Friday, July 16, 2010

Shooting For Fun Friday: How A Pro Shoots His Vacation Pics

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Capital Bldg I thought I would be posting this after we arrived home today.  But as fate would have it, we are stranded in Washington National Airport till 4:00 p.m. Ugh, the life of the airlines traveler. Hey, the good news is that I’m watching the British Open and have a view of the Capital Building and the Washington Monument from the Delta Crown Room -  not a bad place to hang out if you get stranded. 

Washington Mnt We should finally arrive home about 6:00 p.m. – still time to enjoy a bit of the evening. I've said it once and I'll say it again, even though we had a great time in Boston and Bar Harbor, met some super friendly people along the way, and saw some phenomenal sites, there is  no place like home.

For LaDawn and I vacations are NEVER too restful and relaxing - we just want to see it all and are always on the go. VAC2And, we love seeing a lot of the sites on foot too - we logged 32 miles walking this trip. The funny thing is that I never lost a pound either - go figure. So, like they say, we're finally back home and can relax for a few days;~)

Since we're on the subject of vacations, I thought I'd give you a little insight into how I, as a professional photographer, handle "vacation" photography.

Just Shooting For Fun: How A Pro Shoots His Vacation Pics

So if you are a professional photographer, how do you cover your vacations and other leisure times? Do you carry all the heavy artillery - cameras, lenses, flashes? Or do you pack on the lighter side and just take along the bare essentials? Let me share with you how I handle the photographic side of our free time and a few images from this trip.

Packing The Gear

When we pack the bags for vacation we keep it pretty light gear-wise. That usually means my 7D for me and a 40D for LaDawn who loves to shoot too. And we carry spare batteries and chargers for both.

Both cameras are fitted with an 18-200mm IS lenses. The 18-200mm IS lens work very well as "almost macro" lenses too. They focus really close. This is a great all around "walk about" lens because of the wide focal length range and it's close focusing capabilities.


I usually pack a wide angle lens too. I just love the look of the wide angle images. In the past that lens has always been my Canon 10-22mm, but on this vacation it was the wonderful new Sigma 8-16mm super wide angle lens - what a blast to shoot with that lens! I need to take a closer look at my images, but early reports show it to be a real wide angle gem.

And last, if space permits, I also like to pack my 100mm Macro IS lens too. I've been a "macro nut" since my early days as a photo enthusiast and have always loved getting up close and personal. Shooting with the macro just gives you a different way of seeing the world.


Sometimes I'll throw in one of my 580 EXII flashes just in case. And yes, I'll throw in my Quantum radios too. You just never know when you might need some extra light. Add to that a very small and light tripod and my Zumbrella, 4 - 16 gig cards, and we are almost ready to go.

And lastly, I do pack a little Canon ELPH camera if during our travels we want to go "really portable".  A good example is when heading out to dinner we don't want to take the heavier gear.

The Easy Camera Settings

OK, we are ready to go. Next I get the cameras set to their most general settings. That makes shooting really fast and easy. Heck, I'm on vacation - I don't want to think about work.

Both cameras are set on AWB, Auto ISO, and Program mode. The 7D is set to medium Raw and 40D is set to full RAW. Basically that gives me the same size file for storage and post production for both cameras.


Wait, I'm a pro so I set the camera to a few "contingency" settings just in case I encounter a shooting situation that requires a bit more control. I set the Shutter Priority to a shutter speed of 1/125 second just in case the situation calls for a faster shutter speed. Aperture Priority is set to F 5.6 just in case I want to shoot with a much more shallow depth of field.

In Manual mode I've set the camera to the most common settings I need for the time of the day I happen to be shooting. If I need to control how the sky is being rendered or need to open up the foreground, switching to Manual mode and fine tuning the settings assures me that I'll get the result I want.

And lastly, if I'm shooting a scene that happens to "blow me away" I'll switch to large RAW just to be sure I have the best digital file I can capture.

The Shooting Routine

When we travel I'm going to be sure I get all the "record shots". That is, I take shots that document the places and locations we visit. But more importantly, I'm trying to capture some great images that are exciting visually.


Even when on vacation, I'm paying attention to lighting, color, contrast, composition - all the visual elements I need to create a good image. And yes, we will even rise at the crack of dawn to get the shot if that's the time of the day when the light's right.


I love shooting then"urban landscape" images that you see here at DPT now and then. I also love shooting the landscape images too. You've seen a few of them this week as "picture of the day" posts. Detail shots of the locations we visit, wildlife, human interest and "people pics" are all part of the shooting repertoire.

Many times, I like to select just the wide angle lens or the macro and just keep it on for the entire day. That forces me to see differently and makes it fun creatively with that particular lens constraint. It sort of gets the "brain juices" flowing because you must look at things differently before you shoot and then decide how the scene would be best rendered with that particular lens.

As you can see, it's the shooting routine that makes the photography fun and a big part of our travels. We wrapped this trip with about 3,000 images by the time we arrive back home.

Post Production

At the end of the day's shooting - every day is a shooting day, and usually over an adult beverage, I load the cards into the card reader, rename the day's DCIM folder on the card to something like "DZ Boston1" and them copy that folder into a newly named trip parent folder on an external drive.


Next I fire up Lightroom 3 and import the images making standard size previews during the import process. This usually takes a while, but once imported, we give them a quick glance to see and quickly evaluate what we captured and which images are our favorites.

At this point, I may select an image or two for DPT, run it through the LR3 prep and have it ready to go for the next day. This is really the fun part of the day - it's fun just seeing if you got what you were shooting for and tweaking the images in Lightroom 3 for best presentation.

I repeat the process each day so that by the end of the trip everything is nicely organized and ready to be backed up to the server and DVDs when we get back home.

Once we are back at the studio, LaDawn and I will review all the images and select a few for our fine art collection, printing off one or two of our favorites making large prints, sometimes on canvass, for wall decor in our home.


Finding the best images is an on going process from trip to trip. The goal is to continue to enrich our fine art image collection for further projects down the road. I'll tell you, when we go on vacation packing the cameras along, we are far more involved with the trip than regular tourists and I feel more intimately connected with what we see. We love our daily shoots and it's a big part of the enjoyment we get out of travels. Besides at our age we just can’t rely on our memories to revisit the trips.

Anyway, just thought you might like to peek.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. It's been a great trip to New England these past several days and we can't wait to take a closer look at all the shots. We have a "huge" week next week so these next few days off back home enjoying our images and just relaxing will be fun.

I hope all you guys and girls are enjoying a relaxing weekend also. Be good and I’ll see everybody again on Monday.

See ya' then, -David


  1. David, do you ever carry a tripod around for your landscape shots or are all of those handheld?

  2. David, what do you pack your cameras, lenses, etc. in for the trip?