65 which is still way too many for a blog post. I then began to spend more time with the images. As I worked on them I chose to go for a more saturated, punchy and sometimes tinted look. I thought London lent itself well to this edgier approach.
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